Live Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Questions House of Commons

Live Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Questions

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In an hour, the forthcoming business will be announced and questions


taken. After that, there are two debates to be put forward by


backbench MPs. Join me tonight, but first we have questions can I also


add from this side of the House congratulations. It includes


questions on the household cost and spending on food, including the


lowest 20% of households. This figure has remained reasonably


stable at around 16% for many years. Thank you, Mr Speaker, I thank the


Minister but he knows as well as I do that that is not good enough. We


have an estimated 8.4 million people living in food insecure households.


There have been calls from so many organisations for the Government to


adopt a household food and security measurement. Why will the Government


not admit that the resistance to admitting this is that once they


admit the scale of hunger, they would have to do recognise that it


is largely caused by their own punitive welfare policies. I


fundamentally disagree with the honourable lady. This Government


have got more people back into work than ever before and the best way to


tackle poverty is to help people get off of benefits and into work. I


would say to the honourable lady that we have through the LC Access


and established measure of how much the lowest income household spending


on food, a consistent measure, and we can benchmark changes here and


here. That has been very stable. It was 16% when the party opposite were


in power and it is 16% now. Food insecurity is a terrible thing and


this is exacerbated by low income households spending money on food


that is not good for them. During the war, war time households knew


how to budget and nutrition improved. Could we learned some


lessons from the wartime generation about how best to feed people? My


colleagues in the Department for help publish lots of very good


guidance and run lots of very good campaigns to encourage healthy


eating. In addition, we have the School food programme which is


aiming to improve the nutrition of food in schools so that children


learn lifelong good habits. I agree with the honourable gentleman that


actually it is possible to eat very good nutritious food and the cost


and price of it has been remarkably stable. And visits to my local food


banks, what I hear is that the number of people relying on them is


going up. Isn't it true that the Government doesn't want to collect


this type of data because they would have to admit the failure of their


policies, not least the fact that getting into a job is no longer


route out of policy because of -- out of poverty, because of in work


poverty. This is the Government that introduced a national living wage,


raising standards. I have visited my local food bank and I have sent


people to visit people having complex issues in their lives. There


are many issues that relate to poverty and I would ask all members


to work closely with their local food banks as my office does. With


permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to group questions two and six. The


