Oral Answers to Questions

Dave Doogan Excerpts
Thursday 9th May 2024

(1 month, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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As I touched on earlier, I am a huge supporter of the work of our internal drainage boards. They do a superb job, which is why the Minister for Water and Rural Growth, my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Robbie Moore), decided to allocate an additional £75 million. We will look constructively at what more can be done in more areas through the focus of drainage boards. My hon. Friend will have seen that we have already flexed our regulations in response to Storm Henk, for example, and we are looking at what further things we can do.

Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan (Angus) (SNP)
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Brexit has been a disaster for farmers across the United Kingdom, but at least in Scotland they have the certainty of funding going out beyond 2027, unlike in Labour-run Wales and Tory-run England. What steps will the Government take to provide the same level of surety for English farmers that the SNP has delivered for Scotland’s farmers?

Oral Answers to Questions

Dave Doogan Excerpts
Thursday 7th December 2023

(6 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Robbie Moore Portrait Robbie Moore
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I will, of course, always welcome innovation when it comes to dealing with waste crime. The Government are already taking action on that by awarding £1.2 million to help more than 30 councils to purchase equipment specifically to tackle fly-tipping. Our digital waste tracking system will make it easier for authorities to identify waste that does not reach the next stage. I will absolutely be happy to meet the hon. Gentleman if he has any ideas on this issue so that we can take them forward.

Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan (Angus) (SNP)
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Angus is the garden of Scotland—the Minister is familiar with Angus, as we all know—but we also have a fly-tipping blight that is deeply concerning for our communities. Farmers do their best to clear up those messes, but it is not just commercial fly-tippers taking an opportunity to make a fast buck; other people are avoiding proper refuse centres. Can the Minister assure the House that £1.2 million is enough? The Barnettised share of that for Scotland does not amount to very much. Will he redouble those efforts? Let us get a grip on this blight.

Robbie Moore Portrait Robbie Moore
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I do know Angus very well. Like me, the hon. Gentleman will be incredibly frustrated when he sees fly-tipping taking place in our beautiful countryside. When it comes to rural crime, we are working with likes of the National Farmers Union, our counterparts in Scotland and others to share good practice. As I have said, we have already funded a post within the national crime unit to explore how the police’s role in tackling fly-tipping can be optimised. That will specifically help rural areas such as Angus.

Government Support for a Circular Economy

Dave Doogan Excerpts
Wednesday 25th October 2023

(7 months, 4 weeks ago)

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

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Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan (Angus) (SNP)
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It is a genuine pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hosie. I want to touch on a couple of issues that were raised, and I am grateful to the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Caroline Ansell) for securing this important debate.

Mr Hosie, in Angus we recycle—and I literally mean “we”: you, I and everyone else in Angus—54.7% of our post-consumer waste. That is to be celebrated, but I am relieved that the SNP administration on Angus Council is not resting on its laurels. In the last budget, it was looking at measures to get that figure even higher. Although I salute the plea from the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) for civic responsibility in recycling and disposing more responsibly of food waste, let me gently suggest that a statutory responsibility is far more effective. Scotland has a statutory responsibility on local authorities to collect food waste at the doorstep, and we have used it to good effect.

I think that disposable vapes are universally loathed among parliamentarians. I recently had to replace a tyre after it succumbed to the innards of a disposable vape. In this debate, we need to separate the truly pernicious public health element of disposable vapes, which are cynically marketed to children, and focus on the environmental consequences, which are vast and disastrous for us. I understand that the Government are looking at that. Will the Minister update us on what actions are being planned?

I know that we are not allowed to use props in the Chamber, but these water cups are among the products that are marketed as being allegedly biodegradable. Can the Minister update the Chamber on how genuinely biodegradable they are? My understanding is that they are biodegradable in little more than a marketing sense, and that the amount of energy that has to be put into recycling them, supposing that a facility that can recycle them can be found, is truly appalling.

Unlike here in Westminster, the Scottish Government are committed to implementing legislation to ensure a transition to a circular economy, and to support growth in green businesses while cutting waste and climate emissions. However, the UK Government continue to abuse their post-Brexit powers to prevent the Scottish Government from taking action. We saw that after the Scottish Government introduced the Circular Economy Bill to the Scottish Parliament. The Bill will give Ministers powers to set local recycling targets, which is fine; ban the disposal of unsold consumer goods; and place charges on single-use items. On that last provision, the Scottish Government went further and legislated for a deposit return scheme, which was due to go live in August ’23, until the malign last-minute intervention of the United Kingdom Government. They unilaterally halted Scotland’s ambitions until October ’25 at the earliest, and held Scotland back to keep us in line with England. A partnership of equals? I think not!

