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Environmental Standards

Volume 669: debated on Thursday 9 January 2020

3. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on maintaining environmental standards after the UK leaves the EU. (900002)

13. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on maintaining environmental standards after the UK leaves the EU. (900013)

I continue to have regular conversations with ministerial colleagues across Government on all aspects of exiting the European Union. The Government have been clear that we will not weaken our current environmental protections as we leave the European Union, and that we will maintain, and even enhance, our already high environmental standards.

It is vital that we not only maintain but enhance our environmental protections, and that we enhance our natural environment. Can the Secretary of State assure the House that leaving the EU will not negatively impact on the Nature4Climate fund and the essential restoration of our peat moorlands, including in my constituency of High Peak?

I welcome my hon. Friend to his place. He is quite right to highlight the importance of those protections from a constituency perspective. I draw his attention to the £10 million that the Government have allocated for peatland restoration until March 2021, which I hope will give him comfort, alongside the environmental commitments set out in the Queen’s Speech, such as the independent monitoring of the targets that have been set, and the allocation of funding for that specific issue, which I know he has a close constituency interest in.

The United Kingdom has some of the highest food standards, so will my right hon. Friend confirm that Her Majesty’s Government will not allow substandard agricultural or food imports after the UK leaves the EU, which it would otherwise be illegal to produce here in the UK?

I welcome my hon. Friend to his place —it is nice to have so many hon. Friends to welcome today. I am sure that, like me, he listened to “Farming Today” this morning and heard, in relation to the Oxford conference, a debate on how important it is to maintain high animal welfare standards on imports in any future trade deals. One of the odd points about this debate is that the Government are constantly asked whether we will maintain high animal welfare standards, notwithstanding our manifesto commitments to do so, but there is very little scrutiny of those areas in Europe that have lower standards. I am sure that we will explore the issue during the negotiations.

The Secretary of State will know that the EU’s groundbreaking European green deal includes many policies with which UK alignment will be straightforward. Others will be more challenging. For example, the circular economy action plan will seek to change business models and set minimum standards for producers to prevent environmentally harmful products being placed on the market. He has talked about wanting to lead on environmental issues, so will the Government commit to adopting and keeping pace with the proposed minimum standards on sustainable production?

We are very happy to commit to world-leading environmental standards. One of the areas where we are doing so is through our hosting of COP26 in Glasgow, which will be key, and through standards—[Interruption.] I will come on to climate change, but that is integrated in our aspiration—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman is chuntering away, but I will move on to that. On the specific point about the green deal, he is right that the Commission President specifically referred to the green deal in her speech at the London School of Economics yesterday, and it is something that the Prime Minister and I discussed with her in our meeting. Again, it is an area where the UK has world-leading expertise. Look at our green finance, our green investment bank and the areas where the UK is in the lead. We look forward to working with the European Union on that as we move forward.