Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

10 most recent Written Questions

Date Title Questioner
30 Mar 2020, 3:45 p.m. Supermarkets: Coronavirus Sir Desmond Swayne

Question to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, if he will encourage supermarkets to include care workers in reserved shopping hours.

Answer (Victoria Prentis)

The Government has well-established ways of working with the food industry during disruption to supply situations. Our retailers already have highly resilient supply chains and they are working around the clock to ensure people have the food and products they need. Industry is adapting quickly to these changes in demands, and food supply into and across the UK is resilient.

To help the industry to respond to this unprecedented demand we have introduced new measures to support businesses to keep food supply flowing on to shelves and into homes. These include temporary relaxation of competition laws to allow supermarkets to work together, extending delivery hours to supermarkets and flexing rules on drivers’ hours to allow a higher frequency of deliveries to stores to ensure shelves are being replenished more quickly.

We are in close contact with industry to discuss further ways to help with their preparations, including how they can support key workers.

30 Mar 2020, 3:34 p.m. Supermarkets: Coronavirus Dr Luke Evans

Question to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what discussions he has had with representatives of the supermarket industry on introducing mobile supermarkets to enable key workers to shop for food at (a) hospitals, (b) schools, (c) police stations and (d) other places of work.

Answer (Victoria Prentis)

The Government has well-established ways of working with the food industry during disruption to supply situations. Our retailers already have highly resilient supply chains and they are working around the clock to ensure people have the food and products they need. Industry is adapting quickly to these changes in demands, and food supply into and across the UK is resilient.

The Government has not had discussions with industry on introducing mobile supermarkets to enable key workers to shop for food. We welcome efforts by supermarkets to ensure that key workers can continue to get the food and groceries they need and will continue to work with industry to discuss any additional support Government can provide.

To help industry respond to this unprecedented demand we have introduced other measures to keep food supply flowing. We have issued guidance to local authorities to allow extended delivery hours to supermarkets so that shelves can be filled up more quickly, and we have implemented extensions to drivers’ hours. We are also temporarily relaxing certain elements of competition law to ensure retailers are able to collaborate effectively in the national interest.

Representatives of our leading supermarkets have asked customers to shop considerately and we echo their call.

30 Mar 2020, 12:07 p.m. Fisheries: Coronavirus Sir David Amess

Question to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps his Department is taking to support the fishing industry during the covid-19 outbreak.

Answer (Victoria Prentis)

The Government fully understands the importance of EU and global export markets for the UK’s fishing and seafood industry, in particular the shellfish sector. We are actively monitoring the impacts of Covid-19 and related control measures with significant input from industry stakeholders.

We are urgently considering measures to help mitigate the impact of the current situation on all sectors of the seafood and fisheries sectors.

The Chancellor has announced a substantial package of measures to help UK businesses and the self-employed sector. These measures, which include the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, the Job Retention Scheme and the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme are available to the fisheries and aquaculture sector throughout the UK.

30 Mar 2020, 7:45 a.m. Supermarkets: Coronavirus Laura Farris

Question to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, if he will publish guidance to supermarkets on maintaining supplies of essential items.

Answer (Victoria Prentis)

The Government has well-established ways of working with the food industry during disruption to supply situations. Our retailers already have highly-resilient supply chains and they are working around the clock to ensure people have the food and products they need. Industry is adapting quickly to any changes in demands, and food supply into and across the UK is resilient.

The Secretary of State is holding regular conversations with industry, including the British Retail Consortium and supermarket Chief Executives, to discuss any additional support the Government can provide. To help supermarkets respond to this unprecedented demand we have already introduced new measures to keep food supply flowing. We have issued guidance to local authorities to allow extended delivery hours to supermarkets so that shelves can be filled up quicker, and we have implemented extensions to drivers’ hours. We are also temporarily relaxing certain elements of competition law to ensure retailers are able to collaborate effectively in the national interest.

We fully recognise the additional pressures on our food supply chain as a result of recent events. The UK’s major supermarkets have last weekend issued a statement to encourage everyone to shop as they normally would, and pull together to support those staying at home.

We will continue to work closely with the industry over the coming days and months.

30 Mar 2020, 7:40 a.m. Pets: Imports Dr Luke Evans

Question to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment his Department has made of the feasibility of relaxing restrictions on the transportation of pets for British nationals repatriating to the UK as a result of the covid-19 outbreak.

Answer (Victoria Prentis)

Defra is monitoring the situation and at the current time we do not consider there to be a need to relax restrictions on the transportation of pets for British nationals repatriating to the UK as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. We will continue to monitor this closely and will consider specific cases where individuals are not able to fulfil the requirements. Protecting biosecurity and the health of the UK pet population remains a high priority.

27 Mar 2020, 4:07 p.m. Food Supply: Coronavirus Alex Sobel

Question to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps his Department is taking to engage with food manufacturers and the food manufacturing supply chain to protect food availability.

Answer (Victoria Prentis)

The Government has well-established ways of working with the food industry during disruption to supply situations. The industry are working around the clock to ensure people have the food and products they need. Industry is adapting quickly to any changes in demands, and food supply into and across the UK is resilient.

The Secretary of State is holding regular conversations with industry to discuss any additional support Government can provide. To help industry respond to this unprecedented demand we have already introduced new measures to keep food supply flowing. We have issued guidance to local authorities to allow extended delivery hours to supermarkets so that shelves can be filled up quicker, and we have implemented extensions to drivers’ hours. We are also temporarily relaxing certain elements of competition law to ensure retailers are able to collaborate effectively in the national interest.

