Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Questions House of Commons

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Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Questions

Recorded coverage of questions in the House of Commons to Environment, Food and Rural Affairs secretary Andrea Leadsom and her ministerial team, from Thursday 20 April.

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Order, order. Questions to the sector even Steinman for food and


rural affairs, Rachel Maskell. -- the Secretary of State for food and


rural affairs. Thank you. UK has made significant progress in


improving air quality in the last decade with low emissions of all


five major air pollutants and UK is among 17 European countries


including France and Germany who are not yet meeting EU emission targets


for nitrogen dioxide in parts of our towns and cities and to help address


this last year the government consulted on a Finnair zone -- clean


air zone report. Following three humiliating defeats in the courts


because of poor air quality and when the government defended the


indefensible. Labour believes we need to go further with an air


quality national framework as part of the clean air act. So what are


the main pillars of this plan and how much resource has the minister


allocated to addressing the UK's poor air quality in this plan? It is


a great shame that the lady criticises this government who since


2011 have committed more than ?2 billion to increase the uptake of


low emissions vehicles and support greener transport schemes and set


out how we will improve air quality to a new programme of clean air


zones. In addition we announced a further ?290 million to support low


emission buses and taxis and retrofitting alternative fuels and


we will be consulting on our plans to improve nitrogen oxide emissions


very shortly. I don't want to be intemperate with the minister, but


it is so much par in the sky, every time we have questions she says


something will come soon -- pie in the sky. When are we going to stop


people being poisoned in our cities and in our towns in places like


Huddersfield and when are we going to see action, now, not next week,


next month, next year? Let me be very clear, this government is


totally committed to cutting harmful emissions that worsen our air


quality and we have made great progress already in the last decade


which is more than the Labour government did. Emissions went out


under their watch, and we recognise that there is more to do, and we


will be publishing our proposals very soon. I'm very concerned about


the diesel cars and the number of people who bought diesel cars


thinking they were the cheap way forward. With the minister make sure


she discusses with the Transport Secretary and Treasury so that we


don't patronise them and we work with the vodka amongst, as well. We


need to find a way to look after them as well -- and we work with the


devolved governments, as well. You are right. We have got to take into


account the impact on ordinary working families and businesses and


as the Prime Minister has made clear we completely understand that people


bought diesel cars under incentives from the last Labour government,


they bought them in good faith and we need to make sure that they are


not penalised for those actions that they took. Will the minister


consider a targeted diesel scrappage scheme which supports low income


families? The opportunity to do so was missed last year and in the


budget. I can assure you that the government is looking at all


possible areas both to improve the emissions of noxious substances like


nitrous oxide and also to make sure we have good mitigation


across-the-board to support ordinary working families. All types of


mitigation are on the table. We have a very low air pollution quality in


Northern Ireland and it is essential that the national framework is to


the nation work. -- is truly nationwide. What discussions have


you had with our colleagues in the Northern Ireland assembly? I can


assure you that we have had discussions across the default


administration is on this subject, -- the devolved administrations on


this subject, which they take very seriously, and we take this very


seriously and we will make an announcement in June course. The


Great Repeal Bill will make sure that the whole body of existing EU


environmental law will have an effect in UK law, but over time


Parliament will have the opportunity to make sure that our framework is


delivering on our overall commitment to improve the environment within a


generation and I can assure the House that the government will hop


-- uphold our obligations and we will continue to seek other


countries to do so, as well. Ensuring this comes through the


Great Repeal Bill, that is fine, but making sure those regulations permit


is also as so will the government is committed not limiting the time


frame? The country decided to leave the European Union last year we are


trying to give as much certainty as possible to make sure that


regulations continue -- and we are trying. As a consequence that will


be the case. I'm concerned that he thinks that somehow we're going to


rip up the wall book, but that is not the outcome, we want to better


our environment for this generation and future demotions and that is


what this government will deliver -- rule book. EU regulations have been


very helpful to people like me and you when holding the feet to the


fire of HS to when it comes to protecting our environment. Could


the minister give me an undertaking that she will not allow any


diminishing to areas of outstanding beauty and she will make sure that


our exiting of the European Union does not hand a blank cheque to pay


just to ride roughshod through the countryside? The government has


committed that in developing pages two and other infrastructure we will


