I entirely agree that we must act to preserve the health of our rivers for present and future generations to enjoy. I have joined the DEFRA Select Committee and will be paying close attention to water quality issues.
I strongly believe that Brexit must not lead to the weakening of environmental protections. The Government proposes a Repeal Bill to enable the conversion of EU Law into UK law, but I am concerned that this Bill will not go far enough to ensure UK environmental standards keep pace with the EU after we leave.
The manifesto I stood on at the recent General Election committed Labour in government to introduce an EU Rights and Protections Bill to ensure that all EU rights and protections would be enshrined in UK law without qualification, limitation or sunset clauses. Although we are not of course in government, and so not now able to introduce such a Bill, I will be pressing for significant improvements along these lines in the Repeal Bill. Indeed, I believe there is an opportunity for more progressive and ambitious domestic policies which go beyond EU standards.
Water is our most precious resource, and it belongs to all of us. In particular, we need businesses to manage and limit waste water better, and I would like to see the Government being significantly more active in achieving this.
The Government originally planned to introduce legislation to reform the water abstraction regime early in the last Parliament, but this remains outstanding with no indication that proposals on abstraction will be brought forward soon. I believe that urgent reform of abstraction is needed now, to mitigate the devastating effects of drought and to restore river health.
The long-awaited 25 Year Environment Plan is also still outstanding and it has been reported that its publication can no longer be guaranteed this year. I believe this delay is unacceptable, and does little to allay concerns about the current Government’s environmental credentials.
I can assure you that I will continue to press for action to maintain and enhance environmental standards and to protect and restore our rivers, lakes and coastal areas.