16th June 2023
UPDATE 21 JUNE 2023: Two amendments, one designed to maintain protection for species, habitats and the environment and one to incorporate parliamentary scrutiny in the process, were rejected by the government today. The Bill once again returns to the House of Lords on Monday 26 June 2023.
There is still time to contact your MP or reply if you have heard back. See details below.
16th June 2023
Thank you to everyone who emailed their MP after we asked for your help – we know of at least 85 MPs who were contacted within a few days of our last update!
Unfortunately, when the Retained EU Law Bill returned to the House of Commons on 12th June, the environmental protection amendment passed by the Lords was rejected. MP’s broadly voted along party lines with 269 voting against the amendment and 202 votes supporting the protection of species, habitats and the environment. The Government stated that the amendment is not necessary to maintain environmental protections, even though their resistance to the amendment itself suggests that it is more important than ever.
The Bill will return to the House of Lords again on Tuesday 20th June when we hope the amendment will be reintroduced and passed again. As such, we would ask that you email your MP, if you haven’t done so already, and ask them to support environmental non-regression in the Bill. We have an updated email template you can use and personalise (LINK; the text for the email is also available below). You can also find your MPs contact details HERE. If you live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, while it would still be useful to discuss this with your MSP/MS/MLA, contacting the relevant MP will likely be more persuasive as the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Senedd have already withheld consent of the Retained EU Law Bill.
If you have already emailed your MP, thank you again and please do email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know so we can keep track of the MPs you are reaching. Some of you might have started to receive responses already, do share those to if you are happy to. We have prepared some rebuttals against common arguments made against the amendment, which you might find useful to paste in any further response you decide to send back to your MP (LINK; the text is also available below)).
We think that this is the last chance to ask our elected representatives to support this amendment before it’s too late. If you can also support this message on social media, we would really appreciate it if you shared our posts to help us show how much environmental legislation means to us all.
Dear [MP’s name],
As someone who is passionate about bat conservation, I am writing to ask you to attend upcoming votes on the Retained EU Law Bill, speak up for nature and support the inclusion of environmental non-regression principles into the Bill. Legal requirements to prevent current and future governments from undermining environmental protections are absolutely necessary to safeguard our wildlife.
This is an opportunity to turn the commitments that the Government has repeatedly made into law. This is why I firmly believe that the Government should accept the amendment suggested by Lord Krebs. This amendment would help to ensure any future changes to environmental laws are helpful, not hurtful, and are made with democratic scrutiny.
I worry that, if it is allowed to continue as it is, the Retained EU Law Bill would lead to irreparable damage of some of our most important wildlife protections, including some of the legislation which protects all UK bat species. We need changes to our environmental legislation to be subject to consultation and proper parliamentary scrutiny or otherwise we face undoing decades of wildlife conservation. As the Bill hurtles towards Royal Assent, this may be your last chance to stop this environmental catastrophe before it starts.
Please choose nature and support inclusion of environmental non-regression principles in the Retained EU Law Bill. I, and my fellow constituents, will be keeping a close eye on the progress of this harmful Bill.
YOUR NAME AND ADDRESS
Here are a few points that some MPs are using to argue against the amendment and the possible response back if you want to:
- Re. environmental non-regression would cause bureaucracy and delays: A legal protection against environmental regression is a necessary part of the process to ensure that the Government’s own environmental targets are met. Without this, the environmental impact of decisions made under the Bill’s powers would be entirely unknown and potentially detrimental to species, habitats and the environment. Any small delays as a result would save time in the long term by identifying problems before they start due to making legislation based on scientific evidence and expert opinion.
- Re. environmental non-regression being unnecessary: If the Government truly does not intend to reduce environmental protections, then I don’t understand why it will not accept the amendment to include this in the Bill. It is necessary to safeguard these commitments against future governmental changes, as otherwise there is nothing to keep future Government ministers from using the powers to undermine the environment. The Government should be just as concerned as I am that these powers could be used in future for purposes totally opposed to the intentions in introducing them.
- Re. Environmental Improvement Plan and Environment Act are enough: Unfortunately, targets without implementation are useless. The Government’s disregard for the statutory timelines in publishing the Environmental Improvement Plan is a key example of this, as well as the lack of ambition within the Plan. The UK requires more than abstract policy documents and unmet targets to actually protect its nature.
- Re. the Bill needing to deliver for business: Business and the environment are not adversaries. It is not just the environmental sector that is concerned about this Bill but also businesses that recognise their dependence on the environment and their role in protecting it, as shown by letters to Secretaries of State from the likes of the TUC, CIPD and the Institute of Directors. If the Bill is allowed to continue as it is, it cannot benefit people or businesses as it is people and businesses that will need to deal with the disastrous consequences of our worsening environment.
- Re. need for regulation to dial back to enable innovation: The way to achieve truly innovative democratic change is not to restrict decision-making to small, opaque groups in Whitehall but to open up transparent processes to a variety of people, including those that would be most affected by the loss or change of retained legislation. Setting up processes with limited scrutiny and very limited stakeholder engagement will not bring us onboard but instead lead to unpredictable and regressive consequences, not innovation.
- Re. the Government have already said they don’t intend to undermine protections etc: I know that commitments have been made by various ministers to not undermine environmental protections. However, these commitments are often vague and I am concerned that these promises will not mean anything, particularly if or when Government ministers change. Putting these commitments into law would make sure current and future Government ministers are held to the same standard, especially in these times of U-turns and volatility. The 2019 government manifesto pledged to leave the environment in a better state for the next generation, giving government the power to remove or weaken legislation without proper consultation or scrutiny will not help achieve this pledge.
- Re. time limits and needing to get this done quickly: The deadlines within the Bill are entirely artificial and cannot be allowed to force below-par legislation through simply for the aim of meeting a milestone by the anniversary of the Brexit referendum. We need careful and considerate legislation, not undemocratic, unscrutinised decision-making.
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