What next?

799px-Houses.of_.parliament.overall.arp_Yesterdayevidence session

Today – written evidence from the four witnesses who were called to give evidence in person published

In the next few days

  • hundreds of written submissions received by the inquiry will be published
  • I will submit supplementary evidence to the Committee
  • I believe that option is open to the public too – for example if you heard the Mooorland Association say anything which you thought was incorrect

This weekend – please write to your MP ahead of the debate.  I will email all 500+ who have contacted their MPs (and told me) to suggest some things to say.

31 October – debate on grouse shooting by MPs in Westminster Hall.  The debate will be introduced by Steve Double MP.  There is then an opportunity for any Westminster MP from any part of the UK to make a point. When MPs’ short speeches come to an end or time is running out, then the SNP get a slot to wind up, then so does the Labour Party and then a defra Minister, presumably Therese Coffey, will close the debate on behalf of the government. Then we go to the pub.

1 November onwards – driven grouse shooting is doomed.  The question is, how long has it got? The soft treatment given to the Moorland Association and the Countryside Alliance at yesterday’s evidence session pinpointed the need for the EFRA Committee to look at this matter in much greater detail, including calling evidence from Defra and Natural England, economists and experts on the impacts of land use on flood rish and water quality.

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29 Replies to “What next?”

    1. Peter – anyone can, but space is very limited (rather ridiculously so). there are only about 25 seats and they cannot be booked in advance.

      A room can also be made available for viewing on a large screen (not quite Champions League Foorball style).

  1. In terms of what next, I had an interesting conversation with a former City bloke in a hide at Minsmere. He had signed the petition (our one!). He suggested that next steps should include lobbying the insurance and water industries, who as commercial companies picking up the costs of DGS might have more sway with a Tory Govt (sadly, probably any Govt) than we “eco-zealot” types.

    It’s a both/and suggestion with Mark’s above, I think, but perhaps worth putting on the table.

    1. Yes definitely! I believe in Feral George Monbiot mentioned a trial reforestation project in Wales aimed at reducing downstream flooding an insurance company was involved with, but the company pulled out due to ‘political difficulties’. Well time to turn that round and make the political difficulty for grouse moor owners, and others, that of refusing to carry out bona fide flood alleviation re eco restoration because they think it might compromise their shooting. Belford, Holnicote, Pickering all presented pretty compelling evidence that tree planting, log jams slowed flow and alleviated flooding down river. Insurance companies should be excited by this and if prepared to work with each other and NGOs could be big step forward.

  2. Could we not also build up a dossier of information on those grouse moors which are owned by complicated shell companies, often offshore. Amanda A contradicted Sheila Smith MP when she said it was easy to find out ownership and Ms Smith said she couldn’t. One case of Vicarious Liability wasn’t pursued in Scotland when a landowner couldn’t be traced. Surely, knowing who owns the land is an obvious foundation before we can justify CAP payments or other state subsidies. Then we could overlay information on wildlife crime, burning of peat etc.
    Or has this already been done and I am unaware? I don’t mean the Private Eye map but that is a start.

    1. Defra isn’t keen on making detailed data available, oft claim confidentiality. Even if you pay for a Land Registry title entry it’s not always apparent, obvious or clear.

      In other words and as Angela Smith MP re-iterated land ownership of such grouse moorland is not easy to establish. If an MP can’t access it then that is very telling? We would be churlish perhaps to forget Ms Anderson’s offer to set up a meeting …..

      Defra website does not make it easy to find the value of payments made to individual land owners or businesses. Why not ….

  3. Mark,

    Can idiots like me who missed the opportunity to submit evidence, submit it as supplementary evidence? Or did you have to submit evidence in the first place?! There are several points I would like to raise following yesterday’s evidence session.


    PS – please add me to your mailing list with suggestions that I could send to my MP.

  4. Mark, things are definitely looking up… this last post has 6 dislikes so far, double the regular two or three every BDGS post normally manages. But perhaps it’s one or two clicking more than once? Who cares, they’re riled enough to show their displeasure.

    Watched you yesterday, well done, though Jeff I thought was particularly skillful and effective in his responses. Thank you both.

    Thank you too for all the welcome detail about what happens when and how.

  5. When I contacted the top 4 water suppliers in the north of England and Scotland none of them charged a premium as a result of driven grouse shooting. In fact. 2 of them own grouse moors. So where do you get your myths? I mean info. Sorry.

    1. Andrew – did you ask them about the costs of removing organic matter from water supplies? And do you know the science that links that to intensive management for driven grouse shooting?

