Dear Mr Pursglove
Thank you for your letter, dated 28 September, in response to my emails.
I am grateful for your detailed reply although you didn’t actually answer my question of what you think of the People’s Manifesto for Wildlife which was what I asked. Instead you sent me some information which you must think demonstrates that the previous coalition government did a good job for wildlife and the environment. Although the information you sent me was interesting it was neither convincing nor an adequate answer to my question. I fully understand that MPs cannot be fully informed on every issue that concerns their constituents so I would be very grateful if you could seek the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’s response to these two questions:
- when will Michael Gove meet Chris Packham to discuss the proposals in the People’s Manifesto for Wildlife?
- which of the proposals in the People’s Manifesto for Wildlife will be adopted by the government in a revitalised approach to wildlife conservation?
I’ll now turn to your detailed comments on the environment – for which, may I repeat, I am grateful.
The Government’s 25-Year Plan to improve the environment is a skeletal approach to environmental action rather than a plan. It needs an awful lot of flesh to be put on its rather bare bones and the People’s Manifesto for Wildlife is one contribution to that end from serious environmental experts and commentators (of which I am actually one). At the time of the publication of the government Environment ‘Plan’ I wrote in my blog ‘However, after reflection and a reasonably thorough reading, I don’t think the document is particularly impressive. It’s certainly not a plan, at best it’s a plan for future plans, and at worst it’s a plan for future plans of plans. It’s a start but it’s thin on what the government actually wants to achieve and that’s probably because it doesn’t really know.’.
I was interested to read what you sent me on renewables – I agree with the thrust of your comment: renewable energy is a source of income and important in helping the UK to meet its carbon reduction targets set by the Climate Change Act under the last Labour government. What is your personal position on renewable energy these days? I seem to remember you taking a decidedly climate change-sceptical position on this matter a few years ago. Can I take it that your position has moved a lot closer to mine on climate change and renewable energy, or is it simply that as a PPS to the Home Secretary you now have to reflect government policy rather than tell me honestly what you actually think as my MP?
I would be grateful if you could clarify what are the 150,000 acres (surely we should be using hectares these days?) of priority habitat that were created under the coalition government and how many of these acres (or hectares) were within our constituency of Corby or even in Northants?
You state that 11 million trees were planted in the 5-year period of the coalition government. I know 11 million sounds like a lot but there are around 3 billion (3000 million) trees in the UK so it’s a drop in the ocean. And in any case, the planting of new forestry in England in the three years since the period you chose to tell me about, ie 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2017/18, were the three lowest years since 1987. There have been media reports of this poor performance eg this in the Daily Telegraph of May last year ‘England plants so few trees that the entire year’s planting could have been done by three people’ so your example was selective, misleading and outdated and was clearly a poor example if you are seeking to convince me that the government has a great record on this matter.
We will see whether the National Pollinator Strategy has had the impacts that you predict over future years but those impacts are certainly not in the bag yet.
You mention the government progress with implementing the Marine and Coastal Access Act of 2009 – a landmark piece of environmental legislation enacted by the last Labour government and whose implementation by your government has been glacially slow. This is yet another example of where the running was made by Labour and where the Conservatives fumbled the pass and dropped the ball.
I only point out these errors and failings in your government’s environmental record because you chose to select them, so presumably either you, or someone in Defra or someone in Conservative Party HQ think they are good examples to win me over. They are not. Have you got any better examples you could provide, please?
They also demonstrate how greatly in need your party and government are in need of good ideas for environmental progress – which brings me back to the People’s Manifesto forWildlife and my request for you to ask Mr Gove the two questions above.
May I thank you for your response to my letter and I almost feel I should apologise for this long and somewhat combative reply, but I do read what you send me and if other Conservative MPs are sending out similar letters to their constituents then you had better get a new set of researchers.