Debates between Lord Krebs and Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park during the 2019 Parliament

Tue 9th Nov 2021
Environment Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendments
Wed 15th Sep 2021
Wed 8th Sep 2021
Mon 6th Sep 2021
Environment Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage & Report stage
Mon 12th Jul 2021
Wed 24th Mar 2021
Mon 25th Jan 2021
Wed 20th Jan 2021

Food Insecurity: England

Debate between Lord Krebs and Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park
Tuesday 7th June 2022

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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My Lords, I first acknowledge the work that went into that report. It was a brilliant piece of work and I am grateful to the team behind it, not least Mr Dimbleby. I hope, as I know the noble Baroness does, that the Government will provide a proper and comprehensive response, as soon as possible.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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My Lords, I quote from a government report that came out in July 2021. It reported that the data show that promotions of food in supermarkets

“increase consumer spending by encouraging people to buy more than they intended to buy in the first place.”

In light of that, does the Minister agree that it is time to stop these promotions, as part of the contribution to helping people to manage their food budgets more effectively?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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My Lords, I am aware of the study the noble Lord cites, but I do not pretend to be an expert in this area. The Government’s view is that the proposed policy to inhibit, for example, “Buy one, get one free” offers has been postponed to provide immediate relief for those people facing acute food insecurity and poverty. The policy has not been abandoned; it has simply been parked.

Environment Bill

Debate between Lord Krebs and Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park
Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park
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I am so sorry—I have just transferred that brilliant joke to another party. It may have been a brilliant joke but there was some truth in it—many a truth is told in jest, as someone said. The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, makes a very good point, but I genuinely believe that the work of this House has removed much of the pong, and the ping-pong has, as a result, improved the Bill considerably. I genuinely thank her and others across the aisle for the work that they put into this.

I equally thank my exceptional private office staff, who have worked above and beyond the call of duty. This has been a very long process; it is one of the biggest Bills we have had to deal with. They have been working—in some cases—around the clock and I am very grateful to them and of course to the Bill team, who have been absolutely superb and extraordinarily patient, not just with colleagues in this House but with Ministers. I really appreciate their efforts and I look forward—as I know many in this House do—to the Bill continuing the crucial work that we have already begun to restore our appallingly depleted natural environment, improve the quality of our air and water, and end the scourge of plastic waste pollution. I commend this Motion to the House.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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My Lords, I thank all those who have taken part in this debate and will reiterate something that was said at earlier stages of the Bill. The amendments I have been involved in, and many of the others, have been genuinely across all groups, and it has been a particular pleasure for me to work not only with the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones of Whitchurch and Lady Parminter, but with colleagues on the Conservative Benches: the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, the noble Lord, Lord Duncan of Springbank and others. The concerns we have expressed are not partisan: they are genuine concerns about wanting to improve the Bill and protect the environment for our grandchildren and generations to come.

I also thank the Minister. In his reply, he did indeed utter the words I was hoping he would: namely, that the Government’s intention is to protect the operational independence of the OEP. I am very grateful to him for confirming that.

In concluding, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, said it far more eloquently and succinctly than I could. We have worked hard to try to improve the Bill and we have made significant gains, but there comes a point at which we say, “Enough is enough. We have done the best we can. We have brought our experience and expertise to bear on the Bill and we think we have got about as far as we can. It may not be perfect, but it is better than it was when we started.” On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw Motion A1.

Environment Bill

Debate between Lord Krebs and Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park
Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait The Minister of State, Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park) (Con)
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I thank noble Lords for their contributions during this debate. The Bill takes the world-leading step of requiring a new, historic and legally binding target to halt species decline by 2030. The powers in Clauses 108 and 109 form an integral part of our strategy to achieve this.

The first of those powers enables the amendment to Regulation 9 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017. Currently, that regulation requires Ministers and public authorities to comply with or have regard to the requirements of the habitats and wild birds directives. However, these requirements are not explicitly set out anywhere. This has provided scope for differing interpretations and disagreement, as well as potential for legal challenge.

