Thank you for contacting me about the transfer of EU environmental law into UK law. As a member of HMG, I am precluded from signing EDMS, Petitions or Charters due to the principle of collective responsibility. However, I have made representations to Ministers at Defra many times.
I have always been clear on the need to ensure that our environment is protected after we leave the EU. Our natural environment is precious and fragile and I believe that we must do everything we can to ensure that it is properly managed.
The EU (Withdrawal) Act converts all EU environmental law into UK law when we leave the Union next year. The manifesto on which I and all Conservative MPs were elected last year also promised that we should be the 'first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it in.'
A consultation was launched on environmental principles and governance earlier this year and it proposed a new Environmental Principles and Governance Bill to ensure that environmental principles, such as the 'polluter pays' and the 'precautionary principle' are embedded into UK law. The Bill would also create a world-leading, independent environmental watchdog to hold the Government to account. The consultation closed on 2 August 2018 and the Government is now analysing the feedback.
No decisions have yet been taken on the UK's future relationship with EU agencies including with the European Environment Agency. This is a matter for the negotiations.
The European Union has, in a number of ways, been a force for good environmentally, so I am pleased that the Government has no intention of weakening the environmental protections it has seen put in place. In other areas it has not always succeeded, most clearly in relation to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).
The CAP rewards land-holding ahead of good environmental practice. Outside it, we can use public money to reward environmentally responsible land use. Meanwhile despite reforms that the UK has led since 2010, still 40 per cent of fish stocks in the Atlantic, North Sea and Baltic Sea are being fished unsustainably. By leaving the CFP, taking back control of our waters, granting access and allocating quotas based on sustainability, we can pursue the very highest standards in marine conservation.
Outside the EU we can develop global gold standard environmental policies, taking smarter, more targeted approaches to the improvements we want to see. As a start, Ministers have been consulting on a new independent, statutory body to advise and challenge the Government and potentially other public bodies on environmental legislation, stepping in when needed to hold them to account and enforce standards.
Turning to bees and other pollinator, I agree they play an essential role in our food production and are vital to the survival of our wild plant populations. There are 1,500 species of insect pollinator in the UK, and I welcome work over the last few years to protect them. These efforts have been brought together in the National Pollinator Strategy.
The Strategy lays out plans to improve our understanding of the status and role of pollinators, increase the area of habitat for pollinators, raise awareness of their importance, and safeguard be health. It also sets out new work to be done immediately, building on longer-term initiatives. These include conserving and creating good quality wild flower meadows, and minimising risks from pesticides. The Government is working with a range of public, private sector and charitable bodies to create bee and insect friendly habitats.
Since the Strategy was launched there has been encouraging progress on its aims to make farms, towns, cities and the countryside better places for our bees and pollinators. Ministers continue to work with partners such as Friends of the Earth, British Beekeepers' Association and Kew to deliver it.
Ministers have also introduced the first ever wild pollinator and farm wildlife package, which makes more funding made available to farmers and landowners who take steps to protect pollinators. In its first year of its operation over half of the mid-tier applications to the Countryside Stewardship Scheme, which channels these payments, included this package so I am confident it will make a real difference.