See more like "Scallop Fishing: Bay of Seine"

Scallop Fishing: Bay of Seine
Debate between Sue Hayman and George Eustice
Thursday 13 September 2018

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Read Full debate
Commons Chamber
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
George Eustice Portrait The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (George Eustice) - Parliament Live - Hansard
13 Sep 2018, 11:30 a.m.

I wish to take this opportunity to update the House on recent developments regarding the scallop fishery in the Bay of Seine following altercations that occurred on 27 August. Any violence taking place is unacceptable, and the safety of our fishing fleet is paramount. Subsequent negotiations to resolve the dispute have regrettably not resulted in an agreement.

The scallop fishery is not governed by the quota regime that pertains for most fin-fish species, but instead by the western waters regime, which places limitations on effort for larger vessels over 15 metres. Vessels over 15 metres in size are limited by the number of kilowatt-days they spend at sea, and these units of effort are tradeable between producer organisations in much the same way as quota. Vessels of under 15 metres in length are not subject to the western waters regime and do not require an effort allocation.

The background to the current dispute is that French domestic law requires that French vessels cannot trawl scallops between 15 May and 31 October, at the latest, partly to protect the species during their seeding season and partly to maximise the scallops’ economic value. Preserving the sustainability of our stocks is important, and between May and June, UK fishermen refrain from fishing in the area to avoid the scallop gestation period. Those domestic French rules do not apply to other EU member states.

The French have recognised the UK industry’s legal right to fish in the Bay of Seine. UK fishermen have a smaller allocation of scallop fishing effort under the western waters regime due to historical allocation methodologies, with UK fishermen allocated 3.3 million kilowatt-days and French fishermen allocated 7.4 million kilowatt-days. As a result, since 2013, the fishery in the Bay of Seine has been subject to an industry agreement. The UK 15 metre and over scallop fishing industry has agreed to voluntarily observe this non-trawling season in the English channel, including the Bay of Seine, in exchange for more fishing effort from France. The agreement has never applied to the under-15 metre fleet since it does not benefit from the inward transfer of effort.

The agreement that had been in place for five years broke down this year because the French industry insisted that the under-15 metre fleet be included in the voluntary agreement. The UK industry was unable to carry the under-15 metre fleet regarding such an agreement, since that fleet would receive nothing in return. As a result, no agreement was reached in 2018.

On 27 August, there were altercations between UK and French scallop fishers in the Bay of Seine. Some 35 French boats confronted a smaller number of UK vessels, with reports of rocks and smoke bombs being hurled at UK mariners. The incidents of 27 August occurred as a result of the French industry’s continued frustration at not being able to fish in the Bay of Seine while UK vessels were able to do so, following the failure to reach a voluntary agreement. It must be stressed that the UK vessels were not contravening any French or EU law by fishing in those waters at that time. The UK vessels were operating in an area where they were legally entitled to fish. The area is outside French territorial waters—that is, beyond 12 nautical miles.

Under the common fisheries policy, the vessels of EU member states have the right to fish in each other’s exclusive economic zones—the waters between 12 and 200 nautical miles offshore. It is then the responsibility of each country to control the activities taking place in its waters. We therefore look to the French authorities to protect our fishermen and their vessels if they choose to fish legally in French waters.

Our analysis of vessel monitoring information from 27 August showed that there were 16 vessels in the area from England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Since the incidents took place, UK vessels have voluntarily chosen to stay away from the Bay of Seine while discussions to resolve the issue are ongoing. Vessels have tended instead to fish in grounds to the east. The Fishery Protection Squadron has been kept informed of developments. Fisheries protection vessel HMS Mersey has been in the waters off the south coast since the incident took place. Fisheries protection vessels operate within UK waters—that is, the area out to 200 nautical miles from the shore, or the median line. The vessels are unable to enter the waters of another country without invitation, except in very limited circumstances: the protection of life at sea in the event of there being a threat to life; or through the right of innocent passage to enable vessels to transit through an area without interference. As the Bay of Seine is in the French exclusive economic zone, the enforcement and safety of vessels in those waters is the responsibility of the French authorities.

The UK Government have been proactive in supporting the industry to try to secure an acceptable solution for both sides. Immediately after the incidents on 27 August, my officials convened a meeting in London. UK and French officials and UK and French industry representatives met in London on 5 September. There was initial success in the talks. It was decided to renew the previous agreement involving the UK 15 metre and over vessels, as long as the under-15 metre fleet could also be brought into a deal. That was agreed in principle, subject to further discussion about a reasonable compensation package. The agreement was that there could be an inward transfer of quota for other species from the French industry to the UK industry, which could then be leased to create financial compensation for the scallop vessels affected.

The details of that package were discussed, again between UK and French officials and the UK and French industries, in Paris on 7 September. Progress was made on the dates that the fishery could be open. However, the compensation sought by the UK industry for loss of earnings during the period that it was unable to fish in the Bay of Seine was significantly different from the proposal made by the French industry.

Minister Travert and I discussed the progress of the negotiations twice, including on the evening of 7 September. Since our call, UK and French officials have shared their analysis this week and held discussions on Tuesday. There was greater understanding of the UK’s evidence. However, the offer made by the French industry remained unchanged from that discussed in Paris on Friday. The UK industry does not believe that the compensation package proposed by the French fishing industry provides sufficient recompense for its projected loss of earnings and has rejected it on that basis. The French industry is currently unwilling to accept an offer to put back in place the agreement that has applied to the over-15 metre fleet for a number of years. As a result, the talks have broken down and there remains no agreement at all.

I have written today to Minister Stéphane Travert to express my disappointment at not reaching an agreement. The UK Government have offered to assist French enforcement authorities with Marine Management Organisation personnel should they want to consider joint operations, given the risk of further altercations. I have also asked the French Government to consider the alternative options available to them. First, it seems to me that putting back in place the agreement for the over-15 metre fleet, which has stood the test of time over the last five years, would be preferable to no agreement at all, and I hope that the French industry will reconsider its position. Secondly, it is open to the French Government to lift the domestic restrictions they have in place earlier than they normally would in order to address concerns that their industry has expressed about the lack of a level playing field.

The UK industry is legally allowed to fish in the Bay of Seine. It has shown commendable restraint during the negotiations, and I welcome its co-operation and understanding. It is for the industry to decide where it fishes, as long as that is done legally. In my letter to Minister Travert, I emphasised the absolute need for safety to remain paramount. I hope that a mutually beneficial outcome might still be agreed between the two industries but, in the meantime, we stand ready to offer what assistance the French Government may wish to consider.

Sue Hayman (Workington) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard
13 Sep 2018, 11:39 a.m.

I thank the Minister for his statement but, before I move on, may I say that I was very disappointed not to receive the statement until 15 minutes after I had arrived in the Chamber? This is a really important matter and the Opposition should be able to expect to receive information in a timely manner. I am sure that there has been a mix-up, but I would like assurances that I will receive information appropriately in the future.

Fishing is essential for coastal communities, and scallop fishing is an important part of that industry. About 60% of the catch is exported, with much of it being bought in France. During the negotiations with France, we know that the smaller boats volunteered in good faith to stay away from the disputed fishing grounds. However, every day that British boats are unable to go fishing, livelihoods and communities are hurt.

We all know that the French navy should have stopped this appalling violence. Now that the negotiations have broken down, what assurances have the French authorities given to make sure that this cannot happen again? We have heard that the Government are looking to the French authorities to protect our fishermen and their vessels, which are fishing quite legally within French waters. Will the Minister clarify what discussions he has had with the French Government to ensure that any future protests do not descend into violence? As we have heard, the UK vessels were not contravening any French or EU law at the time. Will the Minister clarify what progress is being made on compensation for British fishers who have suffered damage to their boats and now face restrictions being imposed on them?

As we await the publication of the fisheries Bill, the industry looks to the Government for some backbone, and to the Minister to fight for them, their livelihoods and their communities. This matters because fishing matters and fishing jobs matter—not just to the coastal communities that rely on fishing and the processing of the catch for employment, but because this tells us a story about how Ministers will stand up for the industry during and after Brexit.

Outside the CFP, we will rely on the same Ministers who have failed to find their voice over the scallop wars to seal an annual deal with the EU over quotas, science and access to waters. Just this week we have seen a damning report by the National Audit Office on the lack of Brexit preparedness in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Serious concerns were raised about marine control and enforcement. Will the Minister outline what urgent measures he is taking to address the concerns outlined in this week’s NAO report?

These conflicts over scallops raise serious questions about the approach that Ministers will take to manage conflicts and access to waters after Brexit. Ministers need to know that we in the Opposition will be following this closely. Should their defence of our fishing industry not be up to scratch, we will be holding them to account.

Our fishermen need defending. The French tested our lines over the scallop wars and now believe that they can get away with it. Our fishermen deserve better, and the Government need to step up.

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Parliament Live - Hansard
13 Sep 2018, 11:43 a.m.

I am sorry that the shadow Minister feels she did not receive a copy of the statement in a timely fashion. I can say that we got the statement to her as quickly as we could. I understand that it was sent to her by email at about 11 o’clock, with hard copies then brought to the House. I appreciate that she may have thought that proceedings on the statement were going to start slightly earlier, but if she feels that she did not receive it in time, I am sorry to hear that.

The hon. Lady asks for an update on what assurances we have sought from the French authorities. I can confirm that, immediately after the altercation on 27 August, I spoke to my opposite number, Minister Stéphane Travert, and the principal issue we discussed was enforcement. He gave a very clear undertaking at that point that he recognised that UK vessels were fishing legally, and he said that he had increased resourcing to ensure that the gendarmerie were able to deal with future issues by increasing the number in that particular area. I sought a similar assurance on the second occasion we spoke after the negotiations last Friday, and I have reiterated the importance of this in the letter that I have sent to him today.

