Government consistently failing to complete Post Implementation Reviews of environmental laws, finds OEP

Research by the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) has found that the UK Government has not consistently completed  legally-required Post-Implementation Reviews (PIRs) of environmental laws.  

Periodically undertaking this evaluation and reporting on the findings is important, to see in good time whether the law is working as intended. In certain cases, it is also a legal requirement.  

Dame Glenys Stacey, Chair of the OEP, said: “Government should monitor and evaluate how environmental and other relevant laws are working. It is important for Parliamentary accountability and wider scrutiny. And it allows Government to see in good time the extent to which the law and its implementation are sufficiently effective. There is strength and value here, in applying a consistent, systematic, and timely approach to evaluation, and in publishing the outcome. For Government to stay on course to meet its ambitions for the environment, it must keep abreast of how the law is working. 

“Defra and other government departments have consistently failed to meet the legal requirements for these reports, and these failures appear to be widespread and longstanding.   

“The information and insight from such reports is especially relevant when Government is reviewing and making decisions about the future of environmental law. There is now the potential for significant changes to environmental law, most notably through the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill, but also through other draft legislation such as the Energy Bill and the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.  

“Government must formally respond to this report. We would expect it to provide reassurance as to how these failures will be rectified and reviews prioritised. We will keep this matter under review.” 

According to the OEP’s research, of 56 PIRs required by Defra, seven are not yet due.  For the remaining 49, none have been completed or completed before the deadline. In some instances, Defra has published a report but did so late - in one case over four years late. We understand that Defra has plans to address its backlog of PIRs. We welcome further details as to those plans and will keep this matter under review.

The Department for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) completed six reports required by law, although four of these were completed late. Six required reports have not been completed. The Department for Transport (DfT) has not completed the one report identified where the due date has passed. In seven other cases post-implementation review reports are required but the deadline has not yet passed. At the time our report was written, the Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities (DLUHC) had not completed reports in respect of three of four environmental laws identified where the date for report publication has passed. We are aware that since then further reports have been published. 

Government departments responsible for relevant environmental laws should publish outstanding post-implementation review reports as soon as possible. In our report we make three recommendations. Government departments should plan and prioritise delivery of post-implementation reviews. Post -implementation review, or equivalent, should be available to inform decisions being made about environmental law. And environmental protection and improvement should be taken into account when undertaking post-implementation reviews.  

The full report can be downloaded by clicking the blue button on this page. 

Additional notes

The OEP’s statutory functions include a duty to monitor the implementation of environmental law and the power to report on any matter concerned with the implementation of environmental law (s.29 Environment Act 2021). The Secretary of State is required to respond to this report within three months and lay that response before Parliament.
The OEP has published advice to the Retained EU Law Bill committee – that advice can be found here.