HC Deb 29 October 1998 vol 318 cc255-6W
Mr. Jim Cunningham

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) what plan he has to develop a national strategy for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity; [57145]

(2) what steps he has taken to encourage the pursuit of the Government's biodiversity objectives on land managed by Government agencies; and what steps he has taken to encourage local authority biodiversity action plans; [57146]

(3) what steps he has taken to encourage biodiversity-friendly business practices. [57147]

Mr. Meale

"Biodiversity: The UK Action Plan" the national strategy for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity was published in January 1994. This strategy and the UK Biodiversity Steering Group Report published in December 1995 contain the measures aimed at maintaining and enhancing biodiversity within the UK. At the heart of these measures is the development of costed action plans for priority species and habitats. 116 species and 14 habitat action plans were published as part of the Steering Group report and are now being implemented. A further 56 species action plans were published on 2 June. We expect to publish a further 10 habitat action plans in December and a further 256 species and 16 habitat plans early in 1999.

The consultation paper on improving the protection of Sites of Special Scientific Interest, issued on 10 September, sought views on the proposal that we should provide legislative backing for the Government's own commitment to the better management of SSSIs, and to the delivery of biodiversity objectives. We will carefully consider all responses to this proposal.

The Highways Agency provides one example of the delivery of government policies for biodiversity on its network, in partnership with other landowners and wildlife interest groups. Management strategies for landscape management and biodiversity will be developed as current surveys of landscape and ecological elements of the highway estate are completed.

The UK Biodiversity Group and the Local Agenda 21 Steering Group have jointly issued five guidance notes on the preparation of local biodiversity action plans to all local authorities. Case studies on the preparation of such plans are currently being finalised and it is hoped to issue these to all local authorities by the end of the year.

In May the Government co-operated with the UK Round Table on Sustainable Development in launching the booklet "Business and Biodiversity", which explains how businesses can integrate biodiversity into environmental management systems. Some 18,000 copies of the guide have been distributed to date. The guide is a product of a wider report on "Integrating Biodiversity into Management Systems" by the Round Table. The Government have today published a positive response to that report, accepting the thrust of the Round Table's recommendations, particularly those on keeping business abreast of national and local biodiversity work.

The consultation document "Making Biodiversity Happen", published in June as part of the review of the Sustainable Development Strategy, contained a major section on how business might become more involved in biodiversity at local and plant level, as well as nationally. We have received over 360 responses to the consultation document and are currently considering how to feed these into the revision of the Sustainable Development Strategy and the work of the UK Biodiversity Group.