The Secretary of State was asked—
Leaving the EU: Farming Policy
The Government’s Agriculture Bill, which is currently going through Parliament, is the first major piece of legislation affecting agriculture since 1947. It provides certainty for farmers through a seven-year transition period and lays the foundations of a new farming policy based on public goods and fairness in the supply chain. At their request, it also includes provisions for Wales and Northern Ireland. This critical piece of legislation will enable us to seize the opportunities to help our farming, horticulture and forestry sectors become more profitable and sustainable.
Many farmers in my constituency are very concerned at the decision of the SNP Scottish Government to opt out of key parts of the Bill. Does my hon. Friend share my concern about the fact that the Scottish Government have not presented alternative proposals, so many farmers may not be sure whether there will be a legislative framework to ensure support for farming after we leave the European Union?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. As he knows, agriculture is devolved. At the request of the Welsh Government there is a schedule containing provisions for Wales, and at the request of the Northern Ireland Administration there is a schedule containing provisions for Northern Ireland. Scotland has yet to decide what it wishes to do. We have maintained an open offer to insert provisions in the Bill at later stages should the Scottish Government wish us to do so. Alternatively, they can legislate through their own Parliament, but they will need some legislation in order to be able to pay their farmers in 2020.
Can the Minister confirm that under a clean, global, free trade Brexit the United Kingdom will be able to protect farmers with tariffs just like every other country, and to provide more help for smaller farmers? Can we have more optimism from the Government, and less “Project Fear” with gumboots on?
As my hon. Friend knows, I have always been very optimistic about the opportunities presented by Brexit. It is important to note that in a no-deal Brexit, the UK would be free to set its own trade policy unilaterally. The options open to us would be to create autonomous tariff rate quotas, tariff rate suspensions or lower-band tariffs on certain goods if we wished to do so, but we would have an independent trade policy in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Has the Minister had any discussions with the Prime Minister about her withdrawal agreement’s implications for the transport and sale of livestock from Northern Ireland to the rest of this great United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?
That was not altogether adjacent to an inquiry about an independent farming policy. The hon. Gentleman might more usefully have shoehorned his inquiry into Question 2. Because he is a very public-spirited fellow, I will let him off on this occasion, but he should not repeat his offence.
The withdrawal agreement and the political declaration on a future economic partnership set out the Prime Minister’s and the Government’s approach to trying to deal with issues relating to the Northern Ireland border, and I am sure that we have many days of discussion on those matters to look forward to.
Can my hon. Friend assure me that we will not be replacing one set of bureaucrats with another set of bureaucrats? How can we ensure that the right sort of assistance goes to the less favoured areas that are so important to our countryside?
My right hon. Friend makes a good point, but I can tell him that the Bill has important provisions that will enable us to strike down and improve some retained EU law, particularly in relation to the burden of administration. We are absolutely clear that we want a totally different culture in how we regulate farmers in the future. The Bill also enables us to target support at farmers who are delivering public goods, including those in severely disadvantaged areas.
Trade Agreements: Environmental and Animal Welfare
Ministers and officials from DEFRA regularly meet their counterparts in the Department for International Trade to discuss a wide range of trade issues. The Government are clear that future trade agreements must work for consumers, farmers and businesses in the UK. We will not water down our standards on food safety, animal welfare and environmental protection as part of any future trade deals.
I begin by congratulating DEFRA on the contribution that it has no doubt made to the excellent Government document on the implications of Brexit. In the section on agri-food we see that a no deal could produce a 35% reduction in competitiveness, and even the Prime Minister’s estimates predict a reduction of 7%. So will the Minister confirm today that we will not allow unfair competition from imports from countries that produce to lower standards?
My hon. Friend will be aware of the overwhelming support for a ban on the export of live animals after we leave the European Union, and I know he has great sympathy with that position. Can he confirm that under the terms of the withdrawal agreement that would still be possible?
I recently met the lovely children in the reception classes of St John’s infant school in Dewsbury. They have written to the Secretary of State because they have been learning about the poaching of elephants and rhinos and they are really concerned about it. Can the Minister say something today to reassure them so they know we are taking action on this?
It is good to hear that the children at St John’s school are taking a keen interest in this. We are taking strong action through the Ivory Bill, and I congratulate the Environment Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey), on the work she is doing to take that forward.