We have made it clear that we stand ready to assist the French authorities if they wish. It is not unknown or unusual for officers from the Marine Management Organisation, for instance, to carry out joint work on board French vessels, and there are instances where such work is appropriate. The French authorities have not currently taken up that offer but, as I made clear in my statement, it remains on the table.

The hon. Lady asked about compensation, and we have been working hard to get an agreement. From the beginning, we have been consistently clear with the French Government that we have no legal basis to instruct or tell our fishing industry not to fish in that area, and neither have we ever done so. We were also clear with our fishing industry that we would not have told people not to fish in those areas, but the industry itself voluntarily chose not to fish there during the period of negotiation. That rightly recognised that, because negotiations were ongoing, it would be helpful to avoid further altercation. The industry took that choice, but now that talks have broken down, we must ensure that the French authorities enforce the industry’s right to fish in those waters.

The hon. Lady asked about our defence of fishing interests, and I say simply that I have done this job for five years and have a good rapport with our industry representatives. We have held discussions and worked closely with them on this issue, and representatives from the UK fishing industry have attended meetings that we have convened. We have used data from the Marine Management Organisation to support and underpin the evidence base behind requests made during those negotiations. We have very much stood up for the interests of our industry, and helped to support it and to find a resolution to the dispute. As we leave the European Union—this is a much broader topic—we will become an independent coastal state again, and we will conduct annual fisheries negotiations in a new UK-EU bilateral on some of these issues. As an independent costal state, we will have control of access to our waters, and we will negotiate the share of the total allowable catch.

The hon. Lady spoke of preparations for leaving the European Union. Although the National Audit Office report highlighted some concerns, it also recognised that DEFRA is dealing with a huge body of EU law. Indeed, it gave the Department a lot of credit for the progress we have made in many areas. We are already making preparations on fishing, including by holding meetings and discussions with countries such as Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands about future arrangements. The MMO is carrying out detailed work on issues such as fisheries enforcement and how needs may change, and to ensure that we have the capacity to deal with any increase in catch certificates that may be required. Many of those issues relate to the much broader topic of our leaving the common fisheries policy and becoming an independent coastal state again, but for the time being, the UK Government are doing everything they can to support our industry in this dispute over scallops.

See more like "Dangerous Dogs Act: Staffordshire Bull Terriers"

Dangerous Dogs Act: Staffordshire Bull Terriers
Debate between Sue Hayman and George Eustice
Monday 16 July 2018

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Read Full debate
Westminster Hall
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Sue Hayman Hansard
16 Jul 2018, 5:29 p.m.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. I would be happy to work with anyone to improve the legislation, because this is about animal welfare and treating dogs fairly, but also about protecting people. At the moment, the legislation does not work for either of those.

Battersea argues for the abolition or, at the very least, reformation of BSL. It calls it a sticking plaster that does not prevent public harm, and it wants the Government to amend the legislation to ensure that dogs are not put down simply because of their appearance.

It is also right that proper education and community engagement processes should be in place to help the public better understand dog behaviour and to encourage responsible ownership. I am a pet owner—I have a dog, a cat and all sorts—and being a pet owner is so rewarding, but people need to understand, particularly when taking on a dog, that it is a huge responsibility. People need to be better educated when they buy their dogs in the first place. It is clear that, in the wrong hands, any dog has the potential to injure either people or other animals. I have a Labrador, and when I was researching this issue, I was horrified to find out that many Labradors carry out attacks. My dog is so soft that I cannot imagine that it would do that. It just shows that, in the wrong hands, any dog can be dangerous.

To sum up, we need to ensure that we focus on ownership rather than on a particular breed or type of dog. I say to the Minister that it is really important that the legislation has a proper, thorough review. It would be good if that were carried out by DEFRA and we could have some timescales as to when he will be able to look into this issue, because it seems to me, from this debate and from discussion further afield, that there is a pretty broad consensus that what we have on the statute book at the moment simply is not working to protect either people or dogs.

I am very pleased that the Government, in their response to the petition, have said that they have no plans to ban Staffies. I look forward with interest to the EFRA Committee’s report and hope that the Minister will pay close attention to its recommendations.

I shall finish with a plea to the Minister from dog owners everywhere. Let us get the legislation right to protect both the public and dogs. We need the right education to be in place, and we need to focus on how we can effectively tackle irresponsible dog owners, not just the dogs themselves.

George Eustice Portrait The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (George Eustice) - Hansard
16 Jul 2018, 5:33 p.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Walker. I congratulate the hon. Member for Warrington North (Helen Jones) on the way she introduced the debate. The petition has attracted more than 160,000 signatures, which shows how strongly people feel about this issue. I understand that the petition was a reaction to a submission made by PETA to the ongoing inquiry on dangerous dogs by the EFRA Committee. Today, we have heard a number of quite powerful and detailed speeches, including from my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy), who, appropriately, stood up for this breed, which hails from his part of the world. I, too, was very interested to hear the history of the Staffordshire bull terrier as a mascot for the Staffordshire Regiment and the fascinating story of the genesis of that.

I am sure that all hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Andrew Rosindell), who also gave a personal account of his love of this breed, will be pleased to know that the Government have no plans at all to add Staffordshire bull terriers, or any other type of dog, to the list of prohibited dogs. Staffordshire bull terriers are a popular breed in this country and have shown themselves to be a good family pet. Like any dog, they should be socialised at an early age and be properly trained to avoid behavioural problems, but for anyone thinking of taking on a dog, there is no reason why a Staffordshire bull terrier should not be considered. My noble Friend Lord Gardiner, who leads on this policy area, has given evidence to the EFRA Committee and confirmed that there is no intention to add further types of dog to the prohibited list.

The hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Alan Brown) suggested that it was disappointing that I am responding to the debate by virtue of the fact that the Minister responsible is a Lords Minister, but let me reassure him that I have been around DEFRA long enough to have had to go in to bat on most issues—indeed, I was the Minister responsible for companion animals and looked closely at this issue for about two years, and I will return to that point.

It should be noted that the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 is not just about banned breeds. Section 3 makes it an offence to allow any dog to be dangerously out of control. That is the case for all dogs, regardless of breed or type. There are also other preventive measures, which I will mention later, that are applicable to all types of dog.

As the hon. Member for Warrington North and others pointed out, the genesis of the 1991 Act was as a reaction to a series of serious dog attacks at that time. The Act prohibits four types of fighting dog—types traditionally used for dog fighting—and those are the pit bull terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Brasileiro. Of the four types, the pit bull terrier was by far the most popular. Indeed, pit bulls had been associated with a number of serious attacks on people, and it was decided to take action against their ownership. The other three types of dog were added primarily because it was considered that, having been identified as either fighting types or as sharing the characteristics of fighting dogs, they should be prohibited to prevent people from turning to them instead of the pit bull terrier. However, I am told that we have very few of the other three types in this country and none of the Fila Brasileiro type.

Adding dogs to the list of prohibited types would need to be done on the basis of proportionate risk of harm to people. Under the Act, it is an offence to breed from, sell or exchange the four breeds of dog. That approach is supported by the police. It should be noted—perhaps not enough people are aware of this—that the courts can already allow owners to keep prohibited dogs if they are not a danger to public safety. Account must be taken of the dog’s temperament and whether the intended keeper, who must have had substantial prior responsibility for the dog, is a fit and proper person, with premises suitable for the dog.

Those dogs are placed on the index of exempted dogs, which is managed by DEFRA. Currently, about 3,100 dogs are on the exempt list. They are predominantly pit bull terriers, but there are also about 10 Japanese Tosas and three of the Dogo Argentino type. For a dog to go on the index, certain conditions have to be met. The dog must be neutered. The owner has to maintain annual insurance against their dog injuring third parties. The owner has to pay an initial fee of £92.40. Dogs on the list also have to be microchipped, muzzled and on a lead in public, and they must be in the charge of someone who is at least 16 years old.

It should be noted that, when the provisions were initially brought forward in 1991, they were largely considered to be transitional arrangements. The idea was that dogs that existed in 1991 could remain on the exempt list for the rest of their lives, but those of us who are familiar with dogs and the lifespan of a typical dog will be aware that none of the dogs on the list today was alive in 1991; they are exclusively dogs that have been born since. The Government have chosen to keep that option as a way of managing this situation and enabling people to remain with their dog where it is appropriate to do so and where the courts judge that it is safe to do so.

As I said, in addition to the restrictions on certain fighting dogs, it is an offence under section 3 of the Act to allow any dog to be dangerously out of control. There are severe penalties for allowing a dog to be dangerously out of control; indeed, we increased the penalties in 2014 to three years for allowing a dog to attack an assistance dog, five years if a dog injures someone and 14 years if a dog kills someone.

A number of hon. Members have talked about “deed not breed”. I am well aware of that campaign, which is being run by a number of animal welfare charities. I understand the superficial attraction of that approach, but let me talk about the evidence that supports the Government’s position. We consider the prohibition on the four banned breeds to be a valuable tool in the battle against irresponsible ownership of dogs.

The prohibition on the pit bull terrier is supported by the Metropolitan police’s own figures, which show that in 2015-16, over 19% of dogs involved in reported attacks were pit bulls. That is quite extraordinary, given that this is a banned and illegal breed. Despite that fact and despite the fact that dogs on the exempt list must be muzzled in public, that breed still accounts for almost 20% of all reported attacks. We know also that pit bulls have been involved in seven of the 31 fatal attacks that have occurred since 2005. That is highly disproportionate for one type of dog that is banned, and it underlines the need to be cautious about change in this area. My hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish) acknowledged that, saying that to remove the restrictions would be a difficult decision for any Minister to take, knowing that, even with the ban, this breed of dog is responsible for so many attacks and that a subsequent increase in attacks may be inevitable. The issue is not just the reputational damage that a Minister might suffer, but that they would have to carry on their conscience attacks, injuries and deaths that might have been avoidable had a more cautious approach been taken.