uphold the highest infrastructure standards that we cherish. Whilst


she is working on the EU egg quality regulations, can I echo the call in


the last question for a national framework on rather than the ad hoc


local decision-making, especially as admissions are actually declining at


the moment, and in drawing up the framework, can I urge the minister


to look at all causes of air pollution to properly cost


alternatives especially the cost to drivers and attacks by and to urge


the government to stop demonising diesel drivers. It is fair to say


that as we have said at this dispatch box before, when we are


tackling a quality we have got to work with local communities because


the solution will vary. This government is not demonising diesel


drivers, I'm afraid, and it was the Labour government that introduced


the incentives for people to start using diesel and it happens to be


that the current Mayor of London said in his last year in the Gordon


Brown government where he said the emission standards would solve this


problem, but we know that is not the case and we are clearing up that


mess. We can work across cross party lines to clear up there for the


people we represent. One of the standards we can improve on outside


of the European Union as much as inside is the state of the oceans.


As the minister will know there is a massive amount of dumping of plastic


that is damaging the Sea life and the Coral well-being. There is a


conference in the United States between the fifth and the 9th of


June. Ministers will be busy doing other things, what is she going to


do to make sure that the British voice is heard to make sure that we


are going to do something to clean up our ocean? We launched our


strategy recently and we know a lot of the litter that ends up in the


marine comes from the land and we need to make sure that we continue


to work on that matter. Ring conservation is something important


in this government and we are going to extend our blue belt around the


coastline of this country -- marine conservation. The oceans conference


in June, and he points out there is a general election, but nevertheless


I can assure you that the interests of the United Kingdom in providing


leadership will be well undertaken. While the great appeal bill may


bring short-term stability and a working institute book, it remains


to be seen if this government or indeed future governmenting will


take reaction to erode the environmental policies as they exist


now. What assurance are there to my constituents who are deep concerns


over environmental protections post Brexit? I can assure the House and


the honourable lady's constituents, that the Government has been clear


on the manifesto from 2015, to leave the environment in a better state


than we found it, and that is what this Government will continue to do.


The minister announced on the 24th of November, 2015, the UK Government


would ban INAUDIBLE


Imports by 2017. What improvements have been made on this? I didn't


quite catch the opening of the question when referring to something


from 2015. But I wish to assure that the imports are taken on a case by


case basis and we continue to work with other countries to conserve


important species around the world. The UK is a global leader. We will


continue to influence other countries on this.


With your permission, I will group question four and question seven.


The consultation closed on the 28th of February and it is our intention


to introduce legislation with a ban on manufacturing from the 1st of


January 2018, and a ban on sales from June 2018 as outlined in the


proposals. I support the plans to ban


microbeads in cosmetics and personal care products but that probably


accounts for the 4% of the microplastics polluting our rivers


and oceans, what is the Government doing to tackle the other types of


microplastics that we would like to stop polluting our rivers and


oceans? There was evidence gathered on the extent of the environmental


impact on plastics and we are reviewing that and new #e6d will be


used to reform in the future. There is looking at the strategy of


plastic bottles and on the go consumption that we are looking at.


We must be careful taking this forward as microbeads and plastics


are the outcomes of recycling bottles, into making fleeces and so.


I was recently rummaging through my wife's collection of sham pews and


to my horror found a plastic container of owlaway anti-wrinkle


and -- Olay, complete with microbeads. Neither the Secretary of


State or her minister will have the need for the product but will she


get on the telephone to Proctor and Gamble, to say that selling this


product is outrageous and it should be withdrawn at once! Well, Mr


Speaker, what I found extraordinary is that lady Bellingham is a


flawless picture and even needs the products. I'm sure that my


honourable friend will be buying flowers later today to make up for


this. It is fair to say, Mr Speaker, we


are working with the manufactures now and a lot of them are starting


to remove the products. That is good news. We want to make sure that the


avoidable pollution is taken out of our environment permanently.


Mr Speaker, we readily meet EU counterparts at agriculture and


fisheries council and environment council and food and drink issues


are on the agenda and we meet to discuss a bilateral soon.


The great and noble county of Lincolnshire is the bread basket of


England and much of the food comes from our county.


Glycophate, can the minister assure that its use could be reauthorised?


As my honourable friend knows that the European Union is reviewing the


use of Glyphocate, and those that have led that work are clear it is a


safe product and the UK is backing a position in line with the science to


continue to authors this product. -- authorise this product.


