Environmental Bill Progresses to Report Stage

​The Environmental Bill 2019-21 returned to parliament on 26th January 2021 to begin the report stage, which gives MPs the chance to consider any further amendments to the bill. Once this stage is completed the bill will progress to a third reading in the Commons, before reaching the House of Lords where further amendments can be made and the bill can be given royal assent.

Committee Stage

During the Committee stage there were several amendments and new clauses introduced, many of which relate to the establishment and functions of the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP). It is hoped these changes will bring greater clarity about the role of the OEP and how the OEP operates with other legal mechanisms. For example, some of the changes included:

  • To change the new environmental review process from being held in the upper tribunal to the High Court;
  • To limit the OEP’s powers to intervene in judicial review proceedings to “serious” cases;
  • To limit the OEP’s powers to initiate judicial review proceedings to “urgent” cases

Labour proposed many amendments to the bill, but all were defeated. Of note was a proposal seeking to require manufacturers, processers, distributors and suppliers of packaging to contribute to the “social costs” (and not just to disposal costs), incurred throughout the lifecycle of the products or materials.

Report Stage

Two days have been scheduled for the Bill’s remaining stage in the Commons (Report and Third Reading). Day one of the Report Stage took place on 26th January 2021, at which only Government amendments were added to the Bill, such as:

  • Making clear that the English inshore and offshore region will be subject to the ‘significant improvement test’. This test relates to reviews of environmental targets that the Bill will outline. The test is satisfied where the Secretary of State believes that meeting the targets will result in significant improvements to the natural environment.
  • A series of amendments which should align the clauses relating to the Office for Environmental Protection’s Northern Ireland enforcement functions with the equivalent provisions for England.


The Bill was considered during 22 sittings of the Public Bill Committee from 10th March 2020 to 26th November 2020. During these sittings there was a break because of the restrictions related to the Coronavirus pandemic.

There is now further delay as a carry-over motion has been tabled which means the Bill’s remaining stages will not take place until the next parliamentary session. The Government has pointed to pressures on parliamentary time due to the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason for the delay.