Sunak defeated in House of Lords over rules on river pollution


Share post:

Receive free UK politics updates

Plans by the UK government to dilute rules on water pollution to enable more housebuilding were defeated in the House of Lords on Wednesday night in a major setback for Rishi Sunak’s administration. 

The UK prime minister had proposed to remove EU-era “nutrient neutrality rules”, complaining that they were blocking the construction of up to 100,000 new homes by the end of the decade. 

But the government was defeated by 203 votes to 156 over the issue in the upper house. Three Conservative peers voted against the government — alongside various opposition peers — including Lord Deben, an ex-cabinet minister and former chair of the climate change committee. 

Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the Labour party, said the “flawed plan” had been “humiliatingly rejected” by the upper house of Parliament. 

But Michael Gove, levelling-up secretary, said: “Sir Keir Starmer [Labour leader] is attempting to end the dream of home ownership for thousands of families and young people with his political game-playing.”

Over 60 local authorities have been ordered to restrict housebuilding in certain areas by Natural England, a government agency. The advice, based on a previous EU directive, was designed to prevent the pollution of rivers by substances including phosphates and nitrates. 

But after complaints from the housebuilding industry, ministers had sought to scrap those rules through an amendment to the levelling-up and regeneration bill currently going through parliament. The government promised to spend hundreds of million pounds on mitigation measures such as creating wetlands, planting woodlands and giving farmers grants to reduce run-off into rivers. 

However the plan prompted anger from environmental groups, who warned it would worsen water pollution — despite the government’s insistence that housebuilders are responsible for less than 1 per cent of nutrients entering rivers and lakes. 

Baroness Jenny Jones, a Green party peer, told the chamber: “We were told that there would be no lowering of environmental standards in post-Brexit legislation and there manifestly has been . . . even I would never have believed that the government could introduce such an act of environmental vandalism.”

By voting against the amendment, peers have ensured that it cannot be reintroduced in the House of Commons in the same bill given the legislation has almost reached the end of its passage through parliament. 

However, ministers could potentially draw up new laws in the King’s Speech in the autumn to revive the plan. 

The Labour party had previously hinted that it could support the government’s proposals. But on Tuesday it issued its own amendment and said it would vote against ministers’ plans.

The opposition claimed it had an alternative plan under which developers could be allowed to start building homes before nutrient neutrality plans were put in place — and then be forced to introduce measures to counter any environmental harm before the homes were occupied. 

Sunak, speaking earlier on Wednesday at prime minister’s questions in the House of Commons, accused Starmer — who has previously promised to be pro-development — of “flip-flopping” over the issue. 

“It is typical of the principles-free, conviction-free, leadership that he has, to flip-flop and go from a builder to a blocker,” he said. 

But the RSPB wildlife charity said: “We are delighted to see politicians of all parties in the House of Lords acting for nature and ensuring our rivers and estuaries are protected by voting against the government’s proposals to scrap nutrient neutrality rules.”

Source link

Lisa Holden
Lisa Holden
Lisa Holden is a news writer for LinkDaddy News. She writes health, sport, tech, and more. Some of her favorite topics include the latest trends in fitness and wellness, the best ways to use technology to improve your life, and the latest developments in medical research.

Recent posts

Related articles

Global bond sell-off eases as investors welcome inflation figures

Receive free Markets updatesWe’ll send you a myFT Daily Digest email rounding up the latest Markets news...

Eurozone inflation hits two-year low

Receive free Eurozone inflation updatesWe’ll send you a myFT Daily Digest email rounding up the latest Eurozone...

UK economy makes stronger recovery from pandemic than previously estimated

Receive free UK GDP updatesWe’ll send you a myFT Daily Digest email rounding up the latest UK...

Probe of Evergrande founder adds to pressure on Chinese developer

Thursday’s announcement by Evergrande was as ominous as it was curt. Hui Ka Yan, the billionaire chair...

UK rural land risks being forested over in corporate ‘greenwashing’

Receive free UK agriculture updatesWe’ll send you a myFT Daily Digest email rounding up the latest UK...

Singapore’s GIC ditched Vista stake after founder’s tax scandal

Receive free Private equity updatesWe’ll send you a myFT Daily Digest email rounding up the latest Private...

Deloitte warns on ‘challenging’ conditions despite £1mn partner pay

Receive free Accounting & Consulting services updatesWe’ll send you a myFT Daily Digest email rounding up the...

China looks to relax cross-border data security controls

Receive free Cyber Security updatesWe’ll send you a myFT Daily Digest email rounding up the latest Cyber...