See more like "Pet Theft"

Pet Theft
Debate between Sue Hayman and George Eustice
Monday 02 July 2018

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Read Full debate
Westminster Hall
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Sue Hayman Hansard
2 Jul 2018, 5:51 p.m.

I remember going with my mother to the post office to get a licence for our dalmatian—I was only a small child, obviously. We ought to look at anything that might help, so licensing clearly needs to be looked at; if it can help solve this crime, it is an important part of the picture.

The Labour party is committed to promoting the highest level of care for domestic animals. Recently, our animal welfare plan was out for consultation until the end of May, and it included a proposal to expand microchipping to cats, which at the moment do not have to be chipped. Is that something that the Government will consider seriously? Our manifesto also pledged an end to the third-party sale of puppies. Is that something the Government will consider to improve the welfare of dogs? We also proposed measures to tackle puppy smuggling, such as the introduction of a microchip database—databases were mentioned earlier in the debate—to record microchip numbers of animals entering and leaving the country and get a better idea of where dogs are. Will the Minister and the Government match that aspiration too?

Enforcement of our laws is carried out by our tireless police services. Is it not imperative that the police are properly funded so that they can act to enforce the law and catch the criminals who are cruelly stealing pets from their owners?

The petition and today’s excellent debate have raised really important issues across the board, giving us all a lot to think about in terms of what needs to be done. The Labour party manifesto, on which my colleagues and I were elected last year, stated:

“Domestic animals require stronger protection from cruelty.”

It also set out a

“vision…for the UK to lead the world with high animal welfare standards in the wild, in farming and for domestic animals.”

That is something we stand by today and, from the clear cross-party support in this debate, hon. Members right across the House would also back strengthening the law in this area. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response.

George Eustice Portrait The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (George Eustice) - Hansard
2 Jul 2018, 5:53 p.m.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mike Hill) on the way in which he introduced the debate.

As with every debate on animal welfare issues, it is one that is incredibly important to the public. This petition has more than 100,000 signatories—106,000, I am told —and today we have heard some heart-rending stories of individual cases from many Members’ constituencies, including from my hon. Friends the Members for Dartford (Gareth Johnson) and for Aberdeen South (Ross Thomson). The hon. Member for Hartlepool talked about some horrific cases of pets being stolen to be used, in effect, for baiting in dog fighting or to fight themselves. That is clearly the cruellest and most extreme end of this heinous crime.

When I was about 13, we had a beautiful young golden retriever called Sam. When he was about a year old, he went missing. To this day, I can remember us going out on the roads late at night, driving down every country lane around the farm in Cornwall and trying to locate Sam, all to no avail. We were unable to sleep that night because we were so distraught and upset that our wonderfully kind pet dog had gone missing.

The following day, we phoned every farmer in the area, in case Sam had gone on a runabout, and we phoned all sorts of other businesses in case we could locate him. As luck would have it, a local scrap-metal dealer phoned my mother back about an hour after they had spoken to say that there was a van at the scrapyard with a white-coloured golden retriever that might be our dog. My mother rushed off to the scrap-metal dealer, who undertook to keep the person occupied so that the van did not disappear. It was indeed our pet dog Sam, and my mother and our family were reunited with him.

The person who took Sam claimed that he had found him and had intended to take him to the police. It was therefore thought that we would not have a case and would not be able to bring a prosecution against the person, although that gentleman certainly had to endure a dressing down from my mother—a significant penalty.

I shall return to the issue of pet theft, but first I shall say a bit more about what the Government are doing to improve animal welfare specifically for pets. We have introduced new licensing requirements for puppy breeders, lowering the threshold at which they need a licence to breed pets. We have also strengthened the provisions on online sales, beyond any doubt bringing those who sell pets online into a licensing regime under the Pet Animals Act 1951. We have been clear that we intend to increase the maximum penalty for cruelty to animals to five years, and we have given our support to a private Member’s Bill that will strengthen protection and recognition for service animals. Finally, to come to the point made by the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Workington (Sue Hayman), we have been clear that we shall introduce a ban on third-party sales of puppies, in particular, and other juvenile pets. We have had a call for evidence on the issue, and we intend to introduce provisions in that regard.

[Mr Adrian Bailey in the Chair]

Specifically on the issue of pet theft, a couple of years ago we introduced changes to make the microchipping of all dogs mandatory. That has had some impact already. More than 90% of dogs are now microchipped, which has made rehoming or the reuniting of people with their missing pets much easier for the authorities. The impact of that change has been extraordinary. The latest figures from Dogs Trust show that the number of stray dogs last year fell to about 66,000, which has almost halved on a few years ago, when we regularly had more than 120,000 stray dogs per year.

Microchipping also has a potential role in identifying animals that have been stolen. A couple of years ago there was some suggestion that we should legislate to create a legal obligation on vets to scan every animal in their practice to identify animals that might have been stolen. At the time we believed that to be a step too far, but we did work with the British Veterinary Association and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons to create clear guidance for veterinary practices that there should always be a presumption of checking any new animal presented to them when an owner enrols with the practice.

Earlier today, I discussed with the police lead on dogs, Gareth Pritchard, this issue of dog and pet theft. One point he made was that although the microchipping regulations are working well and have led to big improvements, we are starting to see some problems with people not keeping their details up to date—people moving home, for example, and not keeping the record up to date. In some cases, that is starting to make it hard to reunite people with their pets. It is important—and a provision of the regulations—for people to keep their data up to date.

I have done some work on the scale of the pet theft problem. As my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford pointed out, the figures out there range widely. Our belief is that the best estimate available is from a series of freedom of information requests put to all 44 police forces, with 38 providing reliable data back. From that, it is possible to ascertain that in 2016 there were 1,788 dog thefts and in 2017 the number rose to 1,909. That equates to around 34 dogs being stolen each week—a significant number. As a number of hon. Members pointed out, the 7% increase between 2016 and 2017 suggests that it is a growing problem. I will return to the statistics later, because my hon. Friend made the legitimate point that we ought to have reliable data in this area.

See more like "British Flora: Protection from Imported Diseases"

British Flora: Protection from Imported Diseases
Debate between Sue Hayman and George Eustice
Wednesday 27 June 2018

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Read Full debate
Westminster Hall
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Sue Hayman (Workington) (Lab) Hansard
27 Jun 2018, 5:12 p.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Henry. I congratulate the right hon. Member for East Devon (Sir Hugo Swire) on securing this debate. Biosecurity is a huge issue that does not often get its turn in the spotlight.

The right hon. Member for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson), the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) and the right hon. Member for Newbury (Richard Benyon) all made important points. I share their concerns about the problems we have with the many invasive species. In our village, we have had to deal with Japanese knotweed, and we have huge issues with Himalayan balsam. Until I was elected to this place, I had a personal mission against Himalayan balsam encroaching on to our land, which I have now handed over to my husband. Removing invasive species is a terribly difficult, time-consuming and costly exercise. There is then the dreadful problem of dealing with diseases such as ash dieback, which we have also discussed.

Biosecurity is terribly critical but perhaps does not get enough attention. It is also vital for our biosecurity that we retain access to EU markets. We have to make sure that the right resources and infrastructure are in place to handle the continued movement of animals and plants. We need our trade with the EU to continue to be as frictionless as possible. Most importantly, regulatory standards must not be compromised by Brexit. The right hon. Member for North Shropshire said that we need to trade in healthy plants and I could not agree with him more.

Prospect recently submitted evidence to an inquiry by the House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee into biosecurity, recommending better training for plant health officers, an issue that has already been mentioned. We need to establish a viable training programme for new and established inspectors, plus joint training ventures with the Horticultural Trades Association and the Royal Horticultural Society. The evidence also recommends more long-term investment in agricultural and environmental science, as well as that Ministers should put together a plan to deliver future biosecurity collaboration with the EU post-Brexit.

There are significant worries that we may weaken biosecurity protection and open ourselves up to risks and threats through trade deals, unless we do everything we can to ensure that sufficient checks and resources are put in place to mitigate those risks. Brexit could mean the end of shared biosecurity information—such as that provided through the European rapid alert system for food and feed, and through the European Union notification system for plant health interceptions—for the intercepting of pests and diseases on imported goods.

We are at the end of a huge plant supply chain from other EU states. This could be significant for the future of British biosecurity. The current system of sharing intelligence of biosecurity threats within or bordering the EU must continue in some form. Given the volume of UK-EU trade, it is critical that we continue to collaborate. The cost of dealing with pests and pathogens once they are in the UK is significantly more expensive and much more challenging than preventing their introduction in the first place, as has been mentioned by right hon. and hon. Members. That shared expertise is vital to being able to plan and prepare for future challenges. Any loss of that integrated approach would pose a risk to UK biosecurity. Will the Minister commit to retaining the precautionary principle in implementing biosecurity legislation?

We need a closer relationship with EU standards post-Brexit, but that may not provide the protections we need in the future, because we will have to continue to update legislation and practices, to tackle any new challenges and threats as they emerge. We know that climate change is spreading pests and diseases to new locations, and new trade deals will require new supply-chain assurances and the expertise to manage those risks. New legislation also needs to be flexible enough to enable quicker reaction to new threats and to improve the move from pest eradication, to containment, to management.

Another problem is that we simply do not know how much plant material is imported from the EU every year, as it is not checked, so we do not have any idea what resources we will need to check it. Have any estimates been made of the volume of plant imports from the EU? If those imports are not checked properly, does the Minister agree that there will be risks for biosecurity?

The current assumption on checks is that they will have to happen at supermarket distribution centres, for example, because we do not have the capacity to do so at the points of entry. There is a risk that inspectors could be overwhelmed by the volume of additional inspections and therefore miss dangerous pests or diseases in other imports. To combat that, I understand that the Animal and Plant Health Agency is recruiting about 40 new inspectors and seven new mangers, which is excellent news, but it is hard to see how they can be trained in time. There has never been a requirement for training on this scale before. Will the Minister comment on that and let me know if the training is being done face to face or online, as there are clearly concerns about the issue?

