Since the last session of DEFRA oral questions, Royal Assent has been granted to both the Agriculture Bill and the Fisheries Bill. The Agriculture Act 2020 gives us the powers to transform the way in which we support farmers and build back nature in the farmed landscape, while the Fisheries Act 2020 gives us powers to become an independent coastal state, and decide who can fish in our waters and under what terms. We will be bringing forward new policies under both Acts in the weeks and months ahead.
My right hon. Friend’s Department is a very busy one right now, but may I ask him to look at the issue of animal cruelty sentences? I know that the Government are looking to legislate to increase sentencing. Animals feel pain and emotion, and all of us in this House have probably had terrible cases of animal cruelty in our constituencies, which can be upsetting for all our communities. What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to ensure that there is a good level of enforcement for animal cruelty offences?
My hon. Friend makes a very important point. The Government support extending maximum penalties and offences for animal cruelty. We are supporting a private Member’s Bill currently going through this House to achieve that. Should that not go through, we will introduce legislation in a later Session in this Parliament in order to do that. We are also working with local authorities and others to improve the enforcement of the current animal welfare legislation.
After the “News at Ten” exposé of foxhunters discussing how to put up the smokescreen of trail hunting when foxhunts break the law—exemptions that they describe as a “good wheeze”—is the Environment Secretary satisfied that the Hunting Act 2004 is as strong as it needs to be to stop illegal hunting? I am not.
No, that is not a good enough answer. We support the strengthening of that Act and I hope that the Environment Secretary will too. Forestry England has just announced a ban on hunts using its land in response to the exposé. Should not other landowners now follow this lead and ban trail hunters from their land as well?
For now, the residual bit of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund continues to be something that fishing communities can access, but we will be replacing the EMFF with a domestic fund, and we will say more on this in due course. I am aware of the REAF project in my hon. Friend’s constituency. There are great opportunities for fishing communities along the east coast to benefit from our departure from the EU.
My hon. Friend and neighbour in Cornwall makes a very good point. As a fellow Cornish MP, of course I want to see the interests of the Cornish fishing industry prosper in the future. In many cases, we have had a profoundly unfair share of stocks in the Celtic sea, and that will now change.
We are in discussions on this matter with ministerial colleagues in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. The hon. Lady will be aware that a planning Bill is coming forward, and one of the things we have already said we would like to do is strengthen the role of the Environment Agency as a statutory consultee on future planning developments.
I do not accept the point that the hon. Lady makes. We have recently banned plastic stirrers, plastic straws and plastic cotton buds. We are considering other bans on single-use items, and the Environment Bill brings forward extended producer responsibility.