Environment Bill

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Excerpts
Monday 13th September 2021

(1 month, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Well—follow that. I thank my noble friend Lord Berkeley for moving this amendment. He has identified a situation that clearly needs rectifying. We should thank him for drawing the Government’s attention to this. I hope that the Minister has understood the concerns raised and the potential way forward outlined so clearly by my noble friend today.

It was interesting to listen to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. I have learned an awful lot about the Isles of Scilly that I never expected to today. Clearly, as someone who has never been there, I need to arrange to go as soon as possible and enjoy the islands’ pleasures.

I am sure that the residents of the Isles of Scilly will be very pleased to get this properly sorted out. So, as I said, I am grateful to my noble friend for his work on this, and I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
- Hansard - -

I too thank noble Lords for this debate on Amendment 75 from the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. I was going to start with some background, but the noble Lord provided the background very well. I admit that, if this only arrived on his desk two weeks ago, it arrived on mine probably even more recently than that.

As he said, water, wastewater and corresponding environmental management legislation were applied to the Isles of Scilly for the first time in April 2020. This was the culmination of a project lasting more than 10 years. It addresses water-quality risks to public health, risks to the environment from over-abstraction of water resources, sewage treatment and resulting pollution on the Isles of Scilly. The Environment Agency is now working with the Council of the Isles of Scilly, the Duchy of Cornwall, Tresco Estates, residents, and other local partners to ensure that environmental legislation is complied with, and practices modernised over time. I urge all parties to continue their valuable work toward this endeavour.

I know that everyone involved shares the aim of helping isles such as Bryher to avoid long-term environmental damage and risk to human health. It is therefore crucial that the legislation that so many people worked so hard to apply to the Isles stays in effect. The Environment Agency recently consulted on a charges scheme regarding environmental permits to help support the work. Currently a risk-based transition plan for the management of septic tank waste and sludges on the Isles is being developed as a priority, ensuring that the fragile environment and groundwater resources are as well supported as possible into the future.

Very briefly, in response to comments from the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, I can tell him that septic tank wastes are currently disposed of outside the above permits under other legislation, but we will need an evolution and transition to a better system, hopefully aligned with the development of water company assets in the future. Again, we are working very closely with partners on the Isles of Scilly to achieve that future.

The Government recognise that this will involve change for residents, and the Environment Agency is managing that change sensitively and through partnership. I am very grateful to the noble Lord for taking the time to discuss this issue with my officials and for bringing this to my attention, and I reassure him that we will continue to monitor progress on this issue. I will ensure that my colleague Rebecca Pow, in whose portfolio this sits, is kept fully abreast of the issues. I beg that the noble Lord withdraws his amendment.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the Minister for that response, to my noble friend, and to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, for his intervention. Perhaps I might press the Minister just a little bit further and ask him to make it quite clear that this charge sheet that came in a couple of weeks ago, and will start to come into effect on 1 October, will not be applied until the relevant work has been done. My next door neighbour, if he does not like it, will feel threatened. There is a good solution: stop emptying septic tanks. That is not something that any of us want to see. So a little bit of comfort from the Minister on the charges would be very helpful, before I withdraw my amendment.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
- Hansard - -

I assure the noble Lord that I absolutely commit to continuing to work with the residents to implement the changes in as sensitive and sensible a way as possible, but I do not think I am able to commit to specifics or comment on specific cases at this time. I hope that is enough for the noble Lord.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the Minister, and on that basis I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

--- Later in debate ---
Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am speaking in support of Amendment 84A of the noble Lord, Lord Krebs. I will then speak to my Amendments 85 and 87. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Parminter and Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, for adding their names to my amendments.

First, the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, has raised important points about the quality of the metric currently being developed to implement biodiversity net gain. Over the summer he was kind enough to share the paper to which he referred by his colleague Professor Katherine Willis. I have to say that it shocked me, as it shows that we are in danger of drifting into a new system which, far from being a positive asset, could be highly detrimental to the environment. This is why I am not reassured by the use of words such as “progressing”, “virtuous” and “improving” by the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra. We could be going backwards if we do not get this right.