On the 18th of June, 2015, on convergence uplift. 230 million


Euros that should have flowed to Scottish farming and since then the


minister has demonstrated an ability for procrastination that my children


can only envy. But this is not children's homework. It is


fundamental money that is important. It is a matter of trust. The


minister wants us to believe we can trust him. Where is this money? How


can Scottish farming trust the Government? The honourable gentleman


and I have discussed this. He is aware that the review last year was


delayed because of the referendum that changed the context


dramatically. We are continuing to have discussions with Scottish


industry, and yesterday I met NFUS to discuss future agriculture


policy. What could be done to encourage the


European Union to promote the processes of food stuffs in


developing countries, thinking of olive oil and coffee, where the


value added tends to be within the European Union? Where the UK and a


number of other European countries have preferential trade agreements


in place to support developmenting countries, to give them tariff free


access to the European markets, this is an important development. And the


issues raised are discussed at the EU agriculture council.


An important part of food processing sector is the fishing industry. As


part of those discussions with EU ministerial counterparts, what


progress or what efforts will be made to ensure that there is no


border in the Irish Sea which would permit fishermen to fish in both


parts as they currently can? The honourable lady knows that there has


been an issue with the long standing agreement between the UK and the


Irish Republic. There had beenen an issue with the Irish courts. I


discussed this a council of weeks ago with the Irish minister to talk


about arrangements we may have after Brexit.


Like my honourable friend and neighbour for Gainsborough I have


the honour of representing the questions where the farmers feed the


country. Will my honourable friend work to ensure that the farmers are


not put at a disadvantage with their EU competitors when these exciting


new trade deals are noeshted? -- negotiated? Well, she has a very


important farming constituency. I know I myself worked in the farming


industry for ten years. I am passionate about it. I have been


going up and down the country meeting farmers, discussing


concerns. We have a fantastic opportunity on leave leafing the


European Union to design a new agriculture policy that is fit for


purpose. Press reports this week suggest that


the Danish government may press for restrictions on UK fish imports to


the EU if the Danish fleet lose access to mostly Scottish fishing


waters. That would have serious implications for the Scottish fish


producers. What conversations has the minister had with the Danish


counterpart this week and will he tell us what the solutions are that


he is proposing? I have been in regular meetings with the EU


counterparts. I believe that the Danish minister is planning a visit


to the UK. I hope to meet him then. But you should not worry about the


opening positions that people may take in a negotiation, it matters


what the UK Government is willing to grant. The Scottish fishing industry


does not want to be dragged quicking and screaming to the EU, they want


to leave the EU, to leave the CFP, to take control of their waters.


The fishing industry is forwent my constituency, can you update fishers


there and around the UK about when and if the Government is to trigger


their intention to withdraw from the London 1964 fisheries convention?


There is a 1964 London fisheries convention with access arrangements


for a number of countries. As we have made clear we are looking at


this closely. As the Prime Minister said two weeks ago, we hope to say


something on this shortly. Mr Speaker, since 2015, DEFRA has


opened or improved terms for 160 agriculture commodities and we work


with industries to prioritise and increase new market values.


In my role as trade to Nigeria I invited the Nigerian Culture


Minister to come to the UK. It is important to show the whole of the


value chain in agriculture in which we do so well? I commend the work my


friend does. Building relations with Nigeria, building the important


trading links. He is right, Nigeria is an important market for fisheries


products, such as mackerel. I'm delighted to hear he has invited him


here to see the work we do through the supply chain and the technology


we have to reduce waste in the supply chain.


Does the minister recognise it is absolutely crucial that the need to


the agriculture sector are placed at the heart of the Brexit


negotiations? Is it not clear if the Government doesn't get t it's act


together, a bad Brexit deal leaves the British farmers and food


producers faces a double whammy on taxes on exports? Access to the UK


market is important for the European countries as well. While we export


about ?11 billion of food and drink to the European Union, we import


some ?28 billion from the EU, so farming unions across the EU are


telling their governments we must have a free trade agreement with the


UK. How does the Government intend to


deliver on the promises? The C LA is saying that Government should admit


it cannot design a workable new agriculture policy in less than two


years as DEFRA does not have the capacity so the fail you arure to


reach the agreement could leave us unable to compete at home and


abroad. So specifically, what guarantees can the minister provide


today, to rural communities across the country, that farming subsidies


and tariff free trade is guaranteed under a Tory Government? I would


simply say that the honourable lady, we have tremendous accountsly


talented officials in DEFRA and our agencies who have been working


closely on the detail behind the design of the agriculture and the


issues and the Prime Minister is clear to make an offer to the other


European countries, that is a bold, ambitious and a comprehensive trade


agreement. A market that the farmers in


northern Lincolnshire are hoping to expand is on biofuel. They are


concerned with the Government's commitment. Can the minister


reassure that is a market for future expansion? We see a role for bio


ethanol fuels but with Korean to ensure we don't lose good


agriculture land to biofuels. The honourable gentleman, friend is


aware this is an issue for the department of transplant. I invite


him to race the issue with them in the next Parliament.