The Government is also implementing a system to support those whose underlying health conditions mean they are at highest clinical risk for COVID-19, and who are therefore being asked to self-isolate for the main period of the coronavirus epidemic. This will include a free grocery pack containing a basic selection of food and other essential household items which will be delivered to those at home and unable to make other arrangements for as long as needed throughout that period.

We will continue to work closely with the industry over the coming days and months.

27 Mar 2020, 4:02 p.m. Food: Prices Mr Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi

Question to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps he is taking to ensure that food prices are affordable for consumers during the covid-19 outbreak.

Answer (Victoria Prentis)

We have a highly resilient food supply chain and representatives of our leading supermarkets and throughout the supply chain are working to ensure that people have the food and products they need. The industry continues to monitor the situation closely and is taking necessary steps to address issues where they arise. Retailers are working hard to mitigate any disruption to their supply chains that could impact on their costs, to keep customer prices down as far as possible.

The Government is in regular engagement with industry leaders. We have already introduced a wide range of new measures to make sure businesses can continue to keep food supply flowing, such as relaxation of competition laws to allow retailers to work together to ensure stores are open and stocked. We have also extended delivery hours to supermarkets and are flexing rules on drivers’ hours for all sectors.

The Government does not set consumer food prices or comment on day-to-day commercial decisions by industry.

27 Mar 2020, 3:51 p.m. Seals James Gray

Question to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what plans his Department has to eliminate seal shooting in UK waters before the US Marine Mammal Protection Act Import Provision Rule deadline of 1 January 2022.

Answer (Victoria Prentis)

Under the Conservation of Seals Act 1970, it is an offence to take or kill common and grey seals out of season (when they have pups) or to use certain methods to kill or take, unless permitted to do so under exceptional circumstances or by a licence issued under the Act. In the last ten years there have been no licenses issued to shoot seals to protect aquaculture or fisheries interests in England.

The UK Government and devolved administrations are in regular dialogue with the EU, the United States and stakeholders about our US Marine Mammal Protection Act preparation, including any implications for UK seal licensing regimes, to ensure future access to US markets.

27 Mar 2020, 1:51 p.m. Houseboats: Coronavirus Caroline Lucas

Question to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps he is taking to support people living on the waterways during the covid-19 outbreak; what plans he has to lift the current requirements for boaters vessels to not stay moored in one place longer than two weeks; and if he will make a statement.

Answer (Rebecca Pow)

The Government is clear that the single most important action we can all take in fighting coronavirus is to stay at home in order to protect the NHS and save lives. We have announced a range of measures to support people and communities, including: a £500 million fund for households experiencing financial hardship; a coronavirus Job Retention Scheme where small and large employers will be eligible to apply for a Government grant of 80% of workers’ salaries up to £2,500 a month; deferral of the next quarter of VAT payments for firms; and £330 billion of Government-backed and guaranteed loans to support businesses. We have also made significant changes to the operation of statutory sick pay, universal credit, and employment and support allowance to ensure that people have quicker and more generous access to a support system, and we have taken further immediate steps to give businesses access cash to pay their rent, salaries or suppliers.

The Government is continuously reviewing decisions to reflect the rapidly changing environment in response to Covid-19. Responsibility for inland waterways, including their operation, development or restoration, rests with the bodies that own them and with the relevant navigation authority. The two largest navigation authorities, the Canal and River Trust and the Environment Agency, are following Government guidance.

Boaters should limit movement to all but essential travel to access services and continue to follow Government guidance. The Canal and River Trust is suspending the requirement to move every 14 days; the suspension will be kept under review in line with revised Government guidance. The Environment Agency and other navigation authorities will also be updating their guidance and mooring conditions for boaters to reflect and enable only essential travel, and will be reviewing this position on an ongoing basis in line with Government guidance on movement. Those who are unable to move as a result of self-isolation or other virus-related impacts are asked to contact the relevant navigation authority directly to discuss their circumstances on a case by case basis. The Government will continue to review the situation.

27 Mar 2020, 12:49 p.m. Wood-burning Stoves Alberto Costa

Question to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps the Government is taking to support consumers moving from wood-burning stoves to more environmentally friendly alternatives.

Answer (Rebecca Pow)

The Government has a range of support mechanisms in place. There are Government initiatives for those living in fuel poverty burning solid fuels. The Energy Company Obligation is a requirement on larger energy suppliers to reduce heating costs through the installation of energy efficiency measures and new heating systems. It includes the installation of central heating in homes which have not had it before. Additionally, there is a minimum requirement to deliver measures in rural areas and incentives to deliver to homes off the gas grid. The Private Rented Sector Regulation 2019 also requires landlords to improve the energy performance of F&G rated properties they let out. Looking ahead, the Government is planning to publish a Heat and Buildings Strategy later this year, which will set out the immediate actions we will take for reducing emissions from buildings.

In addition, we recently announced proposals to introduce legislation for cleaner domestic burning of solid fuels. This will introduce restrictions on the sale of wet wood for domestic burning so that it can only be purchased in volumes over 2m3. Burning a dry log which has below 20% moisture can reduce emissions by 50% compared with a log which has not been dried. It is also much more cost effective to burn on a heat output basis, and leaves less tar and soot in the appliance and chimney. Therefore dry wood will still be available for sale under these proposals.