CORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 1357-iii

House of COMMONS

Oral EVIDENCE

TAKEN BEFORE the

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

Natural Environment White Paper

Wednesday 18 January 2012

PAUL WILKINSON, RODNEY WHITTAKER, DR SIMON PRYOR AND BEN STAFFORD

DR DIANE MITCHELL AND HARRY COTTERELL

Evidence heard in Public Questions 88 - 131

USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT

1.

This is a corrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee, and copies have been made available by the Vote Office for the use of Members and others.

2.

The transcript is an approved formal record of these proceedings. It will be printed in due course.

Oral Evidence

Taken before the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

on Wednesday 18 January 2012

Members present:

Miss Anne McIntosh (Chair)

Thomas Docherty

Barry Gardiner

Mrs Mary Glindon

Neil Parish

Amber Rudd

________________

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Paul Wilkinson, Head of Living Landscapes, The Wildlife Trusts, representing Wildlife and Countryside Link, Rodney Whittaker, Chairman, The Ramblers, Dr Simon Pryor, Natural Environment Director, National Trust, and Ben Stafford, Head of Campaigns, Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), gave evidence.

Q88 Chair: Good afternoon and welcome. Thank you very much indeed for joining us and contributing to our inquiry into the Natural Environment White Paper. For the record, I invite each of you in turn to introduce yourselves and state your position, starting with Mr Stafford.

Ben Stafford: Thank you. I am Ben Stafford. I am Head of Campaigns at the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

Paul Wilkinson: Good afternoon. My name is Paul Wilkinson. I am the Head of Living Landscapes, The Wildlife Trusts, but today I am representing Wildlife and Countryside Link.

Dr Pryor: Good afternoon. I am Simon Pryor, Natural Environment Director with the National Trust.

Rodney Whittaker: Good afternoon. I am Rodney Whittaker, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of The Ramblers.

Q89 Chair: Thank you. I shall start by asking a couple of questions, directed particularly to Dr Pryor and Mr Wilkinson. Do you believe that the environmental costs and benefits have been sufficiently thought through and set out in the Natural Environment White Paper, particularly with regard to the ecosystem services aspects?

Dr Pryor: I think that the philosophy and approach that was set out in the White Paper was really refreshing and inspiring. In a sense, it felt like a step change in thinking. Our concern is perhaps that that thinking does not seem to be as strongly reflected as we would have liked in Government initiatives and movements since. The document was strong on inspiration, but we do not feel that is reflected as much in the implementation.

Paul Wilkinson: Building on that, Link as a group of organisations warmly welcomed the White Paper itself and the ambition within it. One of the key things that we recognised was the shift in Government policy from simply protection of the natural environment to the idea of recovery and restoration, building on the National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA) and the Lawton review. One of the interesting developments in that is that valuation of the natural environment: the fact that it has a value beyond its intrinsic value. But there is an emphasis-I think there is perhaps too much of an emphasis-at the moment on the payments for ecosystem services (PES) as a route for immediate funding as a way to pay for the Natural Environment White Paper. I think a lot of the work so far on implementing the whole idea of ecosystem services and the ecosystem approach is quite embryonic, certainly in terms of the markets for ecosystem services. So, that delivering the funding required to make the Natural Environment White Paper happen is going to be quite a way down the line. Therefore, we were concerned when the White Paper was launched that there was no clear funding strategy to support the nationally strategic infrastructure that our natural assets represent.

Q90 Neil Parish: My question is to do with your opening statements. The White Paper is there to protect and improve the health of ecosystems, including the use of payments for ecosystem services. Is there not a danger that placing an emphasis on the economic rather than the intrinsic value of nature could undermine efforts to protect and enhance the environment?

Ben Stafford: It is very important that we recognise the economic value and importance of nature-

Chair: I think that is a green bell. We shall pause and, if there is only one vote, we shall return within 15 minutes. I did mean to warn you at the outset. Do forgive us. We stand adjourned.

Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.

On resuming-

Chair: Mr Parish, would you like to restart us with a brief sentence?

Q91 Neil Parish: Mr Stafford, could you carry on talking about the payments for ecosystem services and what the potential impact of that is?

Ben Stafford: The point I was going to make is that it is important to look at the economic value of nature. As well as the Natural Environment White Paper, this year we have also had the National Ecosystem Assessment. For too long the economic contribution of the natural environment has not been valued at all. It is better to value it in decision making than not to. What we would say is that it is important not to lose sight of the other benefits of the natural environment-the intrinsic benefits.

In fairness to the White Paper, in the introduction the Secretary of State talks about the fact that people do recognise the intrinsic value of nature. There is stuff on that right up front in the Executive Summary as well. I suppose the problem is perhaps that, simply because of the political climate we are in, a lot of the discussion has been about what the economic contribution is and so on. We need to make sure we get a balance between the two and recognise that the reason the vast majority of people are interested in the natural environment is because they draw inspiration from it: they think that it is beautiful and wonderful, or they particularly value wildlife or whatever.

Dr Pryor: If you want people to change behaviours and live a more sustainable lifestyle, that personal connection with nature, which was strongly flagged in the White Paper, is the way to get that change in hearts and minds. The valuing and the economics are important in terms of getting corporates making decisions, but in terms of people changing behaviours it is the personal connection, particularly in childhood.

Q92 Neil Parish: Where development is perhaps made for the greater good, there may well be some reasons to be able to enhance the environment elsewhere and then perhaps the economic benefits of that are essential. It is probably difficult for some of you to welcome any form of development, but sometimes there are such cases. Does the Bill cover that enough?

Paul Wilkinson: The contribution of development is interesting. There is the biodiversity offsetting pilot element of this as well, which is going to be piloted over the next year or so. We have welcomed that as an approach and we can see similar opportunities. We are keen to see those pilots develop and to understand more about what the role of offsetting and the credits might be, and the role that there might be for pooling those to contribute towards larger, landscape-scale initiatives. The key to all of this is early engagement with the developers. As Simon rightly said, it is about a shift in thinking and culture in the way that people view the natural environment. One aspect of that is perhaps the view through the economic lens. But early engagement is really crucial in order to get the best development possible.