Yes—again, we will ensure that we do not water down those standards. I am sure that later in these questions we will hear from the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, my hon. Friend the Member for Camborne and Redruth (George Eustice), who is doing a tremendous job in taking the Agriculture Bill through the House.
The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said in its report on the Agriculture Bill that the Government should put their money where their mouth is and accept an amendment stipulating that food products imported as part of any future trade deal should meet or exceed British standards relating to production, animal welfare and the environment. I have tabled such an amendment; will the Minister undertake to accept it in order to keep Frankenstein foods off the tables of families the length and breadth of these isles?
The only statutory air quality limit the UK is currently failing to meet is on roadside concentrations of nitrogen dioxide. Members will be aware of our plans to combat air pollution. A £3.5 billion investment has already been set aside, but we are now working with 61 local authorities to tackle their exceedances. I have directed local authorities, including Sheffield, to achieve compliance in the shortest possible time. Some £495 million has been specifically set aside for those councils, but I will take legal action if necessary to make sure that councils do what they need to do.
I thank the Minister for her answer, but she will know that at least 4.5 million children are growing up in areas with unsafe levels of particulate matters, with long-term implications for their health. UNICEF is now calling for the Government to introduce legally binding limits to meet the World Health Organisation recommended limit values for air pollution by 2025. Will Ministers consult UNICEF to discuss how that can be achieved?
The issue of particulate matter has grabbed my attention ever since I became a Minister in this Department. It is soot and dust, in essence, and one of our challenges is that a lot of particulate matter is naturally generated; for example, it is sand or sea salt. There are a number of different issues that we need to tackle, and we will continue to work with local authorities to bring the level of particulate matter down, because the Government are very conscious that we need to make sure that the most vulnerable in society, including children who are still of growing age, get the best possible start in life.
The Minister has acknowledged the challenge Sheffield faces. We have multiple sites where nitrogen dioxide levels exceed legal limits and threaten the health of our people. Sheffield’s council has ambitious and innovative plans to tackle the problem, but its resources have been drained by eight years of deep cuts. Will the Minister commit to provide the funds we need to clean Sheffield’s air, and will she meet me and representatives of the council to discuss our plans?
Sheffield City Council could start by stopping cutting down trees, which is not good for the environment and costs money. However, it is making good progress with its plan, and it is considering introducing a charging clean air zone—of course, it has had the power to do that since 2000. It is being funded by DEFRA to make sure it gets on with its plan—it will be able to bid for further funding, but it is being given the funding it needs to do that.
The Government are rightly tackling air pollution, but the proposed diesel ban is having the unintended consequence that people are hanging on to their older, more polluting diesel vehicles rather than investing in the new, cleaner generation of Euro 6 standard models. Will the Minister commend cities such as Birmingham for proposing a distinction between the newer and older models in their low emissions zones, and will she urge London to do the same?
My right hon. Friend is right. It has been a pleasure to work with Birmingham City Council, which is making reasonable progress on producing its plan. There is no doubt that “dieselgate” had a massive impact on people’s willingness to do what the Government were recommending, so it has not had the intended consequences. We will continue to work with car manufacturers, and the Chancellor has changed vehicle excise duty to ensure that people are incentivised to buy the cleanest possible vehicles.
The burning of biomass makes a major contribution to air pollution. The Government have estimated that 1.7 million lives are lost every year because of the burning of biomass, but they have now stopped making those calculations. Why?
I am not aware of the figure to which the hon. Gentleman has just referred. I am conscious of the impact that burning has, which is why we have a consultation about the domestic burning of household smoky coal, wet wood and similar materials, but I will look carefully into the issue that he has raised.
Pollution is not just a matter for city centres; it is also about major roads. Around the M1 in my constituency, levels of nitrogen dioxide pollution have got so bad that, for the first time ever, the Department for Transport is bringing in variable speed limits just to deal with pollution. It is also looking at installing barriers to absorb NO2. What involvement does the Minister’s Department have in that? Does she think that those measures will be successful, and will she report back to the House on their effectiveness in due course?
The Minister of State, Department for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford and South Herefordshire (Jesse Norman), and I work closely together on this issue. My Department and the Department for Transport have a joint air quality unit, and I am in regular contact with Highways England about its progress on improving air quality on the strategic road network. I welcome the work that it is considering to change speed limits and to install the barriers to which the hon. Gentleman referred.
