Environment (Local Nature Recovery Strategies) (Procedure) Regulations 2023

Baroness Parminter Excerpts
Monday 10th July 2023

(11 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson (LD)
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My Lords, I declare my interest as chair of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Nature Partnership, one of the 48 we have in England—I had forgotten the number. If this is reported in Cornwall, I will be told off for referring to Cornwall as part of England; in the Isles of Scilly, it will not be as bad.

Earlier, I was at a reception in this House held by Natural England. It was one of the best I have been to. There were four speakers and they were all really good. They were short and to the point but also humorous. The key message that its chief executive, Marian Spain, put over as the mission of Natural England was deliverability. Exactly as the noble Baroness, Lady Willis of Summertown, has said, this secondary legislation does not ensure that.

I have some sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. I quite like the local nature of the strategies and think it is quite important. It is easy for us in Cornwall because, apart from the Republic of Ireland and Wales, we have only Devon to deal with; we have an area of outstanding natural beauty called Tamar that straddles both, so we are solving the issue of connectivity across borders. It is quite something for Cornwall and Devon to co-operate—normally, we disagree over where we put cream and jam on our scones, as noble Lords know, and over even more important things.

At the latest board meeting of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Nature Partnership, I laid down to our supporters—including Cornwall Council, which does an excellent job for us—that we had to look at deliverability and how to make this strategy into something that works, because I do not fully understand that. The trouble is how to get the people whom we quite successfully communicated with and consulted during our pilot study—we were one of five that did those pilot studies and enjoyed it very much—to really contribute if they do not believe it will lead to something that works and is important and transformative, as I am sure the majority of our stakeholders do.

As we all know, our most important community terrestrially is farming and land management and our most important community for marine is our fishing industries, which are understated in these strategies but are very important and should not be forgotten. I do not understand how we can work effectively with the farming and landowner sector through schemes such as ELMS, which it seems to me does not co-ordinate with this at all, to make sure that we have a way to drive these strategies forward so that everyone, both the farming sector and nature, can benefit.

The other area, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, is planning. I cannot see how these strategies will be effectively deliverable without being embedded in some way into the planning system and planning decisions. For me, the litmus test is whether local authorities feel empowered enough to take them into consideration, and will have to do so, when they make real planning decisions about land use management locally. I would be very interested to hear from the Minister, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, has asked him, where we will get in terms of that amendment in the levelling-up Bill.

One other thing that I found totally depressing, which no one else has mentioned, is on page 12 of the SI under the guidance, where it says, quite boldly:

“A full impact assessment has not been prepared for this instrument as no, or no significant, impact on the private, voluntary or public sectors is foreseen”.


Well, why are we doing it? I rest my case, and I am interested to hear the reply from the Minister.

Baroness Parminter Portrait Baroness Parminter (LD)
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My Lords, I will be brief, given the steer that was given that there was only half an hour for the dinner break, and there are other speakers to come after me. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Willis of Summertown, for bringing forward this debate. Not only is she right to highlight the inadequacies in the statutory guidance; it also provides a vital opportunity to raise the issue which has been referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, and my noble friend Lord Teverson. It is that unless local nature recovery strategies have a sufficiently strong statutory underpinning, when the rubber hits the road and they actually come into contact with local planning authorities, they are not going to be able to do the job that we all want them to do.

I was at the same reception as my noble friend Lord Teverson. The Secretary of State there made it clear that she thought that LNRSs were a critical means of delivering on the ambition to halt the decline in species abundance by 2030. She is absolutely right. As the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, said, we all agree on this. We really congratulate the Government on bringing forward local nature recovery strategies, but we need to do all we can now, at this critical juncture, to make sure they work.

I am not an expert on whether we need one single data format or not. I will take advice from the expert, the noble Baroness, Lady Willis. All I would say is that our committee has been looking at the issue of protected areas. I do not think it would be breaking confidence to say that the paucity of monitoring information out there and the lack of standardisation is already a problem; so let us not add to that but instead create mechanisms so that local planning authorities, farm managers and local developers can see what is important.

I want to ram home this point. I know it is a point that the Minister understands, and I am grateful, like the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, that he did agree to meet us to talk about why the wording in the Environment Act in the moment, “have regard to”, is not sufficient. The noble Baroness, Lady Willis, also referred to it. It does not matter if the Government transpose it into the LUR Bill; it has got to be much stronger than that. There has to be a significant strengthening to ensure that local planning authorities, as opposed to just the upper tiers, really take this forward. We need a stronger steer on them and we need reporting back.

I urge the Minister to carry on having discussions with noble Lords around the Chamber who are with him in his intentions. We need to make sure that the opportunities in the LUR Bill are taken.

Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab)
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My Lords, I start by thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Willis of Summertown, for her expert introduction to her concerns about the statutory instrument before us today. We know the local nature recovery strategies have a really important role to play in delivering on the Environment Act targets and of course the commitment to protect 30% of land, as noble Lords have said.

If you have these regulations, it is also important that they are then actually able to meet their policy objectives. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Willis, that this is a missed opportunity if we do not do that. Clearly a number of noble Lords have talked about the Environment Act, and the fact that it makes it clear that the local nature recovery strategies should give equal consideration to both habitats and species. I think that is a really important part of it.

I would also like to reiterate what my noble friend Lady Jones of Whitchurch and the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, have said. We have all been incredibly supportive of what the Government are trying to achieve. Having said that, the Wildlife and Countryside Link has expressed concerns to the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee about exactly how this is going to be delivered. I think that is what a lot of the concerns expressed today are actually about.

One thing it drew attention to was the recommendation from environmental groups that a species expert hub should be set up as part of the preparation process. It would be designed to identify a national priority list for species groups and—thinking about what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said about the need for a local focus—would provide advice for individual local nature recovery strategies about what their local species priorities should be. So, there is a recognition that we need more support for those local strategies.

However, the regulations and guidance do not include such a hub. While direction to take reasonable steps to identify local nature sites is given to authorities through regulation 6, there is no corresponding regulation requiring efforts to identify local key species considerations. The Government responded to the concerns raised by the Wildlife and Countryside Link, but this particular question was not addressed. So, can I ask the Minister why Defra has decided not to progress these plans for a species expert hub?