Ben Stafford: In terms of offsets, there is a lot of potential to them, clearly, but what the Lawton review makes quite clear is that they should not be seen as a first resort. While we recognise that there are contributions that developers can make and there are ways that we can find arrangements that allow development to go ahead that are also good for nature, we should still have the approach that says that first of all you try to avoid damage, then you mitigate it, and then, at the end, if you are in a situation where you are getting to the crunch, there may be a role for biodiversity offsets. We should not be seeing them as the first resort that we go to.

Q93 Neil Parish: Let me move on to my second question. It has three parts to it. I will deliver all three parts to you, and then you can answer which parts you would like to. Six months on from its publication, do you think the Government have shown sufficient commitment to delivering against the White Paper’s ambitions? Should Defra commit to reporting progress on the White Paper’s aims against timetabled milestones? Have HM Treasury (HMT) and the Cabinet Office demonstrated a tangible commitment to turning the principles of the White Paper into practice, particularly on embedding the value of nature in national accounts? There are some fairly broad questions there.

Rodney Whittaker: If I could say something about delivery, one of the things that we warmly welcome in the White Paper is its support for the recommendations made by the Natural England stakeholder working group. Most people are going to access nature on foot. There are six million people regularly walking for leisure in this country. At the moment, to add a path to the map, which will add access to nature, or to make a change in the path network, which you often need to do, is slow, bureaucratic and very difficult. It lasts for years. You had a stakeholder working group, with the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), Country Land and Business Association (CLA), walkers, horseriders and cyclists. It was like the Northern Ireland peace agreement, in that they actually came up with something from these different points of view. We should make this cheaper and easier. The White Paper has supported those recommendations. They were made six months ago and have been lying on the shelf. I would urge this Committee to give that support. That would be a very good thing for access to nature.

A disappointment in terms of delivery is the coastal path. Only six parts of the coastal path are scheduled and timetabled at the moment. Most people and most young kids are going to access nature first by going to the seaside. Everybody does it in this country because it is not far to go. If there is well-marked coastal path there, it is going to add something to a visit that they are already making. I think that is an enormous opportunity. Generally, in the White Paper, it is nice to see new initiatives, but it is also good to see implementation of older ones. I think that those are very important points.

Paul Wilkinson: I will just chip in quickly. There have been some signs of early implementation, particularly the launch of the Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs) competition. We have welcomed that whilst also pushing Defra to drive forward that commitment to Nature Improvement Areas more broadly, to try to embed it in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) as a concept. We want to see that approach to landscape-scale conservation pushed forward as quickly as possible.

One of the things that we saw during the course of the White Paper process, in its development, was the way in which Defra brought together not only teams within the Department but also pulled together a cross-departmental team to develop the White Paper because of its breadth. What we have now seen is the fragmentation of that delivery. Unfortunately, people have now gone back into their silos with specific tasks and there is not really that join-up in terms of an integrated approach to the delivery. We are keen to see some continued support within Defra, and we understand that the Department at the moment is undergoing a significant restructure. We would like to see continued support for the delivery of the White Paper coming through that.

I think also important the Department puts in place the governance arrangements and the accountability structures to enable us to report back on this, and to identify that key point of accountability. I would hope that the Secretary of State would be seen as that point.

Q94 Barry Gardiner: I am very interested to hear what you are saying. I will turn to another key issue, which is funding. Dr Pryor, your organisation has talked about the "significant funding gap between aspiration and reality". Given that gap is there, what do you believe now needs to happen within the Department to try to cope with the problems it might create?

Dr Pryor: Good point. I will take a specific example of where money is not everything, which would be to pick up on the theme of the Nature Improvement Areas. A small amount of funding is being put into a small number of partnerships. It is £7.5 million, which is probably the biggest number in the White Paper in terms of its commitment.

Q95 Barry Gardiner: It is the only one of two numbers, isn’t it?

Dr Pryor: That is true, but it is certainly the biggest. Even then, if you divide it between the 12 or 15 or however many partnerships and look at the area of them, it still works out at only about £4 per hectare per annum. Even that large amount is spread very thinly.

Beyond monetary funding, to answer your question more directly, one of the things that the Department could do is to provide ongoing support for those partnerships that do not qualify for the 12 that are finally funded, by providing a network of support and getting that join-up between them-sharing of expertise. At the moment there is a feeling that the 12 who win will get their funding and the rest will wither. So I would suggest a commitment to ongoing support.

Paul Wilkinson: We obviously recognise the constraints on funding across Government; it would be stupid of us not to do that. But if we are to believe the statements that Oliver Letwin made about the paradigm shift that the National Ecosystem Assessment creates, we also need to think about a different approach to the way we fund the natural environment. We need that strategic shift in investment in that nationally important infrastructure, recognising the value of the natural environment to society and the economy. We need to see the funding timetable, maybe looking forward over the next 20 or 30 years. Money was found to increase bin collections from every two weeks to every week. They managed to find £250 million for that-

Barry Gardiner: I thought it was £500 million.

Paul Wilkinson: So £7.5 million for Nature Improvement Areas is useful, but it is of a different order than the one we need to be looking at in terms of funding in the future. If we do view the natural environment as strategically important for all of the reasons that the National Ecosystem Assessment states, then that funding strategy is absolutely critical and urgent. It has to be in place.

Q96 Barry Gardiner: Normally one would get one’s replacement funding in place before one then withdrew the other funding.

Paul Wilkinson: Which funding are you talking about?

Q97 Barry Gardiner: I think we were talking about the funding flows that might come through from payments for ecosystem services as a result of valuation of natural capital. I take it that was part of your thinking.

Paul Wilkinson: That was part of the thinking, but it was also a recognition that money is able to be found for some things but not for others.

Q98 Barry Gardiner: That is across Government as a whole, isn’t it? What we have to focus on here is what Defra can do about it. Defra cannot say, "If you have any more left over from your bin collections, please shove it this way, because we can use it." The real problem we face at the moment is how Defra is going to make good that significant funding gap between aspiration and reality.

Paul Wilkinson: I guess one of the things is around the further work to look at the implementation of the National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA). It stands as a real milestone. But there is that understanding about the local implementation. I am not saying that all of this funding is reliant on central Government, but there is an order of magnitude less for funding for the natural environment as compared with anything else. That was the core point. There is a need to implement and there is a need for private sector investment as well as public sector investment, but there is that order of magnitude issue-putting the natural environment much higher up the agenda and the pecking order.

