Grouse Shooting

Siobhain McDonagh Excerpts
Monday 21st June 2021

(3 years ago)

Westminster Hall
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts

Westminster Hall is an alternative Chamber for MPs to hold debates, named after the adjoining Westminster Hall.

Each debate is chaired by an MP from the Panel of Chairs, rather than the Speaker or Deputy Speaker. A Government Minister will give the final speech, and no votes may be called on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Siobhain McDonagh Portrait Siobhain McDonagh (in the Chair)
- Hansard - -

I remind hon. Members that there have been some changes to normal practice in order to support the new hybrid arrangements. Timings of debates have been amended to allow technical arrangements to be made for the next debate. There will be suspensions between each debate. I remind Members participating physically and virtually that they must arrive for the start of a debate in Westminster Hall, and they are expected to remain for the entire debate.

I must also remind Members participating virtually that they must leave their camera on for the duration of the debate and that they will be visible at all times, both to each other and to us in the Boothroyd Room. If Members attending virtually have any technical problems, they should email Members attending physically should clean their spaces before using them and before leaving the room. I also remind Members that Mr Speaker has stated that masks should be worn in Westminster Hall.

Members attending physically who are in the later stages of the call list should use the seats in the Public Gallery and move on to the horseshoe when seats become available. Members can speak only from the horseshoe, where there are microphones. I call Tom Hunt to move the motion.

--- Later in debate ---
Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I suspect they are not benefiting to anything like the same extent as the people who own the land, many of whom are extremely wealthy. They are raking in money from this: I have seen the amount charged for some of the packages for people to come to these areas and take part in shooting days, and I suspect that not an awful lot of that trickles down to the local economy.

We need to see more action from this Government. It is very disappointing that they refused to accept Labour’s amendment to the Environment Bill on the burning of heather and peatlands—again, I think we will hear more about that from the shadow Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam. I do not believe the measures introduced by the Government on 1 May go far enough. I note the comments of the Climate Change Committee in its latest report, which was released last Wednesday: that there is an increasingly urgent need to restore degraded upland peatland and manage it more sustainably. I would be interested to hear what the Minister thinks can be done, because obviously, that comment from the Climate Change Committee came after any action that has been taken by the Government to date. I hope that in light of what the Committee has said, the Minister will consider talking to her colleagues in the Lords and strengthening the Environment Bill to address that concern.

Siobhain McDonagh Portrait Siobhain McDonagh (in the Chair)
- Hansard - -

Order. A great deal of Members wish to speak in this debate. If you make and take interventions, some of those people are going to be excluded—and we hope to get everybody in. We also hope to keep a good atmosphere in this debate, and not to replicate what I understand happened during the last debate on this issue.

--- Later in debate ---
Kevin Hollinrake Portrait Kevin Hollinrake (Thirsk and Malton) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a pleasure to speak in this debate with you in the Chair, Ms McDonagh.

I do not accept that we should ban driven grouse shooting, and nor do I accept that there is a wilful blindness to the issues. I point out to the petitioners that, although I am sure their concerns are earnestly expressed, there is a blindness in some quarters to the positive impact on the people, economy, environment and wildlife of these areas from our management of grouse moors.

To take matters in turn, I think the petition says grouse shooting is “bad for people”. My right hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr Goodwill) referred to our constituencies jointly covering the beautiful North York Moors, and I fail to see how it is bad for people that tens of thousands of them enjoy the beautiful purple and green-carpeted North York Moors, which for their wellbeing alone must have huge value. The landscape would simply not look like that if it was not managed in that way.

I have been up to the moors with the gamekeepers on a number of occasions, looking at different parts of the moors in my constituency. The parts that are being managed are green and purple; the areas that are left unmanaged as trials have increased canopy, and they are very grey and very poor in terms of wildlife—it is completely different. Left unmanaged, the moors just would not look like they do today, and visitors would be far less likely to come.

Of course, that would affect the farming communities, which are deeply embedded in the world of conservation. In my view, the people who understand conservation more than anybody else are the people who have lived in these areas all their lives, not necessarily the people who are opining on this stuff from further afield. The point has been made that leaving the moors unmanaged would be tremendously bad for the people who work in the supply chain and all the businesses.

The hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) made a fair point: perhaps those people would find other jobs. I really do not see where they would find other jobs in North Yorkshire to the level that they have. A huge number of people are employed in the hotels and restaurants and as caterers, beaters or gamekeepers. People from all different social strata are involved in the whole economy around the grouse moors and grouse shooting. As pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Tom Hunt), the sector provides £2 billion to the UK economy and 1,500 full-time equivalent jobs. There are huge benefits to people in constituencies such as mine in terms of the wider economy and their wellbeing, so I do not accept that grouse shooting is bad for people.

I also not do accept that grouse shooting is bad for the environment. The point has been made that the moorlands are rarer than rainforest, and they host a huge amount of flora and fauna, but also wildlife. Again, I saw two patches when I went up to the North York Moors. In the patches that have been managed, there is a proliferation of curlews, golden plovers and lapwings literally teeming round the moors. In the areas that are deliberately not being managed as a trial, however, there is very little wildlife. The moors are very conducive to wildlife, and I think the statistic is that there are five times as many rare birds in the managed areas as in the unmanaged ones.

The estates in my constituency are Snilesworth, Bransdale and Spaunton. As has been mentioned, they have an important role to play in preventing wildfires, which can be hugely damaging. The Climate Change Committee commented on this issue only this month in a report on climate risk. It highlighted the prospect of increased frequency and intensity of wildfires, stating:

“we can manage habitats actively to improve their resilience, for example through…the removal of…fuel loads that risk wildfire.”

That is what happens when a canopy gets too big. The canopy then burns and burns the peat. What the people who manage the moorlands do is called cool burning, which takes away the canopy without burning the peat. That is absolutely critical. It is carbon-neutral, because the new growth absorbs the carbon that has been emitted, but there is no release of carbon from the peat layer, which is hugely important.

The other point about CO2, which we are all obviously increasingly concerned about, comes from a report by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust on alternative uses for the moors, which states:

“Peatlands managed for cropland, grassland, forestry (for example afforestation of moorland) or fuel harvesting emit many times more at around eight to 39 tonnes CO2 per hectare per year”

versus 2 to 5 tonnes on moorlands, so it is clear that there are climate change benefits here as well.

On wildlife, my right hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby is absolutely right. When I was child, we never saw buzzards. I do not remember ever seeing a buzzard as a child, even though we spent most of our time outdoors. Now, there are a huge number always circling in the sky. Some relevant statistics come from Spaunton Moor and George Winn-Darley, who is the representative of the North York Moors to the Moorland Association. In a single year, there have been 1,552 sightings of birds of prey, including 10 hen harriers, three white-tailed sea eagles, 70 merlins, 193 kestrels, 16 short-eared owls, 163 barn owls, 84 peregrines, 14 marsh harriers, one osprey, 50 red kites, 57 tawny owls and 726 buzzards—I could go on. Extrapolated across the whole moor, that would be 25,000 sightings of those very rare birds. As I mentioned, the number of hen harriers is on the rise.

The hon. Member for Bristol East is absolutely right that we should work together to clamp down on wildlife crime against birds of prey and any kind of crime against wildlife, but the incidence is very low. No incidents at all were reported in 2018-19.

Siobhain McDonagh Portrait Siobhain McDonagh (in the Chair)
- Hansard - -

Order. I apologise for interrupting, but I must highlight to the hon. Gentleman that there are two more Members who wish to speak, and we are attempting to get to the winding-up speeches at 5.30 pm.

Kevin Hollinrake Portrait Kevin Hollinrake
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will conclude on this point. It is absolutely right that we should clamp down on any wildlife crime, including against birds of prey. Wild Justice was responsible for some changes to general licences that make it much more difficult to control other types of birds, such as gulls, which have a devastating impact on chicks—grouse chicks, lapwing chicks and curlew chicks. We have to ensure that we take steps carefully, and they must be evidence-based.

Robbie Moore Portrait Robbie Moore (Keighley) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms McDonagh. Thank you for giving me permission to be excused at the start of the debate—I was in the main Chamber speaking on a private Member’s Bill.

The petition states:

“grouse shooting is bad for people, the environment and wildlife”,

while arguing that it is “economically insignificant”. I am afraid I must dispute that in the strongest terms, and I will outline my reasons. Just last year, Professor Simon Denny and Tracey Latham-Green of the Institute of Social Innovation and Impact at the University of Northampton concluded an economic study looking at the social effects of integrated moorland management, including grouse shooting, on moorland communities, and I want to share some of their findings.

