Lords to convene new Environment and Climate Change Committee

Former Environment Agency chief executive Barbara Young, journalist Rosie Boycott and other peers are set to form a new select committee on green issues in the House of Lords.

Former Environment Agency chair Baroness Young will be among the new committee's members. Photograph: Parliament

Although there has been no formal announcement of the creation of the Environment and Climate Change Committee (ECCC), it is mentioned in the order paper for Wednesday next week. It will replace the Lords’ EU Environment Sub-Committee, which met its demise at the end of March.

Its inaugural chair will be Liberal Democrat peer, former district councillor and animal welfare advocate Baroness Kate Parminter, who was chief executive CPRE, the countryside charity, from 1998 to 2004. Before that, she was head of public affairs for the RSPCA, during which she led the campaign to outlaw hunting with dogs.

She later became an adviser to Nick Clegg when he was deputy prime minister and then the Lib Dems’ environment spokesperson, between 2015 and 2017. She is now a trustee of the party and was a trustee of the IPPR think tank until 2018.

Further committees on Industry and Regulators (to consider “industrial growth, skills and competitiveness, and to scrutinise the work of UK regulators”), Built Environment, European Affairs and Justice and Home Affairs are also expected to get the nod next week.

The most environmentally experienced member is Baroness Young, who became a peer in 1997. Currently the chair of the Woodland Trust and vice president of Bird Life International for two decades, she was chief executive of the Environment Agency from 2000 to 2008 and was chief executive of the RSPB from 1991 to 1998, when she became chair of English Nature, the predecessor to Natural England.

She has also held senior roles at the Care Quality Commission, BBC, British Trust for Ornithology and many other organisations in the public and charitable sectors.

The committee’s formation, “Can only be good news. Never has there been a better time for House of Lords scrutiny on the environment and this committee is very welcome,” said Ruth Chambers, senior parliamentary affairs associate at Greener UK.

Another notable expected member is the Eurosceptic Lord Peter Lilley, a trade and industry secretary and social security secretary under prime ministers Thatcher and Major. Prior to joining the Lords in 2018, he drew criticism for joining the House of Commons Select Committee on Climate Change while being vice chairman of Tethys Petroleum, perceived to be a conflict of interest.

He was one of only three MPs to vote against the Climate Change Act 2008 and in 2016 refused to endorse a report by the Environmental Audit Committee, of which he was a member, which concluded that the EU had driven higher green standards in the UK.

The other members named on the order paper are:

  • Veteran journalist and crossbench peer Baroness Rosie Boycott.

  • Former lawyer and Labour MP Lord Des Browne, who was once defence secretary and Scottish secretary.

  • Lord Ewen Cameron, the head of the Countryside Agency until 2004, and who now chairs the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. He was president of the Country Land and Business Association until 1997, when he was named as a member of the government’s Round Table for Sustainable Development (which was later abolished to form the Sustainable Development Commission). Cameron is also a member of the Lords’ EU Environment Sub-Committee.

  • Baroness Lynda Chalker, one of the handful of people who held continuous positions in office over the Conservative’s 1979-1998, though she never rose to the Cabinet. A specialist in African affairs, she was a non-executive director of Unilever and is the president of the Royal Geographical Society.

  • Alistair Campbell, Baron Colgrain, a hereditary Conservative peer, a former high sheriff of Kent. He has a variety of interests in investment firms and his family’s farm in Kent.

  • Lord Bishop of Oxford Steven Croft, who has joined climate change protests and is on the advisory board of the University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute. Two years ago, he wrote on his blog that, “We are complicit in the creation of an environmental catastrophe which is already changing the climate. Greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. Global heating continues and is likely to accelerate as a variety of feedback loops are engaged. Life on Earth is about to change in apocalyptic ways during the remainder of this century if we continue to do next to nothing.”

  • Film producer Lord David Puttnam, who sits on the Labour benches and has several Oscars to his name. He chaired the Commons-Lords committee on the draft Climate Change Bill in 2007.

  • Sometime general secretary of the Labour Party Lord Larry Whitty, a reformer under Neil Kinnock who oversaw the elections of John Smith and Tony Blair. He served as a junior DEFRA minister from 2001 to 2005, responsible for food, farming and sustainable energy. He was also the inaugural chair of Consumer Focus.

  • Ralph Palmer, Baron Lucas and Dingwall, a former chartered accountant and Conservative whip in the Lords in the 1990s. He has played a role in plans for the Eden Project to open a branch in Eastbourne, announced last year and participated in a plant hunting expedition to Afghanistan and Iran in 1969, on behalf of Kew Gardens and the Royal Horticultural Society. He chairs the Enforcement Law Review Group, which concerns the recovery of civil debts.

  • Baroness Lindsay Northover, a junior Liberal Democrat minister and environment spokesperson under the Coalition government. She had a career in medical research before entering politics.