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Topical Questions

Volume 650: debated on Thursday 29 November 2018

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?

I will enlist my hon. Friend’s persuasive powers in making just such a case to the Treasury.

T4. Guide dog owners rely on their dogs to get around safely. They are rightly worried about what will happen with EU travel after any transition period or, worse still, in the event of no deal, which would require four months of advance planning. What contingencies have the UK Government put in place to minimise delays to guide dog travel? What post-Brexit arrangements will there be for pet travel? (907919)

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.

T2. Rural roaming can bring huge benefits to farmers, businesses and our rural communities. We are at a key point in trying to deliver it, so will my right hon. Friend commit to use all his considerable energy to convince the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport that it is the right thing to do, is affordable and can be done quickly? (907917)

I presume that my hon. Friend means roaming applied to mobile telephones, rather than to wild rovers.

I will absolutely do that. I have had a number of fruitful conversations with DCMS and, indeed, rural roaming is a key plank of the CLA’s campaign to improve connectivity in rural areas, which is vital to improving productivity across the field.

T6. A doctor from Deptford, the most deprived part of my constituency, recently welcomed the new low emission bus zone along New Cross Road, after she had seen a rise in cases of lung disease and asthma among her patients. Does the Minister acknowledge the role that such schemes can play in tackling the inequality of increased air pollution in deprived areas? (907921)

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.

T3. What is my hon. Friend’s assessment of the implications of the Migration Advisory Committee’s report on immigration for the agricultural and food processing industries in the United Kingdom? (907918)

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?

The hon. Gentleman is a formidable advocate for his constituency and I will make sure that a meeting happens at ministerial level in order to try to ensure that that waste site is tackled.

T5. The Secretary of State will have heard the comments of the French President about access to our fishing grounds. Can he confirm to the fishing industry in Torbay that those are hollow threats and that we will in future decide our own fishing policy? (907920)

Stunning, absolutely stunning—the articulacy and the accent. What a dramatic performance by the right hon. Gentleman.

I believe that the 13 Scottish Tories have all signed the latest pledge of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation to reject the Prime Minister’s deal. Will the Secretary of State do the same?

In fact, I was almost as pleased with the right hon. Gentleman’s performance as possibly was the right hon. Gentleman.

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.

T7. In many ways, the UK has led the agenda on wildlife protection. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we would enhance that reputation if, like France, the Netherlands and Australia, we banned the import of so-called hunting trophies? (907922)

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?

I have to join the hon. Lady in saying that, from Alnwick to Bishop Auckland, the north-east contains—[Interruption.] Okay, from Morpeth to Seahouses—

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.

What steps is the Secretary of State taking now to ensure that, after Brexit, once we are free of EU controls, halal and kosher meat is appropriately labelled?

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.