IEMA's Digital Journalist Tom Pashby reports live on the latest news from today's Environmental Audit Committee session on UK environmental policy.

16:00 End of this Live Blog (Tom Pashby)

That brings this live blog to a close.

The EAC is continuing to levy questions to the representatives of the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Thanks very much for reading!

15:47 MP questions environment secretary about Brexit bill (Tom Pashby)

Duncan Baker MP (Cons, North Norfolk), a member of the EAC, raised a question about the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill, referred to as the REUL Bill, which is scheduled for a short period of consideration compared to the volume of its content. He asked:

"Have we really got sufficient time for scrutiny?"

Thérèse Coffey MP, environment secretary, said:

"We've already done a first cut [of environmental laws which aren't relevant to the UK post-Brexit].

"There's quite a lot [of environmental laws from the EU] we don't need anymore."

She didn't appear to directly address concerns about the short time allowed for scrutiny.

15:38 IEMA's response to Legally Binding Targets proposals (Tom Pashby)

In 2022, under the Environment Act 2021, members inputted to IEMA's response to the government's consultation on 'Legally Binding Targets' relating to the environment.

You can read about our response here.

15:32 'I'm no vegan': environment secretary asked about plant-based diets (Tom Pashby)

Cherilyn Mackrory MP (Cons, Truro and Falmouth), asked the environment secretary about her views on government support for plant-based diets.

Thérèse Coffey MP, environment secretary, said:

"I'm no vegan, however, a balanced diet is good for everybody."

"I'm genuinely not going to tell people what they should eat."

15:28 Environment secretary said cleaner water will take 'heft and focus' (Tom Pashby)

Cherilyn Mackrory MP (Cons, Truro and Falmouth), a member of the EAC, took questioning back to water.

She asked:

"Do you think [water pollution] targets are adequate?"

Thérèse Coffey MP, environment secretary, said:

"They will take a lot of heft and focus."

15:20 Short answer and a shrug from the secretary of state about funding for Natural England (Tom Pashby)

Dr Matthew Offord MP (Con, Hendon), a member of the EAC, asked:

"Do you think [Natural England] have enough money to do their job?"

Thérèse Coffey MP, environment secretary, said:

"Yes, I think their funding went up, more recently as we've asked them to do more"

Matthew Offord MP said:

"Odd statement to say 'yes'."

The environment secretary shuffled her papers and shrugged, and indicated that Natual England's potential lack of funding might be related to the global financial crisis and UK austerity policies.

15:16 IEMA members discuss the government's environmental policies (Tom Pashby)

In January this year, a group of IEMA members, including Ben Goodwin, head of policy at IEMA, held a roundtable discussion with Baroness Young, former chair of the Environment Agency.

They discussed England’s long-term environmental targets framework and the need for a robust governance regime to support it. You can read a write up from the roundtable here.

15:09 The environment secretary was quizzed about funding for environmental policies (Tom Pashby)

Helen Hayer MP (Lab, Dulwich and West Norwood), a member of the EAC, asked:

"What ongoing discussions are you having with the Treasury about the ongoing delivery of the Environmental Improvement Plan?"

Thérèse Coffey MP, environment secretary, said:

"I recently spoke to the chief secretary of the treasury."

15:04 Government expresses surprise at criticism from OEP (Tom Pashby)

Philip Dunne MP, chair of the EAC, referring to criticism from the Office of Environmental Protection of the government's environmental policies, said:

"What's your perception of what you can do to get [environmental progress] back on track?"

Thérèse Coffey MP, environment secretary, said:

"I was a bit surprised by some of their judgments.

"We have cleaner air than we had before. We've made some progress on different things."

14:57 Committee welcomes the Environment Secretary (Tom Pashby)

The chair of the Environmental Audit Committee has thanked the OEP for their time and welcomed Rt Hon Dr Thérèse Coffey MP, Secretary of State, and David Hill, Director General for Environment, both at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

14:53 Comment from the policy lead at the Institution of Environmental Sciences (Joseph Lewis)

"It’s unsurprising that data came up so early in the session; the ambition of the EIP will only be achievable with a strong, science-led approach.

"The Outcome Indicator Framework must be supported with coherent application of science to ensure not only improvement against indicators in the abstract but meaningful environmental improvement across natural systems. For the plan to succeed, the data and science surrounding the EIP must be supported and cultivated."

14:51 Environmental policy expert live tweeting the session (Tom Pashby)

Ruth Chambers, senior fellow at GreenerUK, is also following the committee and is live tweeting.

She has highlighted the fact that questions remain about whether government is doing enough about implementation of environmental policy.

14:47 – 'We are not seeing progress': discussion pivots to water industry (Tom Pashby)

The committee turned to the water sector to get the OEP's view on the performance of the regulatory regime and outcomes for the environment.

