UK Parliament forms Office of Environmental Protection (OEP)

Office of Environmental Protection

What is the OEP

The OEP is a new public body, being established with the principal objective of contributing to environmental protection and improving the natural environment.

It will support Parliament in holding government to account on its environmental commitments, and will help improve environmental governance through independent oversight and advice on the law and other matters relating to the natural environment.

What is the Interim OEP

The Interim Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) will operate as a division within Defra. It will provide independent oversight of the government’s environmental progress on a non statutory basis, in advance of the full OEP being legally established.

The Interim OEP will exist from July 2021 and will be led by the designate OEP board, chaired by Dame Glenys Stacey.  Natalie Prosser will be the Interim CEO-designate. Its key functions will be as follows.

  • Develop the OEP’s strategy including its enforcement policy.
  • Produce and publish an independent assessment of progress in relation to the implementation of the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan.
  • Receive complaints about public authorities’ compliance with environmental law, entering into dialogue with specific authorities about complaints against them (while not taking any formal enforcement action pending the necessary legislative provisions taking effect).
  • Take decisions on operational matters such as staff recruitment, accommodation and facilities.
  • Determine approaches for how the OEP will form and operate, establishing its character, ways of working and voice.

What will the OEP key responsibilities be

The OEP will deliver its principal objective through a range of functions. It will conduct impartial, evidence-based monitoring, analysis, reporting and recommendations on progress towards national environmental improvement plans (such as the 25 Year Environment Plan), targets and the implementation of environmental law. It will also investigate and uphold compliance with environmental law by the government and other public bodies, including taking enforcement action against serious breaches, where necessary.

When will the OEP be operational

The OEP is being established through the Environment Bill, which is creating a new and ambitious domestic framework for environmental governance. It is anticipated that the OEP will be legally established in Autumn 2021 once the Environment Bill receives Royal Assent and will be able to commence its functions in January 2022.

What is Defra’s relationship with the Interim OEP and the OEP

The Interim Office for Environmental Protection will be set up as a division within Defra, although operating as independently as possible.

Successful candidates in this campaign will initially be employed by Defra in the Interim OEP until the OEP is legally established. Once the OEP is legally established, we intend that the successful candidate’s employment will be transferred over to the OEP on their existing T&Cs and they will become public servants.

The OEP will be a non-departmental public body sponsored by Defra. This means it will operate independently from Defra and will not be part of the UK Civil Service.

Source: DEFRA