February 2020 Newsletter from John Howell MP for Henley

I know that environmental issues are of concern to many constituents. Whilst sometimes we focus on one particular concern, such as a recent campaign on protecting our oceans, we also need to keep the environment at the forefront when considering many other issues.

At present we have the Agriculture Bill going through Parliament. A key purpose of this Bill is to deal with expenditure and payments following our departure from the EU and the Common Agriculture Policy. This is, of course, important for our farmers and indeed to all of us as food and farming are an key part of our economy and our environment. Farmland helps to shape some of our finest habitats and landscapes.

As we develop our own agriculture policy, we have an important opportunity to bring forward innovative new ideas to support investment in healthy, sustainable British food production and to ensure that we do our best for farming, the environment and animal welfare. This Bill currently in progress creates the opportunity for us to pay farmers for environmental protection, access to the countryside, and work to reduce flooding. This will help us to meet crucial goals on climate change while also protecting nature and biodiversity. The Agriculture Bill also seeks to champion British food by improving transparency and fairness in the supply chain. It is important for us to know where our food has come from and to have confidence in what we eat.  It is good news that this is also a commitment in trade negotiations where we import food products.

We also have the Environment Bill, which was initially introduced into parliament in October last year, back on the table. This Bill will ensure the environment is at the heart of all policy making and that this government, and future governments, are held to account if they fail to uphold their environmental duties. These will include meeting net-zero by 2050, as well as wider long-term legally binding targets on biodiversity, air quality, water, and resource and waste efficiency which will be established under the Bill. The Bill will be one of the key mechanisms for delivering the vison set out in the 25 Year Environment Plan. In this plan the Government committed to developing a Nature Recovery Network, a framework for this will be included in the Bill. This will work to better direct investment in the environment and green infrastructure. Further, a new world-leading independent regulator, The Office for Environmental Protection, will be established to scrutinise environmental policy and law, investigate complaints and take enforcement action when necessary.

This is all good news, but I suspect that some might question this when set against a commitment also announced to continue with HS2. It is the job of government to balance things that seemingly might conflict. We cannot ignore inequality and the need for better public transport links, both within the north of our country and to the north of our country, which have long been needed. If we want to reduce road travel we have to invest in our rail network and other transport infrastructure. The package announced by the government includes thousands of new zero emission buses, more flexible travel to encourage people to use public transport over the private car. It also includes investment in new cycle routes.

We must also remember that in rural areas the car is not a luxury. Whilst some journeys can be done by bike many cannot for very practical reasons. We have also seen how the network of villages and different demands have made public transport unviable. This is why investment in alternative transport models and new fuel technologies is critical and why it is good news that the government has brought forward the date beyond which the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars and vans to 2035.

As always, I am interested to know the views of constituents on the various topics as they come up for debate. Whether on a topic before the House or something else, if you have an issue that you would like to raise with me please do email me at howelljm@parliament.uk or write to me at the House of Commons (House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA) or my constituency office (PO Box 84, Watlington, OX49 5XD) to share your views.

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