Conserving our natural environment has always been a major concern of mine and during my time as the Environment Secretary in the last Labour government, I established the South Downs National Park, set up the Lawton Review, helped to put the Climate Change and Marine and Coastal Access Acts on the statute book, undertook a comprehensive look at the health of England’s ecosystems, and produced the Food 2030 strategy which stressed why domestic agriculture is so important for jobs, the economy, and the shape the character of our landscape and countryside. I decided against a badger cull and it is clear that the cull the current government instituted has failed. I also voted in favour of the ban on hunting with hounds.
There is still a great deal to do to maintain and develop our natural habitats, as well as protect our diverse species. The Labour Manifesto is committed to protecting Britain’s biodiversity and reads:
‘The Conservatives’ threatened bonfire of red tape’ is a threat to our environmental protections and to the quality of our lives. Their record on combating climate change and environmental damage has been one of inaction and broken promises. The balance needs resetting: our air is killing us, our farms face an uncertain future, our fish stocks are collapsing, our oceans are used as dumping grounds, and our forests, green belt, national parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest are all under threat.
Labour will introduce a new Clean Air Act to deal with the Conservative legacy of illegal air quality. We will safeguard habitats and species in the ‘blue belts’ of the seas and oceans surrounding our island. We will set guiding targets for plastic bottle deposit schemes, working with food manufacturers and retailers to reduce waste. We will protect our bees by prohibiting neonicotinoids as soon as our EU relationship allows us to do so. We will work with farmers and foresters to plant a million trees of native species to promote biodiversity and better flood management. Unlike the Conservatives who attempted to privatise our forests, Labour will keep them in public hands. Our stewardship of the environment needs to be founded on sound principles and based on scientific assessments. We will establish a science innovation fund, working with farmers and fisheries, that will include support for our small scale fishing fleet’.
I also think that we need to bear the environment in mind when it comes to other policies on farming, transport, housing and the way in which we aim to reduce and manage waste.
Rt Hon Hilary Benn
Labour Candidate for Leeds Central