MPs voice fears ‘green watchdog’ will be toothless

4 Jun 18

The Treasury has been urged to define its plans for a new green watchdog by the environmental audit committee.

A letter to the Treasury from Mary Creagh, Labour chair of the EAC, voiced concerns that government proposals would not measure up to existing European Union protections.

In its 25-year plan for the environment the government claimed it would “deliver a Green Brexit that puts environmental policy at the heart of England’s domestic and international priorities.”

But the audit committee said: “It has been widely reported that the Treasury opposed giving the environmental watchdog powers like the European Commission to initiate enforcement action against government.” 

The government is currently consulting on the shape of the new watchdog, and the EAC has launched an inquiry into this process.

Creagh called for the chancellor, Philip Hammond, or another Treasury minister to appear before the EAC inquiry to clarify their plans.

Kierra Box, a campaigner at the environmental charity Friends of the Earth, said: “Is the chancellor seriously implying that enforcing environmental safeguards will crash the economy?

“Or is the Treasury unwilling to fund prioritising the environment, because that requires cash if we want this promised ‘world-leading’ watchdog?”

She added: “The only other explanation is that government want a neutered watchdog because it enables a quiet erosion of environmental laws and protections post-Brexit.”

“Whatever the cause, the UK public are currently stuck with proposals for a dozing lapdog, not the tough environmental defender we were promised.

“The EAC are right to demand answers – as well as urgent improvements to get a watchdog that can do the job.”

The government consultation will run until 2 August 2018, and draft environmental principles and a governance bill will be published in the autumn.

The Treasury has been contacted for comment.

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