Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab)
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My Lords, it has been a very interesting debate, with some excellent speeches. I hope the Minister is clear about the concerns of the majority of those who have spoken. I will speak particularly to Amendments 76 and 77 in the name of my noble friend Lady Jones of Whitchurch, and to Amendment 78 in the names of the noble Baronesses, Lady Parminter and Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, and my noble friend Lady Jones of Whitchurch. We also support the other amendments in this group that aim to improve the application of environmental principles and address the proportionality limitations and exemptions currently in the Bill.

The Bill enshrines important principles in law, as we have heard, but the clauses on these principles are largely unchanged from previous drafts, despite very clear evidence from pre-legislative scrutiny of the need for them to be strengthened. As the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, said, these are the principles a green Government would wish to implement. As the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, said, we must have consistency. Other noble Lords have spoken about the importance of the principles and the inadequacy of just having to “have due regard”. The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, rightly reminded your Lordships’ House that we were expecting a Bill of non-regression.

Amendment 76 seeks to drive consideration of the environmental impacts of policy-making throughout all governmental bodies. Amendment 77 ensures that a Minister must, when making policy, directly apply the environmental principles in effect at that time. Environmental principles have been binding on all public authorities, including in individual administrative decisions, but this legal obligation on all public authorities will be undermined by the Bill. The impact of the principles has extended deeply and routinely into administrative decision-making, often having a binding effect on the public bodies directly delivering measures, including, for example, in respect of GMOs, pesticides, waste regulation and water regulation. As my noble friend Lady Young of Old Scone clearly laid out, it is vital that the duty applies to all public authorities. The principles must be taken account of in the formation of policy, implementation, public authority decision-making and many other stages of environmental management.

We have heard concerns about the impact on our devolved Administrations from the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, for example, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, talked about the Scottish legislation. I draw the Minister’s attention to Section 14 of the Scottish continuity Act, which requires Scottish Ministers to have direct and due regard to the guiding principles on the environment in developing policies, including proposals for legislation. It also places additional requirements on public authorities to have direct and due regard to the principles when carrying out strategic environmental assessments of plans, policies and programmes. Can the Minister explain why he believes the Government’s approach here will have a better outcome for the environment?

Clause 16 of this Bill requires the Secretary of State to prepare a policy statement on environmental principles, but only Ministers, and not public authorities, must have due regard to this statement, and this requirement does not apply to decision-making. Furthermore, Clause 18 brings in a number of wide-ranging exemptions, as we have heard, seeming to absolve the Treasury, the MoD and those spending resources in government from having to consider the principles at all. The noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, clearly explained why this is very problematic. It is important to establish a principle that no area of government should be exempted from its responsibilities to the environment.

Amendment 78 removes the proportionality limitations and exemptions for the Armed Forces for defence policy, tax, spending and resources. The noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, introduced her amendment on this extremely clearly, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, explained further why it is particularly important to include the MoD.

However, in considering the exemptions for the Armed Forces and defence policy, we do not want to impede the work of our Armed Forces or compromise our safety and security in any way. Were these exemptions to be confined or constricted to decisions relating to urgent military or national security matters, it could perhaps be considered reasonable. However, the clause is not drafted in this way; rather, it is a blanket exclusion for the Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces from complying with environmental principles at all, as set out in the Bill.

We are in a climate emergency. There is no time to wait around for the good will of departments to take action and certainly not those with those such significant spending, carbon emissions and land ownership. In response to media coverage of concerns about the wide exclusions in the Bill, Defra offered some clarification on spending, including:

“It is not an exemption for any policy that requires spending.”

However, these wide exemptions remain in the legislation, meaning that policymakers are less likely to apply the policy statement in relation to the policy on defence and financial matters without explicit instruction to do otherwise.

The truth is that Clause 18 is a blank cheque for Ministers to invoke if they decide under certain circumstances not to be bound by environmental protection. I look forward to the Minister’s consideration and response.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait The Minister of State, Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their contributions on this important subject.

I start with Amendment 75 tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb. The Government’s view is that the current list of five environmental principles will work to protect the environment. The principles outlined in the Bill have significant case law and history so their meaning and application is clearly understood and defined. These five principles are also consistent with those agreed through the UK-EU Trade and Co-operation Agreement. If we were to increase the number of principles to those outlined in the noble Baroness’s amendment, this would create confusion, leading to ineffective application of the principles for policymakers and an uncertain impact on future policy-making

Amendment 78 tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, deals with proportionality and exemptions for tax and spending, the Armed Forces and defence policy. Environmental principles will be embedded at the heart of policy development across government, but there will be times when action is not proportionate. As such, it is right that Ministers are able to reject a policy change where this is considered legally disproportionate—for example, where a policy change would be very costly and the environmental benefit insignificant. I do not believe that this is an unreasonable position. If the exemption to act proportionately were removed, Ministers would be required to prioritise environmental concerns even where they incurred significant and disproportionate cost to society and where the gains were nevertheless insignificant.

Similarly, exempting some limited areas from the duty to “have due regard” provides flexibility with respect to the nation’s finances, defence and national security. In relation to defence and national security, removing the exemption in the Bill could restrict our response to urgent threats. Policy decisions concerning defence are often made rapidly, or even in real time, where there is an urgent need to achieve operational imperatives. The Government wish to retain that agility.

Let me add now rather than later, in relation to the point made by the noble Baroness about land—in particular, SSSIs, which are currently owned by the MoD—that the exemptions do not apply in any respect to SSSIs. There should be no change in status for land that is protected in law as a consequence of its designation as an SSSI or anything else. As it happens, the MoD is meeting its national target in relation to SSSIs.

The noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, gave an example of trees planted on MoD land for a special purpose but which now face a threat. Given that this is a live planning matter there is a limit to what I can say, but she will not be surprised to hear that neither I nor—I am quite certain—my colleagues would want to see such trees grubbed up. The Bill adds protections for trees, through strengthening the Forestry Act as well as through other measures, which we have discussed, and will continue to discuss in Committee. In addition, Defra and MHCLG are currently working closely together to work out how we can boost protections for trees in various ways, including through the new designation of “long-established woodlands”.

Taxation, spending and allocation of resources are excluded from the remit of the principles of the office for environmental protection to provide for maximum flexibility in respect of the nation’s finances. For example, at fiscal events and spending reviews, decisions must be taken with consideration to a wide range of policy priorities, such as sustainable economic growth, macroeconomic and financial stability and sustainable levels of debt. These macroeconomic issues are too remote from the environmental principles for them to be directly applicable. However, I emphasise that this is not an exemption for any policy that requires spending. For example, if in future the Department for Transport were given funding from the Treasury to achieve a particular transport aim, the programme in question would still have to have due regard to the environmental principles policy statement in policy and decision-making.

As regards Amendment 76 tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, given that it is central government that sets the overall strategy and approach for any key decisions taken by other public bodies, it is not necessary to extend the environmental principles duty to cover these public authorities. The application of the environmental principles policy statement by Ministers will mean that the environmental protection promoted by the principles will filter down into local policy and strategic decisions. This means, for example, that in the case of a planning application for a village pub, the decision will be made in compliance with the National Planning Policy Framework, which will in future be set by Ministers having had due regard to the policy statement. It would therefore be unreasonable, and create unnecessary duplication, for the local authority to also have due regard to the principles policy statement—as well as in considering a planning application in the case of that village pub. We need to try to avoid imposing excessive and unnecessary burdens on public authorities. That is why we have taken the approach that we have.

I turn to Amendment 77 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, and Amendment 73 tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb. Requirements to apply the principles directly via a duty through the policy statement would risk inconsistency in their interpretation and application by Ministers. It could result in the principles being applied either too stringently or ineffectively. Placing a legal duty on the environmental principles policy statement offers greater clarity for policymakers because the policy statement will set out specific details on the application and interpretation of the principles. By comparison, a similar requirement in the EU framework is opaque and effectively impossible for anyone to legally challenge. The extent of the EU requirement to consider the principles—the manner in which it has actually impacted EU environmental policy—is an unknown. Our policy statement, with more detail and more context, will mean better and clearer application of the environmental principles to policy-making.

I hope that it will also reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, if I clarify that Clause 46 already provides through a definition that policy includes proposals for legislation. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, I believe—I apologise if it was not her—mentioned the Aarhus convention. I know that we will be debating that issue in some detail in a later group of amendments, so I will leave my comments until then.

Finally, I turn to Amendment 77A in the name of my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering. By placing a statutory duty on Ministers of the Crown to “have due regard” to the policy statement, the Government are ensuring that the application and interpretation of the five environmental principles is consistent across government policy-making. In answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, the Clause 18 duty is amenable to judicial review. It provides flexibility for the policy statement to be considered with substance, rigour and an open mind. The due regard duty is used in other high-profile areas, such as in the case of the public sector equality duty, and has been shown to have significant effect to catalyse a change in behaviour. There is also extensive case law and, notably, the Brown principles setting out what this duty means in practice. The practical effect of these principles is that a duty to ensure compliance with the policy statement as proposed in the amendment would not add any additional benefit or clarity. However, such a duty would add unnecessary burdens and inflexibility for policymakers compared to the due regard duty as the clause stands.

To address the comment made by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, echoed by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, I say that our approach is not designed to replicate the EU framework; it is designed to provide a more effective process. Our approach goes further than the EU by ensuring that Ministers across government are legally obliged to consider the principles in all policy development where it impacts on the environment. In the EU, the principles apply only in the development of policy that is specifically environmental. In addition, the environmental principles listed in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union do not apply directly to, and therefore are not legally binding on, member states. Rather, they apply when the EU makes environmental policy. Under our membership of the EU, there was no legal obligation for the UK or any other member state to use these principles when making environmental policy unless they featured in domestic law. That clearly changes with, I hope, the introduction of the Bill. With respect to the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, I think he could not be more wrong on the point of regression in relation to our previous status under the European Union.

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Earl of Caithness Portrait The Earl of Caithness (Con)
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My Lords, I listened with care to what the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, said about the precautionary principle, because this is hugely important to conservation and land management. I note that my noble friend the Minister did not respond specifically to the question he posed. While he is considering an answer to that, I am going to ask him a couple of questions too. How will the precautionary principle be interpreted by government? Will it be on the basis of a hazard approach or of a risk approach? The two are very different. It has to be a balanced approach; I think the courts have indicated that this is the right way forward. He will know that the precautionary principle, depending on how you interpret it, can stop some vital research. His department, Defra, has been guilty of stopping research because it used the precautionary principle. If we are trying to help biodiversity and conservation, we must be allowed to carry out sensible, controlled research to try to get to the right answer. If he is going to use—it is probably the wrong word—political bias against a particular aspect and say, “You cannot do research into that area”, then we are not being of any benefit to conservation or land management.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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My Lords, on the first question, I felt that I answered the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, in some detail—indeed, in more detail than any other point raised—and I do not want to have to repeat what I said on non-regression. On my noble friend’s question about the precautionary principle, the principles have significant case law and history, as I said. Their meaning and application are clearly understood and defined, and none of them represents a leap into the unknown. The Government’s approach to the precautionary principle includes a proportionate and risk-focused application, respecting the balance with social, economic and other considerations. This was provided for in the draft policy statement which noble Lords will have seen. In response to my noble friend’s question, I say that our view is that the principle should not hinder innovation due to novelty but should instead support innovative policy approaches by providing policy-makers with the tools that they need in order to balance risk.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con)
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My Lords, given all the respect and affection in which I hold him, I am slightly dismayed that my noble friend actually played back at me that “having regard to” worked perfectly well in equalities policy. I actually quoted case law at him. If I may, I would like to submit the case law I have to him so that his legal team can look at it. But I just make a plea: we are about to come on to the office for environmental protection. We are hoping to replicate at national level, throughout the whole of the United Kingdom, very stringent penalties for infringement of environmental policy or principles, such as a chemical spillage or other contamination of water. That is why—I am sure he would agree—we want the fewest referrals possible to any court under a judicial review, we want to be absolutely clear and we need to ensure compliance and have the possibility of financial penalties being imposed, rather than just a very mealy-mouthed “have regard to”.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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I thank my noble friend. I think she offered to submit other examples in case law, and I look forward to seeing what she has to say. I am also willing, if she is willing to speak to me, to talk details in due course.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, even the ones who have disagreed broadly because, although it is not good for my temper, it is good to see just how far the Government will go in trying to block all these common-sense amendments. I thank noble Lords for their valuable contributions to that.

The noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, was excellent on her amendment, and I hope that we can do something more on Report. The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, sort of implied a threat, which is completely contrary to her gentle nature—but, obviously, a threat is what the Government will understand. The noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, also talked about too many caveats and too many exceptions, and of course that is absolutely right. We have to make sure that the MoD does not do things such as cutting up hundreds of trees that were planted in honour of the Queen or putting pylons in muddy rivers where they are not needed. This is exactly the sort of organisation that needs some environmental principles. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, for her support; it is always good to have her support across the Chamber. The noble Lord, Lord Wigley, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, talked about the other Governments, and I support what they said completely. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, for her support and for signing the amendment. It is incredibly important that we work across the Chamber and cross-party, so I look forward to working with her on this in the future.

It is always good to hear from my noble friend Lady Bennett, who is much more clinical and knowledgeable than I am. She wields a scimitar much better than I do; I am far too friendly for your Lordships, really. She made a point about security and the environment being linked, and we see this in almost every area. There are places in the world that have been growing our pineapples and bananas that will not be able to in the future, when they have droughts and all sorts of intemperate weather. This means they will be under threat, so we may have to move around. We cannot divorce these things—in fact, you cannot divorce any topic—from the environment.

I did not quite pick up what the noble Duke, the Duke of Wellington, was saying, but I think he was supporting us and I thank him. If I got that wrong, he can see me afterwards. Of course, I am always grateful for the support of the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone.

I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, yes, of course there will be things we cannot do because of the precautionary principle. This goes for the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, as well: if it is bad for the environment, it is probably not a good idea to do it. We can use lots of other areas for innovation, and Greens love innovation. We love using technology where it fits—if it fits all the criteria we are talking about, for the well-being of humanity and of the planet.

I did not agree with anything said by the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, but that is the norm.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Quin; that was a calm exposition agreeing with Amendments 73 and 76, which is very valuable. Of course, it is fantastic to have the support of the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, on anything. He pointed out that this was meant to be a non-regression Bill but, quite honestly, when the Minister said that it is, I choked. I started coughing because it is so patently untrue.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, sounds so reasonable. I wish I had some of her reasonableness when, at the same time, she is very tough. That is fantastic.

In dismissing this list, the Minister talked about how the current principles are based on case law and so on. The Government have already lost so many cases because they do not understand environmental principles. In fact, the stronger the basket, the structure, we can have around every single government department, the better it will be for all of us. I am sure we will fight over that many times.

Are the exclusions of the Ministry of Defence and the Treasury necessary for agility? I do not think so. That sounds like the sort of argument that could easily be dismissed, so I would be interested to see where the Minister got it from. It does not risk confusion if we have more; in fact, it clarifies things to have better and clearer principles. I argue that the amendments in this group are vital and that the Government will have a tough job to convince us otherwise. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Moved by
80: Clause 18, page 11, line 26, at end insert—
“(4) Subsection (1) applies to policy relating to Scotland only so far as relating to reserved matters.(5) Section 14(2) of the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Act 2021 (asp 4) (UK Ministers must have regard to guiding principles on the environment in making policies extending to Scotland) does not apply to policies so far as relating to reserved matters.(6) In this section “reserved matters” has the same meaning as in the Scotland Act 1998.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment and Lord Goldsmith’s amendment to Clause 138, page 123, line 22, apply the provisions about the policy statement on environmental principles to reserved matters in Scotland, and provide that section 14(2) of the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Act 2021 does not apply to such matters.
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Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab)
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My Lords, I, too, shall be quite brief. I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, for tabling this amendment. As he says, it is probing and, as ever, he set out very eloquently the reason why it is important. I have listened carefully to his analysis and very much agree with what he said.

As we discussed in the previous group, throughout consideration of the EU withdrawal Bill, we were reassured that environmental protection would be at least as good as that which we enjoyed in the EU. However, it is already clear that the wording in this Bill on environmental principles is a weakened version of what has gone before, particularly in the need to have only “due regard” to the policy statement. The academic experts giving evidence on the pre-legislative scrutiny of the previous version of the Bill concluded that

“the Bill does not maintain the legal status of environmental principles as they have come to apply through EU law.”

Now the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, is rightly raising the issue of making new environmental law, as set out in Clause 19. His amendment would require that the level of environmental protection under existing environmental law should be clearly spelled out before it is possible to say, in Clause 19(3), that any new legislation will not reduce the level of environmental protection under existing law. It would remove any ambiguity and provide a double lock on protections for future environmental legislation.

At the same time, we should acknowledge that regression often happens by stealth, and can occur at a number of levels, not just in primary legislation. For example, it could appear in secondary legislation or in the detailed policy proposals that precede it. Therefore, ideally, the scope of this provision should include secondary legislation as well. It would also make sense for a statement of this nature to be published at a much earlier stage, as part of any consultation or before a new Bill was introduced. As we have discussed in other contexts, we need accurate baseline evidence, including about the impact of existing legislation, before we can assess the effectiveness of any measures proposed in any new legislation.

