Charities express ‘serious concern’ that UK Government will rewrite Welsh laws protecting the environment
Environmental charities from Wales and the other nations of the UK have written to the Westminster government expressing “serious concern” that they will be able to overwrite devolved laws protecting the environment.
Four charities – Wales Environment LINK, Wildlife and Countryside LINK, Scottish Environment LINK, and Northern Ireland Environment LINK – have written a letter to Secretary of State for Levelling Up Greg Clark asking him to reconsider parts of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.
They said that the bill will allow the UK Government to overwrite environmental protections introduced by the devolved governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The UK Government have said that they will “work closely” with the governments of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and will “respect devolution settlements”.
But in their letter to Levelling Up Minister Greg Clark, the charities say that the proposals “are of serious concern to our members because they have the potential to weaken the protection of the environment”.
“Our organisations and members have no specific constitutional position; however, we note that under the current arrangements, within the UK, the environment is considered a devolved matter.
“The Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Executive have developed and legislated for distinctive environmental policies in their jurisdictions.
“In some cases, we applaud these policies, in others we have argued for different approaches – however, in all cases, they should be scrutinised, agreed and approved by their respective Parliament or Assembly with engagement of civil society at various stages.
“Yet, as it stands, Part 5 of the above bill extends to the whole of the UK and any proposed EOR regulations containing provisions within the devolved competences must be subject only to consultation with the relevant devolved administration.”
They called on Greg Clarke to amend the bill to “remove the power to amend matters within devolved competence”.
— NI Environment Link (@EnvironmentNI) August 18, 2022
The Welsh Government have previously expressed concern that the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill will contain broad provision relating to a range of devolved issues, including local government and planning.
Cynon Valley Labour MP Beth Winter said in June that the bill had “significant and very concerning implications for my country of Wales”.
“This is another centralising Bill, handing powers to the Westminster Secretary of State, and it certainly is not resulting in more funding for Wales,” she said.
“The Welsh Government have stated that the Welsh budget will be nearly £1 billion worse off by 2024 as a result of the UK Government’s so-called levelling-up programme—that is appalling—and it will allow the UK Government to sideline the Welsh Government by making spending decisions in areas under the Welsh Government’s control, such as transport and the environment.
“This is yet another example of Ministers at Westminster, with no understanding of the measure of need in different communities in Wales, bypassing the democratically elected devolved Government of Wales, resulting in more prosperous areas benefiting while more severely deprived communities such as mine are excluded. It flies in the face of any democratic measures or recognition of the reality of devolution.”
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