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Clause 41 - Biodiversity lists and action (England)

Part of Natural Environment and Rural Communities Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:45 am on 28th June 2005.

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Photo of Jim Knight Jim Knight Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Rural Affairs, Landscape and Biodiversity), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Rural Affairs, Landscape and Biodiversity) 11:45 am, 28th June 2005

I have already sketched out what clause 41 seeks to do. Amendments Nos. 128 and 129 change the duty for the Secretary of the State and the National Assembly for Wales from promoting the taking of steps by others to further the conservation of biodiversity to ensuring it. The duty of the Secretary of State and the National Assembly for Wales to promote the taking of such steps already exists in section 74 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. So, we do not seek to change anything, and the judgment about whether we have got the provision right is about whether what is in operation is working.

The duty is being carried out effectively, and there would be no additional value in changing the wording from “promote” to “ensure”. I see my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend shaking her head. There may be some difficulty about how we would enforce “ensure”, but I hope that on the basis of what I have said and of our discussions about clause 40, she will withdraw her amendment.

Amendment No. 61 would require the Secretary of State to have regard to the financial steps that she promotes others to take to further the conservation of the living organisms and types of habitats included in any list published under this provision. I should expect any decision to be based on the three pillars of sustainable development and therefore to incorporate social, environmental and economic considerations. In addition, this part of the clause refers to those steps that the Secretary of State would “promote” others to   take, and therefore there would be no obligation on others to take those steps if they believed that they would be unduly costly. Value for money and financial implications are already comprehensively integrated, and I do not, therefore, believe that the amendment is necessary or desirable.

The clause goes no further than section 74(2) of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act and already includes the concept of practicability in the steps that should be taken to further the conservation of biodiversity. Practicability would clearly include financial considerations. I hope that I have given the hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire sufficient comfort to persuade him not to press his amendment.