So we share the concerns that the noble and learned Lord has raised in this amendment and very much hope that the Minister will feel able to take these issues on board and give a positive response.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, for his Amendment 81A. It summarises in many respects the purpose behind Clause 19 very well. The clause is aimed at delivering accountability through transparency. It guarantees that effects on the level of environmental protection are considered before a Bill is introduced and will ensure that the environment will receive the close attention and appropriate consideration it deserves in the policy-making process.

I should like to provide some more detail how it will work in practice, in response also to questions raised by my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe. The statement under Clause 19 will take the form of a short, written statement in any new Bill that contains a provision that, if enacted, would be environmental law. The statement would confirm that the Minister was of the view that the Bill contains an environmental provision, and would set out that the Minister believed that the existing levels of environmental protection would not be reduced.

Bills are accompanied by a range of documentation to aid Parliament in its scrutiny of legislation, including the Explanatory Notes and Delegated Powers Memorandum. These are produced by convention, rather than being required by legislation. Clause 19 is designed to ensure that Parliament has the necessary information so that it can properly scrutinise legislation that affects the environment. The Government will consider what arrangements may be appropriate for specific Bills. I assure noble Lords that we will engage with the authorities in both Houses prior to implementation. As Clause 19 is straightforward in its purpose and current wording, I do not think it is necessary to reiterate it in the Bill.

I should also like to take this time to respond to colleagues in the devolved Administrations who have requested some reassurances on the implementation of this clause. Incidentally, the organisation that my noble friend Lady McIntosh referenced is called Environment Standards Scotland. The statement under Clause 19 will take into account the extensive discussions held with the devolved Administrations throughout the development of any new Bill that includes provisions with implications for them. Engagement with the devolved Administrations will be in accordance with the memorandum of understanding on devolution, or any arrangement that replaces it, and the practices outlined in the devolution guidance notes. My noble friend also asked about working with the devolved Administrations, and I hope I have addressed her concerns.

Once again, I thank the noble and learned Lord for his amendment and beg him to withdraw it.

Lord Hope of Craighead Portrait Lord Hope of Craighead (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I am very grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this short debate. I must thank the Minister for his very helpful remarks, which have reassured me and, I hope, other noble Lords, that there is real purpose behind the clause. As the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, said, the clause really must be made to work, and I think he has explained how, given the information that will be revealed, it will indeed achieve that purpose.

Part of my concern was that perhaps the Government are taking on too much, because one should not underestimate the increasing reach of environmental law, but it is very important that the reach should be carefully considered. As the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, said, we want to be really sure that the matter is carefully thought about before the Bill is introduced, and I am reassured by the Minister saying that that indeed is the purpose of the clause and that the clause will achieve it.

For those reasons, I am happy to withdraw the amendment.

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The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, would provide a firewall from political interference, by having a commissioner for environmental protection appointed by the Queen through Letters Patent. We believe that this is an excellent proposal. It is the ultimate solution to the concerns about independence that we will be debating today, and I am pleased to hear noble Lords giving full support to these amendments. I hope the Minister is listening to the strength of feeling today. This issue will not go away and, in order to avoid a messy battle, I hope he will feel able to embrace these proposals and come back with some government amendments to satisfy the House before Report. I look forward to hearing that he is indeed prepared to do so.
Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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I thank noble Lords for this important debate. Before I get into the points raised, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Bolton, and all members of the Constitution Committee for their recent report on the Bill’s measures. My officials and I will review their recommendations and will issue an official government response in due course.

In the coming days, we will debate the OEP in detail in numerous groupings, including those on guidance—an issue raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope—and on fines, which were raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and the noble Lords, Lord Cameron and Lord Whitty. We will also debate it in the group on finance and the group on enforcement, led by Amendment 104. All these issues will be covered in detail.

I will make one or two points on comparisons with the EU. The OEP will be able to liaise directly with the public body in question to investigate and resolve alleged breaches of environmental law. The EU cannot liaise directly with public bodies; only member state Governments can. It can take years for cases to reach resolution through the EU infractions system; our framework will resolve issues more quickly. The OEP can apply for a range of judicial review remedies, such as mandatory and quashing orders, subject to the safeguards we have already discussed. The Court of Justice of the European Union cannot issue these remedies to member states; the only mechanism available to it to ensure compliance with its judgments is the threat of fines several years later. We have the vastly stronger mechanism of mandatory court judgments.

The OEP is being established with a dedicated purpose to monitor the implementation of, and enforce compliance with, environmental law, holding public authorities to account. It is designed specifically for our domestic context, as a non-departmental public body, following the constitutional framework of other public bodies with a watchdog function over government, such as the Committee on Climate Change, which I think most noble Lords who have discussed it would agree has been enormously effective and actually lacks the kind of teeth that the OEP is being given.

Therefore, I reiterate our commitment to delivering an independent body to hold government and other bodies to account. As announced on 7 June, the first non-executive board members have been appointed by the Secretary of State after consultation with the chair designate, Dame Glenys Stacey, and they will soon be available to be involved in activities to support the OEP and any interim arrangements. Notwithstanding the warning that I received from the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, I thoroughly recommend looking at this list of appointees because noble Lords will see the depth of expertise that is already forming within the OEP. This demonstrates a commitment to ensuring that it will be a formidable independent organisation, with environmental protection at its heart.

Turning to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, the Bill grants the Secretary of State no power to interfere in the OEP’s decision-making on specific or individual cases. The Secretary of State cannot tell the OEP what to do in a way that undermines its discretion and obligation to reach its own decisions. There is of course plenty of room for legitimate debate around the measures that may or not be required to improve the OEP in various ways, but I think that even its sharpest critics would balk at the idea that it is merely another function of the Secretary of State, as one noble Lord put it. This is far removed from the reality, and I encourage noble Lords to really go through the detail of the Bill relating to the OEP. Nor can it reasonably be said that, as currently proposed and structured, it will be anything like judge and jury—a point made by my noble friend Lord Caithness said. Again, I encourage noble Lords to actually examine the Bill in relation to the formation of the OEP.

