21 Chris Loder debates involving the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill

Chris Loder Excerpts
Monday 5th December 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Chris Loder Portrait Chris Loder (West Dorset) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to speak in the debate this afternoon. If it runs to the full three hours, Mr Hollobone, I apologise for having to leave a little early.

I thank and congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Elliot Colburn), who presented the petition to the House in such a compelling manner. I should inform the House of my interest as the son of a tenant beef farmer in my constituency of West Dorset. I also thank all those at the back: the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, and many others. I am grateful for all the briefings that they have provided for this debate and for the last three years to Members who have been in Parliament since 2019 and have been championing the animal welfare cause. We very much appreciate it.

Back in 2020, I brought a private Member’s Bill to the House. The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill, which went into law, increased the maximum sentence for those who are cruel to animals from six months to five years. Like the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, it was widely supported across the House. No one voted against it. I was very pleased about that, because we were a bit short of time. It went through, and today in England and Wales, people who have been cruel to animals are now spending a lot longer in jail than they would have before.

In my speech on the Second Reading of my Bill, I said it was important that we address the live export of animals for fattening and slaughter. In that debate, I clearly articulated the evidence—brought forward, I think, by the BBC—that animals, primarily cows, raised in the United Kingdom were being slaughtered in Lebanon, Libya and even further afield. This is why we must bring the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill back to the House of Commons and get it through. My hon. Friend the Member for South Thanet (Craig Mackinlay), who is not in his place, referred to Kent Action Against Live Exports, which deserves a huge tribute for all the work that it has done. That group has shone a light on the most disgraceful conditions that our animals have been forced to endure, having to travel hours and hours all the way down to southern Europe. That is not acceptable.

There are some in the House who disagree about the value of leaving the European Union, but we must recognise the reality that being part of the European Union required freedom of movement for goods and services, and that animals, including cows and sheep, are part of that. Hon. Members have made the point, very soundly in my view, that we are now able to control our own laws in this respect. The Government should not hang on a moment longer than they absolutely have to before grasping the issue.

In West Dorset, there have been countless very sad cases of animal worrying by dogs leading to the death of sheep and cows. For example, very sadly, Gladis, a highland cow, and her unborn calf died as a result of her falling off the edge of Eggardon Hill, which is a very steep drop. Such cases mean that this is a very live matter for my constituents. Many of us have campaigned on the issue for a long time. I started that campaign as part of my private Member’s Bill, and continue to this day.

I understand that the Government have a lot of work to do—I am pleased that they do—but we do not have so much work that we cannot fit in an extra few hours. I state on the record, Mr Hollobone, that I would be very happy to spend a bit longer in this place on a Friday if that was necessary to get the Bill through, because it is so important that we do so. I would be happy to tell the Chief Whip the same following this debate.

I will conclude my remarks by once again thanking all those who have campaigned so vigorously on the animal welfare agenda that so many of us support. I petition my right hon. Friend the Minister to take heed of our concerns. If I can help any more than I already am helping to bring the Bill back to the House urgently, I would be delighted to hear from him or any member of the Government.

Support for British Farming

Chris Loder Excerpts
Wednesday 23rd November 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel (Witham) (Con)
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It is a real pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Gary. I am particularly grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for East Devon (Simon Jupp) for luring me back into Westminster Hall for such an important debate. He spoke eloquently about the importance of rural communities, which we all fundamentally believe in. I represent a part of Essex that is known for its rurality and for its coastal constituency values as well. Farming needs to be recognised as a strong, dynamic and entrepreneurial part of our economy, as well as for the agricultural quality that it brings. My hon. Friend also spoke about the fact many of our rural communities maintain our beautiful countryside and about some of the challenges that come with that.

The hon. Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis) spoke about buying local produce, so I will advertise local produce from the Witham constituency, which can be purchased here in Westminster as well. There are the famous jams from Tiptree’s Wilkin & Sons, which holds a royal warrant. With Christmas fast approaching, I urge everyone to make sure they stock up on Christmas puddings from Tiptree.

Importantly, there are many other farms that supply produce, and my hon. Friend touched on the issue of trade—our ability to export around the world. Importantly, we also have the ability to feed our domestic population. In Essex, we have the fantastic Wicks Manor farm, which produces amazing pork products—sausages and bacon—much of which goes across the world. It is also the birthplace of the famous milkshake known as Shaken Udder. We also have Humphreys at Blixes farm; Daymens Hill farm, which has an amazing orchard with nearly 4,000 varieties of apples and pears; and Blackwells farm shop. In addition, this House has the privilege of selling Linden Lady chocolates, which are very famous, in its gift shop—I recommend them.

That is just a small taster of what my constituency’s farmers and producers have to offer. They want more trade and fewer barriers to trade. They want to ensure that they can grow their businesses and see much more progress. Of course, two years of covid have left many challenges. There is the pain of inflation and what that means not only for wages but rising global food prices. Higher petrol and diesel costs also have an impact on farmers’ ability to operate.

Farmers are also being squeezed by the supermarkets. Everyone will be aware of the margins that supermarkets chase. The Government must hold the supermarkets to account.

Chris Loder Portrait Chris Loder (West Dorset) (Con)
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Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Groceries Code Adjudicator—the regulator for supermarkets, farmers and price controls—needs to be given more teeth and to have greater control so that our farmers are not suppressed?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I know the Minister has heard those comments, and he is familiar with the issue too.

