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 the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs secretary Michael Gove and his team of ministers.


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Easter. We will keep you updated on

that.

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Order, order. Questions to the

Secretary of State for environment,

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food and growth areas. --

environment, food and rural affairs.

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Mr Speaker, as you're aware, my

right honourable friend the

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Secretary of State is in US for

departmental business representing

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UK interests. I know he has written

to you regarding to this antique

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centres apologies to the house. Mr

Speaker, last week, the Government

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launched a paper outlining a series

of proposals to help invest in funds

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and help them become more

profitable, create new entrants into

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the agriculture industry and

encourage research and development.

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-- invested forms. -- invested in

farms.

What I want to say to the

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ministers are very much welcome the

paper and it talks about having a

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greener environment and a better

environment for the future. But will

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he also agree with me that part of

the agricultural paper must have the

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means of production and good quality

production and being able to

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actually increase our food that we

can grow in this country rather than

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decrease it as we go forward with

the new British agricultural policy?

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I agree with the point of my

honourable friend raises. He and I

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both have a background in the

farming industry, we recognise the

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importance of this strategically

vital industry for a country. He

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will know we have a manifesto

commitment to grow our agricultural

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industry and produce more food and

consultation outlines a number of

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proposals including improving

productivity and improve research

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and development.

When will a

decision be made on the

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reintroduction of the seasonal

workers scheme so that crops don't

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rot in the ground this summer?

The

honourable gentleman will be aware

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that this is an issue on which the

Home Office lead. We do have regular

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discussions with Home Office

colleagues on these matters and we

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do feeding. The feedback we're

getting from this industry on this

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matter. I made clear we are looking

closely at the area of the seasonal

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agricultural workers scheme after we

leave the European Union.

Most of

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the food produced in my constituency

is reliant on supplies of fish. Can

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we have an assurance that the fish

and history will not be sold out in

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these negotiations as they were in

the 1970s? -- the fish industry.

We

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have been clear that when we leave

the EU we leave the Common fisheries

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policy, which means that under

international law, the conventional

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law of the sea, we would come an

independent coastal state and we

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both managed fisheries resources in

our exclusive economic zone and

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manage access to our own waters.

Chi

ask how to ensure that farm

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subsidies after Brexit will remain

targeted at full production? -- can

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I ask how to ensure?

We will

maintain the total spending we have

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on agriculture and the farmed

environment until 2022 and we have

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also been clear, and our paper

asserts itself, there will be a

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transitional period as we move from

an incoherent system of area

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payments that we have now to one

that is focused on the delivery of

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public good. We recognise there will

need to be a gradual transition from

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the old system to the new.

The

Common Agricultural Policy has been

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a disaster for the British dairy

industry because it was designed in

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interests of French farmers, not

British farmers. How can we put this

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right after Brexit?

My honourable

friend makes an important point. The

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Common Agricultural Policy has all

sorts of inconsistencies. Having a

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one size fits all agricultural

policy for the whole EU makes no

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sense, and taking back control of

these matters, we will have the

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freedom to design and agricultural

policy that works for our own

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farmers.

Can I say first how

relieved I am that the member made

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it here today to ask this important

question! But when the Secretary of

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State looks at how best to support

food producers, he should be aware

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that deaf's own figures show that

64% of farmers earn less than

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£10,000 per year. -- Defra's own

figures. Recent figures also show

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that farmers receive less than 10%

of the value of their produce sold

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in supermarkets. Can they Secretary

of State or the minister today tell

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me please what he's doing to tackle

this clearly inequitable and

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unsustainable situation.

I think the

honourable lady makes an important

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point, which is that if we want to

move to a position where farmers are

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no longer dependent on subsidies, it

is important we support them to come

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together collaboratively and

strengthen their position in the

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supply chain to get a fairer price

for the food they produce. We

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recently outlined a series of

proposals to have a statutory code

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and airy and to have a statutory

approach to carcass classification

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on sheep together with a range of

other options. -- a statutory code

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on dairy.

I've had a regular

dialogue with ministers in the

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Department for business, energy and

industrial strategy regarding the

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role of the adjudicator and we

recently had a call for evidence on

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this matter. In response to that, we

set out a range of measures to

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improve fairness in the supply chain

and strengthen the position of

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farmers and small producers.

I am

the page chair of the trustees of

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the fair trade organisation

tradecraft. We are the had high

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hopes for this to protect farmers

from cancellations of unpaid orders,

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deduction of invoices. Minister

started I think 18 months ago, there

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was the farming paper last month

promised fairness in the supply

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chain, but hopes were dashed with

the announcement last month of no

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change for the remit of the

adjudicator. Why are ministers

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failing to take action?

