MPs introduce five Bills on environment

Four Private Members' Bills aimed at reducing traffic, energy consumption and waste received their first reading in the House of Commons in June. At least two appear to have Government support and have a good chance of becoming law in a lengthy parliamentary session.

Twenty Private Members' Bills have been presented to the Commons for the current session, which is likely to run till October 1998. Top of the list and also the most controversial is a Bill to ban hunting of wild mammals with dogs.

Several environmental bills feature in the list:

  • Fifth on the list is the Road Traffic Reduction (United Kingdom Targets) Bill, which will be taken through the Commons by Cynog Dafis, Plaid Cymru MP for Ceredigion and Pembroke North. The Bill will aim to build on an Act passed last March which obliges local authorities to set targets for reducing traffic or its rate of growth by obliging the Government to prepare a national plan to cut traffic by 10% from 1990 levels by 2010 (ENDS Report 268, p 33 ). The Bill is due to receive a second reading on 30 January.

  • In sixth place is the Energy Efficiency Bill, introduced by John Burnett (LibDem, Torridge and West Devon). The Bill would oblige mortgage lenders to provide as part of their standard surveys details of specific energy-saving items already in the home, along with advice on the costs and benefits of installing those which are absent.

    A similar Bill passed through the House of Lords earlier this year in the face of opposition from the Government and mortgage lenders (ENDS Report 264, p 28 ), but failed to make progress in the Commons. The mortgage industry claims that the cost of energy surveys would be excessive, but the Association for the Conservation of Energy (ACE), which helped draft both bills, puts the cost at only £10.

    The change of Government appears to have brought a change of attitude. ACE Director Andrew Warren said: "We are confident from discussion with Government Ministers that [the Bill] will be successful." ACE estimates that the Bill will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by around 0.27 million tonnes (as carbon) per year within a decade. The Bill is due for a second reading on 6 February.

  • Another item of legislation introduced in the Commons earlier this year is in sixteenth place, and also appears to have Government backing.

    The Waste Prevention Bill, which would give local authorities explicit powers to promote and give support to waste minimisation initiatives (ENDS Report 266, pp 29-30 ), was drafted by the Women's Environmental Network and is being introduced by Piers Merchant (Con, Beckenham).

    The Bill failed to progress beyond Committee stage in the last session due to lack of time. Shortly before Mr Merchant announced that he would introduce the legislation, Environment Minister Michael Meacher said that the Government was "hoping to see a backbench MP bringing forward a similar Bill in the current session...We would certainly give it a fair wind...subject to the exact details." The Bill is due for a second reading on 12 December.

  • Eighteenth on the list is the Energy Conservation (Housing) Bill, introduced by Clive Efford (Lab, Eltham). The Bill would extend the duty imposed on local authorities by the Home Energy Conservation Act 1995 to prepare reports on ways of improving the energy efficiency of homes in their areas (ENDS Report 254, p 47 ) to housing associations, which own more than a million properties. The Bill is down for a second reading on 6 February.

  • The Pesticides Bill, introduced by Ben Bradshaw (Lab, Exeter), would amend provisions in the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 relating to regulations on pesticide safety and their enforcement. Further details were unavailable as ENDS went to press. The Bill is seventeenth on the list and is due to receive a second reading on 28 November.

    Also of potential significance in the environmental arena is the Public Interest Disclosure Bill, introduced by Richard Shepherd (Con, Aldridge Brownhills). The Bill would protect individuals making certain disclosures of information in the public interest and allow them to bring action in respect of victimisation. Its second reading is due on 12 December.

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