This week the House of Commons returned from the Summer recess, a week earlier than planned pre-COVID. While many MPs will return, provisions still remain for proxy voting until the end of September, since the Speaker is keen to avoid a repeat of the situation when the virus emerged, and coronavirus spread rapidly throughout Westminster. The recess for Party conferences, usually occurring between September and October, has been cancelled, so the House will sit for longer.
I am looking forward to the resumption of business in the House, with my Private Members Bill on improving water quality due in mid-November, as well as chairing important meetings of the Environmental Audit Committee.
Over the summer I have engaged with many subject matter experts, and believe our programme of inquiries will lead to interesting and hopefully constructive recommendations to government. We will be looking into greening the recovery from COVID19, biodiversity, electronic waste, technology solutions, and energy efficiency in homes. Our evidence sessions are broadcast for the public to watch online at www.parliamentlive.tv.
The House of Commons reconvening after the summer break will also mean important legislation can progress. The Environment Bill, which had made a good start early in the year only to be stalled by coronavirus, will come back to the Commons to complete its Committee stage ahead of its Third Reading. This is comprehensive legislation, covering a vast array of areas, but which will make a significant impact in helping to protect our environment for the future. There is still scope for further amendments to the Bill, which may help shore up any issues excluded thus far, before it is intended to pass through the Lords by the end of this year.
The Agriculture Bill also finishes its passage through the Lords, and will come back to the Commons for final approval. I believe this Bill presents a critical opportunity for the future of farming in this country, and will allow the UK to move to a system of paying farmers public money for public goods, including efforts to enhance the environment.
The most important business to move forward in the next few months will be publication of the Spending Review, and the Autumn Budget. The impact of Coronavirus, and the emergency measures the government sanctioned to help protect jobs and the economy, have had an unprecedented peacetime effect on public finances. The Chancellor has thus far proved to be an innovator, so I wait with anticipation the vital choices he will make to steer the economy through the turbulent challenges ahead.