We also know that the amount of weight given to LNRSs in the planning system has been raised, both in this debate and by others, as a concern. The regulations impose several duties on local authorities to help the successful preparation of LNRSs, including engaging with other authorities on consultation and strategy, for example. The concern is that, although the regulations do this, they omit the most consequential duty: the requirement to deliver the objectives of the local nature recovery strategy through the relevant local authority’s development plan—which, of course, is why this issue has also come up in the levelling-up Bill.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Willis, and my noble friend Lady Jones said, what is really concerning is that authorities are required to have only a general regard to LNRSs in making planning decisions. That is a pretty weak duty. We tabled amendments to require a stronger duty, but the Government did not want to take them on board. Again, that is why we have returned to this issue in the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill.

In Committee, the Minister pledged to reflect on the case for greater planning weight for LNRSs. As we move into Report, we will continue to seek progress on this, particularly through the amendment in the names of my noble friend Lady Jones and the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter. Will the reflections the Minister has been carrying out lead to the Government accepting my noble friend’s amendment—or would they consider tabling an amendment of their own—in order to strengthen the position of LNRSs within our planning legislation? As the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said, these decisions need to be embedded in the planning system if we are to make genuine progress.

Concerns have recently been raised about the Government’s ongoing commitment to the environment. I do not doubt the Minister’s commitment at all, but the recently published Climate Change Committee report has some worrying comments in the foreword written by the noble Lord, Lord Deben, including the paragraph where he says:

“I urge Government to find the courage to place climate change once again at the heart of its leadership. It would be a terrible error if we in Britain hesitate just as the rest of the world wakes up to the opportunity of Net Zero”.


The report also notes:

“Land use and agriculture in England remains one of the few sectors where the Government has not set out a coherent, strategic approach to coordinated policy to meet the multiple needs for land”.


Both the noble Baroness, Lady Willis, and the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, mentioned ELMS as a way to drive the strategy forward. The report also notes that the land use strategy will be important for biodiversity, but warns that it

“must clearly outline the relationships and interactions with other relevant strategies and action plans across the UK”.

Can the Minister give an assurance that the strategy will work alongside local nature recovery strategies rather than building in more layers of complexity?

The report also mentions the spatial planning system, noting that it

“continues to cause issues, with inconsistent and misaligned decisions undermining local efforts to deliver Net Zero actions. The Government has committed to undertake a full review of the National Planning Policy Framework … to ensure it contributes to mitigation and adaptation as fully as possible”.

As local nature recovery strategies will interact with the NPPF and form part of the biodiversity net gain requirements, how will these different schemes interact?

Finally, in his resignation letter, former Minister the noble Lord, Lord Goldsmith, wrote:

“Our efforts on a wide range of domestic environmental issues have simply ground to a standstill”.


The noble Baroness, Lady Willis, demonstrated her expertise in her excellent introduction. I am sure we will all listen carefully to the Minister’s response to see whether he is able both to reassure her on these issues and to restore some confidence in his Government’s commitment and approach to the environment.

Water Companies: Licences

Baroness Parminter Excerpts
Monday 24th April 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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These are issues that require us to work across government, such as sentencing, but where a crime has been committed and it can be proved that an individual in a senior position in a company has directed that company to operate in an illegal manner, that is a criminal act and therefore sanctions should reflect that.

Baroness Parminter Portrait Baroness Parminter (LD)
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My Lords, the Government have said that they will use the evidence of enforcement and litigation in determining whether they will use this new power on dividends for companies, but that requires evidence. As the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, said, it has recently been shown that of the storm overflow monitors that the water companies put in, one in six—2,300—are not working. Why are the Government not fining these water companies immediately if their storm overflow monitoring devices are not working, because otherwise no one can get the evidence and Ofwat cannot make these decisions?

Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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The Environment Agency has a suite of enforcement actions it can take in those circumstances, including criminal prosecution. Last year it reported 30 monitors that were not recording data properly. Faulty or inactive monitors are identified by the agency through its data monitoring, and where water companies are failing to meet expected levels of monitoring coverage, the agency is holding them to account by requesting plans and monthly updates on progress. Some 15,000 storm outflows exist in this country; we now know where they are and we can monitor them.

Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill

Baroness Parminter Excerpts
Moved by
126: After Clause 15, insert the following new Clause—
“Powers to revoke or replace: application to environmental law(1) This section applies in respect of provision which may be made by a relevant national authority under section 15 where the provision is in respect of secondary retained EU law which is environmental law. (2) No provision to which this section applies may be made in relation to an element of the environment unless the relevant national authority considers that the provision, taken together with other secondary retained EU law relating to the element of the environment, will contribute to a significant improvement in environmental protection.(3) The relevant national authority must ensure that any provision made under section 15 does not—(a) reduce the level of environmental protection arising from the EU retained law to which the provision relates,(b) conflict with—(i) the relevant international environmental agreements,(ii) the relevant international environmental principles, and(c) otherwise undermine the implementation of the policy statement on environmental principles as set out in section 17 of the Environment Act 2021 before the duty to have regard to the statement is brought into force.(4) Prior to making any provision to which this section applies, the relevant national authority must—(a) seek advice from persons who are independent of the authority and have relevant expertise,(b) seek advice from, as appropriate, the Office for Environmental Protection, Environmental Standards Scotland, a devolved environmental governance body or another person exercising similar functions, and(c) publish a report setting out—(i) how the provision does not reduce the level of environmental protection in accordance with subsection (3),(ii) how the provision will contribute to a significant improvement in environmental protection in accordance with subsection (2), and(iii) how the authority has taken into account the advice from the persons referred to in paragraphs (a) and (b) of this subsection.(5) In this section—the“relevant international environmental agreements” means—(a) the UNECE Convention on access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters (Aarhus, 25 June 1998);(b) the Council of Europe's Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern, 1979);(c) the UN Convention on Biodiversity (Rio, 1992);(d) the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (Bonn, 1979);(e) the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (1992);(f) the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat (Ramsar, 1971);the“relevant international environmental principles” means—(a) the integration principle;(b) the precautionary principle;(c) the prevention principle;(d) the rectification at source principle;(e) the polluter pays principle.”Member's explanatory statement
This new clause creates additional conditions to be satisfied before the powers set out in clause 15 can be exercised where the subject matter of their exercise concerns environmental law. It would set out in legislation the commitments Government has made not to reduce environmental standards through exercise of the powers in clause 15 of REUL which are not (currently) reflected in clause 15 or elsewhere.
Baroness Parminter Portrait Baroness Parminter (LD)
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My Lords, Amendment 126 is in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, who sadly cannot be with us this afternoon, the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle. We will touch on some of the issues in Clause 15, although this new clause is to go after it. I make no apology for that because when we talk about this Bill, as my noble friend Lord Fox so rightly said when we last debated the environmental impacts, Defra is the largest shareholder. The wide-ranging powers of the Minister to revoke or repeal environmental legislation will have a massive impact on the 1,781 pieces of legislation—probably more by the end of this month, because the dashboard will have been updated—that are under Defra’s auspices.

