UK Government accused of abandoning environmental commitments

The leader of the UK's third party, Paddy Ashdown, has criticised the government's legislative agenda for 1999 for failing to deliver environmental legislation.

Speaking after the Queen’s Speech on November 24, in which only two new environmental laws were announced – the extension of the Integrated Pollution Control laws to comply with 1996 EU directive on Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control and the introduction of a Water Bill – Ashdown described the government’s actions on the environment as “the most disappointing omission in this programme.”

The EU Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Bill will extend integrated control – covering releases to air, water and land – to 7000 installations and take into account a wider range of environmental factors.

The Water Bill introduces into law a new regime for water charging: the Bill is intended to increase choice for customers, protect vulnerable groups and increase customer protection in general.

Ashdown said that Prime Minister Tony Blair had promised to “put concern for the environment at the heart of policy making,” but had failed to deliver any significant legislation on those words. The latest Queen’s Speech, said Ashdown, suggested there would be little legislation next year.

Ashdown singled out the lack of measures to reduce the number of cars on British roads. “Will the government now address the problem of road traffic growth with the seriousness they promised at the election?” asked Ashdown.

“And will they, when it comes to the Budget, finally begin to grasp the nettle of environmental taxation, so that we can begin taxing things we don’t want, like pollution and resource use, rather than the things we do, like income and wealth?”

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