Avian flu has been mentioned. I appreciate that the Minister has been involved in many debates, and there have been many meetings across the House as well, and I want to express my thanks for that support. But farmers face numerous pressures in terms of the regulations and some of the enforcement. I would welcome further details from the Minister on the measures that are being looked at to support farms.

In Essex and across the country, avian flu is very severe. One farm in my constituency has been left devastated by an outbreak. Despite the farm taking all the measures around biosecurity—I am pleased to hear that there will be a debate on that next week—the strain was still detected. As we know, it is causing disruption to the poultry supply chain, which will impact on the costs of poultry. I hope that we can continue to have constructive discussions and support our farmers around the implications of avian flu.

I would like to touch on investment in farming. I have picked up already the comments that have been made about the labour market, labour market reform, and the infamous seasonal agricultural workers scheme, which has more than 40,000 available places. We should not always depend on overseas labour, not just in farming, but for our country and wider economy. There are active discussions, which I hope the House will welcome, around the development of the labour market strategy. That is something that I, with the former Chancellor—now the Prime Minister—had been pursuing in Government, and I know that the current Chancellor is also looking at that.

It is important that we support our entrepreneurs—our farmers are entrepreneurs; we have heard about the hard work and the graft that goes into farming—but we must be able to give farmers long-term security around investment in technology. When it comes to picking fruit or produce, capital allowances can help enormously, alongside a solid labour market strategy that attracts and develops the workforce.

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak today. Farming and agriculture are the backbone of our country; they need to be nurtured and invested in. I very much look forward to hearing the Minister’s remarks.

Alistair Carmichael Portrait Mr Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD)
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It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Witham (Priti Patel), and to be able to say—unlike, perhaps, on some occasions when she was in the Home Office and I shadowed her—that there was a great deal in her speech with which I agree. I congratulate the hon. Member for East Devon (Simon Jupp) on getting this debate, and I am pleased at the measure of consensus, because consensus is very important for agricultural policy. In politics, we tend to work on a four or maybe five-year cycle. In agriculture and farming, that is but the blinking of an eye. I should, parenthetically, remind the House of my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests; I am a farmer’s son and now a landowner myself.

The real support for agriculture that we need from Government is more certainty. That, of course, will come from the future of farm payments; they have hit difficulties south of the border. North of the border, we must still wait and see. We welcome the consultation that is outstanding. I share some of the frustrations of the National Farmers Union of Scotland, which came forward with proposals four years ago that would have put active agriculture at the heart of environmental policy; it feels there has been a missed opportunity. However, if we get what we need from that consultation, it would behove us all to welcome it.

In particular, in my community, I am keen to see a flexibility that shows an understanding of the local social and economic benefits from agriculture. We have two dairy farms left in Shetland; they have been whittled down—salami-sliced away—over the years. Last week, we had four days without ferries, so our supermarkets, Tesco and the Co-op, which would normally import much of the milk, were not able to do so. For those four days, we were reliant on those two dairy farms for milk for our communities. If there is not an opportunity there for public money for a public good, then I do not know where there is one.

Chris Loder Portrait Chris Loder
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Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the supermarkets’ dominance of our national food supply chains is now just too much? It is defeating the objective that he mentions, which I have long advocated for: local food, getting through local supply chains to local people, is the way forward.

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Chris Loder Portrait Chris Loder (West Dorset) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to speak in this debate. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for East Devon (Simon Jupp), who is almost my constituency neighbour, and congratulate him on securing this important debate. I declare my interest as a tenant beef farmer’s son in my home constituency.

Although I could talk a lot about farming across the board, particularly beef and sheep farming, I want to focus my remarks on egg production and the effects we are starting to see. Some people say the situation has been caused by avian flu, but I would like to share some other aspects of the debate that may help to inform the discussion. The egg industry has been going through a period of turbulence for some time. In my opinion, it is because the supermarkets control the supply chain, totally dominate the market and force producers to accept a price at which they cannot afford to produce. I am afraid it highlights the fact that the Groceries Code Adjudicator, which I spoke so strongly in favour of in my maiden speech in February 2020, is proving to be totally ineffective.

Most of my local farmers in West Dorset tell me they do not want to receive Government subsidies, but they have to. Why do they have to? More often than not, they are forced into that position because the Groceries Code Adjudicator is not doing its job and is allowing supermarkets to dominate the field in such a way that farmers cannot continue to provide the goods that we all need to consume. In effect, in my opinion the Government are ultimately subsidising supermarket profits. That has to stop.

We all know that egg production costs have risen. Rising energy costs, the war in Ukraine and inflation have clearly all had an effect on that. But we cannot continue in a situation where large supermarkets’ strong yield-management policies are forcing this to occur. It is not new. Only a few days ago, the British Retail Consortium confirmed that

“some UK supermarkets are putting limits on egg purchases due to shortages largely linked”

to the avian influenza pandemic. Well, I do not agree with that. It is wrong. I think supermarkets are hiding behind that explanation a total failure in their yield-management strategies of probably many months, if not longer.

In West Dorset, a number of egg producers have told me that it is now so difficult for them to make money. Let me to put that into context: supermarkets broadly have raised the price of a dozen eggs by 50p over the past six months. The British Free Range Egg Producers Association says that farmers and producers are receiving just 18p of that, in the light of all the additional production costs they are having to bear. They cannot therefore do things like invest in pullets—new young stock—to ensure the future. This has basically resulted in a gradual 13% reduction in egg production over the past year alone. That is not solely because of avian influenza.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have a number of egg producers in my constituency as well. If they sell their eggs locally to smaller shops, they can get a good price—for instance, £1 has been increased to £1.89. That is an increase that smaller shops have made, but the larger supermarkets are hellbent on screwing the producers to such an extent that they will no longer be in business. It is the big boys that need to be taken on.

