Parliamentary News

House of Commons
Hilary Benn MP confirmed that the Government intends to introduce a Marine Bill in this parliament and that a draft Bill will probably be published in early 2008

Phil Woolas MP said that the Government are currently looking at proposals for a Severn barrage and are considering the potential impact of this on the natural environment alongside its benefits as a source of renewable energy.

Joan Ruddock MP commented on the need to produce biofuels in a sustainable way, also and the renewable transport fuel obligation will require companies to report publicly on the life-cycle carbon savings and wider sustainability impacts of their biofuels, taking into account biodiversity and previous land use.

Jonathan Shaw MP said that Defra has not funded any research specifically to look at the relative efficiency, in terms of land use, of producing organic and non-organic crops. However, he mentioned two defra funded projects which involve some element of comparison between organic and conventional farming, one of them looked at factors influencing biodiversity.

On biomass crops Jonathan Shaw MP said that the Biomass strategy provides the framework fro expansion in the sustainable use of biomass, and that there is potential to use 350’000 hectares on land by 2020 to grow biomass crops in a sustainable way. Crops planted under Defra’s Energy Crops Scheme are already subject to an environmental assessment before planting to include landscape, archaeology and wildlife considerations.

House of Lords
There was a House of Lords debate on bees and their importance as pollinators and the threat to them posed by pests and pathogens. Lord Rooker said that the Department is currently preparing a draft strategy for bee health and will be consulting with stakeholders on the future direction of the programme. Issues were raised relating to funding into research and public education and encouraging bee-keeping.