      1. You say driven grouse shooting means we pay more for water. When the companies themselves say otherwise. Explain…

        1. Andrew – you seem to have ignored my previous response. Intensive grouse moor management increases the need for water treatment and you don’t get anything for free.

          1. I think you’ll find You are side stepping the point. You claim that we pay more because of driven grouse shooting. This is simply not the case. So you are lying? Because the water companies do not agree with you.

          2. Andrew – I won’t say that you are lying – but you are wrong.

            You could start here if you like but you’ll find plenty of other evidence:

            “The problem is that burning on peat soils also seems to cause discoloured water – about 70 per cent of our domestic water comes from upland areas and water companies are spending several hundred million pounds every year treating the water to make sure it runs clear when it reaches our taps.” https://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/features/blanket-bog/

            Thank you for your comment.

        2. What you are saying is a bit like saying.

          “Mr Car Insurance Company, can you tell me precisely which potholes have caused car insurance premiums to go up? Did the one outside 24 West Nelson Drive have an impact?”.

          Not a perfect analogy, but you get the idea (I hope you get the idea Andrew because so far you haven’t offered much evidence of having more than 2 brain cells to rub together).

          1. Mark has no evidence that grouse shooting has a direct result on the price of water. Did you speak to the water companies like I did? No. But THEIR view is it has NO effect.
            So your lying.

            I can understand that your still a little embarrassed by not being able to answer the questions presented to you by the select committee so I’ll give you a little break.

          2. Andrew – you’re answer to your own question was wrong. Who says I haven’t spoken to some water companies already and that I don’t intend to gather more information on this subject?

            You meant ‘you’re lying’ not ‘your lying’ but actually you just mean to be unpleasant.

            Would you like to say something original and polite and true now?

  6. Ref: ‘think incorrect’ …. MA para.3 second sentence. Question for a tenacious MP: Are you stating that the conservation of Red Grouse does NOT receive public funding of any kind?

    “What effect” …. no indication of what has caused the decline in Wales, so given the heading do we attribute this to ‘grouse shooting’?

    Para. 5 needs to be expanded, and the claims validated particularly in terms of ‘rare birds’ #HenHarriers, peregrines, short-eared owls? Need data from these grouse moors (SSSI / Natura 2000).

    Fast forward through this ‘Jackanory’ ….

    At least in Para.36 “There is no place for the illegal killing of any wildlife”. Didn’t someone criticise someone yesterday for not offering solutions? This is a statement and given the catalogue of carnage it is utterly meaningless?

    As for the CAs offering, I wouldn’t wish to cause Mark embarrassment by having to edit an opinion on its deficiencies.

    I’d like to believe that intelligent MPs will seriously seek to interrogate the claims and assertions in these ‘evidence’ submissions particularly around the economic benefits claimed. Then there’s the weakness and omission of facts to substantiate fluffy anecdotal claims?

  7. Where/when is the transcript of the evidence session published? I keep checking Hansard and it has moved past 18th. I thought the point of the evidence session was to provide this to inform MPs ahead of the debate? I would like to point my unresponsive MP at it.

    Great to watch you on parly telly; yourself and Jeff Knott were professional, clear and justified. The committee members seemed poor at questioning, confusing witnesses with their rambling, multiple, convoluted, repeated questions and unable to challenge fuzzy or non answers (Amanda Anderson’s whimsical anecdotes). The chair at least was equally prickly with Liam Stokes about demeaning public perception as she was with you about ‘point scoring’. I felt Jeff Stokes was repetitive about ‘driving up standards’ until I realised he had to be as the committee members’ attention spans were very short; his point about enabling shooting to save itself didn’t get the traction it deserved.

    1. Cicely – I sympathise. The transcript of the oral evidence will be coming soon but I’m not sure when. I agree that it would be very helpful for those who wish to contact their MPS.

      And then there is all the written evidence from ‘others’ – which again would be useful for MPs and constituents wishing to contact their MPs alike.

      It’s a big job I guess.

      1. It’s a shame that the evidence was not taken under oath…I am fairly confident that a couple of bare-faced lies from their male apologist. It will make an interesting read when the transcript becomes available.
        On the bright side, he did openly admit on a couple of occasions that despite being signed up to the “plan”, industry wide criminal activity continued. I wonder what their DEFRA partners are going to do with that nugget? Can the partnership continue when it’s not just a few rogue lads setting pole traps or taking a pot shot at the odd bird, but the representative body saying to parliament that their word is not their bond?

        The transcript is going to be very valuable!