Turning to specific amendments, I begin with Amendment 85 tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch. I reassure her that there is already a proper role for Parliament in the public appointments process for significant posts, which is to scrutinise the actions of Ministers in making appointments. She will know—as does my noble friend Lady McIntosh—that the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee and the Environmental Audit Committee jointly carried out a pre-appointment hearing with the Secretary of State’s preferred candidate for the OEP chair and confirmed her suitability for the role. We would of course similarly expect the Secretary of State to duly consider any recommendations made by the committees in relation to the appointment of future chairs.

The Government do not believe it necessary to prescribe a particular role for Parliament in scrutinising the appointments of other non-executive members. The OEP chair has been and will in future be consulted on this, as required by paragraph 2 of Schedule 1 to the Bill. Ultimately, Ministers are accountable and responsible to Parliament for public appointments and they should retain the ability to make the final choice. The amendment would reverse this and is unnecessary, given the important role that Parliament already plays.

I turn to the amendments of noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington. I assure him that the Government are committed to establishing the OEP as an independent body, and the provisions in the Bill allow us to do this. The OEP will be established as a non-departmental public body, and we believe that this is the best model to achieve a balance of independence, value for money and accountability. For example, the Climate Change Committee is also a non-departmental public body, as is the Equality and Human Rights Commission, but, in the case of the former, I do not believe that there is any requirement on the Secretary of State to have due regard for its independence.

The OEP will be governed by non-executive members, who will appoint the chief executive as per long-established practice. These members will go through the appropriate appointments process, which is regulated by Her Majesty’s Commissioner for Public Appointments.

My concern is that the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, could create significant confusion regarding what is a well-established model, leading to a significant delay in getting the OEP up and running. For instance, the chief executive, if there were one, would be subject to a completely different appointment process from the rest of the board and, crucially, the chair, blurring accountability structures both within and outside the organisation.

I assure the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, on his Amendment 91, that several provisions in the Bill already ensure that the funding of the OEP is safeguarded. First, paragraph 12 of Schedule 1 states that the Secretary of State must provide such funding as is considered “reasonably sufficient”. This is a novel provision, intended to work in conjunction with the duty on the OEP to provide to Parliament an assessment of whether it received sufficient funding. Ministers will be held to account if it is deemed that the funding is not sufficient. The OEP may also submit to a Select Committee any evidence that it believes makes a case for additional funding.

The Government have committed to a ring-fenced multiannual funding envelope within the remits of the spending review, which will be regularly reviewed. For added transparency and to enable further parliamentary scrutiny, the OEP’s budget will be set out as a separate line in Defra’s supply estimate.

I hope that this is not outside protocol, but I will answer the question of the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, that I did not answer in the previous debate. He is right that proportionality is an element of the precautionary principle; nevertheless, it is important that proportionality be also applied across all of the five other wider principles in the Bill, not just the precautionary principle. I apologise for not having made that clearer earlier.

I hope that this extensive package reassures the noble Lord, and that he withdraws his amendment.

Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Garden of Frognal) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have received a request to speak after the Minister from the noble Lord, Lord Teverson.

Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson (LD)
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My Lords, I get the impression from that short reply that the Minister does not understand the gravity of what was said around the Chamber. I understand that we are coming back to this issue and Clause 24 on another occasion, but in his description of the OEP’s relationship to the Secretary of State he asked Members to “examine the Bill”. I am looking at Clause 24, which says:

“The Secretary of State may issue guidance to the OEP on the matters listed in section 22(6) (OEP’s enforcement policy).”

If that were not bad enough, the next sentence is:

“The OEP must have regard to the guidance in … preparing its enforcement policy, and ... exercising its enforcement functions.”

That drives a coach and horses through what he has said.

I come back to his point about the Climate Change Committee. Whatever the arguments are about it—and we all believe it is a hugely fantastic organisation for this country—it does not have an enforcement role in terms of the Government; the OEP does, and that is the big difference. Perhaps he could give those items more attention.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord for this question, which relates to ministerial interference in the OEP. Ministers cannot set its programme of activity or in any way improperly influence its decision-making. The Bill does not provide Ministers with powers of direction over the OEP; it requires the OEP to act objectively and impartially and to have regard to the need to act transparently. If it does not, it is breaking the law. The OEP will be free to consider and highlight any instances where is a suspicion of any kind of improper ministerial interference in its decisions.

I know that we will be coming to the issue of ministerial guidance—although I forget which group of amendments it is in—but I will say that the OEP is under no duty to follow guidance if it feels that the guidance is in any sense improper. Indeed, it would be illegal for a Minister to suggest guidance that undermines the independence of the OEP. As I say, we will be coming to this later on and I hope that I will able to address some of the noble Lord’s concerns more completely then.

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Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab)
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My Lords, it is interesting to hear the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, introduce her amendments because at present the Bill does not give detail on what happens if a member becomes unfit, is found unsuitable or is simply not satisfactory as a member of the committee. It strikes me that we need proper clarity in this, as the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Bennachie, said.

It was interesting to hear what the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, said about the amendment preventing anyone who had ever been found guilty of a criminal offence at any time in their life being on the committee. I agree that it is harsh but I am not sure, having looked at the amendments, if that is their intention. As the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Bennachie, said, the Secretary of State would still have discretion over that. If that means that situation could be avoided, I see no issues with it, but I agree that we would not want to have a blanket ban on anyone who maybe had a small conviction many years ago when they were young but had been a perfectly good citizen since.

It is also interesting how this fits with the Government’s Code of Conduct for Board Members of Public Bodies, which clearly

“expects all holders of public office to work to the highest personal and professional standards.”