My friend pointed out that the markets are not necessarily country


based but product based. The UK has a tremendous base for lactose free


milk. What can we do to encourage the UK producers to develop this


product in the UK, manufactured in the UK?


We have a very strong dairy industry in this country and there are lots


of opportunities like that and we have established things like the


food innovation networks and we have things such as the agri- tech fund


and others to support innovative product development. Energy prices


and exchange rates Abby Kane drivers of changes in agricultural commodity


markets -- are the key drivers. There was a sharp spike in food


prices in 2008 and food prices levelled off six years later and


fell by 7% over the next two years and over the past year we have seen


a modest increase of around 1.3%. I thank the minister for his response,


but the facts are that the ONS are reporting a surge in food prices


which is likely to rise. Children are returning to school hungry after


the east of days and the elderly are admitted to hospital for


malnourishment -- after the Easter holidays. Because they refuse to


measure it, otherwise they would have to admit culpability. You are


wrong. We have a long-standing living cost of food survey which is


run for many years. And which includes a measure for household


spending amongst the 20% poorest households and I can tell her that


household spending in those households has remained steady at


16% for at least a decade. On the matter further, Mr Marcus Fish.


LAUGHTER Farmers are proud of the


high-quality food they produce, no matter what it is, but what of the


opportunities that the ministers see of us leaving the EU to make sure


they get a fair price for that food? As you know, we have recently had a


call for evidence and a review of the adjudicator and there has been


representation which we should consider extending the remit of that


further up the supply chain. But I do believe that the grocery code


adjudicator has made a very good start in improving the relationship


between producers and supermarkets. It is quite common in food


processing plants for 70% of the employees to be EU migrants. Where


are they start going to come from in the future? Is the minister


committed to defending this sector in the negotiations to come from? I


can reassure you that we have had regular meetings with food


processors and just a couple of days ago I had a meeting with the new


president of the food and drink Federation and this initiative was


raised by them. Around 30% of employees in the food processing


sector are from other countries in the EU, but the Prime Minister has


been very clear that she would like to safeguard and protect the rights


of EU citizens that are here and she will expect that to be reciprocated


and that can be agreed early in the negotiations will stop may I remind


him again at the paradox that we staff the poor by refusing to buy


their food from them -- staff. You make a very good point. As I said


earlier, we do give preferential trade access to some developing


countries, the ACP countries especially important in areas like


sugar and this is important for them to develop those industries. My


friend is right to raise this issue and I share her concerns about this.


She will recognise that we want to get these proposals right as soon as


we can. With the ministry agree that rigorous enforcement when this


policy is in place is one of the most vital elements? -- would be. I


entirely agree, robust enforcement is very important, and chivalrous


denies that the police do a great job of enforcing the current rules


-- and she will agree that the police. We need a strategic approach


to tackling this trade and that is about the enforcement and tackling


demand so that together we can help solve the poaching crisis. Question


11. I very much enjoyed my visit to her constituency last week and it


was a great pleasure to meet with some of her growers including


Aberdeen farm to discuss seasonal Labour and I'm very aware of their


concerns about the Labour supply issues. The government plans to


commission advice from the committee and to consult with businesses later


this year. They this we had a very agreeable excursion. -- they


obviously. Can I thank my friend for coming to Kent and visiting one of


my local fruit farms. And for listening to the growers who


assembled there. Especially as it was in the Easter recess. Could she


give me an update on the discussions she has had with the Home Office on


introducing the much-needed seasonal agricultural permit scheme? Not only


did I visit your constituency but also her neighbour in Maidstone, had


a lovely day, in the county I grew up in, but she is right. A very


important issue and the government has assessed the need for a pilot


scheme, seasonal worker scheme, and they have said there is not the


evidence that there is such a thing needed. The migration advisory


committee and a consultation with businesses later this year will seek


to get to the bottom of exactly what we need is and this government is


committed to making a huge success for the food and farming sector as


we leave the EU. Topical questions. As this is the last one before


the... And secondly for us to be the first


generation to leave the environment in a better state than we left it.


