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Lords Could Kill Government's Plan To Ditch EU Nutrient Neutrality Rule

(Alamy)

3 min read

The House of Lords could block the government’s plans to ditch EU era laws on water pollution to build more homes, as parliamentary procedure means MPs will not have the chance to resurrect the plans if peers reject them as they work through the Levelling Up Bill.

Ministers’ proposed amendment to the Levelling Up Bill on nutrient neutrality, which would remove the need for housebuilders to prove they are not contaminating rivers in certain parts of the country, are expected to be discussed by the Lords on Wednesday this week. They argue that the EU rule prevents developers from building new homes in certain areas.

However, parliamentary procedure means that if the peers in the Lords reject the plans at this stage, MPs could not trigger a 'ping pong' process by inserting them back into the bill, as has been the case with other recent sticking points in the legislation.  

Green Party peer Jenny Jones is among those who has said she will block the changes and has urged Labour to reject the proposals. 

She urged Labour to vote against the changes and believed that in doing so the party would "enhance" the "environmental credentials" of new shadow levelling up secretary Angela Rayner.

“I have a growing confidence that we can win this vote if Labour work with other Opposition peers to stop these destructive plans, which are driven by developer donations to the Conservative Party,” Jones said. 

The nutrient neutrality amendment was added to the Levelling Up Bill in the summer, after the bill had completed its passage through the committee and report stages in the House of Commons and been approved by MPs. 

That means if Lords reject it this week, then the matter would be effectively killed in this legislation, as it would not be able to be passed to the Commons for them to discuss in ping-pong - the process when both Houses of Parliament pass a bill back and forth between one another to try and agree amendments. 

MPs are only able to discuss at this stage changes made to the bill by the Lords, and if it remains unchanged by them voting this amendment down, then there is nothing for MPs to discuss. 

Government's proposed plan to scrap nutrient neutrality rules has been welcomed by Conservative MPs, and ministers claim it could lead to an additional 100,000 homes being built by the end of this decade. 

However, green groups were critical, including Greenpeace which said that the government should “make sure we have the right infrastructure to handle our sewage so we can build new homes without sacrificing our rivers’ health”.

Wednesday is the final scheduled day of Lords’ report stage with the levelling up bill, before any matters that the Houses have disagreed on enter into ping pong. 

Earlier this month, PoliticsHome reported that peers believed they still had the most “contentious” parts of the levelling up legislation to make their way through at the start of this parliamentary term, including elements of environmental and planning legislations. 

According to the last Queen’s Speech where it was introduced, the Levelling Up Bill was designed to “drive local growth” and ensure “everyone can share in the United Kingdom’s success”. It covers a range of policy areas from local democracy and town planning. Michael Gove, the secretary of state responsible for its delivery, pledged a number of “levelling up missions” designed to reduce regional inequality by 2030.

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