First, on the positive impact of grouse shooting on the rural economy, the direct economic benefit of grouse shooting to rural communities is estimated to be £67.7 million per annum. The direct impact is thought to be as high as £2 billion to the country. In England, grouse moor management is responsible for more than 1,500 full-time jobs, of which 700 are directly involved in grouse moor management, and a further 820 are in related services and industries. That has a huge impact on remote rural communities, which would otherwise have limited economic opportunity.

Research has shown that the associated spin-offs of grouse shooting in the north of England are worth an estimated £15 million a year and benefit a raft of rural businesses, including game dealers, the hospitality industry, equipment suppliers and transport operators, many of whom are based in the most remote areas. As one of the joint authors of the report concluded,

“grouse moor management is part of an integrated system of activities”,

including a whole range of things benefiting health, wellbeing and the economic prosperity of local communities.

That brings me to my second point, on the positive impact on moorland management of grouse shooting, and on wider conservation measures, which include peatland restoration, carbon sequestration and improving habitats for many other ground-nesting birds. More carbon is stored in peat in UK moorlands than in the combined forests of Britain and France. Therefore, careful management of moorland as part of grouse moorland management is essential to preserve the carbon that is locked up in the underlying peat. Grouse moorland managers have been actively working on a number of projects, including revegetating bare peat and blocking up moorland drains to raise water tables to encourage the growth of sphagnum moss, which helps the flow of surface water and filters out any discolouration. In the north Pennines alone, I know from my own experience that grouse moor managers have blocked more than 2,500 miles of drain ditches, and 300 acres of bare peat have been revegetated, with plenty more still planned.

Research has shown that where moors are managed by groundkeepers, ground-nesting birds, such as curlew and lapwings, are three and a half times as likely to raise a chick to fledgling. A survey of upland breeding birds in parts of England and Scotland has found that the densities of golden plover, curlew, redshank and lapwing are five times greater on managed grouse moorlands than on unmanaged moor. As my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake) said, the mosaic of species of flora and fauna is widely known on managed grouse moorland. All of that is possible only where moorland is carefully managed, with the income gained from grouse shooting put back into helping to cover the costs associated with managing the land, protecting that carbon storage.

To conclude, it is vital to take a wide-lens approach to grouse shooting, rather than look at it from a headline political point of view. It creates jobs and is good for the rural economy, the environment, conservation and carbon storage.

Siobhain McDonagh Portrait Siobhain McDonagh (in the Chair)
- Hansard - -

I would like to offer Mr Djanogly two minutes.

Jonathan Djanogly Portrait Mr Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you, Ms McDonagh. I declare my interests as they appear in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, as a game shooter and as a member of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation.

This has been a good-tempered and interesting debate, but it is unfortunate that the premise of the petition lacks the understanding—or perhaps the willingness to acknowledge—that grouse shooting is all about working with the environment. Specifically and directly on the moors, where the game birds live and breed, grouse are not imported. They are natural to their moors, and great respect must be given to maintaining that environment. That is why they are magnificent parts of the country to visit. The environmental care of grouse shooting is very strong, and it seems that to argue otherwise is more about being anti-shooting than pro-environment.

The problem with the premise of the argument of the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) is that I think she said something about rich people maximising the number of birds to be killed for profit. Actually, very few grouse shoots are run at a profit. They are run by people who are passionate about their sport and about managing the environment. It is about peat, other species, local jobs and preparing the ground for walkers and tourists. It is simply untrue to say that this is just about shooting game. It is about preserving for future generations some of the finest environments in the UK by effectively managing them.

Siobhain McDonagh Portrait Siobhain McDonagh (in the Chair)
- Hansard - -

Thank you for making this a bit easier to chair, Mr Djanogly. I think I am right in suggesting that the next speakers can have nine minutes each, leaving one minute for the summing up. I call Dave Doogan of the Scottish National party.

--- Later in debate ---
Olivia Blake Portrait Olivia Blake (Sheffield, Hallam) (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Ms McDonagh. I thank hon. Members for their excellent contributions to a good-natured debate on a hot topic. I thank the petitioners for signing the petition and the Committee for arranging time for us to discuss this important issue.

I have lived near the moors all my life and I recognise that they are special places, particularly given my Yorkshire heritage. They have inspired great works of literature, songs, and so much more. We have heard many Members speak passionately about how the moors matter to them, including the right hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr Goodwill) and the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon). It is really clear that they are rich environments that people are keen to see protected.