-- found it. We publish the first litter strategy for England and we


announced a ?10 grant scheme to restore the iconic peatlands. What


is she doing to support the fishermen and the under ten metre


fleet which is 33 feet in English money? I'm glad he can still do the


sums. We have taken a number of measures to make sure the fleet is


more economically sustainable and for example we have taken our used


quota from the over ten metre vessels and transferred this to the


under ten metre representing a 14% uplift to the under ten metre fleet


so we continue to top slice the quota uplift which is now more than


a thousand times in order to help the under ten metre fleet. Contrary


to what the minister said earlier, recent inflation figures reveal that


food prices are rising at the fastest race in three years, at over


?21 which has been added to the average shopping bill in the last


three months alone. When will the Secretary of State get a grip on the


soaring cost of living? As I pointed out earlier to the question that was


raised, we saw the biggest spike in food prices in 2008 because of


energy prices and food prices fell after that, and now we have had a


modest increase in the last 12 months of 1.3%. Rising food prices


simply adds to the burden on those with little money for food. As the


Food Standards Agency has reported that one in the four low income


families struggle to eat regularly and the equality commission says


disabled people are over two times more likely to be living in food


poverty. How much longer can the Secretary of State refused to


monitor and publish figures on UK food insecurity and food bag usage?


-- bank. We have always monitored spending on food through the living


cost of food survey and the spending on food amongst the poorest 20% has


been stable at 16% for over a decade. But I would say this, this


government has put more people in employment than ever before and has


taken more people off benefits and giving them an income and that is


the way you tackle poverty. -- given. It is not just the coastal


areas of Lincolnshire which are prone to flooding and whilst the


government has invested record amounts it is also England areas


which are prone to flooding in places like Lincolnshire. -- inland


areas. What more can be done to help protect people and properties? You


are right to raise the importance of natural flood management. As I saw


myself on a recent visit to Leicester where I launched ?1


million competition for natural flood protection, in the back place


it can absolutely help alongside more traditional measures. -- the


right place. We are investing a total of ?15 billion to fund


management schemes across the country and they will help support


many communities from flood risk stash ?15 million. Surely the


Secretary of State will have the good sense in speaking up for free


movement of workers is the easiest way to avoid horrendous shortages in


the food and drink industry. We have already addressed the issue of


seasonal workers in the agricultural sector and is important we assess


the needs. As far as those workers who have all the made their lives


and work in this country, as the Prime Minister has said, it is her


intention to make sure that those rights are protected provided that


the EU reciprocates. It is right to look after British workers who have


moved to the European Union at the same time as protecting the very


valuable contribution that EU citizens make in the UK. In the


interests of customer choice and transparency, isn't it time that all


have our and kosher meat products where properly labelled at the point


of sale? This would benefit those people who want to buy as well as


those who particularly don't want to buy it. You have been a


long-standing campaigner on this and we have discussed it on numerous


occasions. The government is committed to giving consumers as


much transparency as possible and to improving labelling where we can,


and I know he understands there are difficulties in that business single


definition of kosher and that makes compulsory labelling complex, and he


is aware that the European Union has been looking at this, and when we


leave, this will be an opportunity for us to look at all of these


issues. The 25 year food and farming plan, the 25 year environment plan,


these are supposedly to be promised but the summer, but that was some


2016, and the Secretary of State has filed for the environment and


farmers and the food industry and failed to keep her promise. People


are losing their jobs and incomes on her watch, when will these plans see


the light of day? You might be aware that there was a very significant


decision taken by the people of the United Kingdom last summer to leave


the European Union. We have been very clear about our ambition is to


make a success of the sector and to be the version narration that leaves


in a better place -- and to be the first generation that leaves the


environment in a better place than we found it. Evidence to give us a


very clear idea, to give a future outside of the EU that is more


successful than ever. Further to the question, would the minister please


give my constituents the reassurance they need that should the European


Commission choose not to follow the recommendation and decide to ban the


use of bison -- the use of... Remains possible. A response to the


earlier question, the evidence is fairly clear, they believe it is


safe and it has always been the UK position to follow the science and


the evidence on pesticide decisions and that is why we support the


reauthorisation of this and we will continue to have an evidence -based


approach when we leave the EU.