Letter to my MP

Dear Mr Pursglove

I hope you are well, This email is to keep you informed about some matters which mean a lot to me – as your website suggests I should.

On Monday there are two environmental subjects being discussed in Parliament that are of concern for me: driven grouse shooting and the Environment Bill,

Driven grouse shooting may not seem a subject of great local interest to Corby and East Northants but it is a wider issue of concern to me. On Monday it will be discussed in a Westminster Hall debate as a result of a parliamentary petition that originated from your constituency, as it was set up by the not-for-profit company Wild Justice, of which I am a co-founder and co-director along with Dr Ruth Tingay and Chris Packham CBE. Wild Justice has its registered office at my home in Raunds.

The debate on Monday (430pm, I’ll be watching on the parliament YouTube channel), will probably discuss the environmental damage done by burning of vegetation on grouse moors and the scale of wildlife crime that underpins what is essentially a hobby of killing Red Grouse for fun. Your government has failed to act adequately on either issue (and on many others) which is why the petition calls DEFRA wilfully blind and it is why the public keeps sending this issue back to parliament in different ways. When the DEFRA minister sums up the debate, I’m guessing Rebecca Pow, I want her to make a clear and unambiguous statement that the government recognises the scale of illegal persecution of birds of prey (Hen Harriers, Peregrine Falcons, Red Kites, Goshawks and others) that occurs on land managed for driven grouse shooting, condemns it and will begin to take action to bring it to an end. If she does, that will be a step forward.

Let me turn to the other issue which I guess will come up in the Westminster Hall debate – burning. Heather and other vegetation is burned on grouse moors in order to provide more young heather in order to produce unnaturally high Red Grouse densities for commercial grouse shooting. But that burning has many harmful impacts on people and the environment: increased greenhouse gas emissions, increased flood risk, killing lots of Adders and Common Lizards, damaging protected peatland vegetation and creating increased costs for water companies (are just a selection). DEFRA has introduced, after years of delay, a sub-standard and weak Statutory Instrument to regulate such burning but it is so weak that it has been condemned in Parliament, by wildlife and environmental NGOs and Wild Justice has sent a Pre-Action Protocol letter to DEFRA as a potential precursor to legal action on the matter. I’ll be reading DEFRA’s reply which arrived yesterday over the weekend and consulting with our lawyers next week. I would hope that Ms Pow would make a statement on Monday saying that DEFRA has been persuaded by the outcry at its botched job and will move rapidly to address the failings before it becomes a source of embarrassment for the UK when it hosts the climate change Conference of the Parties in Scotland in the autumn.

I’ve written to you before about how your party is undermining trust in politics by overpromising and underperforming – it is a far commoner trait for your colleagues than previous governments of either party. DEFRA seem particularly bad at it, so let me turn briefly to the other matter of interest to me in Parliament on Monday.

The Environment Bill will be discussed in Committee Stage, and Amendment 24, under the names of Lord Randall (former Conservative MP and Deputy Chief Whip), Lady Jones, Lady Parminter and Lord Krebs) will be considered. I hope it is adopted and supported by government.

The Environment Bill is yet another example of this government, and DEFRA, promising long and delivering short. It was only back in May that George Eustice promised to introduce targets for nature recovery into the Environment Bill that would be world-leading and on a par with the Net-Zero climate change measures, but as of last week, when we saw the details, the proposed targets are weak, vague and inadequate. Amendment 24 would fix that problem. But you can see that a promise to do good in May followed by inadequacy in June is unlikely to restore trust in politics or in your party. It is classic Johnsonian/Hancockian mistreatment of the truth.

I don’t request a reply to these matters, partly because I know you are busy but also because I have a premonition that I may be writing to you again soon after Monday.

I see from the boundary commission proposals that I may be getting a transfer from your constituency to that of your mentor and colleague Peter Bone in Wellingborough, to be known as Wellingborough and Raunds. This would be quite a leap forward in prominence for this old market town! But, we’ll see.

Yours sincerely

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7 Replies to “Letter to my MP”

  1. Given that Rebecca Pow is, supposedly, a keen supporter of wildlife conservation and a one time vice-president of the Somerset Wildlife Trust, I, among many others, will be paying close attention to her response. However, given her track record on issues such as fox hunting and badger culling I am not expecting great things.

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    1. I have just watched the petition debate. Pathetic Pow - no change there, no surprises, business as usual!

