Over the past 18 months, key workers in our food supply chain have worked incredibly hard to keep the nation fed during the difficult context of the pandemic. The recent hot weather has increased demand for some items, such as bottled waters, and staff absences have increased, but remain lower than seen earlier in the pandemic. We are working with colleagues across Government to support businesses in the food supply chain, and I take this opportunity to thank all those key workers working on farms, in food factories, in the distribution system and in our food retail sector for their extraordinary efforts.
The hon. Gentleman is incorrect in that the capital spending on floods is increasing to £5.2 billion. That is almost a doubling of the previous programme. We have held meetings around the Yorkshire area, and Yorkshire will be one of the key beneficiaries from that investment we are making.
My hon. Friend makes a very important point. Some of the challenges we have are typically with houses built in the Victorian era where, as she says, the street drainage system goes into the foul water sewage system. That can lead to it being overwhelmed at times. Most developments that have taken place since the 1960s do have surface water drainage separated from foul water sewage systems. We have set up a taskforce to look at how we can address this problem and, in particular, reduce the use of combined sewage overflows.
I had a good trip up to Newcastle-under-Lyme recently to meet residents and the pressure group Stop the Stink and to see and smell for myself the horrific emissions from Walleys Quarry, the local landfill site that has the dubious honour of being the smelliest tip in England. What engagement has the Secretary of State had with the owner of the site, Red Industries, to restore residents’ physical health and mental wellbeing and stop the stink? Where is the plan?
My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Aaron Bell) has been raising this issue with me, the Prime Minister and others consistently. There is a challenge. I have met him twice to discuss it. I have also met the local team in the Environment Agency dealing with this, and I have discussed it with the chief exec of the Environment Agency. One of the problems is that it is thought that some plasterboard was illegally dumped at the site. That is what is causing the current problem with hydrogen sulphide. The Environment Agency is working on a plan to flare those gases off, and we are doing all that we can to support them in that endeavour.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right that this is a really big year for the environment internationally—not only with COP26 being hosted in Glasgow, but with the convention on biological diversity COP15, where we are going to be setting some crucial biodiversity targets. I am sure that either I or one of our ministerial team would be more than happy to speak to her event, and we are speaking to many other such events around the country.
I am regularly contacted by students in schools around the country on this great challenge. We have made some very important steps forward with the ban on some single-use plastics, and we intend to go further with such bans, and the levy on single-use carrier bags. We have, in our flagship Environment Bill, the proposal for extended producer responsibility, which will make the people who manufacture goods and use the packaging responsible for its recycling at the end of its life. That will be a significant change that will help reduce the use of plastics.
The UK Government work very closely with ICES. Indeed, our chief fisheries scientist at the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science is the deputy president of ICES. ICES regularly receives submissions from CEFAS, and where we believe its methodology is incorrect, wrong or missing certain things, it is often our scientists in CEFAS who help to update that information. Of course, when we set quotas annually and set our position on that, we take into account a range of factors—principally the ICES advice, but other factors as well.
We are doing a very detailed piece of work on all the targets we intend to set under the Environment Bill, including on air quality, but also on water, biodiversity, and waste and resource management. We are looking very closely at two particular approaches to air quality. One is a concentration target for PM2.5— and I know there have been representations from people that it should be 10 micrograms—and the other is population exposure.
We have not cancelled culling licences, but it is the case that the intensive four-year culls in many parts of the country have run their course and have therefore ended. To answer my hon. Friend’s question, we are running field trials at the moment on that DIVA test, and we plan to have that vaccine in 2025.
The Department for Transport has already announced some plans to increase the speed of driver testing and to deal with some of those logistics issues. Secondly, we are working across Government to ensure that where isolation is needed we protect particularly important strategic infrastructure.
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. We all have a role to play in this; people should take responsibility for their litter. We have taken some steps, such as fixed penalty notices so we can issue on-the-spot fines to people who do litter, but we need a culture change in this area.