Help preserve hedgehog numbers by boosting legal protection, Tory MPs urge

Former cabinet minister Chris Grayling has tabled an amendment to the Environment Bill.

Help preserve hedgehog numbers by boosting legal protection, Tory MPs urge

Hedgehogs should be given increased protection under the law to help preserve their numbers, Conservative MPs have urged.

Former cabinet minister Chris Grayling has tabled an amendment to the Environment Bill, which would put a legal obligation on developers to search for hedgehogs and take action to reduce the risk to them.

By adding hedgehogs to the list of protected animals under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, it is hoped this would safeguard their nesting sites.

A 2018 report by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society revealed a 30% drop in the number of hedgehogs in urban areas since 2000.

Cabinet meeting
Conservative former minister Chris Grayling (David Mirzoeff/PA)

But Mr Grayling said his amendment would sort out “proper protection” for them.

Mr Grayling told the PA news agency: “It seems wrong to me, for example, that whenever a developer has to carry out a wildlife survey before starting work on a project that the hedgehog is not on anyone’s radar.

“It is Britain’s favourite animal. Its numbers are declining.

“And it should be as well protected as any other popular but threatened British animal.

“We worry about whether we are going to damage the habitats of badgers and bats. It’s time we worried about the hedgehog too.

“I hope that this amendment will encourage Defra, the Government department involved, to sort out proper protection for hedgehogs.”

Mr Grayling’s amendment is currently supported by 13 Conservative colleagues, including former cabinet ministers Liam Fox and Dame Cheryl Gillan.

Day one of the Bill’s report stage takes place in the House of Commons on Tuesday, with Mr Grayling expecting his amendment to be debated in future weeks.

The Bill seeks to write environmental principles in UK law for the first time.

It includes setting targets for air quality, water, biodiversity and waste reduction, and outlining what standard must be achieved and by what date.

Labour has tabled a series of amendments, including one which requires ministers to allow parliamentary scrutiny of exemptions granted to allow plant protection products banned under retained EU law – such as neonicotinoid pesticides – where they are likely to impact bees and other species covered by an environmental improvement plan.

Brexit
Shadow environment secretary Luke Pollard (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Mr Pollard said if the environment was a priority, the Bill could complete its passage in this session of Parliament, but if it is carried over into the next session, it will not be on the statute books until autumn.

“In the year when Britain is hosting the Cop26 climate talks, it sends all the wrong messages about the Government’s approach to the climate crisis, if this Bill is not prioritised and it doesn’t reach the statute books until the autumn,” he said.

“We don’t need a go-slow government on the environment, we need one that recognises the urgency of the crisis and doesn’t go backwards, like they’re doing by lifting the ban on bee-killing pesticides.”

Conservative Chris Loder (West Dorset) has also tabled an amendment requiring the Secretary of State to set targets to reduce plastic pollution and reduce the volume of non-essential single-use plastic products sold.

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