Instead of spending time and taxpayers’ money on battles in the courtroom, we want to try to focus on ensuring that the protection of our designated sites and species is based on robust science and technical expertise. The Government will publish a Green Paper later this year, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, acknowledged, which will set out clearly, plainly and transparently our view of the current requirements of Regulation 9 and remove that uncertainty. We will consult on and agree the conservation requirements necessary to meet our biodiversity targets and improve the natural environment. This will support our aim to focus on the scientific evidence as well as our national priorities for nature restoration.

The second power concerns the amendment to Part 6 of the regulations, which enables us to review the current habitats regulations assessment process. My noble friend Lord Benyon is chairing a small working group that is gathering information from experts regarding our current HRA process, to inform any future decisions on the use of these powers. The group is consulting a wide range of experts with direct experience of HRA, including the competent authorities, statutory advisers, environmental NGOs, developers, town and country planners and land managers. The group includes Minister Pow, Tony Juniper—he is chair of Natural England—and Christopher Katkowski QC. It will input options for proposals and questions to the Green Paper, which will then be subject to extensive consultation.

A clearer, quicker and more easily understood process will support environmental protection by focusing on the issues that really matter for protected sites. I am reminded that Lord Justice Sullivan, when the regulations were formulated, recommended that we needed a system that was simple and not too full of hurdles that could end up causing excessive battles in the courtrooms. It feels to me that, in part, that is where things have ended up.

However, I can commit to this House that no changes will be made without extensive consultation and strong parliamentary scrutiny. Consultation will include the office for environmental protection and statutory nature conservation bodies. It will also include key environmental NGOs, farmers and land managers to name a few. Those commitments are reinforced in Clauses 108(5) and 109(3), so that, in making regulations using these powers, Ministers must be satisfied that they do not reduce existing protections. In addition, we have added a specific requirement that Ministers justify to Parliament that any new regulations using these powers meet the test. This is a meaningful scrutiny mechanism with strong safeguards ensuring that we will not reduce the level of environmental protection.

I know some noble Lords are concerned that the changes will undermine the specific protections currently conferred by the habitats and wild birds directives, and I want to be clear that Clause 108(3) allows for requirements or objectives to be specified in relation to the 2030 species target or other long-term biodiversity targets and to improve our natural environment. These requirements and objectives can specify, among other things, how we must protect habitats and species, and at what scale, to ensure we can reverse biodiversity loss.

Additionally, many of the requirements in the directives derive in turn from multilateral environmental agreements, of which the UK is a contracting party and was instrumental in promoting—in particular, the Berne convention. We remain bound by international law and committed to those obligations to contribute to the conservation status of these habitats and species within their natural range and to continue to co-operate internationally to do so. We remain equally bound by and committed to conserving the marine environment under the Ospar convention; migratory species under the Bonn convention; wetlands under the Ramsar Convention; and, more broadly, the Convention on Biological Diversity.

I hope I have gone some way to reassure noble Lords that this power has been tightly drafted, with strong safeguards in place on its use, and that Amendment 99 is therefore not necessary. Climate change and biodiversity loss present huge long-term challenges that literally threaten our future if left unchecked. We need to act now, through this Bill, to halt the decline of species by 2030 and, as noble Lords will know, we will be legally obliged to do so when the Bill becomes an Act, as we hope it will. The habitats regulation assessment is a key mechanism for preventing deterioration of our most valuable habitats. We want to strengthen that protection and investigate ways in which the habitats regulation assessment could support better environmental outcomes. I therefore urge the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this short debate and the Minister for his response. I want to make just three points. The first is that, listening carefully to what he said, I reiterate the question that the noble Lord, Lord Deben, put to him: there is nothing that the Government are not already committed to in this amendment, so why not accept it? I have not heard the argument against it. I have heard the argument for it from the Minister.

The second point concerns the Green Paper, which loomed large in the Minister’s response. There seems to be one species that might be protected by the Green Paper: the pig—the pig in the poke. We do not know what is going to be in the Green Paper. We have had a list of names of people who might be consulted, but we do not know what form the consultation has taken.

