Retained EU law 'bonfire' bill passed in Commons
At the end of the House of Commons Third Reading and Report Stage debate on 18 January, the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill was passed by 297 votes to 238. The bill will now go to the House of Lords, where it is expected to face considerable opposition.
The Bill provides that most of the large body of law inherited from the European Union on Brexit (estimated at around 1500 separate pieces of legislation) must be 'sunsetted' - either revoked or replaced if appropriate by equivalent or similar UK law - by the end of 2023. The shortness of the timetable, and the likelihood that it will be impossible to give adequate consideration to such a large body of law in such a short time, has led to fears that valuable legislation covering, for example, environmental, food safety and health standards, might disappear by default.
Another cause for concern is that the government admits that it does not know exactly how many laws and regulations are involved, and that its online 'dashboard' intended to provide this information is not up to date. An amendment with wide cross-party support which would have required the government to detail, and obtain Parliament's support for, all the revocations of EU law it proposed to make, was defeated.
The situation with regard to retained EU law in devolved areas of competence is far from clear, and the Scottish and Welsh governments have expressed their opposition to the bill as it stands.
There are links to background information in our item of September 2022 (below), and we have assembled further information and links in a new document which we hope will be of interest at a significant stage in the progress of this highly controversial bill.
Environmental safeguards threatened by repeal of 'retained EU law'
Highland Environment Forum has raised the alarm about the introduction of a UK bill to repeal much of the EU law and regulation retained in UK law after Brexit.
There is particular concern over legislation covering areas such as food standards, environment and wildlife protection and animal welfare regulation.
RSPB Scotland is running a campaign to get people to write to their MSPs, but the Scottish Constitution Secretary Angus Robertson has already written to Jacob Rees-Mogg, protesting in strong terms against the introduction of the bill.
RSPB Scotland article and letter campaign
April 2022 Scottish Environment Link
From Rhetoric to Reality revisited: a new report
In 2011, LINK published our first Rhetoric to Reality assessment. In it, we commissioned an independent consultant to assess 8 key areas of environmental policy on how far reality on the ground had matched the rhetoric of policy. Now, ten years on, we’ve commissioned another assessment. A decadal review seems timely: it covers the life span of two Parliaments, we’re at the start of the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration and we have a new Parliament with the Greens holding ministerial portfolios, the first time ever in UK politics. The Bute House Agreement is bringing environmental legislation to the fore and giving impetus to Scotland’s’ leadership on climate and nature.
Read the report (.PDF in unsatisfactory double page format)
Scottish Government Environment Strategy revisited
We posted an item a year ago reporting Scottish environment charities welcoming the Scottish Government's announcement of 'a vision and outcomes for an environment strategy' on 25 February 2020, and feel that a year on it is time to redirect attention to this important and detailed document.
Here is the link to the document and here are two extracts
- one from Part 4 Environment Strategy outcomes (they mean objectives): how will we get there? which is straightforward and sensible, if not much more than a statement of the obvious
Outcome: We are responsible global citizens with a sustainable international footprint
If everyone on Earth consumed resources as we do in Scotland, we would need three planets. Our consumption relies on resources extracted or used in other parts of the world, including water, land and biological and mineral resources. We have a significant carbon footprint, including emissions produced in Scotland, and emissions in other countries making goods which we import. As a result, our environmental impact extends far beyond our own country. The nature of this impact is complex. Some of the commodities we import are associated with deforestation, water stress and other ecological pressures in different parts of the world.
- and one from Part 5 Realising the vision In which the document relapses into meaningless officialese verbiage
To turn our vision into reality, we will develop pathways for outcomes. These will identify strategic priorities and opportunities, working with existing strategies and plans across government. We will seek to direct our collective efforts in the areas that will have the greatest impact on multiple outcomes. Work will focus, in particular, on opportunities to strengthen connections between policies. We will keep these pathways under review, ensuring that implementation of our Environment Strategy is flexible and dynamic.
Read it and see what you think
Infographic relating Scotland's Environment Strategy to UN Sustainable Development goals
Read about the UN Sustainable Development Goals at Climate Change / Sustainable development
"Scotland's new Environment laws must be strengthened"
This is the view of environment campaign group Fight for Scotland's Nature, following the publication of the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Bill in June.
They complain that the ability of organisations or individuals to raise formal complaints against specific examples of environmental damage will be diminished; that the watchdog body Environment Standards Scotland to be set up under the bill will not be sufficiently independent of government; and that there is no requirement for Scottish environmental standards to keep pace with possible changes in EU regulation, and no specific provision to prevent standards being rolled back.
Read Fight for Scotland's Nature's article 'How good are Scotland’s new draft environment laws?'
Background to and details of the bill
Committee's concern about bringing back powers from EU
From the Scottish Parliament website news page
Holyrood’s Environment Committee says a unanimous ‘no’ to consent to the UK’s Environment Bill
In a report published today, Holyrood’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee calls for powers which fall within devolved competence, including environment policy, to return to the Scottish Parliament on EU exit day.
The report, which details the committee’s consideration of the legislative consent memorandum (LCM) for the UK Environment Bill*, specifically queries why environmental powers in devolved competence should be made via UK, as opposed to Scottish, primary legislation.
The committee believes that the Bill as it stands would allow the Scottish Parliament limited scope to influence decisions on devolved policy, to scrutinise relevant legislation and its implementation and therefore, effectively hold Scottish Ministers to account.
In advance of a debate on the motion to be held in the Scottish Parliament, the committee is writing to both the UK and Scottish Governments asking for a full explanation of the rationale for sharing powers via legislation in the UK Parliament, as opposed to the Scottish Parliament.
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