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House of Commons Hansard
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Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
18 October 2018
Volume 647

The Secretary of State was asked—

Leaving the EU: Food and Drink Standards

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1. What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on maintaining food and drink standards after the UK has left the EU. [907134]

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DEFRA is working closely with the Food Standards Agency and the Department of Health and Social Care to ensure that the regulatory regime for food and drink standards and safety remains robust as the UK leaves the European Union, in order to continue protecting the public and retaining the confidence of consumers, businesses and trading partners overseas. The Secretary of State meets Cabinet colleagues on a weekly basis, when discussions take place on the future relationship the UK will have with the EU.

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The National Audit Office’s report on DEFRA’s readiness for Brexit says that the Department

“will be unable to process the increased volume of export health certificates”

on current capacity and that

“consignments of food could be delayed at the border or prevented from leaving the UK.”

Ports will be gridlocked and the quality produce of Scottish farmers will not reach its foreign markets. There is a spreadsheet to take the place of the EU’s TRACES system—how does the Minister intend to fix this by March?

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The NAO report also highlighted that there is a high degree of readiness within DEFRA. We have recruited 1,300 people to take this work forward. In my role as Minister with responsibility for food, I am working very closely with others to ensure that we will move on all these issues, whether vets or preparations at the borders.

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At the Public Accounts Committee on Monday, we heard from DEFRA officials about preparedness for Brexit, and we are very concerned. One of the biggest concerns is that many businesses do not know what they will have to do to comply with the rules around Brexit. What is the Minister doing to make sure that real effort is going into telling those companies and businesses how they should be preparing?

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The hon. Lady makes a very important point. The Government have been setting out technical notices to explain more about what needs to be done in readiness for a no deal scenario. Yesterday, along with the Secretary of State, I met the Food and Drink Sector Council. We are working hard to increase engagement with businesses on the back of those technical notices.

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This year we saw the highest-quality fruit and veg grown on these islands rotting in the fields because there were not enough workers to pick them. Yesterday the chair of the Migration Advisory Committee said that the fruit and veg sector would shrink if its policies were followed—that would mean farmers going out of business. Does the Minister agree with him that that is a price worth paying, or does he agree with me that ending freedom of movement is a huge mistake?

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I am not sure that that really fits in with the question, but an important pilot is being taken forward on seasonal workers to address the issues that the hon. Lady raises.

Tree Planting

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2. What steps he is taking to increase tree planting. [907135]

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5. What steps he is taking to increase tree planting. [907139]

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The changes to the woodland carbon fund and the woodland creation planning grant that we successfully piloted in 2017 have been made permanent. We also recently made the countryside stewardship woodland creation grant available all year. In addition, we are providing £5.7 million to kick-start the northern forest, and we have appointed a national tree champion to drive forward our tree planting manifesto commitments.

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Does the Minister welcome the work of the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy programme, which is providing saplings to MPs across the country to plant in their constituencies?

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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his characteristically enthusiastic support for that project—we would expect nothing less for the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy initiative, which is truly excellent. I mention in particular the five saplings project, made possible by the work of the Woodland Trust, Sainsbury’s and ITV—the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Frank Field) is also to be commended. Like my hon. Friend, I look forward to planting saplings in my constituency soon, in Macclesfield, and I am pleased that many other colleagues across the House will shortly be doing the same.

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Trees are carbon sinks that lock in greenhouse gases while promoting biodiversity, so what steps is my hon. Friend taking to press forward with forestry investment zones for large-scale woodland creation?

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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question and his keen interest in the need to drive forward ambitious plans to plant more trees. He is a tree champion in his own right. Our national tree champion, Sir William Worsley, is launching the first forestry investment zone pilot in Cumbria today. That new project will help landowners to create vital new woodland and unlock the economic benefits of forestry in areas not traditionally used for tree planting. The project will also provide lessons on how best to support forestry investment.

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I call Tom Tugendhat, who has Question 6. Where is the fella? He is not here. I hope he is not indisposed. I think it is more likely that the hon. Gentleman is planting a tree.

