Treasury snubs environment committee over new watchdog

8 Jun 18

The Treasury has told MPs it will not defend its plans for an environmental watchdog set up to fill a regulatory hole left by Brexit that has been branded “toothless”.

In a letter to the environmental audit committee – which has expressed concern about the watchdog – the Treasury turned down an invitation for a minister to appear before members.

Mary Creagh, chair of the EAC, said: “We are deeply disappointed that a treasury minister is unwilling to explain their position.

“Failing to come before the committee and put their views on record will only fuel concerns that any new watchdog will be toothless.”

In its letter, the Treasury suggested that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is the lead department for the new watchdog.

The letter said: “The government is committed to setting up a new independent statutory body to hold government to account on the environment, and we have published a consultation seeking views on how to do this.

“Defra is the lead department for this issue and the consultation, and therefore it will be a matter for Defra ministers to respond to the committee’s inquiry.”

The EAC has previously raised concerns that a new environmental watchdog to be set up after Brexit would not measure up to existing EU regulation.

Creagh added: “Without effective enforcement powers, the proposed environmental watchdog will be unable to hold government to account.

“The Treasury has voiced opposition to these essential powers, and some government minister are sceptical about protecting the UK’s hard-won environmental standards.”

The EAC wrote to the Treasury on 23 May 2018 highlighting a previous commitment by Theresa May that “Brexit will not mean a lowering of environmental standards.”

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