DELAYS to the Government’s long-awaited Environment Bill should provide time to reassess some of its impact on farmers and landowners, says Bridgwater and West Somerset Conservative MP Ian Liddell-Grainger.
Amendments to the Bill were due to be debated in the Commons this week but the legislation has been postponed and is not now likely to be considered until the autumn.
The blame is being laid on the pandemic which has caused a backlog of parliamentary business in the House of Lords. And despite protests from environmental campaigners ministers have insisted they are still firmly committed to getting the Bill onto the statute book.
The Bill, which sets the stage for a range of sweeping, binding improvements to Britain’s environment, first emerged in July 2018. Even if it becomes law later this year it will still be another six years before some of its reforms are implemented.
These include a ban on plastic waste exports as well as measures designed to help stabilise wildlife populations.
But Mr Liddell-Grainger said it was this area in particular which had caused concern to farmers and landowners.
“There is a widely-held view that there has not been enough consultation with those most directly involved in managing the countryside – and that too little regard has been paid to the fundamental, incontrovertible fact that in increasingly uncertain times improving our levels of food security must be a priority,” he said.
“Conservation is fine –and I cannot think of a farmer who doesn’t care passionately about the countryside he manages and what lives in it.
“But conservation at the expense of food production is something I cannot support. Neither can I vote for any measure which would adversely affect farmers’ ability to earn an income from the land they own or manage.
“I just hope this delay will provide some opportunity to talk through these issues so that when the Act emerges its provisions in respect of wildlife and conservation will be there because they have been assented to by farmers, rather than because they have merely been dumped on them.”