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World Conservation Strategy

Volume 478: debated on Friday 18 July 1986

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

11.22 a.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows: To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will make a statement on their recent response to the world conservation strategy.

My Lords the Government's response to the world conservation strategy, Conservation and Development: the British Approach, represents a major stocktaking exercise by the Government across the whole spectrum of environmental policies. It emphasises the British traditions of care, balance and pragmatism. It endorses the central approach of the world conservation strategy itself—that the conservation of cherished features of our environment is best achieved through programmes of sound, sustainable development. The report emphasises three fundamental components of such an approach to conservation: the importance of a strong foundation of scientific knowledge; the need to involve people, with their diverse interests and aspirations, and to obtain their willing co-operation; and the need for balance and the avoidance of extremes.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that very long and interesting reply, which I shall study carefully in Hansard. Is it true that the United Kingdom was the only Western European country represented at ministerial level at the recent Ottawa conference on world conservation strategy?

Yes, my Lords; my honourable friend the Minister for the Environment, Countryside and Local Government was the only Western European Minister present at that conference. We consider it a major priority to spread far and wide the message of sustainable development which underlines the world conservation strategy. This my honourable friend did.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that many individuals and organisations who are involved in these matters are not as full in their support of the document as the noble Lord who asked the Question? One such criticism I read said that the form of the document betrays its content—it is glossy, showy and printed on non-recyclable paper and costs £16.50. Will he accept my criticism that I do not think the document gives any sense to the enormity of the task that has to be carried out or of the urgency? Indeed, I had the impression from reading the document of much complacency. If I may give a small example from page 38 of the document—

If I cannot give an example from page 38 of the document, may I say to the Minister that the problem of the marine nature reserve which has been hanging about for a long time—

I have asked the Minister whether he is aware that that is happening. I would ask the Minister to tell his noble friend not to be so rude. That shows to me the complacency—

My Lords, I prefaced this remark by saying: "Is the Minister aware?". That is a question. I then went on to show him of what he should be aware. That is part of the question and I expect him to answer.

My Lords, if the noble Lord would put his question more in the form of a question, it would be more consistent with the usage of this House. Question Time is becoming a little long and so I wonder whether the noble Lord will put his question a little more briefly.

My Lords, my question has been lengthened by the interruptions. I asked the Minister: "Is he aware?". That is an interrogative. That is a question. Then I went on to tell him of what he should be aware—the delay in establishing the marine nature reserve which has been promised for a long time. Can he tell us when that marine nature reserve will be completed? Have the Government any plans to introduce legislation to oblige British companies to consider the environmental implications of new projects when they are planned? Finally, will the Government initiate a debate on the whole question?

My Lords, I think it would be proper for me to answer the question on marine nature reserves. The House, I accept, has been very patient with the Government in this matter for a number of years. I can say that the first one will be completed, announced and ready by the end of November.

My Lords, can my noble friend tell the House which of the various international bodies of which we are a member has taken upon itself, if any has done so, the responsibility for implementing this world conservation strategy? Can he say whether the countries which contain the tropical rain forests are members of that international body?

My Lords, the purpose of the world conservation strategy was to persuade and encourage governments rather than international groupings to arrive at a sensible world environmental policy. It is for each government to make their own response rather than a collection—for example, the Community, the Council of Europe states, or ASEAN, or whoever.

My Lords, I have not read this document, but may I ask whether there is as much emphasis on urban conservation as there is on rural conservation?

Yes, my Lords, most certainly there is. There is a whole section devoted to urban conservation at the back of the publication to which we have been referring.

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the Government's broad strategy in protecting the environment of allowing conservation and development to exist together is the best way to achieve this?

Yes, my Lords, I can tell my noble friend that the Government are firmly committed to the continuing improvement of the quality of the environment both in the United Kingdom and worldwide. As the heads of state and Government agreed at their meeting in Bonn in 1985, this has to be achieved within broad economic, industrial and social policies, and is of course in accordance with the world conservation strategy.