We obviously debated at some length in previous sessions the wide-ranging powers in the regulatory burdens which are the overriding framework for Ministers when they are considering how they take forward those powers, but one issue has not been discussed very much, if at all, so far in the context of those regulatory burdens which have particular relevance to the environment. It is the requirement that those regulatory burdens do not allow for any taxation to be increased. As the Government will know, the Dasgupta report, which they commissioned, made it clear that, as it stands, the economic benefits which the environment brings to this country are not adequately reflected in the economic models that we have. The full externalities need to be built in to our economic models and the Government need to take them very seriously.

To their credit, when it comes to environmental taxation, this Government have made through secondary legislation, which is what we are talking about, several new taxes. Those are working extremely well, delivering for both the environment and the Exchequer. The first of those, which was delivered under the coalition Government, was of course the popular levy on plastic bags, which delivers for the environment and to which the general public seem to have taken extremely well. It is delivering incredibly well but, as I say, that was made through secondary legislation.

Recently, the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, and I, along with others, discussed an SI which was about the new and extended producer responsibilities. It was about having levies on producers to tackle some of the major problems of waste that we have in our country. Again, businesses are comfortable with those taxes, which will raise revenue that can then be spent on communicating with the general public about the wider impacts on the environment. By secondary legislation, this Government have already accepted that environmental taxes can have a valuable role to play, yet by saying that there can be no financial costs levied Clause 15 is ruling that route out.

I argue strongly that, in the environmental context, to deny Ministers that flexibility to raise financial revenues, which are welcomed by a number of businesses—including the ones we debated recently in Grand Committee on the extended producer responsibility—is an incredibly retrograde step. It is great to see the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Benyon, here in his place again to defend this area. I am sure that in summing up, he will say, “The noble Baroness doesn’t need to worry, because, of course, you can introduce regulatory burdens as long as there is a compensation in a particular subject area”. I think those were the terms used. Having sat through debates in the Chamber and read what the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, said in Hansard from Monday night’s debate—and having read about four times the letter from the noble Baroness, Lady Bloomfield—I am still no clearer about what “subject area” means.

I have been thinking about this. If, for example, the Government were to amend the water framework directive, which has regulatory burdens on businesses, farmers and landowners, and say, “It’s okay—we can find another regulation and you can increase the burdens on that, because we have made compensatory cuts to somebody else”, does it have to be exactly the same people? Does it have to be landowners, companies and farmers, or can we say that it just has to be in Defra? In which case, the regulatory burdens might be on very different people; it may not be the same businesses that have had the regulatory burdens in one area or another.

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Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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Yes, that is Defra’s approach; that is what we are doing in respect of this legislation. Doing that allows us to keep protections in place, provide certainty to businesses and stakeholders, and make reforms tailored to our needs while removing irrelevant and redundant pieces of legislation, such as the ones I recently mentioned.

The noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, and other noble Lords asked about the justification for Clause 15(5). The UK’s high standards were never dependent on our membership of the EU. We can deliver on the promise of Brexit without abandoning our high standards. The powers to revoke or replace will provide the Government with the opportunity to amend retained EU law and will limit those reforms that do not add to the overall regulatory burden. This is about ensuring that we have a regulatory environment that is the right fit for the UK and not for an environment, as I said last week, that goes from the Arctic to the Mediterranean, and which can fit our overall regulatory regime. Our intention is to revoke any retained law that is not fit for purpose and replace it with laws that are more tailored to the UK and reflect our new regulatory freedoms.

The noble Baroness mentioned taxation. This Bill does not affect the raising and collection of taxes; that is a matter for the Finance Act.

On no regression, the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill is clear that the Government cannot use the powers in that Bill to reduce the overall level of environmental protection, and includes a clause setting out this commitment to non-regression. As stated on the face of the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, the Secretary of State may make regulations only if satisfied that they

“will not have the effect of reducing the level of environmental protection provided for by any existing environmental law”.

So any changes to environmental regulation will need to support these goals, as well as our international commitments, including those with the EU.

The noble Baroness, Lady Young, referred to the Bill as somehow weakening our resolve or our ability to deliver on our international commitments. I can be absolutely clear on this: there has never been a more determined effort to deliver for international biodiversity and the international climate, as well as domestically.

Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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If the noble Baroness will allow me: Britain is revered in many of the fora that I have attended, whether COPs or other UN events, for the leadership we have taken on this. We cannot do it internationally unless we do it domestically as well. That is why our 30 by 30 commitment is so important and why we will achieve proper management of our marine protected areas by the end of next year, which will deliver precisely on the 30 by 30 commitment for the marine environment.

Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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The noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, was before the noble Baroness.

Baroness Parminter Portrait Baroness Parminter (LD)
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Indeed. I do not wish to contradict the Minister, but I am going to. On reading my copy of the Bill, Clause 15(4)(f) states that the burden “may not … impose taxation”. It states that you cannot include new taxation if you are looking to introduce a new piece of legislation. That is pretty clear.

Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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That is because taxation is a matter for the Finance Bill—for the Treasury. This Bill does not relate to that. It is a negative. This does not affect taxation.

Baroness Parminter Portrait Baroness Parminter (LD)
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Okay, but it goes on to say in Clause 15(10)(a) that the burden includes, among other things, “a financial cost”. A financial cost can be a levy, which is taxation.

Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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Forgive me, I think that is dancing on the head of a pin. Taxation is not a matter for this piece of legislation.

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Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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I wish I could. I am very content with the current lot, and I hope they continue. I do not really understand the first point that the noble Baroness made. The Bill is quite explicit about where this stands in law. We want a proper regulatory regime underpinned by law; that is why we are having this debate.

Baroness Parminter Portrait Baroness Parminter (LD)
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My Lords, I thank noble Lords who have participated in the debate. I thank the Minister, who has had the decency again to come and speak to us. Given how critical the environmental laws are to the Bill, it is important that he is here and we are grateful for that, although it may not always seem it. It is therefore disappointing that I can say with a degree of certainty that he has not reassured Members about the issues we are concerned about. In a reasonable way, these two important amendments sought to work with the Bill to allay some of our environmental concerns.