I don't

accept that there was no change, as

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I said a little earlier. We've

announced a package of measures

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including a £10 million

collaboration funds to help farmers

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and small producers come together, a

compulsory milk contract legislation

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so that dairy farms are protected, a

compulsory sheep carcass

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classification, commitments to

making supply chain data easy to

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access, to improve transparency and

market integrity, and also a

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commitment to review whether more

retailers should come under the

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remit of the GTA.

I hear what the

minister says, but given the vast

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majority of producers and consumers

are keen to strengthen the grocery

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code adjudicator, why would you do

it? We are happy to help on this

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site, if you just makes the move to

save he is prepared to strengthen

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the code. -- why won't he do it?

We

found a lot of the evidence was in

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particularly vulnerable sectors like

dairy and some of the other

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livestock sectors who often end up

becoming prize takers because they

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don't have sufficient strength to

deal with large processors. It is

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less an issue of the supermarkets,

more an issue of those processors.

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And we decided a better way to take

this forward is to introduce other

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statutory codes that target the

problem rather than change the GCA.

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With your permission, I wish to grip

the following questions, four, six

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and 13. An independent working group

was set up as part of the strategy

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for England to hold a call for

evidence on promoting recycling,

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which received evidence on the

impact of deposit returns games.

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I've recently received a report and

considering their recommendations.

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We know that 15 million plastic

bottles at a panel of recycled in

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this country. We also know a deposit

returns game can increase recycling.

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Can I ask the Government, help their

going to introduce this scheme after

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this report -- I hope they're going

to, but can ask if they will

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introduce a scheme that will take

all containers of all sizes, not

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just on the go from kiosks unbending

shoes?

Part of the evidence that was

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submitted included that councils

offer combines of recycling --

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suggested that councils offer

combines of recycling service at the

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kerb-side. But I would say we need

stickers and this approach

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carefully. There is an appetite to

have such duress but the skins we

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are seen in other parts of Europe

are very different and we need one

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that will work for this country. --

there is an appetite have such a DRS

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but the schemes we have seen.

In

many places the streets and indeed

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lives are inundated with a flood of

bottles, bags, food packets, crisp

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packets, turning environment into a

dumping ground. Will the Minister

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take action urgently and stopped

nine local authorities like

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Newcastle City Council the powers

and resources to tackle the problem?

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-- stop denying local authorities.

Franco, and this problem, the

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Government is rubbish. -- frankly,

on this problem.

I think this

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question was a complete waste of

space. But the honourable lady

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refers to Paris, this Government has

given councils the power saving

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asking for an order to tackle this.

So I think she's being rather

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ungenerous in what progress is being

made. In terms of plastic, I would

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say, plastic does have a role in

making sure we have safe packaging

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but it has become negative, and that

is that we will consider carefully.

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In my constituency, we have litter

picking groups, and we're seeing

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loads of areas where plastic bottles

and glass bottles, bushy introduce a

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deposit returns game for a plastic

and glass container so we can avoid

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this plague plastic? -- plastic and

all other containers.

People who

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tossed litter our litter louts. I

reach a phrase, don't be a toss,

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because it does not help society to

drop litter anywhere. Let us get

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real about how we need to tackle

that. I commend the work that Keep

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Britain Tidy does in encouraging

litter collections. However, the

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honourable lady is right we need to

sort out the issue in the first

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place. This is why this day consider

very carefully as part of our

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resources waste strategy.

On

International Women's Day, I would

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like to be a bit more consensual and

asked the minister to put the

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campaign by female colleagues to

give up plastics relent and the

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Church of England's initiative on

practical suggestions for something

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we can do on every one of the 40

days. I would like to ask the

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minister she had given up something

plastic from land, and will she join

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us in writing to manufacturers for

whom there is no alternative to

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plastic to find a sustainable

solution?

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Of course a Church Commissioner

would call upon God and the Church

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of England to inspire us.

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I am also one of the people who has

taken the pledge to try to give up

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something plastic for Lent.

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I pledged to carry a water bottle

around in my handbag - I am not

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going to produce a prop,

Mr Speaker - and I have had

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to sacrifice my Marmite

in the Tea Room because it is only

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sold in plastic sachets.

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We are all looking forward

to the proposals from Parliament,

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because this does matter.

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The campaigns on passing on plastic

and giving up plastic for Lent

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are partly about behavioural

change among consumers.

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I believe that companies

are starting to respond

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and we are starting to see changes,

but the more consumers demand this,

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the quicker action will happen

in the marketplace.

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I assure the House that this

Government will take action.

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A deposit return scheme is not just

about raising recycling rates;

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it is also about educating

and raising awareness

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among the public about

the need to be responsible.

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In that vein, will the Minister

join me in praising the many towns

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across Cornwall―Newquay,

Falmouth, Penzance, Bude,

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and many others―that have

declared their aims to become

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single-use plastic free?

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Does she agree that Cornwall

is leading the way in raising

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awareness of this issue?

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As ever, my honourable friend

is passionate about this

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cause; I know that he has

been championing it.