Currently, non-EU imports are managed through an HMRC customs computer system. The volumes are relatively low and require advanced notice. Inspectors are asking whether that system is appropriate for EU imports and whether it could cope with additional volume. Does the Minister believe that the current HMRC plant import customs IT system will be able to deal with the imports from the EU? Has any assessment been made of that? Is a new system being designed? If so, on what basis and will it be ready in time?

I am aware that I have posed quite a number of questions to the Minister and I appreciate that he may not be able to answer them all today. If that is the case, I would be grateful if he would write to me with the answers.

George Eustice Portrait The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (George Eustice) - Hansard
27 Jun 2018, 5:19 p.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Henry. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for East Devon (Sir Hugo Swire) on securing this debate.

As a number of hon. Members have pointed out, protecting our country from pests and diseases is vital to safeguarding our environment. The loss of veteran trees, some of which have been around for hundreds of years, due to some of those diseases, is particularly tragic. I remember as a boy growing up in Cornwall that we had beautiful elms right around the farm. I can remember my father having to cut them down, year after year, because they had died. It was a tremendous tragedy, and since then threats to plant health have only increased. That is why, as a number of hon. Members have pointed out, we have to be constantly on our guard and strengthen our responses.

My right hon. Friend highlighted in his comprehensive speech many of the current threats. As he pointed out, we have the problem of ash dieback, which prompted changes to our plans some years ago. In the west country we have a particularly problem, as he said, with Phytophthora ramorum, which is particularly prevalent in areas of the country with wet conditions and species that are prone to that disease. We have, with our iconic oaks, the problem of oak processionary moth and acute oak decline, which has been around for a number of years. As he pointed out, recently in his part of the world we have seen the arrival of sweet chestnut blight. In addition, we are now monitoring and are vigilant against threats, including xylella at the top of the list, and others such as plane wilt, which would be a major threat to some of our trees in urban areas such as London, and the emerald ash borer.

My right hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson), who was the first Secretary of State I served under in my post in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs—I think we are now on to Secretary of State No. 4—asked a very specific question with, I have to say, a hint of scepticism in his voice. He wanted to know whether the recommendations of the tree health and plant biosecurity initiative expert taskforce, which he commissioned and which reported in 2014, had been implemented. He will be delighted to know that those recommendations have been implemented, and many of the important changes that he put in place are still with us today. In fact, we have built on some of the architecture and infrastructure that he put in place.

For instance, we now have a chief plant health officer; indeed, Nicola Spence, our current chief plant health officer, is here today listening to the debate. We have also developed a prioritised UK risk register, which has in the region of 1,000 pests registered on it. We have strengthened governance arrangements. My right hon. Friend asked—with, I think, an especial hint of scepticism—whether our monthly biosecurity meetings, which he used to chair, continue. Perhaps he thought that they had fallen by the wayside after he had gone, as meetings often do. I reassure him that that monthly biosecurity meeting is critical and still takes place. He will be delighted to know that my noble Friend Lord Gardiner, who leads on that element of the DEFRA portfolio, is every bit as tenacious as he was in identifying threats and ensuring that we take them seriously.

The fourth recommendation was that there should be improved border security and strengthened import regulations, which I will deal with a little later. The final recommendation was that there should be a new plant health information portal. We have introduced all those recommendations and taken them further.

As a result of the biosecurity strategy launched in 2014, the plant health service now operates, pre-border, things such as systematic screening of risk, at-the-border checks—inspections at entry points—and also an inland strategy that uses both aerial and ground surveillance to reduce the risk of pests and diseases entering the country, and to manage the impact of established pests.

Turning first to the pre-border checks, we try to stop pests and diseases before they even arrive, and our international horizon scanning helps us spot new risks and take action to stop them. Risks are tracked through a fully published UK plant health risk register, which, as I have said, now has more than 1,000 plant pests and diseases registered on it. Where necessary, we take action to drive up international biosecurity standards, ensuring that regulations are robust in both Europe and beyond. For instance, we secured stronger EU-wide protections against the threat of xylella.

Turning to the border, we have invested more than £4.5 million to strengthen our border security, recruiting new plant inspectors and enhancing training. Our border inspectors carry out more than 100,000 document checks and 30,000 physical checks a year of consignments deemed to be of higher risk. They are highly effective in comparison with their peers, so the UK consistently makes more interceptions of harmful organisms than any other EU member state. In fact, the interceptions we make account for about 40% of the total number of interceptions that take place at EU level.

See more like "Plastic Bottles and Coffee Cups"

Plastic Bottles and Coffee Cups
Debate between Sue Hayman and George Eustice
Thursday 17 May 2018

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Read Full debate
Commons Chamber
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Sue Hayman (Workington) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard
17 May 2018, 3 p.m.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mary Creagh) not just for securing what I think we would all agree has been an excellent debate, but for her valuable and extensive work on this area of policy. I also thank the other members of the Environmental Audit Committee who have taken part in the debate—my hon. Friends the Members for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy), for Cardiff North (Anna McMorrin) and for Leeds North West (Alex Sobel), and the hon. Member for Falkirk (John Mc Nally)—for the work they have done in bringing this important report to the House. We also had a contribution from my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Martin Whitfield), and my hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd South (Susan Elan Jones) brought an interesting Welsh perspective to the debate.

When it comes to tackling plastic waste, I believe that the House is united in recognising the need for action. The UK uses 13 billion plastic bottles every year, yet only 7.5 billion are recycled, which means that the remaining 5.5 billion are landfilled, littered or incinerated. As the Environmental Audit Committee report has highlighted, if marine plastic continues to rise at its current rate, the amount of plastic in the sea will outweigh fish by 2050; I do not know who weighs the fish.

Although it is imperative that we do all we can domestically to tackle the plastics ending up in our seas, we must also bear in mind that ocean pollution is a global issue that requires international co-operation and leadership. As long as there are countries and communities with inadequate or non-existent waste disposal infrastructure, litter and waste will continue to pollute our oceans. Will the Minister confirm the amount of spending that the Department for International Development has put towards improving waste infra- structure in developing countries in the past 12 months?

We have heard that the mix of plastic and paper in the lining of disposable coffee cups makes them very difficult to recycle. Currently, only a small number of specialist plants in Britain are able to process disposable coffee cups. That means that over 99% of the disposable coffee cups used in Britain do not get recycled. That is why the Committee’s call for more research into recyclable coffee cups is so important, as is its call for greater clarity and awareness raising about how coffee cups can be recycled. The problem is that there still remains a significant public belief that coffee cups are easily recyclable, along with other paper or plastic items, when in fact they cannot be disposed of with household recycling.

On plastics, Labour supports the Committee’s call for a plastic bottle deposit return scheme, as was outlined in our last manifesto. While behavioural change and reducing the consumption of single-use plastics is undoubtedly important, we must not lose sight of the bigger picture on waste and recycling, of which consumer behaviour is just one part. Currently, packaging producers pay for only 10% of the cost of packaging disposal and recycling, which leaves taxpayers to foot the bill for the remaining 90%. We have heard from hon. Members about the weakness of the current producer responsibility obligations, with our fees being among the lowest in Europe. We know that the PRN system is far from optimal, and that local authority practice in recycling varies quite wildly.

A comprehensive and effective strategy from the Government cannot just rely on righteous indignation and soundbites. We need comprehensive and ambitious reform of waste and recycling, and to look at many of the systemic, design and infrastructure barriers to waste reduction and recycling right across the UK. Never has this been so urgent as it is now, with the UK leaving the EU in only a few months and, as we have heard, in the light of the Chinese ban on dry recycling imports from the UK. Although we have had numerous promises and press releases, not one piece of primary legislation has been brought forward by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to date, despite the fact that, as I have said, we are now only months away from leaving the European Union. I am afraid that does not encourage confidence in the Secretary of State’s assertions that environmental standards are not at risk with Brexit and that the UK is well prepared.

Last week, yet another consultation was launched, this time on the environmental principles and governance Bill. However, Shaun Spiers, the chair of Greener UK, says that the proposals will give the environment and countryside less protection after Brexit than exists now. Given the emphasis by the Environmental Audit Committee on the importance of the polluter pays principle, will the Minister confirm whether the precautionary and polluter pays principles will be enshrined in law before the UK leaves the EU?

How can the Secretary of State credibly claim to be upholding and improving environmental standards after Brexit when the environmental watchdog he proposes has been described by environmental experts as toothless and lacking adequate scope and powers? Only yesterday, the other place voted to ensure that existing environmental standards are maintained, recognising that inadequacy. The Government’s plan announced in January to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by 2042 is all well and good, but will the Minister confirm whether it is on track to be delivered? Does he believe that that ambition could, and should, be achieved sooner, and in line with EU targets?

In summary, I again welcome the important work done by the Environmental Audit Committee on single-use plastics and coffee cups, and its leadership in this area. We must use the current wave of public opinion to make lasting and meaningful change to recycling and waste, and to ensure that environmental standards in the UK are protected and strengthened in legislation, not just in Government press releases.

George Eustice Portrait The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (George Eustice) - Hansard
17 May 2018, 3:06 p.m.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mary Creagh) on securing this debate, following her Committee’s reports on plastic bottles and disposable coffee cups. We have heard a number of thoughtful and detailed contributions, and there is clearly cross-party consensus about the challenge we are seeking to address. Members from all parts of the United Kingdom have contributed, since this issue affects the entire UK.