It is perhaps obvious to say as a starting point to any sensible policy on grouse shooting that grouse moors are not natural landscapes. They are a form of managed land, and how they are managed has consequences for how we deal with the twin emergencies of nature and climate. The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. Protecting biodiversity, halting the decline of nature and restoring habitats and wildlife are a priority, not just because they are key to tackling the climate emergency, which I will talk about shortly, but also because it is intrinsically important to protect species and ensure that wildlife can be enjoyed by everyone.

Unfortunately, despite the efforts of DEFRA on crime, the persecution of birds is still a huge issue. As a hen harrier champion, I feel obliged to highlight the fact that the hen harrier is one example of a species under threat in the UK. As we have heard from many Members, between 2004 and 2016, the hen harrier population dropped by nearly a quarter—I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) for highlighting that. Natural England has shown that hen harriers are 10 times more likely to die or disappear on grouse moors—that needs to change—and found that 72% of birds that were tagged were either confirmed or extremely likely to have been killed illegally.

Although chick numbers have been increasing, unfortunately, moorlands are still described as black holes for certain species. Since the 2018 launch of the controversial brood management scheme, which involves removing chicks from their nests, a further 56 hen harriers have been killed, or their satellite tags have stopped working with no evidence of malfunction, mostly on or next to driven grouse moors. The illegal killing of protected wildlife, especially birds of prey and other predators, seems to be routinely linked to areas where there are grouse moors. We need to ensure that we take more action to prevent those crimes, which I think is a sentiment that has been shared throughout the debate.

This is not just about hen harriers. A Scottish Government study found that a third of golden eagles fitted with satellite tags disappeared in suspicious circumstances. Those are just a few examples of lost biodiversity because the land seems to be managed to eliminate predators to provide more fertile grounds for grouse. That is illustrative of how illegal habitat management can damage the abundance of a species.

As I said, the nature and climate emergencies go hand in hand. Last week, the CCC report was clear that protecting our peatlands is a precondition for meeting our net zero obligations and mitigating the effects of the global heating that we already see. There is a huge amount of work to be done, and there is therefore a huge opportunity for jobs in conservation in our uplands. The majority of our peatlands are in poor condition, even in sites of special scientific interest, and as the CCC says, the effort required to restore them all will be huge.

Post-war draining and burning over the years have also had a huge impact on flooding. It is rare to observe healthy peatlands that store water effectively. Rewetting our peatlands would not only be good for other species, such as curlews, but would help with flood prevention. That is why we must see an end to heather burning being used to create a suitable habitat for grouse. I must say that a number of colleagues who have spoken today seem to be a bit behind their own Government on this issue, as the Government have introduced a ban, although it has limitations that I will come on to later.

We have seen huge amounts of carbon being leaked into the atmosphere over the years, with increased burning year on year. Burning releases roughly 260,000 tonnes of carbon per year, but that is compounded by the damage to the peatland that follows. Our degraded peatlands release 10 million tonnes of carbon per year. Not only does heather burning make the climate emergency worse but it makes the effects of the climate emergency more dramatic.

We have seen that the damage to sphagnum mosses on peatlands causes water to run off the uplands, taking peat with it and affecting the quality of our water, which we have to spend a lot of money on to clean up. Species loss, peatland degradation and higher flood risks are just three costs of managing the landscape artificially. Despite that, however, the shoots remain almost completely deregulated. There are few mechanisms to encourage good behaviour and there is very little to discourage bad behaviour, and the criminal activity does not seem to be ending.

Although Labour has pushed in the Environment Bill for a fuller ban on burning, alternatives such as rewetting and cutting must be supported more fully to reach their full potential, economically and environmentally. In addition, I think the idea that the grouse are ending up on our plates is quite misleading. Only a very small number ever end up entering hospitality settings, unfortunately, and the use of lead is questionable, with even low levels of exposure to lead being linked to health problems. Indeed, even those just using lead shot can develop health conditions.

That is why today I ask the Minister whether she will introduce licensing for grouse shoots in England, as is Labour party policy. Licensing would provide another method to ensure that these habitats are managed responsibly and that the system is more regulated. I also ask her what the plans are to phase out the use of lead shot in grouse-moor shooting. What plans are there to protect valuable non-bird species as well as bird species, such as mountain hares, and if there is to be no licensing, what steps will the Government take to ensure that those who illegally kill protected species and other birds of prey and predators are brought to justice? One issue that has not been mentioned is the steps that the relevant regulatory authorities will take to ensure that residues of other medications used for the rearing of grouse do not get into the wider upland environment, particularly as much of it is in drinking-water catchment areas.