Ben Stafford: I have just two quick points to make. Obviously there is the role of other levers that are at Defra’s disposal, such as Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform and how Defra engages with that. There are questions about what the budget for CAP reform is going to be across the EU, full stop, but also about how it is spent. At the moment, we do not think the proposals that we are seeing do enough in terms of greening, so if Defra pushes on those, that could release funding that might be helpful in terms of the White Paper’s aims.

Your point about what Defra can do now is fair, but we also would like to challenge Defra to ask where we want to be in 20 or 30 years’ time. Do we think, for example, that the £0.6 billion to £1.1 billion that Lawton talks about is the kind of figure that we are looking at? We said in our evidence that is actually 0.15% of current Government spending, so even in the unlikely scenario you took all of that from Government and said, "This is how it is going to be spent," we are not talking about large sums of money in Government terms. We are talking about showing a commitment.

Q99 Barry Gardiner: Let us talk further about funding but in the context of the Government’s aspirations for payments for ecosystem services (PES). Which sectors do you believe provide the greatest possibility for establishing PES within the UK?

Dr Pryor: I would certainly say that water supply is the first. One would think that carbon is the easiest, but in fact it proves more complicated and difficult because it is so dispersed in terms of matching up the international commitments with national ones. Water supplies, flood alleviation and flood mitigation seem to be closest in terms of being able to value and cost the alternatives in terms of green solutions versus conventional concreting solutions or end-of-pipe solutions. Those are closest in terms of putting a monetary value on them, and payment would follow. Establishing a market is more difficult. We would be keen to see more emphasis and investment in piloting, demonstrating and proving it works rather than rushing too fast into trying to develop a market. When Governments intervene or interfere in markets, it can prove problematic.

Q100 Amber Rudd: On to CAP, if I may. The White Paper recognises that agri-environment schemes are important for achieving beneficial environmental outcomes. Do you have concerns that the current proposals to reform CAP could undermine these important priorities about environmental schemes?

Ben Stafford: Since I mentioned CAP in my last answer, I will return to that. It does depend. Things are at a relatively early stage. We are all members of Wildlife and Countryside Link. We have pushed for payments to farmers to be delivering public benefits across the board. We are concerned that there is insufficient greening of Pillar 1 and there is not sufficient money in Pillar 2. The jury is still out on some of the new measures that are being talked about, like ecological focus areas, how they will work and so on. There is potential, if the Government pushes and the Commission get these proposals right-both in terms of the overall budget and in terms of how green their proposals for CAP reform are-for it to be very supportive of delivering the White Paper. At this stage, it could go either way. There are obviously going to be big pressures on the budget for CAP overall in the negotiations.

Paul Wilkinson: This is maybe too obvious a statement, but the CAP budget is the single largest resource that we have in terms of influencing land management across the country and achieving the White Paper’s ambitions. I am sure that was factored into the figures Lawton came up with. As regards the measures, we are keen that they are practical and flexible enough to achieve the desired outcomes. There are some serious ambitions in this White Paper. The CAP is a major lever that can be used if those measures can be developed in the right way. We are obviously keen to work with those farming and land-owning organisations to ensure that the measures are as practical, useful and applicable across the board as possible.

Q101 Amber Rudd: Do you have a view on the position that Defra should take regarding negotiations on the compulsory greening of Pillar 1?

Paul Wilkinson: We would say that there needs to be compulsory greening, first of all, as a principle. The approach that Defra seems to be taking at the moment is to focus on the Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs). From our perspective that seems to have serious potential. Defra also needs to be defending the Pillar 2 budget. That is where some of the really key targeted optional environmental benefits can be achieved.

Dr Pryor: One of our concerns, on behalf of us and other NGO land managers, is an inadvertent aspect of greening of the CAP: the concerns about eligibility of farmers and qualifying criteria for the single farm payment. Some conservation bodies that are delivering exactly what their agri-environmental scheme has intended to deliver may find themselves not qualifying for the single payment aspect, so we actually end up not delivering and not getting recompense for what we are doing in terms of cross-compliance and qualifying for single payment.

Q102 Mrs Glindon: There has already been reference made to the Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs) with regard to funding. Do you think that the White Paper’s proposals provide the new Local Nature Partnerships and Nature Improvement Areas with sufficient powers as well as resources to deliver the wide ambitions of the Paper?

Paul Wilkinson: I will take the Local Nature Partnerships first. There is real potential there to draw together partnerships of organisations at a local level to try to establish a shared vision for a particular patch in terms of strategic planning for the natural environment. We warmly welcome Local Nature Partnerships, and as organisations we are actively involved in trying to take forward some of that thinking at a local level and stepping up to the Big Society challenge to engage in these initiatives. A key role for those Local Nature Partnerships will be in the planning process at a local level, identifying the local ecological network, including Nature Improvement Areas. I think that there needs to be recognition of those Local Nature Partnerships in a similar way to how Local Enterprise Partnerships have been recognised centrally. Local Nature Partnerships need to be given the same status and recognition. An opportunity to do that would be through the new National Planning Policy Framework and to ensure that Local Nature Partnerships are included alongside those Enterprise Partnerships, and also that those Local Nature Partnerships are included in the new planning regulations as they come forward, because they have a really important role to play in helping local authorities meet their duty to co-operate, as well as in trying to advise local authorities on priorities for the natural environment in that area. There is the opportunity to give them the status that they require.

There is then also a need for Defra to recognise the huge appetite that there is out there to take forward Nature Improvement Areas. The Department received more than 70 applications, but will whittle that down to only 12. There will be a huge number of organisations and individuals-some of these have been farmer and landowner led as well-out there who will be demotivated, demoralised and thinking that this policy initiative is nothing but hot air. Defra needs to put in place a strategy for how it is going to handle those failed bids as well as how it drives forward the whole concept of Nature Improvement Areas more broadly.

Rodney Whittaker: I think that there is an enormous volunteer effort out there intimately connected with the natural environment. The Department should concentrate on what I call the multiplier effect, where a small amount of effort or expenditure can unlock a huge amount of voluntary effort. At the moment you have local councils cutting back in, for example, rights of way departments. There are lots of groups and Ramblers volunteers-12,000 of them-working on repairing rights of way. But it does need the county council to be able to liaise with them, to get permission from the landowner and to make the arrangements. It is a very small thing, but once you start cutting back in that area you are going to lose that multiplier effect altogether. In any number of the areas covered by the White Paper, there needs to be a concentration on guidance to local authorities and some directed funding, just so that there could be someone at the local level in the county council who could arrange for all these volunteer working parties. There is a lot waiting to be unlocked out there.