Chris Loder Portrait Chris Loder
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I totally agree with the hon. Gentleman’s remarks, which concur with my thoughts. I am afraid this is the beginning of a ticking time bomb. If ever there was a time that this House had to urge the Government to give the Groceries Code Adjudicator the teeth it needs to sort this mess out, it is now. If we think there is difficulty in the market today, I can assure this Chamber that in less than 12 months’ time we will not be in a situation where we have a reduction in eggs available for sale to consumers—we will be lucky if we have any eggs on the shelves at all.

John Hayes Portrait Sir John Hayes
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Before my hon. Friend concludes what is, as ever, a brilliant speech, I want to say that this does not just apply to eggs. The Groceries Code Adjudicator needs to intervene in respect of horticulture, cereals, livestock and a whole range of things in respect of which supermarkets are, as I said earlier, distorting the food chain. Will my hon. Friend ask this brilliant Minister —there is no one better in the House to do this—to use the powers that the Government already have to act in favour of farmers and growers?

Chris Loder Portrait Chris Loder
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Yes, I will. The Minister has heard that request.

Finally, the NFU has called for a DEFRA investigation into the egg supply chain. The NFU is a bit late with that call, but I think it is right. I hope the Minister will take that on board. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Sir John Hayes) makes a very fair point: this is not just about eggs. Milk was 49p a pint maybe 18 months ago; it has gone up now to more than £1 a pint in most shops. Ask our dairy farmers if they have received that difference—no, they have not.

Gary Streeter Portrait Sir Gary Streeter (in the Chair)
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I call Gagan Mohindra. He and the final Back-Bench speaker have five minutes each.

Oral Answers to Questions

Chris Loder Excerpts
Thursday 17th November 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
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I can reassure my right hon. Friend. The anointing of the monarch goes back to biblical times, recognising the outpouring of God’s grace on us all, and the sovereign’s covenant to give his life in service to his people and his God. That is the foundational principle underlying our constitutional settlement.

Chris Loder Portrait Chris Loder (West Dorset) (Con)
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5. What recent discussions he has had with the Church on increasing the numbers of clergy in rural parishes. [R]

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
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Rural clergy play a crucial role at the heart of their communities, for which I know my hon. Friend is, like me, deeply grateful. I regularly raise this issue with the Church. In his diocese of Salisbury more than £1.25 million has been invested to support rural ministry in the Renewing Hope Through Rural Ministry and Mission project.

Chris Loder Portrait Chris Loder
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Let me say to my hon. Friend that we have a couple of vacancies in my benefice, and I hope he will feed back on that point. I would be particularly interested to understand what proportion of stipendiary clergy goes to long-established small and rural parishes, versus what proportion goes to more resourced churches, fresh expressions, and other new or novel forms of church.

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
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I can tell my hon. Friend that 24% of the population live in rural parishes, and are supported by 38% of total stipendiary clergy. The figures he asks for are not held centrally as they are decided at diocesan level. I commend to him the Caleb stream, which often enables self-supporting clergy to serve in rural parishes, and of which many bishops are supportive.

Inshore Fishing Fleet

Chris Loder Excerpts
Tuesday 14th June 2022

(2 years, 1 month ago)

Westminster Hall
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Chris Loder Portrait Chris Loder (West Dorset) (Con)
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I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Anthony Mangnall) on securing this debate, which is important, particularly because it allows those of us who represent constituencies in the south-west to share our thoughts and feedback with the Minister.

I represent the rural and coastal seat of West Dorset, where we have 45 small fishers and vessels. The impressive biodiversity of our Lyme bay coral garden and our thriving fishing ports go hand in hand in West Dorset thanks to the fisherman of Lyme bay, who have made that work. The Lyme bay fishers have done all that has been asked of them to fish sustainably, but we have a small-scale fleet, and the challenges that they now face to make a living are increasingly difficult, particularly in the light of the huge fuel price increases. The value of their catches remains the same, but gear costs have increased. Those fishing families face the same cost of living challenges as other families.

I do not think that the Minister can pull a magic lever to fix those issues, but fishermen report endless consultations, meetings and additional burdens, such as the catch app, I-VMS, new MCA inspections and so on. Those burdens can and need to be addressed. In West Dorset, we are finding the MCA a bureaucratic nightmare. It holds our fishermen to account against its own questionable or false advice. That is increasingly becoming a problem. I hope that I can count on the Minister’s support to help with some particularly difficult issues in my constituency. Fatigue in the sector is considerable. The sheer scale of bureaucracy is causing real mental health concerns.

Fishers are not a regular stakeholder group. Our fishermen do not work nine to five, so the MMO, the IFCAs and officials in the Minister’s Department can and should do more to make things easier for them. Meetings in the middle of the day and the middle of week do not work, because if the weather is fine, fishers go out to sea. They need to do that to earn their money in these increasingly difficult times. Moving all these meetings to early evenings or weekends would make all the difference to attendance and engagement, and fishers would not be faced with a choice of giving up a day’s pay or making their representations.

West Dorset predominantly has small fishing vessels, not big fishing businesses. These small fishers have no paid representation to attend and speak on their behalf at a level to help inform policy. I understand that having shore-based employees helps, but while the NFFO has lots of advice to offer, it does not necessarily speak on behalf of small fishing vessels such as those in West Dorset. I am proud to represent them in this debate and to offer their voice in this House.

