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Departmental Budget

Volume 453: debated on Monday 27 November 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the likely effect of the shortfall in his Department’s budget on (a) the performance of Natural England and (b) his Department’s biodiversity targets. (101269)

We have been working with Natural England to avoid impacts on key priorities and outcomes, including DEFRA’s biodiversity targets.

Natural England’s start-up costs were protected so there is no question of it being established as anything other than “fit for purpose”. The programmes which contribute to the Sites of Special Scientific Interest and farmland birds Public Service Agreement targets, and the England Biodiversity Strategy, will be delivered in full. Natural England is also giving priority to the delivery of agri-environment schemes.

To enable the highest priority work areas to continue to be delivered, it has been necessary to delay or reduce the scale of some other programme work this year, for example, slowing down some research work.