We know that there are clear codes of conduct set out for all members of such boards to adhere to. Section 5.8 of that code says:

“You must inform the sponsor department of the body of any bankruptcy, current police investigation, unspent criminal conviction or disqualification as a company director in advance of appointment, or should any such instances occur during your appointment.”

This completely ties in with what the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Bennachie, was saying: that the issue would be if you had not declared such a thing at the time of your appointment. On that basis, it would be helpful to hear the Minister’s thoughts on this area because, now I have listened to the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, and the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Bennachie, I think that we need some clarity.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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I hope I went some way at least towards reassuring noble Lords about the robust process for appointing the chair, board members and non-executive directors of the OEP earlier. I would like to provide additional assurance in relation to Amendments 89 and 90 from my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering.

We have carefully designed the OEP for it to effectively deliver its functions in England and over reserved matters. We have designed the appointment and removal processes of OEP members to retain the right balance between ministerial accountability and operational independence. Should it become apparent that a non-executive member of the OEP were unable or unfit to carry out their duties as a member of the OEP board, we would expect this important development to be a subject of significant discussion between the Secretary of State and the OEP chair. As such, it is not necessary to prescribe this on the face of the Bill.

Additionally, in answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, Schedule 1 already sets out the grounds for the removal of a non-executive board member in the unlikely event of them being unable or unfit to carry out their functions. Greater detail on these matters is better dealt with in the terms of appointment for individual non-executive members rather than on the face of the Bill. Should the Secretary of State act disproportionately in the termination of a non-executive member, they will be held to account and scrutinised by Parliament.

I hope that this reassures my noble friend, and I beg her to withdraw the amendments.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con)
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My Lords, I am very grateful for the opportunity to have this little debate and to all those who have contributed. Obviously, I am disappointed that I was not clear enough for my noble friend Lord Trenchard, but I am delighted that, in some way, the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Bennachie, addressed his concerns ably and effectively. The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, put it very well by saying that there is a need for greater clarity, and it was a professional body—the Law Society of Scotland—that first proposed these amendments.

I take my noble friend’s point that this level of detail was perhaps never intended to be on the face of the Bill, but it would be interesting to know what sort of template there was and, for example, how “disproportionately” would be considered. Clearly, common sense will dictate what disqualifies one from office. Because of some historic misdemeanour that is not of any great consequence, it would be unfortunate to lose a person who would be a good member of the board.

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to raise this, and I am grateful to my noble friend for putting my mind at rest in summing up. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

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I finish by turning to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington. We have talked about environmental independence but this is also about financial independence, and we have to have a long-term approach. My final message to the Minister is this. The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, mentioned 25-0 and the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, mentioned 30-0. I think this debate has said, 7-0 to the amendments. That is a reasonable scoreline, and perhaps England can achieve it tomorrow.
Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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My Lords, I very much hope so. I thank my noble friend Lady McIntosh and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, for tabling Amendments 92 and 93. I agree, of course, that it is important for the OEP to have certainty regarding its level of funding on a multi-annual basis That is why the Government have committed to providing a multi-annual indicative budget for the OEP, ring-fenced within each spending review period. For transparency, the OEP’s budget will also be given a separate line in Defra’s supply estimate, which will be laid before Parliament to allow for parliamentary scrutiny. This is, nevertheless, an administrative matter, so it is not appropriate to put it on the face of the Bill.

There is also a need to retain flexibility, both initially in light of delays to the Bill due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and should the process for allocating public body budgets ever be reformed at a future date. It is worth pointing out that other bodies with multi-annual funding commitments—the Office for Budget Responsibility, for example—do not have this set out in legislation. The Bill does provide several safeguards on OEP funding. These include a duty on the Secretary of State to fund the OEP sufficiently; in conjunction, the OEP will provide an annual assessment to Parliament of whether it has received sufficient funding. In answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, the OEP has been given £8 million for its interim stage for this business year.

I hope that this reassures noble Lords and ask them to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con)
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I am grateful to all who have spoken, and I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Bennachie, for lending his support in co-signing the amendment.

I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Rooker; if you look at paragraph 12 of Schedule 1, it really is not very forthcoming. It just talks about paying

“such sums as the Secretary of State considers … reasonably sufficient to enable the OEP to carry out its functions”,

and then talks of

“subject to such conditions as the Secretary of State may determine”

if there is further assistance by way of grants or loans. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Khan, that both amendments deal with a potential revision; I think the difference in Amendment 93 is if any additional funds are required. To a certain extent, I think that is already addressed in the schedule.

The noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Bennachie, is right that we need to equip the OEP to be in a position to respond rapidly to what we are asking it to do. I am not in a position to say whether £8 million seems low. It does not seem particularly high for its first year, but it depends on whether it is for half a year, assuming that the organisation really only comes into swing properly on 1 July, this week. Perhaps my noble friend could confirm whether it is six, nine or 12 months—I think we are going to have a penalty fine for anybody whose mobile phone goes off in the Chamber, as that one has just done.

The noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, is absolutely right. I am grateful that my noble friend confirmed that it is an indicative budget, but we do need greater clarity to enable the OEP to do its work, for all the reasons that the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, gave about how out of kilter the Natural England budget is. Obviously, that has not been a blow to Tony Juniper in making these points, because he has gone from strength to strength. I do not think people should be shy of criticising the funding—not the Government themselves—where that is due.

The noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, said, both in this debate and the previous one, that it is not just the OEP and Natural England that are being kept short of funds. What worries me very much is the fact that the Environment Agency is on the record as saying that it does not have sufficient funds to inspect the rivers. If we are not inspecting the rivers, how is the OEP going to impose the penalties that we wish it to?

