Amendment 110

Part of Environment Bill - Committee (4th Day) – in the House of Lords at 5:00 pm on 30th June 2021.

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Photo of The Duke of Wellington The Duke of Wellington Crossbench 5:00 pm, 30th June 2021

My Lords, I wish to speak briefly to Amendment 112, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge. As other noble Lords have said, Amendment 110 has very much the same purpose.

In Clause 43, in defining what is meant by “natural environment”, mention is made of “land”, “air” and “water”, but I really do think that the Bill would be much improved by including “soil”. All scientists tell us how much the quality of soil has been degraded in this country in recent years. There is an increasing risk of erosion from flooding. There is an increasing occurrence of compaction caused by the regular passing of heavy agricultural machinery. There is a decline in organic matter in the soil, brought about by modern farming methods and the use of chemical fertilisers, insecticides and herbicides. I am sure that the new environmental land management schemes will indeed encourage farming methods that will avoid this steady and continuous degradation. Let us hope they will go further and encourage and support farming systems that restore soil quality. However, in the meantime, I encourage the Minister to accept either Amendment 112 or Amendment 110, which would demonstrate that the Government intend to take very seriously the question of soil quality and to include it in the various proposals to improve the natural environment.

I turn briefly to Amendment 194AC in this same group, which deals with biodiversity gain in planning. Of course, I would be minded to support any improvement in biodiversity in rivers and lakes as a result of any new planning application. I must say that I am doubtful whether it can really be practical to place on all developers an obligation to demonstrate on each occasion a biodiversity gain in water. Surely, connection to a wastewater system that will not create any increased risk of sewage discharges in the adjacent river system should be a condition for all developers. The most important point for improving aquatic biodiversity is to reduce in the short term and eventually eliminate discharges that pollute our rivers. Therefore, although I know it is well intentioned, I personally could not support Amendment 194AC.