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General Election 2017

Tuesday 9th May

General Election 2017

The snap UK General Election on June 8th is happening at a crucial time for wildlife.

The next Government will have some big decisions to make for the UK’s natural environment – almost immediately.

Never before have the stakes for wildlife been so great. The majority of our environmental laws are currently wrapped up with our membership of the European Union; and so are some really key policies that affect wildlife - including agriculture and fisheries.

The rewards for making the right decisions would also be great: a UK which is a world-leader on the environment with clean air, clear water, a stable climate, healthy seas, beautiful landscapes and thriving wildlife in the places we care about most. All this is fundamental to the well-being and prosperity of our own and future generations.We know that there is huge popular support for wildlife and the environment from people of all backgrounds. In a recent YouGov poll, 80% of people said they think the UK should have the same or stronger environmental protection after it leaves the EU.1

The Wildlife Trusts believe that people are part of nature; everything we value ultimately comes from it and everything we do has an impact on it. We believe that each year, there should be more wildlife and more wild places, and people should become closer to nature. The Westminster Government has a key role in making this happen.

In the run up to the election we have contacted dozens of Prospective Parliamentary Candidates from all the main parties and asked them for a response to the following questions.

1.      What will you do to ensure our wildlife laws remain strong and will you support an ambitious new Environment Act for England to restore the damage that has been done to nature?

2.      What will you do to ensure that wildlife thrives in our seas once more?

3.      What will you do to ensure we have new farming policies in each part of the UK to provide for nature’s recovery?

4.      What will your party do to tackle wildlife crime?

5.      What will your party do to ensure that important wild green spaces such as nature reserves and parks receive proper levels of investment?

 

CANDIDATE RESPONSES - The answers of Candidates who have so far responded are printed below. Answers have been limited to 350 words and some responses have been shortened.
 

Vernon Coaker, Labour, Gedling

Thank you for your email and you will know that I have worked closely with the Trust  to protect local reserves and support the trusts great work. I will continue to do so. 

It is clear that our environmental laws need to be strengthened and properly enforced. I actually helped support a wildlife crime unit when I was a Home Office Minister, there is a need to properly enforce the Hunting Act.  I am very concerned about the Hunting Act - this is a major issue for us all.

 

Richard Mallender, Green Party, Rushcliffe 

As a Green Party candidate I am strongly supportive of protecting the environment, for ourselves and all other creatures.

We would introduce a new Environmental Protection Act to safeguard and enhance everybody’s right to a safe environment as currently guaranteed through our membership of the EU.

We will introduce a new Clean Air act, expanding the mandatory clean air zone network and protect the Green Belt, National Parks, SSSIs and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

 We would push for industry to phase out non-recyclable or non-biodegradable packaging and products, and improve the quality and cleanliness of our rivers, and work internationally to clean and protect the oceans.

The Green Party has always taken a strong line on animal welfare and will continue to push for higher standards and end to all forms of cruelty against animals.

We will oppose and vote against any weakening of the existing environmental and animal welfare laws as part of the Brexit negotiations or afterwards. We will strengthen legislation wherever possible and encourage people reduce meat consumption and to adopt vegetarian and vegan lifestyles where possible.

 

Becky Thomas, Liberal Democrats, Sherwood

Liberal Democrats believe that we must keep the environment at the top of the agenda. Our countryside, wildlife and urban green spaces are critical to health, wellbeing and a sense of community. The quality of the environment also underpins industries such as agriculture and tourism.

We will continue to fight to protect and support Britain’s wildlife. We will pass a Nature Act, which will put the Natural Capital Committee on a statutory footing. We’ll also set legally binding natural capital targets, including on biodiversity, clean air and water, and empower the NCC to recommend actions to meet these targets. Additionally, we will reverse the sharp decline in the rate of woodland creation, aiming to plant a tree for every UK citizen over the next ten years, and protect remaining woodlands. We will suspend the use of neonicotinoids until proven their use in agriculture doesn’t harm bees or other pollinators.

We will support our marine habitats and wildlife. We will protect and restore England’s lakes, rivers and wetlands, including through reform of water management and higher water efficiency standards, and establish a ‘blue belt’ of marine protected areas. Despite reform, the Common Fisheries Policy has failed to deliver the economic or environmental objectives necessary. Hard Brexit and the loss of export markets threatens to further damage the industry, which has long suffered from being used as a bargaining chip by UK governments. Liberal Democrats would work with the industry and stakeholders to develop a national plan for sustainable fisheries.