Natalie Prosser, Chief Executive at Office for Environmental Protection, said:

"It is unavoidable if you look at our report. We are not seeing progress in relation to our waters, which is why we also have in parallel our thematic piece of work looking at the functioning of the [water industry] regulatory system itself."

14:39 – 'Room for improvement' in government's Environmental Improvement Plan (Tom Pashby)

The chair has brought in other MPs on the committee to submit their questions to the OEP representatives.

Responding to a question, Dame Glenys Stacey DBE, Chair at Office for Environmental Protection, said:

"Overall, there's a lot to be pleased about in the [Environmental Improvement] Plan, but there's a lot of room for improvement in there too."

14:31 IEMA comment on resourcing of the OEP (Martin Baxter)

Martin Baxter, deputy CEO and director of policy and external affairs at IEMA, said:

"It’s essential that the OEP has the resources to fulfill its remit as a competent and forward-looking regulator.

"Funding must be made available through the spending review – a key test of government’s commitment to accountability and environmental governance."

IEMA submitted a response to the OEP's consultation on its strategy in 2022 and said that the OEP "sets out encouraging long-term plans, but resourcing remains critical."

14:25 'Give us the headlines' (Tom Pashby)

Philip Dunne MP, chair of the EAC, asked the representatives of the OEP for the headlines from their latest assessment of the government's approach to the environment.

Dame Glenys Stacey DBE, Chair at Office for Environmental Protection, said: "Progress, so far, falls far short of what is required for government to meet its ambitions for the environment. A change of pace, a change of gear, and fresh determination is needed."

14:20 Funding and staffing for the OEP (Tom Pashby)

Natalie Prosser, Chief Executive at Office for Environmental Protection, said:

"For this financial year we have sought funding of £10 million, with a sought headcount of 85" and said it was hoped that the OEP would achieve this funding and staffing level within 18 months.

Philip Dunne MP asked whether this would equate to a £2 million uplift to the OEP's overall funding, and the OEP's representatives confirmed this was the case.

14:13 – The session starts (Tom Pashby)

The Environmental Audit Committee has started its session with Dame Glenys Stacey DBE, Chair at Office for Environmental Protection, and Natalie Prosser, Chief Executive at Office for Environmental Protection.

They have been welcomed to the session by the chair of the EAC Rt Hon Philip Dunne (Cons, Ludlow), and will first discuss the OEP's role and its resourcing.

14:11 Still no sign of MPs (Tom Pashby)

It's possible that the session is a further 10 minutes late due to the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky giving a speech to crowds in Westminster Hall, which is within the parliamentary estate.

I will provide an update when the session starts.

13:19 – A delay to proceedings (Tom Pashby)

The committee's official Twitter account has informed viewers that the session has been delayed "due to other business in the House."

The public session is now due to start at 14:00, with the Environment Secretary scheduled to speak at 14:45. There may still be a short period when the committee sits in private just before the start of public proceedings.

13:12 – Introduction (Tom Pashby)

The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee is today questioning the Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey, as well as representatives of the Office for Environmental Protection, about the government’s Environmental Improvement Plan and about scrutiny of the government’s environmental targets.

At 13:30, MPs on the committee will hear oral evidence on ‘Work Environmental compliance and enforcement’ from Dame Glenys Stacey DBE, Chair at Office for Environmental Protection, and Natalie Prosser, Chief Executive at Office for Environmental Protection.

Later at 14:15, oral evidence will be presented on ‘the environmental protection policies of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs by Rt Hon Dr Thérèse Coffey MP, Secretary of State at Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and David Hill, Director General for Environment at Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

In advance of the session, the committee said:

“Earlier this week the Government unveiled its Environmental Improvement Plan, which seeks to address nature decline, and its Environmental Principles Policy Statement, which aims to embed environmental protection in all government policymaking. The publications come shortly after the OEP published an assessment identifying areas where Government targets on the environment and nature are failing to be met. These issues are likely to be discussed with the Environment Secretary in some detail.

“The Committee will also use the opportunity to explore Government progress in a number of areas of Committee interest, including water quality, the deposit return scheme for drinks containers, and the effects of environmental change on food security. The evidence session follows the Committee’s recent correspondence with the Environment Secretary about progress on delayed Government policy documents and consultation responses.”

Photo of Tom P
Tom Pashby

Digital Journalist, IEMA

Tom Pashby is a Digital Journalist at IEMA, working alongside the Head of Media Abigail Simmons, and the Senior Media Officer Tim Farmer.

Alongside their work for IEMA, Tom is currently studying part-time for an NCTJ Diploma in Journalism with PA Training, and freelances as a writer and editor. They have written about the climate emergency, LGBTQIA+ rights and the UK constitution for publications including the Times, the i newspaper, Metro, PinkNews and the Ecologist.