Clause 21 - Native and non-native species etc

Infrastructure Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:30 am on 6th January 2015.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Minister of State (Department for Transport) 10:30 am, 6th January 2015

I beg to move amendment 28, in clause 21, page 23, line 4, at end insert—

NOTE. The common name or names given in the first column of this Schedule are included by way of guidance only; in the event of any dispute or proceedings, the common name or names shall not be taken into account.”

This secures that the scientific name of the animals listed is determinative.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Full Member)

With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendment 29.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Minister of State (Department for Transport)

The Government are making two minor amendments to clarify that, should a dispute or legal proceedings arise, the scientific name of a species listed in new parts 1A and part 1B of schedule 9 to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 is determinative, rather than its common name. The wording introduced by the amendment is consistent with that that already appears in the list in schedule 9 and other schedules to the 1981 Act.

Photo of Richard Burden Richard Burden Shadow Minister (Transport)

In principle, we do not object to the amendments. They are relevant to the offers that the Minister has already made, particularly on the questions of definition, and provide further evidence of the need to look again at some points.

We have referred to the evidence submitted by Friends of the Earth and others. The National Farmers Union of England and Wales has also submitted evidence.  Although it supports the early eradication and containment of non-native species, it is concerned about the lack of clarity in certain provisions. The NFU feels that the proposals do not outline how the “environmental authority” will decide whether it is necessary to use the powers to tackle invasive non-native species. The NFU says that there are 282 known forms of those species in Great Britain, some of which cannot be eradicated because no method to do so has been found. That indicates the importance of knowing the criteria by which a species control order or agreement will be issued. We know that species control agreements and orders will entail costs. The NFU is asking the Government for clarity on where the costs will fall—a point made earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test. It is also asking for clarity on how long control orders will last and how they will be terminated.

We will return to this matter. The Government’s amendments help, but areas that need to be covered further remain, and we will perhaps return to them on Report. Will a code of practice covering these areas and other issues raised be published following enactment of the Bill, and if so, when; or will we be able to see a code of practice before debate finishes on Report?

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Minister of State (Department for Transport)

To respond briefly, with some species the common name might be a generic term covering a variety of species. For example, water fern is listed in part 2 of schedule 9, but there are two distinct types of water fern, one of which is considered invasive and the other not. The definition of the particular type is significant in dividing what the provisions might apply to and what they would not affect. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that those definitions need to be clear. Much of that will be set out in the code of practice, which we are discussing with non-governmental organisations to make it as effective as possible. That includes discussion with the NFU.

I accept that these are challenging matters, but we are determined to get them right. They will require clarification in the detailed code of practice, which we will produce.

Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller Chair, Science and Technology Committee (Commons), Chair, Science and Technology Committee (Commons)

On the code of practice, will the Minister confirm that there will be provision for better understanding of the definitions? Taxonomists over the years have identified sub-species within families. It is important that the Bill does not exclude a reclassification, so it is the scientific name currently in force that the Minister refers to, and if a name is subsequently changed, the name in force will take precedence over what is in the Bill.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Minister of State (Department for Transport)

That is an extremely good point, because there are two types of dynamism associated with this. The first is the most obvious: by their nature these species spread and new species arrive. By its nature, this is an implicitly dynamic matter. The other kind of dynamism is the way species are described, categorised and identified, which of course changes over time in the way the hon. Gentleman describes. That is precisely why the dynamism needs to be reflected in the code of practice, and why that code of practice should be subject to as much consultation as possible. That is to ensure  that as much local understanding and expert knowledge as necessary can feed the process to make the provisions effective.

The other requirement is that what we do here is consistent with other legislation. There is a risk of inconsistency because of the dynamism I have described. When we are dealing with a rapidly changing set of circumstances, provisions in legislation are not always changed readily or speedily enough. It is important that we keep a close eye on the need to review and, if necessary, amend legislation to ensure that all the mechanisms put in place are coherent and consistent. The hon. Gentleman is right to raise those issues.

As a result of this short debate, I will ensure that there is full consultation on the code of practice outside the House and inside, too. As soon as we can reasonably produce a draft reflecting our current thinking, we should do so, and it would be good to do that before the Bill reaches its conclusion. Certainly, early thoughts can be made available, even if we are still in discussion with those third parties. I do not want to over-promise, but it would certainly be helpful if we had as much information as possible on all the matters that have been raised.

Amendment 28 agreed to.

Amendment 29 agreed to.

Clause 21, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 22 and 23 ordered to stand part of the Bill.