Environment Bill

Published date : 26 January, 2021
For all that hon. Members have said that this is a good and necessary Bill, devolution means that it will not have a huge impact on my constituents. The aspects of it that will have an impact have received legislative consent from the Scottish Parliament, which was an important step. More widely, legislative consent needs to be respected by the UK Government more often that just when it happens to suit them.

Amendments 43 and 44, in the names of my SNP and Plaid Cymru colleagues, will not be voted on, but the importance of the principles behind them remains. They would remove the exemptions for armed forces, defence and national security policy from the requirement to have due regard to the policy statement on environmental principles and environmental law. They would also remove the exemptions for tax, spending and the allocation of resources.

We know of the long-term problems caused by munitions dumped at Beaufort’s Dyke between Scotland and Northern Ireland, the impact that military research can have on the environment, the radioactivity on beaches in Fife and the long-term problems left by the decommissioning of nuclear-powered submarines. They have all left us with a literally toxic environmental legacy. Like decisions about taxation, spending and allocating resources, decisions about those matters cannot be divorced from their environmental impact, and the Government cannot be exempted from their wider responsibilities in those regards. This is not about subordinating security or decisions about the economy to the needs of the environment or vice versa; it is about ensuring that the wider policy considerations and responsibilities for the environment are given due regard at all times in the decision-making process.

It is important to recognise that the EU has some of the strongest environmental targets, laws and protections in the world, and our departure has put them under threat. As an EU member, the UK was forced to match those standards. Unlike the Scottish Parliament’s EU continuity Bill, this Bill sadly does not include any non-regression clauses in that regard. The promises of non-regression rely on the intent of this and future Governments to stand by that pledge. It would give me and a great many others much greater assurance about the Government’s good intentions if they were to allow the insertion of a non-regression principle into the Bill as it progresses through the other place.


I want to speak to new clause 10, tabled in the name of Scottish National party and Plaid Cymru colleagues, and also to new schedule 1. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow East (David Linden) spoke eloquently about the impact on the environment of disposable nappies, and about the sometimes misleading claims made about their environmental friendliness by the manufacturers. My partner and I decided to use cloth nappies for our children. I fully understand that, for varying reasons, that is not a decision that everyone feels able to take, or something that people can do 100% of the time, but it was a choice that worked very well for us.

New clause 10 and new schedule 1, taken together, would establish the basis on which the Government could act to address the problem of waste caused by nappies that are not reusable. Establishing clear standards for disposable nappies would help parents to make informed choices. It would provide clarity over terms such as “reusable”, “biodegradable”, “eco-friendly”, “environmentally friendly” and anything else that was put into the mix. That would help parents by making it clear what they were buying and what the impact of that choice would be. Furthermore, the schedule would, through the relevant national authorities cited, oblige the Government to begin to encourage local authorities to promote the use of reusable nappies if they do not do so already—I know that some do—and so reduce waste, by working alongside parents as well as existing schemes such as nappy libraries, which many parents find so valuable.

The waste that comes from disposable nappies is one of the biggest single environmental problems that we face, but it is also, potentially, one of the easiest for us to begin to solve through the provision of good information and good incentives from Government. To do so would be good for babies and good for the world that they grow up in. It is something that we are able to act on, and we should look to do so.

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