At our parliamentary launch, in 2017 then Secretary of State for Defra, the Right. Hon. Michael Gove charged us with ‘holding government to account on soil health’.
We have done so ever since through an ongoing dialogue with government, relevant departments - Defra, BEIS and the Treasury, Lords and MPs and the relevant arm’s-length bodies – the Environment Agency and Natural England. We plan to expand this engagement to include the relevant bodies and individuals in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Our Champion, MP for Taunton Dean, Rebecca Pow, was a vital source of support and advice during the early days of our existence, and continues to champion the importance of soil health in her capacity as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at Defra.
Our work on England's Environment Bill:
House of Commons Briefing Note to Support Soil Specific Amendment to the Environment Bill (Oct 2021)
We collaborated with the Soil Association and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust to urge MPs to support amendment 2 to the Environment Bill which places "soil health and quality" as one of the Bill’s priority areas for the setting of long-term environmental targets.
Two soil-related amendments were debated in the House of Lords in September and compelling points where made as to why soils should be better reflected in the Bill. We outlined why this matters and what we learnt from these debates in the following document.
Our work with Defra on the 25 Year Environment Plan:
Defra asked SSA to convene stakeholders and experts to examine how to develop a healthy soils indicator for the 25 YEP, the only subject-specific workshop to be requested by the department
The SSA Science Panel propose ‘healthy soils’ as a headline indicator within the 25 YEP: any policy instrument that fails to recognise and prioritise soil’s pivotal role risks failing in its core objectives.
Following the Soil Health Indicators workshop, and at Defra’s request, we presented the department with a set of soil health indicators developed by the SSA Science Panel.
We convened a parliamentary event focusing on soils in the 25 Year Environment Plan. Speakers included Minister for Farming George Eustice and Zac Goldsmith MP.
Further political engagement
We submitted a parliamentary question through our champion Rebecca Pow MP asking for further clarification on whether soil will be classified as a public good under ELM. We collaborated with NIAB and Yeo Valley on two trial proposals with soil health at the heart, and are waiting to hear if these have been accepted as part of the scheme’s pilot design phase.
Collaboration with the Environment Agency on their State of our Environment: Soil report (June 2019)
We collaborated with the Environment Agency on their recent State of our Environment: Soil report launched at the inaugural meeting of the Devon & Cornwall Soils Alliance.
Our parliamentary launch event was hosted by our champion Rebecca Pow MP and featured speakers from government including then Secretary of State Michael Gove and Baroness Young of the House of Lords.