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Trees play a vital role in upper catchment management, by preventing flooding. Environment Agency representatives said in a meeting last week that upper catchment management needs prioritisation. How is the Minister planning for that, and will he ensure that there is provision for it in the Budget?

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I know that the hon. Lady has a keen interest in that issue. I will be working closely with the Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey), to take these activities forward.

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I welcome the Minister’s response. On my land back home, we have planted some 3,500 trees over time, but the important thing is to have trees planted by young people. The Woodland Trust in Northern Ireland, led by Patrick Cregg, is running a scheme whereby every school will plant a tree. Has the Department had an opportunity to engage with the Woodland Trust and education providers to make that happen?

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The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. We need to get young people connected with trees and the importance of woodland, and we are working closely with the Woodland Trust on exactly that initiative.

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Given the huge importance of trees to our environment and our quality of life, does the Minister agree that we must ensure that the planning system protects protected trees and woodland wherever it can when new development is being considered?

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Yes, that is really important. I think my right hon. Friend will also welcome our commitment to ensure that we will see 1 million more trees in our towns and cities. Trees play a vital role not just in the countryside and more generally but in our towns and close to urban areas.

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Tree planting is important for ecological diversity and protecting vital habitats. Sites of special scientific interest protect the UK’s most important places for trees and wildlife, but a Greenpeace investigation has found that almost half of SSSIs have not been examined in the last six years, as required by national guidelines. Now that the Prime Minister has announced an end to austerity, what new resources will the Minister commit to, to reverse the alarming neglect and decline of habitats and species across the UK?

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That is an important issue. Natural England is focusing carefully on the SSSIs that are most at risk and will ensure that those resources are targeted, for maximum impact in those vital areas.

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If the Minister cannot commit to new resources for our habitats, what commitments can we expect in the Budget to restore our beloved local parks, which are so important to the environment, health and local communities? Will the Minister confirm how much funding the Government’s parks action group has been allocated and how many of the group’s recommendations he has delivered?

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Clearly we will have to wait and see what comes up in the Budget on 29 October, but we are working closely with the parks Minister on that agenda.

Water Company Performance

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3. What recent discussions he has had with representatives of the water companies on their performance. [907137]

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The water regulators—Ofwat, the Environment Agency and the Drinking Water Inspectorate—hold regular discussions with water companies about their performance. I recently had the opportunity to address water companies at the Water UK conference, and most recently I met representatives from the industry on 31 July to discuss their performance and, indeed, underperformance.

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I thank the Secretary of State for that response and congratulate him on the work he has done to put pressure on water companies to close down their offshore arrangements. Will he continue to hold them to account?

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Absolutely. Water companies have taken advantage of offshore arrangements, which may have been in the interests of some of those who receive dividends, but have not been in the interests of consumers. Those arrangements are now ending.

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What plans does the Secretary of State have to build more public drinking fountains across the UK?

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I will not be building them myself, but—[Interruption.]

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That is extremely disappointing.

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With your permission, Mr Speaker, perhaps at Holland Park comprehensive we could make it part of the design and technology projects that our respective children are engaged in, to ensure that there are drinking fountains in west London and beyond.

We are working with water companies and other commercial operators to ensure that drinking fountains are more widespread. It was a great Victorian innovation to bring clean drinking water to everyone and ensure that we did not have to rely on private provision for the very stuff of life. We will ensure that there are more drinking fountains, and further steps will be announced later this year.

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Some 3 billion litres of water a day are leaking out of water companies’ infrastructure pipes, which is enough to fill 1,273 Olympic swimming pools. Private companies have invested a lot of money in infrastructure in the past, but are they now spending too much on shareholders and chief executives, and not enough on actually securing the infrastructure? We need to save water, especially at a time of drought.

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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. One of the things I have said to the water companies is that in the past few years they have spent far too much on financial engineering and not enough on real engineering. As a result, new targets have been set to reduce leakage in order to both protect the environment and help consumers. One thing that would not help consumers, I am afraid, is Labour’s programme to renationalise the water companies, which would mean taxpayers’ money going into the hands of the same shareholders, rather than being spent on our environment.

