Lord Bradshaw debates involving the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office during the 2019 Parliament

Environment Bill

Lord Bradshaw Excerpts
Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, like all noble Lords, I support this Bill in the round. Having said that, it contains hints of an ugly intolerance; it sometimes gives the impression that those responsible for it know all the answers. A more open attitude would pay dividends and avoid error. After all, a short while ago, some of the same people were confidently and wrongly demanding that we all switch to diesel engines. The truth is that science evolves and new discoveries are made all the time. Humility in scientific matters is essential.

My concern in this group is with a small matter, economically speaking, where I fear an error could be made. It matters because this Bill could bring about the death of Thomas the Tank Engine and his or her nautical steamboat equivalent. Noble Lords will recall my repeated requests for cost-benefit analyses and my concern about the perverse effects of legislation, however important and well intentioned. I rarely receive a satisfactory answer, but that does not mean the request was not valid.

By making it impossible in practice to use British coal for heritage trains, boats and steam engines, we would, I fear, be consigning them in time to the scrap heap. This is unjustified. It is not in the spirit of reuse and recycle, which some of us supported earlier in Committee. Without a small exemption for the use of coal sourced in the UK, we will be importing coal from elsewhere. This would be worse for climate change, as you would have travel emissions as well as the impact of coal use. Also, as the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, explained to me this morning—we often agree across the political divide—we are talking about small and often impecunious operators who need one or two suppliers to source, pay for and distribute this coal. What supplier would think of taking that risk if it had to be imported from Russia?

Alternatively, of course, we will be consigning these heritage vehicles to a sad death. That would lead to a loss of tourist engagement and income as travellers move elsewhere, often overseas by air. The rotting of the vehicles and railways would create its own waste pile, and the whole dismal process would be a wholly unnecessary and self-inflicted harm and error. As is often said by our Green colleagues—I am sorry that they are not here this evening—we must look in the round at these resource issues. I am very hopeful that my noble friend the Minister will listen to the concerns expressed by me and others and propose a suitable amendment on Report. Like others, I support Amendment 279.

Lord Bradshaw Portrait Lord Bradshaw (LD) [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I too support Amendment 279 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester. Steam locomotives, in particular, and the associated steam engines employed elsewhere are generally now maintained to the highest standards by the most enthusiastic people, and they bring lots of tourists into the most remote areas of the country. The effect on the areas where these railways and other such things operate is immense. Many areas such as north Wales would be immeasurably harmed if the use of steam locomotives was banned. I want simply to say that I support Amendment 279 with enthusiasm. The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, said that he has received assurances from the Minister. I hope this is true, and I agree with him that including this in the Bill would be something we would all look back on with pride.

Lord Lucas Portrait Lord Lucas (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I want to address two aspects of Amendments 157 to 159. First, looking at the underlying clause, what do the Government intend to use these provisions for? Once a motor vehicle has been out in the world for a while, it tends to have drifted a long way away from the ability of the original manufacturer to do anything about it. Is the clause saying that a second-hand car that someone cheerfully bought a year or two ago will be hauled in and scrapped? If so, where is the provision for compensation? If that is not what the clause means, what does it mean?

Secondly, I will take the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, a bit further. If we are looking at aspects of our lives that emit a lot more carbon dioxide than they need to, why are we not looking at cement? Standard cement is a very heavy emitter of carbon, and inevitably so, as it involves taking the carbon dioxide out of limestone. But, as the Romans knew, you can get a very strong material by mixing about 70% standard cement with 30% volcanic ash, in the Romans’ case, or in our case maybe steel slag. You can get a material which is just as strong and durable, yet there does not appear to be any focus on doing that. I hope it will be possible to pursue this with officials between now and Report, to help us understand in which bits of our lives it is considered important that we focus on CO2 reduction, which bits are to be left alone and, in each case, why.

Environment Bill

Lord Bradshaw Excerpts
In conclusion, I hope that noble Lords and the Minister will understand our frustration with the ongoing delays in implementation. Our amendment is an essential precondition to cutting back packaging, reducing plastic waste, cutting back on single-use items and rationalising all the use of scarce resources that will make up a proper resource-efficient scheme. It goes hand in hand with all the other issues that have been tabled in other amendments in this group. These schemes could make a real difference to our resource-efficiency strategy and the management of waste. I hope that noble Lords will support our amendment and I beg to move.
Lord Bradshaw Portrait Lord Bradshaw (LD) [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, there can be few more unpleasant jobs than clearing fatballs and wet wipes out of congested sewers. It is done underground, often in sweltering conditions. It is a terribly hard job, and in many ways it should be quite unnecessary.

