Defra – what are you for? 1

Kate Jewell [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Kate Jewell [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Defra – what are you for these days? You seem to lack energy (and direction and even any ideas).

The performance of Defra has been woeful under the coalition government.

Apart from the introduction of a small amount of money for Nature Improvement Areas (of which we have heard very little since) what has Defra done?

  • Killed a few badgers?
  • Failed to change the shape of forestry.
  • Introduced hardly any marine conservation zones.
  • Maintained the status quo over raptor protection by refusing to introduce vicarious liability for wildlife crime or licensing of game estates.
  • Opposed regulation of neonicotinoid pesticides.
  • Tinkered with a rotten system of public payments to farmers.
  • Removed independent environmental watchdogs such as the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution and the Sustainable Development Commission
  • Muzzled and neutered Natural England
  • Introduced no legislation to help the environment
  • Shown no leadership and precious little interest in the natural world which continues to decline on their watch

What is Defra for?

The three Secretaries of State have been the good, the bad and the silent – Spelman, Paterson and Truss.  Spelman tried hard in very difficult times and achieved real progress in the Nagoya biodiversity meeting. Paterson was a bad joke and showed his contempt for the environment movement, and presumably its millions of supporters, as soon as he left office. And Truss has been, following Paterson, a big relief since she has been picking up a cabinet minister’s salary for seemingly being invisible and inactive.  This was not their finest hour, nor was it an acceptable level of public service.

Taxi for Defra?

By Andreas Tusche (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Andreas Tusche (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

7 Replies to “Defra – what are you for? 1”

  1. You are so right Mark, It is hard, if not impossible to think of anything really meaningful and positive that Defra has done for nature in the tenure of this Government. At a time when nature is in serious trouble their performance can only be described as a disgrace .

  2. Defra has done what it always risked doing: morphed back into MAFF. To be fair, it has been assisted by the PM whose two interventions – to oppose capping maximum CAP payments and to oppose Paterson’s proposals for maximum modulation – both reinforced big farming.

    It is a shame that the insularity of the conservation sector has so far meant it has not got on the wave of public support around the public forests – especially as that support was if not apolitical at least spread across the political spectrum.

    However, at the bottom of all this we really do need to recognise quite clearly that the current Conservative party’s agenda is to damage and shrink the public realm as much and as far as they can, with no regard to innovation efficiency or any of the other things that could cushion cuts. Basically, they are against the things we share as a society and for individual rights and wealth. Which leaves conservation and the environment out in the cold, and is dangerous to every single one of us, however rich, in an a when common purpose in the face of climate change in particular is a survival issue.

    And, incidentally, have you noticed that whilst EVERY square inch of the countryside must be kept for food production it doesn’t apply to any non-food producing enterprise which might make money for farmers – like energy crops.

    1. “have you noticed”

      Yes – if we stopped producing the waste food there would be 50% more countryside

  3. I recall a recent note somewhere that DEFRA had also throttled back on the legislation regarding sustainable urban drainage, turning a ‘win, win’ for flood relief and ecology into a ‘lose, lose’ for householders and wildlife.

  4. I see in the paper today (Independent), that two places in London have already been measured to have breached the whole of 2015’s pollution ‘allowance’ in the first four days of the year.
    This is how the Goverment we have treats the environment – they do not care. It’s simple to see that unless something is making big profits for the minority it is counted as worthless.
    Health – woodlands – moors – seas – birds – mammals – insects – etc. Rule after rule is broken or removed altogether in the name of profit.
    Rant over…………
    If DEFRA wants to do any good it will be stamped on, hard – keep your head down and pray for change in May!

    1. & what are the ‘gagged’ project delivery agents doing about it, why no mobilisation …. yes, some sympathy & a tad for the front line they are all too busy trying to keep their jobs etc.

      NIA, sorry but remind me what they have actually delivered? How much joined up biodiversity is there (ex Lawton) or is it more dosh for unproductive corners / agri-industry left overs? I’m sure there are some excellent case studies somewhere.

      Remind me how many reports about losses / extinctions the NGOs have churned out (& excellent pieces of work) ….

      Prayers, nah …. ‘Mark’ clones strategically positioned in key places?

      Keep up the excellent work Mark.

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