Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers has underlined the importance of passing the Environment Bill and pledged to carry on much of the work of her predecessor Michael Gove.
Ms Villiers made the comments as she was questioned by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) committee for the first time, appearing alongside Defra’s Permanent Secretary Tamara Finkelstein.
The Environment Secretary said: “Taking forward a groundbreaking Environment Bill is also going to be hugely important if we are to meet our obligations in terms of environmental matters.”
She noted that Defra would be publishing the revised bill “soon”, which would be taking into account recommendations made by the EFRA committee – although did not offer any specific timeframe for when this would be.
An update to the draft Environment Bill was published by Mr Gove in July, but it has yet to be introduced to the House of Commons (see letsrecycle.com story).
The Bill is important as it will lay the legal foundations for measures set out in the government’s Resources and Waste Strategy and any significant delay to the timing of the legislation could have knock-on effects of the introduction of measures such as an extended producer responsibility regime for packaging waste, or a deposit return scheme for drinks containers.
Waste and recycling were little discussed by the committee – which was meeting to discuss whether Defra was ready for Brexit – outside of Ms Villiers’ opening statement of her priorities.
“Tackling waste, litter and particularly pollution in our oceans is another thing which is a key priority for me and I think we need to harness the public enthusiasm for this.”
Setting out her aims, she said: “Tackling waste, litter and particularly pollution in our oceans is another thing which is a key priority for me and I think we need to harness the public enthusiasm for this.”
Ms Villiers – who represents the Chipping Barnet constituency in North London – told the EFRA committee that she had no “imminent policy changes to announce” as she set out her vision for the Department.
She said: “I will take up many of the causes which Michael Gove espoused as my predecessor, but I hope to be able to put my own individual stamp on some of these important projects as well.
“I will want to take a second look at some of the more sensitive areas, the more controversial areas.”
Ms Villiers was also pushed on whether Ben Elliot, the government’s Food Waste Czar, would continue in his role, having also taken on responsibilities elsewhere.
At the end of July Mr Elliot was made co-chairman of the Conservative Party alongside James Cleverley MP.
However Ms Villiers insisted that Mr Elliot would carry on with his Defra position too, explaining that she was “working through the implications” of his move and those of other external advisors to Defra.