OEP and Environment Bill
The Interim Environmental Governance Secretariat (IEGS) is a government team based in Defra and DAERA that is supporting the launch of new and robust environmental governance arrangements.
In particular, the IEGS will ensure that the right to make a complaint about breaches of environmental law by public authorities is maintained whilst the Environment Bill is before Parliament. When the Environment Bill becomes law, it will establish the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) which will be responsible, among other functions, for the investigation of complaints when it becomes fully operational in summer 2021.
The Environment Bill sets a new and ambitious domestic framework for environmental governance as we maximise the opportunities created by leaving the European Union.
It responds to a clear and urgent scientific case and growing public demand for action to address environmental challenges including biodiversity loss, climate change, waste and pollution of the air, water and land.
The Bill will drive the long-term action nature needs to recover, through legally-binding targets, a new environmental enforcement body and placing environmental principles in law for the first time. This will deliver significant environmental improvement, by restoring nature, cleaning our air, improving the management of water and decreasing waste.
Office for Environmental Protection
The Environment Bill will create a new, independent organisation – the OEP – with the aim of contributing to environmental protection and improvement.
The OEP will provide advice on the implementation of environmental law. It will also report on progress against Environmental Improvement Plans and targets.
The OEP will be able to receive complaints and consider other information highlighting possible breaches of environmental law by public authorities. If the OEP considers a case to be serious, it will be able to investigate and, if necessary, take legal action as a last resort.
The OEP will be able to investigate and enforce potential breaches of environmental law in England and of reserved areas of environmental law across the United Kingdom. The OEP’s remit also covers the scrutiny of government’s progress against Environmental Improvement Plan and targets; and monitoring the implementation of environmental law.
The Environment Bill includes an option to extend the OEP to cover devolved matters in Northern Ireland, subject to consent from the Assembly.
The Bill establishes the OEP as a new independent public body which will be legally separate from the Crown. Ministers will have no powers of direction over its work programme or decision-making.
The OEP will be provided with safeguards to ensure its operational independence from government, without affecting ministerial accountability.
The OEP will be established as soon as possible following Royal Assent of the Environment Bill. It is expected to be operational around July 2021.