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Of course I applaud those many towns

and communities in Cornwall

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for wanting to do the right thing.

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In Ashbourne over the past four

days, tens of thousands of plastic

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bottles of water have been handed

out by Severn Trent

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because of its failure

to reconnect the water supply.

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At the moment, the compensation

level is £30 a day,

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which is woefully inadequate.

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Will she look at the specific case

surrounding Ashbourne?

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As I announced to the House

the other day, I have asked Ofwat

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to undertake a review.

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I have also encouraged water

companies to improve

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the compensation that they

could discretionally offer.

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I expect that Severn Trent

is already responding

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to the call from my friend.

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It is the plastic particles we do

not see that should be the biggest

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concern. A recent report found that

in one metre of melted Arctic sea

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ice, there were hundreds of plastic

articles. This is why we should take

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this urgently and it should be about

how we do it, not if, if she is

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consulting on it.

This Government

has taken strong action on banning

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Michael plastics -- banning Micro

plastics. One of the points he

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refers to is this is a global matter

and that is why we work hard with

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other nations, through different

forums, other agencies with the UN

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and our Commonwealth companies that

we will be meeting with.

Mr Speaker,

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our approach to future environment

policy was set out in our published

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25 year environment plan. Our

approach was published in our

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consultation last week and our

approach to trade negotiations was

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outlined in a speech with the Prime

Minister last week. All of these

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policies are being developed at the

same time.

I thank him for the

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answer but does he agree there

should be a common framework for

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environmental standards across the

whole of the United Kingdom after

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Brexit?

Well, as the honourable lady

will be aware, through the EU

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withdrawal well, we are putting

through all of the EU legislation as

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it pertains to the environment. My

right honourable friend also

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outlined plans for an environmental

body and we are in discussion with

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the devolved administrations about

their involvement and the UK

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framework in these matters.

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Park keeper or food producer―

whatever the future for farming

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is going to be, does my hon.

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Friend agree that it

must be possible to earn

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a living out of farming?

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I very much agree

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who has a lot of experience

in these matters

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and an understanding

of the industry.

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He is absolutely right.

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There will be parts of the country

where some farmers choose to do more

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by way of delivering environmental

outcomes, and in other

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parts they may focus

more on food production.

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Either way, we want a vibrant,

profitable farming industry

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across our country.

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In the Prime Minister s speech last

Friday, she said that there would be

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no compromise on environmental

standards and animal welfare

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standards, which was welcome.

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What guarantees can the Minister

give to Welsh and UK farm producers

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that they will not be disadvantaged

by lower-standard food

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entering the UK market

following post-Brexit trade deals?

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Both my right honourable

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friend the Secretary of State

and I have always been consistently

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clear that we will not

lower our high animal welfare

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standards and high food standards

in this country in pursuit

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of a trade deal.

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It shows what we are doing to reduce

harmful pressures and those

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activities that affect the marine

environment. Our fishermen are

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strong custodians of fishing

environments and fishing grips in my

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constituency are looking forward to

leaving the disastrous fishing

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policy. Leaving the European Union

provides people in the UK with a sea

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of opportunity are part of that is

protecting the marine environment so

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that it supports the

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fishing industry for many years to

come.

We will be leaving the common

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fisheries policy next year when we

leave the European Union and this

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gives us the opportunity to manage

the fisheries that we have.

The

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final straw Solent is a group whose

activity is reducing plastic. Will

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she join me in congratulating the

work and improving the Marine

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environment?

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

I do commend the organisers of the

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final straw Solent. It matters we

have local action. We need to have

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wider action to stop people from

dropping their litter. We should

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also look across the other side of

the Solent to Damon MacArthur --

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dame. She is a champion of the

environment and doing a lot of work

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to make sure we have a reduction in

plastics.

What about coral?

Well, Mr

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Speaker, not a lot of people know

this but we do have some of the most

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spectacular coral reefs in the world

in these islands. The art is

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protected feature of the Marine zone

and the Scottish Government is also

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protecting coral. We have engaged

with the initiatives and we are

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seeking ways to promote the

importance at the meeting next

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month.

Mr Speaker, may I ask her not

to be too broke real on this, this

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is a global challenge and we have an

association meeting coming up in

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London. Is it not about time her and

her boss got there, made common

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cause, crossed the 52 nations to do

something on a global scale that is

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meaningful?

Well, Mr Speaker, there

are now 53 Commonwealth nations

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since they joined last month. We are

working with our Commonwealth

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nations to have an ambitious blue

charger which will focus on the

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challenges he sets out.

-- Charter.

My honourable friend is right that

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the threats to our oceans are

international, not national. It is

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good to take action on plastics

locally but the threatening of coral

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reefs and plastic in the seed do

call for international action. What

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leadership will this Government

gives.

