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.