We therefore support the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, that would set up a process of review of the metrics within six months, taking into account the broad range of factors that determine the ecological importance of sites. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, has been in dialogue with the Minister about these concerns, and I hope that, in his response, the Minister will provide sufficient reassurance that this matter is being addressed.

My Amendments 85 and 87 address the length of time that any habitat enhancement agreed through the planning process should be protected. As it stands, Schedule 14 to the Bill defines this period as 30 years. After that, the habitats could be destroyed, losing any ecological gains or carbon storage benefits. This goes against the grain of ecological best practice, which emphasises the need to let nature recover for the long term.

In recent advice, Natural England has said:

“Mitigation measures will need to be secured for the duration over which the development is causing the effects—generally 80-125 years.”

The building developments on the land where the displacement takes place will clearly be expected to last more than 30 years. For example, MHCLG has issued advice on property that makes it clear that a long lease is usually 125 years. So it is right that the creation of any new habitat, in compensation, should also last a lifetime. Our view was echoed in the recent Environmental Audit Committee report, Biodiversity in the UK: Bloom or Bust?, which stated:

“Nature recovery does not happen overnight and must be maintained and built upon for generations. The proposed 30 year minimum to maintain biodiversity net gains will achieve little in terms of delivering long-lasting nature recovery.”

In Committee, we tabled an amendment that would have protected habitats in perpetuity. There was considerable support for our position, but there were also questions about how perpetuity could be measured. So in our new amendment, we have now defined this period as 125 years, which was the only legal definition of the concept, as set out in the Perpetuities and Accumulations Act 2009. We believe that this is the right length of time to create and maintain long-term species-rich habitats to compensate for the destruction of existing established habitats elsewhere.

In Committee, the Minister made it clear that the provision of 30 years was a minimum requirement. He has now tabled further amendments in this group that would give the Secretary of State a power to increase the 30-year period and keep that duration under review. However, we do not believe that this gives the guarantees of long-term habitat protection that we need. There is no indication in the Government’s amendment of the criteria that would be used to vary the duration. I am also grateful to the Bill team for their recent advice that this variation, if introduced, would apply at a policy-wide level and not on an individual project basis. However I do not see where in the Bill this would be assured, since the Government’s amendment just gives a general power to vary the time period and could therefore, in my reading, apply to particular building developments.

The Minister has also raised concerns about whether sufficient landowners would make their land available for a longer term period, but surely landowners who contract to create these new habitats would have to be there for the longer term, otherwise our very fear that the habitat would be destroyed after 30 years becomes a reality. We believe that the long-term timescale of 125 years, as set out in Amendment 85, gives landowners certainty and would ensure that habitats which are destroyed could be recreated for the long term on a like-for-like basis.

This is an important principle which is necessary to legitimise the process of biodiversity net gain. Otherwise, the truth is that it would just be delayed damage. On that basis, I hope the Minister is able to give further reassurances, and I look forward to his response.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
- Hansard - -

I thank all noble Lords for their contributions to this important debate, in particular the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, and the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, for their detailed conversations on this over the summer.

I am pleased to confirm that the Government have brought forward Amendments 86, 88 and 89 on the long-term prospects of biodiversity gains. The Bill currently introduces a 30-year minimum period for biodiversity net gain agreements, and these new government amendments will place a duty on the Secretary of State to review the duration for biodiversity net gain agreements and provide legal powers to increase the duration—that could be up to 125 years, for example, or it could be less. This process will be informed by the biodiversity net gain monitoring and evaluation programme, and will apply at a policy-wide level. These amendments will ensure that an extension of the duration is actively considered in future, supporting the long-term protection of our habitats.

Amendments 85 and 87, proposed by the noble Baroness Jones of Whitchurch, while welcome in intention, would, we believe, deter landowners in key areas from offering land for conservation. Based on the engagement, consultation and evidence-gathering that we have undertaken, setting a requirement for biodiversity enhancements to be secured for 125 years now means that we are less likely to see land offered for enhancement in the right places at the start of biodiversity net gain roll-out. That would mean that we were less able to create the coherent ecological networks that we need and may end up with money for net gain sitting unspent.