I would like to think the

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United Kingdom is the reader on this

issue is. As they said to the

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honourable gentleman, this is an

international matter. That is why it

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recently I've been to the United

States and Canada working with

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Canada as the presidency of the G-7

this year, we are working on this

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and this is the top of the agenda

this Government.

Thank you, Mr

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Speaker. The last question on the

25th of January I as the Secretary

0:21:290:21:35

of State, giving all of the times,

when is it going and when? For the

0:21:350:21:43

people of the Western Isles and the

south-west of England can enjoy the

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products of the fishing every day. I

said, good dodge and she said, thank

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you. I wonder if we can get an

answer. Given the times the UK

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Government say they will take from

the European Union, when is it going

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and when?

The Government is still

seeking a trade deal in the future

0:22:020:22:09

but he should also be aware of other

countries like Norway and Iceland

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who are independent states, they

have control of their waters and the

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annual negotiations for sheer stocks

and we are part of that negotiation.

0:22:170:22:22

-- sheared.

Leaving the European

Union provides UK to improve the

0:22:220:22:29

profitability of the agriculture

sector. In our document we set out

0:22:290:22:33

an approach to support that

objective and the other seeking the

0:22:330:22:36

views of industry on a range of

views to improve the competitiveness

0:22:360:22:41

of the farming industry. Since it is

International Women's Day, can I

0:22:410:22:46

congratulate the first ever woman

president of the National Farmer

0:22:460:22:48

union.

May I join him in that

sentiment. Brexit is the greatest

0:22:480:22:57

threat to Scottish farming. Given

that Scotland has higher rates of

0:22:570:23:01

capital funding and the types of

farming that can take place in

0:23:010:23:05

Scotland are very specific, will he

commit here and now to be sure no

0:23:050:23:08

subsidies are cut to Scotland after

Brexit?

The honourable lady will be

0:23:080:23:14

aware that it is our intention that

agricultural policy and the divine

0:23:140:23:19

of individual schemes will very much

be the matter for the devolved

0:23:190:23:22

administration. I hope and look

forward to the proposals from the

0:23:220:23:29

Scottish Government. We have offered

to share our proposals with them so

0:23:290:23:33

they can learn from our analysis.

I

am proud that asparagus from my

0:23:330:23:37

region has been given protected

status. It helps used sales. We'll

0:23:370:23:46

be stated still be recognised post

Brexit?

0:23:460:23:55

Vale of Evesham asparagus obviously

has a fantastic reputation

0:23:550:23:57

across our country and,

indeed, around the world.

0:23:570:23:59

On protected food names,

our intention is that the existing

0:23:590:24:02

legislation will come

across through the

0:24:020:24:03

European Union Bill.

0:24:030:24:08

Third countries can already seek

designations for the EU market,

0:24:080:24:09

and the designations we already have

in the UK will be protected

0:24:090:24:12

through our domestic legislation.

0:24:120:24:18

The Member for Caithness,

Sutherland and Easter Ross

0:24:180:24:23

is surprisingly shy

and self-effacing this morning.

0:24:230:24:28

We are unlikely to reach

Question 12, so if the hon

0:24:280:24:31

gentleman wants to favour the House

with his thoughts on this question,

0:24:310:24:34

which is not dissimilar to his own,

he is welcome to do so.

0:24:340:24:37

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

0:24:370:24:38

One way to make small farms viable

is to add value to their product.

0:24:380:24:41

I was brought up on a small dairy

farm, and my brother is now

0:24:410:24:47

a successful cheesemaker,

it is rather good cheese.

0:24:470:24:49

Will the Minister undertake

to instruct his officials

0:24:490:24:50

to encourage small farms to go down

this route and, as and when best

0:24:500:24:54

practice is developed, will it be

shared with the Scottish Government,

0:24:540:24:59

because in my case this is,

of course, a devolved matter?

0:24:590:25:07

We recognise the importance

of our small family farms,

0:25:070:25:09

and we also recognise that some

of them may face more

0:25:090:25:12

challenges in a transition

from the old system

0:25:120:25:14

to the future one.

0:25:140:25:16

In our paper, we set out detailed

proposals on a gradual transition

0:25:160:25:19

to give them time to prepare,

and we also set out a number

0:25:190:25:22

of measures to help to support

productivity, add value and get

0:25:220:25:25

a fairer price for their products.

0:25:250:25:27

We would of course be more

than happy to share our proposals

0:25:270:25:30

with the Scottish Government.

0:25:300:25:38

Shrubs are farmers are pleased with

some of the mood music. --

0:25:380:25:45

Shropshire. Will the Minister commit

to come to the Shropshire short list

0:25:450:25:53

your? One of his senior officials as

well to continue that dialogue with

0:25:530:25:59

the farmers?