The European Commission adopted a new circular economy plan in March 2020. Europe is marching on ahead. Thirteen countries have a deposit returns scheme. It is entirely unremarkable on the continent and Scotland would be among that number were we not shackled to this failing Westminster system. A transition to a circular economy is crucial to our fight against climate change. We must remain committed to shifting away from a disposable economy. I am struck by hon. Members talking about throwing away. Away where? It does not go anywhere. It stays with us. We must remain committed to that priority. Our society should be based on the principles of recycling and reusing, and that should be achieved through deeds, not words.

I am saddened that the UK Government exposed their deep-seated—and justifiable—insecurity by preventing Scotland from following through on their legislation in this entirely devolved area, solely to show who is in charge and to mask their own legislative inaction. A shift towards a circular economy would also deliver reductions in energy consumption, which should be a priority alongside green power, but is not—not here in the UK, anyway. A transition to a circular economy could deliver significant gains for industry and generate savings, as others have already evidenced, for households and businesses alike.

The Scottish Government have been working to implement legislation to drive and create a circular economy, which would support the growth of green businesses. The deposit returns scheme was a significant part of that. When the Scottish Government were prevented by Westminster from introducing the DRS, Westminster blocked an issue that had cross-party consensus in a devolved area. Consider this contrast: when the Scottish Government disagree with the UK Government, we can decline to provide legislative consent; when Westminster decides that it disagrees with Scottish Government legislation, it blocks it. A Union of equals? I do not think so. We in the Scottish Government are committed to furthering the ambitions of environmental protection and renewal, and that is how we will continue.

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Rebecca Pow Portrait Rebecca Pow
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The hon. Lady will not be surprised that I completely disagree with her. All these schemes are aligning. Maybe she has not been listening to the recent announcements about all the things coming down the track, and maybe she does not have a complete understanding of how all these schemes will dovetail together. It is so important that we listen to business and to industry, so that we make these schemes work for everyone.

Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan
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The Minister is gently pushing back against the Labour Front-Bench spokesperson, the hon. Member for Newport West (Ruth Jones), about the perceived lack of commitment from the UK Government. It is my understanding that the Conservative party’s 2019 manifesto contained a commitment to DRS, which included glass. Can the Minister confirm that that target has now slipped to 2025? There is a very good chance that, putting it mildly, they might not be in government in 2025.

Rebecca Pow Portrait Rebecca Pow
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The Scottish spokesperson raised the whole subject of the DRS in his speech. I was disappointed at the approach he has taken, because my officials and I are at pains to be working so closely with all the devolveds on this, particularly Scotland, in the light of what happened with its deposit return scheme. Just this morning I had a meeting with business and industry. The key things they want are good relations and inter-operability of the schemes. That is partly why we moved our EPR by one year, because we listen to business and industry, and they asked us for more time. These things are really complicated for our businesses to roll out, and we have to ensure that they work and will deliver what they are there for.

Absolute alignment is what would work best for all these schemes to achieve what I think we all want, and that is what we are working on with all our devolved counterparts. It would be brilliant if the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Newport West, could help that along in Wales, and if our SNP colleague, the hon. Member for Angus (Dave Doogan), could help us along in Scotland—generally, we always get great support from the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon). That is something on which we could really work together strongly to help with this.

The overall objectives of our packaging scheme are to encourage businesses to consider how much packaging they use, to design and to use packaging that is more easily recyclable, and to encourage the use of reusable and refillable packaging—I have brought along my refillable water bottle, which is something we could all be doing, although I see that the shadow Minister has not brought along hers.

We have committed to setting ambitious new packaging waste recycling targets for producers, and the packaging EPR policy measures will be key in delivering these. The data already being gathered by the businesses will inform what the fees will be, and that money will be used to pay for the simpler recycling collection. It is all circular. The more recyclable the packaging the producer puts on the market, the lower the fee it will pay. That will drive the design, reusability and recyclability of the product. This is genuinely very exciting, and there are huge opportunities for business, industry and innovation, which some colleagues have referred to.

