27th October 2022
The two weeks since our last update have been full of political turmoil, which has delayed and confused government business, but four pieces of policy and legislation remain of great concern. As of 25th October we have a new Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, along with newly appointed ministers in key posts. They will be overseeing policy changes that will have a direct impact on bat conservation. This is especially true of Thérèse Coffey as the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Michael Gove as the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. At the time of writing, there have been no indications of any changes in direction in relation to these pieces of legislation but with the appointments being so recent we are waiting for confirmation of any change in position from government ministers and their departments. At his first Prime Ministers Question time Rishi Sunak restated a previous government commitment by saying that “we care deeply about passing to our children an environment in a better state than we found it ourselves.” We look forward to seeing this turned into action.
The four areas we are particularly focused on are:
The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill. This passed its second reading on the 25th of October after much debate. There is deep concern that this Bill will erode protection for bats and other wildlife along with a range of other legislation relating to the environment, employment law and public health. The government minister, Graham Stuart, who spoke at the debate made a commitment to preserve, restate or reform retained EU law to uphold international obligations. At the second reading, several MPs spoke of the concern of the lack of public scrutiny in giving power to government to weaken or remove legislation. The Bill now has to go through three other stages in the House of Commons before passing to the House of Lords. No dates for these next stages are yet made public.
Planning and Infrastructure Bill – there is no clarity on how environmental legislation, including wildlife protection, will apply within deregulated investment zones. The Growth Plan has been published and the government has now received expressions of interest from 35 councils across at least 77 sites including some for developing housing in greenfield sites. We are waiting to hear what position the new government takes on investment zones.
Environment Land Management Schemes (ELMS) - These provide financial incentive to farmers to produce food in a more sustainable way by undertaking actions to improve the environment. We understand that the schemes are undergoing a rapid review but the shape and nature of the review is unclear.
Environment Act – Targets under the Act are due to be set by 31st October but look unlikely to arrive on time. The new Office for Environmental Protection has criticised the Government's proposed targets and asked that the targets that will be set will be comprehensive and ambitious.
We will continue to monitor the situation and keep you updated. The state of affairs is likely to change rapidly so do please keep an eye on our website and if you are a social media user, on those channels too. If you haven’t done so already, please write to your MP (LETTER TEMPLATE) and also join our campaign mailing list HERE
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