So what is Defra for, exactly…?

Owen Paterson is keen on showing people photographs of himself with dead squirrels and Richard Benyon is the richest MP in Parliament, but David Heath is completely invisible.  That’s Defra for you.

The last Labour government came to ‘power’ in 1997, and by autumn 2000 it had enacted the CROW Act which widened the right to roam and greatly improved the management of Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

The current Conservative (with a few invisible Liberals) government came into ‘power’ in 2010 and has not enacted any legislation that helps UK wildlife.

Furthermore, it has failed to implement the Marine Act (which it supported when in opposition) and is laughably inept in its position on marine conservation zones.  It has failed significantly to improve the implementation of the Common Agricultural Policy so that it delivers for taxpayers and/or wildlife, and it hasn’t even killed a badger for the farmers it promised some action (and more importantly it hasn’t done any much to reduce the incidence of bovine tuberculosis).  It doesn’t know what it is doing on forestry.

What would you say – hopeless  or completely hopeless?


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38 Replies to “So what is Defra for, exactly…?”

  1. I'll state what I have before elsewhere, this government are the worst thing to happen to wildlife in this country since DDT. Airport next to bird reserves, removing wildlife planning 'obstacles', effectively making natural England toothless, culling badgers, making MCZs that are to few and poorly protected...

    I'd like to say they are hopeless but then they know exactly what they are doing, furthering there own interests in shooting/hunting and big business by going back to the good old days and removing this pesky wildlife legislation....

  2. Given half a chance the Condem Government would like to measure their success in dead badgers, dead bees and a silent spring. Thank goodness that they are so hopeless!

  3. But Mark, it's all part of bearing down on wildlife and the causes of wildlife. This is what the farmers, landowners and developers need to help them during the recession. I think you should also have mentioned the shining example our government are setting on neonics too, after all these pesticides are fundamental to growth ( that would be the profit and dividend growth of the suppliers and shareholders) which is after all government's raison d'être.

    1. Alan - I'm looking forward to voting the b******s out in May 2015 - tough on hopeless, tough on the causes of hopeless.

  4. Mark - how about worse than hopeless?

    They also don't like it up 'em - they're planning to weaken our ability to challenge them when they make wrong decisions or break the law:

    However, it's not all bad news - my wife saw a goldfinch at the weekend, which she accurately described as a "nice bird". So Mr Paterson's fears of their demise may be misplaced...

  5. Every administration I can remember was useless and I can't recall any of them doing anything to enhance my life or environs.

    The advent of the internet has revealed the cause - everyone with the self-undoubted talent to run the country is too busy whinging on blogs or Tw*tface instead of putting themselves forward and getting on with it.

          1. Dave - I know another Dave Dick. His late father's name was Awesome.

  6. I entirely agree that Defra has shown itself to be pretty useless and its Ministers have proven to be no friends of wildlife but I am not sure it is fair of the Mail to castigate Benyon for speaking about food waste. There is no doubt that, collectively, we waste an obscene amount of food and this is very environmentally harmful as well as wasting the financial resources of anyone who buys food only to then throw it away, so advising people to be more careful with the food they buy seems quite reasonable to me.

  7. You should remember that there are restraints upon these ministers. If they enact any legislation or enforce any existing regulations that might benefit the natural world, then they risk offending the magnates and corporations that they are depending on for post-parliamentary directorships, It may also impact on the value of their share portfolios (doubtlessly including investment in petro chemical and agro chemical corporations).

  8. I thought that DEFRA would help protect the enviroment!! I think they are useless and I am hugely disappointed with them and the government. The people at the top can't possibly be neutral towards raptor persecution, badgers and bees for starters with their estate owning backgrounds. The sooner Paterson and Benyon go the better.

  9. Really – what a load of winging wing nuts you lot are !!!

    A bunch of left-wing loonies complaining about an organisation (DEFRA + FERA + NE) that is administered by left wing loonies ( so-called “conservationists? )

    I’m not saying you are (all) wrong – but what a way to try getting what you believe is right

    This is just Mark (again) venting his (justifiable) frustration – over 25 years with time passing him by – Progress? Not a lot! – Sliding back? All the time!

