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Historic Environment

Volume 658: debated on Thursday 11 April 2019

2. What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the inclusion of the historic environment in the definition of the natural environment in the Environment Bill. (910358)

I am aware that there is strong interest in the way that the Environment Bill relates to the protection of the historic environment. I want to make sure that the heritage agenda and the close interplay between the natural environment and the historic environment are appropriately reflected in that Bill. To that end, I have spoken to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs about the matter, and I will be writing to him very shortly.

I am pleased to hear that response from the Minister, because the historic and natural environment often enhance and rely on each other. In my patch, we have the lesser horseshoe bats in Arnos Vale cemetery, the Iron Age hill fort in Leigh woods, and the work being done by the Heritage Lottery Fund in Avalon marshes. The manmade structures—the built environment—enhance and, in some ways, protect the wildlife there. Will he keep us updated on the progress of those discussions?

The hon. Lady is absolutely right: these things are very closely interrelated. The Bill is specifically a natural environment Bill, but the historic environment is very closely interplayed with that. I have written to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs about that. I can confirm what she says about the connection. Of course it applied recently to the inscription of the world heritage site in the Lake District.

Does my hon. Friend agree that we must do all we can to protect our great historic environment? I also wish to praise the National Trust for all the work that it does in this field, particularly in Bexleyheath where we have the Red House, a National Trust property.

Very much so. The fact of the matter is that our historic environment is important to us all. It is also a world asset—something that draws millions of people to this country. It is important to respect the environment in all its forms, and the natural environment is supported and enriched by the historic environment.

When the Minister corresponds with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will he ensure that, prior to doing so, he makes contact with the heritage divisions in England and Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure that the Environment Bill, which extends across the United Kingdom, reflects our needs?

I always want to ensure that all constituent parts of the United Kingdom are involved in these matters, as they of course are in fact as well as in law. I think that I have already written to the Secretary of State—the letter will be signed today—but we will certainly bear in mind what the hon. Gentleman says.