Our Lyme bay fishermen know that these issues have been a weakness, but I am proud that they have collectively pooled together across the four ports, not just in my constituency but in Tiverton and Honiton and further west, to register the Lyme Bay Fishermen’s CIC. It is an important and progressive development that means we can really get their voice heard. I hope that the application of the MMO grant scheme will be recognised and that the importance of similar community interest companies will be recognised to ensure that key developments can move forward.

I urge the Minister to see what the regulators can do to change their way of working, because as small-scale fishers rise to the challenge, regulators should do so as well and should give these new organisations and initiatives time to get up and functioning with the resources that they need.

Oral Answers to Questions

Chris Loder Excerpts
Thursday 28th April 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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George Eustice Portrait George Eustice
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The Government are taking action. We have made available an additional £500 million to help households with increased pressure on household budgets. We are also taking measures, for instance, to remove tariffs on maize to try to reduce the costs of animal feeds. The hon. Member is right that the supermarkets will absorb some of these costs, but probably not all.

Chris Loder Portrait Chris Loder (West Dorset) (Con)
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What is my right hon. Friend doing to give the Groceries Code Adjudicator some more teeth to make sure that supermarkets do not inappropriately take advantage of the difficulties that we see with food prices? As he will well know, a lot of farmers face great pressure from supermarkets, and some would argue that they actually control the prices that farmers get when that is not really how it should be.

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice
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The supermarket adjudicator has, in recent years, made good progress in bringing transparency to the way relationships work between suppliers and the supermarkets. In addition, through the Agriculture Act 2020, we have introduced new powers so that in future we will be able to regulate and improve the transparency and fairness of contracts between farmers and processors.

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Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
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I know how hard my hon. Friend works to ensure affordable housing across her constituency. I can tell her that we are always on the lookout to do more in Devon; in the village of Thorverton, we have built 20 new homes, 10 of which are affordable, and the site has won “best rural development” at the Devon rural housing awards. Of course, we will seek every opportunity to do more to help my hon. Friend’s constituents.

Chris Loder Portrait Chris Loder (West Dorset) (Con)
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5. To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what recent discussions the Archbishop of Canterbury has had with his French counterparts on illegal migrant crossings in the Channel.

Andrew Selous Portrait The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous)
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The Church of England is part of the World Council of Churches, the Conference of European Churches and the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe, and works in all those bodies to respond to the challenges of the largest movement of people since the end of the second world war.

Chris Loder Portrait Chris Loder
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In Dorset we are taking care of 20 orphaned children who have lost their trafficked parents in illegal but also fatal crossings of the English channel. Now that the Church of England bishops are making co-ordinated political statements, can my hon. Friend tell me what advice the Archbishop of Canterbury is offering to prevent such situations from happening in the first place so that no more children are orphaned during illegal channel crossings?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
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Let me first thank all those in Dorset who are caring for the children who lost their parents while they were being trafficked across the English channel. Our hearts go out to them, and we must do everything possible to prevent further such fatalities.

I can tell my hon. Friend that the bishops in the House of Lords have called for more safe routes for allowing asylum seekers to apply at UK embassies, and for better co-operation with the French on the processing of applications across the channel.

Badger Culling

Chris Loder Excerpts
Monday 21st March 2022

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Chris Loder Portrait Chris Loder (West Dorset) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to speak in the debate and to follow the hon. Member for Weaver Vale (Mike Amesbury). I was delighted to listen to his speech. I also pay tribute to and thank my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Nick Fletcher) for bringing the petition to Westminster Hall for debate.

The debate is about banning the shooting of badgers immediately. That is an important point to note because, although the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 already prohibits the shooting of badgers, section 10 of the Act outlines where licences can be issued by Natural England in specific circumstances. We are in Westminster Hall to debate and share views on one of those specific circumstances, and that is the culling of badgers mainly for the purpose of eradicating bovine tuberculosis.

My constituency is West Dorset. It is a south-west constituency, and I am very much aware of those constituents who signed the petition and shared their views on it. It is also important to note that the south-west is one of the areas with the highest rates of bovine tuberculosis, not just in the county of Dorset but in the wider south-west and up towards the west midlands. My contribution is not to support the petition, but to emphasise the work the Government are already doing, given these circumstances, and provide a voice in the debate for the farming community.

In 2020, 38,000 badgers were culled. Also in 2020, the Wildlife Trusts estimated that 50,000 badgers were killed on or near roads. The agriculture and farming communities are significant, and their role in animal welfare is often underestimated. That is why I wanted to share these thoughts this afternoon. I am sure that regardless of where we stand on the issue, we have two shared objectives. The first is to eradicate tuberculosis completely both in badgers and in cows. The second is to stop the intensive culling as a result.

My understanding is that it is the Government’s intention to eradicate TB by 2038. I was pleased to hear from the Minister’s colleagues that the stopping of intensive licences will take effect this year. I hope my hon. Friend the Minister will not mind if I take a little bit of her thunder, but it is important to note that the Government are making good progress.

I want to emphasise the point made by the hon. Member for Weaver Vale about vaccination, and I think few people would disagree with him. The difficulty of vaccination is that it does not deal with or cure the cases that we already have. I am afraid that, often, members of the public do not see that in the same way. The AHPA says that 64% of new TB cases in cattle are transmitted from badgers, but that is in high-risk areas. That statistic is a little different from that mentioned by the hon. Gentleman, as it is specific to high-risk areas such as the south-west. That statistic leads to 28,000 cattle being slaughtered every year. I am not saying that badgers are completely responsible for bovine TB in cattle in this country, but they have a significant role to play. The cows culled may be cows that are in calf, which we see all too often.

