Oral Answers to Questions

David Rutley Excerpts
Thursday 20th June 2019

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Maggie Throup Portrait Maggie Throup (Erewash) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard

3. What steps he is taking to increase the rate of tree planting. [911453]

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Rutley) - Parliament Live - Hansard
20 Jun 2019, 9:42 a.m.

To increase tree planting rates, we have changed how our main grant schemes work. The woodland carbon fund now supports infrastructure such as roads and is available for smaller projects. The countryside stewardship woodland creation grant is now open for applications all year, rather than in short windows, which demonstrates the Government’s commitment to planting 11 million trees during this Parliament.

Maggie Throup Portrait Maggie Throup - Parliament Live - Hansard
20 Jun 2019, 9:42 a.m.

I thank my hon. Friend for his response. However, his passion for planting trees seems to be in conflict with the practice of both Network Rail and Highways England, which have decimated thousands of mature trees that lined the railway and motorway embankments through Long Eaton, Sawley and Breaston in my constituency and that acted as a vital natural sound and visual barrier. May I urge him and his counterparts in the Department for Transport to intervene to ensure that mature trees are reinstated on those embankments as soon as possible?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
20 Jun 2019, 9:43 a.m.

My hon. Friend is, and continues to be, a strong champion for Erewash in all ways. I recognise that removing trees can be concerning, which is why DEFRA is working closely with DFT to deliver a new policy for Network Rail, with the aim of improving its current approach to managing vegetation so that it enhances biodiversity on our rail network. That is in line with the recommendations of John Varley’s review of Network Rail’s vegetation management.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP) - Parliament Live - Hansard
20 Jun 2019, 9:44 a.m.

I planted some 3,500 trees on my land 10 years ago, so I see the benefits. Will the Minister further outline what help, advice and practical and financial support is available for landowners to prepare land for trees to be planted?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his efforts in helping to achieve our wider target. As I have explained, we are working hard to make our current schemes much more flexible. We will also be introducing the woodland carbon guarantee—£50 million in the Budget—and we launched the £10 million urban tree challenge fund just a few weeks ago.

Andrew Bridgen Portrait Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
20 Jun 2019, 9:44 a.m.

Will the Minister join me in celebrating the 9 million trees planted over the past 30 years to create the new national forest? My constituency, at the centre of it, has seen a massive improvement in not only the environment but the quality of life, for visitors and residents alike.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
20 Jun 2019, 9:45 a.m.

I have had the chance to go to the national forest in my hon. Friend’s constituency on two occasions, and he is a fantastic champion and ambassador for the national forest. We need to take lessons from that and apply them in the northern forest as well, to see what the exciting opportunities can be.

Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Sue Hayman (Workington) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
20 Jun 2019, 9:45 a.m.

The role of tree planting in tackling climate change is well documented. The right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart) promised during his leadership bid to plant 100 million trees. The Minister has been mentioning targets, so it is disappointing to read this week that the Government are falling woefully short—by 71%—of their targets. Can the Minister explain why that is? What is he doing about it? How long will it be before we see the Secretary of State’s targets actually met?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard

We have set out a clear target of planting 11 million trees in this Parliament. We are at 3.6 million now and on the trajectory to achieve that target of 11 million, so I assure the hon. Lady that we are working in that direction. We have also set out strong aspirations to increase our woodland cover from 10% to 12% within the 25-year environment plan. We have stretching targets and we will move further forward.

Dr Rupa Huq Portrait Dr Rupa Huq (Ealing Central and Acton) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard

4. What steps he has taken to help prevent food shortages in the event that the UK leaves the EU without an agreement. [911454]

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Rutley) - Hansard
20 Jun 2019, 9:46 a.m.

The Government have been undertaking extensive work to prepare for a no-deal scenario for the past two years, to ensure that trade continues to operate smoothly from the day we leave. We have long-established relationships with industry, and we are working closely with key stakeholders to prepare for all scenarios. The UK has a high level of food security, built on diverse sources, and this will continue to be the case when we leave the EU.