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The Environment Agency’s welcome and overdue plans for flood defences in Kendal suggest that they will be built to withstand a one-in-100-year storm event, yet the water companies, such as United Utilities, are required to meet only a one-in-30-year storm event. That means we could be at the mercy of drain waters while being protected from our rivers. Will the Secretary of State force the water companies to delve into their vast profits and keep communities such as Kendal, Burneside, Grange and Windermere safe from flooding?

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That is a very fair point made in a characteristically acute way by the hon. Gentleman. I know that he has been in correspondence with the Minister responsible, and we will do everything we can to ensure that communities are protected and water companies such as United Utilities live up to their responsibilities.

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On 27 May, 300 homes in my constituency were badly affected by a one-in-900-year flooding event. In response to my concerns, Severn Trent has fitted new depth monitors in their water pipes. Is that not precisely the sort of investment that we need the water industry to make in the face of the challenge of climate change?

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My right hon. Friend is absolutely correct. First, I should congratulate Liv Garfield of Severn Trent Water for the progressive measures that she has taken, which my right hon. Friend mentions. More broadly, the challenge of climate change—as graphically pointed out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and by the chair of the Environment Agency, Sir James Bevan—requires us all to take further steps to make sure that our communities are safe.

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Is the Secretary of State concerned about the quantity of raw sewage that is being discharged into our rivers by many water companies?

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Yes, absolutely. Remedial action must be taken.

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Will the Secretary of State ensure that lessons are learned from last winter’s disruption to water supplies for many communities? One of the great problems last year was the inability of the water companies to communicate to local residents what was actually happening. Will the Secretary of State ensure that those lessons are learned, and that that is not repeated should such a circumstance happen this year?

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My right hon. Friend makes a very important point. Earlier this year, the Minister responsible had two roundtables with water companies to make sure that appropriate lessons were learned. In particular, Members of this House from across the divide made it clear that Thames Water in particular needed to pull its socks up.

Recycling

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4. What recent steps he has taken to increase the level of recycling. [907138]

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Recycling has been increasing since 2010. Over 70% of packaging has been recycled or recovered, which is ahead of the EU target of 60%, and the figure for plastic packaging, at 45%, is double the EU target. England’s household recycling rate has also continued to increase, but we need to do more. We will be publishing our resources and waste strategy shortly.

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I am sure the whole House will wish to join me in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Holly Lynch) on the birth of her beautiful baby boy, James, a couple of weeks ago.

Fashion should not cost the earth, but every year 300,000 tonnes of garments are disposed into landfill. Will the Minister ensure that the forthcoming resources and waste strategy includes something to force clothing producers to take account of the end use of the garments that they produce?

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I know that is the subject of an inquiry that the hon. Lady’s Environmental Audit Committee is undertaking at the moment. The Government, with our partner the Waste and Resources Action Programme, have been working with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation on this issue, and I am sure she will recognise how it is being addressed.

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It is important to improve recycling rates in areas such as on-the-go packaging. Does the Minister agree that in this area it is better to extend the existing packaging recovery note system, which keeps funds within the system for improvement, recycling and restructuring, than to introduce an expensive deposit return scheme in which funds will be lost, including on reverse vending machines that cost up to £32,000 each?

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My hon. Friend has great experience of the packaging industry, so I know he speaks with authority. We are reforming the PRN system, but we also believe the deposit return scheme is an appropriate way to increase the amount of recycling and to reduce littering. That will, however, be subject to consultation.

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If I can encourage the hon. Member for City of Durham (Dr Blackman-Woods) to overcome any unnecessary shyness, and in light of the fact that we are not likely to reach question 13, I would say to her that her question is very similar to this question, so perhaps she would like to make her point now.

