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Hedge Maintenance

Volume 609: debated on Thursday 5 May 2016

11. What assessment she has made of the effect of changes to hedge-cutting regulations on (a) contractors, (b) farms and (c) hedge maintenance. (904833)

We have consulted a range of people on hedge cutting, from the National Farmers Union and the Country Land and Business Association to various environmental organisations, and we have come up with a deal on hedge cutting that provides both protection for birds and derogations for specific agricultural activities.

I thank the Minister for his answer. My constituent, Bob Rutt, is a contractor who specialises in hedge cutting, and the extension of the hedge-trimming ban has cost him thousands of pounds in lost revenue. He has no intention of harming wildlife, but the policy is seriously affecting his business. Will the Minister engage with farmers and contractors to ensure that conditions on the ground are taken into account so that arrangements can work for the contracting industry and conservationists?

I am happy to engage with my hon. Friend and indeed farmers on this issue. It is important to understand, however, that certain birds, including blackbirds, turtle doves, goldfinches, bullfinches and whitethroats, have longer breeding and rearing seasons that last through August and into the beginning of September. There are two specific derogations that could affect my hon. Friend’s constituent: one relates to the planting of oilseed rape; and the other relates to seasonal grass, which allows him to get his equipment in, in accordance with agricultural practices. I am happy to discuss the details with my hon. Friend.

The Minister is a veritable mine of information, is he not? We are deeply obliged to him, as I dare say the constituent of the hon. Member for Corby (Tom Pursglove) will be, to boot.