Theresa May announces new environment bill

By Roger Harrabin
BBC environment analyst

Theresa MayImage source, EPA

A bill to protect the environment has been announced by the prime minister.

It will set out a legal framework for the government’s promise to leave the environment in a better state over the next 25 years.

It has been greeted enthusiastically by green groups who feared that the government’s promises on environmental protection had no legal backing.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said the bill would "help to ensure Britain can be cleaner and greener".

WWF’s Tony Juniper said the announcement was “great news".

He tweeted Mrs May to say: “We look forward to working with you on making this a world-leading step, one that our children and grandchildren will thank us for, and be proud of. Let the work begin.”

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Amy Mount from Green Alliance described the bill as a “quite significant step forward".

She told the BBC: "The bill will need to put new duties on the secretary of state to deliver on environmental objectives like clean air, recycling and species loss”.

'Very naive'

However, others were unimpressed.

Tom Burke from the think-tank e3g said anyone who trusted the government's proposals "must be very naive".

He added: "This government is the one that made 21 arbitrary changes to attack and undermine renewable energy."

Craig Bennett from Friends of the Earth was also cautious.

“This could be an Act that really moves forward protection of nature," he said. “But we don’t know what the bill will include, what will be its foundations and when it will be delivered.

“The whole thing could be thrown into disarray if we get a no-deal Brexit, which will leave us out of the EU without having had the time to get new laws in place to replace EU laws.

“We simply won’t have the time to replace all EU legislation on vital issues like product standards (which impose energy-saving and pollution-saving targets) and chemicals legislation.”

The announcement comes as a House of Lords sub-committee has warned that the government has no plan for laws on the chemicals industry if the UK leaves the EU without a new deal.

Follow Roger on Twitter @rharrabin