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Native Species and Wildlife

Volume 697: debated on Thursday 17 June 2021

To support the recovery of native species in England, we have tabled an amendment to the Environment Bill to require a new, historic, legally binding target for species abundance by 2030, aiming to halt the decline of nature. This is in addition to the long-term, legally binding targets we are developing under the Bill. We expect to publish a consultation on the proposed targets in early 2022. We are looking at the action needed on the ground and will launch at least 10 landscape-recovery projects to restore wilder landscapes. In partnership with stakeholders, we will determine the specific actions that will be paid for by our new schemes to reward environmental land management. In addition, the £80 million green recovery challenge fund has kick-started a pipeline of nature-based projects, many of which relate to native species.

The Washlands in my constituency is a fantastic place to visit: an expansive piece of natural land that follows the river through the heart of Burton upon Trent. Will my hon. Friend join me in thanking East Staffordshire Borough Council, Staffordshire Wildlife Trust and other organisations for their efforts in transforming the Trent valley to create spaces that work for both people and wildlife?

There is hot competition this morning for the best constituency, and my hon. Friend’s area is an extremely interesting and diverse landscape. I of course thank all organisations that are working to transform the Trent valley, including East Staffordshire Borough Council and the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust. Such partnerships and collaboration between partners and the community are absolutely key to the building of successful projects to restore and enhance natural and cultural heritage. I visited the Somerset levels yesterday, where similar partnership working is going so well, with so many partners. I am grateful to all the partners for their efforts towards goals for thriving plants and wildlife right across England.

First, I would be grateful if my hon. Friend confirmed that her Department will support the properly managed reintroduction of beavers, which can contribute so much to the environment.

Secondly, endangered species suffer because of loss of habitat more than anything else. If we rip out hedgerows and headlands and build over all our agricultural land, the habitat will be destroyed and wildlife will be destroyed, so will my hon. Friend join me in campaigning against the use of agricultural land for development?

I knew that my right hon. Friend was going to mention beavers, of which he is a great champion. As he knows, we are to consult on the reintroduction of beavers this summer. There are myriad benefits, but we must also look carefully at the management and mitigations that might be needed.

My right hon. Friend raises an important point about our precious agricultural land. I absolutely reassure him that we on the Government Benches are working hand in glove so that not only do all our new schemes deliver for nature but we can produce the sustainable food in this country that we want. This morning, I went to New Covent Garden market, where I saw a whole lot of our British produce. There were a lot of imports, but a lot of great British fruit and vegetables, and particularly flowers—it is British Flowers Week. Government Members are absolutely supportive of not only productive agriculture but recovering nature.

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

The Government have made some grand claims about the species-abundance targets that they will add to the Environment Bill to protect our native species and wildlife. The Secretary of State has said that the Government want

“not only to stem the tide”

of the loss of nature

“but to turn it around—to leave the environment in a better state than we found it.”

However, last week the Government published their amendment; will the Minister explain why the proposed legislation commits only to

“further the objective of halting a decline in the abundance of species”

rather than reversing the decline?

I welcome the hon. Lady to her place. This is the first time that we have had questions in the Chamber together.

This is a tremendous commitment by the Government to halt the decline of nature by 2030. No other country has done anything like this, so we are totally committed to the target. All the framework that we are putting in place will build towards this nature recovery: our local nature recovery strategies; our national nature recovery strategies; our 30% of land and sea protected; our 10 new large-scale landscape recovery schemes; and the entire environmental land management system. I could go on and on. I do not think that I could reiterate more the Government’s commitment to that. We will be consulting on the exact detail of the target in 2022, along with all the other targets in the Environment Bill.