I do not understand how the Minister did not quite understand what the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, was saying. We accept what the Government are saying through the Minister, but if they want to deliver the commitments for our environment and, in principle, not regress, why not put it in the Bill? That would give us—and, just as critically, the public—the reassurance that we need.

I do not often quote in the Chamber, but this issue is not going away. On Sunday, David Attenborough starts a series called “Wild Isles”. For five weeks he will encourage the British public to find out what is so special about our country and what they can do to protect it. Sir David said this week:

“Though rich in places Britain as a whole is one of the most nature depleted countries in the world. Never has there been a more important time to invest in our own wildlife—to try and set an example for the rest of the world and restore our once wild isles for future generations.”


For five weeks the British public will get that message and, in the same way as when they heard the plastics message, they will ask what they can do to protect their environment and what their Government are doing. They will see this cuckoo of a Bill, sired by someone who was prepared to trash our environment as well as our economy and, unless it has the significant safeguards we have talked about, it could predate on the environment they care about so much. The Government might choose to ignore us today, but they will not be able to ignore the British public. I withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 126 withdrawn.

Water Companies: Pollution Penalties

Baroness Parminter Excerpts
Wednesday 22nd February 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

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Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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I think that if the chair of the Environment Agency was here, he would hope that I could voice more clearly his views and the distinction that is understood between unlimited fines, which the EA can pursue through the courts, and penalties which can be delivered by the Environment Agency and Ofwat. We are absolutely not resiling from anything that has been announced. It is right, for example, to look at the variable monetary penalties. They are currently capped at £250,000, which we do not believe is a significant enough deterrent. However, very serious fines can and should be a sanction for water companies that knowingly break the law. There is the criminal sanction as well.

Baroness Parminter Portrait Baroness Parminter (LD)
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My Lords, in the last financial year, 22 water company bosses received over £14 million in bonuses, despite sewage spilling out into our rivers and on to our beaches, killing wildlife and harming swimmers. Why are the Government not looking at stopping water company bosses from being given bonuses until they clean up their act?

Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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Through the regulator, Ofwat, we have provided for water companies to be held to account where they are rewarding people in a way that is disproportionate to the service that they provide. That is a change that this Government have made, and it is being followed through by the regulator.

Packaging Waste (Data Reporting) (England) Regulations 2023

Baroness Parminter Excerpts
Tuesday 21st February 2023

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Baroness Parminter Portrait Baroness Parminter (LD)
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My Lords, I very much support this draft statutory instrument. It will be only short lived, so even if it were to have a massive impact it would not be around for that long. Actually, the principle, which is making sure that producers take responsibility for the environmental impacts they bring to the marketplace through their packaging, is the right one. I commend the Government for the steps, particularly in this SI, to take this forward pragmatically.

I also thank Zack from the Minister’s team, who answered a question at short notice today on the impact of the statutory instrument. That was extremely helpful and I was very grateful.

As the Minister said, these regulations will be in place for only about a year. They will be superseded by the producer responsibility obligations regs, which are due to come into force later this year—is that still going to happen? Although I applaud the department’s initiative, its record in terms of timing, for example with the delays to the deposit return scheme and to the EPR on textiles, has been less tight than we might have hoped. Given the importance of addressing issues around the circular economy, does it look likely that the producer responsibility obligations regs will come out by the back end of this year?

I make two further brief points. The first is in the regulations themselves. Regulation 4 says:

“For the purposes of these Regulations, the Waste Directive is to be read in accordance with this regulation.”


Again, this is a commendable way of updating necessary legislation—looking at what we had from our time in the European Union, building on it and amending it where needed, rather than a wholesale, ideological revocation through Bills such as the retained EU law Bill.

Putting that to one side, my final point is that the impact assessment is really interesting. I thoroughly enjoyed ploughing through it, as opposed to reading only a couple of pages. I was really pleased to see that the Government’s intention, when they bring forward the producer responsibility obligations later in the year, is to mandate companies to label their packaging clearly. The impact assessment actually gives us some indication of what that packaging will be. I thoroughly applaud that. I regard myself as fairly au fait with recycling, but it is really hard for anybody to do a proper recycling job. Even if you are committed to recycling, the plethora and inconsistency of labels is a big issue. So it was really welcome to read in the impact assessment the Government’s acceptance of the problem and their commitment to do something about it. I am delighted, particularly as chair of a Select Committee that did a report last year on mobilising behaviour change in this area, that the department are taking action on this.

I have one specific question. I do not expect the Minister to reply to me now, but if he would like to at some future date, I would be delighted. The impact assessment says at page 15:

“Further to this, producers will be required to fund national communication campaigns, run by the EPR Scheme Administrator, to educate consumers on where and how to recycle their packaging.”


Again, I absolutely and fully applaud that. In advance of the SI coming before us, I hope later this year, it will be very interesting to have an estimate of the budget the Government think that producers might be liable for in order to deliver it. We know from the pandemic just how important clear communication is to get people to change their behaviours, and the need for above-the-line spend. It would be great to know the estimated budget for this at some point, but I welcome this SI and the direction of travel that the Government are taking.

Lord Khan of Burnley Portrait Lord Khan of Burnley (Lab)
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My Lords, we welcome this SI and agree with a number of points that the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, made. The SI will enable data collection to inform fees to be paid by producers under the new extended producer responsibility for packaging scheme. A number of producers have made progress in making their packaging more recyclable and reusable. We hope that the EPR scheme will accelerate this once it is fully on stream, but the Government will need to keep on top of the data and ensure that industry delivers.

This SI was previously withdrawn and replaced, but the Explanatory Memorandum makes no reference to this. Will the Minister confirm what has changed? Was it just correcting some minor typos or is there any wider policy change?

This is a UK-wide policy, but the primary legislation allows SIs to be made in relation to England only. Paragraph 6.2 of the Explanatory Memorandum says that the Welsh and Scottish Governments and the Northern Ireland Executive will lay their own SIs in due course. What are the timescales, and is the relevant Northern Ireland department able to do this in the absence of a functioning Northern Ireland Executive?

In the other place, the Minister, Rebecca Pow, said:

“A new digital system is being created to handle it all, which is critical.”—[Official Report, Commons, Fifth Delegated Legislation Committee, 2/2/23; col. 8.]