Ben Stafford: I would point out something that relates to that. The experience of CPRE branches in terms of this White Paper has been that it has been quite difficult for volunteers to get involved in the processes of Local Nature Partnerships, Nature Improvement Areas and so on. If you look, a lot of these partnerships, the organisations involved are those that have staff capacity on the ground. That is not to say that, for organisations like CPRE, our volunteers are not very actively engaged-as those of the Ramblers are-in doing things on the ground. But the Government need to recognise the constraints on people’s time and capacity, and also their ability to get involved quickly in what can be quite complex new arrangements. Perhaps some of the timescales initially were not realistic in terms of involving volunteers rather than organisations with the dedicated resources to do so.

Q103 Mrs Glindon: That was another question, which I think you have started to answer. Do you think that Defra has placed too much of a burden on voluntary and community groups to deliver the White Paper’s aims? Going on from what you said about the small amount of financial support, is there something else the Government could do to help these groups that is not simply financial aid?

Dr Pryor: A very simple point is just to get the tone of the language right. It feels at the moment that the ambition of the White Paper was great, and we were all keen to line up and help deliver and work with Government. But I think that the sort of phrasing and language that came out around the National Planning Policy Framework, and the review of the habitats regulations announced in the Chancellor’s Autumn statement, does not boost voluntary bodies’ confidence that the Government are as committed as they seemed to be. So I would say it is the supporting language as well as the funding, the initiatives and practical action.

Q104 Mrs Glindon: Finally, do the core structures fit well with the Lawton Making Space for Nature model for connecting landscapes into coherent ecological areas?

Ben Stafford: I would say that they fit but they are not big enough. If you look at Lawton talking about a coherent and resilient ecological network, that is going to be more than 12 Nature Improvement Areas. Obviously we know that organisations on this panel manage land, that there are statutory agencies who manage land, and there are farmers who manage land all across the country. So NIAs are not the be-all-and-end-all but, on their own, at the moment they do not look like the long-term delivery of Lawton. Again, we would like to get more of an idea from the Government as to where they see the process going after this initial tranche of NIAs-are the others that Paul referred to going to be the next stage? Is there an aspiration to develop these things in the longer term? It feels like a good first step, but it also feels like there is a long way to go.

Dr Pryor: While those ecological networks and NIAs are very welcome, there is also a concern about a two-tier countryside evolving the more we target our resources to a small number of special areas. Unless you get the greening of CAP right to complement it, you end up with a matrix in which these networks are sitting that is rather depleted of wildlife. A live concern, if you put the NIAs together with the work on CAP, is a two-tier countryside.

Q105 Chair: Can I just ask Dr Pryor, do you believe, in terms of the National Planning Policy Framework, that what you have heard is now going to meet the requirements of delivering on the White Paper?

Dr Pryor: No, I think we were substantially concerned. The tone and the detail of NPPF did not feel as though it was in tune with the White Paper, from the definition of sustainable development onwards, to be honest. The lack of protection for anything other than the designated sites was a major concern in terms of the ambition of the White Paper. The presumption in favour of development also caused significant concerns. If a mitigation measure is going to make a development non-viable, it appears that mitigation would be deemed ineligible. Various aspects of the presumption were a major concern.

Chair: Very briefly, Mr Stafford-you are nodding in agreement.

Ben Stafford: We are certainly in agreement; we have been working very closely with the National Trust on that. I think that the National Planning Policy Framework is good on some of the designated areas, but again, linking to the point that Simon was making, for us at the moment what looks like being the key ongoing problem with the NPPF is the failure to protect undesignated countryside and the removal of wording that refers to 50% or 60% of the countryside. You cannot have a landscape-scale approach to nature conservation if you are effectively weakening the protection from development of the vast majority of the countryside.

Amber Rudd: It is of course a presumption in favour of sustainable development.

Q106 Barry Gardiner: Tell me what you views are, Mr Wilkinson, about biodiversity offsetting. Is it going to compromise the ability to protect specific species and habitats, or is it going to enhance the tools that are available to develop biodiversity solutions?

Paul Wilkinson: The answer to the first part of the question is that we await with interest the outcomes of pilots. That will help to address some of those issues. We welcomed the idea of offsetting, but it was a cautious welcome and there are still lots of things that need to be tested. Going back to Ben’s point earlier, the offsetting process should only come in at the end of the mitigation hierarchy-once potential damage has been avoided and mitigation has been put in place. As I understand it, the offsetting would come in at that last stage, to compensate for any residual damage that development might have. There is then the potential to pool those resources in order to achieve more, rather than having smaller bits of money not necessarily achieving the outcomes that are desired.

What we would want to see with any process is that, if compensation is required, it was done well in advance of any damage being caused. We certainly would not want to see this as a licence to trash. From what I understand, the proponents of this policy do not want to see that either. There is not only the initial phase of identifying how many credits that particular damage would equate to; there is also the issue of how in the longer term that management is sustained.

Chair: Please keep your answers brief.

Paul Wilkinson: Having lost something, you do not then want to create something that does not compensate adequately in the long term.

Q107 Neil Parish: Does the White Paper give sufficient detail about how people can be encouraged to engage with the natural environment, and is there enough buy-in to the White Paper’s aims of greater public engagement with nature from Government Departments such as Health and Education? I farm a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Sometimes there is a slight conflict between maintaining nature and allowing public access. Does the White Paper deal with any of those issues?

Dr Pryor: I shall pick up the broader connections and hand on to my colleagues on the access side. We were concerned and disappointed at the lack of commitment in the White Paper. We have been even more disappointed by the lack of action since from the Department of Health and the Department for Education. I think that the Natural Connections initiative from Natural England is good and we support that. It is the sort of thing we need, but on a wider scale. Lord Young’s review of education and learning outside the classroom was very helpful and clear about what is holding that back. I do not think that the major thing is health and safety, as was perhaps trailed in the White Paper. It was put down to the three Cs: competence, capacity and confidence. It is a classic area where work by the Department could address that quite quickly.

