Brexit, climate change and electric cars feature in Queen’s speech

22nd June 2017


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Ijaz Ashraf

Legislation to repeal the 1972 European Communities Act and give Parliament the power to make changes to EU-derived laws has been tabled by the government.

The Queen’s speech, which outlines the legislative agenda for the next Parliament, contained a pledge to continue to support international action against climate change, including the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

The speech also introduced the following bills related to energy and the environment:

  • Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill. This will introduce a requirement to install charge points for electric vehicles at motorway service areas and large fuel retailers, and require common technical and operational standards.
  • High Speed 2 Phase 2A Bill. This will accelerate the building of a connection to Crewe on the high speed rail line; provide powers to compulsorily purchase the land needed to construct and operate the railway and deemed planning permission for the scheme.
  • Smart Meter Bill. This ensures smart meters will be offered to every household and business by the end of 2020.
  • Fisheries Bill. This enables the UK to control access to its waters and set UK fishing quotas once it has left the EU.
  • Agriculture Bill. This will implement a system to support UK farmers and protect the natural environment once the UK has left the EU.
  • Nuclear Safeguards Bill. This establishes a regime to ensure the UK continues to meet its international obligations for nuclear safeguards and protect UK electricity supplied by nuclear power once the UK leaves Euratom as part of leaving the EU.

The government has dropped several policies from the Conservative manifesto, including means-testing winter fuel payments and the energy price cap. There was no mention of legislation to ban microbeads, a consultation on which closed in February.

Reactions to the speech were mixed. James Thornton, chief executive of legal campaign group ClientEarth, welcomed the announcement on electric cars, saying that greater use of the technology will help solve challenges with both air pollution and energy.

‘Investors and consumers have been waiting for a clear policy signal guaranteeing new infrastructure for electric transport and this may be it. More electric vehicles on the roads opens the door for innovative use of the grid and it will also give confidence to the emerging storage market.

‘The devil will be in the detail - but this is a positive step. These could be exciting times if ministers see this through,’ he said.

Nick Molho, executive director of the Aldersgate Group, said: ‘The government is right to seek the “broadest consensus possible” in determining the UK’s negotiating terms on Brexit. In order to deliver the UK’s climate and energy policy ambitions in the most efficient and cost-effective way, the UK must maintain close collaboration with the EU after Brexit in key areas of mutual benefit, such as through continued participation in the internal energy market.’

Greenpeace UK chief scientist Doug Parr said that it was positive that climate change featured in the speech but added that the government must not stop its work on air pollution and plastic waste because of Brexit.

But Green party co-leader Caroline Lucas said that legislation outlined in the speech was ‘stunningly unambitious’, and the lack of meaningful plans to tackle climate change was ‘a near-criminal act of political vandalism’.

She has tabled an amendment to the Queen’s speech to call for an Environmental Protection Act to strengthen environmental protection in the process of leaving the EU. This was one of the recommendations of the parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee following its inquiry into the impact of Brexit on the environment.

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