Draft Environment Bill would ‘restrict EIR rights’
The draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill, published in December 2018, is partly intended to replicate the scrutiny functions of the European Commission and the European Environment Agency after Brexit.
The Bill would establish the Office of Environmental Protection (OEP) whose functions would include investigating complaints of serious failure by public authorities to comply with environmental law. But the OEP would be prohibited from disclosing information obtained from a public authority under investigation unless the authority consented. Also, the public authority being investigated would be prohibited from disclosing correspondence or formal notices from the OEP unless the OEP consented.
In a letter to the Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers, the signatories point out that regulation 5(6) of the Environmental Information regulations (EIR) provides that the right of access to environmental information cannot be restricted by any other law. The 36 signatories include Amnesty International UK Section, the Campaign for Freedom of Information, Friends of the Earth and Open rights Group.