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13. I was hoping we would get to question 7, but thank you very much, Mr Speaker. In July this year, the National Audit Office produced a report that was very critical of DEFRA’s oversight of the scheme, which sends half of all our mostly plastic recycling material abroad, mainly to China. With China indicating that it intends to stop the importation of solid and plastic waste, what is DEFRA going to do? How is it going to massively reduce plastic waste in this country, and when will we see the resources and waste strategy? [907149]

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Plastic waste exports happen because overseas processers recognise the value of how it can be used. I am conscious that plastic with a certain contamination level no longer goes to China. Other countries have taken it up, but of course we want more to be recycled here in the UK. The hon. Lady will see more in our resources and waste strategy, which will be published very soon.

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Does my hon. Friend plan to rescue humanity from the blight of disposable nappies?

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Disposable nappies have become a consumer convenience. I am very pleased that Procter & Gamble has invested in technology, which we see in Italy. We are encouraging it to bring it here, not only for disposable nappies but other forms of absorbent hygiene products. We can do something about this, but I am not convinced that we will be seeing an end to the disposable nappy any time soon.

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One of the barriers to the successful recycling of plastic is that many simple packaging materials are actually made up of composite plastic with a number of polymers, which is particularly difficult to recycle. Will the Minister consider bringing in regulations to simplify this packaging?

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I am pleased to say that the Government have been working with a mixture of organisations, retailers and manufacturers to try to simplify the polymers that are being used. Technical innovations will need to happen, but I am confident that some good news will be coming out very shortly.

Plastic Pollution

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7. What steps he is taking to reduce the amount of plastic pollution. [907142]

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In addition to the Government’s ban on microbeads in rinse-off personal care products, and removing nearly 16 billion plastic bags from circulation with the 5p carrier charge, plastic pollution in our marine environment is a global challenge, which is why I was pleased that we had the blue charter at the Commonwealth summit this year, and that the UK and Vanuatu are to establish the Commonwealth clean oceans alliance. The Global Plastic Action Partnership was initiated in the United Kingdom and was launched in New York last month at the UN General Assembly. It will be instrumental in delivering those commitments.

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We know that plastic pollution is a problem at home and across the globe. In developing countries especially, it contributes to blocked drains, increasing flooding and disease and exacerbating poverty. Will the Minister provide a bit more detail on how the Global Plastic Action Partnership will help to alleviate pollution and poverty?

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At the Commonwealth summit, we highlighted more than £66 million that we will be spending to help Commonwealth countries in particular to tackle this issue, including by increasing the professionalism of waste management. The Global Plastic Action Partnership goes beyond that to cover the world. It is a public-private partnership. I am pleased to say that we have invested £2.5 million in it, and we are now getting funding in from Canada, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola and Dow Chemical—and more companies are joining.

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The amount of UK plastic going into our oceans remains an international scandal. Following the publication of the long-awaited 25-year environment plan, will the Minister set out when we will see legislation to enshrine those warm words into law and to make sure that action on plastic is not only firm but in the statute book and enforceable against those who are still putting plastic into our oceans at home and abroad?

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It is suggested that about 80% of the plastic litter that goes into oceans around our country—it goes out of our rivers and into the sea—comes from land-based litter, so it is something on which we are focused with our litter strategy, and we will keep working on that. As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, the Prime Minister has announced that there will be an environment Bill in the next Session.

European Food Safety Authority

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8. What discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on UK participation in the European Food Safety Authority after the UK leaves the EU. [907143]

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After our departure from the EU, our priority will be to maintain the UK’s high standards of food safety. We are considering options for the future of risk assessment and scientific advice in the UK as part of the exit negotiations. We are seeking to retain the long tradition of close scientific collaboration with the EFSA. The Secretary of State meets Cabinet colleagues weekly at Cabinet, and through relevant Sub-Committees, where discussions take place on the future relationship that the UK will have with the EU and associated bodies.

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I appreciate that the Minister has already addressed a similar question from the hon. Member for Glasgow East (David Linden), but this contribution should not be seen in any way as evidence of collusion between me and the Scottish National party. As we move from—to use Fintan O’Toole’s phrase—the “epic dream” of Brexit to the nightmare reality, we find ourselves having to deal with more and more aspects of minutiae. I implore the Minister not to forget the dairy farmers of Northern Ireland and, particularly in this area, to concentrate on discussions with Cabinet colleagues so that we do not let down those dairy farmers, who face a terrible future as a result of that disastrous decision of June 2016.

