I listened to the Minister’s explanations on clause 40 and was particularly pleased to hear his assurance that a responsibility will be placed on local authorities to include biodiversity issues in planning application forms.
In many respects, the issues covered by clauses 41 and 42 flow from clause 40. We are talking about the Secretary of State and the National Assembly for Wales having responsibilities to publish lists of species of principal importance, not about their having a general regard for biodiversity. Species of principal importance may be rare or at risk of loss and may be of European as well as UK importance.
How do we ensure that we give the list a statutory power for delivery among those authorities that are required under subsection (3)(b) to
“promote the taking by others of such steps.”?
A questionnaire was sent out by the Association of Local Government Ecologists, and the drive for local authorities to take action on biodiversity was right there in their top three priorities: legislation and statutory obligations, Government policy guidance and—surprise, surprise—funding incentives.
What we have here is a list that is backed by policy guidance and statutory obligations. It will have greater authority when local authorities and regional development agencies look at it. I cannot speak about the regional development agencies in England, but the Welsh Development Agency is not noted for its commitment to, interest in or role in the conservation of biodiversity or species of principal importance.