Can I ask for more details about this, as the Government’s IT projects rarely go to plan? Is the system on time and within budget? Is it still being tested or is it ready to be rolled out?

The Minister talked about the Government’s environmental improvement plan on implementing EPR for packaging. However, I want to ask in particular about the statement in the plan that says:

“We are engaging with stakeholders to shape the future vision of waste reforms through industry wide sprint events, deep dive sessions and fortnightly forums.”


Will the Minister tell us more about the engagement that has taken place so far and confirm that the Government are engaging not just with industry stake- holders but with environmental groups?

I also ask about the flexibility in the system should any issues arise. If the first tranches of data are not of high enough quality, how long would it take to resolve this? If we end up with issues around the thresholds, how quickly could Defra address them? What other initiatives are being brought forward to address the waste crisis overall?

From my understanding, around 1,800 more businesses will now face reporting obligations, but does the Minister have a precise number of businesses affected? The Government’s own impact assessment, which the noble Baroness talked about, suggests that the number could be as high as 15,000 or as low as zero. What is the figure, and what will the Minister do to ensure that the legislation means something?

Finally, can the Minister be clear that the new system will improve the quality of data compared with the one it is replacing? Without clarity or understanding of our actions, this draft SI will be what we have become used to: more of the same dithering and delay. I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Environmental Improvement Plan 2023

Baroness Parminter Excerpts
Monday 6th February 2023

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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I was the Minister responsible for delivering on the coalition Government’s clear commitment to reduce bills for water charge payers in the south-west because of the extra effort they had to make to protect their bathing waters and waterways. I do not know what plans there are for the future but it has certainly been extremely successful, particularly for those on low incomes. We still have measures to provide for those who are very challenged economically, so that they can have a social tariff. We will continue to work with South West Water and all MPs in that area, who are lobbying hard on this issue.

Baroness Parminter Portrait Baroness Parminter (LD)
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My Lords, given the importance of putting the environment right across government thinking, it is welcome that the environmental principles policy statement was published. But the Minister said “defence” and, as I am sure he well knows, the MoD is exempt from the provisions of the EPPS and it is unclear how it will take forward the environment in its future provisions. Why, if the Government have produced the EPPS now, will it not come into force for another ten months? If the Minister is going to say it is about process, I have two further questions. First, the Office for Environmental Protection offered to advise the Government on creating the processes for the training of Ministers and civil servants. Have they asked the OEP for advice? Secondly, following the question that got no reply for the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, there seem to be no means for this to be anything other than a box-ticking exercise, because we will not be able to see how these EPPSs are delivered. What is the process for Parliament and other people to see that these EPPSs are doing what they need to do?

Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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The noble Baroness is right: the Ministry of Defence was carved out of the provisions in large areas. However, I urge her to look at what it is doing by way of tree-planting and moving to net zero where it can on its very large estate. We want to make sure that we assist the MoD in doing that.

On the noble Baroness’s other point, about measurement, I hope that throughout this the ideal work of Select Committees and more informed groups of your Lordships will be to delve into this and hold Ministers to account in future years. I entirely believe that these targets show where the Government can explain how it wants to hit those targets and achieve them in a way that holds them accountable throughout. The end date is not necessarily the date that will be of particular interest to the noble Baroness; she wants to know about progress towards it. That is why there are interim target dates throughout, some coming up very soon, which will show the path towards achieving what we set out in the provisions.

Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill

Baroness Parminter Excerpts
I say to all of us in this House, because I really feel it, that I certainly support the amendments we have heard about so far. I do not think that they are ideal but they are perhaps the best we can achieve in the time available to us. We must understand that, when we vote, we have a grave responsibility to understand that we could do great harm. The question then is this: what is the good of what we are doing? We are not going to change the feeding of the world’s population with genetically modified crops; actually, that could have been done already had we had the sense to look at how to protect cereals, for example, so many of which are destroyed during storage for all sorts of reasons. One of our responsibilities is to look at how and why these measures are needed. Unfortunately, at the moment, there is a risk that this could be something that is of commercial value for a time but is not necessary for human, planetary, animal or plant value.
Baroness Parminter Portrait Baroness Parminter (LD)
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My Lords, I hope the Minister will see that these amendments in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, are helpful because they give expression to what he said in Committee: that the Government will move forward on a step-by-step basis.

Why do I think that is important? First, again in Committee, the Minister made it absolutely clear that there were no institutions or research bodies—nobody—making a claim that they wanted to do any form of gene editing on anything other than farm animals, and that the only reason why animals beyond farm animals were in the Bill was, to quote the Minister, to “future-proof the Bill”. That is fine, but let us give expression to that future-proofing by ensuring that there is a degree of phasing.

Secondly—this is the point that the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, touched on—the consultation that the Government did on the statutory instrument in advance of this Bill indicated that there was no support from either consumers or retailers for the sale of animal products into the market. The public appetite is therefore limited. Those of you in this Chamber who are strong proponents of gene editing could very well argue that this phasing amendment would allow time to bring the public along with us.

The third argument, as I think the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, mentioned, is that while Europe is looking at gene editing, it is not looking at animals at all, and it is a major trading partner. The Welsh have opposed this legislation and, if my timing is correct, the Scottish are voting at this very moment to turn it down as well. Therefore, key partners of ours are moving at a slower pace than ours and therefore there is a strong argument for moving at a measured pace.

However, the strongest argument, which I think will find favour with the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, and others, is for doing this based on the evidence of the science. Yes, we need a proportionate regulatory framework, but we must ensure that we are learning the lessons at every stage and monitoring the adverse effects. We will come to an amendment about this later. Then, going forward, animal welfare is guaranteed, and public benefits are maintained. An argument that allows this in a phased way is the right regulatory approach. If the noble Baroness takes this to a vote, she will have the support of these Benches.