The deposit return scheme will help to boost recycling levels, just as the EPR will, and to reduce littering, which was one of the main reasons we wanted to bring in that particular scheme. As has been mentioned, the simpler recycling details have now been launched. They are very flexible. We have worked with local authorities so that they know there will be something they can work with. They can put all the dry recyclables into one bag if they wish to, and the food waste will be separately collected. That will be mandatory. As has been pointed out, this is one of the biggest contributors to our emissions. DEFRA’s biggest emissions contribution is food waste, so we must collect it. It is absolutely right that we are going to make that mandatory.

Oral Answers to Questions

Dave Doogan Excerpts
Thursday 19th October 2023

(8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Rebecca Pow Portrait Rebecca Pow
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That clarification will be coming very soon and within it the new simpler recycling approach will include mandatory collection of food waste.

Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan (Angus) (SNP)
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Publicly owned Scottish Water has invested £668 million since 2010 in improvements and committed another half a billion pounds between 2021 and 2027. That is why Scottish Water has had its product—the waters around Scotland—classified as being in “good ecological condition”. Why do English bill payers pay the most and get the mankiest water?

Thérèse Coffey Portrait Dr Coffey
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The hon. Gentleman is wrong about that. There is a lot of chatter about water; we should never undermine the cleanliness of the drinking water that people enjoy. The interministerial group is working on different ways of measuring ecological status across the United Kingdom and we are looking to see what we might do about that. We made the change in 2016, which other parts of the United Kingdom did not, and we continue to work together as responsible Governments. I remind the hon. Gentleman, only 4% of storm overflows in Scotland are monitored—they would be better off getting on with that.

Breed-specific Legislation

Dave Doogan Excerpts
Monday 6th June 2022

(2 years ago)

Westminster Hall
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Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan (Angus) (SNP)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir George. I thank the hon. Member for Neath (Christina Rees) for securing the debate.

I rise to speak in favour of the views that many of my constituents have expressed regarding breed-specific legislation, and I am very pleased that we have one of the SSPCA’s rescue and rehoming centres in Angus. I was lucky enough to visit it for the first time after covid a number of weeks ago, and I met a gorgeous pit bull bitch who may be rehomed—I hope that she is—but so many of that breed face a different fate thanks to the legislation, which simply does not work. The evidence is not there to uphold the legislation. It probably was not there 30 years ago, and it certainly is not there now.

I hope the Minister recognises the neutral, supportive and non-partisan tones with which we are all coming at the debate. I do not hear anybody swiping at the Government in the name of this priority. This is not about dogs’ rights versus people’s right to feel safe in the public realm. It is about decency towards animals, which people in these islands have a justifiable reputation for upholding across the years, and about making sure that people are protected from dangerous dogs.

Focusing on the four breeds set out in the legislation gives an easy ride to dangerous dogs that are not one of those breeds. The SSPCA is clear on this point and says that it is fully supportive of legislation to protect the public, as we all are. It believes that any breed of dog that is out of control is a dangerous dog in the wrong hands, and that the legislation does not really reflect this. In essence, the SSPCA wishes to see section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act amended so that dogs are judged on the deed, not the breed, which is a helpful way of encapsulating the situation. It would mean that dogs are put to sleep only if they pose a demonstrable risk to the public, rather than because they are a certain type of dog, which is an arbitrary qualification.

While the four banned breeds are detailed in the way that they are, it puts an unnecessary burden on legislative bodies, the courts, law enforcement and police forces up and down these islands. It cannot be easy for professionals in those roles to follow the law down a cul-de-sac that puts an otherwise healthy animal to sleep.

We need to protect the public, as I have said, and we should not deal in anecdote, but I was bitten by a dog when I was a kid and it was not one of those four breeds, and I know people who have made the painful decision to put their own pet down because it had a temperament issue, and it was not one of the four breeds. I am not a small person, but I was knocked clean off my feet by an out-of-control Labrador. It was about 10 stone, right enough, and its accelerator worked better than its brakes. Nevertheless, it was nothing to do with these four breeds. I think it is time, 30 years on from the legislation, to take a much fresher look at this issue.

I want to impress on the Minister the fact that evidence makes better legislation than reputation does. I look forward to hearing what she says to these points.