The Government are determined to address the problem of plastic pollution. The Marine Conservation Society’s Great British Beach Clean showed in its 2017 report that, on average in the UK, 718 pieces of litter were collected for every 100 metre stretch of beach surveyed. Litter from eating and drinking “on the go” made up 20% of all the rubbish found on our beaches, which shows the scale of the problem. As a number of hon. Members have pointed out, there has been a huge rise in public consciousness about this issue, and I especially acknowledge the producers of “Blue Planet II” for their revealing documentary series that has done huge amounts to raise public awareness of this challenge.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Justine Greening) and others spoke about the work done by schools in their constituencies, so I will take this opportunity to acknowledge the work done by a couple of schools in my area. A few weeks ago, pupils from Portreath Community Primary School travelled all the way from Cornwall to London to brief MPs about some of the work they are doing to encourage suppliers to their school to reduce the use of single-use plastics in their packaging. Recently, I faced a concerted campaign from pupils from Mount Hawke Academy, who are campaigning for Parliament to do more. Cornwall is also the home of Surfers Against Sewage, which campaigns nationally against marine pollution. It is at the forefront of the campaign to get parliamentary authorities to do more here to reduce our use of plastics. That campaign has been a success, and I am sure all hon. Members will welcome the steps announced this week by the parliamentary authorities to reduce the use of single-use plastics, including plastic water bottles and disposable cups. The intention to increase the availability of water dispensers is also good.

It is this Government’s ambition to be the first generation to leave the natural environment in a better state than we found it. The 25-year environment plan that we published in January outlines the steps we propose to take to achieve our ambition.

A central part of the plan is the aim to use resources more wisely and to radically reduce the waste we generate. I would say our approach is contrary to the picture painted by the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy). We believe and recognise that sustainable growth can go hand-in-hand with less waste and a better use of resources. We need to shift our economy away from one of making, using and disposing, to one where we can keep our resources in circulation for longer and maximise the value we get from them. We also want to reduce the environmental impacts of products by promoting reuse, remanufacturing and recycling.

The plan also includes the Secretary of State’s four-point plan for specifically tackling plastic waste: cutting the total amount of plastic in circulation; reducing the number of different plastics in use; improving the rate of recycling; and supporting comprehensive and frequent rubbish and recycling collections, making it easier for individuals to know what goes in the recycling bin and what goes into general rubbish. More detail will be announced in our resources and waste strategy, which we will publish later this year, but we are already working to deliver on this ambition.

We agree with the Environmental Audit Committee that more needs to be done to increase the recycling of plastic drinks bottles. That is why we intend to introduce a deposit return scheme, which is aimed at boosting recycling rates and reducing littering of not just plastic bottles but other drinks containers, subject to consultation later this year. As the hon. Member for Falkirk (John Mc Nally) pointed out, a lot of work is being done right across the UK. The hon. Member for Cardiff North (Anna McMorrin) invited us to look at some of the work being done in Wales. In Scotland, we are aware that the Scottish Government have been working and looking at deposit return schemes for some time. We are certainly keen to work with them and to learn from the work they have done to date.

We agree that making drinking water more readily available in public places will help to reduce the use of single-use plastic bottles. We are already taking action on this, too. Water companies, through Water UK, have been working to create a network of water refill points across England. We are working with them on this. Water companies in England have committed to publishing their plans for reducing single-use plastic bottles in September 2018.

The Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey), has written to a wide range of coffee chains, supermarkets, larger airports and transport hubs to encourage installation of free water bottle refill points. There has been a positive response, with most airports confirming they have refill points, and coffee chains and supermarkets committing to their installation. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid Derbyshire (Mrs Latham) highlighted the challenge in train stations. We are encouraging water refill points in train stations, but they are not necessarily providing the facilities to help people to top up. Network Rail is installing a trial refill point in Charing Cross station, with more to follow, if the pilot is successful, at 16 other stations it manages in England.

The Government have committed to removing all consumer single-use plastics from the central Government estate offices. Within the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, we have removed single-use plastic cups and are setting a requirement that new catering services exclude all single-use plastics. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as was noted in the debate, has also taken early steps to eliminate single-use consumer plastics from its procurement. We will be looking to other Departments to follow that lead.

I turn now to the issue of plastic straws and cotton buds. We are already taking steps towards reducing the scourge of avoidable plastic waste, with our pioneering microbeads ban and the 5p charge on carrier bags. We recently announced that we would go further and consult later this year on a potential ban on the sale of plastic straws, plastic drinks stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds in England. We recognise that in some circumstances plastic straws are the only viable option for some consumers, for example people with certain disabilities and other medical conditions. We would therefore be looking closely at providing exclusions for straws used for medical and other essential reasons when the legislation is introduced.

The issue of coffee cups dominated much of our debate. We want to see a significant reduction in the use of disposable coffee cups. I have seen reports in the media that the Government have apparently rejected the latte levy, which the hon. Member for Wakefield talked about, but that is not true. We genuinely have an open mind. Clearly, the 5p single-use plastic bag charge has had a big impact and far fewer are being sold today. These types of incentives can change consumer behaviour. That is why, in his spring statement, the Chancellor launched a call for evidence, which closes tomorrow, seeking views on how the tax system or charges could reduce the waste from a broader range of single-use plastics. The call for evidence is clear that we will consider a levy on disposable cups, and we are seeking views on that idea as part of that call for evidence.

However, we should also give credit to the coffee and other retail chains where they are taking the initiative on increasing the recycling of disposable cups. We are encouraged by the action being taken by packaging companies and retailers—for example, as part of the Paper Cup Recovery and Recycling Group. More than 100 local authorities have signed up and we would encourage more to join. I also understand that some coffee retail chains are already taking action to reduce single-use coffee cups by offering discounts to customers with reusable cups and are putting in place the infrastructure to ensure that cups can be collected for recycling. I welcome the announcement by Costa Coffee that, by 2020, it will recycle 500 million disposable cups, the equivalent of its yearly sales.

We disagree with some recommendations in the EAC report. For instance, we do not agree with the recommendation that the Government should ban disposable cups if 100% of those disposed of in recycling bins are not recycled in the next five years. The reason for that was touched on by the hon. Member for East Lothian (Martin Whitfield), who made the point about some of the challenges created by contamination. Targets need to be not only challenging, but realistic and obtainable, and we believe that 100% recycling from collection is unobtainable as there will always be contamination in the waste stream, either from the beverage or from other items disposed of alongside the cup. However, we recognise that targets and incentives can be critical to successfully driving the right behaviour. We recognise the need to stimulate markets for secondary materials and, as part of our resources and waste strategy, we will look at the whole system from end to end to make sure that it is working effectively through a range of push and pull factors.

The hon. Member for Wakefield touched on producer responsibility schemes, as did a number of other hon. Members, and she pointed out some of the weaknesses. I think she will be happier with the Government’s position on this issue. We have already committed to reviewing our current producer responsibility schemes so that they can better incentivise producers to be more resource-efficient. We aim to reform the packaging waste regulations to encourage businesses to design their packaging products in a more sustainable way, to encourage the greater use of recycled materials in those products and to stimulate the increase of collection, reprocessing and recycling of packaging waste. As part of our upcoming resources and waste strategy, we will set out options for the kind of packaging waste producer responsibility system that we think will best deliver our ambitions.

We want to support people to be able to recycle more and to encourage people to recycle on the go. We outline some actions to support that in our litter strategy. In addition, WRAP—the Waste and Resources Action Programme—has produced a guide for local authorities on improving recycling on the go facilities. We have established a working group to explore and identify best practice in improving bin infrastructure—my speaking note uses the new word “binfrastructure”, which the hon. Lady used; for the benefit of Hansard, I did not abbreviate it—but there is certainly a great deal that we can do in that area.

To conclude, we believe that this is a very important issue. Our resources and waste strategy will address many of these issues. We also have consultations coming up on banning plastic straws, plastic stirrers and cotton buds, and on introducing a deposit return scheme. I believe that the Government are taking these reports and this issue seriously and that we can work together to achieve these aims.

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Cosmetics Testing on Animals
Debate between Sue Hayman and George Eustice
Tuesday 01 May 2018

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Read Full debate
Westminster Hall
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Sue Hayman (Workington) (Lab) Hansard
1 May 2018, 5:05 p.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I thank the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron) for securing this important debate.

An end to testing cosmetics on animals was first promised in the 1997 Labour manifesto. I am proud that that was delivered here in the UK, under a Labour Government, 11 years before the EU-wide ban was brought in. Labour led the way then, and we continue to lead the way now.

Although testing practices have advanced greatly in recent years, there is still a lack of transparency about project licence applications and the allowance of “severe” suffering, as it is defined in UK legislation. That is one of the reasons the Labour party stated in our recent animal welfare plan that we will review animal testing. Our 50-point plan includes important proposals to build on our already proud record, and I encourage anyone who is interested to look at those proposals and give us their comments. We started by banning animal testing for cosmetics here in the UK, and it was then banned in the EU; it is incredibly important that it is now taken out globally.

As the hon. Lady said, animal testing has been banned for finished cosmetic products since 2004 and for cosmetic ingredients since 2009. It has also been illegal since 2009 to market in the EU cosmetic products containing ingredients that have been tested on animals. Those bans have done a lot to boost animal welfare due to the EU’s economic influence. As was said, the EU is the world’s largest market for cosmetic products. From soap and shampoo to moisturiser, perfume and make-up, it is estimated that consumers use about seven different cosmetic products every day. EU rules ensure that those products are safe for us to use, but not at the expense of animal welfare being ignored.

As we leave the EU, consumers tell me that they are concerned. They need reassurance that any trade deals that we do with countries that do not share our standards, such as the US, will not result in our sales ban being watered down, and that cruel cosmetics will remain a thing of the past in the UK. I would be grateful if the Minister provided an assurance that our ban on testing cosmetics on animals will not be undermined by any trade deals.

I welcome the resolution of the European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee, which aims to establish a global ban on testing cosmetics on animals by 2023. As we heard, that resolution proposes the drafting of an international convention against testing cosmetics on animals within the UN framework, and calls for that to be included on the agenda of the next UN General Assembly meeting.

The hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson) pointed out that about 80% of countries still allow animal testing and the marketing of cosmetics that are tested on animals. We also heard that China’s major cosmetics industry requires products to be tested on animals before they are allowed on the market. That is one of the biggest challenges we will have to overcome if we are to implement a global ban.

We must also be clear that the cosmetics industry has a key role to play. It is simply unacceptable that those cosmetic brands that claim to be cruelty-free and not to engage in animal testing yet undertake such testing are able to sell to Chinese consumers. Many of those large cosmetic companies state online that they do not engage in animal testing but indicate that exceptions are made where required. For instance, Estée Lauder’s website says that it

“does not test on animals and we never ask others to do so on our behalf”.

However, it has the caveat:

“If a regulatory body demands it for its safety or regulatory assessment, an exception can be made.”

That can be confusing for consumers, who may believe that a company does no animal testing at all. Those loopholes and inconsistencies allow companies to brand themselves as cruelty-free while making exceptions if they want to trade in countries such as China.

There can be no excuse for causing distress and suffering to animals for the sake of make-up, soap and toiletries. In the global market in which we live, the only way to avoid animal testing of cosmetics is by having a ban across all countries; otherwise, as has been said, testing will simply shift to those countries that allow it. Work towards a ban must run in parallel with the further development of alternative replacement test methods worldwide. The EU can lead on that, working to speed up the development, validation and introduction of alternative testing methods. We know that the EU ban on animal testing has not jeopardised the cosmetic sector. As we have heard, it is the biggest market in the world, and it is thriving.

The EU resolution that aims to establish a global ban on animal testing for cosmetics by 2023 is a real step forward in improving animal welfare and closing loopholes on cosmetic animal testing worldwide. The EU resolution and events such as this debate do much to help increase visibility of this important issue. If countries outside the EU such as Guatemala, India, New Zealand and Turkey can put in place bans, every other country can, too.

George Eustice Portrait The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (George Eustice) - Hansard
1 May 2018, 5:12 p.m.

It is a real pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I congratulate the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron)—I hope I pronounced that right; it always throws me—on securing this debate on an incredibly important issue on which, as she pointed out, the UK has a considerable track record.

Animal welfare is dear to my heart, and dear to all of our hearts. In recent months, both the Secretary of State and I have made a number of important changes to promote and improve animal welfare regulation. Recent announcements have included introducing a ban on ivory and steps to reduce cetacean bycatch. We have published a draft animal welfare Bill that will recognise animal sentience and introduced tougher regulations on pet vendors and puppy breeding. We have also announced our intention to control live animal exports further than we do now, and just yesterday we introduced regulations for mandatory CCTV in slaughterhouses.

The UK has a long track record of being first when it comes to animal welfare. In 1822, this Parliament was the first ever legislature to implement laws to protect animals when it introduced the Cruel Treatment of Cattle Act—“an Act to prevent the cruel and improper Treatment of Cattle”. As long ago as the 1950s, the UK was the first country to introduce new regulations outlawing certain types of inhumane traps for wild animals, and more recently we have promoted humane trapping internationally.

We have also always taken a leading role in international wildlife conventions such as the convention on international trade in endangered species, the convention on migratory species and the convention on biological diversity. This year, I hope to go to the International Whaling Commission, where the UK has a longstanding role in arguing for the ending of commercial whaling. Also, through various regional fisheries management organisations, we promote issues such as shark conservation. Finally—this is relevant to animal welfare in particular—we are a member of the OIE, the World Organisation for Animal Health, currently as an EU member. The duty of loyal co-operation means that we have to attend it as part of an EU delegation, but the UK intends to use its freedom when it leaves the EU to argue strongly and powerfully for improved animal welfare standards around the world through the OIE.

See more like "Leaving the EU: Food Producers"

Leaving the EU: Food Producers
Debate between Sue Hayman and George Eustice
Thursday 08 March 2018

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Read Full debate
Commons Chamber
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard
8 Mar 2018, 9:38 a.m.

My hon. Friend makes a very important point. The common agricultural policy has all sorts of inconsistencies. Having a one-size-fits-all agricultural policy for the whole European Union makes no sense at all, and as we leave the European Union and take back control of these matters, we will have the freedom to design an agricultural policy that works for our own farmers.

Sue Hayman (Workington) (Lab) Hansard
8 Mar 2018, 9:38 a.m.

May I say first how relieved I am that the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish) made it here today to ask this important question?

When the Secretary of State looks at how best to support food producers, he should be aware that the figures of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs show that 64% of farmers earn less than £10,000 a year and that eight supermarkets control almost 95% of the food retail market. Recent figures also show that farmers receive less than 10% of the value of their produce that is sold in supermarkets. Can the Secretary of State—or the Minister today—tell me, please, what he is doing to tackle this clearly inequitable and unsustainable situation?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard
8 Mar 2018, 9:39 a.m.

The hon. Lady makes an important point. If we want to move to a position in which farmers are no longer dependent on subsidies, it is important that we support farmers to come together collaboratively, to strengthen their position in the supply chain and ensure that they get a fairer price for the food that they produce. We recently outlined a series of proposals for a statutory code on dairy and a statutory approach to carcase classification for sheep, together with a range of other options.

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Leaving the EU: Agriculture
Debate between Sue Hayman and George Eustice
Thursday 01 February 2018

(1 year, 12 months ago)

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Westminster Hall
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Sue Hayman (Workington) (Lab) Hansard
1 Feb 2018, 4:13 p.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bone.

I thank the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael) for securing the debate and recognising the challenges that we face in Cumbria. There have been many good contributions from Members across the Chamber. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) for expressing her concerns about food security and labour, which are an important part of the debate.

We have heard that British farming is critical to our economy, providing thousands of jobs and the cornerstone of our food production. It is therefore important for the Government to step up to the plate to get the best deal and maintain the high standards that we have heard about, to enable our businesses and farms to flourish and remain successful. When we negotiate our trade agreements, it is important to make sure that they work for British farming, while protecting the high standards of food safety and animal welfare that our consumers expect. As we have heard from a number of Members, it is important that any deals do not undercut British farming.

Food and farming need to be a clear strategic priority and a cornerstone of the broad industrial strategy that the Government are promoting. I agree that there is a clear need, as hon. Members have said, for a plan to enable food and farming to grow more, so that people have a greater appreciation of British food and are encouraged to buy British at every opportunity. We also need to look at the brand of Britishness to help us to export more and get others to appreciate our high standards.

It is important that we appreciate exactly what is at stake for the farming industry with Brexit. If we get it wrong, that is the nation’s food security, nutrition, environment and public health, as we have heard. Farming is an integral part of the Labour party’s vision of a fairer society—one that tackles the increasing social ills of food poverty, poor diet, environmental degradation and inequality. We believe that we must be ambitious in the creation of our new British agricultural policy, which should aim to establish a new deal and a consensus on what a modern farming industry can do for the economy, rural communities, consumers and the environment. Change cannot be left to market forces alone, as long as farming is critical to our food security and to stewardship of the natural environment.

We have to look at better food labelling, which is vital. If our farmers are to be able to compete fairly under any new trade deals, product labelling must be clear and unambiguous so that people know exactly what they are buying. Such labelling should include the country of origin and method of production.

As we have heard, the issue of farm labour is critical and immediate. Farmers and food manufacturers need to have access to a wider labour market. Without access to that labour, the agricultural sector and food manufacturers will face severe difficulties. A lack of labour will lead to consequences for UK agriculture. We could end up with product being left to waste, the movement of investment and operations out of the UK and, on top of that, price inflation for consumers.

At the moment, the profitability of many farms is too dependent on direct payments from the CAP. Because of the huge diversity in farming and the volatility in many areas, we need to consider how we can support farms to become more resilient, while mitigating the volatility. When it comes to replacing the CAP, we believe that a future payment system must broadly seek to do the following things. We need to look at how we target support to farmers who provide the most public good but may struggle to compete in the market, through no fault of their own—for example, the hill farmers in my Lakeland constituency. Any future system must be transparent as well as relevant. It must be easily accessible—we have heard about broadband—and cost-effective. It should reward environmentally sustainable practice and environmental stewardship, such as the management of habitat and natural resources. I believe strongly that we should recognise the cultural and historical landscape for the benefit of us all.

We should also support flood mitigation through land management, so we need to look at how any future programme can include that. We also need to include technological innovation, and consider how investment in it could meet the aims of improving resource efficiency and animal health and welfare, managing disease and adding value. It could also be used to encourage investment in machinery and software. It is important to support rural communities and family farms as part of any system. They, too, are central to the economy.

In short, any new system must enable profitable and sustainable farming businesses that support a vital and dynamic rural economy. Farmers tell me that their big problem at the moment is uncertainty about the future, so I am looking forward to hearing what the Minister has to say. I hope that anything being developed will provide that certainty and direction for our farmers, so that they can engage in long-term planning for sustainable future prosperity.

George Eustice Portrait The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (George Eustice) - Hansard
1 Feb 2018, 4:19 p.m.

I congratulate the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael) on securing this debate. Like him, I am a farmer’s son. Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish), I am not farming now, but I did try farming for 10 years. It is a real honour to be farming Minister at an exciting time: we have an opportunity, for the first time in half a century, to design fresh thinking and coherent policy in agriculture.

As the Minister for Agriculture, I have wrestled with the common agricultural policy, and the rules and bureaucracy, for four years. It is stifling. Although there have been changes to the CAP over the years, in its current incarnation it is a bureaucratic quagmire. It attempts to regulate every single field and every feature in them. Our administrators spend their time fretting about the width of a hedge: whether it is too narrow or too wide, whether the gateway is too big and whether there are too many trees on a parcel of land. It goes on forever.