It is important to note that the whole experience is extremely distressing for the farming community—not just at the point where slaughter is required but through the whole testing process. Mr Hollobone, I hope you will forgive me as I should have declared at the beginning of my speech that I am a farmer’s son. Although I am no longer active on our family farm, I have a clear understanding of the area. I have personal experience of how deeply distressing and worrying that whole period often is for our farmers in this country.

To those who genuinely believe in an immediate stop to badger culling, I would say that, in the long-term, it will be worse not just for cattle but for badgers. The priority is to reduce the number of TB cases in badgers and cattle. We know that vaccinations do not work for badgers that already have tuberculosis, but they work for those who have not had it yet. If we stop culling immediately, the threat could, in due course, be existential.

World Tuberculosis Day is this week, which puts into stark contrast the number of TB cases and deaths across the world. It is important that we understand and recognise that TB is the most deadly infectious disease. Although I have not come to the debate furnished with the statistics about transmission between badgers and humans, it is important to note—particularly this week—that that is an important matter.

Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill

Chris Loder Excerpts
Neil Hudson Portrait Dr Hudson
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My hon. Friend, who is also a member of the Select Committee, makes a great point, and she reads my mind. My next bullet point says that a key recommendation of our Select Committee’s report is that DEFRA and the Government need to support and bolster the abattoir network in this country to extinguish the need to transport animals over long distances.

The Select Committee has also started an urgent inquiry on workforce issues in the food supply chain, which has a direct implication for animal welfare. There is a shortage of workers in many aspects of the food production sector, from vets through to abattoir workers, drivers and so on. We must take note of the fact that 95% of vets working in the meat hygiene sector are from the European Union, from outside the UK. We need to monitor and support the veterinary workforce.

The current pig crisis highlights the animal welfare and livestock farming issues we are facing in this country. We have labour shortages and an impending animal welfare crisis, and the Select Committee has taken evidence that it is building up on farms as we speak. Pigs are damming back on farms and are biting off each other’s tails and developing respiratory diseases, and sadly some pigs have started to be culled on farm.

I welcome what the Government have said so far about trying to mitigate against such culls. As a vet I spent a very sad period supervising the cull of farm animals on farm during the foot and mouth crisis. Those farm animals were then not destined for the food supply chain. I can tell the House how upsetting that is for vets, farmers, slaughter workers and everyone else, not least as a senseless waste of food. We must make sure that we mitigate against such culls at all costs.

Chris Loder Portrait Chris Loder (West Dorset) (Con)
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Can my hon. Friend share with the House any insight into why we are seeing an issue in the pig supply chain but not so much in the beef and lamb slaughterhouses?

Neil Hudson Portrait Dr Hudson
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My hon. Friend makes an interesting point. We have labour shortages, and the pig sector is producing pigs under pressure and to a timeline. Things can build up if there is a stoppage at any point on that timeline, which is what has happened.

I welcome the Government’s movement on visas, English language tests and cold storage, but I urge Ministers to go further and to work across Government. DEFRA needs to work with the Home Office and the Department for International Trade. We need to reopen the export market to China, too. I fear we have an impending animal welfare crisis, and I urge the Government to act quickly.

The Secretary of State touched on devolution, and it is great that the devolved nations are working together on this issue, which is important. I urge all four nations to work closely together so that we do not end up with unintended consequences from the Bill. Lucy’s law on third-party sales is progressive, but unscrupulous people are exploiting the loopholes caused by the differences between our devolved nations, so I urge the nations to work together.

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Roger Gale Portrait Sir Roger Gale
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If my hon. Friend had not intervened on me, I was about to pay tribute to him for the work that he has done in seeking to bring about the ban. It is past high time.

Chris Loder Portrait Chris Loder
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Will my right hon. Friend join me in paying tribute to the Kent Action Against Live Exports group for all that it has done? It has been a huge effort on the part of so many people; we should recognise them for their work.

Roger Gale Portrait Sir Roger Gale
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

With pleasure; a large number of people have campaigned for this ban and it is very good news indeed that it is going to happen.

I will put down one caveat in respect of an amendment that may be needed. The transport of live animals, as distinct from for slaughter, will inevitably continue for the purposes of breeding stock and also because, within the British islands, there is a necessity to move animals from time to time. I urge the Department to look carefully at the weather conditions under which, by sea, that is done. My personal view is that if there is an animal on board, no such transport should be permitted when winds are above force 5 on the Beaufort scale.

Finally, I would like to raise an issue that is not in the Bill, but which will, I think, be so soon: the matter of non-stun slaughter. Some of us have worked carefully—one colleague, in particular, has worked very hard indeed—with the religious organisations, particularly those of the Jewish faith and Muslims, to make certain that it is understood that we do not seek to interfere with religious practice. That said, there is a case for much greater regulation of non-stunned slaughtered animals, because we know perfectly well that vast amounts of kosher and halal meat are produced—not for the British market even, but for export. There is no necessity whatever for that. I believe that I am right in saying that my hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Chris Loder) will be seeking to address this matter. If he wishes to intervene, I would be happy to give way to him.

