On 7th June, 2011 DEFRA launched the Natural Environment White Paper, "The Natural Choice", the mechanism by which the Government of the day introduces its policy proposals, aimed at change and improvement, which are then framed in legislation.
Well previous to that stage the proposals are examined by a Select Committee within Parliament, via the submission of oral evidence from elected representatives who occupy key positions within the administration linked to the content of the policies concerned. In this case the Select Committee would be the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee. In her introductory remarks at the initial meeting the Chair of that Committee, Miss Anne McIntosh, said that this was the first White Paper addressing environmental matters in over twenty years and that " the Government says it wants to be the first generation to leave the national environment in a better state than it inherited"
She went on to say, " Our enquiry will ask how well the Government's proposals are likely to protect the environment for future generations, make the economy more sustainable or improve quality of life and well being".
Well, I'm duty bound to say that, even BEFORE the formal appearance of these proposals our Greenest Government appears to have failed , and miserably!! Whilst I realise I've been banging on about the English breeding population of Hen Harriers in past days, ( nobody else appears to be and I make no apology for attempting to gain some attention to the current problem ), I feel this sudden association by our Government with environmental matters is an absolute travesty, and little more than an excuse to introduce "relaxed" conditions favouring economic development. I'm also duty bound to say I feel it's our Chancellors view of what the environment constitutes!! In one meeting of the Select Committee, the emphasis placed by Oliver Letwin, MP ( Cabinet Office ) on how best to appraise the needs of the Habitat and Wild Birds Directive when it came to economic development is hardly salutary. One assumes that , with all this concern about environmental quality, they do intend having something living and thriving within it! Well, folks, it rather looks as if the National Capital Committee might already need to amend any schedule it keeps of especial, constituent members of our national, wildlife heritage as it appears they've already lost one vital component.
Despite research results from Natural England,( the Government's wildlife and conservation advisor), widely promoted in their subsequent report in December,2008, the threats posed to Hen Harriers from persecution have apparently been ignored since that date, such that it now seems the English harrier breeding population is probably now extinct, or very close to it. Now I appreciate the current Coalition didn't come into being until May 2010, but one assumes such priority advice is handed on within the Department concerned! Such a warning and stark realisation appears to have been utterly ignored by a Government pledged to making our environment better, such that now, another year later, we have a crisis in evidence!! Not exactly something to fill one with confidence in terms of the resolve and efficacy surrounding the process!! Now I'm not going to test your collective patience by summarising the details I've put out recently on my Blog ( see entries on the 1st, 8th and 11th which I urge you, please , to read if you haven't done so already! ). When it comes to quality of life and well being referred to by Miss McKintosh, I would simply say,
- after spending twenty years of my life attempting to keep this species afloat against persecution, I don't feel any confidence in the REAL commitment and INTENTIONS behind this current process based on the evidence already available,
- I wonder the extent to which the membership (> 1 million ) of the RSPB will welcome the shoddy attitude exhibited towards the demise of this species under the current Government's "watch".
- why should a minority exercise their own interpretation of the law of the land in order to maximise their commercial interests and remove an asset appreciated by a majority of countryside visitors and birdwatchers ( not an inconsiderable number of people nowadays ).
- if offences were levelled as regularly towards our artistic and cultural heritage, all hell would let loose. Why is the Government so intransigent when it comes to wildlife? Trite responses will be ignored!!
I personally feel let down. Reference to the Minutes of the last meeting of the Select Committee read like a scipt from an episode of " Yes, Minister". There is virtually no mention of wildlife , other than in the obscure perambulations of Oliver Letwin, MP, when referring to the interpretation needed when taking on board the requirements of the Habitats Directive!! I sincerely wonder, somewhat despondently, where we go from here in this world?