Oral Answers to Questions

Dave Doogan Excerpts
Thursday 28th April 2022

(2 years, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Rebecca Pow Portrait Rebecca Pow
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I am well aware of that issue, as my right hon. Friend knows—indeed, I have discussed it with him—and I absolutely am chasing this up. If I could, I would get the response to him today, but it will come very soon.

Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan (Angus) (SNP)
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Input costs in agriculture are at a tremendous high, including for feed, fuel, fertiliser, energy and wages. On that last point, the Home Office’s pernicious surcharge on growers of £10.10 an hour has no basis in reality. Will the Secretary of State explain what the Home Office is thinking, and will he come to speak to my local growers to see how they can make their way through this unnecessarily difficult situation?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice
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In introducing the seasonal agriculture workers scheme, we were very keen for it not to undermine the domestic labour market and prevent people from joining it. We wanted to give industry access to labour, but not to cheap labour. That is why we followed the Migration Advisory Committee’s recommendation to have a slightly higher minimum wage for those coming in under the scheme.

Oral Answers to Questions

Dave Doogan Excerpts
Thursday 10th March 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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It is fair to say that the dreadful situation in Ukraine means that food security in the broader sense is uppermost in all our minds. We must feel very fortunate in this country that we grow almost all our own grain and are able to be so self-sufficient—74% self-sufficient in the food that we grow. That is not to say that we should be complacent. The Government are working very closely with industry at all levels, with processors and retailers, and not just in the pig sector.

Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan (Angus) (SNP)
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The £150 million impediment to livestock farmers as a consequence of the New Zealand trade deal is a direct consequence of Brexit, as are the lack of Northern Irish animals at Stirling bull sales; the lack of an ability to export seed potatoes to Northern Ireland and the EU; the tariffs on jute sacks for seed potatoes; and the nightmare of exporting shellfish. These are direct consequences of Brexit. Can the Minister give my Angus farmers just one single benefit of Brexit and make sure that it is not some nebulous opportunity that has not been realised?

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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I wish—and I am sure that some of the hon. Gentlemen’s farmers wish—that the Scottish Government were going with the real benefits that we are able to make as a result of Brexit in the agricultural space. In England, we will be able to move towards a system of paying people for producing public goods. In Scotland, that option is not yet available to farmers. I will be meeting NFU Scotland later today to discuss further issues to do with Scottish farming.

Oral Answers to Questions

Dave Doogan Excerpts
Thursday 9th December 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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The fund is broad, and we are willing to look at all sorts of programmes within it. Some great solutions could include new livestock feeds that might reduce methane emissions, robotics in horticulture—I have seen some very good examples around the country—and bio-fertilisers, which we are particularly interested in developing at the moment.

Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan (Angus) (SNP)
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Far from helping farmers to increase productivity, this Government are demonstrating their keen ability to get in the way of productivity. We have a crisis in pig exports to China and seed exports to Northern Ireland and the EU, there are export health certificates for Scottish goods going to the EU but none for the EU’s goods coming to Scotland, there are the tariffs on jute sacks, and there is also the gross shortage and obscurity of the availability of labour. Would the Minister like to apologise to farmers in Scotland and say how she intends to improve this dynamic?

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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I am indeed concerned about farmers in Scotland, but that is because they are not benefiting from the revolution in agricultural support that we are undertaking in this country, and I am afraid that the Scottish Government are holding them back.

Food and Drink: UK Economy

Dave Doogan Excerpts
Wednesday 1st December 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan (Angus) (SNP)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies. I thank the hon. Member for Carlisle (John Stevenson) for calling the debate. Going to Strangford for the ultimate British Isles culinary experience? Well, we will see about that in the course of the next five minutes.

It is a pleasure to sum up the debate. We sometimes get those calls from the Whips where they rhetorically ask whether we would mind going to Westminster Hall to sum up a debate on anything from synthetic fuels to the shape of clouds, but this one is a shootie-in for a Scottish MP, much less the MP for Angus. I like to explain to English colleagues that if Kent is the garden of England, Angus is very much the garden of Scotland, and it is in that context that I will sum up.

