All Ruth Cadbury contributions to the Environment Bill 2021-22

Tue 26th January 2021
Environment Bill
Commons Chamber

Report stage
Report stage
Report stage: House of Commons
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
3 interactions (451 words)

Environment Bill

(Report stage)
Ruth Cadbury Excerpts
Tuesday 26th January 2021

(8 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

We have seen what can happen. We saw the desperately tragic case of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah—it could have happened to any child, and it makes me think of so many children and young people who walk those roads to school in my constituency. That is why these amendments and new clauses are vital: for today, but most importantly, for our children.

Ruth Cadbury Portrait Ruth Cadbury (Brentford and Isleworth) (Lab) [V]
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The Environmental Audit Committee labelled this Bill a “missed opportunity”. I rise to support amendments in the name of the Opposition and others that could make it fit for our country, in a year in which the eyes of the world are watching us as hosts of the UN COP26 conference on climate change. I only have time to address two issues: the regulation of chemicals now that we have departed from the EU, and air pollution.

I support amendment 24 in the name of the shadow Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Newport West (Ruth Jones), to ensure we do not regress from existing standards and protections. That amendment would prevent a damaging race to the bottom that could undermine standards on chemicals, which is of great concern, given the comments the Prime Minister has made about chemicals and his indication that he may want us to depart downwards from those standards. My constituents, Tracey Logan and Richard Szwagrzak, were poisoned by formaldehyde fumes when cupboards were being built and installed in their house. We found there was no regulation covering formaldehyde levels in MDF sheets, hence the need to at least protect our existing standards and then ensure that the Government have powers to strengthen them, as amendment 24 does.

The issue of air quality is particularly important in my constituency, lying as it does along the two core routes between Heathrow and central London, and with many living in a highly polluted environment. Toxic air kills 40,000 people a year in the UK and contributes to the health inequalities that plague our society. We need to see action. Community-led efforts such as Chiswick Oasis can cut air pollution, as can city-wide programmes: an Imperial College study found that policies put in place by the Mayor of London have already led to improvements in air quality, with the measures that have been introduced increasing the average life expectancy of a child born in London in 2013. However, we need to do much more and, at a Government level, to tackle toxic air pollution. We need to see Government Ministers leading on this.

If new clause 6—which would require the Secretary of State to lay an annual report before Parliament on air quality and the solutions that the Government are going to be implementing—is moved, I will be supporting it. Crucially, that amendment calls for cross-departmental work to tackle this serious threat to our public health. This Bill has huge gaps in it, and gives Ministers sweeping powers to row back on our much-needed protections. I hope the Government will listen to concerns raised by Members across this House and use any delay to this Bill as a chance to fix it.

Fleur Anderson Portrait Fleur Anderson (Putney) (Lab) [V]
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I am very glad to speak today in favour of the Opposition amendments, and on behalf of the deafening voice of civil society and so many organisations and individuals across the country, including the many local members of the Putney Environment Commission in my constituency, who feel that this Bill does not go far enough.

I served on the Bill Committee last November and was disappointed that the Government did not accept any Opposition amendments, which would have improved the Bill. Today, the Minister said that

“the desperate decline of our natural environment and biodiversity has gone on for far too long.”

That is right—so why is this Bill being so delayed, and with more delays to come? How can the EU (Future Relationship) Bill be rushed through in one day, while here we are in a climate emergency—as declared by Parliament in May 2019—yet this Bill has taken a year to get to this stage and now it has been announced that the next stage will be in May? Will we even have it passed by autumn?

This leaves us without the regulation of the EU that was in place before and with no new regulator in place. Will the Minister give a final deadline date for passing this Bill, and use the time between stages to improve it? The amendments before us today would give us much-needed higher ambition through targets, and much more strength to take action on the important areas of air quality, water, waste and chemicals.

Let me turn to new clause 8. It is vital to hold producers to account to ensure that waste is prevented throughout the whole supply chain, not just at the end—for example, by reducing plastics, changing materials and rethinking product use, such as nappies.

On air pollution, Putney High Street is one of the most polluted streets in the UK, and has the poor distinction of taking places two and three in a recent table of the top 10 pollution hotspots in London. We should set our sights high and include WHO targets in the Bill, not put them up for negotiation later. The cost will be that 550,000 Londoners will develop diseases attributable to air pollution over the next 30 years if we do not take strong action.

On amendment 24 on chemical regulation and setting up a whole new regulation in the UK when we already have one, this, among many things, will mean unnecessary animal testing. Many constituents have written to me about this issue. If more constituents knew about it, they would not be happy. I hope that this can be changed and rectified before the next stage of reporting in May.

In summary, the Bill has a long way to go before it is fit for purpose. I hope that today Conservative Members finally listen, give this Bill the force and ambition that our environment desperately needs, and vote for the Opposition amendments.