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Moved by
22: Leave out Clause 14 and insert the following new Clause—
“Precision bred animal marketing authorisations: reporting obligations(1) Before issuing a precision bred marketing authorisation for the first time, the Secretary of State must establish a monitoring system for the reporting of potential adverse effects on the health or welfare of such animals or their progeny which must enable—(a) the voluntary reporting to the Secretary of State by keepers of animals, animal health and veterinary professionals, or others, of adverse effects,(b) the mandatory reporting to the Secretary of State by the marketing authorisation holder of adverse effects, and(c) relevant information to be available to support future research.(2) Regulations under subsection (1) may—(a) define what is meant by adverse effects on health and welfare,(b) prescribe information to be required from the notifier for reporting adverse effects to the Secretary of State,(c) make provision for requiring the recipient of marketing authorisation to take prescribed steps, in connection with supplying such an animal to another person, to secure that prescribed information about the subsequent health and welfare of that animal or its progeny, is provided by, or can be collected from that other person, and(d) determine the period after marketing authorisation that such reporting of adverse effects on the health and welfare of animals or their progeny of a given precision bred technique is to be required.(3) Regulations under this section are subject to the affirmative procedure.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment requires that, before precision bred animals are marketed, there be mechanisms established for reporting possible adverse effects on the animals’ health and welfare or that of their progeny. Regulations shall define adverse effects, details of the information required, and the time period over which it is required for any given precision breeding technique and application.
Baroness Parminter Portrait Baroness Parminter (LD)
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My Lords, Amendments 22 and 23 are in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Trees. My name is at the head, but they are really joint amendments, and we grateful for the support of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, on the Labour Front Bench and my noble friend Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville from the Liberal Democrats. The aim of the amendments is to ensure that a very clear monitoring system is set up in advance of when gene-edited animals are marketed. This is to ensure that the lessons can be learned about any adverse, or indeed positive, effects on animal welfare so that, throughout the process, we can make those learnings available to others so that animals can benefit in the future.

The provisions in Clause 14, which we are proposing this amendment as a replacement for, say that the Government “may” do this—but this is a fundamental issue about whether or not we are ensuring that a proper surveillance and monitoring system is in place right from the beginning. We would certainly concede that it is appropriate that the regulations to implement such a provision were in secondary legislation, but that is not what Clause 14 says: it basically says that the principle of undertaking a monitoring system is only a “may”, not a “must”. As was referred to earlier this evening, in comparable legislation—the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act—the principle of having a surveillance and monitoring system in the Act and the regulations for how to deliver it are in secondary legislation. This seems to be a reasonable position.

The Minister talked on a number of occasions this evening about the research project with a Scottish university on how these regulations might work in practice. If you have the provisions on how they will be delivered in secondary legislation, that seems to be appropriate. But our amendment would put in the Bill a provision that the Government will introduce a surveillance and monitoring system and that the information will be recorded and available to inform decisions in the future to guarantee animal welfare— which is a common theme that we have covered this evening.

I am grateful to the Minister and the Bill team for their meetings with me, the noble Lord, Lord Trees, and others on this matter between Committee and Report. I do not wish to put words into the Minister’s mouth, but I can guess what he will say in response to our amendment, given the email that the noble Lord, Lord Trees, and I received from the Bill team on 13 January. The objections were that what was in the Bill was proportionate and what we were asking for was not a proportionate form of regulation. The exact words were that our amendment

“could be seen as being too burdensome a requirement for industry and would remove our ability to scale back reporting requirements in the future if we have a scientific basis for doing so”.

To be clear, our amendment is about putting in the Bill a requirement that there is scientific monitoring; we are not saying that the regulations need to go in the Bill. But the Bill team basically says that making it effectively something that the Government must do— putting it in the Bill—is too “burdensome” a requirement for industry. That does not seem a proportionate approach to a regulatory process, where you are balancing the rightful requirements of people going into this new industry against public benefit and animal welfare. This gets the scales wrong.

This is compounded when the email goes on to say:

“Introducing a requirement on the face of the bill to require and publish data from clinical outcomes from research would also curtail our flexibility and could lead to issues with commercial sensitivity”.


Again, it is not beyond the wit of man for Governments to produce regulations in secondary legislation that ensure that legitimate issues of commercial sensitivity are handled—but that should not preclude the duty on companies to supply that information so that lessons can be learned for the benefit of both animal welfare and public confidence, which is an issue that I think the noble Lord, Lord Trees, will address in some detail.

So I look forward to what other noble Lords will say and how the Minister will respond to both our amendments. I reserve our position on moving to a vote. But we think that this is a really important way of doing what the Government say they want to do: move ahead with this in a step-by-step way, while ensuring that the evidence is retained from the relevant companies and available to inform future research.

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I hope that, in the light of these points, I can persuade the noble Baroness and the noble Lord to consider not pressing their amendments.
Baroness Parminter Portrait Baroness Parminter (LD)
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I thank the Minister for that reply. Sadly, it is quite clear, in the almost immortal words of the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, this evening, that we have not yet managed to make a dent in the Government’s protective carapace on this Bill—it is a great phrase—which is a disappointment, as a number of other amendments earlier in the evening led up to this amendment.

I do not want to spend much time. I just want to make two points to the Minister. He did not answer the fundamental question that Clause 14 says only that regulations “may” make provision. There is absolutely nothing to stop a future Government—and I do not wish to impugn the Minister’s character or motives—not doing anything at all. It is not about the regulations in future; they do not need to introduce a surveillance monitoring system in the future because all that is in the Bill is that regulations “may” make provision. If it was regulations “must” make provision, that might have made a difference, but the Minster was not prepared to concede that.

Secondly, we have a difference of opinion on the issue of commercial sensitivity. I referred to other legislation in comparable fields of human research where this issue has been overcome, and the noble Lord, Lord Trees, outlined other legislation in the veterinary field where this commercial sensitivity issue has been addressed with wording in legislation to that effect.

So I am not content with what the Minister has said. I have seen where we have been heading this evening, but I think it is a matter of principle. For those of us who feel strongly about this, this was a solid amendment seeking to do a good job to help this Bill from both sides of the House, and I wish to press it to a vote.

Environmental Targets (Woodland and Trees Outside Woodland) (England) Regulations 2022

Baroness Parminter Excerpts
Tuesday 24th January 2023

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Roborough Portrait Lord Roborough (Con)
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I thank my noble friend for the targets that he has outlined today. Before I go on, I should apologise in advance; this is one of my first times standing up so I am sure I will make many errors. I declare my interests in developing new forestry plantations and managing forestry, as well as in carbon offsets, so I have a little experience in this area.

In some ways, I want to echo what has come before me but with a different emphasis. I want the Government to continue to work on these targets by addressing the practicalities of what it takes to plant a new forest. Look at our neighbours in Europe. France has 31% woodland cover. Germany has 33%. They are at a similar stage of economic development to us and have similar climates. The UK’s figure should be much higher, but there are many barriers to getting it higher that need to be addressed. I am not convinced about setting targets; I think that the work needs to be on removing the obstacles to developing new forestry—everything from the invasive grey squirrel, which attacks many of our native broadleafs in an early stage of their development, to the cumbersome and restrictive planning process that places undue weight on perhaps poor quality archaeology as an obstacle to planting new ground. We must also develop carrots for the industry and landowners by encouraging more green finance involvement in developing new forests.