If restrictions placed on biodiversity net gain funds are too stringent from the start, landowners are unlikely to commit to the agreements we require. There is strong evidence from international practice that this might lead to the Government being unable to invest biodiversity gain funds and achieve the benefits we want from the policy. For example, in the environmental offsets framework for Queensland, Australia, a shortage of appropriate projects has meant that the state Government have been unable to spend much of the money collected for habitat enhancement. In addition, Ermgassen et al published a paper in Conservation Letters in June this year which sets out an academic assessment of the ecological outcomes of mandating biodiversity net gain that very much supports our position.

The amendments that the Government have introduced strike a fine balance between robustness and managing these risks of land supply. Clearly, I, my colleagues in Defra and everyone involved in the Bill want the habitats created and enhanced through net gain to thrive forever. That is where we all start, but it would be a mistake to let our desire for perfection in future undermine our first and more important steps on this policy. We need to get going.

I have almost been deterred from raising this argument by the introductory remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, but it is fair to say that after 30 years of improvement, a new habitat would benefit from a whole range of protections that already exist in legislation. If those protections have not continuously improved and evolved over the next 30 years and, in 2050, we find that new, beautiful habitats paid for through this scheme can be easily grubbed out in the way that has been predicted or feared by a number of Peers speaking today, frankly, we are in a whole heap of trouble. The world will be a very different place in 2050, and today it is waking up to the urgency. If we have not properly woken up by 2050, this discussion is nothing more than an exercise in academia.

In summary, we need a supply of land in the right places to see biodiversity gains delivered. Setting a perpetual, or 125-year, minimum agreement duration from the start in a newly created policy context creates a serious risk of deterring landowners from offering their land for net gain. That would be a terrible outcome for nature and for society, so we have been careful to design biodiversity net gain in a way that mitigates this risk and maximises the chance of success.

On Amendment 84A, from the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, we will publish the biodiversity metric for mandatory biodiversity net gain soon. The Bill’s provisions rightly require proper consultation on the final biodiversity metric before it is published for mandatory application. I can assure the noble Lord that the quality, diversity and function of habitats is already the focus of Natural England’s work on the metric and, as he knows well, our understanding of biodiversity is constantly evolving and improving. I can confirm to him that the metric will be regularly reviewed to take account of the latest scientific evidence and user experience. We will consult on a timeline and metric next year; after that, we expect to suggest a review every three to five years.

I also highlight that we are already on our third iteration of the metric and will consult next year on the version to be formally published for mandatory net gain and on the timeline for subsequent updates. The Government absolutely recognise the importance of species, as well as microhabitats, and the need for connectivity across our landscapes. The biodiversity metric’s habitat scoring is fundamentally linked to the value of habitats to priority species. The net gain regime will work alongside our existing regulatory framework for protected and rare species. This is already embedded within planning policy and practice, and will act in addition to biodiversity net gain.

I would also like to address the way in which the Lawton principles of “bigger, better, more connected” underpin the entire design of net gain, not just the metric. Net gain aims to improve the size and quality of habitats delivered through development; that is the whole point of the policy. The net gain percentage increase of 10% underpins that principle. Natural England’s latest update of the biodiversity metric also includes a strategic significance multiplier, which places a higher value on biodiversity enhancements supported by local nature recovery strategies, providing a wider strategic blueprint for nature investment. We will, of course, consider the Lawton principles when updating the metric and wider policy in future. They are inseparable from the key goals of this policy.

Finally, I highlight to the House that the Government have listened to the points raised by noble Lords about biodiversity net gain and brought forward government amendments on multiple occasions in response. We have extended the biodiversity net gain regime to cover nationally significant infrastructure projects, from major roads to new railways. We have provided for the option to bring marine development in scope of biodiversity net gain in the future, and today I am moving government amendments to ensure our biodiversity net gain policy is protecting our habitats for as long as possible. I hope I have been able to reassure noble Lords and ask them not to press their amendments.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this short debate. I also thank the Minister for his response. With regard to Amendment 84A, in brief, I accept the reassurance that he gave in his reply. The metric will be regularly reviewed in light of scientific evidence. The Government recognise the importance of species and microhabitats, and the need for connectivity across landscapes. Rare and protected species will be safeguarded by regulations that will work alongside net gain, and the Lawton principles will underpin net gain and be considered when updating the metric.