Food and drink manufacturing is the largest manufacturing sector in the UK. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Carlisle, who secured the debate, for highlighting that point, because it is often lost in the noise of other, more prominent industries. There is a footprint of food manufacturing and production in every single constituency across these islands, and the sector contributes more than £120 billion to the UK economy. If that sounds good for the UK, we have bells on it in Scotland, because exports of Scottish food and drink make a vital contribution not only of many billions to the Scottish economy but therefore, for the time being, to the UK economy.

We export to countries worldwide: Scotland, with 8.2% of the UK population, delivers almost 20% of the food and drink exports—doing the heavy lifting once again. It is little wonder, with iconic produce such as Scotch lamb, Aberdeen Angus beef and Scotch whisky. I could go on[Interruption.] You want me to go on, Mr Davies? Okay. I will add to that list Irn-Bru, haggis, shortbread, smoked salmon, porridge, Scotch broth and steak pie, and let us not forget that the iconic Skull Crushers sweets were invented in Scotland.

That is just Scotland’s produce, and I have not started on Angus—specifically our world-famous Arbroath smokies, of which I know the Minister is a fan, and the supreme champion of savoury pastries, the Forfar bridie. Looking around Westminster Hall this afternoon, I see a lot of potential Marks & Spencer customers, so let me assure them that their summertime Red Diamond strawberries from Markies come from Angus too, because Angus is the leading soft fruit producer across these islands—[Laughter.] That is uncontroversial.

Scotland delivers 80% of the valuable seed potato sector, and Angus is at the forefront of that, which is why McCain has its Pugeston facility in Angus. On the drinks side, to name just a few, we have Ogilvy vodka, made from potatoes in Charleston; the Gin Bothy up the road in Glamis; the Glencadam distillery in Brechin; and the Arbikie Highland Estate distillery at Lunan, not far from Lunan Bay Farm, which produces Scottish asparagus and pasture-fed goat meat just down the road from the lobsters landed at Ferryden. If anybody is looking for directions to Angus, I can provide them after the debate.

So it is all well and good, then? No, I am afraid it is not. Remember that seed potato sector? Thanks to the UK’s hard Brexit, the sector has lost not only its European Union market access, but its Northern Ireland market access. The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) can no longer buy seed potatoes from Angus, and that is much to be regretted at both ends of the transaction. Neither can his farmers take their bulls to Stirling to be sold any more, because if they do not sell, farmers will have to pay to keep them there because they cannot take them home as they used to.

The jute sacks that seed potatoes need, which are imported from India and Bangladesh, were tariff-free while we were in the EU, but now they come with tariffs. That is a matter for the Department for International Trade to intervene on, but it seems unable or unwilling to do so. Similarly, I have asked the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to intervene, along with Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for International Trade, on the proscription of pork exports to China—I know the Minister is aware of this—from the Brechin pork processing plant in Angus, and they are unable to help with that either.

It is interesting listening to right hon. and hon. Members today. If Hansard were to do a Wordle of today’s debate, the big word in the middle would be “labour”. There can be no doubt about the crippling labour shortages and how they threaten to undermine the great strides made in market development—[Interruption.]

Geraint Davies Portrait Geraint Davies (in the Chair)
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Order. We need to suspend for Divisions.

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Geraint Davies Portrait Geraint Davies (in the Chair)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Right—I have had my Angus steak. Dave Doogan, to finish off.

Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan
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Thank you, Mr Davies. Before we were interrupted, I was talking about the crippling labour shortages that threaten to undermine the great strides made in the market development and process efficiencies of the food production sectors.

Industry experts are being undone by Whitehall Departments and Ministers with little knowledge of, much less regard for, this industry, although I would not apply that to the current Minister, who will be answering today and—in my estimation, at least—gets the industry and has its best interests at heart. However, she is part of an Executive who are putting substantial problems in front of the industry.

In closing, I will mention the Home Office, with its arbitrary £30,000 figure, which has deliberately made it as difficult as possible for the industry to access those figures. The United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 is an extremely problematic piece of legislation, which does nothing to enhance the devolution settlement or relationships between the industries north and south of the border. I met with the National Farmers Union of Scotland this morning, which described a perfect storm coming down the road, and we need to protect this valuable industry at all costs.

COP26 and Air Pollution

Dave Doogan Excerpts
Tuesday 2nd November 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan (Angus) (SNP)
- Hansard - -

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Gary. I also thank the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) for securing the debate.