United Kingdom complies with legislation for nearly all air


pollutants but faces challenges in achieving nitrogen dioxide limits


including 16 other European union states. We have committed ?290


million in the Autumn Statement to support green transport. We should


all recognise that air quality is improving but we recognise we must


go further and faster and we will support a new programme in April. I


thanked her for her answer but I think she is aware of the rail


scheme which would take 5 million lorries off of the roads each year,


lowering emissions. With Felixstowe in my constituency, I am fully aware


of the advantages of rail freight. I would stress to the honourable


gentleman that the departments of Defra works closely with others and


shifting freight onto rail is a key part of any future strategy. You are


aware of the controversial cruise liner terminal at and wharf in


Greenwich. With the impact of that in mind, can she tell us when the


Government expects to publish a review into shorter shift power? The


honourable gentleman will be aware that an environmental impact


assessment was considered when looking at that planning application


but, as he will be aware also, the Minister for transport is committed


to looking further at what can be done and I'm sure he's making


progress on that. Does the Minister agree that British businesses have


made great strides in recent years in producing technologies which


enable us to improve air quality, such as the taxis that now run in


Birmingham on LPG and the adaptation of buses that have significantly


cleaned up the air on Oxford Street? I agree with my right honourable


friend and her vast experience in this area is added to by her local


knowledge of the city of Birmingham and support going on there. I can


say that this Government made substantial chasuble settlement with


the previous mayor and I do know that air pollution has continued on


Oxford Street in the last year, so -- specifically with the grants that


were provided. Areas of corn will suffer with high pollution because


of the 839 running through the high street. And my honourable friend


congratulate the town council for the work they have done to improve


their air pollution. I have made it clear before that national


Government and local Government both have a role to play in tackling such


things and we will continue to work with my right honourable friend on


this matter. The College of physicians have stated that air


pollution contributes to approximately 40,000 deaths in the


UK every year and that these emissions have been poorly


regulated. What progress is the Government making in that field? Mr


Speaker, we have seen this nitrous oxide levels falling. I recognise


not quickly enough. The Labour Government signed us up to achieve


this by 2010 and failed spectacularly. We will continue to


strive for this. Does my honourable friend agree that one of the ways to


make real progress on air quality is to forge ahead with ultralow


emission vehicles and given that Norway now has 25% of the cars on


its road either electric or hybrid, does she agree that we need a real


turbo-charge bees to get ahead in this area? My honourable friend is


absolutely right. The low emission vehicle industry is a competitive


advantage for this country and that is why the Government is backing


them through the office of load -- low emission vehicles and also the


many millions of pounds that have been spent on improving the charging


infrastructure up and down this country. Many happy returns, Mr


Speaker, to both you and reverend rose. Mr Speaker, the Government has


lost the confidence of this House on air quality. Over 50,000 people are


dying prematurely each year because of air pollution and many more are


suffering associated health conditions. With no guarantee from


either the Prime Minister or the Secretary of State that last


December's strict EU laws will be introduced post-Brexit, how can the


country trust a Government -- the Government to ensure cleaner air in


future? The honourable lady refers to a lack of trust in this


Government. I think that is somewhat pot calling kettle black. It is the


Labour Government that introduced fiscal incentives for people to


switch to diesel cars, the Labour Government who signed up to these


guidelines. Air quality is better than it was under a Labour


Government. That is an incontrovertible fact. Or even


incontrovertible fact. Happy birthday, Mr Speaker. Hill farmers


play a critical role not just in producing high-quality food but also


delivering environmental benefits for all of the public in our


beautiful landscapes. Leaving the EU gives us a great opportunity to look


again at their contribution to developing and delivering our twin


ambitions, to have a world leading food and farming industry and at the


same time a better environment for future generations. I am grateful


for that response from the Secretary of State. Of course, paying for


environmental goods will only work as a strategy if the hill farms are


financially viable and she knows some of them are earning ?14,000 a


year, so income support mechanisms will still be necessary. And she


guarantee that in future trade negotiations, she will not allow a


flood of cheap New Zealand lamb which will put them out of business?


Well, the honourable lady will be aware that we have undertaken from


the very first days in the job to commit to the levels of current


support for all Pirlo payments until 2020 to give that continuity to


farmers and businesses. We have committed to our consultation on the


future of the food and farming sector in the 25 year plan and that


will be looking very closely at the level of support that is needed but


I absolutely agree with her. We will need to look at what we can do for


the future to ensure that hill farmers remove viable and


sustainable. The Secretary of State is right,


there is a real opportunity to create a system of rule support that


is the spoke for the United Kingdom that is environmental, economic and


social policy. In that respect, giving ministers the opportunity of


moving money up the hill to protect those who are clinging on economic


Lee is an opportunity I hope she will grasp. Well, my honourable


friend is knowledgeable in this area, and his input will be


extremely useful when it comes to our consultation, but he is right to


say this is a unique opportunity for us to create a policy that works for


us, not for 28 EU member states, and that is exactly what we will be


consulting on and what we will be delivering. Happy birthday from me.