In my amendment—which the Minister and the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones and Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, might agree could be a point at which the Minister will actually say, “I agree and I will do something”—I have simply written that people who sell wet wipes and other non-flushable items should, as was done with tobacco advertising in the early stages, be obliged to print on their packaging the words “Do not flush”. This is not a revolutionary amendment. It is one that I know the water companies would greatly welcome. I am a great critic of the water companies in many respects, but it would help them in their task.

It does not seem to me that the amendment would move any great laws. It would just mean that the Government has to tell people who sell non-flushable items such as baby wipes that on each package there should be the words “Do not flush”. I myself have looked at several packages. On some you can find the words printed very small while on others you cannot find them at all. I think the Minister might welcome this opportunity to get up and say, “Yes, that’s a good idea. I will take it away and look at it.”

Lord Chidgey Portrait Lord Chidgey (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am delighted to follow my noble friend Lord Bradshaw. We have a history of working together that goes back many years. I think the last time was to do with Railtrack, which is a million miles away from Amendment 120A, which I shall speak to today, concerning septic tanks and their management.

I have some experience of this, going back a while to when I was a much younger married man with a small family who had moved into a rather old but pleasant Edwardian house on the edge of the country. When there is a sewer in the main road outside, naturally one assumes that one’s house is connected to it, but I discovered one morning, when an unexpected hole appeared in the back lawn, that there was no mains drainage at all, but a septic tank. As I say, I was a young man with a family and not a lot of money, and I had to get a second mortgage in order to pay for the drainage works to connect up to the sewer in the road and explain to my friends and neighbours that it was I who had caused traffic lights to be put up to cope with the construction works.

That is not to say that I have a particular bias against septic tanks—an issue that we will return to later in the Bill—but this amendment is to do with something very similar to my noble friend Lord Bradshaw’s point, which is that caustic household cleansers, when used too liberally, or even at all, you might argue, to cope with the cleansing of waste into septic tanks in domestic homes, can cause damage. What can happen so easily is that chlorine-based or similar bleach-based domestic cleaners prevent the tanks from functioning at all, and the result can be that you end up with little better than open defecation. So the purpose of the amendment is to try to reduce, and in due course eliminate, the discharge of untreated or poorly treated sewage into our rivers, watercourses and aquifers.

This occurs mainly in rural communities that remain—as I found out to my cost—unconnected to mains sewers, and are reliant on septic tanks and cesspits. Those are often inefficient and poorly maintained. Not only can septic tanks poison our rivers, streams and other watercourses as a result, but in areas with chalk aquifers they can poison the groundwater as well, often causing irreversible long-term harm.

Elsewhere in our European continent, several countries have not only banned this form of drainage but replaced it with more sensible and rational mains drainage systems. I would like to think that we would be trying to catch up with them. I therefore support the amendment.

Environment Bill

Lord Bradshaw Excerpts
Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Watkins of Tavistock) (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We will return to the noble Lord later. We now move to the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, and after her the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, as the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, and the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, have withdrawn.

--- Later in debate ---
Earl of Devon Portrait The Earl of Devon (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, noting my interests previously declared, I am a passionate believer in better access to our natural environment. Access goes hand in hand with education and knowledge of the environment, our landscape and the sources of our food. Without this understanding, landscape management will suffer and our health outcomes will be worse. I am glad that the Minister welcomes us referencing Professor Dasgupta’s review into the economics of biodiversity. Professor Dasgupta clearly highlighted the need to educate the nation about the natural capital we consume and the landscape in which we live. This education is dependent on properly managed access.

I echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, on the first set of amendments, in recommending the health and well-being benefits of being active in and connected to the outdoors. The pandemic has laid bare stark inequalities in people’s access to nature, often along wealth and social divides. Our work for the national plan for sport and recreation highlighted the basic need of many urban communities for better access to green and open space. The Bill needs to do all it can to encourage better managed access to nature and better education about how our predominantly farmed landscape came into being and is now managed.