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I had never really thought of the hon. Gentleman as colluding. He is incredibly independently minded—we respect him for that—and forthright in his views.

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. We will do all that we can to support dairy farmers across the UK, not least in Cheshire, where I also have many dairy farmers. Of course, we will be working across the board not only to ensure that the best possible standards of food safety are maintained, but to support agriculture as we move to a world outside the EU.

Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme

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9. What progress the Government have made on reintroducing a seasonal agricultural workers scheme. [907144]

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The Government have announced that we will introduce a new pilot scheme for 2019-20 to enable up to 2,500 non-European economic area migrant workers to come into the UK to undertake seasonal employment in horticulture. On 18 September, DEFRA published further details on the pilot and opened the selection process for operators through a request for information. The industry had until 17 October to respond, and we will now be working with colleagues in the Home Office to develop the pilot.

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I thank the Minister very much for his reply. Recently I visited PDM Produce, which is in my constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mark Pritchard). It produces millions of lettuces a month for the UK market and imports from Europe in the off-season. It is really concerned because while it welcomes the new pilot, that is not nearly enough to ensure that it can continue to produce for the UK market, which could have an impact on our balance of payments and the prices of lettuces and salad in the shops.

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My hon. Friend raises an important point, but he should acknowledge that this is a pilot involving the small number of 2,500 people. Typically, when the previous SAW scheme ran from 1945 until 2013, in the region of 20,000 to 30,000 people came in under the scheme each year.

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The charity Focus on Labour Exploitation—FLEX—has warned that the scheme to which the Minister referred involving temporary visas for non-EU workers to work on British farms could lead to a sharp rise in exploitation if there are ties to a particular employer. Later today, to mark Anti-Slavery Day, I will lead a debate on ending the exploitation and slavery of workers in the supermarket supply chain. Is the Minister aware of those concerns and will he follow this afternoon’s debate? This is one of the worst sectors for modern slavery and the exploitation of workers, so can he make sure that he is on the case?

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The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority regulates all labour providers, including by looking at issues such as accommodation and its costs. There was no evidence that this particular scheme was abused, but there are issues of the type of abuse that the hon. Lady talked about. The GLAA always takes strict action when it finds that is necessary.

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Why on earth can we not find enough British workers to do these seasonal agricultural jobs?

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We have full employment and the lowest unemployment since the early 1970s. It is a very scarce labour market, and it has always been the case that some sectors in horticulture have required overseas labour—seasonal labour—to support their needs.

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Given the massive gap between how many seasonal agricultural workers are required and the numbers involved in the minuscule pilot, how will the Minister cherry-pick the minority of businesses that can work on the pilot and have their fruit and veg picked, while the majority will see the fruit and veg left to rot in the fields?

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I disagree with the hon. Gentleman. We still have free movement from the European Union at the moment, and most businesses are able to meet their labour needs from the EU. The pilot will be for non-EEA countries, and if it is successful, we shall be able to roll out a broader scheme.

Animal Cruelty: Prison Sentences

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10. When he plans to bring forward legislative proposals to increase the length of prison sentences for animal cruelty. [907145]

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The Government will increase the custodial maximum penalty for animal cruelty from six months’ to five years’ imprisonment. The legislation needed to implement the increase will be introduced as soon as parliamentary time allows.

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Ten months ago, the Secretary of State told me that he would examine proposals to expedite legislation to introduce an increase in the sentence for animal cruelty. Given cross-party support, the support of the general public and the brilliant campaigning of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, can the Secretary of State now give us a timetable for when that will actually happen?

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I know that the Leader of the House, who will be here shortly, will have heard that eloquent plea from the hon. Lady, and I add my voice to hers.

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Animal cruelty extends to the way in which an animal is slaughtered. When will there be legislation to ensure that halal meat is properly labelled in supermarkets?

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My hon. Friend raises an issue of great concern to many. One of the things that we are doing is consulting religious communities and others to establish what changes, if any, may be required.