I still think that, given the concerns expressed by many stakeholders on the current version of the metric, there should be an urgent consideration before it is finally put into practice, so that we can get it as good as it can be. I also accept the point that the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, made: that this is an ongoing work in progress and will be continually improved.

With regard to Amendments 85 and 87, I am disappointed that the Government are not prepared to go further. However, I accept the reassurances of the Minister on Amendment 84A and beg leave to withdraw it.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Khan of Burnley Portrait Lord Khan of Burnley (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I rise to speak to a number of amendments which have been debated at this late hour in your Lordships’ House. I will make my comments brief.

I turn first to Amendment 90 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, on supporting local authorities to be able to keep funds as they are better placed to promote biodiversity than people sitting in Whitehall. My noble friend Lady Jones of Whitchurch mentioned the Environmental Audit Committee’s recent inquiry, Biodiversity in the UK: Bloom or Bust?, earlier this evening. This report highlighted that funding shortfalls and a lack of in-house ecologists in local authorities means that they may not have the capacity to deliver some of their statutory duties under the Bill, specifically biodiversity net gain and local nature recovery strategies. Local authorities are essential to the successful implementation of many of the Bill’s provisions. However, their effectiveness relies on the resources and expertise they have available to deploy these crucial tools.

Moving to Amendment 91 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, I absolutely agree that local councils need to be empowered. I look forward to hearing the response from the Minister to see how he will reassure the noble Baroness, who made some pertinent points in this area.

I also agree with the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Oates, in Amendment 94. It is important that strategies do not become just more paper gathering dust and that the powers provided to enforce them are not controlled from Westminster but in local authorities, which are on the front line and know better how to save nature in their localities.

I am also grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, for raising a number of important points, and I appreciate his efforts and sincerity in wanting to improve this landmark Bill.

Finally, the Minister will be glad to know that we are happy with government Amendment 93. It is good to see that the Government have listened to the concerns across your Lordships’ House and accept that local authorities require more support and information concerning the conservation and enhancement of biodiversity.

In the same spirit in which the Minister has presented Amendment 93 to address cross-party concerns expressed in Committee about empowering local authorities, I hope he can address the concerns of noble Lords who have spoken on the various amendments in this group. I look forward to his response.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
- Hansard - -

I thank noble Lords for their contributions to this debate. The Government have listened carefully to the valuable debate both here and in the other place, and I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Parminter and Lady Jones of Whitchurch, for their drive in this area in particular.

We share the desire to make sure that local nature recovery strategies are actively used and delivered, and we entirely agree that the planning system is a key mechanism for achieving this. That is why we have tabled government Amendment 93 to make it a legal requirement for the Government to produce guidance on how local planning authorities should “have regard” to local nature recovery strategies. Local planning authorities, as part of the planning system, will have to “have regard” to relevant local nature recovery strategies, as will all public bodies. Defra is supporting MHCLG in developing proposals for planning reform ahead of the introduction of the planning Bill, including creating a clear role for local nature recovery strategies.

Turning briefly to Amendment 91, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, I appreciate that she is also seeking to ensure that local nature recovery strategies are actively used, and I know she tabled this amendment before the government amendment in my name was tabled. I thank her very much for her thoughtful response and her—was it support?—gentle support for our amendment. The local nature recovery strategies will be developed collaboratively to identify where changing the way land is managed will give greatest benefit for nature and the environment, which will also reflect local priorities. The shared vision will then guide the delivery of biodiversity net gain, environmental land management schemes, planning, use of nature-based solutions and many other current and proposed actions for nature’s recovery across the public, private and voluntary sectors. To do this, each strategy must capture potential actions relevant for all these purposes, brought together to create a coherent overall approach. The duty on public authorities to “have regard” to the strategies will require them to consider which of these proposed changes they can realistically make and then take that action. The amendment the Government have tabled will strengthen the integration of the strategies into the planning system in particular.

Turning to Amendment 90 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, local authorities will be able to fund habitat creation or enhancement on their own land by selling biodiversity units to developers, on exactly the same basis as other suppliers on the market. Local authorities may also choose to work with other local landowners to bring additional habitat creation or enhancement opportunities to the market. Statutory credits are separate from market biodiversity units. They are intended to be sold by government as a last resort, when developers are unable to achieve net gain on site or off site, either on their own land or by purchasing biodiversity units on the market. It is therefore necessary for central government to sell credits as a last resort and use the revenue to invest in new habitat creation and enhancement.