Observant Lords will note that I am not calling for an increase in access and I do not support Amendment 284 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett. Rather, I am talking about better quality of access, provided where it is needed most for public health and well-being and has the least impact on the biodiversity that is really at the heart of the Bill.

Noble Lords may recall that, almost exactly a year ago, we debated access in the context of the ELMS under the Agriculture Bill. I note how much we miss the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, at this time, whose wisdom and contributions were so valuable in this regard. During that debate, I listed the negative impact of access on our small part of Devon over the previous few years. I will not repeat the graphic details of the baseball-bat attacks on young lambs, but will remind noble Lords of that, of IRA bomb-making equipment stashed in our woods alongside flytipped asbestos, of the dangers of chestnut blight and other tree diseases being spread by human contact, of the theft of shellfish and of the disastrous impact of dogs on nesting waders and other birds across the SSSI of the Exminster marshes.

Access is key to improving our understanding of the environment and obtaining well-being benefits from it but is often not good for the environment itself. Thus, where access is to be granted, it must be properly managed and fully funded, taking into account the preservation of nature and the land management that is responsible for maintaining it. Improved access requires better gates, fences, signs, pathways and knowledge of the functions of our land and the heritage that brought it into being. For that reason, I support Amendments 9 and 57, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, but remain equivocal about Amendment 8, particularly as the explanatory statement reveals an intention to “increase” access. Increased access is not the answer; better access is.

Finally, I speak for farmers and land managers who, for the most part, remain nervous about public access for the reasons I have stated. Improving public access is dependent on their willingness to open their homes and farms to others. We need to bring them with us and to educate them about the benefits of improved access, as much as we need to educate those seeking such access.

Lord Bradshaw Portrait Lord Bradshaw (LD) [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I start with a short explanation of the reason for Amendment 58. The Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 protected footpaths, bridleways and restricted byways from use and damage by recreational motor vehicles. However, the same Act left unprotected a further 3,000 miles of countryside tracks. These are the nation’s green lanes. They are being used and damaged by 4x4s, motorbikes and quad bikes, which are being driven entirely for recreational purposes. This amendment is the first step in closing the loophole in the NERC Act which allows non-essential motors to inflict environmental damage and nuisance to green lanes. The amendment does not affect the rights of landowners, occupiers or residents, drivers of essential motor vehicles, or people with disabilities who use powered mobility scooters.

The context for this amendment is twofold. First, the stated purpose of the Environment Bill is to improve the natural environment. Secondly, the 2019 Glover review of national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty called for radical change in the way we protect our landscapes and stressed the need to take urgent steps to recover and enhance nature. One of the things that is causing damage to the natural environment, and to fragile and precious landscapes, is that, at present, 4x4 vehicles, motorbikes and quad bikes are allowed to be driven for purely recreational purposes on unsealed tracks all over the countryside, including in national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty.

This is allowed to happen only because the law currently says that if an unsealed track, whatever it may be, was used in the past by the public with horse-drawn carts, that it is now a right of way for any kind of modern motor vehicle. Parliament attempted to deal with this in 2006 by passing the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act: other vehicles could use footpaths, bridleways and restricted byways, but it left unprotected over 3,000 miles of other track in the countryside that have no public right of way classification. These amount to over half of the country’s green lanes. They are open to use and abuse by recreational motor vehicles and, as a result, great damage is being done, even on the high fells.

There are similar problems on many of the other 3,000 miles of the country’s green lanes—those classified as byways, open to all traffic. In reality, many of them are effectively no longer open to walkers, cyclists, horse-riders, horse-drawn vehicles and the disabled for peaceful enjoyment of the countryside because of a loss of amenity caused by recreational motor vehicles—many riders of which are based abroad.

The amendment does not seek an immediate change in the law. If passed it requires the Secretary of State to return to the business left unfinished by the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act and to carry out a public consultation on whether the loophole left by that Act, should now be closed.

The Minister may say that there is another way of dealing with the problem: the use of traffic regulations orders. The highway authorities have had TRO-making powers since 1984, the national parks since 2007, but such orders are costly to make, rarely used and almost invariably are fiercely resisted by the recreational motor vehicle groups—often with threats of legal action. TROs must be made one track at a time. If they could put a stop to the environmental damage being made by motor vehicles, the problem would have been solved long ago. A new approach and ultimately a change in the law is needed.