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  2. The inevitable conclusion of a decade of delay and obfuscation. Whilst this Government is a nightmare the conservation sector has not done well. How did they sign up to the blatant delaying tactics of the 25 year plan ? With any Government you are always looking for a way in - and Natural Capital was the obvious route with this Government it's dismissal as 'valuing nature' is a serious error. There is great reliance on science - a sort of comfort blanket - which doesn't work well with a Government that struggles with truth and isn't terribly interested in facts. Also, as Jeremy Corbyn demonstrated you can only get so far by being against things -conservation has failed to create a compelling vision of the future - why aren't we telling people what 250,000 ha of new community woodland, 100,000 has of restored wetland and 140,000 ha of restored peatland could look like ? Those are the Natural Capital committee's own figures, and they are the Government's own advisors. I'm concerned there is now a deep conservatism (with a small c) within conservation - I'm shocked to read in conservation publications the view that 'it should be farmed' when even modest reversion to more natural is proposed, and equally at the rather sniffy comments about rewildling, Wild Justice and Extinction Rebellion - there's a distinct feeling of 'don't rock the boat' - and, of course, whatever we do we mustn't upset the farmers. It's interesting, also, that there is rarely if ever - and it applies to wider politics, too - any reference to where we were in 2010 after a decade of serious work by Labour to improve conditions for the environment and people. Maybe it's because NE has been so cut we don't have the data to show the plunge in SSSI condition after years of improvement. This Government is awful, interested only in making the rich richer and everything else can go to hell and it is a daunting challenge to conservation but nonetheless the report card for conservation has to be 'could do better'.

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    1. I have to agree with you utterly RL, the conservation sector seems intent on being little more than a doormat for the rest of the world to wipe its feet on. What matters more to the British people, to be able to keep throwing so much food into the bin or to reduce the flood risk to their homes and businesses? We could ecologically restore vast swathes of land, redirecting some of the public money used to underpin its current low quality farming to where it could really help people and/or wildlife, and at the same time substantially reduce the risk of astronomical financial loss and utter misery that flooding poses to hundreds of thousands, even millions of people. This doesn't even have to require a comparative tiny handful of people lose their source of income, just change the way they do things and the rest of us to waste just a little less food - it's called progress I believe.

      But no, a degree of required change for some people is more egregious than others having their homes flooded apparently. No matter what the 'traditional' way of life of our upland sheep farmers with ye olde quad bikes, steel sheds, antibiotic treatments and public subsidy is sacrosanct. A cynical person might think this is some people just wanting to squeeze as much money out of the land and public purse as possible at the least inconvenience to themselves, **** everybody and everything else. It seems it would be blasphemous for the conservation organisations to even hint at this publicly or frame the subject so that people came to this view independently.

      Of course if those who've been hit by flooding in the past or are at risk of it in the future were helped to join the dots I'm pretty sure their outrage at the status quo would politically obliterate the then comparative squeaks of those who want to keep it. It's only failure in fulfilling a moral duty to ensure the general public are fully informed on issues that are fundamental to their well being that's stopping this from happening. The fact that politicians are failing in this doesn't excuse the conservation sector from doing so it means there's more of a need they step forward rather than hide in a dark corner wringing its hands.

      I bang on about this because I'm not sure there's any other case where the timidity of the conservation movement is so unjustified and effectively disastrous for people as well as wildlife. If genuine conservation that also helps families stay in dry homes can't be pushed properly then no surprise that dead wood in woodlands and wildflower meadows in public parks are lost because some people don't like their look and nobody challenges them or stands up for wildlife and the people who love it even when they're paid to do so. This failing just goes on and on and on, conservation organisations are often treated as a joke because too often they are.

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  3. I have been reading in and RSPB Life Fellows leaflet this week about the work in India to save the severely endangered vultures and the efforts to save them. The article struck a note of optimism because the Indian Government had just announced that it intends to put in place nearly all the recommendations of a report setting out the actions that need to be taken to save these magnificent birds.
    What a terrific contrast with our Westminster Government . We are having to fight them “tooth and nail” to get them to to move a millimetre on the conservation of our wildlife in the uplands and in general. In fact we hardly get “the dirt out of their finger nails”. At least it is good to know that some other countries around the world like India are prepared to take meaningful measures to protect their wildlife. All we get from this Government is mislead with words that mean nothing in practice and which are not worth believing..

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  4. Sent a very similar latter to Mark to my Welsh Tory MP. didn't even get a response.

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