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[Mr Joe Benton in the Chair] — Wildlife Crime

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:43 pm on 10th October 2013.

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Photo of Joan Walley Joan Walley Chair, Environmental Audit Committee 2:43 pm, 10th October 2013

I would briefly like to say how valuable this debate has been. I am grateful to everyone, not just to members of the Environmental Audit Committee but to other Members, for contributing. The debate shows that Parliament has a role in dragging up the Minister’s trouser legs to push the agenda further forward. That was the original intention when the Environmental Audit Committee was set up, in the words of my noble Friend Lord Prescott. The strength of feeling this afternoon shows that this debate is not simply a question of there being a Select Committee report and a Government response—that is it, the matter is closed. What we want to get across is that the agenda is fast changing, and we would welcome the Minister, perhaps in informal discussions with us, reconsidering not just the Government’s response but where we might make further progress. I hope that that can happen.

If I were an elephant in need of a friend, I would want a friend in Richmond Park. I genuinely believe that the contribution of the hon. Member for Richmond

Park (Zac Goldsmith) flagged up the importance of everything that we need to be doing. I hope firm conclusions will come from that.

The contribution of Justin Tomlinson shows and reinforces the role of Parliament. It is not just the Environmental Audit Committee but the Public Accounts Committee; given what is happening with the UK Border Force and how CITES is going ahead, all of Parliament’s Select Committees have a role. Duncan Hames referred to the international aspects. It is not just a matter of this Parliament and its Select Committees; we need to be networking much more closely with select committees in Parliaments across Europe and elsewhere to keep the momentum going on this agenda. This debate is important.

I welcome the contribution of my colleague on the Front Bench, my hon. Friend Barry Gardiner. He rightly raised the issue of carbofuran, to which the Committee gave a lot of attention. The Government’s response has been to dismiss the issue out of hand, and they have been unwilling to consider introducing an order under section 43 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006. As in Scotland, we believe there should be an order of possession. Is it all right for a gamekeeper to have carbofuran in his pocket? Will that protect raptors? That is worth revisiting.

I welcome many of the Minister’s responses to our recommendations, but the Government have not considered the matter in the cross-cutting way that is now needed given the urgent threat to endangered species. I wonder whether there is a small opportunity prior to the 2014 summit for the Minister, once he is into his new role, to bring together Ministers from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Home Office to thrash out how the Government are to show true leadership.

I understand that funding for the national wildlife crime unit is contributed by many different parties, but should it not just be in the basic line of Government spending? The funding should be automatic. Perhaps that needs to be revisited.

This debate has been useful, and I say to everyone who has contributed that the Environmental Audit Committee will not just leave the matter here. We will keep following up. The sooner we start working together on those issues, with Parliament having a say and having influence, the better.