Rodney Whittaker: We do not want people to experience the countryside by car. We want them there on foot, on horseback and cycling, where you want to increase the number of ways they can access the countryside. I commend the White Paper where it has backed up that stakeholder working group, which is going to make this-as the Government wants in so many ways-something cheaper and easier to accomplish. I would urge the Committee to back up that recommendation. It is very important.

I mentioned coastal access before. It is an open goal. It is something that is already provided for. There are good new ideas in the White Paper, but implementing the existing old ones is also very important. There is a possibility with the coastal path for thousands and thousands of people to be involved. As we know from the South West Coast Path, there is £300 million a year of benefits when walkers go there, for the pubs, B&Bs, restaurants and cafes. There is an enormous generative effect for the rural economy. This could apply to a lot of coastal areas, which at the moment are pretty run down and having a difficult time economically. Again, implementing this old idea, which is relatively cheap, like a lot of walking initiatives, could have a tremendous multiplying effect. Volunteer ramblers are more than willing to help in implementing that.

Paul Wilkinson: Just one sentence: there is an immediate need to create the link between Local Nature Partnerships and the health and wellbeing boards at local level-that is an obvious tie-up.

Q108 Neil Parish: My next question is what more can be done to remove barriers, such as health and safety concerns, that are preventing greater educational use being made of the countryside? This can be a major issue, especially on farms.

Ben Stafford: I do not actually have a lot to say about that. I am sure that there is potential to do that. I think that there are other issues, which other members of the panel highlighted, such as improving opportunities for access. It is a combination of increasing opportunity and addressing barriers where they are present. Some of the other organisations that are here probably do more in terms of outdoor education work than we do, so I am happy to defer to them.

Rodney Whittaker: This is one of the areas where local councils are constantly using that as an excuse not to use volunteers, rightly or wrongly. There is always a lawyer to tell them, "This could happen and you could be liable." In other areas, the Government are trying to cut back on that legal overhang that stops good behaviours. This is a particular area in terms of volunteering where, again, some pointed guidance to local authorities could really help. Then you get that multiplier effect once those roadblocks are removed.

Dr Pryor: We do think that health and safety can be overplayed at times. We welcome 100 million people or more to our outdoor properties and they get up to an awful lot of exciting activities with a bit of mild peril thrown in. That is all part of the learning and engagement process. I would hope that is not the barrier.

Paul Wilkinson: I do not have anything else to add.

Neil Parish: I would just add that sensible common sense sometimes seems to be lacking when it comes to the law.

Q109 Mrs Glindon: Is it feasible for the horticultural industry to stop using peat by the 2030 deadline?

Paul Wilkinson: I think it is imperative. The amount of carbon that we are losing as a result of the degradation of peatlands has been shown. There is a greater value for the peat to remain where it is, in those peatlands, and for it to be restored, in terms of the value of sequestering carbon, in holding and storing water, than there is in it being in my garden or yours. Halting the removal of that peat needs to happen sooner rather than later. At Link, we have been pushing for a 2020 deadline. We are interested in the progress that the peat task force are going to make and we are feeding into that as we go along. There is urgent need for the industry to act now, as by 2030 there will probably be very little peat left. The question will be obsolete by that point.

Dr Pryor: The Trust is one of the largest gardeners in the country and made a commitment some time ago to go peat-free. It is not without its technical challenges, but we have managed to achieve that. It is doable. From what I understand from one of my colleagues who sits on that task force, they are making very good progress, working on a range of fronts. It is one of the areas that I would cite as being at the moment a success in working with the industry. I would concur with Paul that 2030 does seem a long way hence. If they are making such good progress, maybe they can bring forward that deadline.

Q110 Chair: I have one last question for Dr Pryor on outdoor learning issues. Are there any concrete examples you would like to share with us? If not, you could write in.

Dr Pryor: Could I do that? I will confer with colleagues and send you some examples. There are lots. It is a very exciting area. It is exactly the philosophy of the White Paper in terms of getting that closer engagement earlier on in people’s lives.

Chair: I am grateful for your forbearance during the interruption. Thank you very much for contributing. We look forward to hearing from you again in the future. I invite the next witnesses to step forward.

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Dr Diane Mitchell, Chief Environment Adviser, National Farmers’ Union (NFU), and Harry Cotterell, President, Country Land and Business Association (CLA), gave evidence.

Q111 Chair: Dr Mitchell and Mr Cotterell, we are very grateful to you for participating. I apologise that we are running slightly late. We will try to make up time. Just a health warning: there may well be another interruption for a vote. If you could then bear with us, we will adjourn for as short a time as possible. Can I just ask you, for the record, to introduce yourselves and state which organisation you work for?

Dr Mitchell: I am Diane Mitchell, Chief Environment Adviser at the National Farmers’ Union.

Harry Cotterell: I am Harry Cotterell, President of the CLA and a farmer in Herefordshire.

Q112 Chair: You will have heard the evidence of the earlier session. I shall ask a general question to begin with. There is scope for payments for ecosystem services. We have heard a number of examples, particularly flood alleviation schemes upstream, and the White Paper refers to these in detail. Do you think that the business case has been made sufficiently and is there sufficient incentive for farmers and landowners to contribute?

Dr Mitchell: It seems that we still have to see whether a payments for ecosystem services-type approach works outside the water sector. It seems very well established in the water sector, and hopefully with the encouraging noises that Government and Ofwat are making, some water companies who have not taken it up so far will follow suit. In terms of whether it will work in other areas, including flood risk management, it is perhaps an area that some farmers might be interested in taking up, but I am not too sure that there has been much discussion or debate about this so far, certainly not in the context of payments for ecosystem services. There has been lots of discussion and debate about what sort of role farmers can play in terms of flood risk management, but not in terms of payments for ecosystem services.

Harry Cotterell: We have been very impressed by the National Ecosystem Assessment. We think it is a good idea to look at the economic value of delivery of environmental services and ecosystem services. We think that it is probably the only way to do it if you are going realistically to try to address these issues. Broadly speaking, we are probably more comfortable with that as a basis to go forward. In terms of areas in which we can involve ourselves, resource protection, agri-environment and flood protection and coastal protection are all areas that are crying out for it, I suspect, as well as carbon.

Q113 Neil Parish: Carrying on from that, the White Paper is looking at ways to protect and improve the health of ecosystems. Is there not a danger, however, that in placing such emphasis on the economic rather than the intrinsic value of nature protection the natural environment could then be undermined? Do you think that is a problem?

