Moorland Burning

Part of Asylum Seekers and Permission to Work – in Westminster Hall at 5:19 pm on 18th November 2020.

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Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 5:19 pm, 18th November 2020

I am going to plough on. I am very aware that moorland management communities are concerned about the restriction of burning—it has been referred to by my hon. Friend Mr Holden—not least because of the wildfire risk on the land. Fires sweep through, cause severe damage and release fine particulate matter—I am also the Minister for air quality, so I am well aware of the dangers of fine particulate matter and the impacts on local air quality—and, obviously, we want to mitigate that.

Natural England and DEFRA officials are considering all the evidence around all the different practices in relation to wildfire risk, to try to come up with the most appropriate technique to mitigate that risk. Some of the clearest evidence to date points to improving the resilience of the peatlands to return them to their wet state.

We must also remember that those who farm and manage our uplands have massive opportunities coming their way, through the new environmental land management scheme, to engage in many other projects and undertake work that will keep the wildlife there, will help to keep the moorland wet and will help to drain, control and hold the water to deal with flooding. That was eloquently mentioned by the hon. Members for York Central (Rachael Maskell) and for Halifax (Holly Lynch), and I am happy to meet the hon. Member for York Central at some point to discuss her particular issues around peat and the uplands—apologies if I have not done that yet. I thought I had met her over the summer.

We are watching Scotland eagerly to see what will happen up there and how things go; we will be taking stock of that.