You may remember that I met my MP, Louise Mensch, before Christmas, and she agreed to write to The Treasury asking for the reasons why The Chancellor, George Osborne, announced a review of the Habitats Regulations in his Autumn Statement.
Ms Mensch, being an author of some repute (whether good or ill is up to others to decide), could, I thought, be trusted to write a cracking letter to The Treasury – and so she did. Ms Mensch asked, on my behalf, ‘My constituent would like to know in the first instance what evidence there is that these regulations harm or stifle growth and business. He would like to know on what basis that statement was made as he cannot find any evidence adduced for it in the notes attached in the Autumn Statement report.‘ and ‘I do agree with my constituent Mr Avery that as a conservationist and a lover of nature he should have available to him the figures that the Chancellor is basing his assertion that these regulations do harm growth and industry.‘.
Thank you Ms Mensch for doing that – although I see that you were one of the MPs who wrote to David Cameron objecting about onshore windfarms (what is your alternative solution to the climate and energy crisis?). However, you and I get a very limp reply didn’t we – it’s pasted below?
The Treasury quickly passed the letter to Defra to answer and the Minister, Richard Benyon, signed off the reply.
It can’t just be me that can’t find any evidence or figures in this reply to justify the expensive move to review the regulations. Indeed, Mr Benyon states that ‘the vast majority of development cases successfully meet the directives’ requirements without undue delay‘. It is apparently a ‘small number‘ of cases that have sparked this review which nonetheless, on Treasury orders it seems, is an ‘in-depth review’. An in-depth review based on shallow evidence it seems to me. An in-depth review based on deep prejudice against Europe and the environment felt by too many now-powerful Tory Government (oops! sorry, Coalition Government – what is the point of the LibDems again?) Ministers?
I think what you are saying Minister, on behalf of the ungreens in the Treasury, is that there really isn’t any good reason for this review.
It’s a disappointing reply but I thank Richard Benyon and Louise Mensch for it – as it demonstrates the shallowness of the Government’s evidence on this important matter. Louise Mensch’s Corby constituency is a marginal seat, and to be honest I am very unlikely to vote for her or any Tory candidate in the next general election, but if this government took a far-sighted approach to environmental issues then I might just reconsider.
Perhaps the still-awaited reply to the second letter that Ms Mensch wrote on my behalf to Defra asking about farmland bird declines might bolster the government’s green credentials. I’ll let you know when, if, an answer arrives.
You can vote ‘for’ the Coalition Government in the Nature of Harming award poll.