Natural Environment and Rural Communities Bill
Lord Bach (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Labour)
These things must be done properly. The research councils are given a degree of independence, even if their funding comes largely from government. It is for them to make their decisions. Otherwise, what is the point of having research councils? So, let things happen one thing at a time. Let the consultation period end and let the research council meet and decide what it intends to do. Of course the Government have an interest in it—the noble Baroness is absolutely right—but to lay into the Government at this stage is slightly premature.
I should deal with the noble Baroness's Amendment No. 279 before I finally sit down and let people go home. Clause 40(3) provides that the conservation of biodiversity should include,
"restoring or enhancing a population or habitat".
It is drafted in this way to clarify that the conservation of biodiversity should not be restricted to preserving our wildlife and habitats; it can also include restoring them or increasing their population or area. It is not intended to be an exhaustive list of what conservation of biodiversity should include.
The amendment seeks to broaden this definition of conservation to include ensuring resources are provided to gather sufficient knowledge to maintain a basis on which to achieve these objectives of restoration and enhancement. Of course we support the principle that efforts to restore enhanced populations and habitats should be based on sound science. Indeed, using sound science responsibly is one of the five guiding principles of the sustainable development strategy, to which we are committed.
We think that the amendment is unnecessarily prescriptive. It may not be appropriate for many types of public authority to provide resources for the collection of scientific knowledge and data. It is difficult to define what resources may be needed to gather sufficient scientific knowledge. This could potentially place an unwieldy resource burden on public bodies. It is on that basis that I ask the noble Baroness not to move that amendment when we reach it.