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Restoring Nature and Climate Change — [Stewart Hosie in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 6:10 pm on 28th October 2019.

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Photo of Zac Goldsmith Zac Goldsmith The Minister of State, Department for International Development, The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 6:10 pm, 28th October 2019

In terms of zero-carbon medicine, I will struggle to give my hon. Friend a comprehensive answer, because I do not know much about that. As one of the biggest landowners in the country, however, there is a huge amount that the NHS could do. The hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport mentioned the Opposition’s plans to require the NHS to plant 1 million trees on NHS land. That would be just a start. As we build new buildings and expand the infrastructure of the NHS, we should do so in as close to a zero-carbon and nature-friendly way as possible.

The food that is supplied to patients in hospitals should be local, sustainable and good quality, as it is in a number of hospital trusts. The Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust wins the prize every year for the most sustainable, popular and healthy food by sourcing local ingredients. There is lots that the NHS can do, but I will have to get back to my hon. Friend David Tredinnick about zero-carbon medicines. I do not know a great deal about that area, but I will seek to find out more.

The Environment Bill also establishes spatial mapping and planning tools to help to inform nature recovery and, alongside the provisions in the Agriculture Bill, the actions and incentives that are needed to drive change on the ground. It establishes an office for environmental protection, with a statutory duty to hold the Government to account on our progress to improve the natural environment.

The cornerstone of our agricultural policy will be the environmental land management scheme that will replace the common agricultural policy and be a hugely powerful vehicle for delivering real change. Of everything that we have discussed, that could be the transformational policy in relation to our domestic biodiversity—if we get it right. It means that the payment of subsidies to farmers and landowners will become conditional on delivering public goods such as biodiversity, clean water, flood prevention and mitigation, and adaptation to climate change. It is potentially huge and I hope that the whole House will support it.

The Government are investing in restoring nature, at scale, at home and overseas, and we are providing leadership—I have no doubt about that. Given the scale of the problem that many hon. Members have outlined, however, I will not pretend that this or any Government are doing enough to respond to the crisis. I am absolutely determined that, as long as I am a Minister, and as long as I am in this place, we will do a great deal more. In the meantime, I urge hon. Members to support our Environment Bill and work with us through its passage, so that we can further protections for nature. I congratulate the hon. Member for Cambridge again on his speech and on raising what is, perhaps, the most important issue of all.