I wondered if the Secretary of State under chief executive of the rural


payments agency would tolerate waiting 13.5 months for their salary


cheque to arrive. And that is what 50 hill farmers have had to do


waiting for the December 2015 farm payment. And hundreds more are


weighted up to one year to get the payments also. In the 2016-17 year,


they have been told they will be at the back of the queue to receive


payments for their farm again. Will she commit to make sure those 50 are


paid immediately and also will she commit that those hill farmers at


the back of the queue last year will be at the front of the queue this


year? I am afraid he is just not appraised of the facts. The facts


are there are very few... The honourable lady shouts from the


bench 2000. People have received a payment and there are some


challenges to those payments that are still awaiting settlement. And I


would like to say to the honourable gentleman that the RPA under Mark


Grimshaw has strived to settle all outstanding claims, but there are


people who are challenging those, understandably, but everybody has


received a payment apart from a very small number, where there are issues


like probate concerns, legal challenges and inspection


challenges. In terms of this year, Commons have been paid across the


board and are about 92.8% of payments, which is a good


achievement compared to last year. Thank you. Happy birthday from these


benches also. Given that lamb as a product is now facing large tariffs,


foreign payments become more important than ever. Long-term it is


not just three years to 2020, the farming minister said we would get


at least the same amount if not more. Yesterday I challenge the


Secretary of State for Scotland, who said there is no suggestion that


funding to Scottish agriculture will be cut after 2020. Can she offer the


same assurance, payments will not go down after 2020? The assurance I can


give to the honourable gentleman is we will be looking at how to achieve


our twin ambitions of a world leading food and farming sector


while ensuring we leave the environment in a better state than


we are left it. We will look at the facts and then decide what level of


funding is required in order to support those ambitions. We wish you


a long life, Mr Speaker! LAUGHTER


One of the great opportunities for farmers as we leave the EU as we


scrap some of the bureaucratic rules that have limited the ability to


maximise productivity and profitability.


For example rules that dictate the number of crops they can grow. I


thank her for her answer. As we free ourselves from the straitjacket of


the common agricultural policy, that has added so many bureaucratic


burdens to farmers, what assessment has she made of the financial burden


that our farmers are facing as a result of the common agricultural


policy, and what extra freedom will this mean for farmers in the future?


He is absolutely right to draw attention to this issue. It is


something we are determined to address as we develop new policies.


Unnecessary rules cost farmers millions of pounds, and up to


300,000 man hours each year, which says nothing of the lost


opportunities. So I will be paying close attention in the coming months


to find a solution that work for us, rather than 28 EU member states. I


do not want to be nasty to anyone, especially on your birthday, but the


fact is that this front bench it is sleepwalking into Brexit. We have


heard so much from the Secretary of State before the Brexit vote, now we


hear nothing. Our farmers, are people in the countryside know


nothing about what is going to happen. They fear a new agricultural


devastation in the countryside. What is she going to do about it? If that


is his definition of not being nasty to anyone, that does not really work


well! I am not sure Labour has much support in the countryside because


they have done nothing for countryfolk. It is this side of the


House that has ensured we continue with support until 2020, and all


agri- environment schemes for their lifetime before we signed up to the


EU, to ensure we have that business confidence. We are committed to a


world leading food and farming industry while at the same time


having an environment that is better than we inherited. Bizarre


promotions and -- these are our ambitions and we will achieve them.


