Next year is a really important year for the environment internationally, with the UK hosting COP26 on climate change in October, but also with the convention on biological diversity taking place, where biodiversity targets to replace the Aichi targets will be agreed. The UK has been working on a leaders’ pledge for nature, which over 70 world leaders have now signed. We are also working to secure better targets on biodiversity and to make nature-based solutions a key part of our approach to tackling climate change.
The world needs to stop the loss of species and endangered species need the conservation work of zoos, so I applauded when the Government announced their £100 million package to support zoos and the vital conservation work they do, but then I discovered the eligibility criterion that they must have less than 12 weeks’ reserves. The trustees of any zoo with less than 12 weeks’ reserves would already have declared voluntary liquidation, so will the Secretary of State look again at the criterion, replace it with one based on percentage of revenue lost and—
I understand the point the hon. Gentleman was making. It is important to note that we had a smaller zoo fund to support small zoos, which was announced earlier. This fund is for the very large zoos, and many of them do have large reserves. It is right that we expect them to use those reserves before they come to us, but they can apply for the fund before those reserves run out, and we have increased it from six weeks to 12 weeks.
There has been a problem for some years in the fact that the levy is collected at the point of slaughter, and Scottish farmers have raised with us a concern that animals crossing the border meant they did not capture all of the levy. We have now put in place the powers to address that, which is indeed very good news for our Scottish farmers.
Can the Secretary of State confirm that he has a plan to let food produced to lower standards in to Britain if a few extra pence is charged on tariffs, meaning that our farmers will still be undercut if tariff protection is introduced as an excuse to allowing lower quality food into our country?
I think the hon. Gentleman perhaps misunderstands the current situation in that it is already possible for these countries to sell us goods at a particular tariff provided they meet our sanitary and phytosanitary standards, and that will not change. However, tariff policy is the best tool in the box to address issues such as animal welfare.
At the end of the transition period, the existing animal welfare regulations and the prohibition on sale, for instance, of hormones in beef will be retained in UK law, but our new Agriculture Bill will also strengthen animal welfare and reward farmers for high systems of animal welfare.
There has been a long-standing arrangement between Norway and the EU under which, broadly speaking, Norway has some access to blue whiting in the North sea and in return the EU—we have a share of this—has some access to Arctic cod. Those negotiations are about to commence again. This year there will be an EU-Norway bilateral to decide these matters.
The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. We are aware of this, and it is one of the issues that we are seeking to address at a technical level and through the Joint Committee process for resolving how these finer details of the Northern Ireland protocol will work.
Earlier this summer, we issued a consultation on having mandatory contracts in the dairy sector. That is something that I have long felt is important, since dairy farmers, perhaps more than any others, all too often are price takers. We will be considering that consultation and the responses we received, and we intend to bring forward legislation under the future agriculture Bill. I will of course be delighted to meet my hon. Friend’s constituent.
We introduced a number of measures to support those struggling to afford food during the initial lockdown and over the summer months. It is the case that, as unemployment rises, we are likely to see more such need, so the Government keep this under review. Obviously, through projects such as FareShare, we do support the redistribution of food to help those people, but we keep all these matters under review.
My hon. Friend makes an important point. Of course I would be happy to meet him to discuss this matter. I think that the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton Deane (Rebecca Pow), has already met him and others to discuss it, but we are of course happy to meet again.
I used to run a strawberry farm, so I am familiar with this challenge, but everybody needs to be trained at some point to do this sort of work, whether they are a foreign worker or a domestic worker. We are looking at the mix of this and are in discussions with the Home Office about arrangements for next year.