UK Politics

MP Andrew Robathan calls for wildlife laws review after finding 24 newts in his cellar

Newt Image copyright South East Water
Image caption Newts are protected under EU wildlife directives

A former Conservative minister who discovered 24 great crested newts in his cellar has called for EU wildlife directives to be reviewed.

Andrew Robathan told MPs he could have been jailed or fined £120,000 if he had moved the amphibians, which he found when he bought a semi-derelict house.

He said he was a "keen conservationist" but added that EU laws were costing "huge amounts of money".

The government said it was improving the way EU rules are applied.

Mr Robathan, MP for South Leicestershire, raised the issue during environment questions in the Commons.


  • Great crested newts, as well as their habitats, are protected by law
  • It is a crime to capture or harm them, as well as to damage their breeding or resting places, even by accident
  • People breaking the law can be fined £5,000 per offence and sent to prison for up to six months

"Before I receive any hate mail, may I say I'm a keen conservationist. I like newts and bats," Mr Robathan told MPs.

"But there are things that are the matter with our implementation of these European habitats directives that are costing the taxpayer and indeed private citizens huge amounts of money - millions and millions of pounds."

He said government agencies had "gold-plated" the EU habitats directive, and continued: "Just an example. When I bought my semi-derelict house, there were 24 great crested newts in the cellar.

"If heaven forfend I were to have picked them all up and taken them outside, I would have been liable for 12 years in jail and fined for £120,000."

Environment Minister George Eustice said the Conservative Party had a "proud history of conservation".

He said a 2012 review of the directive's implementation showed it was working well, but identified further improvements which had now largely been delivered.

He also told MPs the European Commission had now begun its own review.

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