Knowing what sort of Minister my right honourable friend is, I cannot


really believe her team were fully briefed properly when they saw the


nitro vulnerable zone regulation rolled out. I would be happy to meet


and discuss this issue separately but I can assure him we looked very


carefully at this issue. And as ever, there is a balance between


successful, sustainable farming, food productivity and what is right


for over environment. Happy birthday, Mr Speaker. Earlier this


month the Secretary of State told the Oxford farming conference how


excited she was about, quote, scrapping the rules that hold us


back, saying we can all think of at least one EU law that we would not


miss. That may be true, but I'm sure each of us can also think of at


least one rule that we would miss. That we would want to keep. Can she


share her choice with us? I have already shared a few choices, farm


inspections, some of the rules around billboards and so on, but


what I would like to say, and I know she cares a great deal about this


matter, is that we will in the great repeal Bill, ring all EU legislation


into UK law, so that the Prime Minister -- as the Prime Minister


said, the rules will be the same today after we leave the EU. That is


important for that continuity. And at that point we will look at and


change those rules for the better to suit the needs of the United


Kingdom. If only it were that easy. And incredibly vague answer, not a


specific EU regulation mentioned. Those of us who value even the -- EU


regulation on animal welfare will not find her answer reassuring. I


assume that some kind of objective criteria have to be applied so that


rules will not just be thrown onto the bonfire. What are those


objective criteria? I am sorry if she perhaps didn't hear my previous


answer. I made extremely clear that the day after we leave the EU the


rules will be the same as the day before. After that we will be


seeking to meet our twin ambitions of a world leading food and farming


industry and an environment that is better than the one we inherited. To


give her one example of a manifesto commitment that Labour did not have


in their manifesto, we will push for high animal welfare standards to be


incorporated into a international trade agreements. The party opposite


did not have that in their manifesto. The events of the last,


sorry, number five, Mr Speaker. This government is investing ?2.5 billion


delivering at least 1500 new flood schemes by 2021. He should be aware


that in his constituency, government investment of ?121 million is being


made delivering 18 schemes, better protecting over 30,000 homes. I was


overwrought with the excitement of your birthday that I forgot


parliamentary procedure! The Minister will know from the events


of last week that my constituency is under great threat of flooding and


she will join with the Prime Minister and myself are praising the


response of the emergency services under the tidal surge. Does she


agree that the Boston barrier therefore cannot come soon enough,


but also it offers a huge economic opportunity that will allow Boston


not only to be protected from flooding but also to seize a new


tourism don that could be better off than a lock. -- dawn. The Boston


barrier is subject to an enquiry. And it could be a compelling reason


to visit that part of rural England. I want to extend my thanks to the


Environment Agency, councils and emergency services and volunteers


who helped make sure people were safe last week. Happy birthday, Sir.


Many small businesses across the UK that operate in flood risk areas are


having to face huge, and enormous flood insurance excesses. Will the


ministers in this department please commit to persuading the Treasury to


extend assurances to businesses. If extend assurances to businesses. If


it floods again, many high streets in my constituency might disappear.


He will be aware that flood defences are a matter for his government. Can


I also say that he raised this point in the debate, and if he had waited


for my reply, he would have heard my response on that matter. Question


seven. Mr Speaker, we all love trees, and I can see that woodland


planting in England is supported through the countryside stewardship


grant, and to encourage tree-planting we have extended the


woodland creation can't. We are committed to planting a million


trees for schools in partnership with the Woodland Trust and other


community trusts. The residents of Southend West, would my honourable


friend join with me in congratulating... Would she agree


that planting a tree in memory of a deceased person is a fitting tribute


and makes an excellent contribution to the overall quality of the


environment? I commend Southend Borough Council for this


tree-planting scheme, and I want to personally acknowledge the recent


bereavement of his mother. I do agree with his tribute -- this


tribute as trees can give a long-standing remainder of the


departed and give a place for bereaved people to visit. I know


that from personal experience. Being aware of the incentives the


Department of agriculture have in relation to tree-planting, can she


indicate what long-term incentives they are for farmers to plant trees


for the long term but also the participation of community groups


and schools in the process? As I have outlined, the countryside


scheme is they are, and acts as an incentive for tree-planting. I am


glad he is leading by example but he will understand the encouragement in


Northern Ireland is led by his own government. Yes, we can learn all


about tree-planting in Taunton Deane. Plant a birthday treat, that


would be a good idea! Would she agree that planting trees is a very


important part of keeping the environment as a whole in balance


and which he also agree that the environment should be made a


cornerstone of our post-Brexit agenda with enormous opportunities


to sell technology worldwide and show that we are world leaders, but


also bring it into everything to do with economy and social lanes so we


increase productivity, security, benefit everyone and leave the


environment in a better place than we inherited it. My honourable


friend is right to point out the importance of trees, which can have


multiple benefits. Earlier this year I visited a primary school in


Liverpool to support them in their tree-planting exercise is, but I can


assure her tree-planting is at the heart of this government today.


Will the Secretary of State today reassured this House and people


across the United Kingdom that any trade deal with the US will not


involve such compromises which would jeopardise food safety, animal


welfare laws, and will she reassure us that she understands a very quick


deal is not necessarily the same as a very good deal for the consumer or


producer? The Secretary of State made clearly earlier that the party


on the side is the only party that made a commitment to reflect animal


welfare standards in trade negotiations, which remains a


commitment to. There are opportunities for the agricultural


sector in the US, particularly such as dairy and Lamb sectors. We will


obviously lead on these ones we leave the European Union, but there


will be potential opportunities for the UK industry as well. On his


visit to a farm on Monday, which I visited last week, the Foreign


Minister will have heard many Brexit concerns, one of which was the


ending of free movements. The Secretary of State hinted that


relaxation for the agri- sector, and can hear sure is that taking on


this will not be a bureaucratic nightmare? I had a good meeting with


the NFU Scotland this week, where we discussed many in Word map issues.