Every Administration in the UK feels deep frustration at some of the bureaucracy in the CAP. We have an opportunity as we leave the EU to do things differently and to design coherent policy. We set out our intention in the Queen’s Speech last year to bring forward an agriculture Bill later this year. Before that, we will publish further plans about our initial thinking—some time later in the spring or in early summer.

The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland and others talked about the importance of UK frameworks. We absolutely recognise that and I think that all other parts of the UK do, too. As he pointed out, when we consider the UK framework, we will be looking predominantly at two areas: first, what is required to protect the integrity of the UK single market. Clearly, we could not have one Administration subsidising sheep farmers in a way that would be to the huge detriment of farmers in other parts of the UK. There would have to be some boundaries. Secondly, everyone accepts the need for UK frameworks when we talk about what is necessary to secure international agreements, be they on trade or other matters: things like phytosanitary, food safety and traceability issues to protect our export market. We will have to have some kind of framework and common outcomes and objectives to deliver those things.

I reassure the hon. Gentleman and others that we are engaging regularly with Ministers in all the devolved Administrations. We have regular meetings with them and in some of those meetings, different devolved Administrations lead on particular aspects. They have been updating us on some of the work that they have been doing. At official level there has been a very in-depth analysis, both to deliver what is necessary for the current European Union (Withdrawal) Bill and for the detailed work on the principles and features that a future UK framework will need.

Picking up on the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Colin Clark) made, our critique of the CAP is that it is a one-size-fits-all policy, and it does not work for that reason. I want to ensure that leaving the EU and the CAP is liberating for everyone in this country—for all the devolved Administrations and for farmers right across the UK. As he put it, it is not our intention at all to have a DEFRA-centric, top-down policy. Far from it: we want to protect maximum flexibility and ability for each individual devolved Administration to design policies that work for them.

I will give an example of the sort of thing that we have to put up with. About 18 months ago, the Welsh Government got into a legal dispute with the European Commission because the Commission did not like the size and shape of the ear tag that they used as the second tag on cattle. I would have no intention of trying to dictate to other devolved Administrations what the size, shape or colour of their ear tags should be. All I would want to know is that they had proper traceability in place.

See more like "Leaving the EU: Food Prices"

Leaving the EU: Food Prices
Debate between Sue Hayman and George Eustice
Thursday 07 December 2017

(2 years, 1 month ago)

Read Full debate
Commons Chamber
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard
7 Dec 2017, 9:46 a.m.

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State pointed out earlier, once we have left the European Union, banning the export of live animals will become a possibility, and we have a manifesto commitment to restrict and control it further.

Sue Hayman (Workington) (Lab) Hansard
7 Dec 2017, 9:47 a.m.

The UK now has the second highest rate of food insecurity in Europe. In October, food and drink prices increased faster than at any other point over the last four years, and the latest Trussell Trust figures show a 13% increase on last year in the number of emergency food parcels issued. How will the Secretary of State and the Minister address the shameful increase in hunger and food poverty that is taking place throughout the country on this Government’s watch?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard
7 Dec 2017, 9:47 a.m.

The key benchmark that Governments of all colours have studied for many years is the Living Costs and Food Survey. We know that over the last 15 to 20 years, the spending of the poorest 20% of households on food has remained constant at about 16.5%.

Sue Hayman Hansard
7 Dec 2017, 9:48 a.m.

With all due respect, I do not think that that really answered my question. Yesterday the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union admitted that Ministers had carried out no proper assessment of the impact of Brexit on any UK economic sector. Food prices are rising. What assessment has DEFRA made of the impact of Brexit on those prices?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard

As I have said, we are carrying out this work, but our current assessment is that the impact is marginal. Economists sometimes make the mistake of not taking account of the fact that we have tariff rate quotas—that means that we already have a high degree of tariff-free trade—and the fact that the commodity price represents only a small part of the overall value of the shopping basket.

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UK Bee Population
Debate between Sue Hayman and George Eustice
Tuesday 14 November 2017

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Read Full debate
Westminster Hall
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Sue Hayman (Workington) (Lab) Hansard
14 Nov 2017, 5:12 p.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I congratulate the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) on initiating the debate, in which we have heard excellent contributions. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Tony Lloyd) for bringing his serious expertise to the debate; it is much appreciated.

We have heard that scientific evidence about the harmful impact on pollinators and the persistence of the pesticide in habitats has been growing for some time. In 2012, DEFRA said that England had seen the greatest decline in the diversity of wild bees anywhere in Europe. We have also heard that, in June, the results of the field study on the impact of neonicotinoids were published and that that has provided the most conclusive evidence yet of the impact of neonicotinoids on pollinators. We know that farmers had concerns that decisions were being based on lab tests rather than field tests, so it is good that the recent studies were field tests and have put that argument and those concerns to rest.

We also know that when neonicotinoids are used on one crop, residues of the pesticide can be found right across the wider habitat. That contaminates pollinators’ food sources and not only the specific crops where the neonicotinoids are used. Wider investigations have shown that neonicotinoids can persist in soil for many years. The pesticide is taken up by flowering weeds or flowering crops, which can cause even more damaging exposure for the pollinators.

I therefore welcome the Secretary of State’s support, now, for a total ban on the use of neonicotinoids. A ban was in the Labour party’s 2017 manifesto, and we are proud to have led the way on this critical issue. Earlier this year, I wrote to the Secretary of State requesting clarification as to why Conservative MEPs were frustrating votes at EU level on a ban on neonicotinoids. Can the Minister provide a guarantee that the position announced by the Secretary of State is confirmed and that Conservative representatives at EU level will now hold that position and not undermine any further votes on neonicotinoids?

It is clear from this debate that we are all in no doubt about the importance of pollinators to our food supply, biodiversity and economy. We need to do more to encourage people to take up beekeeping and to have more interest in that. We have bees on our land. They are not ours; we do not look after them, but because we have the land and the right conditions, we have encouraged others, who have the time and the interest, to come and look after hives on our land. We could all encourage more of that.

We could also encourage local authorities to do more work. In Plymouth, the then Labour council introduced city-wide bee corridors. That simple act has helped bee numbers to increase in the city. It involved sowing grass verges with wild flower seeds. The different British wild flowers produce fabulous roadside views for people who go down there, but also the habitat that bees need. That is an example of the creative interventions that local authorities can make.

Over the weekend, the Secretary of State highlighted the economic contribution of pollinators, citing estimates of £400 million to £680 million being added every year to agricultural productivity. However, we need to take into full consideration the importance of pesticides for farmers. Farmers have to protect their crops and livelihoods from threats throughout the growing season. How do the Government propose to work with farmers to develop and invest in alternatives to neonicotinoids? We know that it is not just pesticides that pose a risk to pollinator populations, but temperature changes and increased extreme weather incidents caused by climate change. I am therefore delighted that the shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer has today announced Labour’s intention to factor climate change into financial forecasts and policy making. That should enhance the future sustainability of farming and safeguard future pollinator populations.

I would like to finish with a quote from Professor David Goulson of the University of Sussex:

“Insects make up about two-thirds of all life on Earth”,

but

“there has been some kind of horrific decline. We appear to be making vast tracts of land inhospitable to most forms of life, and are currently on course for ecological Armageddon. If we lose the insects…everything is going to collapse.”

The case for a permanent ban is now unassailable, and I welcome the developing political consensus on the matter.

George Eustice Portrait The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (George Eustice) - Hansard
14 Nov 2017, 5:18 p.m.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) on securing this debate on such an important issue. I also commend the work that he does in the APPG on bees. He gave a very uplifting speech. As he said, we Conservatives believe in conservation; we want to leave an environmental legacy, and our pollinators are incredibly important to our environment.

Often in debates on this issue there is a focus on pesticides, but as a number of hon. Members—in particular, my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman)—have pointed out, a big role is played by loss of habitat. In fact, a lot of analysis suggests that loss of habitat has been the key driver of the decline in our pollinators. As my hon. Friend rightly pointed out, declines have taken place since the 1950s—long before neonicotinoids were invented.

There is no doubt that our bees face many pressures. However, the population data are complex. Many species of wild bee and other insect pollinators have declined over the last 30 to 50 years. A few have increased, but the net effect has clearly been negative. Three of our native bumblebees have been lost from the UK—the apple bumblebee in the 1800s, Cullum’s bumblebee in the 1940s and the short-haired bumblebee in the 1980s. On a positive note, that last species is currently being reintroduced to Kent and has become a real focus for conservation and land management action.

Similarly, there has been a decline in the number of honey bees kept since the 1950s. Again, however, there has been better news more recently. I am referring to the renewed interest in beekeeping over the last decade, with membership of beekeeping associations and the number of registered colonies on the rise. The number of colonies registered with the National Bee Unit increased from just over 100,000 in 2009 to 195,000 this year. Often, those are amateur keepers with a couple of hives in their garden. My hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle called for Parliament to have some beehives. DEFRA is already doing its bit: we have two beehives on the roof of our building—Nobel House in Smith Square.

Nevertheless, we should not be complacent. Wild and honey bees continue to face many challenges and we must maintain our efforts to help all our pollinators. The area of wild flower habitat on farmland, as well as the presence of clover leys in our rotations, declined substantially after the second world war, as farmers responded to our need for food. Many of the insect pollinators that have seen the greatest declines are those that are strongly associated with these habitats. On our protected sites and through countryside stewardship, we are putting these habitats back into the countryside and I am keen that we continue to do this as we develop our new environmental land management measures outside the European Union.

I turn now to the action the Government have taken in relation to this matter, first, our national pollinator strategy, which my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch and Upminster (Julia Lopez) highlighted. This strategy sets out how the Government are taking a leading role in improving the status of the 1,500 pollinating insects in England. It sets out how Government, beekeepers, conservation groups, farmers, researchers and individuals can work together to achieve common goals. It builds on current policies across DEFRA, which support pollinators, including habitat creation and public engagement.

