Bird Nesting Sites: Protection

Helen Goodman Excerpts
Monday 13th May 2019

(5 years, 2 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Lab/Co-op)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms McDonagh. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mike Hill) on introducing the debate in the way he did and on setting out the need for urgent action to stop the cruel and inhumane practice of netting of bird nesting sites. Every bird matters, and because our wildlife does not have a political voice of its own, it is important that we in this place provide that voice. Today, the Minister will have heard a comprehensive and cross-party argument—on both sides of the House—as to why this cruel practice needs to be stopped and why measures need to be taken to discourage not only developers but, as a number of colleagues have said, the public sector and public organisations from using this practice.

Humans are threatening our planet’s wildlife. They are causing huge and potentially irreversible climate change, and we all need to do something to stop it. A few weeks ago, the House agreed to a Labour motion declaring a climate emergency. The emergency is not just about carbon. Although it is about carbon, it is also about species loss, habitat decline and the pollution of our seas and waterways and our atmosphere. All of that needs to be taken together. When it comes to habitat decline, netting around bird nesting sites is a contributor to the wider issue of habitat loss—a point made by the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith). From the bees that pollinate our crops, to the forests that hold back flood waters, the report published last week by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services reveals how humans are ravaging the very ecosystems that support our society.

It is not a coincidence that the same quote has been given by both a Labour and a Conservative Member of Parliament:

“We cannot keep trying to squeeze nature into smaller and smaller spaces or demanding it fits in with our plans.”

We need cross-party consensus that we will not accept any form of economic behaviour without a plan as to how it will protect our environment.

Helen Goodman Portrait Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab)
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I could not agree more. My hon. Friend is making a very good case for the need for cross-party consensus on what is a long-term problem. If we are to deal with nets on nesting sites, does he agree that we should also do something about roosting sites, which are not mentioned in the current legislation? In Whorlton, in my constituency, thousands of starlings have been doing murmurations for the last two years, but some developers, where they are building new houses, want to knock down the hedges that have become the roosting sites of those starlings. Does my hon. Friend agree that we should also cover the issue of roosting sites if we are taking the time to change the legislation?

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
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I agree that this is a complex area that requires detailed consultation not only with developers, but with public-sector land managers, such as Network Rail, HS2 and local councils. We also need to look at the way our wildlife uses not only our built environment but our natural environment in different ways. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) made a clear distinction between building on brownfield and building on greenfield sites, but there can be bird nesting sites in beautiful trees on both brownfield and greenfield sites, so we need to take steps to deal with what is sometimes a false distinction in our legislation between brown and green, but also to deal with the different ways in which different species use our built environments. I am grateful for the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman) has just made.

The report from the UN said that we need “transformative change” to stop the trend of habitat loss, and we do. That is why it is really important that the Minister take the concerns expressed in this debate not only back to her Department—I hope that she will speak about the built environment in a moment—but to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, because we need a cross-Government approach to address many of these concerns.

--- Later in debate ---
Heather Wheeler Portrait Mrs Wheeler
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In every planning application, the matter will be dealt with at the local level, so local wishes will be part of the decision-making process.

Helen Goodman Portrait Helen Goodman
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I am sorry to say this to the Minister, but if the legal framework is inadequate, the local planning authority cannot take such matters into account, because it does not have the vires—the powers—to do it. That is why we are looking for legal change in the area.

Heather Wheeler Portrait Mrs Wheeler
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Indeed, and as I like to remind hon. Members, that will be debated as part of the Environment Bill when it is introduced. I am sure that all hon. Members present would like to take part in that debate when it happens.