Dr Rupa Huq Portrait Dr Huq - Parliament Live - Hansard
20 Jun 2019, 9:46 a.m.

In reality, only just over half of the food we eat is made in Britain, with more than a third coming from the EU. Given that the Food and Drink Federation is predicting that after a no-deal Brexit fresh fruit and veg would run out after two weeks, why are the remaining contenders in the Tory leadership battle continuing to entertain this damaging prospect? Does he not agree that scurvy back on our streets is more important than the whims of fundamentalist party members’ wishes?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
20 Jun 2019, 9:47 a.m.

The hon. Lady has ruined a perfectly reasonable question by exaggerating. Of course we are preparing for every eventuality. As we have said already in these questions, a deal is the best outcome, and we all have a responsibility to help deliver that. We are preparing for all outcomes.

Michael Fabricant Portrait Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
20 Jun 2019, 9:49 a.m.

So will my hon. Friend confirm that my constituents do not need to stock up with tins of Spam or apricots in syrup?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
20 Jun 2019, 9:47 a.m.

We are not going to endorse any particular brand, but it is important to note that we have a rich and diverse source of food, and that will continue when we leave the EU.

John McNally Portrait John Mc Nally (Falkirk) (SNP) - Parliament Live - Hansard
20 Jun 2019, 9:48 a.m.

Can the Secretary of State reassure my local businesses, which supply millions of people across the UK with high-quality food products, that enough refrigeration units will be in place to cope with the predicted delays at UK ports after our exit from the EU?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard

The hon. Gentleman can be assured that I have regular meetings—each week—with the main stakeholders in the food industry to prepare for no deal. We are looking at all eventualities. Primarily, we are looking at how we can ensure the flow of trade; that is our vital priority.

Bim Afolami Portrait Bim Afolami (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con) - Hansard

5. What steps he is taking to tackle late agri-environment payments. [911455]

Break in Debate

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard

8. What progress he has made on implementing the tree planting strategy. [911458]

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Rutley) - Hansard
20 Jun 2019, 9:58 a.m.

In November 2018 we announced that we will consult on a new English tree strategy, setting out how we will accelerate woodland creation to reach our aspiration of increasing woodland cover in England from 10% to 12% by 2060. The consultation on the English tree strategy will be launched later this year, and our recently reappointed tree champion is leading our engagement on this.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell - Hansard

But clearly the strategy is not working when councils such as City of York Council fail to sign up to the White Rose Forest project. As we have heard, the Government have failed to reach their target by 71%, so there is no chance that we will see a growth in the number of trees across our country. Will the Minister look at mandating local authorities to sign up to the Government’s initiative?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
20 Jun 2019, 9:59 a.m.

We will do all we can to encourage local authorities to get involved. It is good to hear that Yorkshire Water is planting 1 million trees in Yorkshire. We need to do more, particularly in the hon. Lady’s area, with natural flood management techniques upstream. There is lots we can do.

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice (Camborne and Redruth) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard

9. What plans his Department has to support (a) rare and (b) native breeds in future agriculture policy. [911459]

Break in Debate

Chris Green Portrait Chris Green (Bolton West) (Con) - Hansard

T4. Reforesting is an important part of the Conservative agenda on the environment. Does the Minister agree that the Woodland Trust’s Smithills estate is a key part of that strategy? [911475]

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Rutley) - Parliament Live - Hansard
20 Jun 2019, midnight

I agree. The Smithills estate was where the first tree of the northern forest was planted, which is a very important step forward. It is a great site, overshadowed by the wonderful Winter Hill TV mast. I love it, and I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s support for it.

Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard

T5. An investigation published last week by The Guardian, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and “Channel 4 News” suggested that at least 3,000 deaths each year could be avoided if agricultural ammonia emissions were halved. The Secretary of State said that he wanted to close the current loopholes by 2025. May I suggest that it would be a marvellous legacy for him as he leaves the Department —which he presumably will, whatever happens today—to introduce a comprehensive ammonia reduction strategy? [911476]