Finally, I make a plea to the Minister. When she responds to the debate, rather than rattling off a list of initiatives that are loosely connected to peat—we have read the peatlands action plan—I would specifically like to hear what the Government will do about the 60% of peatlands that remain unprotected from burning under the so-called ban that was recently brought into law. I thank Members for the way in which they have conducted this debate today; I know that it is a very emotive topic.

Siobhain McDonagh Portrait Siobhain McDonagh (in the Chair)
- Hansard - -

I call the Minister, Victoria Prentis, to respond to the debate.

Siobhain McDonagh Portrait Siobhain McDonagh (in the Chair)
- Hansard - -

Sorry—I am just reading from my list.

Rebecca Pow Portrait Rebecca Pow
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

This matter comes under my portfolio. There seems to be a little bit of confusion, but I am Rebecca—just in case there is any confusion about that. I see that Minister Prentis’s name was written on the details for the debate. Anyway, that is the least controversial of the issues that we are discussing today. Having said that, I thank all hon. Friends and hon. Members who have contributed to this debate, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Tom Hunt), who made a very clear and balanced opening speech.

Clearly, there is a great deal of strong feeling about this issue and people approach it from different perspectives. However, I think that everyone agrees that we want to protect our uplands, the wildlife that thrives there and indeed the people who live there. Grouse shooting, which is what we are talking about today, takes place in one of our most iconic landscapes—the uplands. The uplands are composed of multiple habitats: dry heath; wet heath; and blanket bog.

Blanket bog is rarer than the tropical rainforest and we have a very large proportion of it in the UK, with 13% of the world’s total. The uplands are very precious and accommodate a wide range of activities, which we have heard about today: hiking, all forms of tourism, shooting grouse, grazing sheep, and many more. Blanket bog provides a rich habitat for many species and sequesters carbon, as my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Robbie Moore) mentioned, filters out drinking water and helps us with our flood control. The grouse shooting that many people inevitably get involved in attracts people to these treasured habitats. They are engaging with nature, which I see as a good thing.

The activity of grouse shooting does indeed bring jobs to the area, and we have heard different numbers—from 1,500 to over 2,000—from different colleagues. It also brings investment to some of the remotest areas of the country, particularly in the north of England. That was mentioned by many Members, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr Goodwill), who has a great deal of experience, and the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon). The matter is devolved, but it is the same issue. It was also mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for North West Durham (Mr Holden), particularly with respect to the wider tourism element, and my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr Djanogly), who summed it up so well. It is about close working between land managers and stakeholders to ensure that the landscapes in those areas are protected both for conservation and for shooting, and that they can work together for a sustainable outcome.

One of the ways in which moorlands have been managed for grouse shooting is by burning vegetation, which has been touched on by many Members. The Government have always been clear about the need to phase out rotational burning on protected blanket bog and to move to a regime of cutting. There has been a lot of debate and discussion about that with stakeholders, and they are clear about that now. It is about conserving habitats on the protected sites of blanket bog. There is established scientific consensus that burning of vegetation on such sites damages the environment in a variety of ways—hence the move to cutting. The Heather and Grass etc. Burning (England) Regulations 2021 came into force on 1 May and represents a crucial step in meeting the Government’s nature and climate change mitigation and adaptation targets, including the legally binding commitment to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

We are of course aware of the Climate Change Committee’s views, as flagged by the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy). I want to give assurances that we are taking extremely seriously peatland restoration, as flagged by the Committee. We had already allocated £10 million between 2018 and 2021, which will lead to the restoration of 6,500 hectares of peatland, but we have also committed to a further 35,000 hectares of peatland restoration under the new Nature for Climate Fund. We have just allocated the first tranche of that £50 million to be spent over the next four years on peatland restoration, and it will happen in lots of the areas that we are all talking about. That will be by 2025, so we have made a very serious and clear commitment. It will also have benefits for carbon sequestration, as mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley. As has been alluded to, there are a few specific and narrowly defined areas where burning may be permitted on protected sites. We have published guidance and are still working on it closely with everybody involved because we need to get this right for a sustainable future.

