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European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - Report (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:45 pm on 23rd April 2018.

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Photo of Lord Judd Lord Judd Labour 8:45 pm, 23rd April 2018

My Lords, I strongly associate myself with what my noble friend just said, which is why my name is on his amendment.

I cannot say how glad I am to see this amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Brown, and the noble Lord, Lord Deben, on the Marshalled List. It would be a sad day if, in our preoccupations, we were so absorbed with the constitutional and legal dimensions of the issues before us that, by default, we let go of our responsibilities as guardians of our natural and environmental inheritance and our responsibility for what we bequeath future generations. I am therefore fully behind the main amendment we are debating. My own amendment deals with a special aspect: biodiversity. Just this morning, the urgency of the situation was clearly brought home when we were reminded that the recent report on the state of the world’s birds shows that one in eight bird species is threatened with extinction. That includes puffins, snowy owls and turtle doves.

The role of the European Union has been important. The Joint Nature Conservation Committee put it clearly, as I explained in Committee. It said:

“The EU plays a crucial role in developing policy and legislation to protect the environment and meet its objective for sustainable development. The EU has specific targets for biodiversity conservation with legislative protection for key habitats and species … The EU and global biodiversity targets are partly delivered through a range of legislative measures, which place obligations on Member States to protect biodiversity and the natural environment. The EU and Member States have shared legal competence—shared responsibility—in forming and implementing legislation for the environment”.

As I said, the committee makes a third point about,

“the great importance of the directives on the conservation of wild birds and on the conservation of natural habitats and wild fauna and flora”.—[Official Report, 7/3/18; col. 1130.]

Can I just for a moment put some flesh on the issues before us? To give one important example, the balance between trees, pests and pathogens is fragile and vigilance is needed to monitor and correct imbalances where they occur before they reach an irreversible state. Invasive non-native species and pests can be at an advantage in new environments where trees have not evolved alongside them and developed the necessary biological defences or cultivated the necessary predatory species. Where this happens, the results can be devastating economically and ecologically. Trees are important in their own right and are the foundation of pieces of woodland, providing a scaffold for entire ecosystems. Beyond woods themselves, they are a vital connective habitat for numerous species to move through in response to other drivers of change, such as climate.

Through European Union membership as it stands, we already have free-flowing information sharing with our fellow member states in the area of biosecurity. These connections should surely be maintained and indeed strengthened, not least because human agency is often the cause of tree pests and pathogens moving to new areas. If we are to protect the UK from future threats—