The Government’s plans to tackle air pollution are unravelling into a shambolic and piecemeal mess. Exposure to fine particulate matter is linked to poor health, including asthma, heart disease, stroke and lung cancer, and new evidence shows impacts on diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. We must ensure that we have the highest standards of public health, so will the Minister tell us how she will enshrine the World Health Organisation’s limit on fine particulate matter into UK law?
We have already agreed targets that are now in law regarding PM10 and PM2.5, and we are well below those targets. We will continue to work on this. I know that the House is eager to see the outcome of the clean air strategy, which I expect to be published shortly. I can assure the hon. Lady that this issue is close to my heart, especially the question of particulate matter, because I am very conscious of the impact that it can have. However, we need to be careful when we read some of the reports, because there is often a correlation link but not necessarily a causal link, which means that we still need to do research on these matters. I am pleased that the Department of Health and Social Care, through Public Health England, and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs are undertaking that research.
Trade Agreements: Environmental and Animal Welfare
Our current high standards, including on import requirements, will apply when we leave the EU. Some of them, such as the ban on the use of growth-promoting hormones, are already in domestic legislation. Others, such as the ban on chlorine washing of poultry, will be brought on to our statute book through the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. Countries seeking access to our markets in future will have to abide by our standards.
Ministers are naturally keen to raise welfare standards in this country, and to reduce the use of antibiotics and produce greater and better food than we already have, but if we are undermined by imports, that will put farmers out of business and reduce global animal welfare. Will Ministers therefore accept the amendment that the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has tabled to ensure that imports are not allowed into this country if they do not meet our standards of production?
As my hon. Friend will be aware, we had a good discussion on these matters in the Bill Committee, and I look forward to discussing his amendment on Report. Our view is that the types of measure that he has outlined would probably not be right, because it is sometimes possible to recognise equivalence, and our standards do not have to be identical in drafting regulations. However, there are a number of other approaches that some countries take, including scrutiny and oversight roles for Parliaments as trade deals are discussed.
I very much support the amendment from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, and I have also tabled new clause 1 on the same topic. It is estimated that by 2050, antibiotic resistance could cause up to 10 million deaths a year, and we know that 80% of the antibiotics sold in the US are sold for animal use. We heard from the chief veterinary officer yesterday at the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee about what we are doing to reduce antibiotics use here. Will the Minister resist it in US imports too?
The hon. Lady makes an important point. Here in the UK, we have made huge progress in reducing the use of antibiotics. Poultry in particular has seen a 50% reduction in the use of antibiotics. US agriculture remains quite backward and some years behind in these matters, but we continue to work together to try to raise its game and approach.
My hon. Friend’s good will on this issue is recognised, as is my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State’s, but I re-emphasise the seriousness with which we on the Agriculture Bill Committee dealt with this issue. We cannot rely on good will. We need certainty for our food producers across the country on the face of a Bill—it could be the Trade Bill or the Agriculture Bill—that standards will be maintained and that they will not be priced out of the market.
The discussion in the Agriculture Bill Committee was very good, but unfortunately the Government chose not to accept our amendments, so I congratulate the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish) and the whole of the Select Committee on tabling theirs. I hope the Minister will confirm today that he will accept that amendment.
As I have explained, I do not believe that that particular amendment is the right way to approach the issue, nor is the Agriculture Bill the right place for such an amendment, as this is a trade issue. Nevertheless, I gave an undertaking to have conversations and discussions with other Departments in time for Report.
Farming: Funding Schemes
Once we leave the common agricultural policy, we will be able to create fairer funding for farmers, with greater freedoms across the four Administrations. On 16 October, the Government announced a review of the intra-UK allocation of domestic farm support funding between 2020 and the end of the Parliament. The review will consider a range of factors that reflect the unique circumstances of each part of the United Kingdom.
I very much welcome the news that we will have fairer funding across all four parts of the UK after we leave the EU. Will the Minister reassure me that this fairer funding will take account of each country’s individual circumstances, particularly the environment, their agriculture and their socioeconomic needs?
I can confirm to my hon. Friend that the review will indeed will consider all those issues—the environment, agriculture and socioeconomic circumstances of each part of the UK. We have a manifesto commitment to keep the agricultural budget the same until 2022 and a commitment to put in place a new funded scheme thereafter.