    So (Mark et al) stop bloody ‘winging’ and do something – and don’t think voting one way or the other is going to sort it - a collective ‘get off your ’ bums is required

    Show us your Business Plan - Mark !

    Let’s start with your new Organisation’s Mission Statement?

    ACTION? Don’t ya just love it?

    And the NAME? - Saving Nature plc whatever - issue shares - do it now!

  10. Count yourselves lucky you don't live under the jackboot of the Scottish Government. From golf courses on SSSIs, to motorways, bridges over the River Forth and mealy- mouthed platitudes about raptor persecution, the SNP regimes have been an environmental disaster. We've been hit over the weekend by the Environment Minister calling for a delay in the EU ban on neonicotinoids, saying we need more evidence of the effect of these chemicals. Laughable.

    1. Yes, alex salmond talks a good fight but when push comes to shove he passes the problem to london to fix.

  11. Actually, there's a lot of lose-lose out there - the wind energy's inept handling of public opinion - assuming it could blast through planning permission after planning permission - has meant the near total loss of a potentially valuable source of energy - and the proponents have only themselves to blame, even though we may all suffer in the end. And there is a catalogue of developers going head to head with wildlife and losing - Dibden bay springs to mind, Medway Councils Nightingales more recently.

    Whilst Trimbush's tone as ever will win votes only from UKIP supporters, I do have a glimmer of sympathy for 'why don't you do something ?' A fatal flaw in conservation's reaction to this disastrous Government has been the lack of real alternatives - holding back the tide at best involves wet feet, only by providing alternative, positive ideas will you make forward progress.

    And that is where Defra faces an increasingly sharply defined test over forest policy: faced with no option but to do something after the Panel report does it go down the route of an administrative fudge and move some deckchairs ? (Forest Services into Natural England, or, less likely, Natural England into Environment Agency) or does it try doing something for real and unlocking the potential of our unmanaged woodlands by re-focussing Government - and private sector energies - into pursuing the Woodfuel Strategy which could generate over £500m new economic activity annually at the same time as reversing the decline in woodland biodiversity - the sort of win-win you'd think was a no brainer and, like the sales issue, actually unites people from across the political spectrum. But will they, will they do it ? In fact, can they do it, have they got the expertise, focus and commitment ?

    1. "developers going head to head with wildlife and losing – Dibden bay springs to mind, Medway Councils Nightingales more recently".

      Hi Roderick
      I am not quite sure what you mean with respect to the Medway Nightingales. Medway Council's meeting agenda papers for their meeting of 25 April 2013 include the following statement:
      "Lodge Hill
      Natural England recently declared the Lodge Hill site at Chattenden a SSSI.
      The Council is challenging the decision at the highest levels of government."
      A bit premature therefore to declare the developers have lost?

  12. Will we see a triennial review of defra? Are they giving value for money? The next government review will probably be in 2015, or before. Perhaps the old ploy of "vote for us now and things will improve" will be wheeled out again. Do we ever learn?

  13. DEFRA's hopelessness is a disaster for our wildlife. I'm so shocked by them I am almost speechless. And I thought Labour were absolutely useless!
    Roderick L - Dibden Bay was a long time ago. We won that battle but we are still losing the war.

  14. Defra has let DCLG walk all over it when it comes to village greens. The evil Growth and Infrastructure Act outlaws registration of land as a green if it's been earmarked for development, and government has little evidence that there was a problem- indeed Owen Paterson admitted as much on Countryfile last autumn. Green spaces throughout England are now at risk.

  15. Diapensia - yes, very good - because perhaps the real question is not what the agencies themselves do but how the linkages between them are managed - and the same applies across Government Departments. The endless re-organisation of the 'doers' may simply be shooting the messenger.

    Stella - oh dear, am I really that old ?! It seems like only yesterday. Yes, we are still losing - but not just the conservationists, everyone loses from a system where people are in many ways discouraged from doing the hard work to get the 'right' answers.

