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Policy and Parliamentary Update
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Updates on policy work taking place at the Society for our email newsletter. Updates from February 2019 onwards are from SocEnv's Policy and Communications Officer, Sarah Ridgeon.

 

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August 2018

Posted By Phil Underwood, 15 August 2018

It's Summer Recess - Time to Revamp the Website


A busy time before the summer recess. This isn't parliament, but it isn't too far away.

As usual, the early summer months have seen a flurry of parliamentary activity ahead of recess; but ‘business as usual’ now includes Brexit, so this year’s pre-recess period also involved a spot of high drama and a number of momentous milestones in our ongoing process of leaving the European Union.

Most significantly, the EU (Withdrawal) Bill completed its passage through Parliament and received its Royal Assent on 26th June, though not without some important compromises in the ping pong process between the Houses. And most significantly for the environmental community, this amendments process ensured the Act now includes a statutory obligation for the Environment Secretary to bring a suite of environmental principles, a statutory statement about their interpretation and plans for the establishment of a public body dedicated to environmental governance in a Bill before Parliament this autumn. 


The now familiar sight on a sunny day in Westminster, London. 

This latter development had an immediate impact on a consultation exercise already opened by Defra in May (in line with a commitment made in its 25 Year Environment Plan published earlier this year). The amendment rendered redundant a number of the consultation questions about the environmental principles and their legal standing, though this did not prevent us from hammering home the importance of their inclusion in statue in our response. We were also not deterred in arguing for the new environmental governance body to cover the whole UK, despite the consultation referring exclusively to England. And, of course, we stressed the need for the leadership of this new body to be made up of individuals with professional experience and proven competence in the environmental and sustainability sector. Our work in this area, including our collective work with a number of Licensed Bodies under the banner of the Environmental Policy Forum, is available to read here.

Now that the relatively quiet period of Parliament’s summer recess has since begun, we’re beavering away with website updates, with the welcome assistance of our delightful and diligent intern, Rob Turner. Check out our revamped policy pages here – click and scroll through, and keep an eye out for further updates, as we’ll soon be presenting our report on Greening the Industrial Strategy, which showcases some of our Chartered Environmentalists’ live and leading work in this area.  

Time for a Goodbye

This summer also marks the end of my stretch at the Society, so this is the final policy update from me. My 18 months in this role has been a hugely significant learning experience for me, and a very exciting time in environmental politics and in Parliament in general. It’s been a tough decision to go, and it will particularly difficult to leave the wonderful team at SocEnv HQ – they are the definition of small but mighty! Huge, heartfelt thanks to the team, the wider army of Society volunteers and all the registrants I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working with. I hope our paths cross again and, in the meantime, I wish the Society the very best with future plans.


Dr Tatum Matharu - Policy and Parliamentary Lead

Tags:  25 Year Environment Plan  Brexit  Defra  EU Withdrawal Bill  Parliament  Recess 

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Partnerships, Peers and Perspective

Posted By Phil Underwood, 18 October 2017
Updated: 13 December 2017

A policy update by Dr Tatum Matharu, Policy and Parliamentary Lead.

Parliament returned from its summer recess with its ayes on Brexit. The EU Withdrawal Bill, commonly known as the ‘Repeal Bill’ (and formerly known as the ‘Great Repeal Bill’), had its second reading in the Commons on the 7th September and on the 11th, despite grumbles from within the party of Government and a three-line whip by the Opposition, it passed by 36 votes onto the committee stage, during which MPs will have just eight days of scrutiny. 

It is noteworthy that the European Communities Act 1972, which took us into what became the EU, and the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993, which formalised the Treaty of the EU (a.k.a. the ‘the Maastricht Treaty’) into UK law, had 22 and 23 days at committee stage respectively. It seems, therefore, that there’s a relatively tight timeframe to influence MPs in their debates and potential amendments to the Bill, but we struck while the iron was hot. Collaborating with a number of our Licensed Bodies over the summer, we organised our concerns into a briefing hitting the desks of key ministers (Michael Gove at DEFRA and David Davis and Robin Walker at DExEU) as well as every single MP ahead of the vote. Read more, including the briefing and its media coverage, here.  

It’s widely understood that hundreds of amendments are being suggested and circulated amongst MPs for support, so much so that the Bill’s return to Parliament for its committee stage (previously thought to be this week) has now been delayed. Like much else about Brexit, there is a huge degree of uncertainty and a whole lot of watching and waiting for signals that may help strategically to steer a course for sharing environmentalists’ concerns about what happen after Brexit. 

However, who or what to influence is arguably more readily understandable as we can more safely assume that, given our situation of minority government, there are significant opportunities to bring our collective expertise to bear on the full range of parliamentary avenues. Backbench MPs, opposition parties and various committees and groups in both Houses are now extraordinarily significant, as is working in partnership. Indeed, we have recently sent our briefing to a House of Lords select committee that had called for evidence regarding the constitutional implications of the Bill, and we plan to target Peers with our briefing once we have a clearer idea of when the Bill will enter the upper chamber’s debate and scrutiny processes.  

At the same time, it is necessary to keep things in perspective. It is easy to think the Repeal Bill is the only game in town but, whilst it sets up the processes and procedures for our post-Brexit work, the implications of Brexit will be felt in a range of different policy areas as well as the connections between them. It is important for the Society to channel the collective expertise of our registrants to such debates, as we did, for example, by joining a recent discussion hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Agroecology on their report regarding the impact of new trade agreements on sustainable food and farming. We will continue to work in such fora and, as ever, we invite your contributions so please do get in touch with me directly if you would like to become more involved. 

Tags:  Environment  EU Withdrawal Bill  Great Repeal Bill  Policy  Repeal Bill  Withdrawal Bill 

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