I believe this has been a very useful debate. We might want to consider how to address this, if it is necessary, going forward. However, for the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, for introducing this suite of amendments—including Amendments 94, 98 and 99 in my name—and the question on Clause 24 stand part, to which I have added my name.

Continuing the theme from the earlier grouping, all of these amendments focus on the need for the OEP to have guaranteed independence and not to be under the direction of the Secretary of State in how it carries out its enforcement policy. I was really disappointed in the Minister’s response to the earlier debate. It did not feel to me as though he had listened to the strength and weight of the arguments or, indeed, answered many of the points put to him. I hope that he will engage more in the arguments that have been put forward in the debate today, if not now then certainly before Report.

I am very grateful to everyone who has added to the chorus of concern about the wording of Clause 24, which is really what we are talking about today. Of course, this clause has history. It was added only as an afterthought to the Bill at the Commons Committee Stage; it is almost as if the Government got cold feet. We got a flavour of why that might be—indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, quoted the Secretary of State on the Today programme last year when he said that the Government did not want “unaccountable regulators” who

“make it up as they go along”,

“change their remit” or “change their approach entirely”. So, a huge suspicion hangs over this body. As the noble Lord said, it is as if Clause 24 is a continuing manifestation of the Government’s reluctance to create the OEP in the first place.

This, of course, was before Dame Glenys and her team were appointed. I hope that the Government have relaxed a little since then but, given their obvious competence, why do we still need Clause 24? The Minister will claim that there are other precedents for the Secretary of State to issue guidance to public bodies, and it is true that there are examples where this is the case. However, it is not the case with, for example, the Committee on Climate Change; the Climate Change Act specifically says that the Secretary of State cannot

“direct the Committee as to the content of any advice or report”.

The critical issue with the OEP is that it has enforcement powers against public bodies, including government, who are potentially breaching the law, and with the power to take government to court. A better comparison would be with the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which enforces breaches of the law on human rights and equality—and cannot be directed by Ministers.

We can swap different examples of precedents, but it is more important that we do the right thing for what is a new and relatively unique organisation. Of course, one reason that it has special status is that it is taking over powers of enforcement previously carried out by the European Commission, which certainly would not have tolerated direction from the Government and did a huge amount to maintain environmental standards across the EU. As noble Lords have said, we were promised during the lengthy debates on the EU withdrawal Bill that we would have a UK body with equivalent powers to the Commission. To allow Clause 24 to remain would be a serious breach of those promises. We believe that it represents a fundamental undermining of the independence of the OEP.

Like the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, I welcomed the Minister’s letter, but unlike her, I did not find it quite so enlightening. In his letter of 10 June, the Minister said:

“Although the Secretary of State may issue guidance to the OEP on its enforcement policy, they will need to exercise this power consistently with their duty to have regard to the need to protect the OEP’s independence.”

As the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said, it seems that these two requirements represent a contradiction at the heart of the Bill. This was echoed by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope. You cannot have it both ways: being able to give direction while respecting its independence. One might say it would be a lawyer’s dream to try to sort it out. My noble friend Lord Rooker said he would like to hear the legal argument about the meaning of “having regard to” the Minister’s guidance and sit in as a fly on the wall. How do you measure “have regard to”? As the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, quite rightly said, what is the point of having guidance if not to exert influence?

We believe that it would send a strong signal to Parliament and stakeholders if the Government agreed to remove this clause. It is ultimately a matter of trust; it would demonstrate the Government’s confidence in the new leadership of the OEP, and I therefore hope the Minister will agree to reconsider this wording and remove this clause.

My Amendment 94 would have the effect of making the independence of the OEP an absolute requirement, rather than one that Ministers are merely required to have regard to. Amendments 98 and 99 would make any guidance from the Secretary of State discretionary. But to return to the main point: we do not believe the guidance should be there in the first place. The helpful Amendment 100 from the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, approaches the need for OEP independence in a separate but equally valid way, continuing to underline the main point at issue.

Finally, I welcome the amendments in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick. Her Amendment 117 mirrors our concern to ensure OEP independence. It would remove the wide-ranging power for the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland to issue guidance to the OEP. Amendment 118 revisits the question that she has posed before about how and when the appointment of the dedicated Northern Ireland board member will be made. I hope the Minister can answer this point today. Quite rightly, her amendment requires it to be made with the consent of the Committee for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs of the Northern Ireland Assembly. This is a similar point to our Amendment 85, which we debated in an earlier group.

I hope that the Minister has carefully listened to this debate. There are important principles in these amendments, and they will not go away, as noble Lords have stressed on a number of occasions. I hope that he will feel able to take these issues away and give some assurance that we will not be back repeating these debates on Report, as he can probably predict what the outcome of that would be.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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I thank noble Lords for their contributions. I will begin by addressing the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch.

On Amendment 94, the Government are committed to ensuring the OEP’s operational independence. This is precisely why we have included in paragraph 17 of Schedule 1 the duty on the Secretary of State to have regard to the need to protect the OEP’s independence. The actions of the Secretary of State in exercising functions in relation to the OEP will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny in the usual way.

However, the OEP itself is not an elected body. It is the Secretary of State, as an elected representative of the Government, who is ultimately accountable to Parliament for the OEP’s use of public money. Ministerial accountability is one of the Government’s key principles of good corporate governance. Ensuring the OEP’s operational independence must therefore be balanced with allowing appropriate levels of scrutiny. The amendment suggested by the noble Baroness would prevent Defra, as the OEP’s parent department, exercising vital functions of public accountability, including carrying out accounting officer responsibilities.

