Since the last EFRA oral questions, the Government have: introduced a major Environment Bill; committed to plant 1 million trees in Northumberland; pledged £11.6 billion for climate measures abroad; published proposals to restrict the import of hunting trophies from endangered animals; banned the sale of primates as pets; and introduced cat microchipping. We have made clear our determination to improve the welfare of live animals in transport, with a view to choking off live exports for slaughter or fattening. I have also had the chance to make visits around England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to talk to farmers, fishermen and those involved in the food sector.
May I join colleagues in thanking you for your help, Mr Speaker? I am going to once again try to avoid your eye while I ask what should be a very short question.
Blaydon Quarry landfill site in my constituency causes a huge nuisance for the communities surrounding it, particularly from the regular bad smells, as residents tell me there are at the moment. I think it is time for the site to be closed—safely. Will the Secretary of State join me in that call and put an end to the absolutely misery caused to local residents by this landfill site?
It is worrying to hear the reports of the odour from the site. I understand that an odour suppression system has now been installed in the waste tipping bay and that further engineering works are under way to try to tackle the problem. I can assure the hon. Lady that the Environment Agency continues to take this issue very seriously and is working with the community and the local authority. Earlier this year, it took regulatory action preventing the site from accepting waste until remedial work has been undertaken.
The hon. Lady is an excellent godparent.
Thank you very much, too, to Oliver and Freddie. I look forward to seeing very much more of you.
Pagham Harbour in my constituency is one of the best places to see wildlife in the UK, covering 600 hectares of salt marshes, mudflats, reed beds and lagoons. It is an important natural store of carbon and it absorbs up to 310 tonnes per hectare. What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to ensure that carbon-rich natural habitats are protected to improve biodiversity and help us to reach net zero by 2050?
Protecting nature is a key part of the Environment Bill. It supports the nature recovery network envisaged by our 25-year environment plan. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the work that she has done in relation to this wonderful site. She is right to say that nature-based solutions, with natural storage of carbon in such locations, will form a key part of becoming a net-zero economy.
I thought for a moment that for the first time in six years we might not get on to fisheries and agriculture at DEFRA orals. May I take this opportunity, Mr Speaker, along with others, to thank you for your chairmanship and stewardship of these occasions and wish you well for the future? May I also record a tribute to Reverend Rose, who is also leaving us? She not only presided over my marriage in St Mary Undercroft but baptised my daughter. Many Members have benefited from her pastoral support and advice.
I had a meeting with officials yesterday to discuss the issue of cod and the EU-Norway negotiations. Those negotiations will take place during November. I remain Fisheries Minister during the election period and will continue to monitor events. The right hon. Gentleman is right that the December Fisheries Council that formally adopts these proposals will be about three days after the general election. I hope still to be in place and to go there, but if I am not, I am sure that whoever my successor is will have a steep and enjoyable learning curve in coming to terms with the complexities of the December negotiations.
We will do exactly that, because the Environment Bill has a really strong package of measures to respond to the grave public concern about plastics pollution. The public are determined to tackle this issue, and so are the Conservative Government.
I completely disagree with the hon. Gentleman. The Scottish fishing industry wants to leave the CFP and take advantage of the sea of opportunity that we will have when we become an independent coastal state. It is his party that is standing against the interests of the Scottish fishing industry by wanting to remain in the European Union.
I thank my hon. Friend for his question, and I commend Harrogate Borough Council. The National Trust has said that a child today is three times more likely to go to hospital for falling out of bed than falling out of a tree. Obviously I do not recommend either activity, but there is no doubt that children who are insulated from nature are losing out; I very much agree with him. Working with the Woodland Trust and community forests, we are on track to meet our target of planting 1 million trees at English primary schools by 2020, and we committed in the 25-year environment plan to encourage children to be closer to nature in and out of school. The last week of November is National Tree Week, and I strongly encourage Members to plant trees with their local schools, so that we can all celebrate together.
Mr Speaker, our careers have been somewhat in parallel. I had a slight interregnum in the middle of your speakership, but I am pleased to be here today, to top and tail it. We have remained good friends throughout.
The Government committed to keeping the current level of farm spending until the end of this Parliament, which will be in the next couple of days. The Labour party will commit to keep that level of spending and, indeed, even spending more under the new system, which will be expensive to introduce. Will the Government make that commitment?
The hon. Gentleman is right; the Government are committed to keep spending exactly the same until the end of this Parliament. He will have to wait to see our manifesto to find out what will happen in the next Parliament, but I will simply say this. It is implicit in the Agriculture Bill that there will be a transition over a period of seven years, during which we will roll out the new policy, and we have already committed to fund the objectives of the Agriculture Bill.
The Woodland Trust, of which I am a keen member, believes that we can increase the amount of tree coverage by natural regeneration. That seems to be the best way of doing it, so how can we incentivise that within the new environmental land management scheme?
I thank my hon. Friend for his question, and he is absolutely right. Much of what we need to do to tackle climate change and restore nature involves rewilding or natural regeneration. A growing number of projects around the country are already delivering vast benefits. For example, at Knepp Castle in West Sussex, agri-environment funding has helped to create extensive grassland and scrub habitats, with huge benefits for declining bird species such as the turtle dove and the nightingale. As he says, the new environmental land management scheme will be transformative, because it will make subsidies conditional on the delivery of public goods such as biodiversity, woodland and flood management. It really could be the big thing that improves biodiversity in this country, which of course means increasing tree cover and encouraging natural regeneration.
The Environment Bill sets out a duty to set targets—actual targets will all be set in secondary legislation, as has been quite clearly stated—and it has had a lot of support from many organisations across the board. The whole system will be overseen by the Office for Environmental Protection, which will have to look at the five-yearly targets and review them annually. There is a very strict set of regimes in there. The Government have given very clear indications about not reducing our environmental standards—that is absolutely not the direction this Government would ever intend to go in—and that includes comments made just last week by the Prime Minister about non-regression.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for your kindness in calling me today, for your broader kindnesses to all of us and for all your service from the Chair.
I want to raise an issue again that I know is also of concern to you, Mr Speaker. Ministers know that HS2 and its construction will affect a good deal of farmland. They will also be aware, I hope, that HS2 Ltd has not been as effective as it should have been either in providing full and timely financial compensation for land lost or in making the practical arrangements necessary to allow farmers to farm properly the land they have left. Will my right hon. Friend and her colleagues please make sure they engage with colleagues at the Department for Transport to ensure that the financial and psychological consequences for the farmers affected by HS2 are properly mitigated, if this project is to continue?
Of course I am happy to give a commitment to engage with colleagues in the DFT on these important matters. It is of course vital that HS2 Ltd does all it can to ensure that it meets its obligations in a timely way in relation to farming and environmental concerns.
Order. I have stretched the envelope as widely as I think is reasonable, but we must move on.