The agricultural sector can play a major role in providing public goods and protecting wildlife. We will continue our long campaign to reform subsidies – so British farming remains competitive and doesn’t lose out in the event of Britain leaving the EU, rebalancing away from direct subsidy and refocusing support towards the public goods that come from effective land management including countryside protection, flood prevention, food production, and climate change mitigation. Thus, ensuring that smaller farms are protected and move support away from large landowners, whilst delivering a more localised agricultural policy.

 

Adam McGregor, Green Party, Nottingham South

The EU Directives that protect the environment have been good news for the UK and I believe that it is of fundamental importance that environmental protections are at least as good after we leave the EU as they are now. The Green Party would introduce an Environmental Protection Act to safeguard those UK environmental laws which are based on our membership of the EU. We are also fundamentally opposed to fracking, and would ban it across the UK. We will ensure that wildlife crime is prosecuted and will keep the ban on hunting with dogs.

Green Party policy is to move to a precautionary principle so that there is no longer a presumption in favour of fishing. We would reduce the size of the UK fleet by continuing the vessel decommissioning scheme and also work towards an ecologically coherent network of Marine Protected Areas.

Green Party policies call for farming to recognise the value of all ecosystem services and biodiversity. Everyone has the right to a sufficient supply of nutritious and safe food to lead a healthy life and that production for human need must be consistent with the wider need to protect and restore natural ecosystems and biological diversity.

One of the factors causing the drop in convictions are the cuts to funding for Wildlife Crime Units and Local Authority Dog Wardens, so there is now a reliance on the RSPCA and other smaller animal welfare organisations to deal with reports. The Green Party supports the Law Commission’s recommendation that the UK’s wildlife laws should be reformed and combined.

Green spaces have a vital contribution to make to health, well-being and biodiversity. These functions have an economic value and reduce pressure on public services, as investing in green space brings improvements to health through absorbing pollution and offering a place for residents to walk, ramble and exercise. Time spent in nature can also support mental health by reducing levels of stress or depression. The time has come for a new legal framework for the protection of landscape and wildlife. We would promote a new Nature and Well-being Act.

 

Tony Sutton, Liberal Democrat, Nottingham South 

Liberal Democrats believe that we must keep the environment at the top of the agenda. Britain’s natural environment is precious. The countryside, wildlife and urban green spaces are critical to health, wellbeing and a sense of community. The quality of the environment also underpins key industries such as agriculture and tourism.

Liberal Democrats will continue to fight to protect and support Britain’s wildlife. We will pass a Nature Act, which will put the Natural Capital Committee (NCC) on a statutory footing. We will also set legally binding natural capital targets, including on biodiversity, clean air and water, and empower the NCC to recommend actions to meet these targets. As well as this, we will reverse the current sharp decline in the rate of woodland creation by aiming to plant a tree for every UK citizen over the next ten years, and protect remaining ancient woodlands. We will also suspend the use of neonicotinoids until proven that their use in agriculture does not harm bees or other pollinators.

Liberal Democrats will support our precious marine habitats and wildlife. We will protect and restore England’s lakes, rivers and wetlands, including through reform of water management and higher water efficiency standards, and establish a ‘blue belt’ of marine protected areas. Despite reform, the Common Fisheries Policy has failed to deliver the economic or environmental objectives necessary. Hard Brexit and the loss of export markets threatens to further damage the industry, which has long suffered from being used as a bargaining chip by UK governments. Liberal Democrats would work with the industry and other stakeholders to develop a national plan for sustainable fisheries.

 

Take action!

You can help give wildlife a safer future. Candidates will be talking to you on your doorsteps and in your streets. 

You can let them know how much wildlife matters to you, and ask them what they plan to do to help it thrive. We’ve set out a few simple questions you can ask yourself and share with family and friends who share your commitment to the natural world?

1. What will your party do to ensure our wildlife laws remain strong and that steps are taken to restore the damage we have done to nature?
If you've got a bit longer, why not ask: Specifically for England, will you commit to an ambitious new Environment Act?