We will work very closely with all of the devolved administrations and


the industry throughout the UK, and when it...


When he made the assessment of the impact on farming of leaving the EU,


can he assure me he will listen to the farmers, and not the so-called


experts, who seem to be set on pushing their own agenda? I can


reassure him that having grown up on a farm and worked in the farming


industry for ten years, I would be very much is listening to farmers


and their views and wanting to learn from the experience, and we will be


listening to everyone as we develop future policy. He will be aware that


a great many farms and rural businesses rely on EU work as part


of their legal requirements throughout the year. Will keep


didn't mind... -- will he keep in mind these issues when discussing


immigration. We are in discussion with a number of leading players to


get an understanding of all the needs, and we are in discussion with


departmental colleagues in other departments. On Tuesday the


Secretary of State mentioned a Green paper for the environment and rural


economy long-term is coming. We have been promised no powers will be


repatriated to the EU, -- to Westminster, said that she agree


that the framework should be the work of the Scottish Government? We


will discuss this with all devolved administrations. The Prime Minister


made that clear earlier this week. We will discuss this across the UK


and agree what the right UK approach should be. Live long and prosper. We


established the capital committee in this Parliament, we will also


publish our 25 year planning in due course and we want everyone to


understand how a healthy environment improves their life and spending


time and in the environment will improve health. I have been running


a campaign to save the hedgehog. She may also know that on the 2nd of


February, that marks National hedgehog Dave. What can she do to


ensure young people are involved in the campaign to save wildlife,


including the hedgehog, in the run-up to the 2nd of February? I


commend my honourable friend for his continuing support of the hedgehog.


The government supports efforts to make gardens hedgehog friendly


through the creation of havens, and through the creation of havens, and


campaigns with local communities to look out for the hedgehog, including


that of BBC Suffolk. I would encourage him to get BBC Cornwall to


do the same. We want to encourage the next-generation. Many happy


returns. Hedgehogs and other wild mammals and precious bird species


are currently protected under regulations on the European Union.


The Environmental Audit Committee's report on the effects of the natural


environment of leaving... Has she had a chance to read it? I read it


cover to cover the day it came out, as is appropriate. I can say that


our intention is to bring environmental legislation into law


the day that we leave the European Union, and as a consequence we see


no need for future legislation at this point. Topical questions. I


would like to place on record my sincere thanks for the commitment


and hard work of the military Environment Agency staff, local


councils, volunteers and the emergency services during last


week's tidal surge. More than half a million homes and businesses were


protected from flooding along the east coast as a result of their


efforts. I am sure the whole House would like to join me in expressing


our gratitude. The Consumer Price Index is at the highest it has been


for over 2.5 years, largely driven by rising food prices. Since the


government stubbornly refused to measure and act on levels of food


poverty, what will she do for the millions of people who cannot afford


to eat? I can say that food prices as steady and have been reducing,


and there is a very recent small uptick, but generally food inflation


has been low, and as my honourable friend explained earlier, we do


monitor the levels of expenditure on food closely. Can I endorse what the


Secretary of State has said about the superb work done by the


emergency services and other voluntary groups along the east


coast. What is she and her department doing to support


community interest companies which can harvest company and private


sector funds for the environmental services? As a government we


continue to invest in flood defences around the coast. I want to


reiterate the thanks we have two hour emergency services and the


military, who helped a black risk last year. We continue to invest so


that fewer homes and businesses will be at risk in the future. The study


by the statistics unit investigating potential links with waste


incinerators and health outcomes, the date of when it will be


published keeps changing. I will look straight into this and get back


to him. Which he agreed to visit the slowing the flow project, and


natural flood alleviation scheme, part funded by DEFRA, to save the


taxpayer millions of pounds, to see what could be done with a ?15


million the apartment has a bid invested for such projects. I would


be delighted to visit, if we can get our diaries to work. I would like to


see the success of the Pickering project, which has been one of the


building blocks in securing the ?15 million of funding we announced in


November last year, which is dedicated specifically to natural


flood management schemes across the UK. This money will let us test new


approaches to see how natural flood resources can help us in the future.


