The Government’s Environment Bill has moved a step closer to becoming law following its second reading by MPs on Monday 28 October.
After the debate, the Bill now progress to the Committee stage for further scrutiny and onto the next stages of the Parliamentary process for becoming law.
The Environment Bill, introduced to Parliament two weeks ago, will help ensure the UK maintains and improve environmental protections following Brexit, the government said.
The Bill means environmental principles will be enshrined in law and measures will be introduced to improve air and water quality, tackle plastic pollution and restore habitats.
Legislation will also create legally-binding environmental improvement targets. A new independent Office for Environmental Protection will be established to scrutinise environmental policy and law, investigate complaints and take enforcement action against public authorities, if necessary, to uphold our environmental standards.
The office’s remit will include all climate change legislation, enabling the office to hold the government to account on its commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
Opening the second reading, Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers said: “This Government recognises the profound importance of the great environmental challenges of our time.
“We are the first government to set the goal that this generation should leave the natural environment in a better state than it was bequeathed to us. And this is the first government to make a legally binding commitment to become a net zero carbon economy.
“This is a truly landmark piece of legislation, enshrining environmental principles in law, requiring this government and its successors to demanding and legally binding targets and creating a world-leading environmental watchdog to hold them to account.”
During the debate, many MPs expressed support for the Bill but raised points about the Office for Environmental Protection’s independence and funding, as well as how the targets system will work. Air quality, water and plastics were also discussed.
Closing the debate, Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “The substance of this debate is the greatest issue of our time. The Environment Bill will make a much needed step change to protect and enhance our environment.
“There are big ambitions in the Bill, and rightly so. We must talk about all the issues in Committee, and I hope that everyone will join in. This is a transformative Bill that will give a whole new approach to environmental protection and enhancement.”