2. What will your party do to ensure that wildlife thrives in our seas once more?
If you want more detail, ask them: Will you make sure that more marine protected areas are designated and policed?

3. What will your party do to ensure we have new farming policies in each part of the UK to provide for nature’s recovery?
More specifically: Will you make sure that any payments to farmers are for positive environmental action?

4. What will your party do to tackle wildlife crime? If you have more time, ask them what they'll do to tackle specific crimes such as badger baiting and hare coursing and the poisoning of birds of prey

5. What will your party do to ensure that important wild green spaces such as nature reserves and parks receive proper levels of investment? You could also ask whether they accept that access to greenspaces is important for people's well-being.

 

Footnote: [1] 42% think that the UK should have stronger environmental protection; 38% think the current level is about right. Online survey for Friends of the Earth by YouGov of 1,578 adults (18+), 29-30 November 2016.

 

 

The Lobbying Act

The Wildlife Trusts recognise the need for charities to avoid political bias – particularly in the run up to major elections.  We also believe wholeheartedly in the right of charities to express views on issues of public policy that relate directly to their charitable objectives.  Many advances in social and environmental policy have been secured as a result of charities advocating beneficial changes and all our lives are better for it.

We have a vision of people close to nature, with land & seas rich in wildlife.  To achieve it, we are working to bring about living landscapes, living seas and a society where nature matters.   We act directly ourselves, to protect and sustain wildlife and wild places, and to create and strengthen nature networks.  And we help to lead those around us by showing them the way;  demonstrating what’s possible and by inspiring, empowering and enabling them to join us on our journey.  We help people to value and take action for wildlife and the natural world:  in and around the places that are important to them;  at home, at work, at school.  Society gains many clear public benefits from our work, in communities right across the country.

We believe that there are many ways in which the UK Government can contribute to improving the natural world and help The Wildlife Trusts to achieve our charitable aims.  For it to do this, the politicians and political parties that influence the priorities, decisions and actions of the Government need to understand what we are trying to achieve, why it is important to society and what they can do to help.  It is important that they adopt policies and pass laws that strengthen the natural environment and its ability to underpin the health and wellbeing of society and the economy.  It is vital that they appreciate the enormous value that the British public place on our wildlife and wild places, and reflect this in their decisions.

In the run up to the 2017 UK General Election, all non-political organisations are required to take particular notice of the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014 (the Lobbying Act), which became law on 30th January 2014.  It changed the established rules relating to activities undertaken by non-party campaigners (including charities), which could reasonably be regarded as being intended to influence the outcome of national elections in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland (including the UK General Election).

The Act aims to ensure that between 9th June 2016 and 8th June 2017, expenditure intended to influence the voting decisions of the general public is kept within reasonable limits and is reported openly, clearly and concisely.  All organisations intending to spend more than £20K in England, or more than £10K in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, on a specified set of ‘regulated activities’ must register with the Electoral Commission and report all their regulated campaigning expenditure to them.

The Wildlife Trusts do not intend to register with the Electoral Commission, as during the restricted period, we will be focusing our efforts on influencing the policies that will be adopted and promoted by the political parties and individual candidates, rather than on influencing the way in which the public votes at the election.  We will champion the natural environment – on land and at sea – and will be working to gain support for our views from politicians from right across the political spectrum.

We will be promoting our views directly to our members and committed supporters, to journalists and the media, and to the politicians and political parties themselves, highlighting legislation and policies that will help nature to recover, as we have done for many years.  We will aim to ensure that anything that we communicate directly to the general public (on our web site, in leaflets and posters, at events, through social media or in paid advertising) is factual, balanced and entirely independent of influence by those standing for election or those helping them to do so.  We will continue to respond to government consultations and to contribute to public debates that are not directly related to the General Election, as you would expect.  And we will continue our work to increase everyone’s awareness and understanding of the natural world, and why it is a vital part of all our lives.

We won’t be looking to support one candidate or another, or one party over the next, partly because as charities we are not allowed to, but mostly because the future of the natural environment on which we all ultimately depend is too important for it to become the subject of party political disagreement or mean self interest.  It is vital to everyone.  We will work impartially to promote this understanding in all our politicians, as we have done for more than 100 years.

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