I thank my honourable

friend for that invitation and I or

0:25:590:26:04

another minister would be delighted

to attend the show this year. It

0:26:040:26:10

will be an important opportunity to

engage with the industry. We are

0:26:100:26:19

firmly committed to maintaining and

improving our world leading animal

0:26:190:26:23

welfare standards. Our paper sets

out options as we are leaving the

0:26:230:26:29

European Union, pilot schemes that

deliver higher welfare outcomes. We

0:26:290:26:31

are also reducing higher animal

welfare for chicken, hens and pics.

0:26:310:26:39

I thank the Minister for the answer.

There are circumstances where

0:26:390:26:43

somebody who has been charged with

serious animal welfare licensed has

0:26:430:26:47

been able to receive the new

license, leading to cases of cruelty

0:26:470:26:55

and neglect. Does the Minister agree

that anyone charged with the most

0:26:550:27:00

serious animal welfare offences

should not be allowed to get new

0:27:000:27:06

livestock. Will he meet with me and

the council to discuss this matter?

0:27:060:27:10

The animal welfare act gives courts

the power to impose it as occasion

0:27:100:27:16

order on anyone found guilty of

causing unnecessary suffering to

0:27:160:27:20

animals. This can disqualify someone

from winning and keeping animals

0:27:200:27:24

themselves, but crucially from

having any influence in the way an

0:27:240:27:27

animal is kept. If someone is

suspected of breaching the times,

0:27:270:27:31

they should report the matter to the

authorities. That is a difference

0:27:310:27:35

which someone has been charged but

not yet prosecuted. However, I would

0:27:350:27:39

be happy to meet my honourable

friend to discuss this matter

0:27:390:27:42

further.

The Minister will be aware

of long-standing public health

0:27:420:27:48

concerns about the routine overuse

of antibiotics on UK farms. We now

0:27:480:27:52

hear that an American farms, they

are five times higher, especially in

0:27:520:27:58

beef production. What conversations

is he having with colleagues in the

0:27:580:28:01

health Department Munich that

opening the market to US -- meaning

0:28:010:28:09

that opening the market does not

mean we have health problems in this

0:28:090:28:12

country?

We have reduced the

antibiotic use in agriculture in

0:28:120:28:16

this country, notably in the

portrait industry. We have been

0:28:160:28:21

clear that we went to support

approaches that will enable us to

0:28:210:28:27

reduce and the optics further. As I

said earlier, we will not compromise

0:28:270:28:34

our food standards and animal

welfare standards in pursuit of any

0:28:340:28:36

trade deal.

Mr Speaker, game is an

important part of our heritage and

0:28:360:28:47

it is a drop in menus and is served

on many establishment.

It was worth

0:28:470:28:54

£9 million in 2016. We have no

specific plans to promote the meat

0:28:540:29:00

but we continue to raise the profile

of UK food and drink overseas under

0:29:000:29:05

the food is great campaign.

I thank

him for his response. You will be

0:29:050:29:09

well aware that the game factors,

there were some hundred and 14

0:29:090:29:15

million. He will also be aware that

the European market and France in

0:29:150:29:20

particular, the market has fallen.

Can I as a minister will he be

0:29:200:29:25

prepared to look at introducing and

promoting game across the far east

0:29:250:29:29

and especially China, because there

is a market that is crying out for

0:29:290:29:33

game.

0:29:330:29:36

I regularly take part in trade

delegations with the UK Government,

0:29:360:29:38

and a couple of years ago I attended

the Anuga food conference

0:29:380:29:52

in Cologne, where there

was a producer and exporter

0:29:520:29:54

of UK game meat.

0:29:540:29:56

I am happy to meet the honourable

0:29:560:29:58

gentleman and consider his

proposals in this area.

0:29:580:30:06

Since the last DEFRA questions,

the Department has continued to work

0:30:060:30:09

on plans for our departure

from the European Union and we have

0:30:090:30:12

published our Command Paper

on future agricultural policy.

0:30:120:30:15

We have laid legislation

to introduce mandatory

0:30:150:30:17

CCTV in slaughterhouses,

taking forward our agenda

0:30:170:30:19

to enhance animal welfare.

0:30:190:30:22

Parliament has also recently debated

and passed legislation to strengthen

0:30:220:30:24

laws on combating litter.

0:30:240:30:32

Remainers and leavers agree that

one of the very worst

0:30:320:30:37

aspects of our EU membership

is the common fisheries policy.

0:30:370:30:40

Can the Minister confirm

that we are leaving it

0:30:400:30:43

on 29 March next year,

that the British fishing industry

0:30:430:30:45

can be relaunched as a result,

and that he will not trade

0:30:450:30:48

away our newly re-won sovereignty

over fishing in the interests

0:30:480:30:50

of a wider trade deal?

0:30:510:30:53

We have always been clear that

when we leave the European Union,

0:30:530:30:57

we leave the common fisheries policy

and become an independent coastal

0:30:570:30:59

state under international law.

