At this time of year, all of North West Hampshire becomes a huge episode of Spring Watch. From pond to hedgerow to field and woodland, come reminders of how beautiful nature can be and the vital part animals play in our lives. 

We are using our exit from the EU to seize the opportunity to restore nature. Outside the Common Agricultural Policy, we can now use government subsidy to farmers to encourage their stewardship of the environment and build on the significant progress of the last few years. It’s no accident that the peregrine falcons that now nest every year on the tower of St Mary’s Andover, hatched four eyas (chicks) this year, and those red kites, once extinct in the UK, now abound. 

And just as important is the welfare of the animals raised for food. Having left the EU, we are able to ban live exports for fattening and slaughter. There have been no live exports from Great Britain since 2020, and our legislation will make this permanent. On farms we have brought in minimum standards for meat chickens, banned the use of conventional battery cages and made CCTV mandatory in slaughterhouses in England.

Then there are the animals we live with – in my case a wonderful dog and an assertive cat.  We are bringing in measures to deal with puppy smuggling, pet abduction and livestock worrying.  We have already made microchipping mandatory for dogs; we have protected service animals and banned the commercial third-party sales of puppies and kittens. 

We have international concerns too and we are extending the Ivory Act (which we brought into force last year to ban ivory dealing), to cover five endangered species — the hippopotamus, narwhal, killer whale, sperm whale and walrus. 

It all adds up to a really concerted effort to protect and enhance the animal kingdom, and the natural world in which they and we both live.