Wirral MP calls for stronger provisions in the government’s ‘landmark’ Environment Bill

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29 Jan 2021
Margaret Greenwood MP urged the government to accept a series of amendments designed to improve its Environment Bill. 

The government has hailed the Bill as a ‘landmark’ piece of legislation aimed at tackling the biggest environmental priorities of our time.  

However, the Wirral West MP called on ministers to go further in a number of areas, including air quality, the independence of the new Office for Environmental Protection and parliamentary scrutiny of provision for plant protection products that are likely to impact on bees. 

On air quality, Margaret Greenwood spoke in favour of an amendment that would have set parameters on the face of the Bill to ensure that a Particulate Matter 2.5 (PM2.5) target for air quality would be at least as strict as the 2005 World Health Organisation guideline of below 10 micrograms per cubic metre, with an attainment deadline of 2030 at the latest. 

Another provision of the Environment Bill is the setting up of a new Office for Environmental Protection (OEP), which the government says will be independent and statutory with the principal objective of contributing to environmental protection and the improvement of the natural environment. However, concern has been raised about how truly independent it will be, with the government making provision for its own environment secretary to give guidance to the body – guidance that it must have regard to when preparing its enforcement policy and exercising its enforcement functions. 

She also called for MPs to support an amendment which would have required ministers to allow parliamentary scrutiny of exemptions granted to allow plant protection products banned under retained EU law, such as neonicotinoid pesticides, where they are likely to impact insects such as bees. 

During the debate, she paid tribute to Upton-based community bee keepers Flourish at Ford Way for their work keeping hives and producing honey. 

Speaking after the debate Margaret Greenwood MP said: 

“A number of Wirral West residents have contacted me with concerns about the government’s Environment Bill. 

“Some have been in touch about the need for the government to do more to tackle air quality by implementing World Health Organisation air quality limits into UK law. 

“Others believe that, if the government has the power to tell the new Office for Environmental Protection how to do its job, then it cannot be truly effective. 

“And many have emailed me about the need for greater protection for bees – in particular, they raised concern about the government’s recent authorisation of the emergency use of a bee-killing pesticide for farmers to use on sugar beet crops in England. 

"I share their concerns and believe that the amendments put forward would have improved the bill significantly. 

“The government had an opportunity to strengthen the Bill by accepting these amendments. However, unfortunately, ministers and government MPs voted against them. 

"People care passionately about the environment and this comes through very clearly in terms of the level of public engagement with these issues."