Like the noble Baroness, Lady Young, I think that we need to work on the basis of some of the recommendations from the Rock review on how landlords and tenants can engage constructively on freeing up more land for planting forestry.

I want to speak up in favour of conifers. One of the tests for developing new forestry plantation is the economic or agricultural impact assessment, which looks at the employment opportunities. If we take land that currently supports low-intensity agricultural practices and put it into forestry, we need to be sure that we are not costing jobs or the economy. Conifers play a critical role in construction in this country. We currently import most of our construction timber, and it is essential that we plant plenty of conifers.

In summary, I would like the Government to continue working on how we can plant more acres and hectares than the current targets incorporate.

Baroness Parminter Portrait Baroness Parminter (LD)
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It is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Roborough, with his expertise in this field, and other campaigners with significant expertise. It adds to the calibre of the debate. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Young, I think that this is the SI where I have most concern about the paucity of the targets. I also found it very interesting just how much support there was for increasing the level of ambition, yet the Government have gone down from what they originally proposed.

Environmental Targets (Marine Protected Areas) Regulations 2022

Baroness Parminter Excerpts
Tuesday 24th January 2023

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Benyon Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Benyon) (Con)
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My Lords, I beg to move that the statutory instrument, which sets a target for the recovery of features in marine protected areas, be approved.

MPAs are one of the most important tools we have for protecting the wide range of precious and sensitive habitats and species in our waters. In England, we have established a comprehensive MPA network covering 40% of English waters. Establishing this network is an important step in achieving our goal of conserving our protected species and habitats. Now that they have been designated, we need to increase the protections for these valuable marine environments to help them recover, which is why we are setting this target.

The regulations create a legally binding target that requires at least 70% of protected features in MPAs to be in a favourable condition by 31 December 2042, with the remaining features to be in a recovering condition. This target will set, for the first time, a time-bound target for the recovery of protected features. Currently, only 44% of protected features in MPAs are assessed as being in a favourable condition.

Protected features include the different marine habitats and species, geological and geomorphological features and assemblages that are specified for protection within our MPAs. “Favourable condition” means that the features are in a good and healthy state and align with the conservation objectives of the relevant MPAs. We will assess “recovering condition” by checking whether damaging activities have been appropriately managed. This will identify exactly what rapid remedial action is required by regulators to ensure that our MPAs are being properly protected. Managing MPAs effectively and in line with their conservation objectives will secure the achievement of this target.

The purpose of this instrument is to set a time-bound target for protected features to reach a favourable condition and for the remaining features to be in a recovering condition. This instrument defines the relevant terminology, such as “favourable” and “recovering condition”. It sets a date for reporting the achievement of the target and lists all the features in MPAs subject to the target. It also sets a date by which the Secretary of State for Environment must report on whether the target is achieved and allows the Secretary of State to request advice from Natural England and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee relating to the target.

To achieve the target, the Marine Management Organisation and the Association of Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities are rolling out an ambitious programme to introduce necessary management measures in MPAs for the most damaging fishing activity, such as bottom trawling, by 2024. Fisheries by-laws have already been introduced in nearly 60% of England’s MPAs, challenging the criticism that MPAs are “paper parks”. By-laws are implemented following public consultation on a site-by-site basis. Once damaging activities have stopped, protected features will begin their recovery. For some of them this will be immediate, but some will take a very long time. Coral gardens, for example, can take decades to recover, which is why the 2042 date is appropriate.

In conclusion, the measures in these regulations are crucial for the improvement of our marine biodiversity. I hope noble Lords will support these measures and their objectives and approve these draft regulations. I beg to move.

Baroness Parminter Portrait Baroness Parminter (LD)
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My Lords, we welcome the target of 70% for the protection of marine protected areas by 2042. Given that the figure at the moment is 44%, 70% is a strong target. For us, the issue with this particular statutory instrument is the monitoring and how we will be clear that we are achieving these targets.

The original consultation said that protection would be monitored by additional reporting on the changes in individual feature conditions. That was then removed from the final targets that we have before us. The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee asked about this and got a bit of a non-answer from the Minister as to why there was this change and the removal of the monitoring of the individual sites. However, I was very grateful that, at the Minister’s meeting with me and colleagues last week, the Bill team were very clear that individual monitoring had been removed because of cost. Ship-based monitoring is clearly a very costly matter. Therefore, the targets today will be monitored by checking the pressures and vulnerabilities of the marine protected areas in general, so there will not be on-ship monitoring.

That is a disappointment, first, because when the OEP last week reviewed how the Government have been doing on achieving their 25-year environment plan, there were a number of areas where the OEP could not assess the level of success because the monitoring was not strong enough. In this area, we are again at risk that the monitoring being set in place to see whether the targets will be met will not, because of the cost, be sufficient to see whether the laudable target will be met. The Minister will be aware of this concern. The EIP to be published at the end of the month is proposing to set interim targets for meeting all the environmental targets that are set. Can the Minister say whether there will be a review of whether the monitoring arrangements for marine protected areas will be sufficient to see whether the targets can be met? Targets without effective monitoring are frankly meaningless.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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I apologise for being two minutes 34 seconds late. I was following the Whips’ Today’s Lists, which said 4.15 pm, so thank goodness I came early. Anyway, my apologies for being late.

Reading these targets, I believe that nobody in the Government understands the ocean. It is crucial to our well-being, and these targets are utterly insufficient. The report published last year by the APPG on the Ocean, which I recommend to the Minister and his colleagues, gave excellent advice. The chair of the APPG is a Conservative. It is a good report with masses of recommendations that the Government could take. I hope that the Minister has perhaps already read it and that his team have absorbed it—that would be wonderful—but, looking at these targets, I rather think they have not.

