Environment features in three new Bills

Three Bills announced in the Queen's speech will have an environmental dimension.

The Housing Bill includes clauses to create home information packs which are intended to reduce the costs and stress of property transactions. Among the contents of the packs will be energy efficiency ratings accompanied by information on practical energy efficiency measures (ENDS Report 339, p 49 ). The measure has long been sought by the energy conservation lobby.

A second Bill will establish the Health Protection Agency as a non-departmental public body. The HPA was created in April 2003 to provide an integrated approach to protecting public health. It will deal with infectious diseases, but looks set to play an important role in dealing with environmental hazards and advising on the impact of industrial emissions.

The Agency will absorb the functions of the National Radiological Protection Board, the Public Health Laboratory Service, the National Focus for Chemical Incidents and regional units which support the management of chemical incidents.

The Civil Contingencies Bill will revamp existing emergency powers and response arrangements for major emergencies. According to a draft published earlier this year, these include events posing a "serious threat" to the environment due to contamination of land, air or water by harmful chemical, biological or radioactive matter, fuel oil, flooding or disruption or destruction of plant or animal life.

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