We do not have time to waste. Since their Westminster Hall debate last


December, 4007 elephants have been killed for tasks. With China


introducing a ban on the ivory trade by the end of this year, will the


government reconsidered its proposed unworkable partial ban which will


still allow criminals to trade in ivory, and


introduce a total ban? That is nonsense, it is not a partial ban


this government is proposing. In the conference in China last year, we


were very clear we would do everything possible not just to


enforce a ban on trading of ivory, but also on enforcement, on


minimising exemptions. She needs to work with us to ensure the


protection of the species and not try to make a party political point


on it. The Vale of Evesham is proud of its horticultural industry. Many


of the local growers and food produce companies are highly reliant


on seasonal workers. Can we please seriously consider bringing back a


seasonal agricultural workers scheme? I have experience in this


industry, I know many growers in Evesham, and have had discussions


with businesses on this issue. We want to get the right approach so we


can control immigration and ensure we have the working leads were


required. The farming Minister will have been amended on Monday that 90%


of beef and lamb exports from this country are to the EU, so the Prime


Minister's threat to walk away from the single market with no deal, but


then would not be bad, it could leave them facing tariffs up to 20%,


which would be catastrophic. What assurances can he give to farmers


and crofters in my constituency that he and his government will not leave


them exposed in this way? I think the Prime Minister gave the


assurance we are looking for a good deal, and no deal is better than a


bad deal. In food and drink alone we have a trade deficit of ?10 billion


with the EU, so they have a great interest to having tariff free


access to the market. Following the success for the charge of plastic


bags, and reducing the number of plastic going into the sea, the next


big issue we need to address is single use plastic bottles. Can she


address the House and what plans she address the House and what plans she


has to cut the number of templating beaches? He is right to point out


consultation is out there on micro beads, but there is call for wider


evidence about the need to tackle other plastics. We are developing a


new letter strategy which may reduce this. -- litter strategy. An


enormous amount of subsidies used to encourage intensive farming. Could


ministers also look at some of the ideas for re-wilding, and see that


our subsidies could encourage the restoration of the environment,


rather than its conservation? We will look at representations from


all people. I would say this, if we want to improve the farmed


environment we have to look at the whole farmed environment and not


restrict our ambition is to just the upper limbs or the moorland areas.


So we're looking at a whole range of things, in quitting water quality.


-- uplands. Could we look at single payments that have been made and how


it affects the Cornish farms? We have now paid 92.8% of basic payment


scheme claims for the current year, and as a fellow Cornish man, I am


pleased to say that 97% of claims and Cornwall have now been paid. My


constituents will be concerned that there interest should not be


compromised in any free trade deal with New Zealand. Will the Secretary


of State guarantee that she will fight for farmers in any free-trade


deal and ensure that they are not cheap imports of New Zealand lamb?


Will she fight for farmers? As a free and sovereign parliament, it


will be for us to determine the terms of any free trade agreements.


I have already read out from our manifesto commitment on the highest


level of animal welfare, and it also commits to food safety and food


traceability. It commits to being a leading country in farm management


and to promote that around the world. There is a continuing problem


of fly shooting and electronic pulse fishing in UK waters. Not only are


these practices environmental vandalism, they are having a


devastating impact on local fishing communities. Can the Minister is


sure the Cosies doing anything to address this problem? I'm aware of


the concern, particularly around pulse trolling in the southern North


Sea. I have asked the Department to look at this and give me a report on


what we know about the science. In addition, that is a working group in


the EU on this issue. Happy birthday. At the time of


negotiations on the TTIP deal, concerns were raised about products


that consumers don't want on the shelves. Now within a weaker


negotiating position, how can the Minister assurance we won't allow


those products on? The USA represents USA interests in


negotiations and the UK Government will represent the UK in any future


trade negotiations. Issues such as animal welfare and food safety are


areas in which we will


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