Speaking in front of the Liaison Committee in Westminster yesterday (18 July), the PM was grilled on a range of issues including the VW emissions scandal and post-Brexit environmental standards.

Questioned by Efra Committtee Chair Neil Parish whether the Government would heed the advice of a cross-committee call for a new Clean Air Act, May said that she wanted to “be a little more ambitious” by bringing forward an Environmental Bill.

“Clean air will be part of that Environment Bill,” May said. “There hasn’t been an Environment Act since 1995, and so we want to bring forward an Environment Bill that will incorporate a range of issues.”

The PM said that a new Environment Bill would help deliver “opportunities we think will be available to us in this area when we leave the EU”.

Later in the session, Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) Chair Mary Creagh posed a number of questions to the PM relating to the Volkswagen emissions scandal.

Creagh asked why the UK had not followed the US and Germany in handing out hefty fines to the car giant for using cheat devices. May stressed that the Department for Transport (DfT) was “looking at this issue” and was in talks with VW on the matter.

Environmental standards

May refused to be drawn into whether a post-Brexit UK body would be able to prosecute the Government for environmental breaches, stating that the issue was still in consultation.

Asked what would become of EU-derived standards such as water pollution and waste management in a no deal scenario, May said: “The question assumes that if we leave without a deal then suddenly the UK is going to reduce our environmental standards. We will not do so.”

May reiterated the UK’s Brexit White Paper details of “no regression” of existing EU regulations on air quality, water pollution and waste management after the UK’s departure.  

“We have a commitment to leave the environment in a better state than we found it,” she said. “We are not going to do that if we tear up all of our environmental standards”

News that the Government would be publishing an Environment Bill was broadly welcomed by the green community.

WWF chief executive Tanya Steele said: “Our environment is in crisis, plastics are choking our oceans, so much of our wildlife is in catastrophic decline and our climate is at a tipping point. 

“This is incredible news from the Gvernment and we look forward to seeing the details they set out to improve the environment for the next generation, and to getting a Bill soon.”

George Ogleby

Comments (1)

  1. Jo Brown says:

    Will the Environmental Bill require nuclear regulators to routinely monitor and report on radioactive air pollution continuously discharged from all UK nuclear sites?

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