Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Nature Check: Where is Defra The Defender?

Posted by Nicola Hutchinson, Head of Conservation Programmes, England and Wales.

Wildlife and Countryside Link and its members, including Plantlife, today launched its third annual report on the Government's progress against its initial claim to be "the greenest government ever".

In previous years the score card had a distinctly "could do better" feel.  Unfortunately there have been few signs of improvement and indeed in some keys areas, such as the England biodiversity strategy, the situation needs urgent attention.

Biodiversity 2020 was launched as the Government's new wildlife strategy in 2011, yet two years on progress with taking real action is achingly slow.  Defra niftily handed responsibility for 'delivering the strategy' to Natural England and it showed in Lord de Mauley's speech at the Nature Check launch; Defra clearly sees itself at a distance from actual delivery as all the biodiversity progress mentioned was in the form of Agency action.  Yet despite the best efforts of Natural England & Co it is too often the case that the barrier to progress is down to a combination of Government departments, Government resources and Government policy.  So it begs the question what positive strides will Defra itself take in the near future to make a contribution to improving species, habitats and ecosystems?

Nature Check asks for strong leadership and this is where Defra must start.  The Government Department with environment in its title should be an environmental champion.  It should have conserving and enhancing wildlife and the environment as its core purpose. Its programmes and projects should lead by example and put increased wildlife at the heart.  It should draw red lines on environmental matters which will not be crossed (yes, even by you, Treasury).  It should not be an apology for wildlife and the environment.  It should be Defra The Defender.  Have you got what it takes?


  1. Oh dear, 'Defra The Defender' - how naive.

    Clearly, Defra has not got what it takes! It's Defra the defender of government policy all the way, and if that goes against both logic and scientific evidence, then so be it.
    We know Defra is now just a biased mouthpiece of government, so can simply be ignored.

    It's Natural England that needs to be champion of the enviornment, but this once esteemed organisation (as NCC or EN) has now been emasculated to the point where most of its staff that have clung on to their jobs are now working from home in the kitchen, and are far too busy to be advising government of their failures. (As if they would be allowed to!). They don't seem able to give advice any more - they simply refer you to standing advice on their website and suggest that this is an improvement in service.

    When NE was forced to withdrew its c£16k per annum to all the local Biodiversity Action Plan schemes around the country we knew the end was in sight for effective BAP action and coirdination at the local level. Most schemes have now folded, BARS is crap, and there are no resources to coordinate or report on delivery.

    I wont be holding out much hope for either Defra or Natural England to rise to the defense of biodiversity anytime soon under this government. But wouldn't it be great if they did? Roll on 2015.


  2. Well, lets just look at it as a repeat of the 70's, Those who voted for the Green Paty were slated by the then PM as IRESPONSIBLE. Now the tongue has become even more forked as we were told how wonderful and green things were going to be under the new regime................Now, its a case of not what they can do for us and our precious biodiversity but more what they can do to it and us!

    The further we are dragged down the road of Privatisation and Capitalism, the worse things can only get! What I fail to understand is, if these utilities, which we all owned and are so profitable now, how come they were never tied into an agreement where their wealth is shared and helps pay for some of the financial short falls? After all, They were all handed gold on a plate, many of them use up natural resorces and cry about having to overcharge their customers. (all the way to the bank of course!) I can only guess that those most willing to see them sold off, want to make a killing on investing there own rather large wad but don't want any social responsibilty getting in the way of increased profits and bonuses!

  3. Nicola, perhaps the government meant that things would improve IN 2020 only?