The third point is that the Minister referred to the need to have a regulatory regime that is quicker, easier and simpler. That rings alarm bells for me. Ease, simplicity and speed are not necessarily merits that one wishes to pursue if one’s aim is to protect the natural environment. I am afraid that although I have heard responses in detail to Amendment 99, I am not convinced that they provide a satisfactory end point, and therefore wish to test the opinion of the House.

Environment Bill

Debate between Lord Krebs and Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park
Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait The Minister of State, Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park) (Con)
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I thank all noble Lords for their contributions to this debate. Beginning with Amendment 11, moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Brown of Cambridge, the Bill’s robust statutory cycle of monitoring, annual reporting and five-yearly reviews, combined with the OEP and parliamentary scrutiny, ensures that meeting interim targets is taken seriously, without the need for them to be legally binding. We discussed this in detail in Committee, but I would like to outline the Government’s position briefly once more.

The OEP will scrutinise the Government’s progress on targets, including those interim targets, and it can make recommendations on how to improve progress, to which the Government have a duty to respond. It would be both unnecessary and detrimental to our targets framework and our environmental ambitions to introduce legally binding interim targets, as the approach risks undermining the long-term nature of the targets framework, which we have designed to look beyond the political cycle of any one Government and to avoid action solely focused on short-term wins. As I mentioned in Committee, it is undoubtedly a natural temptation for any and every Government working to legally binding five-year targets to set eye-catching, short-term measures in their manifesto, even if those are not necessarily the most effective measures for meeting the longer-term targets.

However, everything we know about the complexity of the environmental targets—indeed, everything we know about natural systems—shows that they transcend any one Administration or five-year period. We are talking about living, non-linear systems, where there will be plenty of measures whose effects will take many years to bear out. For example, for certain habitats, such as peat bogs, native woodlands and elements of the marine environment, significant change is very unlikely to occur within a five-year period, no matter what we do now. We would not want to have to deprioritise key aspects of the environment with longer recovery times to meet a legally binding target in five years.

A number of speakers have made comparisons to the carbon—

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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I thank the Minister for allowing me to interject briefly. He makes the point that restoring and maintaining natural systems is a long-term process. I would agree with that, but does he not also accept that a key element of meeting the targets is to build resilience of natural systems—that is, their ability to withstand shocks and to recover from events such as extreme weather or infectious disease outbreaks? One can tell, from decades of ecological research, at an early stage whether the right steps are being taken to build the resilience of natural ecosystems. Therefore, that could be identified as a shorter-term target to achieve the long-term aims.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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I agree with the noble Lord; building resilience into our natural environment—into the natural systems on which, ultimately, we depend—is clearly a priority, and I think that is reflected throughout the Bill. It is certainly reflected in our soon to be newly introduced 2030 biodiversity target. But I do not think that takes us away from the fact that, if we are measuring progress on the basis of a longer-term plan, you would end up in some cases with a very dramatic hockey stick, which would be difficult for a Government to explain in the way that would be necessary in the context of legally binding targets.

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Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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I am pleased to open this group and speak to the amendments I have tabled, which respond to many of the concerns raised by noble Lords in Committee regarding the independence of the OEP. I also notify noble Lords that I outlined in a Written Ministerial Statement yesterday the full range of provisions already in place to ensure the OEP’s independence. I hope that it is a useful reference point for noble Lords and that it offers reassurance on the Government’s commitment to the independence of the OEP.

These amendments will increase parliamentary scrutiny of any guidance that the Secretary of State wishes to issue under Clause 25. They will afford Members in both Houses the opportunity to review and make recommendations regarding the draft guidance, to which the Secretary of State must respond before final guidance can be laid and have effect. This will provide additional parliamentary oversight, not only of any guidance issued by the Government but any issued by future Governments.

For parity, Northern Ireland Ministers have decided also to bring forward amendments to Schedule 3 to give the Northern Ireland Assembly the same opportunity to scrutinise any draft guidance issued relating to the OEP’s Northern Ireland enforcement functions.