0:30:590:31:06

There are, of course,

always annual negotiations―even

0:31:060:31:08

for countries outside the EU―to

agree an approach on the management

0:31:080:31:12

of shared stocks, and we envisage

that such meetings will continue.

0:31:120:31:16

I can confirm that the UK

Government's view is that there

0:31:160:31:19

is a trade discussion to take place.

0:31:190:31:21

We want a free trade

agreement and a fisheries

0:31:210:31:23

discussion to take place,

and we want to take back

0:31:230:31:25

control of our waters.

0:31:250:31:29

Last week's freezing

temperatures caused chaos

0:31:290:31:31

to water supplies this week.

0:31:310:31:33

Households in London

were among those hardest hit,

0:31:330:31:36

with customers widely reporting

a systemic failure by Thames Water

0:31:360:31:38

to comply with its legal obligation

to provide ten litres of water

0:31:380:31:41

per person for every day that

a customer is disconnected.

0:31:410:31:45

Will the Minister confirm that

that was the case and, if so,

0:31:450:31:48

when the Department was notified,

as is the requirement?

0:31:480:31:51

What actions does she intend to take

against companies that fail

0:31:510:31:53

to meet that obligation?

0:31:530:31:57

As I said in my recent

statement to the House,

0:31:570:31:59

I have ordered Ofwat to undertake

a review of what has been happening.

0:31:590:32:05

I ?have asked for a report to be

made available ― there might be

0:32:050:32:10

an interim one by the end of this

month ― and I will be

0:32:100:32:14

able to update the honourable

lady after that.

0:32:140:32:16

I hope that we can ensure that water

is getting to customers

0:32:160:32:19

who are still without connected

water supply this week.

0:32:190:32:22

Given that executives at the top

nine water and sewage companies

0:32:220:32:24

in England earned a combined total

of nearly £23 million in 2017

0:32:240:32:26

and those companies have paid out

£18.1 billion in dividends

0:32:260:32:29

since 2006, but that Ofwat

has already said that

0:32:290:32:31

taking action on pay,

dividends and tax structures is not

0:32:310:32:33

in its current thinking,

what is the Government's plan

0:32:330:32:36

to rebalance executive pay

with investment in infrastructure

0:32:360:32:38

and resilience and to get a grip

on our water companies if Ofwat has

0:32:380:32:42

said it does not intend to do so?

0:32:420:32:44

As we set out in our strategic

policy statement to Ofwat,

0:32:440:32:48

there is an expectation

of the increased investment that

0:32:480:32:50

needs to be made by the industry,

and the price review is under way.

0:32:500:32:54

Water companies will be coming out

with their consultation,

0:32:540:33:00

but when my right honourable

friend the Secretary of State spoke

0:33:000:33:02

to the water industry

at Water UK a few weeks ago,

0:33:020:33:05

he read it the riot act.

0:33:050:33:06

He has said that he will give Ofwat

whatever powers it needs

0:33:060:33:09

so that the water companies

will up their game.

0:33:090:33:12

In my constituency, plastic

debris is often washed up

0:33:120:33:15

on the town's beach,

harming the local ecosystem

0:33:150:33:16

and damaging tourism.

0:33:170:33:20

Does my honourable

friend agree that reducing

0:33:200:33:21

plastic waste is essential

for the regeneration

0:33:210:33:23

of Britain's seaside towns?

0:33:230:33:25

Absolutely.

0:33:250:33:27

As a child I lived in Formby,

so I visited Southport many times.

0:33:270:33:32

My honourable

friend is right that

0:33:320:33:35

plastic does not belong

on the beach or in the sea.

0:33:350:33:38

I commend the work that has been

done, but he will be aware

0:33:380:33:41

of our ongoing measures to reduce

the amount of plastic entering

0:33:410:33:43

the ocean and, therefore,

being left on our beaches.

0:33:430:33:45

The Committee on Toxicity

is reviewing the most recent

0:33:450:33:48

research on folic acid.

0:33:480:33:51

If it advises the Government

that the maximum recommended intake

0:33:510:33:53

should be increased or abolished,

will the Minister commit

0:33:530:33:55

to following the scientific

evidence, and successful practice

0:33:550:33:59

in other countries, by amending

bread and flour regulations

0:33:590:34:01

to require the fortification

of flour with folic acid,

0:34:010:34:03

which reduces neural tube defects?

0:34:030:34:08

The honourable

lady will be aware that this issue

0:34:080:34:11

is shared between the Department

of Health and Social Care

0:34:110:34:14

and the Department for Environment,

Food and Rural Affairs.

0:34:140:34:17

The former leads on folic acid

and we lead on labelling issues.

0:34:170:34:20

It is the case that there

is a complexity in EU law.

0:34:200:34:23

EU regulations now require that

all products that have flour

0:34:230:34:25

must include labelling.