  16. Do Something!
    RSPB says it can make a profit farming and encouraging wildlife at Hope Farm. I have never understand why with a decent bit of seed funding a charity cannot be created (defined to meet the public benefit requirements by managing in a wildlife friendly way) that trades and expands the farm as I hear farmers describe their empire building neighbors.
    OR maybe there is not that much profit there really
    OR more likely the sort of conservation minded people who get involved are not suited to that entrepreneurial approach.
    I guess for the RSPB there is always more environmentally valuable bits of land to acquire but these are just becoming islands. Conservationists recognise that we need the area round reserves to help increase the habitat.
    I realise that come the revolution (when MK’s vote is counted in 2015?) the various regulations and grants will/should do the trick but while conservationists blog on to each other the rest of the world goes it merry way.
    It is only a small spot on the map but it can roll on and on.
    One would like the RSPB to back such an idea but they will per sieve a danger that it will take funds away from them.

  17. Was it Edmund Burke who said .... "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing".

    I'd endorse his later suggestion also .... "Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little".

    OK maybe not Defra staff but could make a start with the 800 + 650 & cull at least .... 30%? 50%? Just think what we could spend even 50% of the savings on!

  18. Andrew,it is a red herring that Hope Farm make a sustainable profit.Good for wildlife yes and give good ideas that farmers should take up to encourage wildlife on their farms.
    Sustainable profit if it was a ordinary farmer with a mortgage ----no way.look up the figures and work out the return on what the capital would be,they do not really farm it they get a contractor on a share basis to do all the work and then take a % of the profits.How I wish they would come clean about it all.
    Of course they will point out that last year they made a good profit.Really brilliant of them seeing as arable crops sold at just about double of the average for the last decade but for the other years they have had Hope farm the profits have been unsustainable for commercial farmers.
    Lets face it if all us farmers and ex farmers had the benefit of people giving us money to buy a farm we could all make a better job of wildlfe and make more money as well.
    It is in short a complete fallacy and on a level playing field it would not look good.
    As previously stated they do come up with really good wildlife ideas but it would be better to call it Hope Farm Reserve.

  19. A lot of environmentalists who were sucking up to the Tories when they were in opposition, in the pathetic hope that they would keep their environmental promises..are now looking very stupid and naive....but no doubt comfortable with their Honours and establishment positions.

  20. I'm scared, very scared, I actually agree with the sentiments of Trimbush. I mean seriously remind me how many people turned up to that bloke of the telly's MCZ march in London, sure people had to work but it gets worse, everytime an e-petition hits the web how many people sign it? Given the numbers of birders alone the number of people putting there name to the petition in my opinion is just rubbish, a bit much when you can't be "bothered" to click on the mouse button. Even the RSPB don't bother with putting their name to the petitions! As for the "un-doubted talent" Filbert mentions I'm not sure these people even exist (any examples Filbert?) and if they did could they get into a position of power where the can effect a change without being corrupted on the way? Bleak?

    1. “un-doubted talent”

      The term I used was "self-undoubted talent". I had in mind the denizens of the Guraniad comments are free zone. That's as specifically pointy-fingered as I will get.

    2. Thank you – Douglas

      So that’s agreed then

      Mark will write OUR Business Plan (Saving Nature plc a non political orgnsn) with the objective of taking on via govt outsourcing those roles which we think can be better managed strategically and are at present performed (?) by GOVT (red / blue / yellow) – that will be almost all of DEFRA FERA NE ‘s functions

      The deal is for 10 years with funding from govt and Public Offers etc etc

      There we have it – what a brilliant solution!

      And Cameron will agree – it’s part of his Big Society

      Go to it Mark !

      1. Trimbush - I'd quite like to meet you for a drink some time but I have a feeliung that we wouldn't necessarily work that well together. It's just a feeling that I have...

  21. Hi Mark

    I am sure we will meet soon – and have those drinks –

    When I refer to “OUR Business Plan” – I do so to indicate that I share your opinion (re DEFRA) and the potential objectives of ‘SN plc’ and would buy shares in the venture

    Incidentally I’m also sure that if - as most of your followers do – one puts 'Nature' first many other differences become irrelevant eg I really want Brian May to save to the UK badger … I have no doubts that I shall meet with him too soon and also have a(nother) drink !

    Interesting isn’t it?


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