As I have said before, the OEP has an unprecedented remit, with the ability to take enforcement action against all public authorities. It is for this reason that the Government feel that a guidance power is necessary to help ensure that the OEP continues to carry out its functions as intended. However, I understand the concern about the use of this power and hope that these amendments go some way to reassuring noble Lords that there will be an additional check on its use.

There is no question that the OEP must be impartial and independent but it should also be accountable to Ministers who are ultimately responsible for its use of public money. Any guidance issued must respect this important balance and I hope that this additional mechanism for parliamentary scrutiny will allay these concerns.

Finally, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Bolton, and the other members of the Constitution Committee for their recommendations on this matter. I beg to move.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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My Lords, Amendment 24 in this group is in my name and those of the noble Baronesses, Lady Parminter and Lady Jones of Whitchurch, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern.

In Committee, there was strong support from across the House for my amendment that would have removed the guidance clause from the Bill in order to ensure that the OEP was fully independent. In fact, I do not recall anyone making a coherent case for greater ministerial control over the OEP. I acknowledge and thank the Minister and the Secretary of State for their time in discussing this matter since Committee. I also thank the Secretary of State for his letter to my noble friend Lord Anderson of Ipswich and myself, dated 28 August.

I also acknowledge that the Government have made concessions in their own amendment to Clause 25 and that, furthermore, the importance of the independence of the OEP was reiterated by Minister Pow yesterday in a Written Statement and also by the noble Lord the Minister with the same Written Statement.

So why am I still pressing ahead with my amendment to replace Clause 25? It is simply this: if we must get one thing right in this Bill, it is the office for environmental protection. The OEP is the body that will ensure that the Government’s warm words about the environment are translated into action. The Minister himself could not have been clearer on Monday. When I asked who will hold the Government to account on the target of halting species decline, he replied that it was the office for environmental protection. Even with the government amendment to Clause 25, the OEP is not, in my view, sufficiently independent of Ministers for us to be confident that it will be able to do what is has been set up to do.

Environment Bill

Debate between Lord Krebs and Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park
Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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I thank the Minister very much for allowing me to intervene briefly. I want to wind back a few moments in his response to this debate, in which he said, as I heard it, that we will not be able to achieve the biodiversity target without improving soil health. I want to clarify what was meant by that. Does it mean that, in the indicator species that will be part of the biodiversity target and halting species decline—the billion bacteria to which my noble friend Lord Cameron of Dillington referred, as well as the tens of thousands of protozoa and fungi in a single teaspoon of soil—they will be part of the species abundance target and therefore soil health will be folded into that objective?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord for his intervention. We will talk in detail about the target shortly—perhaps even next—but my point is less about the individual fungi or bacteria; it is that you cannot deliver a reversal of our catastrophic biodiversity loss without tackling ecosystems and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, make plain in her speech, soil is the basis of so much of our biodiversity and ecosystems, so it is logical that you cannot do one without the other—and likewise with net zero, for all the reasons that my noble friend Lord Deben pointed out.

So, as I have outlined, we are very much on the case. We are developing a metric and prioritising soil health in numerous ways, through this Bill but also other actions. The amendment would undoubtedly pre-empt the process of developing that metric and, for that reason, we cannot accept it—but, with the assurances I gave, I hope that the noble Baroness can be persuaded to withdraw her amendment.

Environment Bill

Debate between Lord Krebs and Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park
Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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I apologise to the noble Duke if I did not answer all his questions. I will scan Hansard and write to him to fill in any gaps that I left.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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I thank all Peers for their contributions to this very interesting and well-informed debate, and I thank the Minister for his reply. I listened very carefully to what he said, and he certainly made some encouraging noises. He reiterated that the Government wish to ensure that we do not reduce existing protections and that we want to create a more nature-rich Britain. I understood, I hope correctly, that there will be some Green Paper consultation on changes to the habitats regulations and that, in making any changes, the Secretary of State will consult the office for environmental protection. The Minister did not mention the other bodies that I listed—Natural England and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee—but I hope that the Secretary of State will also consult them. In response to the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, he also confirmed that there would be some form of impact assessment related to any proposed changes.