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There is a fairly simple way of ensuring that this measure is implemented: introducing and then supporting a private Member’s Bill. Will the Secretary of State support any Member who introduces such a Bill?

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That decision is above my pay grade—it would be made by the Chief Whip and the Leader of the House—but, as I indicated to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson), I am passionately keen to see an end to animal cruelty.

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Mike Wood? Not here. Well, we cannot conclude these proceedings without hearing from Mr Tom Pursglove.

Forests: Development Leases

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12. What assessment he has made of the adequacy of the provisions of the 125-year leases for developments between Forest Holidays and the Forestry Commission to protect the environment surrounding those developments. [907148]

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In response to concerns that have been raised about Forest Holidays, my Department has initiated a review of the governance and commercial arrangements for its management of its estate.

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Local people in Corby and East Northamptonshire feel strongly that Fineshade wood, which is stunning, tranquil and extremely well used, must be preserved for generations to come. Will my right hon. Friend agree to meet me, and representatives of the Friends of Fineshade, to discuss what can be done to ensure that Forest Holidays’ long-standing interest in the site finally comes to an end?

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My hon. Friend represents some of the most attractive woodland in the country. Not just Fineshade wood but Rockingham forest make Corby and East Northamptonshire a place of pilgrimage for many who want seclusion and peace in a rural environment. I should be delighted to meet his constituents, and I think that his concerns are very well placed.

Topical Questions

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T1. If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities. [907150]

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You and I, Mr Speaker, are very keen to ensure that there is appropriate protection for endangered species. We all know that charismatic megafauna and apex predators—the big beasts that attract public attention, and those at the top of the food chain—are increasingly under threat. That was why, at last week’s illegal wildlife trade conference, a London declaration commanded the support of more than 50 nations, all pledged to support our world-leading ivory ban and the other measures that we take to ensure that the species that we value are protected as part of an ecosystem that we can all cherish.

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I am deeply obliged to the Secretary of State, I am sure.

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How does the Government’s strong support for fracking, against the wishes of communities who are worried about their local environment, fit in with the Secretary of State’s vision of a green Brexit?

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It fits in perfectly. One thing we all know is that we will need a mix of energy sources in the future. Thanks to the leadership of this Government—I must single out for praise my right hon. Friend the Minister for Energy and Clean Growth—we have seen a dramatic reduction in carbon dioxide emissions alongside economic growth, but hydrocarbons are a critical part of our future energy mix, and hydraulic fracturing will be an important part of that. We need only look at countries such as Germany that have, as a direct result of pursuing the wrong policies, increased greenhouse gas emissions and also not played their part in both dealing with climate change and ensuring that we have the required electricity for ultra low emission vehicles and everything else that will be part of a green future. It is absolutely critical that we are hard-headed and realistic; Conservative Members are, unlike sadly, on this one occasion, the Opposition.

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We are having an oratorical feast today. It is just a terrible shame that the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes) is not here, because I feel sure that he would have added to the flow of oratory.

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T2. I welcome my right hon. Friend’s announcement on the convergence funding review, which hopefully will lead to fair funding for Scottish farmers, and also his further announcement about ring-fencing future agricultural funding so that my farmers are protected and not lumped together in other Government funding. Will my right hon. Friend ask the Scottish National party to work with this Government to make sure that Scotland is included in the Agriculture Bill so that we get a fair deal for my farmers and our constituencies? [907151]

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I thank my hon. Friend and other Scottish Conservative Members who pressed for this review and collaborated to make sure its terms of reference were right. As a result, they have guaranteed a brighter future for Scottish farmers with a level of funding in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland that is higher than that in England absolutely guaranteed in the future. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that the Scottish Government and their Minister, Fergus Ewing, who is a great man in many ways, have, sadly, missed the opportunity to put forward an amendment to our Agriculture Bill in order to ensure that Scottish farmers have certainty in the future. Welsh Labour has collaborated and its statesmanship is to be commended; what a pity that once again the Scottish Government are letting down rural Scotland.

