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Volume 449: debated on Thursday 20 July 2006

13. What additional measures his Department has assessed to increase public awareness of the positive steps people can take to support biodiversity. (86611)

We are encouraging people throughout the country to do their bit for biodiversity. Reducing household pollutants and disposing of them properly makes water cleaner and protects aquatic habitats. Recycling rubbish reduces landfill and the pressure on surrounding land. Volunteering and gardening encourage native wildlife. These are small actions, but they can make a big difference.

I am sure my hon. Friend knows that the general population are unaware of the small things that they can do to help biodiversity. In a press statement, he challenged people to do their bit for biodiversity. Unfortunately, the measures suggested will not reach the general population. Will my hon. Friend consider what additional steps he can take to ensure that the general public realise the small things they can do to help the environment?

Yes, absolutely. I am happy to take up that challenge from my hon. Friend because it is important not just that we know what can be done, but that we publicise that and help people to become aware of the small incremental steps that they can take in their own lives. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State recently spoke about the fact that the personal carbon footprint accounts for 40 per cent. of the country’s carbon footprint. We must be able to communicate to people the impact of their actions, so I shall take up my hon. Friend’s challenge.

The Minister mentioned gardens. Does he agree with the pop star Kim Wilde, who said this week that gardens have become a refuge for threatened wildlife? Given that our 15 million gardens represent a greater area than all our nature reserves put together, is it right that gardens are first in line for development?

I want to take up the serious point that the hon. Gentleman makes, without straying, as he tempts me to do, into planning matters, which are not properly my domain. The point that he makes is of fundamental importance. All of us who are privileged to have gardens have a responsibility to consider what we can do to generate habitats for wildlife and to make our gardens as environmentally friendly as we can. That is the important message that the hon. Gentleman is trying to get across, and I wholeheartedly agree with him.