The issue of wildfires was rightly raised by many Members on both sides of the House, particularly my right hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby, the hon. Member for Strangford and my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner (David Simmonds). The Government are of course acutely aware of the wildfire risk presented by the dry conditions on moorlands. Some of the clearest evidence points to the fact that improving the resilience of our peatlands to wildfire, by ensuring that they are wetter and in their natural state, is one of the ways to control wildfires. Our recently released peat action plan encourages all landowners and land managers to have good-quality wildfire management plans in order to look out for that risk. Under the regulations, the Secretary of State may grant licences where he is satisfied that it is absolutely necessary or expedient for the purpose of preventing wildfires, with the very careful management required should that take place.

I want to talk a bit more about the peat action plan, which was published in May and sets out our long-term vision for the protection, management and restoration of our peatlands. That is there for all to see, and it is very clear about what our ambitions are. That action plan also contains strong measures on delivering nature-based solutions so that lots of the activities we do on peat will work towards this whole nature restoration move. Obviously, there will be an important emphasis on rewetting and working with hydrology so that we get our moorlands back to their natural state.

By managing those moorlands to create the optimum habitats for grouse, land managers can play a really important role in conservation, particularly for ground nesting birds, as has been referred to by many Members. Heather moorlands are important habitats for some of our most iconic birds of prey, such as hen harriers, and there has been an increase in hen harrier numbers. That has been clearly highlighted by my hon. Friends the Members for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake) and for Buckingham (Greg Smith), and by a number of other Members. We have also seen an increase in the numbers of a whole range of other bird species, including buzzards and peregrines.

That is not to say that there are not issues of persecution. We are aware that those issues exist, and the Government take wildlife crime extremely seriously. Since 2016, DEFRA and the Home Office have contributed £300,000 annually to the National Wildlife Crime Unit. I campaigned for that as a Back Bencher, and the Government have listened. We are still funding that work, and it is really important. Under the regime, the police are working very hard to protect our birds and prevent the illegal killing of birds of prey. I hope that the hon. Member for Bristol East welcomes that funding. The five species identified as of particular concern are the golden eagle, the goshawk, the hen harrier, the peregrine, and the white-tailed eagle.

Turning to the issue of wider biodiversity, our aim is to address the overall decline of species in England. We will therefore amend the Environment Bill to include an additional legally binding target that aims to halt the decline of species by 2030. We will also introduce, through the Bill, a new species conservation strategy to help with that, as well as a Green Paper setting out our framework so that we might better deliver species protection in the round. I am sure that all hon. Friends and Members will welcome that. The Joint Nature Conservation Committee is working on that issue right now and will make recommendations towards the end of this year.

To touch on the Werritty review, mentioned by the hon. Member for Angus (Dave Doogan), we do not have plans to introduce similar measures, but we are watching Scotland closely. We can all learn lessons all round in whatever we do, and we will be watching to see how that proceeds.

There are strong views on either side of this debate, and I welcome the fact that it did not get really heated today. We need to have understanding on either side, and I hope that, as the Minister, I do have that understanding. We need to look after and protect the environment, while looking after our rural communities and enabling them to survive and thrive. That is so important. For me, the key word in all of this and, indeed, almost everything I do in DEFRA is sustainability. I will conclude there, and thank everyone who has taken part.

Siobhain McDonagh Portrait Siobhain McDonagh (in the Chair)
- Hansard - -

I thank the Minister and apologise once again for getting her name wrong.

Tom Hunt Portrait Tom Hunt
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister and everyone who has contributed to this debate. Well, there we have it: with respect to the petitioners, there is clearly not support in this House for the petition. In fact, there is probably less support than there was four years ago. What is not clear is that banning driven grouse shooting would be good for the environment: in fact, I think that, on balance, it would be harmful. What is very clear is that banning it would seem to provide very little gain for a great deal of pain, and from what I can see the pain would be in those isolated rural communities. The people paying the greatest cost would not be the richest; they would be the very people who, right now, we should be thinking about helping. After quite a balanced opening, and having listened to everything, I would like to say that as an individual Member of Parliament, I oppose this petition.

Siobhain McDonagh Portrait Siobhain McDonagh (in the Chair)
- Hansard - -

I thank all Members who have contributed to this debate for helping me ensure that everybody could speak.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House has considered e-petition 266770, relating to grouse shooting.