Amendment 110

Part of Environment Bill - Committee (4th Day) – in the House of Lords at 4:45 pm on 30th June 2021.

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Photo of Lord Cormack Lord Cormack Conservative 4:45 pm, 30th June 2021

It is a very real privilege, and I mean it, to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott. Hers was a splendid speech—one of many we have heard this afternoon—and she was so right in her references to bottom trawling. I may be the only Member of your Lordships’ House who sailed, in the old days, in a deep-sea trawler. I was the candidate for Grimsby at the time, in 1965, and I went up to the north coast of Norway in a trawler. That was proper fishing. It was fascinating, and the men who were there were among the bravest I have ever known. I represented a mining constituency later. That is another tough and appalling job, but at least the miner went home to his bed each night. The trawler-man was out for 18, 21 or 24 days, and it was extraordinary. That was what convinced me, and I have always been convinced, that we must look after our marine environment.

The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, who has put his name to my noble friend’s amendment and who will be winding up on it for his party, is bound to be sympathetic and enthusiastic. Of course, he chaired that session of the EU Environment Sub-Committee to which my noble friend Lady McIntosh referred in her speech. We heard some fairly disturbing things that day. Anybody who has watched “Blue Planet” knows that the isolated, moving incident of the albatross, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, referred, is just one of a million examples. It was a very graphic and good example, but there are so many—all of them caused by the careless distribution of our detritus across the world.

I am sure many noble Lords will know about Operation Neptune, where the National Trust sought to buy many miles of our coastline. It has been an operation that has lasted for some half a century now and has been extraordinarily successful. It has succeeded in preserving some of the most beautiful of our coastal areas—many of which, incidentally, were rather badly despoiled during the pandemic by careless visitors and worse than careless visitors. If we want to preserve our coastline, we must also preserve our marine environment, so I very much hope that my noble friend Lord Goldsmith will accept this amendment with enthusiastic alacrity or, if not, call a meeting to devise an amendment that he can accept with enthusiastic alacrity, because this, again, will come back on Report and we need to get it right.

I turn to my noble friend Lord Caithness, who moved his amendment about soil very splendidly; I completely agree, of course. I was interested in my noble friend Lord Framlingham’s speech, in which he quoted Jonathan Swift and the two blades of grass. As he was referring to that, I could not help but think of TS Eliot who, towards the end of the last century, wrote that if we are not careful our legacy will be

“the asphalt road

And a thousand lost golf balls.”

It is very important indeed that soil—the good earth, as I would prefer to call it, although obviously, soil is a better word for our Bill—be included in the Bill. The noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, in her splendid speech referred to deep ploughing and made the analogy with deep trawling. Much damage has been done and nobody can look back on the 1960s and 1970s, when so many hedgerows were ripped up across our country, and not feel that that was an era of desecration. I referred to it in a book I wrote at the time, and lamented it. I am glad to say that hedgerows are, to a small degree, coming back; but we will never have the hedgerows and wildflower meadows we had. We must, at the very least, keep what we have got and add to it.

I hope that my noble friend, who has not been terribly good at accepting amendments, will turn over a new leaf this afternoon and show that he really, desperately cares about what we care about and accept at least the spirit of these amendments.