Chris Loder Portrait Chris Loder
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I thank my right hon. Friend very much; I appreciate his comments. I hope that the whole House would agree that we should indeed pay real attention to and have a real debate on this matter. Does he agree that while we as a House talk very much about the care of our pets—our cats, dogs and others—we should also be having an appropriate, understanding and sensitive debate about that matter?

Roger Gale Portrait Sir Roger Gale
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. If he chooses the appropriate time to bring in a suitably sensitive amendment, then he will certainly have my support, and I would hope that he might well have the support of those on the Front Bench as well.

All that said, I welcome this Bill, not just as a stand-alone Bill but as part of a raft of measures introduced by this Government designed to improve animal welfare.

Back British Farming Day

Chris Loder Excerpts
Wednesday 15th September 2021

(2 years, 10 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Westminster Hall is an alternative Chamber for MPs to hold debates, named after the adjoining Westminster Hall.

Each debate is chaired by an MP from the Panel of Chairs, rather than the Speaker or Deputy Speaker. A Government Minister will give the final speech, and no votes may be called on the debate topic.

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Chris Loder Portrait Chris Loder (West Dorset) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to speak in this debate, and to follow the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy), who I know has much interest in this area. I should first like to declare that I am a farmer’s son in my home constituency of West Dorset. When we talk about hands on, I mean hands on in terms of calving cows the night before the general election, and I would like to think that I can offer some insights to the debate and to the House.

It is increasingly clear to me that we, in this House, need to step up to the plate, because our farmers, I am afraid, are under attack from all sides, whether it is the environmental lobby, those who believe in a vegan agenda or others. It gives me considerable cause for concern when it comes to farmers’ mental health, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Theo Clarke) mentioned in her opening speech. Whether it is environmental campaigners or not, we need to think about the supply chain, and about our supermarkets, because the thing that really concerns me is that our supermarkets are in a very dominant position. I do not share my hon. Friend’s view. I believe that they abuse that position with our farmers, and I think it is time we called them out for it.

The Groceries Code Adjudicator is, in my opinion, a complete waste of time. It does not do what it should do. Why is it that supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s can, on the back of a milk contract, threaten a farmer that if they do not provide or sell their cows to that supermarket they will tear up that milk contract? That is fundamentally unacceptable, and every one of us in this House should stand up and call it out for what it is. I encourage my hon. Friends and Opposition Members to support me in doing so.

We also need to bear in mind some of the things that have happened over the past year when it comes to animal welfare. No one in this House feels more strongly about animal welfare than I do. I appreciate the support, earlier this year and last year, from all Members of this House for my private Member’s Bill, now the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act 2021; however, we need to put the record straight on a few examples. Previously in debates in this House we, and I am afraid the Opposition particularly, have given the impression that animal welfare is substandard in this country, and that the Government have somehow given in on animal welfare standards. I remind the House that the Government have been very clear on our import standards, and I continually seek reassurances from Ministers that they will not be changed. For the record, that means that hormone-injected beef and chlorinated chicken will not be permitted in this country. I want to be crystal clear on that.

We should also call out those whom some of my farmers refer to as “environmental do-gooders”. By that I specifically mean those people who genuinely believe that it is better for the environment to eat an avocado that has been flown from 5,000 miles away to the breakfast table rather than some meat or produce that has come from around the corner. That is the sort of attack that our farmers are under, and I believe that we must stand up and push back on those things much more.

We have mentioned, and I am sure we will probably mention it a little more, the supply chain, which has been progressively under pressure over the past six months. We have seen the “best before” date of milk in the supermarket getting closer and closer to the day we buy it. Some people say that is a problem. I believe that it is the biggest and best opportunity that our farmers have had for a very long time, because it is putting pressure on a very centralised and commercialised supply chain that provides the supermarkets with considerable profit. Our farmers, including dairies in my constituency such as Hollis Mead, now sell their milk almost literally on the doorstep. They provide small shops with their milk, which is cheaper than if bought from the supermarket.

I am conscious of the time, Ms Nokes. I thank you once again, and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford on securing the debate. I would like to place on the record my continuing support for our farmers—not only in my constituency of West Dorset, but across the entire nation.

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John Nicolson Portrait John Nicolson
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I will pursue my point for a moment. Although the Prime Minister assured us that hormone-induced cattle will not come to the UK, we all remember he also promised at the last election not to increase taxes.

Chris Loder Portrait Chris Loder
- Hansard - -

May I just respectfully point out to the hon. Gentleman that what I said earlier still stands? The import standards for this country do not permit that. It is a matter of law, and if it ever changed there would be a vote taken in Parliament. Hormone-injected beef is not permitted to be imported into this country, and the same is to be said for chlorine-washed chicken.

John Nicolson Portrait John Nicolson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Let us see. Many of the assurances we were given on Brexit have proved very different in reality. Climate pledges were secretly dropped from the deal. Paris agreement temperature goals never made it into the final deal after pressure from the Australian Government. For 0.01% of GDP and to get a post-Brexit win, global Britain ditched essential climate change goals in the lead-up to the most important international climate summit in years.

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Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a pleasure to serve with you in the chair, Ms Nokes. I congratulate the hon. Member for Stafford (Theo Clarke) on securing the debate and for a passionate and honest account. It will probably not be any help to her for me to say that it was a devasting critique of the Government’s position—a critique we heard from a number of others. I am grateful for the hon. Member for Devizes (Danny Kruger) for his kind words, and for unveiling the truth of the plan, which is the two-tier system that we all worry about.