Harry Cotterell: Not necessarily, because I think that it is the only way to incentivise effectively farmers and land managers to deliver. There has been a mind shift from farmers and land managers, and forestry managers as well, over the last few years as a result of the agri-environment schemes, the Campaign for the Farmed Environment (CFE) and other initiatives, which have made us look at the environment and delivery in a way that we did not previously. The cost is potentially quite large, there is no doubt about that, but it is probably the best way of trying to incentivise it.

Dr Mitchell: I think we are slightly more cautious about the approach that the White Paper is taking and the emphasis that is being placed on economics and placing a value on the environment and nature. We have said that we are urging more caution in this type of approach. We have a concern that we do not fully understand some of the costs and values that are being used. We were very much involved in the National Ecosystem Assessment when it was in its first stages of development. We sat on one of their user groups. We were not involved so much in the development of the economic aspects. The authors of the NEA were clear that these were starting points for discussion in terms of valuing various aspects of the environment and that more work needed to be done.

One specific concern is that the model that is used is quite simplistic in its approach and does not take into account, for example, future food prices, which we believe it should. It is also a concern that environmental benefits are assumed to continue at the same rate into the future. We were very concerned and surprised by some of the messages coming out of the NEA-that farmers would be paid more for the services that they provided rather than for producing food, livestock and so on. We would say that these values are starting points, and we should build on them, but further work needs to be done to assess these, and in particular future food prices need to be built in.

Q114 Neil Parish: Moving further on from what the Chair was saying at the beginning, is there not an argument that farmers could be paid to manage water, which would prevent flooding? Contrary to your argument, there could be an argument that farmers should be paid more because of the damage it does to the land. At the moment it is income forgone rather than income for managing water, which could then save towns and insurance and huge amounts of money.

Harry Cotterell: We would agree with that. It looks like a possible offsetting opportunity.

Dr Mitchell: We certainly believe that there should be opportunities to develop new funding mechanisms in future. The agri-environment funding budget is always going to be under stress and under pressure. We will need to look to develop new markets. This could be an opportunity and an approach. We just need to get the model right and get the valuations fully understood.

Q115 Neil Parish: My next question has three parts to it. I will give them all to you to save time. Six months on from publication, do you think the Government have shown sufficient commitment to delivering against the White Paper ambitions? Should Defra commit to reporting progress on the White Paper’s aims against timetabled milestones? Have HM Treasury (HMT) and the Cabinet Office demonstrated a tangible commitment to turning the principles of the White Paper into practice, particularly on embedding the value of nature in national accounts?

Harry Cotterell: First of all, we would disagree slightly with the previous panel, which seemed less than impressed. We have been quite impressed by the commitment shown to date by Defra. The NIAs are very far downstream-we feel they are almost ahead of themselves in terms of what they are going to deliver when they exist. We have seen the Green Food Project racing ahead. There is a huge workload going into the Green Food Project, and it is going to be reporting in the early summer. Biodiversity offsetting pilots are already in progress. So we are not as disappointed as the green organisations seem to be.

In terms of reporting progress, yes, of course you have to report progress. It has to be part of the process. We think that the timetable at the moment is fairly aggressive.

Dr Mitchell: From our perspective there are two key actions or commitments coming out of the White Paper that we are particularly interested in. Harry has already mentioned one of them, which is drawing people together to look at Defra’s twin objectives of producing more sustainable food while also protecting the environment, which is the Green Food Project. As he says, that is going to be reporting by June. We will be waiting to see what comes out of that, but the NFU is very much involved.

The second one is about reviewing the advice and incentives to farmers. This relates to one of the recommendations that came out of Richard Macdonald’s Farming Regulation Task Force on simplifying and communicating-being clearer about our asks of farmers. Farmers have been bombarded by a whole range of different messages from different organisations and different government agencies. They are generally confused about the priorities and what they should be doing. We need to clarify our asks of famers. That is one of the commitments that we are particularly interested in. Progress is being made on that, but it might be useful to see some work-in-progress updates on that particular commitment.

Q116 Barry Gardiner: The NFU has commended the ambition of the White Paper, quite rightly, but expressed a concern as to whether we have the funding and wherewithal to achieve it. Given the figures that were produced in the Lawton report, what is your view of the amount that is necessary to achieve those laudable ambitions in the White Paper? Does it correspond with Lawton or does it vary from Lawton? What is your own analysis? How do you believe the Department should go about sourcing that funding gap, either with other resources, as one of the previous panel suggested to us, or in other ways?

Dr Mitchell: Does this question relate specifically to Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs) or is it a more general question?

Barry Gardiner: It is more general, about the White Paper itself. Your comments were on the White Paper as a whole and the aspirations in the White Paper.

Dr Mitchell: If I refer back to one of the commitments that we are particularly interested in, which is the one relating to the Green Food Project, there is a lot of work going on, as Harry mentioned, and we are waiting to see what comes out of that. From our perspective, it is likely that a transformation of farming techniques will be needed, and, perhaps more importantly, coming back to your point about funding, investment in research and knowledge transfer will be needed.

Q117 Barry Gardiner: My question was quite specific. What is your own analysis of the extent of the shortfall between funding and aspiration? If it is the same as Lawton, fine; if it is different, then what is it? How do you think the Department should act to compensate for that shortfall?

Dr Mitchell: We have not done any specific calculations of what we think the shortfall is. If that is a specific question you want me to follow up, I am quite happy to provide additional information afterwards.

Barry Gardiner: Yes, just to substantiate your submission about the funding.

Harry Cotterell: We have not done any work either, so I cannot help you on the shortfall. We do understand that the resource implications of taking this to its logical conclusion are absolutely huge. If you look at the Land Use Policy Group report of 2009, it came to the conclusion that just meeting the Government’s aspirations for environmental stewardship would require an additional £1.2 billion a year. We are talking about astronomical figures. By definition we must look to alternative income streams. That is where it starts getting really difficult.

Q118 Barry Gardiner: Turning to the thoughts about paying for ecosystem services, which we have touched on, how do you think, Mr Cotterell, we should go about persuading people who currently get those ecosystem services for free to start not only valuing them but actually paying for them? How do you think that transition is going to be made?