We do not, however, want lots of money to come through the route of government-supplied credits. We want the market to provide locally led solutions, in which local authorities will of course play a key part. We intend to set the cost of government credits in a way that does not undercut the biodiversity unit market.

Turning to Amendment 94, I share the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Oates, regarding the degradation of important sites for nature. I thank him for our discussion over the summer. As he said, I recently received a great deal of correspondence from concerned residents in Kingston regarding the Seething Wells filter beds site; I have read it with interest and will respond over the coming days. However, for this debate, I must address the implications of this amendment for local authorities and the protection for biodiversity more widely.

I am afraid that I do not agree that giving local authorities such sweeping powers is the best way to address the issue. It would amount to de facto protection of the entire country, which, although on the one level it would be fantastic, could have a wide-reaching effect on land use nationwide, creating confusion over whether an area is protected. We have a system of protections for our best sites for nature and our most important landscapes. Wildlife, including all nesting birds and other rare and declining species, is protected across the country. The forthcoming Green Paper will explore specifically how these protections can be strengthened and improved.

Turning to Amendment 98, tabled by my noble friend Lord Caithness, Natural England’s assessment of licence applications will be evidence-led and based on robust science, taking into consideration the likely impact on the relevant population and biodiversity. The Government remain fully committed to our international obligations on biodiversity. The wording used for these proposed tests within a reformed Wildlife and Countryside Act is in alignment with Article 9 of the Bern convention on the conservation of fauna and flora. I agree with my noble friend that any assessment of impact should be at the scale of the population concerned. The clause in this Bill intends to do that by referring to any population of the protected species concerned, be that at local, regional or national levels.

Amendment 105 was also tabled by my noble friend Lord Caithness. As I said, the Bill introduces a comprehensive statutory cycle of monitoring, planning and reporting. Our proposed objectives for domestic biodiversity targets reflect current draft international targets being developed under the CBD. The Government are already developing an evaluation and monitoring programme for biodiversity net gain and have commissioned the first stages of delivering this. The relevant public authorities will report every five years on their actions to comply with the biodiversity duty, including contributions to net gain and local nature recovery strategies; those strategies will themselves be regularly reviewed and updated. These processes go beyond merely reviewing regulations and will ensure that the Government’s actions are both adaptive and effective.

Finally, turning to Amendment 92A, I fully agree that future farming practices should support nature recovery. We are strengthening the existing duty by requiring authorities to “have regard” to clear strategies that will include specific actions. However, having regard to a broad concept such as “nature-friendly farming” would not make the overall duty any clearer or more meaningful. Also, to reiterate the point I made in Committee, where an authority has influence over farming or has farms on its land, it already needs to consider what it can do to ensure that biodiversity is supported. The Government have already committed to aligning environmental land management farming schemes for rewarding environmental benefits with local nature recovery strategies; this should be revolutionary for our countryside and biodiversity. With the environmental land management schemes contributing to biodiversity enhancement through the provisions of the Agriculture Act and targets set in the Environment Bill, we believe that an amendment such as this is not necessary.

I hope I have reassured noble Lords. I beg them to withdraw or not press their amendments.

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

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his response. He will not be hugely surprised to know that he has not reassured me, particularly in regard to Amendment 90 and my Amendment 94. He is wrong to state that my amendment would mean that the country was de facto covered—that is, that these local authority powers would de facto cover the whole country—as they would apply only to sites designated under Clause 102(3).

However, overall, I regret that the Government have arranged business so that a meaningful vote is not possible on my amendment tonight, and also that a number of noble Lords who would have liked to take part in this important debate were not able to. It is critical that local authorities are given not just duties but also powers to implement them. The Minister can be assured of our determination to ensure that local authorities are given these powers, which they need to protect biodiversity in their local areas, and we will seek the next possible legislative opportunity to do so. In the meantime, with great regret, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

--- Later in debate ---
Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, we have had some excellent contributions this evening, and I am sure that because of the lateness of the hour, your Lordships do not need to hear my views on this. The Minister will be much more enlightening in his response to the debate.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
- Hansard - -

I offer many thanks to all noble Lords who have contributed to this debate. Protecting trees and woodlands is a priority of the Government, and I hope my response will reassure your Lordships on this.

