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.

River pollution and the regulation of private water companies

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.

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

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.

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

    King’s Speech 2023: Agriculture, natural environment and animal welfare

    After announcing it would not be progressing the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, first introduced in the 2021–22 session, the government has committed to take animal welfare measures forward as single bills, including proposals on pet abduction. The government also intends to use secondary legislation to end the keeping of primates as pets and ban American XL bully dogs. On the natural environment, consultations are being held on hedgerows and water quality.

  • In Focus

    Climate change-induced migration: UK collaboration with international partners

    Climate change is likely to increase migration flows over the coming decades. Increasingly frequent and severe extreme weather events are expected to increase “forcible displacements”, and the “slow-onset” impacts of climate change are expected to make the hardest hit regions uninhabitable. The UK is involved with several international forums which aim to discuss and cooperate on these issues.

  • In Focus

    Preparing for climate change

    Climate change is expected to have significant impacts across a range of domestic policy areas. Both the government and the independent Climate Change Committee, a statutory advisory body, agree on the need for significant adaption efforts to mitigate related risks. This summer the government is due to publish the latest edition of its five-yearly national adaption programme. This will detail how it plans to go about addressing climate risks and comes 15 years after the Climate Change Act 2008 became law.

  • Research Briefing

    Animals (Low-Welfare Activities Abroad) Bill: HL Bill 122 of 2022–23

    The Animals (Low-Welfare Activities Abroad) Bill would prohibit the sale, offering for sale, or advertisement in England and Northern Ireland of low-welfare animal activities which take place abroad. The activity types covered would be set out in regulations, but would include those where animals are subject to unnecessary suffering or are kept in confinement.

  • In Focus

    Woodland cover and grey squirrels

    The government has committed to halting nature decline in the UK and improving natural habitats. Grey squirrels, which are a non-native species to the UK, cause damage to natural habitats by stripping bark from trees in order to eat the sap beneath. This In Focus article looks at the government’s policies on supporting woodlands and controlling the grey squirrel population.

  • Research Briefing

    Shark Fins Bill: HL Bill 93 of 2022–23

    The Shark Fins Bill is a private member’s bill that would ban the import and export of detached shark fins and shark fin-containing products in Great Britain, with routes available for conservation-related exemptions. It would also extend an existing prohibition on shark finning in place for UK fishing vessels to all fishing vessels operating in UK waters. The House of Lords is scheduled to debate the bill on 24 March 2023.

  • In Focus

    Horn of Africa: Projections of a famine in 2023

    The Horn of Africa is experiencing its longest drought in 40 years. Compounded by high food prices and political instability, this has led to 36.4 million people suffering from hunger across the region, and 21.7 million requiring food assistance. Although a famine has yet to be officially declared, it is projected to occur in 2023. Humanitarian aid, including from the UK, has already been provided but there are appeals for increased support.

  • In Focus

    COP15: Global biodiversity framework

    COP15 is an international biodiversity conference held under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). COP15 ran from 7 to 19 December 2022 in Montreal, Canada. A key outcome of COP15 was the adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. This set out global goals to address ongoing biodiversity loss. This briefing summarises the conference outcomes and the UK’s other work on biodiversity preservation.

  • In Focus

    Bird flu 2022: Dealing with the UK’s largest ever outbreak

    In 2022, the UK has experienced its largest outbreak of bird flu, and experts have warned that infections could rise even higher over the winter of 2022–23. The outbreak has led to the death of 97 million birds globally (3.8 million in the UK), with significant consequences for agriculture and the environment. In response, the UK government has imposed mandatory housing for all poultry, amended its culling compensation scheme and relaxed the sale regulations of defrosted poultry.