Harry Cotterell: It is very difficult because it is a Government responsibility to spend taxpayers’ money in the way that the Government see fit. We would obviously make the case for it to go into these areas but, at the end of the day, it is a political decision to be weighed up against all the other priorities. There is no doubt about that.

Q119 Barry Gardiner: This is not about Government paying. This is about getting private sector sources of funding, perhaps from housing developers, to pay for the flood protection provided by different woodland ecosystems, for example.

Harry Cotterell: On the specifics of offsetting which we think is a really interesting area and is worthy of a lot of further work, we sit on both sides of the fence.

Barry Gardiner: The question I am asking is not actually about offsetting.

Q120 Chair: Is it like United Utilities rewarding farmers? It is a similar point.

Harry Cotterell: There are market solutions. There is no doubt there are market solutions.

Q121 Chair: At the moment people assume that taxpayers’ money is going to be used, for example, for flood defence. Do you think that this scheme by United Utilities, and others that are quoted, will be rolled out so that it will not be taxpayer funded but will be private sector funded?

Barry Gardiner: And do Government need to regulate to ensure that these forms of ecosystem services are rewarded in that way by the private sector?

Harry Cotterell: I think that Government need to initiate it in the first instance, to put the framework in place. But if you are going to go for a pure environmental market, the Government need to be quite comfortable about their role. I suspect that the area in which we will see the environmental market developed soonest is in carbon, which at the moment is an immature market. It looks like that could produce a decent trading environment for offsetting-I am using offsetting in a different form. A way in which you can buy carbon in the marketplace from land managers and other providers of ecosystem services could be a reasonable solution in the marketplace. That is one potential way of addressing it. Then there is the regulatory approach for offsetting or whatever it happens to be, and then there is the fiscal side. There is going to be a role for the Treasury in this. There is no doubt about that.

Q122 Barry Gardiner: To establish the market, Government need, or somebody needs, to put in place a regulatory framework for that market?

Harry Cotterell: To initiate it and to set the framework, yes. That is obviously the role of Government. It takes time to get any market up and running and functioning correctly. It may be an area that Government could gradually withdraw from. We spent a lot of time in 2008 and 2009 looking at environmental markets. It is very difficult. One of the most difficult questions is: what is the role of Government? Government by inclination will want to intervene and control the operation of the market, whereas a market in its own capacity is-or should be-as free and unregulated as possible. It is a hugely complicated area. We do think that there will be opportunities in the future. We have looked at these kinds of markets in Australia and America. All of them are far from perfect at the moment, but I suspect that this will be a funding stream in the future.

Chair: Dr Mitchell, do you have anything to add?

Dr Mitchell: The only comment I would add is that Defra has recently set up an Ecosystem Markets Task Force, which is one way that it can help at least to start the dialogue on how to develop these sorts of markets. We know that there are private organisations and businesses that are very involved and are sitting on the Task Force. There are intermediaries like the Environment Bank that are facilitating the development of these markets, but there are no landowners or farmers on there. They are key deliverers. We see this as a bit of an omission with regard to their involvement on the Task Force.

Q123 Amber Rudd: I would like you to reply to my question on CAP. The White Paper recognises the agri-environment schemes that are important in achieving beneficial environmental outcomes. Are you concerned that the current proposals that are on the table for CAP could undermine the ability of the White Paper to deliver those beneficial improvements to the environment?

Harry Cotterell: Yes. The farming Minister very helpfully before Christmas made it clear that he would do his very best to protect the existing agri-environment schemes in the UK, which is welcome news to us. Our big concern going forward is that the British agri-environment schemes are the pride of Europe, and we feel that they have a greater role to play in the greening of the CAP. We are not talking about specific measures at the moment, but we see no reason why they should not be treated as equivalence for the greening. If you are a participant in Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) or Higher Level Stewardship (HLS), you should be treated in the same way as you would be under the current proposals-the Cioloş proposals-if you were an organic farmer, so you would already be able to qualify for the greening element of the payment. We think that would be very good for the agri-environment schemes, and, obviously, increased participation from the roughly 60% of land that is currently in it. So yes, we are concerned that we see a solution.

Dr Mitchell: It is interesting. I am not too sure that anyone is entirely pleased with the Commission’s greening proposals as they are set out at the moment, no matter what side of the fence you are on. Most of the debate so far on CAP appears to have been about greening. We have had overwhelming concerns expressed by our members about greening and its potential implications for production. The biggest challenge in implementing these greening proposals will be trying to develop a common approach across the EU. I think that is going to be incredibly difficult.

We would not have started from here in terms of greening proposals. Assuming that greening is going to deliver increased environmental benefits will certainly change the baseline and raise the bar for farmers in terms of what they have to achieve. We do have some real concerns about what greening will mean for agri-environment schemes. There is a grey area-a green area, perhaps-between Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 and what that might mean. It certainly creates a lot of uncertainty for farmers and creates a lot of uncertainty for the future architecture of agri-environment schemes too.

As Harry has mentioned, Jim Paice very helpfully made his announcement the other week, giving people the reassurance that they could opt out, which was very helpful. It means that they will not have to find additional land, which is one of the big concerns about the greening proposals. The Minister’s announcement was a great help in the absence of legal certainty, which we are not going to get for another 18 months or so. Greening itself raises a number of concerns.

Q124 Amber Rudd: Would it be correct to say that you would support a strongly localised-nationally localised-approach to implementing the greening issue for the Common Agricultural Policy?

Dr Mitchell: That in itself would have a number of difficulties, if we were going to have a localised approach. One of the big problems will be what other Member States might do. I can see the benefits of trying to develop something that will be more akin to, or more nuanced towards, the measures that we have in place here, but the additional flexibility-because you would have to have that additional flexibility across other Member States-would create a lot of difficulties in terms of what other EU countries might do to implement similar proposals. You are not going to get commonality. We would much rather that greening was voluntary.

Harry Cotterell: It is incredibly ambitious to try to produce a prescription that is going to work from Estonia to Portugal to Greece. We have always had a concern that, if they get too prescriptive-which they have-they are not going to deliver a great deal. I suspect that, by definition, that probably does mean that there is going to have to be some national input.

Q125 Amber Rudd: Could you not have a system that was compulsory but not prescriptive? You could have a selection process, so national Governments could implement from a basket of choices in order to qualify for the greening option.

Harry Cotterell: That would certainly be more attractive than what is on the table at the moment. Then again, that is rather like using ELS, which is menu-driven and voluntary. So we may be talking about the same solution.