In spite of that, having listened to what the noble Baroness, Lady of Young of Old Scone, just said, I think that a number of us are not totally convinced and wonder why, if the Government’s intentions are so genuinely for nature, they are not prepared to make some relatively modest changes to Clause 105 and, possibly, if not remove Clause 106, certainly change its wording to give us in the Bill the reassurance that the Minister is prepared to give us at the Dispatch Box.

I will also comment on a few points that were made by various contributors to the debate. Many Peers, including the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, my noble friend Lord Devon, the noble Baronesses, Lady McIntosh of Pickering and Lady Hayman of Ullock, and the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, spoke about the balance between the needs of nature and the needs of people. None of us doubts that there is a balance to be struck, and we do not know exactly what that balance is. But what we do know, without any question—I do not think anybody in this Chamber or elsewhere could deny it—is that, in the past, the balance has been in favour of human exploitation, wealth and economy, and against nature. Otherwise, if we have not got it wrong in the past, why are we living in one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world? Whatever balance we seek, it must be a balance where the needle shifts from the past towards a position on the dial where nature is given higher priority. That is what I and many other Peers who have spoken in this debate and previous debates in Committee firmly believe. I think the Minister shares that belief.

The second point is about the combination of trust, consultation and non-regression. My noble friend Lady Boycott gave a compelling example of why we should not take things on trust—why we have to look at what is happening on the ground rather than honeyed words that we might hear. The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, also referred to the Government’s commitment to non-regression, which the Minister did not actually repeat but I think he implied. It is not that we do not trust the Minister, but trust is something that has to be borne by future generations of Governments and many of us would like to see some tweaking of the Bill to underpin that trust.

The final point that came up in the debate, which the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, mentioned, was the question of whether this is really all about cutting red tape. The noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, gave us the impression that, in her view, there is a need to cut excessive bureaucracy that we have inherited from the European Union.

I will take away and reflect on what the Minister has said, but I end with one final comment, picking up on something that the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, said, about the biodiversity metric. Yesterday, I read a very powerful criticism of the biodiversity metric by Professor Katherine Willis, a member of the Natural Capital Committee until it was disbanded. She argues that the metric, as currently developed by Defra and Natural England, is absolutely not fit for purpose. Among the many other meetings that he is now committing himself to, is the Minister prepared to meet me, Professor Willis and perhaps some other interested Members of this House to review these criticisms of the biodiversity metric and, perhaps at the same time, to discuss any changes in wording to Clauses 105 and 106? In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw.

Food Waste

Debate between Lord Krebs and Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park
Wednesday 24th March 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con) [V]
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The noble Baroness makes an important point. We are supporting WRAP, which is our delivery partner, to help the hospitality sector to waste less food. WRAP has developed a new programme, called Guardians of Grub, to help the sector put food waste reduction, with all the associated cost savings, at the heart of its operations. As I mentioned, we are also supporting the redistribution sector to get more surplus food to those in need. In 2018, the hospitality industry provided more than 1,000 tonnes of surplus food—around 2% of its total—and since then we have invested significantly in redistribution, so we expect those positive trends to continue.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB) [V]
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My Lords, given that the global food system accounts for as much as 30% of greenhouse gas emissions, does the Minister agree that food, farming, dietary change and tackling food waste should form part of the Government’s commitments for COP 26? Does he also consider that it would be appropriate for England to join Scotland in signing the Glasgow food and climate declaration?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con) [V]
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My Lords, it is remarkable that over the last 40 years food production has trebled, but that has come at a huge cost, in soil erosion, in the unsustainable use and pollution of water and in deforestation. Agriculture is responsible for about 80% of the world’s deforestation and deforestation is now the second biggest source of emissions. Meanwhile, efforts to produce cheaper meat have led to industrial-scale use of antibiotics, which in turn exacerbates issues around antimicrobial resistance. This absolutely is a central issue and much of the work that we are doing in the run-up to COP 26 in November is centred around the need to shift and change fundamentally the way in which we use land.

