I thank the Petitions Committee, the thousands of petitioners and Ben Howlett for introducing the debate this evening. I also thank the many colleagues who have intervened and made contributions. Let me also say that it is of course a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Vaz. Many happy returns of the day to you.
This debate is timely. The public are very engaged on this issue; I have received more correspondence on this than on many other parliamentary matters in recent years. We are all in no doubt about the importance of pollinators to our food supply, biodiversity and our economy, but they are in very serious decline. In 2012, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said that England had seen the greatest decline in the diversity of wild bees of anywhere in Europe. It stated:
“Since 1900, the UK has lost 20 species of bees…A further 35 bee species…are considered to be under threat of extinction.”
This debate is chance for the Government to reassure the public that those concerns are being taken seriously, as they review the evidence underpinning the 2013 EU ban over the next year. I am pleased that the Government now seem to have an open mind to considering the best available scientific information, given their previous opposition to the ban.