0:34:250:34:26

That creates burdensome

problems for the industry,

0:34:260:34:29

but if there is a recommendation,

we will look at it sensibly.

0:34:290:34:33

Once we leave the EU,

we will have an opportunity to adopt

0:34:330:34:36

a slightly different approach.

0:34:360:34:40

What has the Minister done to stop

our songbirds from being trapped

0:34:400:34:44

and eaten in Cyprus?

0:34:440:34:50

My right honourable

friend raises a very

0:34:500:34:52

important issue.

0:34:520:34:55

We are part of an international

convention on migratory species.

0:34:550:34:57

Illegal trapping in Cyprus has been

a long-running sore.

0:34:570:35:01

I commend the Ministry of Defence,

police and the Armed Forces

0:35:010:35:05

at the sovereign base in Cyprus

for working so hard

0:35:050:35:08

to tackle this issue.

0:35:080:35:10

The Royal Society for the Protection

of Birds has shown that there has

0:35:100:35:13

been a 70% fall in the amount

of illegal poaching.

0:35:130:35:21

I am so glad that

the right honourable

0:35:210:35:23

Gentleman does not represent

a migratory species,

0:35:230:35:24

and I doubt that proposition

would be the subject

0:35:240:35:26

of a Division of the House.

0:35:260:35:30

In the light of the Secretary

of State's warning to water

0:35:300:35:32

companies to address public concerns

on prices, is he aware of the nine

0:35:320:35:35

water companies that are committed

to the Keep Me Posted campaign

0:35:350:35:38

to ensure that consumers

have the right to choose paper

0:35:380:35:41

bills and statements?

0:35:410:35:47

Customers can choose

to keep paper bills.

0:35:470:35:50

Water companies, like many other

companies, tend to offer a discount

0:35:500:35:53

if people choose to switch

to electronic communication,

0:35:530:35:58

but I am sure that customers can

take this matter up directly

0:35:580:36:01

through the Consumer Council

for Water if it is proving

0:36:010:36:04

to be a problem.

0:36:040:36:07

Earlier this week, thousands

of my constituents had their water

0:36:070:36:11

shut off by Southern Water due

to poor winter preparedness.

0:36:110:36:16

What discussions has the Department

had with the water industry

0:36:160:36:19

and Ofwat, the regulator,

to ensure that this does not

0:36:190:36:22

happen in future winters?

0:36:220:36:28

Officials have been in regular touch

with the water companies,

0:36:280:36:31

and on Tuesday, I convened a meeting

of water company chief executives,

0:36:310:36:34

Ofwat and Water UK.

0:36:340:36:40

As I announced to the House,

I have asked Ofwat to undertake

0:36:400:36:42

a review to look into

the practices that happened.

0:36:420:36:49

The Command Paper includes the line:

"We will adopt a trade

0:36:490:36:59

approach which promotes lower prices

for consumers", which

0:37:000:37:02

I find rather worrying.

0:37:020:37:04

Is it not the case that food prices

are already historically low?

0:37:040:37:07

Lower prices will not do anything

for British farmers.

0:37:070:37:09

We need good-quality,

affordable and healthy food,

0:37:090:37:11

not a race to the bottom

to get ever cheaper food.

0:37:110:37:13

The point that we are making

is that in the long term,

0:37:130:37:16

there may be opportunities

in certain sectors, particularly

0:37:160:37:18

for food that we are unable

to produce in this country,

0:37:180:37:21

to have lower prices

for certain products.

0:37:210:37:22

However, the honourable

lady makes an important point.

0:37:220:37:24

Generally, we have low and stable

food prices in this country,

0:37:240:37:27

and countries that are fully

dependent on importing

0:37:270:37:29

all their food tend to have higher

prices and less choice.

0:37:290:37:35

Given the intention to use

public money to promote

0:37:350:37:37

public good, does my honourable

0:37:370:37:40

friend agree that as well as

rewarding farmers for looking

0:37:400:37:42

after ?the environment,

we should support growers

0:37:420:37:44

who contribute to public health

by growing healthy fruit

0:37:440:37:46

and vegetables?

0:37:460:37:53

My honourable

friend makes a very important

0:37:530:37:55

point - as a former fruit

and vegetable grower,

0:37:550:38:00

I should perhaps declare

an interest - and she

0:38:000:38:02

is absolutely right.

0:38:020:38:03

We believe that our future policy,

in so far as it supports innovation,

0:38:030:38:07

will be open to the horticulture

sector so that it can invest

0:38:070:38:09

in its future, and we also talk

about the importance of promoting

0:38:090:38:13

nutritious food.

0:38:130:38:14

The Government said in court

that they considered

0:38:140:38:19

it sufficient to take "a pragmatic,

less formal approach"

0:38:190:38:21

to areas of poor air quality.

