I would like to update the House on the progress that my Department has made in developing a national pollinator strategy for England.
Bees and other insect pollinators play an essential role in our food production and are vital to the diversity of our environment. Evidence suggests that many species of our pollinators are less abundant and widespread than they were in the 1950s. Although it is difficult to be certain about the rates or the causes of change, we do know that pollinators face a wide range of environmental pressures—including intensification of land use, loss of habitat and food sources, pests and diseases, invasive species, and pesticides—and that some species are already threatened.
The Government are committed to taking action on a range of fronts to protect pollinators. The national pollinator strategy launched today, sets out a 10-year plan which commits to actions that will help protect the 1,500 or so insect species that fulfil an important pollination role in England. The strategy aims to deliver across five key areas, which are:
supporting pollinators on farmland particularly through the new countryside stewardship scheme;
supporting pollinators across towns, cities and the countryside;
enhancing the response to pest and disease risks;
raising awareness of what pollinators need to survive and thrive; and
improving the evidence on the status of pollinators and the service they provide.
Recognising that there are gaps in our understanding of the status of pollinators, the strategy provides a framework for evidence gathering action that will help improve our understanding of current trends, economic and social value, and impacts of pressures. Together with building our evidence base, the strategy outlines that there are policy actions that the Government and others can take now to protect pollinators. The strategy also reaffirms our pollinator call to action, “Bees Needs: Food and a Home”, that was launched in July this year and which provides a simple message for all land managers on the essential needs of pollinators and how to fulfil them, including five simple actions such as planting more bee-friendly flowers and cutting grass less often. Finally, the strategy includes a commitment to review and refresh the vision, aims and policy actions from 2016, as evidence emerges.
The strategy builds on current policies across DEFRA which support pollinators, including habitat and species conservation, the honey bee disease control programme, pesticides and environmental stewardship as well as initiatives and campaigns across many other organisations. Our conservation charities, beekeeping associations, scientists and many volunteers already make a vital contribution in protecting these species and the services they provide. Equally, farmers, landowners and local authorities have a central role to play in their stewardship. Many of these individuals and organisations have made important contributions to the drafting of the strategy, and we will continue to work with these partners towards producing an implementation plan over the following six months.
Given that our current understanding about the problems facing wild pollinators is patchy and incomplete, our approach to developing new policies will be iterative and adaptive. The strategy provides a framework for doing more as we find out more.