COP26, of course, is about our climate. Air pollution is a different, although not entirely unconnected, matter. COP is about cleaning up our act, and we certainly need to clean up our act when it comes to air quality. To that point, the hon. Member for Huddersfield mentioned Drax, and I say to the Minister that Drax is anathema to anybody with a passing concern for air quality. It is an almost dystopian process, which scars the landscape of the United States on an industrial scale, poisons the people who live near the mills with particulates in the air to make the pellets, and ships them half way around the world to England to be burnt. It would be bad enough without a Government subsidy, but with one it is absurd. I would like to know if the Minister agrees with that analysis.

Air pollution is known to kill many thousands of people around the world every year, while rendering many others subject to chronic illness as a result of PM10 and increasingly—as our knowledge expands— PM2.5 and NOx. Air pollution has been likened to cancer, asthma, diabetes and dementia. Children subjected to air pollution are much more likely to die in their first two years, or to attend A&E with chest infections.

It is good to hear from Members about what is happening in their localities around these islands. Two studies in Scotland have shown that on days of illegal levels of pollution there are significant increases in hospital admissions with new-onset heart and lung disease and blood clots in the arteries of the legs, when compared with days when the air pollution is within legal limits. It is estimated that air pollution costs the United Kingdom £20 billion per annum in health and social care. We know that those who are already disadvantaged are disproportionately affected. Often living in city centres or beside main roads, they have less access to green spaces that can absorb the noxious pollutants. They are also less able to afford a car, thus suffering the ill-effects without contributing to them—it is a social injustice.

In 2014, Health Protection Scotland estimated that air pollution caused about 1,700 deaths every year in Scotland alone. The number of vehicles on UK roads between 2010 and 2019 increased from 34 million to almost 39 million. On this point, I must make a very important clarification; not all vehicles are made equally. I know from my experience as a local authority councillor that although traffic volumes are relevant in terms of congestion, concentrations of pollutants and airflows through the streetscape and built environment, new vehicles are exponentially cleaner than those produced more than 10 years ago. This is especially true of commercial vehicles such as buses. The Department for Transport should take a very serious look at being able to stop, test and seize vehicles. They can do it for vehicle excise duty, so why can they not do it for vehicles that are clearly belching out poisonous gas beyond the limits set at MOTs?

It is worth noting that outside our major cities, and certainly unlike in London where electric-hybrid buses and vehicles whirr by regularly, many bus services’ profitability is so marginal that old vehicles are kept in service that, in air quality terms, are absolutely filthy and a patent threat to public health. We need to be able to take a whole-system view, so that the failure demand that our NHS has to meet is offset by seizing the opportunity cost of investing in infrastructure and equipment.

To this end, the Scottish Government aim to reduce car use by 20% by 2030, taking it back to levels last seen in the 1990s. Moreover, sustainable public transport is essential for the ambition to reach net zero. That is why the Scottish Government will have phased out the majority of fossil fuel buses by 2023, and will invest £120 million in zero-emission buses. The UK Government could learn a lot from Scotland in our shared pursuits of net zero and viable green recovery plans. For example, the UK Government must stop cutting electric vehicle access schemes, such as England’s electric vehicle grants system. This has been further downgraded from £5,000 in 2011 to £4,500 in 2016; to £3,500 in 2018; to £3,000 in 2020; and now to £2,500 in 2021. This is the worst sort of swimming against the tide. Figures from electric vehicle charging website Zap-Map show that of the 21,000 public charging points in the UK, only 20% are free to use; that is 4,928 points, and 26% of these are in Scotland where around 60% are free to use. Electric vehicle drivers in Scotland benefit from almost 40 public charge points per 100,000, compared to fewer than 30 per 100,000 in England. Promoting and investing in active travel access is essential to drive down car usage. Scotland currently spends over £18 per head of population, compared with just £7 in England––more than 150% higher.

Lord Tebbit was mentioned earlier in the debate. To be very generous to the noble Lord, perhaps even to revise things, he did at one stage advise the nation to get on their bikes. I cannot remember exactly what he meant, but in public health terms he does at least have a contemporary point.

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Jo Churchill Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Jo Churchill)
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Indeed I will, Sir Gary, and thank you very much for calling me to speak. It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship.

I thank the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) for raising this issue; as he said, this debate is timely and the issue is important to each and every one of us. Securing it while world leaders are coming together for the planet in Glasgow shows just what a consummate professional he is, dovetailing the debate such a timely way. I wish him well with his own health.