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Moved by
95: Clause 22, page 13, line 25, at end insert “, and
(b) how the OEP intends to co-operate with devolved environmental governance bodies.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment provides that the OEP’s strategy must set out how the OEP intends to co-operate with devolved environmental governance bodies (as defined in Clause 46 of the Bill).
Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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Amendment 95 creates a duty for the OEP to set out in its strategy how it intends to interact with devolved environmental governance bodies, as defined in the Bill. It will promote co-operation between the OEP and devolved environmental governance bodies, and respect the devolution settlements by imposing this duty on the OEP only. Government Amendment 95 complements other measures in this Bill that enable the OEP to share relevant information with equivalent bodies and require it to consult them on any matters relevant to their functions.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, has outlined the importance of consultation with devolved counterparts in previous debates, and I hope that this government amendment will therefore be welcomed by him, in particular. This is a crucial addition to these other measures, which together will ensure that the OEP and devolved bodies can co-ordinate their functions effectively for the benefit of our environment across the union.

Lord Lucas Portrait Lord Lucas (Con) [V]
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My Lords, Amendment 96 in my name has nothing to do with Amendment 95 but, for the convenience of the Whips’ Office, has been grouped with it.

In this legislation and many other policies, we aim to accomplish substantial changes in people’s behaviour. Particularly when it comes to keeping the heat down, we are faced with immediate disbenefits—things we are asking of people to make their lives worse or different. Therefore, we need to find a way of taking people with us, of explaining to and sharing decisions with them, to have their confidence and mean that they, with us, will take the decisions we need to take. The fundamentals of this are that we should be telling the truth, being transparent and trusting the public. Those are the virtues that I would like to see inculcated into the OEP.

The amendment asks that we gather research and information, because it is hard to find what you want if you are an ordinary member of the public or someone trying to put together an understanding that would allow them to critique government policy, to end up as an informed supporter or to offer helpful suggestions. Secondly, we should make it open, because far too much vital information is hidden behind paywalls. Thirdly, we should make it clear how the evidence supports government policies because, that way, people can see why they should be lining up behind the Government.

Absent that, we will get a lot of policies that sound nice but whose outcomes are suboptimal, and we will lose public support. Take an easy example: recycling. We all sort of want to do it but, when the council turns up outside my door, it smashes the glass into the paper. How is that recycled? Is it recycled or does it just go off to the incinerator? What is the truth? What is actually happening to justify all the effort that I have put in to separating one lot of rubbish from another? I cannot find the answer to that, but it ought to be easy.

Take another example: plant-based diets. We are told they save lives, alleviate hunger, reduce climate change, save water and minimise land use. That makes sense; there are obvious reasons to cut out the middle cow, go straight to the source of the energy and process it ourselves. That way, we ought to have much less impact on the planet. I have been indulging in an experiment, because my daughter went vegan at Christmas, and I record my thanks to Yotam Ottolenghi for making that a process that I have been able to endure.

However, you soon come to notice that milk from a cow is 90p a litre and milk from an oat is £1.80 a litre. If the plant-based diet arguments were right, it ought to be 45p a litre. Some of the difference may be down to rapacious Swedish capitalists outfoxing socially minded British supermarkets, but not that much. The problem is that we are not being offered information on the whole system costs; we are being offered information that cherry-picks things and leads us to make suboptimal decisions.

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Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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I thank noble Lords for their contributions.

Although I welcome the commitment to transparency of my noble friend Lord Lucas, Amendment 96 would effectively cause the OEP to become a data bank. This would weaken its ability to focus on its principal objective of contributing to environmental protection and to the improvement of the natural environment. The OEP cannot simply publish commercially held data, nor can it ignore the sensitivity and confidentiality of certain data which may inform policy-making and make it public. It will be subject to clear requirements set out in existing law, such as the Data Protection Act 2018, which govern access to and protection of information. I highlight that the Bill explicitly sets out that the OEP must have regard to the need to act transparently. However, there may be occasions when the OEP cannot be transparent and make information publicly available, such as during the investigation of a complaint.

The Government support making environmental data open and public where possible: for instance, through DATA.GOV.UK. Defra is also developing a new interactive dashboard to improve access to the open data used in the 25-year environment plan outcome indicator framework. Defra published an update on 11 June which I encourage any noble Lords interested in this area to view.

My noble friend questioned the discrepancy in cost between cows’ milk and oat milk. Although I cannot pretend to know the absolute details, I can remind him that the thesis of the Dasgupta review was reconciling our economy with nature, learning to value valuable things and adding costs to pollution, waste and plunder. That is not the case today, as the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, made very clear in her speech earlier; unfortunately, the consumer often pays twice, over the counter and then through their taxes, or perhaps through a damaged environment. If products reflected the true costs of production, I suspect that the price system would be very different across most products today.

I was asked by my noble friend the Duke of Montrose to write to him about—I have to remind myself what I promised; I am now promising to write him about something and I cannot remember what it was. Yes, it was about the framework agreements that we have made with the devolved Administrations. I will take him up on that offer and I will write to him as soon as possible.

The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, asked whether I believed that the OEP should follow the guidelines and guidance of the chief scientific adviser. It is certainly the case that the two should be working very closely together. Whether that relationship should be formalised is a different issue—I suspect probably not. However, I would expect that relationship to be a close one.

Finally, I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, for his kind comments about this amendment.

So I hope I have reassured the noble Lord and I ask him to withdraw his amendment.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Finlay of Llandaff) (CB)
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I have had one request to speak after the Minister, from the noble Lord, Lord Lucas.

Lord Lucas Portrait Lord Lucas (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend for his explanation of the reasons why he cannot go down the road that I would like him to go down. I suspect that, after I have studied them, I will fully accept them. However, it seems to me that, one way or another, we have to find a way to empower ordinary people to make these decisions and not leave this as something which is happening to them—particularly if, at the end of the day, we will be asking them to pay more for things or to not have things that they have at the moment.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I simply say that I very strongly agree, and that will remain a focus of the Government.

Amendment 95 agreed.
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Moved by
101: Clause 27, page 15, line 32, leave out “and 2” and insert “to (Environmental targets: species abundance)”
Member’s explanatory statement
See the explanatory statement for new Clause (Environmental targets: species abundance).