Lord Blencathra Portrait Lord Blencathra (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, it was an absolute delight to listen to the excellent speech from the noble Earl, Lord Devon, and his call for better-quality access. There is considerable merit in Amendment 8 and especially in Amendment 9, and it probably should be a priority target. I urge my noble friend the Minister to accept them in principle. The amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Lucas is very important. Could Amendments 8 and 9 be amalgamated into one target?

Of course, this is a very difficult area for the Government to set targets in and that is possibly why the Government have not added it to the clause. If you cannot measure it then you cannot manage it, and as for measuring people’s enjoyment of something, I should love to see how one can make a target for people to enjoy something. However, with time and work, I believe that we can figure out some targets in this area, especially on connecting people with nature.

Every month Natural England publishes its people and nature survey. Despite Covid, there are still very much the same patterns emerging. When one looks at March 2020, before lockdown—an idiotic term which I hate—and compares it with April 2021, one gets roughly the same statistics: 30% had not visited a green space or nature in a 14-day period, and of those who did, the vast majority numerically were older people. The justification in April this year by the 34% of people who had not visited was to stop Covid spreading. That is a noble reason not to go. However, I looked at our previous studies, in what was then called the monitor of engagement with the natural environment, and in 2017 more than 30%, the same figure, had not visited a green space. Exactly 34% said that they had not visited because they were too busy, 23% said health reasons and 18% had no interest whatsoever. The justification or excuse may vary but the numbers stay the same.

However, the other statistic that the survey highlights is that of earnings. Of those earning more than £50,000 per annum, 75% reported a visit to a green and natural space. This is compared to 50% of those earning less than £15,000 per annum. Adults earning more than £50,000 also took three times as many visits as those earning less than £15,000. That confirms the anecdotal evidence of our own eyes. You do not see many black and ethnic-community people in their Range Rovers visiting the Lake District National Park, stately homes, or National Trust properties.

There is of course a big cost element for those who cannot afford the time or money to go far visiting green space, but there is also a cultural problem. I was told in a briefing from the creators of the brilliant London National Park City scheme that they found that children walking to school would prefer to take the slightly longer route round by the shops and the high street rather than the shorter route through the local park or green space. There is thus a problem that even when green space is on their doorstep, many people are not connecting with it. That is why Amendment 9 is so important. I believe that Natural England is in discussions with Defra on what more we can do to connect people with nature, and that could lead to a target.

The briefing we have all received from the Ramblers, Open Spaces Society, and others, cannot identify targets, but suggests three areas where it might be possible to set them. I am glad that they acknowledge that this is not easy. Their first suggested area is proximity. Are there access opportunities close to where people live and work? The second is accessibility. Are different types of users, including disabled people, able to connect with and make use of access to green spaces and good quality paths, and do they feel welcome? The third is quality. Are green spaces of sufficient standard to ensure that people want to use them?

Lord Bradshaw Portrait Lord Bradshaw (LD) [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, the stated purpose of the Environment Bill is to improve the natural environment and the 2019 Glover review of the national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty that called for radical change in the way we protect our landscape. The review stressed the need for us to take urgent steps to recover and enhance nature. One thing that is causing damage to the natural environment and to our fragile and precious landscapes is that 4x4 vehicles, motorbikes and quad bikes are allowed to be driven for purely recreational purposes on unsealed tracks all over the countryside, including in national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty. The only reason this is allowed to happen is because the law as it stands states that a countryside track, whatever it may be, which has been used in the past by horsedrawn carts, carries a right of way for any kind of modern motor vehicle.

Parliament attempted to deal with this problem in 2006 in the passage of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act. It put a stop to the historic use of horsedrawn carts, giving rise to the use of cars and motorbikes on footpaths and bridleways, but it left unprotected over 3,000 miles of other tracks in the countryside that have no right of way classification. These are the country’s green lanes. They are all open to use and abuse by recreational motor vehicles, and as a result, great damage is being done, even on the high fells. The amendment I will seek to table does not ask for an immediate change in the law, and if passed, it would require the Secretary of State to return to the business that was left unfinished by the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act and to carry out a public consultation on whether the loophole left behind by that Act should be closed.