We are all concerned about the impact of air pollution on public health and we are hosting the COP26 summit at a turning point for both the planet and health. We have been making progress. However, over the course of the UK presidency of COP26, we need to see further progress on commitments to secure global net zero carbon emissions by the mid-century. It will be a challenge; we need to see countries coming forward with ambition. Success at the summit and beyond will rely on all countries rallying behind the common goal of rapidly reducing carbon emissions and protecting the planet. Although COP26 is arguably focusing on greenhouse gases and not air pollutants, we should seize the opportunity to reduce the emissions of other pollutants from the same sources, because, as everybody has said, there is a lot of crossover here.

Air pollution in the UK has reduced significantly over the last decade, but there is definitely more to do. For example, emissions of fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, have fallen by 11% and nitrogen oxide emissions are at their lowest level since records began. None the less, air quality is still the top environmental risk to human health in the UK and there is absolutely no room for complacency.

We heard from many Members about the challenges to health that air pollution brings. There is lots to do and I agree that the use of new technology—whether that is the use of fats in lorries, or hydrogen technology, which the Government have been investing in even in the last week, through the hydrogen transport programme—means that we need to harness the best of British, to ensure we make the right progress.

That is why the UK is continuing to take urgent action to curb the impact of air pollution on citizens and communities through the Environment Bill and the clean air strategy. The action that we set out in the clean air strategy will reduce the cost of air pollution to society by £1.7 billion every year from 2020, rising to £5.3 billion every year from 2030.

My Department cannot achieve the transformation alone; there is no single, one-size-fits-all silver bullet that will solve the problem of air pollution. That is why the clean air strategy outlines a comprehensive programme of action across all parts of Government. We have heard about the health challenges, the transport challenges, challenges about where people live—local authority challenges—and the idling of cars, which local authorities obviously have a power over. Indeed, we have heard about the beneficial work being done in both Basingstoke and Stafford on these issues, to help to empower communities to have better air quality. However, this process is about us all working together, because transformational change can only be achieved through close collaboration with other parts of Government.

Furthermore, there is a vital role for broader leadership from the health and environmental sectors because much of what has been spoken about today also relates to how we recycle, how we use our waste and how we might reuse things. The hon. Member for Edmonton (Kate Osamor) and my hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Jane Hunt) both mentioned that point, referring to the use of incinerators; if I have time, I hope to come on to incinerators.

This issue is about the business sector, service providers and local authorities helping to build acceptance for the bolder actions that must be taken to tackle the health impacts of air pollution as a major public health imperative. The hon. Member for Bootle (Peter Dowd) spoke about not having a particular road. However, during the covid crisis we actually had low-traffic neighbourhoods, but we found that traffic diverted to other parts of the town or area. There is not an ideal off-the-peg solution.

We also looked at the fact that, although nitrogen oxide levels diminished, as has been said, the reduction in PM 2.5 particulate matter did not change. It is actually much more complex than it is often presented to be.

The landmark Environment Bill will improve air quality by establishing a duty to set two new legally binding targets to reduce that fine particulate matter. We are developing two targets: a concentration target and a population exposure reduction target. That is what the clear air zones are about. Arguably, Huddersfield does not face the same air quality challenges that we might have in London, Manchester or Bath, or any city that is looking at putting in place a CAZ. That unique dual approach is strongly supported by our expert committees—the air quality expert group and the committee on the medical effects of air pollutants—and it will be an important part of our commitment to drive forward tangible and long-lasting improvements to the air breathe. We will consult on how to bring forward those groundbreaking targets next year.

As part of the information we take from experts, waste incineration companies must comply with strict emission limits under the environmental permitting regulations. They cannot operate without a permit. Emissions from energy from waste are monitored. We consult with Public Health England on every application, and its position on incineration is that a modern, well-run and regulated incinerator is not a significant risk to public health. We have to get rid of the challenge of rubbish.

The Environment Bill will completely revise the local air quality management framework to create a more strategic structure that will enable local authorities to take more effective action. It will also deliver significant improvements to public health by ensuring that local authorities have more effective powers to tackle emissions from domestic burning, which is a key source of harmful fine particulate pollution, as well as the idling that was mentioned.

Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan
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Will the Minister give way?