Your update on the long-awaited Environment Bill

The Environment Bill is continuing its journey through Parliament and is expected to receive Royal Assent in the Autumn.

The Bill was initially introduced during the Queen’s Speech back in 2019 and has been hit with a series of delays, mainly due to the Coronavirus pandemic. This has, in turn, reduced the amount of Parliamentary time available for the scrutiny of legislation.

The Bill is being brought in by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), with its purpose being to improve air quality, restore natural habitats and increase biodiversity. In addition, the Bill outlines how the Government will reduce waste, make better use of resources, and improve the management of water resources in a changing climate. The Bill also establishes an Office for Environmental Protection, a watchdog for the UK’s environmental standards.

In January 2020, the Bill was introduced in Parliament and went through the required 1st and 2nd readings prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was due to return to Parliament on 26th January 2021; however, it was taken off the agenda and the Government stated it would be rolled over into the next Parliamentary session.

On 26th May 2021, the Environment Bill returned to Parliament and the Government has proposed some amendments. It is currently at the committee stage in the House of Lords.

When legislation is at the committee stage, a detailed examination of every clause and votes on any amendments can take place. As well, all suggested amendments must be considered. The Bill will then be reprinted with all the agreed amendments and at the end of the committee stage, it will move to the report stage for further scrutiny.

The report stage allows MP’s to debate the Bill and it will then go through its 3rd (and final) reading in the House of Lords.

Once the Environment Bill receives Royal Assent, the Queen formally agrees to make the Bill into an Act of Parliament (law) and it is published.