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When did the Minister receive the Godfray review on the Government’s bovine TB strategy? When will he publish it, and will he commit to publishing it in full?

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Recently, shortly and yes.

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We are grateful.

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T5. When does the Secretary of State expect to announce a plastic bottle deposit scheme? [907155]

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My hon. Friend is a great champion of the environment, especially in Cheltenham. He will be conscious that this is not a straightforward scheme to introduce. I recognise that many people will have seen such a scheme in other countries around the world, and while the front end is very simple, the back end is more challenging. We want a system that works across the four nations of the United Kingdom, and we are continuing to work on that.

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T3. Once we leave the EU, what steps do the Government plan on taking to tighten the rules surrounding the pet travel scheme in line with the Dogs Trust recommendations in its latest report, “Puppy Smuggling—when will this cruel trade end?”? [907152]

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I received a copy of that report just this week. The Dogs Trust does fantastic work. We have worked with it already on dealing with some of the problems of puppy farming, and once we leave the EU—when I hope we will be a listed country for pet travel—we can also review other steps that we might take.

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The Secretary of State will remember meeting me recently to discuss the issue of pollution in the River Windrush, which is a matter of great concern to the people of West Oxfordshire, as shown by the strong attendance at West Oxfordshire District Council’s recent water day. I applaud my right hon. Friend’s speech in March in which he took the water companies to task for their performance, but will he elaborate on what steps he is taking to ensure that they improve their performance across all areas?

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I was grateful to my hon. Friend for raising his constituents’ concerns about the condition of the River Windrush, and he is absolutely right to do so. We have subsequently got a commitment through Ofwat, the regulator, for all water companies to spend more on making sure that the environment that they safeguard is protected.

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T4. Does the Secretary of State agree with those experts who argue that the UK has sufficient incineration capacity and that to increase it further could imperil recycling rates? [907154]

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The balance between the two is delicate. What we must do is recycle more.

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I commend the Government on banning microbeads, but may I urge them to now turn their attention to microfibres, Mr Speaker? I do not know whether Mrs Speaker does the washing, but every time we do a wash, 700,000 microfibres could go down the drain. I am joining the Women’s Institute to host an event on this in Parliament on 30 October; will the Minister join us?

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I always feel better informed, and almost improved as a human being, when I hear the hon. Lady offer her disquisitions on these important matters.

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I should like to thank my hon. Friend, who was an excellent Parliamentary Private Secretary in our Department. She is now able to ask questions in the Chamber again. I have already met the WI to talk about this matter, and there are certain things that people can do, such as using fabric conditioner to reduce the amount of microfibres that get released from synthetic clothing. She will be aware that we are considering a number of issues, and that is why we have had a recent call for evidence on the impact of tyres and brakes, which are also a notable source of microfibres in our marine systems.

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T6. Regardless of our differences about our future relationship with the European Union, the Secretary of State and I will agree that a thriving food and drink sector is an endpoint that we want to get to at the end of whatever the negotiations will bring. Does he think that an extension to the transition period would be helpful in achieving that goal? [907156]

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I know that they talk of little else in Crail, Anstruther and Leuchars. The one thing I believe in is that it is vital that we leave the European Union at the earliest possible point so that we can ensure that we are outside the common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy, and that we take back control to ensure that Scotland’s food and drink manufacturers, along with food and drink manufacturers across the United Kingdom, can enjoy the benefits of being global Britain.

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It is very good to see the hon. Member for Dudley South (Mike Wood). I understand why he was delayed, but it is good to see him here in the Chamber.

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Thank you, Mr Speaker. We know that 82% of the beer that is drunk in our pubs is brewed in the UK. Jodie Kidd and other publicans will be presenting a 105,000-signature petition to Downing Street today to back the Long Live the Local campaign on beer duty. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that the Chancellor is fully aware of the contribution that our beer and pub sectors make to British farming, as well as to the wider economy and society?

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My hon. Friend does brilliant work as the chairman of the all-party beer group, and he is absolutely right to say that we must look at beer duty. In particular, a case has been forcefully made for looking at duty relief for small brewers in order to maximise growth in that sector, so that we can all enjoy great British beer.