On 9 November we published a progress report detailing the positive progress we have made. I am pleased to report that this included the valuable creation of new habitats for pollinators and improvements in our understanding of the status of pollinating insects. We have supported the reintroduction of species such as the short-haired bumblebee, whose conservation we know to have additional benefits for other species. Over 95% of our sites of special scientific interest and almost two thirds of the total area of our resource of wildlife-rich habitats are now in good condition or have management plans in place to restore them to it.

Secondly, I want to consider farm measures. We have introduced a pollinator and wildlife package to our countryside stewardship scheme, to help landowners provide year-round habitat such as flower-rich field margins. Since 2011, we have established more than 100,000 hectares of land that we are restoring to flower-rich habitat, principally through those agri-environment schemes. Forty per cent. of all 2016 countryside stewardship mid-tier agreements are delivering the pollinator and farm wildlife package. Last year, countryside stewardship applications increased by almost 45% and requests for mid-tier application packs are up this year. We have worked with farmers to make it easier and simpler to apply for the scheme and will continue working to improve it and make it simpler as we go forward.

Thirdly, on the Government estates, the Ministry of Justice planted over two miles of native hedgerows and created over 20 hectares of wild flower meadows in 2016. The Ministry of Defence has collaborated with organisations such as Plantlife, National Parks, the Wildlife Trusts and its own tenant farmers to set up suitable areas for pollinators to thrive, including through the creation of wild flower meadows.

Fourthly, in addition to supporting our pollinators with habitat creation, we have put in place measures to improve our understanding of the status of pollinators in our environment. We have established a monitoring and research partnership with research institutions and volunteer organisations. This partnership will allow us to gather further data on the status of our pollinators and the challenges they face.

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Puppy Smuggling
Debate between Sue Hayman and George Eustice
Wednesday 01 November 2017

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Read Full debate
Westminster Hall
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Sue Hayman Hansard
1 Nov 2017, 5:18 p.m.

That is an incredibly important point. One good thing about the Westminster dog of the year show was that there were dogs there for rehoming. That was very important.

It is time for the Government to act on this. We need to look at how to drive up standards for online advertising and raise awareness of rogue pet dealers among the general public. We also need to ensure we have a robust pet travel scheme in operation. I am a dog owner, and I have long believed that we must do more to block wholesale puppy imports that abuse the pet travel scheme and ensure that all puppies have legitimate documentation. One thing that came out of the Dogs Trust’s work was that chips were being put in collars and then reused. We need to be very clear about the tricks being played.

Government agencies need the resources to tackle puppy smuggling by enforcing the current legislation. We need to ensure we have sufficient border guards, and there needs to be greater international co-operation between police forces, to crack down on this problem internationally. I also would like to see the Government commit to banning the third-party sale of dogs, which would help to drive down demand for smuggled puppies. Dogs should be available only from licensed, regulated breeders or approved rehoming organisations. Unfortunately, the current legislation does not protect the welfare of all dogs or the interests of all consumers, so the only solution to protect the welfare of puppies is to ban third-party sales entirely.

International studies have shown that puppies obtained from pet shops are more likely to be aggressive towards people, fearful, prone to separation anxiety and infected with parasites and pathogens to a significant level. As we know, puppies continue to be bred in large numbers in central and eastern Europe and in Ireland, sometimes in horrific conditions. Responsible breeders do not sell puppies through third parties. The third-party licensed pet shop market depends on and sustains that low-welfare breeding. As long as there is a market for cheap, intensively bred puppies, welfare problems will persist, because the incentives for non-compliance, as we have heard, far exceed the penalties. Availability may artificially inflate demand, so reducing the supply of cheap, poorly bred puppies from dealers and smugglers will promote a more responsible buying culture.

When we bought our dog, Max, another chocolate labrador, we knew how to find a responsible breeder, but not everyone does. It is critical that we protect the public from irresponsible breeders and help people to make responsible purchases, because animal welfare must come before profit. Last week, the Minister said that prospective puppy buyers should always insist on seeing the puppy interacting with its mum in the place where it was born. That advice is inconsistent with the ongoing legality of third-party sales, as it concedes that neither animals nor consumers can be protected by the regulations imposed on the industry.

I do not think it too ambitious to want to move on and to ask the Government to do more. Animal welfare must not be swept under the carpet or undercut, so I ask the Minister to commit today to continuing to show his understanding of the needs of puppies and do everything he can to stamp out this appalling trade.

George Eustice Portrait The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (George Eustice) - Hansard
1 Nov 2017, 5:22 p.m.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Worcestershire (Nigel Huddleston) on securing the debate. I know, based on the number of hon. Members present, that people care deeply about this issue. Hon. Members who have attended similar debates in recent years will know that, both as a Back Bencher and as the Minister responsible for companion animals, I have championed this cause and tried to make improvements, particularly to the legislation on the breeding of puppies —an issue to which I shall return.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Worcestershire pointed out, puppy smuggling is an abhorrent practice and is partly driven by demand for certain breeds in this country. We need to ensure greater public awareness of these things. If a person is told that someone wants to meet them at a motorway service station to sell them a puppy, that should set alarm bells ringing that something is not right. Everyone has a role to play in solving this problem, but in the time I have, I shall restrict my comments to what the Government are trying to do to improve things.

First, I shall explain a bit about what is required now. Under our current regulations, predominantly shaped by EU law, any dogs imported for commercial reasons—

See more like "Oral Answers to Questions"

Oral Answers to Questions
Debate between Sue Hayman and George Eustice
Thursday 20 July 2017

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Read Full debate
Commons Chamber
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard
20 Jul 2017, 9:44 a.m.

Yes; my hon. Friend is absolutely right. We believe that there should be careful risk-based assessment when it comes to regulation. We also have a great opportunity to change the culture of regulation. The reality of the common agricultural policy, as it exists now, is that there are far too many complex rules against which farmers are judged. We have an opportunity to simplify that and have a much more effective system going forward.

Sue Hayman (Workington) (Lab) Hansard

The National Farmers Union says that the number of seasonal farm workers coming to the UK has dropped by 17%, and a report published this week states that

“the silence from Government on the labour question is astonishing.”

Food production, processing and packaging rely heavily on migrant labour—the Office for National Statistics states that they make up 41% of the workforce. Why are the Government ignoring the industry’s warnings? Will they compensate for the loss of produce as a direct result of this complacency, and will they ensure that the food manufacturing industry continues to have access to the workforce it needs?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard
20 Jul 2017, 9:44 a.m.

There is no silence from the Government on this issue—indeed, there was a debate in Westminster Hall just last week where we discussed this issue in detail. We have the seasonal agricultural workers scheme transition group, which monitors seasonal labour requirements. It met in March, it had informal discussions last week, and it will meet again later this week. In addition, the Home Office intends to commission the Migration Advisory Committee to do a piece of work on the labour needs of this country after we leave the EU.

Sue Hayman Hansard
20 Jul 2017, 9:45 a.m.

Well, that all sounds marvellous, doesn’t it? So why does the report say we have a looming food crisis if everything is under control? It says we could actually run out of some foods after Brexit. One of the authors, Professor Tim Lang, accuses the Government of a

“serious policy failing on an unprecedented scale”

for their handling of the food security situation. The Secretary of State is notoriously dismissive of expert advice, but does he accept the findings of this report, and will he meet me and industry representatives to urgently discuss the food crisis before us?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard

The issue with that report is that it has not looked at the issues as closely as we have in DEFRA. We have been studying all these issues at tremendous length. The truth about food security is that it depends on increasing food production globally at a sustainable level and on open markets around the world, and those are challenges whether we are in or out of the EU. There is nothing about leaving the EU that will affect our food security.

See more like "Leaving the EU: Farming"

Leaving the EU: Farming
Debate between Sue Hayman and George Eustice
Thursday 20 July 2017

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Read Full debate
Commons Chamber
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard
20 Jul 2017, 9:44 a.m.

Yes; my hon. Friend is absolutely right. We believe that there should be careful risk-based assessment when it comes to regulation. We also have a great opportunity to change the culture of regulation. The reality of the common agricultural policy, as it exists now, is that there are far too many complex rules against which farmers are judged. We have an opportunity to simplify that and have a much more effective system going forward.

Sue Hayman (Workington) (Lab) Hansard

The National Farmers Union says that the number of seasonal farm workers coming to the UK has dropped by 17%, and a report published this week states that

“the silence from Government on the labour question is astonishing.”

Food production, processing and packaging rely heavily on migrant labour—the Office for National Statistics states that they make up 41% of the workforce. Why are the Government ignoring the industry’s warnings? Will they compensate for the loss of produce as a direct result of this complacency, and will they ensure that the food manufacturing industry continues to have access to the workforce it needs?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard
20 Jul 2017, 9:44 a.m.

There is no silence from the Government on this issue—indeed, there was a debate in Westminster Hall just last week where we discussed this issue in detail. We have the seasonal agricultural workers scheme transition group, which monitors seasonal labour requirements. It met in March, it had informal discussions last week, and it will meet again later this week. In addition, the Home Office intends to commission the Migration Advisory Committee to do a piece of work on the labour needs of this country after we leave the EU.

Sue Hayman Hansard
20 Jul 2017, 9:45 a.m.

Well, that all sounds marvellous, doesn’t it? So why does the report say we have a looming food crisis if everything is under control? It says we could actually run out of some foods after Brexit. One of the authors, Professor Tim Lang, accuses the Government of a

“serious policy failing on an unprecedented scale”

for their handling of the food security situation. The Secretary of State is notoriously dismissive of expert advice, but does he accept the findings of this report, and will he meet me and industry representatives to urgently discuss the food crisis before us?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard

The issue with that report is that it has not looked at the issues as closely as we have in DEFRA. We have been studying all these issues at tremendous length. The truth about food security is that it depends on increasing food production globally at a sustainable level and on open markets around the world, and those are challenges whether we are in or out of the EU. There is nothing about leaving the EU that will affect our food security.