Environment Act 2021: Targets

Lord Cunningham of Felling Excerpts
Tuesday 25th October 2022

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

One area that we consulted on as part of the huge consultation on our targets was reducing exposure to PM2.5, thereby benefiting public health through decreasing cases of heart disease and cancer. There were very moving speeches in a recent debate here about the impact that this can have on children. There are certain hotspots in what local authorities need to do. This is very much part of our environmental targets and one of our commitments given not only at the Dispatch Box during the progress of the Environment Bill but in other forms as well.

Lord Cunningham of Felling Portrait Lord Cunningham of Felling (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, what is the Minister’s reflection on the recent reports that only one river in England, the Tyne, met water quality standards to be able to sustain migratory fish? We cannot go on like this.

For most of my life, I have been an angler, a fly fisherman. In some respects, I suppose that I have depleted the stocks in rivers too, but not to the extent that pollution is now doing throughout England. I cannot speak for Scotland or Wales—theirs are different circumstances—but the reality is that we are not meeting our obligations.

Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Lord has a passion that I share, and a passion for restoring the quality of our rivers. I spoke earlier about our commitments under European treaties and the water framework directive, and how we are transposing those into our ambitions for water quality across England. We want to ensure that we are hitting those targets. This is an absolute priority for my department. Whoever is my new Secretary of State, I am sure it will be his or hers as well.

Food: Imports and Security

Lord Cunningham of Felling Excerpts
Monday 24th October 2022

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, we enjoy a high degree of domestic food security and self-sufficiency but we are not complacent about it. We have responded to recent events, as in the food strategy, putting food security at the heart of the Government’s vision for the food sector. It is absolutely our intention to help farmers become much more productive in the two sectors that the noble Baroness mentioned, particularly in horticulture but also in areas such as seafood. Our farming reforms are designed to support farmers to produce food sustainably and productively alongside delivering environmental improvements, which of course we all benefit from.

Lord Cunningham of Felling Portrait Lord Cunningham of Felling (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, will the Minister focus for a moment on the inexorable increase in the number of food banks being used by people who simply cannot afford to shop elsewhere? This is a real problem. Fortunately for the United Kingdom, people have so far been generous in supplying food banks, but even now we are reading and learning that some food banks are simply running out of food. This is a pretty serious state of affairs and I hope the Minister will assure the House that it is being looked at.

Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The people who run food banks are some of the best people in our society, and any of us who have had anything to do with them are in awe of the work they do. Household income is a complex issue across many different sectors, and the Government’s job is to support households, as we are through our £37 billion investment. This includes £500 million to help with the cost of household essentials, including food, and brings the total funding and support to £1.5 billion. We certainly work with the food bank sector to make sure that for any problems it faces, if the Government can influence it, we ease those problems and help it do the work that it does.

Zoonoses Research Centre

Lord Cunningham of Felling Excerpts
Tuesday 24th May 2022

(1 year, 12 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am very happy to pay tribute to Fera, which does extraordinarily important work and is part of a wide range of different organisations— I apologise to noble Lords; sometimes it is like an alphabet soup—which we are trying to bring together, with their various different strands of expertise, to make sure we tackle all zoonotic diseases. My noble friend is absolutely right that monkeypox is one of them.

Lord Cunningham of Felling Portrait Lord Cunningham of Felling (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, when the Labour Government were elected in 1997, we inherited the international beef ban. Bovine spongiform encephalopathy was a zoonosis which wreaked havoc on the British agriculture industry and our reputation, not just in Europe but internationally. I regret that, although we eventually solved the beef ban and the problem of BSE, the Labour Government did not go on to establish the kind of thing that the noble Lord, Lord Trees, talked about. I fear that this Government are making the same error. Does the Minister not recognise that, unless we act in a wholly different way, as the noble Lord, Lord Trees, suggested, we will run the same risks again?

Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Lord is absolutely right to point out the impact that these diseases have. Foot and mouth cost this country £8 billion and huge amounts of human and animal misery. Subsequent diseases, including Covid, have identified that we need to be so much more prepared for this. We are putting enormously increased resources into scientific research and the infrastructure that supports it. Our science capability in animal health, which is centred at Weybridge, has just been voted £200 million to improve its facilities, and there is much more to come in future. That is all part of being a significant contributor to the global effort to tackle zoonotic disease.

National Farmers’ Union

Lord Cunningham of Felling Excerpts
Wednesday 2nd March 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The right reverend Prelate makes some good points. It is now a requirement under the Agriculture Act for the Government to publish where we are on food security in this country, which we did a few weeks ago. It shows that the position has been more or less static for at least two decades, and we want to make sure that we increase the amount of food that we produce locally. It is obviously too early to say what the impact will be on wheat imports as a result of the conflict in Ukraine, but we want to make sure that we are working with other departments so that we are as prepared as possible and that the market is able to adjust itself.

