New Environmental Bill
One of the centrepieces of the Queen’s Speech – which is delivered by Her Majesty but is actually a summary of the Government’s forthcoming legislative agenda – was a new Environment Bill, including measures for improving air quality, for reducing plastic waste, and for protecting natural habitats. Many of these measures will be scrutinised by a new and independent Office for Environmental Protection.
In truth, there is little in the Bill that’s specific to fleets and the automotive industry; although the Government does pledge to “[bring] forward powers… to mandate recalls of vehicles when they do not meet relevant legal emission standards”.
New Office for Environmental Protection
But the Bill’s contents are certainly of general interest to fleets. Take the Office for Environmental Protection, which is being set up, in part, to pre-empt Brexit; it will do one of the jobs that the European Union does now, overseeing and enforcing a set of legally binding air quality targets. This suggests that the agenda that led to the establishment of Clean Air Zones around the country is not going away. If anything, it could be redoubled.
It should be said, however, that there are some doubts hovering over the Bill. One is whether the Office for Environmental Protection will be sufficiently powerful to ensure that both national and local politicians actually stick to the targets.
National Infrastructure Strategy
Another is even more significant – and applies to the Environment Bill as a whole, as well as to the rest of the Queen’s Speech and to the “National infrastructure strategy” that’s promised later in the autumn. Will any of this actually happen?
Policies Post Brexit
Of course, that question applies to all Government proposals, which have to wind their way through Parliament before becoming law. But it’s especially pertinent at the moment, given that the government lacks a working majority and is barrelling towards the official Brexit date of 31 October without, as yet, a deal in place. No-one can predict what will happen next.
The Budget had originally been announced for 6 November – Sajid Javid’s first Budget as Chancellor – but this has been cancelled after Boris Johnson announced he wants an election in December. We will be waiting a bit longer to find out what the spending plans are for next year.