Last Wednesday Olivia Blake MP (Labour, Sheffield Hallam) opened a debate in Westminster Hall calling for the Government to put a stop to moorland burning, including the burning of heather on upland grouse moors.
It didn’t go the grouse shooters’ way, as even The Telegraph had to admit with these headlines:
It’s been a year since the Westminster Government committed to banning burning on peatlands, including the deliberate rotational burning on blanket bog (see here). However, nothing has happened and Ministers have been accused of stalling to protect grouse moor owners (see here).
Wednesday’s debate was interesting for a number of reasons, but perhaps most significantly because it contrasted so clearly from the last big debate in this Hall where grouse shooting interests were on full dishonourable display. There was no braying or table-thumping this time, and those with clear vested interests are of course no longer even in the building (e.g. Benyon, Soames).
The debate transcript can be read here, although for those who follow this subject there won’t be any surprises, until you get to the Minister’s bit towards the end.
Amazingly, Minister Rebecca Pow didn’t spend the session looking wholly disinterested in the topic, examining the contents of her handbag and then dismissing the debate out of hand (a la former Environment Minister Therese Coffey). Instead, she appeared to listen and then engaged respectfully with all the debaters before hinting, strongly, that the science shows that keeping peat bogs wet is a much better idea for tackling climate change than setting fire to them every year.
Are we poised to finally seeing some action on this from the Westminster Government, and will it happen before the Scottish Government even comments on the same topic via its response to the Werritty Review?