Trees

Debate between Lord Krebs and Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park
Monday 25th January 2021

(3 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park [V]
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The noble Baroness makes a really important point, which relates to an answer I gave earlier about the multiple benefits of trees and woodlands. One area that we are looking at closely is the important role of natural colonisation or natural regeneration of land in increasing woodland cover. It encourages natural establishment of local trees, species diversity and better adaptation to local conditions. It supports a wider range of wildlife but also reduces the risk of importing tree disease—a point made earlier. It also reduces plastic tree guards—a terrible blight in many parts of the country—and is, on the whole, low-cost.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB) [V]
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My Lords, in the past half century, we have lost many trees to disease, including an estimated 20 million mature elm trees and a projected 100 million ash trees. What are the Government doing to ensure that we have sufficient research and expertise in tree diseases to keep ahead of future threats? Will the Minister tell us how many universities in England offer postgraduate education in tree pathology?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I cannot provide a specific numerical answer, but will follow up with a written answer. We know that a large number of ash trees will become infected, but not all will die. We expect 1% to 5% of ash trees to show some tolerance to the disease, which is heritable, so we are funding research into a future breeding programme of tolerant trees. We are also conducting the world’s largest screening trials and will be planting the first tolerant trees this year.

Flooding

Debate between Lord Krebs and Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park
Wednesday 20th January 2021

(3 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con) [V]
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I believe that Defra, the Environment Agency and local emergency services are fully prepared to respond to any flooding alongside the response required to Covid-19. Extensive preparations are being made to operate flood defences and flood storage reservoirs and to put up temporary barriers where needed to protect communities ahead of the incoming weather. I just make the point that the Environment Agency has 25 miles of temporary flood barriers, 250 high-volume pumps, eight principal depots spread around the country, 6,500 staff trained and ready to respond and 1,500 military on standby to provide mutual aid. The Government’s preparations have been made and we are, we believe, fully prepared. I do not accept the noble Lord’s comments about the Environment Agency.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB) [V]
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My Lords, as a result of climate change, the sea level will rise and some of our coastal areas will be inundated in the coming decades. Have the Government assessed the eventual need to relocate some coastal communities due to flooding risk, and have they identified which are the most vulnerable? Related to this, do the Government have a policy on how much flood risk will be acceptable in future?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con) [V]
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The noble Lord highlights an important point. We know that many of our coastal settlements are at risk if trends continue in the same direction. We are also investing, as part of our response and the £5.2 billion, £200 million to support more than 25 local areas to take forward wider innovative actions that improve their resilience to flooding and coastal erosion, with a big emphasis on nature-based solutions. I cannot provide the noble Lord with a numerical answer on the level of acceptable damage, but we are increasingly emphasising nature-based solutions, because we know that, in terms of pound-for-pound investment, that is where we are likely to see a very significant return. That is as true on the mainland as it is on the coast.

Burning of Peat Moorlands

Debate between Lord Krebs and Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park
Wednesday 14th October 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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My Lords, blanket bog, to which the Minister has referred on a number of occasions, is of course a great method of storing water and holding it back so that it does not go down into the valleys and flood towns and villages below. One consequence of draining sphagnum bog and turning it into heather moor or short grass is that people in the valleys suffer increased flood risk. Does the Minister have any figures to hand on the cost to this country of flood damage in the valleys to people and properties, as compared with the financial benefit of managing moorland by draining and having it as heather moor and short grass?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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It is extremely difficult to attach a particular flooding event to a particular cause, because there are so many causes, but the noble Lord is absolutely right that damage to the natural environment exacerbates flood risk. That is why as part of our flood strategy, which is being developed, there is a significantly increased emphasis on nature-based solutions to flooding. Part of that is planting trees in the appropriate areas; part of it also is restoring peatlands.