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The European Food Safety Authority currently sets standards and issues detailed guidance on the safety and composition of infant formula. Can the Minister tell me what is going to happen once we leave the EU?

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Yes: we will do considerably better.

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Since Tuesday morning, a burst pipe has been spewing raw sewage into the sea near the UK’s premier surfing beach, Fistral, in Newquay. Despite taking some initial action, South West Water now says that it will take several days to resolve the issue. Does the Secretary of State share my concern that this is going on for so long, and what action can we take to hold water companies to account to prevent such things from happening?

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I absolutely am concerned, and I know that the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey), will be talking to South West Water later today to see what can be done.

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We have just had a reference to water, so we have to hear from Ben Lake.

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Will the independent review into the allocation of domestic farm support, which was announced this week by the Government, also consider processes by which future financial frameworks will be agreed? To that end, would the formation of a dedicated intergovernmental body be something that the Government could explore?

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The hon. Gentleman has made this point before, and it is a very fair one. I know that the Welsh Government have an opportunity to nominate a member of the panel, and I hope that that panel member will have an opportunity to talk to the hon. Gentleman about that matter.

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I welcome the Minister’s earlier comments about seasonal agricultural workers, but can he tell the House what discussions he has had with the Home Secretary on the future labour requirements of the seafood processing sector, and the food processing sector in general, particularly in areas of low unemployment such as the north-east of Scotland?

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I am aware that the catching sector in Scotland has some particular issues around the maritime exemption and Filipino crews. That is something that colleagues in the Home Office are looking at. When it comes to the needs of the food industry more broadly, the report by the Migration Advisory Committee pointed out that existing EU citizens will be able to stay, and also that tier 5 youth mobility can be used in this case.

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On 20 March, at the Dispatch Box, the Secretary of State told us that

“in December 2020 we will be negotiating fishing opportunities as a third country and independent coastal state”.—[Official Report, 20 March 2018; Vol. 638, c. 163.]

Given this morning’s comments by the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Cabinet Office about extending the transitional period, how confident is the Secretary of State now that he will be able to meet that undertaking?

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Invincibly so.

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I was encouraged by my right hon. Friend’s reference to the small brewer relief scheme. Does he agree that it is one of the factors behind the amazing growth and success of the UK’s craft brewing sector, which includes such brilliant breweries as the Bluestone Brewing Company in my constituency?

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I know that brewery, not from having visited it, but from having sampled its products. It does amazing work, and my right hon. Friend is right to champion craft beer. Mr Speaker, I hope that you and I will have the opportunity to share some very soon.

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Well, that sounds like an invitation that I cannot possibly resist.

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Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating the schoolchildren and adult volunteers who spent two days planting a new orchard at the Charterhouse, one of Coventry’s medieval buildings, as part of a larger restoration and renewal scheme? Does he agree that the orchard is a fantastic community initiative and, as part of the wider project, a great educational resource for my city?

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If I may say so, it is an exemplary use of parliamentary time to praise young people for doing the right thing, and I salute the hon. Lady for reminding us of what young people can do to inspire us about the future of nature.

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The Secretary of State’s previous answer leads nicely into my question because he recently visited my constituency and met young Alfie Royston, who is doing so much to encourage other young people in the area to deal with the menace of plastic. Does he agree that we need to do more to harness the energy and enthusiasm of our young people in order to combat the problem?

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Young Alfie is an inspirational leader and voice for environmental improvement. His school, Tollbar Academy, is one of the best performing in the country. Both that school and that young man are lucky to have in my hon. Friend an effective champion and a brilliant constituency Member.

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Every community has the right to a decent, clean and safe environment. Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating the My Coldhurst Group and the Ghazali Trust on cleaning up their areas to make them safe for young people to play in?

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Absolutely. We all have a part to play, and I congratulate the hon. Gentleman. He had a distinguished track record in local government before coming to this place, and his leadership in this area is exemplary.

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Thank you. Splendid.