Will the Government Front-Bench team stop blaming Europe for everything in farming and recognise that it is modern industrial methods of agriculture that are responsible for denuding our country of wildlife and for species going into extinction? That is the problem. We need a funding system that is equitable but deals with that problem.
It is Government policy to support a more sustainable approach to agriculture. The common agricultural policy has failed to do that. The new policy that we have set out in the Agriculture Bill will deliver a fairer, more sustainable and more profitable agriculture for the future.
Since it was established in the Agriculture Bill Committee that further primary legislation is required for direct payments to be made to Scotland and other parts of the United Kingdom, what steps is my hon. Friend taking to ensure that Scotland is in the UK Agriculture Bill and that it conforms with the needs of the National Farmers Union Scotland and my constituents?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. As I said earlier, there is an open offer from the Government to add a schedule for Scotland at a later stage of the Bill’s progress, should Scotland wish us to. This area is devolved to Scotland. The Scottish Government have the power to act in this space and they need to make up their mind and decide what they want to do.
How can the Minister talk about ethical funding when Westminster has stolen £160 million of convergence uplift meant for Scottish farmers? What are the Government doing to replace that up to 2020, and what is going to happen beyond 2020?
As the hon. Gentleman will no doubt be aware, the average receipt for Scottish farmers tends to be higher than in other parts of the UK, because Scottish farmers have larger holdings in more disadvantaged areas. We are having this review precisely to address the importance of fair funding in the future.
Leaving the EU: Fishing Industry
I have regular discussions with my Cabinet colleagues and, indeed, with all Members of the House about the benefits for the UK fishing industry of leaving the common fisheries policy and becoming, once more, an independent coastal state. The Government’s vision for this bright future was set out in the White Paper, “Sustainable Fisheries for Future Generations.”
We all know we cannot trust the Tories with Scotland’s fishing industry. After all, former Prime Ministers Ted Heath, Margaret Thatcher and John Major all sold Scotland’s fishing down the water. Now we know that the current Prime Minister has signed an agreement with the EU to
“build on…existing reciprocal access and quota shares.”
Can the Secretary of State help the House understand how that is in any way taking back control of the waters?
I have enormous affection and respect for the hon. Gentleman, and he makes his case with characteristic fluency, but I fear he has been misled. The truth is that, as an independent coastal state, we will be able to decide who comes into our waters and on what terms. It is perhaps rare for me to quote the French President, Emmanuel Macron—[Interruption.]
The soi-disant Jupiterian President was, nevertheless, speechless with rage on Sunday when he discovered that this withdrawal agreement and the future political declaration mean that France will not have access to our waters, save on our terms. His anger should be a cause for celebration on both sides of the House.
Yesterday the Prime Minister told the hon. Member for Moray (Douglas Ross) that, as an independent coastal state, the UK will be able to “negotiate access” to its waters with other countries. Constituents have asked me why, at such a pivotal and crucial time for the fishing industry in Scotland, there are no Scottish Tory constituency MPs in the Secretary of State’s Department in order to be a more effective and balanced Government.
Far be it from me to say but, as someone who was born in Edinburgh and brought up in Aberdeen, and who had the privilege of growing up in a household in which my father ran a fish processing business and his forebears went to sea, I think the interests of the fishing industry are very much at the heart of the Department. I would love to extend an open welcome to my Scottish Conservative colleagues to join the ministerial team but, sadly, the size of our ministerial team is a matter for the Prime Minister, rather than me.
One thing I would say, though, is that, in the consideration of our Bills in Committee, and in the shaping of policy in the interest of rural and coastal Scotland, Scotland’s Conservative MPs have been consistently more effective in delivering more money, more freedom and more rights even than the nicest and friendliest Scottish nationalist, which of course the hon. Gentleman is.
The fishing industry has no stronger friend in this House than my hon. Friend, and she is absolutely right to remind us that fishing will not be bartered away in the event of any final deal. I will make sure that we work with her to ensure that consideration is properly given in Committee to all possible safeguards for our fishing industry.
Can the Secretary of State update the House on how his Department is working with the devolved Administrations to adopt common approaches to fisheries management to preserve UK vessels’ right to fish in the waters around all four home nations?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that detailed, practical point, and he is absolutely right. Notwithstanding the occasional disagreements on the Floor of the House, I have to say that the Scottish Government Minister responsible for fisheries, Fergus Ewing, has behaved, I think, in a very mature fashion in making sure that UK vessels can have access across the waters of the UK, while, of course, respecting, and indeed enhancing, the devolution settlement.
