1 February 2023
Dunne welcomes environment plan that puts nature recovery at the heart of Government policy

Philip Dunne welcomes the five-year environmental improvement plan as a holistic and comprehensive plan to improve nature, which introduces new and tougher targets, putting nature recovery at the heart of Government action and policy delivery across the economy. He also calls on the Secretary of State to correct misleading claims of opposition MPs on water quality.

Philip Dunne (Ludlow) (Con)

I warmly welcome the incredible amount of work that the Secretary of State and her team, fresh into post, have put into the five-year environmental improvement plan. This is a holistic, comprehensive update of the 25-year environment plan, and it introduces for the first time a whole slew of targets and interim targets on the journey to where we wish to get to in the next 20 years.

Looking at goal 3 on clean and plentiful water, a topic that has been of great interest to Members across this House, I ask the Secretary of State to take this opportunity to help Opposition Members who seem to have deliberately confused what we voted for in this House in trying to introduce targets, particularly in connection with persistent chemicals. They are substances such as flame retardants that are banned from use, but that exist in sediment on our riverbeds and other places and are being released through the natural process of decay. This is not something that this House has voted to continue for 40 years, as some Opposition Members have tendentiously claimed.

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Dr Thérèse Coffey)

I thank my right hon. Friend for that. He is absolutely right to say that a lot of effort has gone into this review. That is quite right, because nature matters so much, not just to those of us who have a passion for it, but because it is critical to the global web of life.

This is not the first time that Liberal Democrats have put stuff out and it has been a complete load of the proverbial. I will make a point to the House more broadly about the chemical status of water. In the last decade, while we were still a member of the European Union, we added a particular type of chemical—it includes elements such as mercury—to the list of those to be considered in assessing the chemical status of water bodies. Before that, nearly every one of our water bodies had good chemical status. When that provision came in, none of our water bodies had good status. Exactly the same thing happened to countries such as Germany. This is a natural process, and we now need nature to heal and recover before we can get that status changed.

On the other aspects that are more within our control, we have pressed the case through our strategic policy statements and things such as the water industry national environment programme. We are getting water companies to really tighten up and clean up waste water treatments.