Lord Cunningham of Felling Portrait Lord Cunningham of Felling (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, will the Minister protect British farmers and consumers by ensuring that those companies that have manipulated falsely markets in their own financial interests, as we have discussed before, are not allowed to operate in the United Kingdom market? I point out to him, as I am sure he knows, that one of those companies with a terrible track record of abuse of market opportunities owns two subsidiaries in the United Kingdom.

Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Lord is right to point out that it is vital that we protect the agricultural and food supply chain. We have powers in the Agriculture Act that allow us to introduce statutory codes of conduct that increase the transparency of business relationships and protect farmers and others from imbalanced commercial terms. We are currently exercising that in a number of sectors.

National Food Strategy

Lord Cunningham of Felling Excerpts
Thursday 24th February 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Government have gone to great lengths to ensure that the latter problem has been resolved. As things stand, we have imported enough people to help with the processing of pigmeat, although there are still problems. It is too early to assess the issue concerning Ukraine. Some 75% to 80% of our seasonal workers come from Ukraine. It is uncertain at this stage whether the current situation will have any effect on that, but we are watching it very closely and talking to other countries as well.

Lord Cunningham of Felling Portrait Lord Cunningham of Felling (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, will the Minister guarantee that in the context of the national food strategy, those companies—I am sure he knows which ones they are—that have sought to manipulate meat and chicken products in various markets are excluded from trying to do the same in the United Kingdom’s markets. They have been very heavily prosecuted in other countries. Nevertheless, will he ensure that they are not allowed the freedom to exploit, in some cases illegally, the market opportunities in the United Kingdom?

Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The food strategy sits within the wider intention of the Government, with cross-party support, to ensure that we have the most sustainable and highest standards in all areas of food production. That requires the corporate organisations such as the ones that the noble Lord recognises to understand that there is no safe place for them if they break those rules in this part of the global economy.

Sugar Beet: Neonicotinoids

Lord Cunningham of Felling Excerpts
Wednesday 15th December 2021

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The concept of integrated pest management is hardwired into our 25-year environment plan and it is one of the standards in the new sustainable farming incentive, which is the first scheme we are announcing as part of environmental land management. So, absolutely, it is vital. There have been applications this year for any derogations for organic farmers.

Lord Cunningham of Felling Portrait Lord Cunningham of Felling (Lab)
- Hansard - -

Will the Minister make it clear to the House that neonicotinoids are injurious to the health of bees and other pollinators and ought not to be used? What are the Government doing to provide alternatives to these compounds and can he tell us specifically what financial contribution the Government are making to sort this out?

Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Legislation will come forward—next year, I hope—on gene editing, which is a key measure in finding alternatives to this sort of problem. We are talking about a very small percentage of the area where neonicotinoids were used prior to the 2018 ban, to which the Government are absolutely committed. We are applying very strict conditions—if we go ahead with this; we have not yet made a decision. The last time this derogation was made, those conditions were not met and this spray was not applied. We are a long way from allowing this to go ahead. If it does, it will be under very controlled circumstances.

Bovine Tuberculosis

Lord Cunningham of Felling Excerpts
Wednesday 29th January 2020

(4 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the noble Lord kindly briefed me on the issues at Gatcombe. However, the Government have already developed a five-point plan with industry: restrict contact between badgers and cattle; manage cattle feed and water; stop infected cattle entering the herd; reduce risks from neighbouring herds; and minimise infection from cattle manure. All these are tremendously important but, as Professor Godfray said, there are no easy answers for reducing disease levels. That is why we are undertaking a range of activities.

Lord Cunningham of Felling Portrait Lord Cunningham of Felling (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, it is more than 20 years since I invited the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, to carry out a thorough investigation of what the Minister rightly says is a very complex situation. In that time, the cost to the British taxpayer of compensation for cattle slaughter alone has been between £1 billion and £2 billion. This is an urgent problem in terms of public expenditure, as I am sure the Minister recognises. From what the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, has said about the report on the strategy for achieving bovine tuberculosis-free status, cattle-to-cattle transmission seems probably as important as badger-to-cattle infection, if not more so. How can we go on justifying the slaughter of badgers in these circumstances?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the Downs peer- reviewed scientific paper of 2019 showed a 66% reduction in TB herd incidence rates in the Gloucestershire cull area and a 37% reduction in the Somerset cull area during the first four years of culling, relative to similar comparison areas in which culling was not carried out. As I said, Professor Godfray made it clear that there were no easy answers. We are undertaking research. Unfortunately, oral vaccine for badgers has not proved successful, as he conceded. We have to keep a range of methods to tackle TB in wildlife and in cattle.