Regardless of what happens in the coming days and weeks, we are going to become an independent coastal state, like Norway, Iceland and the Faroes. Like them, we will have to come to a fisheries agreement with the EU. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, in the negotiation of that agreement specifically, he and the officials in his Department should take the lead?
Yes, I do. It is vital that we are there getting the best possible deal for this country. I said that my hon. Friend the Member for South East Cornwall (Mrs Murray) was probably the strongest voice for the fishing industry in this House, but there is stiff competition for that role now that my hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan (David Duguid) is here. I look forward to working with him and other colleagues, and those in the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation and elsewhere, who recognise that there is a sea of opportunity for our fishing industry as an independent coastal state.
In five weeks, the EU discard ban will kick in. While much attention is on what fishing will look like after Brexit, this poorly implemented discard ban before Brexit risks tying up our fishing fleet, especially mixed fisheries such as those in the south-west. What steps is the Secretary of State taking to ensure that the concerns of the fishing industry are listened to and that this ban does not result in its boats being tied up alongside?
It is not just Government Back Benchers whom I wish to be kind to; it is also Opposition Front Benchers, because the hon. Gentleman raises a very important point. It is the case that the management of the discard ban in the past, and potentially in the future, is a real issue of contention. My hon. Friend the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has been talking to a number of fishing industry representatives to see whether we can make sure that at this December Council we can put in place appropriate mitigation measures. One thing we can be sure of is that as an independent coastal state we can take appropriate conservation measures in a way that does not lead to those who are practising mixed fisheries facing the sorts of problems the hon. Gentleman rightly draws attention to.
Protecting pollinators is a priority for this Government and that is reflected in our 10-year national pollinator strategy for England. Our 2017 review of the strategy has highlighted positive progress and the Government recently announced £50,000 to support large-scale pollinator projects in Devon and, of course, in Hampshire, and £60,000, following petitioning from my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Ben Bradley), to develop pollinator habitat mapping.
Community groups and local schools play an important role in protecting our pollinators. What support can my right hon. Friend give to those groups? Will he join me in congratulating St Albans Church of England Primary School in Havant on its award-winning work in this area?
I absolutely agree; community groups, including our Wildlife Trusts network, do an enormously valuable job in making sure that the habitats that pollinators depend on are kept in good repair. It is also the case that schools across the country are playing an increasingly important role, and next year’s Year of Green Action will give me and my hon. Friend the opportunity to congratulate those schools and those teachers, who are doing so much to remind us of our environmental responsibilities.
The Secretary of State will be aware that lots of small and medium-sized enterprises that produce honey do an awful lot of work to try to protect bees. For example, Tŷ Mêl farm in my constituency does a lot of work on ethical beekeeping and making sure we produce good Welsh honey. What more support can he give small businesses that are not only producing honey, but supporting bees?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right and I congratulate the business in his constituency on its initiative. From the Welsh valleys to the rolling acres of Hampshire, and indeed the rich heather-strewn hills of Scotland, UK honey is a world-beater, but we must do more to protect our pollinators.
Deposit Return Scheme
The consultation on a deposit return scheme will be published shortly and it will look at the details of how a scheme could work, alongside the other measures to increase recycling rates. We are continuing to work with the devolved Administrations, potentially on a UK scheme.
A recent BBC documentary showed a dead sperm whale with a large amount of plastic waste in its stomach, including four plastic bottles. So given the urgency, and the keen interest that my constituents have in this issue, can the Minister actually confirm a date of the roll-out of a deposit return scheme?
No, I cannot, because we have yet to consult on the scheme. It is important that we give proper consideration not only to the opportunities but to the challenges. The hon. Lady is right to continue to raise the impact of people being careless with litter, which is how plastic often ends up in the marine environment. That is something that everyone in the House wants to prevent.
The Environmental Audit Committee’s report on the Arctic is published today. Because of weather and tides, most of our marine plastic ends up in the Arctic. It is imperative that the deposit return scheme is introduced as soon as possible. Will the Minister confirm that the measures to introduce the DRS will be included in the draft environment Bill when it is published? Or will it be in separate legislation and thereby further delayed?