0:38:210:38:23

Portsmouth has consistently breached

World Health Organisation

0:38:230:38:24

guidelines, with 95 premature deaths

each year attributed

0:38:240:38:27

to air pollution.

0:38:270:38:30

Does the Minister therefore consider

it appropriate to take an informal

0:38:300:38:32

approach to preventing deaths

and protecting the health

0:38:320:38:34

of my constituents?

0:38:340:38:39

I think that the honourable

gentleman is selectively

0:38:390:38:41

quoting from the judgment.

0:38:410:38:42

However, this Government take air

quality very seriously.

0:38:420:38:48

Portsmouth is expected to be

compliant within the next

0:38:480:38:51

two to three years.

0:38:510:38:54

The Government have been

using the benchmark of a charging

0:38:540:38:57

clean air zone, which would take

at least four years

0:38:570:38:58

to come into place.

0:38:580:39:02

He might well be shaking his head,

0:39:020:39:04

but he needs to be working

with his council on what it is doing

0:39:040:39:07

to improve local roads

and what it is working

0:39:070:39:09

on regarding public health.

0:39:090:39:10

I am sure that he will work

alongside Councillor Donna Jones,

0:39:100:39:13

who is making great efforts

to improve air quality.

0:39:130:39:15

The EU Commission's position

on fisheries has been widely

0:39:150:39:17

reported in the last 24 hours.

0:39:170:39:21

It states that "existing reciprocal

access to fishing waters

0:39:210:39:24

and resources should be maintained".

0:39:240:39:26

It also seems to suggest that any

future trade deal will be heavily

0:39:260:39:30

dependent on EU fishermen

maintaining the current unfair

0:39:300:39:31

access to British waters.

0:39:310:39:35

Agreeing to this position is clearly

unacceptable to fishing

0:39:350:39:37

communities around the UK.

0:39:370:39:40

Will my honourable

friend confirm that the Government

0:39:400:39:43

consider the EU's position to be

just as unacceptable?

0:39:430:39:45

Yes.

0:39:450:39:47

I simply say to my honourable

friend that this is an EU position.

0:39:470:39:50

It currently benefits considerably

from access to UK waters.

0:39:500:39:54

At the moment, the UK fleet accesses

around 100,000 tonnes

0:39:540:39:56

of fish in EU waters,

but the EU accesses 700,000 tonnes

0:39:560:40:00

of fish in UK waters,

so it would say that, wouldn't it?

0:40:000:40:04

That is not a position

that the UK Government share.

0:40:040:40:09

I draw the Minister's attention

to the very serious oil spill

0:40:090:40:12

stretching from Pymmes brook

in my constituency right down

0:40:120:40:14

the River Lea to the Olympic Park.

0:40:140:40:18

This has happened for

the second time in two years.

0:40:180:40:22

Is it not time for the Environment

Agency, the Canal & River Trust,

0:40:220:40:25

the local authorities

and Thames Water to get together,

0:40:250:40:27

once they have cleaned up the spill,

to see what they can do to prevent

0:40:270:40:31

such spills?

0:40:310:40:32

I have already replied

to the right honourable

0:40:320:40:34

gentleman about this

point through answers

0:40:340:40:36

to written questions.

0:40:360:40:38

The Environment Agency has

traced the waste oil

0:40:380:40:40

to a potential polluter,

but I cannot give further details

0:40:400:40:43

due to the ongoing investigation.

0:40:430:40:45

I assure him that the Environment

Agency carries out pollution

0:40:450:40:48

prevention visits at industrial

premises along that area and,

0:40:480:40:50

of course, we are still

working to clean it up.

0:40:500:40:54

Last week's Brexit paper referred

to the availability of food,

0:40:540:40:59

but made zero reference

to the scandal that one in 12

0:40:590:41:02

British adults had gone

a whole day without it.

0:41:020:41:05

Why do the Government not care

about people going hungry?

0:41:050:41:10

We do care about

people going hungry.

0:41:100:41:12

We have a number of initiatives

to support food banks and ensure

0:41:120:41:17

that food is redistributed.

0:41:170:41:24

We are also reforming and improving

the benefits system to help

0:41:240:41:28

people back into work,

which is obviously the best option.

0:41:280:41:32

The Minister will be aware

of the concern expressed

0:41:320:41:35

by Northern Ireland farmers

and other food producers

0:41:350:41:40

about cross-border trade.

0:41:400:41:42

Does the Minister agree

that we need an arrangement that

0:41:420:41:45

will accommodate everyone?

0:41:450:41:49

I very much agree with

the honourable gentleman.

0:41:490:41:51

I met him and a number of others

yesterday to discuss the particular

0:41:510:41:54

challenges of the Northern Ireland

border, and I can reassure him

0:41:540:41:57

that the Government are fully

apprised of that concern.

0:41:570:42:07

Recorded coverage of questions in the House of Commons to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs secretary Michael Gove and his team of ministers, from Thursday 8 March.