I start with Amendment 92, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. There are numerous ways for public authorities to fulfil the biodiversity duty, such as creating habitats for pollinators or other threatened or declining species. However, it would not be appropriate to prescribe each one on the face of the Bill. We want authorities to identify where there are opportunities to make a change, but we do not want to force public authorities to have regard to a particular form of land use that in many cases will not be relevant to their functions. We will provide detailed guidance to support public authorities with both what they should do to comply with the biodiversity duty and what they should report on.

Our environmental land management schemes are about giving farmers and land managers an income for the environmental public goods they provide. We are considering how more environmentally sustainable farming approaches, including agro-ecological approaches such as agroforestry, should fit within environmental land management. Turning to the noble Lord’s Amendment 102, I share his enthusiasm for agroforestry systems, which will undoubtedly play an important role in delivering more trees into our farmed landscape, improving climate resilience, and encouraging more wildlife and biodiversity in our farming systems.

We have outlined support for agroforestry within the England Trees Action Plan, which sets out our aims for expansion, investment and research in agroforestry systems. That includes commitments to support agroforestry across the sustainable farming incentive, local nature recovery and landscape recovery schemes. The England Trees Action Plan also laid out the intention to develop the evidence base for agroforestry, further aiding responsible authorities to invest in agroforestry systems.

Agroforestry systems compatible with basic payment scheme support have been defined in the publicly available Rural Payments Agency guidance document Agroforestry and the Basic Payment Scheme. As the commitment to support agroforestry and definitions of it have already been published, I very much hope that the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, feels reassured and I ask him to withdraw his amendment.

I turn to Amendment 103 from the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, who I thank for meeting me over the summer. As I mentioned when debating the amendment in Committee, woodlands created using public funding must conform to the UK forestry standard for woodland creation management plans. Such plans include steps to reduce grazing from browsing mammals, including through active management, barrier protection, and the development and monitoring of deer management plans.

In the England trees plan that I mentioned earlier, we announced a number of commitments to go even further to protect our woodlands from browsing animals such as deer and grey squirrels. They include updating the grey squirrel action plan, which we will publish next year. We will be consulting with the signatories of the UK Squirrel Accord as part of that update process. We are also working with the UK Squirrel Accord to support the ongoing research into grey squirrel management.

Very briefly, I say to both the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, and my noble friend Lord Cathcart that the Forestry Act provides a legislative basis for the management of pests affecting woodlands, which is a core part of management for anyone who receives public money. Given the ongoing work and progress in this area, I do not believe that we require new legislation to ensure that newly planted trees are protected from browsing animals.

Turing to Amendment 104, I thank the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, for his amendment, and the noble Baroness, Lady Young, for presenting it. The Government are committed to increasing biosecurity, and we support the plant health management standard and certification scheme—an independent, industry-backed biosecurity standard available to the market and international supply chains.

Our existing biosecurity legal framework already implements a comprehensive range of measures to address and minimise biosecurity risks. Recognition of the importance of domestic production to meeting our planting commitments is clearly a very big part of that. We engaged with the nursery sector to inform our England Trees Action Plan and we have provided support for the nursery sector. In the plan, we committed to fund nurseries and seed suppliers to enhance the quantity, quality, diversity and biosecurity of domestic production. We will help the sector to better plan for sapling supply and demand, ensuring that suppliers can produce the right stock at the right time, with all the economic benefits that the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, mentioned. A further published strategy is not necessary to ensure that this is delivered.

I thank noble Lords for their valuable contributions at this very late hour, and ask that they not press their amendments.

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

My Lords, I apologise to Extinction Rebellion for having completely forgotten its name. No doubt there will be a picket line outside my farm gate when I return to Cornwall later this week.

I thank every noble Lord for their contributions—particularly, the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, for her examples and the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone. I look forward to her amendment on a tree strategy when we meet again, which I think we still have to do. And I thank the three noble Earls for their contributions.

I am not going to prolong this evening. I thank the Minister for his enthusiasm for agroforestry and his recognition that this is an important part of the jigsaw for the future. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.