Q126 Chair: The Secretary of State in her evidence yesterday said that CAP reform after 2014 should be based on payments for ecosystem services. Do you agree?

Dr Mitchell: I think in a sense you could argue that agri-environment schemes already pay for ecosystem services. The issue is that it pays for income forgone, but it does not pay for the value of what farmers produce, or what farmers protect or enhance in terms of the environmental or ecosystem services. The difficulty in trying to pay for the value of what farmers actually conserve or enhance is that we have World Trade Organization (WTO) rules that say that, in terms of agri-environment schemes, payments must be made under income-forgone rules. I do not know how you get over that particular hurdle. I suspect that we probably will not resolve that particular issue in the short to medium term. But I see that as a big barrier.

Harry Cotterell: At the moment, 30% of what is on the table for the post-2014 reform, in terms of the single payment, is related to the greening element, the environmental services, and the rest is not. I suspect that those numbers are not going to change significantly. We have always been a lot more comfortable with the idea of the justification for the CAP being some form of public good or environmental delivery. But with the hand that we have been dealt for 2013, it does not really matter what we think. Those numbers-30% and 70%-are probably going to stay. We are very keen that the Secretary of State-and she has said that she will-puts up a very strong case for fairer distribution of Pillar 2 funding, which is absolutely right for the UK as we were severely disadvantaged in the last reform.

Q127 Chair: Can I just ask about biodiversity offsetting? Wildlife and Countryside Link has expressed concern about the voluntary approach. It would prefer that Government come forward with a mix of regulation and incentives. Do you support the approach set out in the White Paper for piloting biodiversity offsetting? How can we be sure that offsets provide additional environmental benefits?

Harry Cotterell: I think, broadly speaking, it needs to be piloted because it is a complicated and difficult subject. Looking it at from the point of view of landowners, land managers and farmers, there are great potential benefits in this being a land use. Offsetting could be an income stream that has not previously been explored. Looking at it from a developer’s point of view, there are already a whole load of planning-related taxes. This will be viewed as another one, so it may have an impact on growth and economic development. So you have to think of both sides of the fence when you are taking it forward. It is certainly well worth exploring. We think that we should proceed with caution at the moment and see how the pilots go, but it does not get a negative from our organisation.

Dr Mitchell: We are pleased with the approach that Government are taking in terms of piloting biodiversity offsetting. It is something that we asked for, and we wanted the approach to be tested before it was rolled out more broadly. It may provide an opportunity for some farmers, but tying up your land in perpetuity is a decision that farmers will not take lightly. It might suit some businesses in certain circumstances, for example, if farmers do not have any succession plans. I suspect that it may be more likely that land will be offset when it is sold on, so it will be bought by an intermediary or middleman.

One of the issues that might put some farmers off is the issue of complexity. There is a lot to biodiversity off-setting. There are lots of partners involved in quite a complex approach. But we recognise that it may well be an opportunity for some.

Q128 Neil Parish: My question is, as I asked previous witnesses, what role should farmers and landowners be expected to take on to support outdoor learning beyond the existing initiatives? I make the point again that I farm a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). There is public access there. How do we make sure that the public gets the most benefit from nature conservation but also understand the nature conservation and do not destroy it?

Harry Cotterell: Interestingly, if you had asked me about outdoor learning five years ago I would have looked at you completely blankly. Now my local primary school has a classroom in my woods throughout the summer. It is used at least once a week. It is definitely a growth industry, which is great to see. People are connecting more with nature through the conventional routes. Green organisations have a big role to play in this as well.

Q129 Neil Parish: As farmers and landowners, what extra do you think could be done?

Harry Cotterell: We are moving in the right direction already. LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) do Open Farm Sunday-you will be well aware of that. We are big supporters of that. Anything you can do to engage with the public to make sure that they understand more about not only the food that they eat but the land and the environment that surrounds them is good. We have understood that and are trying to get better at it. You are pushing at an open door as far as the industry goes. We have got to raise our game and we know that.

Q130 Neil Parish: And the link between food production and the environment? This is something I am quite keen on.

Chair: Could we ask Dr Mitchell to respond to the first question?

Dr Mitchell: I would make similar points. Open Farm Sunday has been a huge success. Last year there were over 300 farms involved and we had over 100,000 visitors, which is an enormous success. I am sure that role will continue and we will be building on that, too. Similarly, I understand that about 600 farms offered educational access through part of their agri-environment schemes to various groups, including schools. There are some good examples out there and I am sure that we can build on those.

Q131 Chair: Just to conclude, as there may be another vote and I am trying to keep within the time if we can, a nursery in my former constituency grows oriental plants. The use of peat has been impressed upon me constantly-how there is no alternative. Is it helpful to set a 2030 deadline to spur action to find suitable alternatives to peat? Directed to you, Dr Mitchell, and relating to your written evidence, is there anything that Defra should be learning from the Dutch work to reduce peat usage?

Dr Mitchell: We have very significant concerns about the target that has been set out in the White Paper, because we believe that the targets are not science and evidence based. We certainly do not deny there is an issue, but we believe that the targets are not proportionate to the environmental problem. It is also placing a large cost on industry. There are also significant questions about the benefits, certainly in terms of CO2 savings, and whether it safeguards biodiversity. Our concern is that it is dealt with as an emotive issue when really we need to address the technical and economic challenges first. Basically, we would ask that we base the targets on science and evidence.

The Dutch have taken a more pragmatic approach. They have recognised the direction of travel on this issue. They realise that peat will be harder to get hold of and more expensive to extract in the future. They realise that there is a big carbon store there and they want to retain that in situ in the future, but they also recognise that it is a very important input for Dutch growers. They put a long-term strategy for sustainable use in place, making sure that peat is being used as responsibly as possible and that sources of higher biodiversity and conservation value are not being used. They are also seeking alternatives that are more sustainable. All this is being done by working very much with Dutch industry to ensure a more sustainable strategy. I think the concern about the UK perspective-or the England and Wales perspective-is that we should be peat-free at all costs.

Harry Cotterell: I have nothing to add to that.

Chair: Thank you very much indeed for accommodating us. We apologise for the slight delay at the beginning. We thank you very much for participating in our inquiry, and we look forward to seeing you on future occasions.

Prepared 23rd April 2012