If this Government are going to refuse to stop or even slow down our use of fossil fuels, the ocean and the marine protected areas are crucial because, as we all know, they are a carbon sink that we cannot do without. It is always fine to talk about techno fixes, but let us face it: they do not yet exist. They are wonderful, and it will be great when they happen, but they are, at the moment, science fiction. All marine ecosystems are valuable. For example, seagrass is a wonderful gobbler-up of carbon, but we have depleted our areas of seagrass because of pollution and all sorts of other factors. However, our Link briefing points out that there is no central driver towards such marine habitats and there is insufficient monitoring. This goes against the joint fisheries statement and the marine spatial prioritisation programme, both of which talk about protecting and restoring habitats that store blue carbon. They include seagrasses, mangroves, salt marshes and even algae and macroalgae.

I thank Claire Evans of the National Oceanography Centre, who helpfully pointed out that there is a legislative target that is not being met. As a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity, the UK failed to reach its target of restoring at least 15% of degraded ecosystems by 2020. It was adopted by the UK as part of target 2 of the EU’s biodiversity strategy, and the lack of progress is most pronounced in the marine and costal environment, where habitat degradation continues and restoration remains in its relative infancy. I recommend that the Government not only look at this report from the APPG for the Ocean but talk to the scientists, because they can probably direct the Government in the best way to do exactly what the Government say they want to do.

Environmental Targets (Residual Waste) (England) Regulations 2022

Baroness Parminter Excerpts
Tuesday 24th January 2023

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Watson of Wyre Forest Portrait Lord Watson of Wyre Forest (Lab)
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My Lords, I hope that I am conducting myself in a way that is considered normal, if I can describe it as that. It is back to mineral extraction for the Minister. He said that the mineral waste extraction target was removed from these targets on the grounds that it is largely inert. In essence, my concern is for export-led growth and security of supply. It seems to me that this country has an opportunity in areas such as electric automotive to be a world leader, which is why the market is looking at mineral extraction for lithium and at reopening mines.

I have read the response that the department is still trying to work out the best way to assess a baseline, but it seems to me that if we are going to extract minerals, we need some kind of public buy-in in that process. A proper baseline and some kind of reassurance on its measurement seems pretty urgent to me. In its response to the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, Defra said that it was still considering the evidence and how best to present that information. Perhaps the Minister could suggest how he might approach that, given the concerns raised in the various submissions to that committee. Can he give some reassurance to those communities that are considering whether to support people who seek to extract minerals in their community?

Baroness Parminter Portrait Baroness Parminter (LD)
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I thank the Minister for his introduction of this statutory instrument. I hope that I am not taking him out of context, but I would dispute one thing he said which was that we take a holistic view on waste. This statutory instrument shows that by excluding the vast majority of waste produced in England—that is waste from demolition, construction and excavation, to which the noble Lord, Lord Watson, referred—the Government do not exactly have a holistic view of waste. Although we may quibble with the explanation given in the Explanatory Memorandum that the reason for that exclusion is in order

“to focus on reducing waste that is more environmentally harmful”,

I think all of us would agree that there is significant harm from much of that waste. There is much waste in the construction area, but I will come back to that.

This SI focuses on what I would call consumer waste. As the Minister was good enough to outline, it needs to focus on consumer waste because, as an OEP report last week showed, the targets for such waste have deteriorated since 2018. The Minister referred to the fact that we have stalled on recycling; we are actually sending more waste to incineration now than we were in 2018.

So we need a renewed focus; one hopes that these targets will provide that because they need to. The Minister referred to the welcome provisions in the Environment Act to encourage more uniform collection via municipal authorities around the country. That is an essential step if we are to make progress on consumer waste but, over the past couple of years, we have not seen anything near significant progress on extended producer responsibility. He mentioned the fact that the deposit return scheme announcement was made on Friday, but it will not happen until 2025 whereas it is coming into effect in Scotland this year. Equally, it excludes glass.

We need a sense of urgency, given the need to move on waste; it is an area where we would like to put a rocket under Defra to get it moving forward. We hear that there may be a refreshed resources and waste strategy document later this year. We do not need another strategy; we just need a bit more action in this space.

I see that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, is in her place. When our committee looked at how to mobilise people to take the action needed for climate and environment, the responses we received from the various departments on how to improve people’s contribution to the waste targets were one of their weakest areas. We had the Secretary of State before us talking about the success of the plastic bag levy; that is great but it happened back in the coalition days. I hope that these targets will give the department a sense of pace and urgency to encourage it to get a move on. Otherwise, if it carries on with its mantra of going with the grain of consumer choice, we will not make the progress that we need.

Finally, as the noble Lord, Lord Watson, raised, construction and demolition waste are excluded. The consultation said that it

“is also a high priority and we are not overlooking this.”

The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee picked this up, in response to which the department said that it was considering a separate target. I note that the Minister mentioned discussions with BEIS, which are to be commended. Might he be prepared to say a bit more about that today, including whether it will be part of the refreshed resources and waste strategy later this year? Or are we going to have to wait a bit longer? As I say, I do not think we have the time for that.

Baroness Wilcox of Newport Portrait Baroness Wilcox of Newport (Lab)
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We supported the passage of the Environment Act although, during that process, we expressed concern that, if key targets were not included in the legislation, it could lead to the Government downgrading their ambition. The targets in the various SIs are significantly less ambitious than many would like, suggesting that our fears were correct. As noted by the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, and my noble friend Lord Watson, the waste reduction target omits major mineral waste from construction, demolition and excavation activities—the majority of waste produced in England. This omission must be rectified if the target is to deliver on its aim of incentivising a circular economy.

The waste reduction aimed for—a 50% reduction on 2019 levels—is not aligned with either the scale of the problem or the potential to reduce resource use, as well as minimising waste and increasing recycling. A 50% reduction on 2019 levels is relatively unambitious. The department does not have the strongest track record in delivering the transition to a circular economy. I am afraid that England has lagged behind other countries in the UK in bringing new schemes on stream, as highlighted by the significant delays to and the watering down of the Government’s deposit return scheme. Scotland has its own scheme, which will launch ahead of Defra’s, and Wales is set to launch its scheme in October 2025. The Explanatory Memorandum notes the Government’s resources and waste strategy, which aims to increase municipal recycling rates to an overall level of 65% and lower the volume of waste going to landfill.

We have seen slippage in performance across much of the UK, although I am proud to say that Wales has outperformed the other UK nations. The recent results from Newport City Council, where I was the leader before joining your Lordships’ House, show a 10% increase in Newport’s recycling performance over a year. Newport is not only the best-performing authority in Wales in terms of recycling but the best-performing city in the whole of the UK. It continues to work hard to meet the Welsh Government’s target of a 70% recycling rate by 2025.