Given how successful the plastic bag levy has been, reducing the use of plastic bags by 80%, and bearing in mind that the working group report in February this year showed that Germany’s deposit return scheme delivers the recycling of 98% of polyethylene bottles, will the Minister tell us whether we will have a deposit return scheme, as suggested by the evidence, or whether her decision will be determined by the British Soft Drinks Association?
I note that after 13 years of a Labour Government nothing similar was introduced. I have looked into this issue carefully and visited several countries. The thing is, the front end is similar for everybody, but we must get the back-end solution right, because that is what we need to deliver the scheme effectively, rather than just getting headlines.
I am looking forward to addressing the annual conference of the CLA—the Country Land and Business Association—later today, where I will congratulate the association on its fantastic work in environmental enhancement.
Good farming practice depends on multi-year rotations. The existing financial support system, the common agricultural policy, is multi-year and the proposed transition system is multi-year. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that when the Agriculture Bill comes back on Report, it will include a multi-year framework?
The Government have already set out very clear guidelines as to what needs to be done ahead of no deal. The feedback that we have had already tells us that this is being well received.
Absolutely, which is why we have been pleased to provide Transport for London with funding. The Mayor has received additional funding for certain kinds of buses and other things to do; we just want him to continue to get on with it.
The Government obviously did not agree with every element of the Migration Advisory Committee report. The food industry is the most important manufacturing industry in this country and horticulture is one of our most productive agricultural sectors. It is important that we ensure that these crucial industries have the labour requirements that they need in future.
Illegal waste sites such as the Twyford factory in Stoke-on-Trent pose a huge risk to our environment. Despite the £10 million that was in the Budget, that site is not eligible for that help because it remains in private ownership. Court action has ordered a clearance. The local authority and the fire service want it cleared. Will the Minister meet me and those interested parties so that we can find a way forward so the site can be cleared once and for all?
No, I am afraid not, Mr Speaker. I thought that it was a hesitant and fumbling schoolboy attempt of the language, but if it brought you pleasure then my day has not been entirely wasted.
The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation is clear that the Government’s approach to safeguarding our fishing stocks, and indeed enhancing opportunities, is one that we wholeheartedly endorse, which is why it is behind the deal that the Prime Minister has secured.
I have a lot of sympathy with what my hon. Friend says. I find the idea of trophy hunting a difficult one to contemplate as anyone’s idea of a wise use of time or resources. However, it is the case that the current regime allows trophies to be imported, provided that there is no impact on the sustainability of species. We keep these rules constantly under review and I am grateful to him, to Members across this House and to non-governmental organisations for keeping a spotlight on the issue because it is one that troubles many of us.
I look forward to welcoming you to Newcastle this evening, Mr Speaker. I know that you, like many of my constituents, will appreciate the gorgeous Northumberland and County Durham countryside that surrounds it. The US countryside is much different, with wheat farms the size of small counties and pig farms the size of small towns. How will the Secretary of State protect our glorious countryside when he expects our farmers to compete with American farming methods post Brexit?
Exactly. There is a whole gazetteer. From Consett to Sedgefield, there are beautiful parts of our country in the north-east. Thanks to the hon. Member for North West Durham (Laura Pidcock), who is enjoying maternity leave at the moment, I had the opportunity to talk to hill farmers in her constituency. I have also received representations from the Members for all the Northumberland constituencies. I am on their side in making sure that we do not dilute our high environmental and animal welfare standards and that we continue to support farmers to produce the high-quality food that they do, which is the envy of the world.
My hon. Friend raises a very important point, but we have to consider not just high animal welfare standards and appropriate consumer information, but the sensitivities and traditions of our religious communities. Given the increase that we have seen in expressions of hostility towards religious minorities in this country, this is an area that requires handling with great care, but he is absolutely right to say that we do need to look at ways in which we can improve animal welfare at every stage in the life of the animals with whom we share this planet.
Page 33 of the national flood resilience review highlights how natural upper catchment management must be part of the next comprehensive spending review. How will the Minister ensure that upper catchment management is a major feature of that impending spending review, so that we can particularly protect York with catchment management on the River Ouse and the River Foss?
We do have a £15 million scheme, which is going into much greater detail in assessing the different methods of natural flood management. This will be an important part of flood defences for homes and businesses, but we need to ensure more than just anecdote, although I do recognise that some of these methods are seen to work already. This will help constituents in the hon. Lady’s wonderful city of York.