It is a pleasure to speak on Back British Farming Day. We all thank the NFU for organising across the country, and in Westminster, and for putting the issues that farmers face at the top of the political agenda. As many Members have already said, today is an opportunity to celebrate all the incredible work done by farmers, farm workers and all those in the processing sectors who produce the best quality food in the world. We thank the key workers for all the work they did, and continue to do, to keep everyone fed during covid; the whole sector can be proud that fresh and affordable food continues to reach people across the country. Previous generations would have marvelled at that, and it should never be taken for granted.

This is why we are so committed to standing behind our farmers and food producers, with Labour’s campaign to buy, make and sell more across the UK. Today, as part of the plan, we are calling for public bodies to buy more British food all year round. Under a Labour Government, public bodies will be tasked with giving more contracts to British firms, and we will legislate to require them to report on how much they are buying from domestic sources with the taxpayer’s money. This is a genuinely ambitious plan to make sure the public sector helps support our British farmers. Frankly, it goes much further towards providing sufficient support to our food producers than the efforts of the current Government, who wheel out hollow gimmicks, such as the Cabinet Office switching from Dutch to English bacon for a couple of weeks during British Food Fortnight. We can do so much better than that. Our plan will assist the economy to recover from the pandemic, and help our British farmers and food producers, who need and deserve our support both now and in the years ahead.

Labour is committed to supporting food producers, whereas the actions of the current Government mean that, on Back British Farming Day, farmers are actually facing a perfect storm of uncertainty, dodgy trade deals, imminent cuts to support and, as we have heard, crippling labour shortages. It is not backing British farming to cut trade deals that undercut farmer’s livelihoods by leaving them vulnerable to overseas agricultural imports produced to lower standards—as was so well explained by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy).

Chris Loder Portrait Chris Loder
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Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

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Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner
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No, I am not going to. When the outlines of a possible deal were announced, it was Labour who stood firm with farmers and demanded that the Government did not compromise on our high environmental, animal welfare and food standards. That is what backing British farming really looks like.

Sold out on trade deals, and also sold out on basic support; it is not backing British farming to slash farm support and pretend that environmental payments will somehow fill the gap. This is just as we predicted in our lengthy debates on the Agriculture Bill, as some Members have already mentioned. With the clock ticking, the new payments are still in the process of being designed, tested and piloted, way behind schedule. We predicted that it would be hard—none of this stuff is easy.

The Minister and I have discussed this on many occasions, and she challenged me to go and see for myself. So, I did. I went on a summer tour to Yorkshire, to Northumbria, to Exmoor; I met those who were doing the trials, and I found brilliant, inspiring and lovely people working really hard. The lessons were clear; it is complicated. It is a good thing to do—I support ELM and the principle of rewarding farmers for environmental improvements—but these schemes are too complicated and inflexible.

The sustainable farming incentive was a panicky fix that might plug some of the gap for some, but in so doing, I was told on the ground, it also risks undermining ELM in some cases. The life support that has kept Britain farming for many decades is now on a timed exit. It will expire, and I feel it will take a good many British farmers with it. That is what I heard, not just from those pilots but from the other areas I visited—from farmers in Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and the midlands at the Great Yorkshire Show.

It is not just me saying this; it is farmers saying it. An excellent report published today by the National Audit Office shows that DEFRA has lost the trust of the farming industry, citing the low take-up of the new schemes. I exhort Members to look at an excellent paper produced by DEFRA last week, the “Farmer Opinion Tracker”. The very first figure, for the number who

“understand Defra’s vision for farming”,

shows that it was just 10% in 2019. Well, guess what? After two years of Government effort, it is now 5%. If it was not so serious, it would be funny. There is more in that report: 40% of farmers are

“not at all confident that their relationship with Defra and Defra agencies will develop positively in the future.”

So, there is not a lot of confidence.

These cuts in support will have profound consequences for rural areas. We calculate that rural England stands to lose more than £255 million this year as a result of the cut, putting as many as 9,500 jobs at risk, and that is in just one year, with a 5% cut. By 2024, it will be 50%. It is huge: not backing British farming—slashing British farming.

Then, to complete the hat trick, there are the labour shortages. We have heard a lot about that. It is not backing British farming to take out the pool of workers who not just farming, but the whole food system has depended on for years without a proper plan to achieve that transition. It is not just me saying that; listen to every voice across every sector. We know the problems, which are well documented: people not being able to get to Nando’s; the milkshakes at McDonald’s. We have heard about the crop pickers and the meat factory workers, as well as the lorry drivers, and about the huge pressure on vets.

I have to say, I am astonished that I have not heard anything from the Government Benches about what is happening on pig farms and poultry farms. It is Labour, it seems to me, now speaking for them, because the birds and pigs are packed up on—

Chris Loder Portrait Chris Loder
- Hansard - -

Where are the Labour Members?

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

There will be many more here after the next election from rural areas, and we will be supporting those people, because those birds and pigs on those farms are packed up, at risk of being destroyed if they cannot be kept in good welfare conditions.

The British Poultry Council warns that the labour crisis will lead to less British food being produced. The National Pig Association reckons that there are backlogs resulting in 85,000 extra pigs on farms across the UK, increasing by 15,000 a week. I spoke yesterday to the renowned Yorkshire pig farmer Richard Lister, who told me that people are on the brink of destroying animals on farms. People are understandably very distressed—to pick up the mental health issues raised by the hon. Member for Stafford. He says that this is one of the worst times he has ever known and he fears, as do many, that what we are actually doing is exporting our pig industry. It is really, really serious.

