Oral Answers to Questions

David Rutley Excerpts
Thursday 25th July 2019

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Anne-Marie Trevelyan Portrait Anne-Marie Trevelyan (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (Con) - Hansard

2. What steps she is taking to designate forestry investment zones in England. [912184]

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Rutley) - Hansard
25 Jul 2019, 9:38 a.m.

We are piloting the first forestry investment zone in Cumbria to learn how best to support long-term forestry investment. I was delighted to visit Northumberland last week to discuss with my hon. Friend and others how to increase tree planting rates. We have everyone from the county council to the national park agreeing to work together to increase woodland creation in that great county.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan Portrait Anne-Marie Trevelyan - Parliament Live - Hansard
25 Jul 2019, 9:38 a.m.

I welcome the Minister’s visit to Northumberland last week and thank him for his kind words. Does he agree that what we need is a whole of Northumberland FIZ, which will be structured to allow long-term private investment to support local landowners to plant and, importantly, maintain extensive commercial and amenity planting projects, so that our 11 million new carbon sinks—our trees—will be a reality, not just a plan?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard

I welcome my hon. Friend’s further comments on the development of a FIZ in Northumberland and completely agree that we need to do more to make our long-term tree planting aspirations a reality. As we discussed last week, we need to explore further the opportunities around the potential FIZ in Northumberland, basing them around the lessons learned from the Cumbria pilot. I welcome the positive work that has already taken place. We clearly need to do a lot more to achieve our ambitious targets across the country and in Northumberland.

Mr Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op) - Parliament Live - Hansard

The Minister knows that the Tory Administration in the 18th and 19th centuries stole the public land from the people. That is the truth of the matter. The enclosure Acts were a stain on the history of this country. Is it not about time that we gave that land back and grew trees on it—and that we did so seriously, not through playing around with words?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard

Of course we need to do more to plant more trees, and we are taking that action. We are already committed to planting 11 million trees by 2022 and we are well on target to achieve that aim, but our aspirations are much bigger—going to 12% level of woodland cover by 2060.

Vicky Ford Portrait Vicky Ford (Chelmsford) (Con) - Hansard

3. What steps she is taking to tackle plastic pollution. [912185]

Break in Debate

Maria Caulfield Portrait Maria Caulfield (Lewes) (Con) - Hansard

11. What plans she has to increase tree planting rates. [912193]

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Rutley) - Hansard
25 Jul 2019, 9:48 a.m.

To encourage more planting, we have modified our main grant schemes and announced additional funding of £10 million for urban trees and £50 million for the woodland carbon guarantee scheme. We have invested £5.7 million in the northern forest. We have also reappointed our tree champion to develop our tree strategy so that we can plan to consult on this later in the year. That demonstrates our commitment to achieving our goal of planting 11 million trees during this Parliament, and our wider aspirations.

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez - Parliament Live - Hansard
25 Jul 2019, 9:48 a.m.

I congratulate the Secretary of State on her welcome return to the top table. Earlier this year, her predecessor visited the wonderful Thames Chase community forest in my constituency and planted a tree to contribute to this growing woodland. With the forest likely to be impacted by the lower Thames crossing, will the Minister provide an update on the Department’s biodiversity net gain plans to ensure that major infrastructure projects have the potential to enhance, not detract from, precious green spaces?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard

I know how hard my hon. Friend works for her constituency. We have committed to mandating biodiversity net gain through the forthcoming environment Bill. That policy will deliver measurable improvements to biodiversity through development including housing and local infrastructure, thereby making sure that development has a positive environmental impact through habitat creation or enhancement. The Government are also exploring the best approaches to net gain for nationally significant infrastructure, including the lower Thames crossing.

Maria Caulfield Portrait Maria Caulfield - Parliament Live - Hansard
24 Jul 2019, 11:30 a.m.

