Recruitment campaign launched for inaugural chair of new environment watchdog

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Yesterday (Monday 10 August), the government launched its recruitment campaign to appoint the inaugural chair of the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP).

The OEP is a new environmental watchdog, being set up to hold the government to account on its environmental ambitions and obligations and is in the process of being legislated for in the Environment Bill.

It will have a number of functions including providing scrutiny and advice on the implementation of environmental law. It will also monitor and report on progress against Environmental Improvement Plans and environmental targets.

The OEP can receive and investigate complaints on alleged serious breaches of environmental law by public authorities. It can also take legal action if necessary as a last resort.

As well as providing leadership and strategic vision for the OEP, the chair will be expected to promote positive and constructive relationships with Parliament, government ministers, departments, public authorities and interest groups.

The chair will be appointed by, and is accountable to, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs. The successful candidate will be appointed initially for a period of up to five years.

The OEP is scheduled for creation in 2021, subject to the Environment Bill gaining Royal Assent.

What is the NFU's view?

The NFU and its members are committed to maintaining high environmental standards. Farmers are the stewards of our beautiful natural environment and have a strong track record of protecting, maintaining and enhancing our environment. However, their core and essential function is to produce high quality, safe and affordable food for the nation.

Policies to enhance the environment must be carefully linked to enhance food production and support rural communities. There are several areas where the Environment Bill can be improved and the NFU is keen to work closely with parliamentarians to achieve these changes. These include the need for the OEP to act ‘proportionately’ as well as objectively and impartially.

The inaugural chair of the OEP is a key appointment for government, and the NFU looks forward to working with the successful candidate.

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