Brexit is an opportunity to strengthen our environmental standards
As the longest-serving Conservative member of the Environmental Audit Committee, I have the track record and the passion to lead, writes Matthew Offord MP
As a London MP, it is often easy to become detached from nature. Growing up on the beaches of Cornwall as a lifeguard, my passion for the environment has always been an important part of my life – from becoming a qualified sailor and scuba instructor, through to my academic studies and life as an MP, joining the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) in 2012.
During my time in local government I was cabinet member for the environment and, since my election to Parliament in 2010, I have asked hundreds of questions to the government in this area – everything from recycling and waste, to trees and biodiversity.
As a green Conservative, protecting our environment for future generations has always been a core belief of mine. So, for me it is a significant opportunity and a privilege that this committee now falls under the chairmanship of the Conservative party.
During my time in Parliament, the chairmanship of the EAC has always fallen under the Labour party, and I pay tribute to my former colleague Mary Creagh, who was a fantastic chair and oversaw some of our committee’s most important work.
“I have taken my work on this committee from the corridors of Westminster to the Arctic Circle”
Therefore, as the longest-serving Conservative member of the EAC, I have decided that this committee needs experience and commitment more than ever before. I have been directly involved in numerous inquiries and delegations where I have taken my work on this committee from the corridors of Westminster to the Arctic Circle and questioned secretaries of state, ministers, civil servants and business leaders.
Some people may stand as chairman of a select committee for the position or the status it brings. However, my commitment to the environment and, indeed the EAC itself, has been unwavering.
I want to continue, and build upon, the work of the former chair, such as taking more committee meetings out of Westminster and visiting colleagues in their constituencies to see first-hand the environmental problems they are facing.
I have never held ministerial office, so I will fearlessly hold the Government to account. As an individual who prides themselves on being independently minded and non-partisan, I will work with all my colleagues, no matter what party, to ensure that we do this.
Brexit for me is an opportunity to strengthen, not weaken, our environmental standards. We cannot afford to fall behind our neighbours in the EU and I will always work to ensure that this is the case. As the Government shapes its new environmental policy through the 25-Year Environment Plan, I and any committee that I lead will be at the forefront of holding them to account.
What has become increasingly apparent is that protecting our environment has never been more important, and so our work in this area has never mattered more. We need a chair of the EAC who is passionate, independently-minded, trusted and with a track record of delivering in this area. I hope that I can be that person.
Matthew Offord is Conservative MP for Hendon