Trees are a vital tool in combating carbon emissions, but in Seaford and Alfriston in my constituency, trees are having to be cut down because of elm disease. What support can the Minister give my local council to ensure not just that those trees are replaced but that even more are planted?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
24 Jul 2019, 11:30 a.m.

As my hon. Friend knows, I am very aware of Seaford and Alfriston, and while no specific grants are currently available to replace elm in urban settings, there are opportunities for funding new planting in and around our towns and cities under the recently launched £10 million urban tree challenge fund. That fund will support the planting of at least 130,000 trees across towns and cities in England and contribute towards our manifesto commitment of planting 1 million urban trees by 2022.

Graham P. Jones (Hyndburn) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard

Hyndburn Borough Council has planted an awful lot of trees. In fact, I believe that it has planted more trees than any other borough in Lancashire. When will the Government reward Labour councils such as Hyndburn Borough Council for the work they have done to meet the Government’s targets?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
24 Jul 2019, 11:30 a.m.

I praise the work they are doing. There is a huge opportunity with the northern forest, which the Government have helped to kick-start. It will make a huge difference, working through many community forests. I was pleased to be able to plant the first Government-funded tree in Bury just a few months ago.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP) - Parliament Live - Hansard

I thank the Minister for his response. Tree cover across the UK mainland is approximately 12%, and in Northern Ireland it is only 8%. What is the Minister doing collectively with the devolved Administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to improve the lungs of the world by planting more trees?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
24 Jul 2019, 11:30 a.m.

I praise the work that is going on across the country. Clearly, there is important work going on in Scotland that we need to learn from. We are absolutely committed to taking forward this important work, as I know the hon. Gentleman is, because we need many more trees to achieve our targets in addressing and tackling climate change.

Alex Chalk Portrait Alex Chalk (Cheltenham) (Con) - Hansard

6. What her timescale is for bringing forward legislative proposals to implement the single use plastics directive 2019/904. [912188]

Break in Debate

Giles Watling Portrait Giles Watling (Clacton) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard

T6. Yesterday, I was planning to record a video with then Secretary of State to commend the campaign I have run with the World Dog Alliance to outlaw the consumption of dogmeat in the UK. Sadly, events got in the way. I congratulate the new Secretary of State on her appointment. Will she join me and many colleagues in this place in supporting the campaign? Will she meet me and discuss it further? [912206]

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Rutley) - Parliament Live - Hansard
25 Jul 2019, 10:05 a.m.

Our new Secretary of State’s commitment to animal welfare is very clear. The Government share my hon. Friend’s abhorrence at the thought of eating dogmeat. I recognise both the substantive and symbolic nature of the issues he raises. As he knows, I am exploring actively with colleagues what else we might be able to do to send the clearest possible signal that this behaviour should never be tolerated.

John Grogan (Keighley) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard
25 Jul 2019, 10:05 a.m.

Does the Minister share my concern that the Environment Agency states that Yorkshire Water has unacceptable environmental pollution performance, and that Yorkshire Water discharged sewage into the River Wharfe on no fewer than 123 days last year?

Break in Debate

Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green) - Parliament Live - Hansard
25 Jul 2019, 10:05 a.m.

In private, the Government are apparently briefing local resilience forums about the impact of a no-deal Brexit on food supply and food prices, and are predicting mass disruption. Will the Secretary of State confirm whether that is true, and will she stop keeping people in the dark? Will she publish this information, so all of us can see whether there are adequate contingencies in place?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
25 Jul 2019, 10:05 a.m.

Of course it is right that any responsible Government should prepare for any scenario. We are working closely with all stakeholders to make sure there is a proper flow and supply of food, whatever the scenario.

Robert Halfon Portrait Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
25 Jul 2019, 10:05 a.m.

On Saturday, I met impassioned climate change activists Cliff Kendall and Donna Tyrelli. Cliff Kendall is on hunger strike to protect the environment. They suggest that the average household can reduce its energy bills by more than £250 a year by switching to renewable energy suppliers. What steps is the Department taking to educate households about such green initiatives that help to cut the cost of living?