        1. Circus – I think we’ll have to read the transcript carefully. I’m not sure that my recollection is the same as yours but we’ll see.

  8. Have just watch the select committe session. Despite past criticism of your style Mark I take my hat off to you for your performance. I very much liked the fact that you had residents from Calderdale behind you and was pleased that a fair amount of emphasis was placed on the flooding risk presented by Driven Grouse Shooting.

    If I am honest, however, the stars of the show were Jeff Knott and Amanda Anderson who presented their sides of the argument superbly (even if you don’t agree with the cases presented esp the latter). Liam Stokes was a complete waste of space!

    I suspect alot of the apparent “hostility” was self inflicted by that “style” thing. In terms of winning your case, I think you have played too much to your devoted followers and expressing yourself in terms of “Driven Grouse Shooting is Doomed” and previously “We are strolling to the winning line” just does not help with the nine conservative MPs on the committee no doubt taking a very dim view as did Helen Jones evidently.

    For supporters of the ban, I suspect the best that can be hoped for is a compromise falling along the lines presented by Jeff Knott (and previously John Armitage – who was given scant support if I remember correctly) given the make up of the current government and the fact they have half an eye on “anti-establishment” sentiments.

    For myself I just hope the Moorland Association delivers on blocking up the drainage ditches and starts “mowing” the heather! Not sure how to combat the “numerous(?)” bad apples other than satellite tagging them as well as the Hen Harriers.

  9. Beavers for Grouse Moors! They will get themselves there eventually.
    More seriously, farms are registered units for the purposes of CAP payments, with the name of the Unit Holder on the Register. Would this apply to the Grouse Moors as they must receive payments for sheep via a Registered farm unit?

    1. The beavers would get there more quickly if they were taken up which I would love to see in the headwaters of many of our Scottish rivers where there has been serious flooding downstream on higher quality farmland, homes and businesses. Funnily enough a lot of these upper watersheds have extensive grouse moors. Beavers Not Muirburn! Wonder what that is in latin (or maybe Gaelic)?

  10. Realistically this petition is not going to result in a ban on driven grouse shooting this time round.

    But it does bring that eventual goal a little bit closer.

    The question is what immediate gains can be achieved now.

    They most obvious possibilities appear to be

    1. A licensing system
    2. Vicarious liability in England and Wales
    3. Public funds to be made available for a huge increase in the number of hen harriers being fitted with satellite tags
    4. A rigorous, robust and adequately funded cost benefit analysis of existing and possible alternative upland land uses.

  11. Going back to your evidence that you gave Mark in the debate, which was good viewing actually on both sides of the argument, I was slightly annoyed by your comments on ELS and the NFU. Been brooding on it for a few days, if you will forgive the word and the context, in that I felt that it was at best unfair and at worst an indication of how wrong NGOs get their negotiations with land managers and farmers. A simple message backed up by a simple scheme adopted on a wide basis was all that was required; instead we got a complex form driven mess which came out of a spreadsheet based mentality where even in hedge trees had to be listed. Now we have a total disaster with the even more complex stewardship scheme standing at under less than 3500 applications this year. Why ? Because pressure groups , who have massively influenced the project, have managed to come up with an even more complex scheme, a points system which defies explanation and a payment rate which doesn’t even reflect income forgone at today’s commodity prices let alone what they might be by the time a farmer finishes his term… And, this is the bit which makes me annoyed, you say in your evidence that it was all down to the NFU “watering down” the scheme. Personally I don’t think the schemes have been a failure as they have pushed conservation up the agenda on a lot of farms, they have provided a massive boost for several species (Barn Owl notably in our location) and will actually leave a legacy behind them such as more sympathetic hedge management. What is a massive fail is the current position where ELS and HLS is being abandoned on a large scale; I hold the NGOs totally at fault for this for failing to grasp the basics of how to conduct themselves with stockholders.

    1. Julian – ah. Well that’s how it happened in my personal experience. And it is a useful example of how something that could have been great, wasn’t. Those interested in policy (often called policy wonks – I have no idea where that phrase came from) often assume that these things will work well, and they can, but experience shows that they often don’t. And that is one reason why I think that the RSPB’s licensing idea won’t work. If the RSPB were left to design it then it might work, but once the grosue shooters get their hands on it , thee is no change that it will do much good.

      You’re saying it wasn’t great for you either – that I can imagine and you have my sympathy.

      Did you mean stockholders and not stakeholders? Just checking – I wasn’t sure whether it was a specific or more general criticism.

      By the way, in case you wonder, I do appreciate your comments here and I am just about to send you an email.

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