To watch the video of Theo Clarke MP for Stafford's delivering her speech please click here.
Please see the full text of the speech below.
“I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak on this landmark Bill, which aims to ensure that the environment is at the heart of Government policy. I am pleased that it intends to better conserve our environment, tackle biodiversity loss and regenerate parts of our great countryside.
I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) for his tireless efforts on environmental issues, including his work on food labelling and environmental sustainability. I was very proud, in the previous Parliament, to co-sponsor his Bill on that matter, much of the contents of which are set to come back to this House later today. This, along with new clause 4, demonstrates that so much more can be done to strengthen our commitments to the environment by protecting vulnerable species. I welcome the Minister’s statements today and her commitment to review ways that we can reverse the decline in hedgehog numbers.
I think we can also help the population to make informed choices. Recently, I visited Rodbaston College in my Stafford constituency. I was delighted to tour the animal zone, where a number of my young constituents are learning to work with a variety of animals, learning how to protect our native species such as the otter and learning to train for careers in conservation. New clause 4, which aims to insert hedgehogs into the Bill as a protected species, is an important reminder of how interconnected nature is, and the important need to retain and to protect species such as the hedgehog.
It may surprise some people to know that a key factor in the reduction of the number of hedgehogs is in fact keeping gardens too tidy and the lack of wildlife corridors in fenced-in gardens. Last week, I was pleased to re-form the all-party parliamentary group for fruit, vegetables and horticulture, which I co-chair, and I led a conversation with Alan Titchmarsh, in which we discussed how gardeners can work with nature to improve habitats for other wildlife, including hedgehogs. New clause 21 aims to protect habitats better. I think we can all do our bit by providing wildlife corridors and creating hedgehog homes, as I have in my own garden. No Mow May is an initiative that is very popular with my constituents: people do absolutely nothing to their lawn in May, which can significantly improve the ecosystem of their garden. The wonderful thing about nature is that it wants to recover. We just need to give it the opportunity to do so.
I believe that the measures in this Bill lay the groundwork to significantly improve our environment. The Bill, particularly new clause 21, clearly demonstrates our Government’s commitment to protecting the unique and diverse habitats that we have in Britain. I was pleased recently to visit the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust’s Wolseley Centre to see at first hand its project to replicate a wide variety of habitats in Staffordshire, including woodlands, ponds, and wet and hay meadows. These habitats are providing homes for a range of flora and fauna. The measures in the Bill ensure that we can protect these for generations to come.
One of the reasons these steps are so effective and increase biodiversity is that we are helping other species in the ecosystem to thrive, which in turn leads to a Toggle showing location of richer and more resilient environment. That is why I believe it is so vital that we reverse the biodiversity loss we have already suffered in the UK, and that is why I welcome the focus in the Bill. I welcome the Bill along with the new clause I have discussed due to their aim to conserve our environment and increase biodiversity. We need to protect and improve our precious environment for generations to come.”