There is much more to be said, but time is short, so let me finish with some direct questions to the Minister, which I am sure she can answer. First question: where on earth is the trade and agriculture commission? It was used as bait to get the Bill through. Where is it? On food security, when will we get the first assessment, as discussed when we took the Agriculture Act 2020 through? It is due soon, surely. It was promised; when will it be with us?

Is someone from Government actually going to respond to Henry Dimbleby’s review? It was a huge piece of work, taking two years. It was called “The Plan”, in marked juxtaposition to lack of a plan from DEFRA. What is DEFRA’s plan? Will the Minister perhaps explain to us why the Prime Minister could not find time to talk to Henry Dimbleby? That was a really hard-worked report, with a range of people involved in presenting it, including the president of the National Farmers Union, Minette Batters. It tackles the key issues of the time, environmental degradation and the problems in our food system with obesity. Is it really of so little significance that the Prime Minister did not have time to talk to Henry Dimbleby?

In conclusion, given this catalogue of failure, it sticks in the craw when we see Government Members supporting the wheatsheaf, when British farming faces so many problems as a direct consequence of their own Government’s actions. It is not everybody: I know that many on the Government Benches have felt unease. Some were brave enough to stand up for farmers over the trade issues, but frankly it needed many more. The contrast is stark. Labour backs British farming, today and every day of the year. Unlike DEFRA, the Department that forgot rural affairs, we are committed to ensuring that rural issues are properly addressed, and there will be much more from us on that over the coming weeks. We back British farming, and we wear the wheatsheaf with pride.

Oral Answers to Questions

Chris Loder Excerpts
Thursday 17th June 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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We are in the process of preparing the legislation at the moment. I would be very willing to meet the hon. Gentleman on the detailed wording of how we do this. We are making good progress. We need to make sure that our measures are as effective as possible in delivering shark conservation measures globally.

Chris Loder Portrait Chris Loder (West Dorset) (Con)
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What steps he is taking to support the UK fishing industry.

Victoria Prentis Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Victoria Prentis)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The seafood sector has faced significant challenges over the past 18 months, but the situation is now improving as hospitality opens up and we adapt to new export requirements. Sector support worth £32.7 million is available this year, plus an additional £100 million to help rejuvenate the industry and our coastal communities.

Chris Loder Portrait Chris Loder [V]
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Seafarers UK conducted a report in 2019 that found that most small-scale fishermen often had few savings and reduced financial resilience even before covid, and many have fallen through the gaps of Government funding because they either changed vessels or because their fishing opportunities and earnings in 2019 were not enough to reach the threshold for the fisheries response fund. What steps can the Minister take to address this issue and to support the small fishing boats in my constituency in Lyme Bay?

Environment Bill

Chris Loder Excerpts
Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As there have been some withdrawals and some people have not turned up, I am unusually going to put the time limit up to five minutes.

Chris Loder Portrait Chris Loder (West Dorset) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

That is incredibly kind, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I am extremely grateful.

In case Members of the House have forgotten, I should declare my interest: my family are farmers in my home constituency of West Dorset. I have had the privilege of speaking in every Reading of this Bill in the House so far, and I am extremely grateful again to the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton Deane (Rebecca Pow), for the work that she has done and for how she continues to engage with Members from across the House on this very important Bill.

To start with, there are a couple of things that I would like to remind the Minister about, in terms of particular issues in West Dorset that are incredibly important. The A35 between Bridport and Lyme Regis, specifically at Chideock, has the highest levels of nitrogen dioxide anywhere in the United Kingdom. It is incredibly important to my constituents that we can take this Bill forward, and that the Minister can do all she can to make sure that we take those powers and act on dealing with that very difficult issue.

Single-use plastics have been a continual frustration of mine. I have spoken to constituents on many occasions, and I feel that, when we walk into a supermarket, we see shelves of plastic with food inside, rather than buying food alone. This Bill makes important provisions to deal with some of that. When we see that supermarkets such as Tesco had a 2.2% increase in single-use plastics between 2017 and 2019, it proves that this issue is incredibly difficult and that we need to ensure that we take the powers in this Bill and the subsequent Act to deal with it.

I also rise to speak in support of my new clause 28, which is on food labelling, and specifically with a focus on food miles. I am tabling this amendment today because I think it is incredibly important that there is complete transparency about the food that we buy. I know that a lot of my friends from Camden and Islington are great fans of avocados, but being of a farmer’s son, I prefer West Dorset sausage to avocados, and I would rather get that meat from just round the corner, rather than have avocados that have been flown thousands and thousands of miles across the world to be brought here. I am not here to speak in support of, or in opposition to, a particular meat agenda or a particular vegetarian or vegan agenda, but it is important that we see complete transparency about what we buy, so that we as individuals and the consumers of the nation can make an informed decision that prioritises the environmental needs that we all have.

The Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Victoria Prentis), at the conclusion of the Third Reading of the Agriculture Bill, very kindly offered that the Government would undertake a consultation into food labelling, and she said that that would commence this year. I would be very grateful indeed if her colleague, the Minister here today, was able to share some more details on that, because I am conscious that a substantial amount of time has passed since then. Once we have that labelling in place, I believe that we should then build on that. That labelling will indeed allow consumers to make the choice, along the same lines that my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) outlined earlier, but going forward I want that labelling to be expanded. I also want it to clearly identify, for meat products, whether or not that meat has been humanely slaughtered, because that is increasingly important in this country. In concluding my remarks, I should be extremely grateful to hear from the Minister on these points, and to see exactly what the Government will do in respect of my proposed new clause.