The other issue that has recently come into prominence after the recent county council elections is the connection between many large housing estates and the wastewater and sewerage facilities until they are able to process the new load. This leads to an abuse of the exemption in place for exceptional storm water, resulting in the pollution of rivers and streams in the area. Reference has been made by other noble Lords to the thoroughly inadequate enforcement facility. This needs immediate action to stop the present abuse.

The contamination of sewage with wet wipes and other materials should be tackled at once by making a prominent announcement on the packaging of such products showing that they are not for flushing. Yesterday, I examined a number of these products. Many make statements such as “May be recycled as dictated in the locality.” One product, in very tiny letters, did say “Not for flushing.” There is no reason why immediate action should not be taken to deal with this by making a “Not for flushing” sign on all such packaging so that people could at least be advised about what they should do.

I fully agree with the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Finsbury: all new housing estates should be fitted so that they catch and preserve water rather than feeding it into the sewage system. Also, they should all use efficient machines, which will do a great deal more to conserve the water we use than the present system of letting rainwater go to waste and continuing to install inefficient machines.

Biodiversity Emergency

Lord Bradshaw Excerpts
Thursday 22nd April 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Grand Committee
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Bradshaw Portrait Lord Bradshaw (LD) [V]
- Hansard - -

Thank you, Lord Chairman. I wanted to say that all of us, I think, are members of the National Trust, wildlife trusts, national trails, the CPRE or the RHS. I implore of the Minister that, whatever new arrangements are brought into being in the Environment Bill, the huge army of volunteers in all those organisations can be empowered. This needs some money and some professional leadership, but if that is provided, a lot more work will be done, much of it to restore biodiversity.

The other subject that I wanted to raise, of which I gave notice, is the horticultural use of peat, about which I am still extremely worried. I have raised this with the Minister before. I am anxious for there to be a goal of stopping the use of peat for horticultural purposes. It is not good practice, but it is very expensive at the moment to use anything else.

Heather and Grass etc. Burning (England) Regulations 2021

Lord Bradshaw Excerpts
Thursday 18th March 2021

(3 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Bradshaw Portrait Lord Bradshaw (LD) [V]
- Hansard - -

Peat is an extremely valuable resource in terms of carbon, as has been noted by several other noble Lords. I ask the Minister, although it is not strictly in accordance with these regulations, what are the Government doing to prevent so much peat being used in horticulture? There is no doubt that much of our peat reserves are being used in that respect. I have a fairly open mind on the question of whether peat burning is a good thing or not, but I too would like to see further scientific evidence to prove what the best thing is.

Conflict Minerals (Compliance) (Northern Ireland) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020

Lord Bradshaw Excerpts
Wednesday 2nd December 2020

(3 years, 6 months ago)

Grand Committee
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Bradshaw Portrait Lord Bradshaw (LD) [V]
- Hansard - -

I am grateful to the Minister for his introduction. I do not think we need to detain the Committee long, as I have only two questions, about how these regulations are enforced. First, in his introduction, the Minister referred to inspectors employed by the Secretary of State. Can he be more explicit on who these inspectors are, and whether they are acting in Northern Ireland on behalf of the European Union or the Northern Ireland Executive? Secondly, can he please tell us what parallel arrangements will be in force in the rest of the country when we have left the European Union?

Baroness Henig Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Henig) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the next speaker, the noble Baroness, Lady Northover. Could the noble Baroness please unmute?

Sanctions (EU Exit) (Consequential Provisions) (Amendment) Regulations 2020

Lord Bradshaw Excerpts
Thursday 29th October 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Bradshaw Portrait Lord Bradshaw (LD) [V]
- Hansard - -

I too thank the Minister for his very thorough introduction. My question is very simple. We are still in negotiation with the European Union about the continuation of agreements between us and it after Brexit. Can the Minister give us an assurance, as I hope he will be able to, that the regulations we are about to approve will function properly if we withdraw from any co-operation agreements we have with the European Union about criminality in general, as opposed to money laundering and terrorism? Unless they do, I cannot see the reach of these new regulations extending worldwide, as I believe it must, since terrorism is a worldwide disease and not confined to the United Kingdom.