Not a word more on this

Damian Carrington’s Guardian blog reveals that Oliver Letwin wants a hard edit done on environmental legislation and guidance so that it can all be reduced to 50 pages to mimic the ‘success’ of the NPPF edit.

Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt (James Naughtie please note spelling), is even now whittling down Hamlet’s 32,241 verbose words to something a bit more manageable. We believe he has got down to: ‘Not a whit, we defy augury. There is special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, ’tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come—the readiness is all. Since no man, of aught he leaves, knows what is’t to leave betimes, let be.’ but there is obviously a lot of fat in there still to be cut.

Science Minister ‘two brains’ Willets has been given the task of editing down Charles Darwin’s ‘big book’ On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection to a Twitter-compatible ‘things vary, life’s a struggle, fittest survive, best genes get commoner’.

Mozart clearly has too many notes – just cut a few and it will be perfect.

But seriously, he cannot be serious!

I would write more – but I have run out of space!

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7 Replies to “Not a word more on this”

  1. Based on the attitude this Government has shown towards the environment so far, you have to suppose that they would condense Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale" to the single line, "Fled is that music".

  2. To be fair, I have not yet read a piece of legislation that stands comparison with Hamlet and I believe that much of it could helpfully be simplified. My bug bear is all of the amendments to regulations which typically work along the lines of "for paragraph y insert:...." so that you have to refer the original regulation and all of its amendments to get the full current law. With modern electronic publishing they could easily replace the current version entirely whenever it is necessary to amend and thereby get rid of some of the byzantine complexity.
    Having said that I should stress that what I would like to see is simplification and clarification of the legislation but NOT weakening of it. Unfortunately, I fear that what Mr Letwin and his friends have in mind probably involves cutting it down to size by editing out anything that might be an inconvenience to business.
    Since they are talking about all environmenal legislation and guidance - not just wildlife law - the idea that it could be squashed into 50 pages is of course ludicrous: just listing out the various industrial processes that require permitting would take up a fair chunk of that.

    1. Jonathan, You can go on the Govt. site that lists legislation and it has all those amendments inserted in the right places on onje document. I use that a lot. Having said that I would be in favour of Code based law where when you amend something you take the old out and put the new in in its entirety (which is what I think you are describing). But that doesn't mean you can simplify to the point of silliness.

  3. All,

    In response to Jonathan's point, the following information may be useful:

    For nature conservation law (e.g. Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 and so on), I would recommend considering purchasing or seeing if it is available in a local library "A Manual of Nature Conservation Law; edited by Michael Fry, 2nd Edition). It is quite expensive but the legislation is written with amendments inserted so it can be read without cross referencing. See for more information.

    The statute law database at contains all Acts and Regulations passed and still on the statute book. For example, here is the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 ( and here is the Act of Union that Alex Salmond is wanting to repeal ( The Acts are written with amendments inserted (with footnotes linking the insertions with the legislation that brought it in). Any sections no longer valid (i.e. repealed) are omitted. Obviously, the more a piece of legislation has been amended, the more 'confusing' it can be to initially comprehend, but with patience and careful scrutiny of the text and notes, it should become readable without having to cross reference.

    On this very point, the existing Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 is what is known as a piece of consolidation legislation; as the 1994 Regulations had been amended no less than 7 times (if you include the devolved administrations) that it was becoming unworkable, perhaps even for lawyers. Nevertheless, as this area of legislation is rapidly evolving, this consolidation legislation has been amended!

    There is also a significant need to provide a new piece of primary legislation (Act) to take in to consideration the inordinate number of changes since the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 came in to being (30 years ago). I believe this is being considered for 2014. It is long overdue and would be most welcome...providing it is at worst, as robust as the existing legislation.

    As Mark and Damian are witnessing, nature conservation/ environmental legislation is in a state of uncertainty, especially if you include the NPPF. The positive point(s) are that it is at least bringing this subject area in to the wider public domain and generating discussion, awareness and debate - Mark is providing an excellent forum to do this.

    The Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (IEEM) ( are hosting a conference in Birmingham (see on Planning and Biodiversity and the March 2012 issue of their in-house publication (In Practice) is dedicated to this subject so it is very much in the 'hot-seat'. If readers are interested in understanding a bit more on this subject, please check out my website from time to time ( as I write a blog on this and other relevant subjects. It is aimed at professionals who engage with planning and need to be aware of or take in to account nature conservation law. I am not a lawyer, but as an ecological consultant, I need to be aware of the law, its changes and how this could effect developers and others.

    And in response to Oliver Letwin's proposal to reduce the 'text' of environmental legislation, for what purpose? If you want to look at a recent piece of legislation that is long in words, you could do worse than the Localism Act 2011 ( Two-hundred and forty-seven sections and 25 Schedules (Schedule 25 divided in to 36 parts) over 478 pages. Clearly, some pieces of legislation, if you are inclined, are worth more words than you can shake a dictionary at.

    I just suspect that Oliver is just doing his bit for recycling following his recent 'mistake' involving a park bin (

    I apologise for the length of this response, 606 words excluding this sentence. If you want a shorter response, one could do no worse than contacting Francis Maude MP. He has a stock answer when dealing with environmental matters and it involves a single, solitary Anglo-Saxon word...which on reflection is probably a good one to use in response to Oliver Letwin's recent announcement.


  4. I thought they were just going to cut public services not legislation. I suppose once you have got the cutting addiction everything needs to go. I bet his balls are trembling!

    Does seem strange that it does not seem to apply to RBS bonuses!

  5. Don't see a problem with this - why not 5 pages rather than 50 ? After all, most of the length is about making exceptions, ie let outs from protection - so how about:

    - SACs, SPAs and SSSIs sacrosanct - no adverse development permissible.
    - Legally binding requirement that no less than 95% of SSSIs in favourable/recovering condition
    - Legally binding requirement that biodiversity indicators for agriculture & forestry must be improving
    - and something similar for the marine environment

    If we can do it for our debts, why not for our environment ? (though perhaps its a mistake to link the two as we're almost certain to miss the debt targets, however legally binding).


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