• In Focus

    ‘Undergrounding’ electrical transmission cables

    There are 4,500 miles of overhead electricity transmission lines in England and Wales. This contrasts with just over 900 miles of underground cables. ‘Undergrounding’, the replacement of overhead cables with underground cables, is used in limited circumstances, such as in nationally designated landscapes. There have been calls for an increase in undergrounding. However, the government has pointed to several issues, including the higher cost of underground cables.

  • In Focus

    River pollution and the regulation of private water companies

    Only 14% of rivers in England have a good ecological status and none have a good chemical status. Agriculture, wastewater and diffuse urban pollution are the main sources of pollution affecting water bodies in England. In recent years, the failure of water companies to prevent sewage discharges has attracted attention, and questions have been asked about whether the government and bodies such as Ofwat and the Environment Agency are doing enough to regulate water companies and enforce environmental law.

  • In Focus

    Water and sewage companies: Executive remuneration

    Following concern over several issues including pollution and poor customer service, the remuneration of senior executives in the water industry has come under scrutiny. Ofwat, the economic regulator of the sector, has announced tighter measures on water company executive bonuses when they have not been sufficiently earned. Ofwat is also to consult on measures to ban water company executives from receiving bonuses if a company has committed serious criminal breaches.

  • In Focus

    New licensing for pet primates

    Thousands of primates are being kept as pets in the UK. The government is legislating to introduce licensing and higher welfare standards to end primates being kept in low welfare domestic environments. This briefing looks at the issue and the legislation.

  • In Focus

    Digital exclusion in the UK: Communications and Digital Committee report

    In 2023, the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee published a report on digital exclusion in which it called for the government to devise a new strategy and create a dedicated unit to address the issue. The committee argued the government’s approach lacked ambition. The government has said the issue is a priority and has established a dedicated ministerial group.

  • Research Briefing

    Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill: HL Bill 39 of 2023–24

    The Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill would end the export of certain animals for fattening and slaughter from and through England, Wales and Scotland. Campaigns have highlighted the suffering of animals on long journeys, and it is a government manifesto commitment to end the practice. The bill passed through the House of Commons unamended. The second reading of the bill in the House of Lords is scheduled to take place on 21 February 2024.

  • In Focus

    Environmental land management: Recent changes to the sustainable farming incentive and countryside stewardship schemes

    The government is part way through the implementation of the environmental land management scheme in England. This replaces the system of financial support established during the UK’s membership of the EU common agricultural policy. This briefing considers how this scheme has been implemented, including recently announced changes. It also considers how support for biodiversity and the control of certain invasive species is provided through the environmental land management scheme.

  • In Focus

    The 1.5-degree celsius global warming threshold: Could it be breached in 2024?

    At the 2015 UN climate change conference, the international community agreed to make efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels. Since then, global temperatures have continued to rise, with record-breaking temperatures in 2023. The UK’s Met Office has projected that 2024 could be even warmer, with the 1.5-degree threshold temporarily exceeded. This briefing summarises the background to the 1.5-degree threshold, and what actions the UK government is taking to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

  • In Focus

    UK contribution to international development: Mitigating the impact of climate change on developing nations

    The UK government spent £12.79bn in official development assistance in 2022. A portion of this support was focused on mitigating the impact of climate change on developing countries, including through measures outlined in the government’s international development white paper and through contributions to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s green climate fund. However, some stakeholders have called on the government to provide further support, particularly in relation to its spending commitments.

  • Research Briefing

    Data Protection and Digital Information Bill: HL Bill 30 of 2023–24

    The Data Protection and Digital Information Bill would amend existing data protection legislation and introduce new provisions in areas such as digital verification services and smart data. The bill was carried over from the last session and is due to have its second reading in the House of Lords on 19 December 2023.

  • In Focus

    Educational technology: Digital innovation and AI in schools

    The usage of educational technology in UK schools is already growing and likely to increase significantly in coming years, particularly as a result of the rapid development of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. Many commentators suggest that these technologies present significant opportunities but also substantial risks. This briefing examines these issues ahead of a forthcoming debate in the House of Lords.

  • In Focus

    Agricultural fungicides: Impact on long-term food and biological security

    Agricultural fungicides are pesticides which are used to prevent or control plant disease caused by fungi. They can help ensure food availability, affordability and safety. However, they can also have negative environmental effects and exposure to chemical pesticides has been linked to a higher risk of chronic disease in humans. The government is due to publish a revised national action plan on the sustainable use of pesticides by the end of 2023.

  • In Focus

    Mopeds, motorcycles and the powered light vehicle industry

    Powered light vehicles (PLVs) are a category of smaller, lighter vehicles, including mopeds and motorcycles. Zero emission PLVs can contribute to reducing congestion and air and noise pollution. The government consulted in 2022 on ending sales of new non-zero emission PLVs by 2035, but the industry argues this is unrealistic. It is not clear how the government’s decision to delay the date for ending sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans affects this proposal.