David Rutley debates with Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

There have been 10 exchanges between David Rutley and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Thu 25th July 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 27 interactions (662 words)
Thu 20th June 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 29 interactions (701 words)
Thu 9th May 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 7 interactions (190 words)
Thu 28th March 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 11 interactions (189 words)
Thu 21st February 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 29 interactions (746 words)
Thu 17th January 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 45 interactions (1,234 words)
Thu 29th November 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 17 interactions (238 words)
Thu 18th October 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 33 interactions (853 words)
Thu 7th June 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 23 interactions (563 words)
Mon 4th June 2018 Ivory Bill 8 interactions (2,323 words)

Oral Answers to Questions

David Rutley Excerpts
Thursday 25th July 2019

(1 year ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate
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?

Oral Answers to Questions

David Rutley Excerpts
Thursday 20th June 2019

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate
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.

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]

Oral Answers to Questions

David Rutley Excerpts
Thursday 9th May 2019

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch (Halifax) (Lab) - Hansard

9. What steps the Government is taking to reduce the risk of wildfire destroying moorland. [910785]

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

It is good to see the hon. Lady back in her place for the first DEFRA questions since returning from maternity leave and the safe arrival of baby James. Congratulations.

Protecting our moorland from wildfires is essential. The risk of severe damage from wildfire on wet, well functioning blanket bog is relatively low. Natural England is working with landowners and land managers through its uplands programme to develop long-term management plans. We are also currently undertaking a wildfire review to ensure that our future land management policies minimise the risks of wildfire.

Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch - Parliament Live - Hansard

I am grateful to the Minister for that response and for his kind words.

In West Yorkshire alone, there have been three significant wildfires in the past 18 months. The Minister will be aware that, if we manage our moorland and peat bogs responsibly, they will lock in water, which protects us from flooding; they will lock in carbon; and, kept wet, they will also protect us from wildfires. What more can we do to manage those moorlands and peat bogs responsibly?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard

The hon. Lady is absolutely right that healthy wet peatlands help carbon storage and minimise and reduce fire risk. That is why peatland restoration is an urgent priority. DEFRA is currently funding four large-scale peatland restoration projects across England, involving a £10 million fund, including in the north of England uplands, the Welsh borders, Dartmoor and Exmoor and, of course, the south Pennines: vital work that we need to take forward.

Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) (Con) Parliament Live - Hansard

Staffordshire moorlands has some magnificent heathland, but it has been affected by severe fires in the last year. Those are sometimes caused by disposable barbecues. Has the Minister looked at ways of ensuring the more responsible purchase and use of such barbecues?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard

We work closely with Natural England and the Home Office to see how we can tackle these issues. Operational plans are in place with fire services as well.

Peter Aldous Portrait Peter Aldous (Waveney) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard

10. What plans his Department has to develop and resource a recovery plan for seabirds. [910786]

Oral Answers to Questions

David Rutley Excerpts
Thursday 28th March 2019

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston (Mid Worcestershire) (Con) - Hansard

6. What steps he is taking to help improve welfare standards for puppies. [910077]

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Rutley) - Hansard
28 Mar 2019, 9:56 a.m.

The Government announced in December that we would ban third-party sales of puppies and kittens in England, and the necessary regulations are being prepared. The ban will address welfare concerns associated with the sale of puppies by dealers and pet shops and will build on recent improvements to the licensing of dog breeding and pet sales.

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston - Parliament Live - Hansard
28 Mar 2019, 9:56 a.m.

As puppy smuggling is punishable as an animal cruelty offence, will the Minister confirm that legislation to introduce five-year sentences for animal cruelty remains a priority for this Government and will be introduced as soon as possible?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
28 Mar 2019, 9:56 a.m.

I can confirm that that is absolutely the case. As soon as parliamentary time allows, the Government will introduce legislation to increase those sentences from six months to five years. Like my hon. Friend, I have zero tolerance for the abhorrent crime of puppy smuggling. I look forward to discussing the matter more fully with him in the Westminster Hall debate that he has secured for next week.

Break in Debate

Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy - Hansard
28 Mar 2019, 9:57 a.m.

I was inspired suddenly, Mr Speaker.

I asked the Minister about this when he appeared before the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs yesterday: he says that he will bring back the sentencing Bill and the animal sentience Bill when we have parliamentary time, but we have spent an awful lot of parliamentary time sitting around, twiddling our thumbs and waiting for Brexit votes. He could bring forward that legislation very soon, could he not?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
28 Mar 2019, 9:57 a.m.

We look forward to bringing it back to the House as soon as parliamentary time allows.

Neil Parish Portrait Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
28 Mar 2019, 9:57 a.m.

Yes, five-year sentencing for animal cruelty must be brought in as soon as possible, but my question is about puppies being smuggled in from abroad. Under EU legislation, five puppies can be brought in legally. Very often, fraudulent veterinary certificates are issued, puppies come in very young and with no socialisation, and it is criminal gangs that profit. When we leave the European Union, can we cut the number of puppies that can come in legally from five to two?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard

I thank the Chairman of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee for raising that point, as he has done several times in the Committee. I can assure him that once we leave, we will be able to look at the number of puppies that can be brought in.

Bill Esterson Portrait Bill Esterson (Sefton Central) (Lab) - Hansard

7. What recent discussions he has had with the Home Secretary on wildlife crime enforcement. [910078]

Oral Answers to Questions

David Rutley Excerpts
Thursday 21st February 2019

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston (Mid Worcestershire) (Con) - Hansard

2. What steps he is taking to improve welfare standards for puppies. [909362]

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Rutley) - Hansard
21 Feb 2019, 9:40 a.m.

The ban on third-party sales of puppies and kittens is an important step forward in improving welfare standards for puppies in England. When introduced, the ban will address welfare concerns associated with the sale of puppies by dealers and pet shops. It will also crack down on unscrupulous breeders who operate with little regard for animal welfare.

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston - Parliament Live - Hansard
21 Feb 2019, 9:40 a.m.

Will the Minister join me in thanking the Dogs Trust for all the work it is doing on the issue of puppy smuggling, and will the Government do all they can to stamp out this despicable trade, including reviewing border enforcement and the pet travel scheme?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
21 Feb 2019, 9:40 a.m.

I welcome the work of the Dogs Trust to highlight the abhorrent issue of puppy smuggling, and I thank it for its support for a ban on third-party sales. The Department is working in close collaboration with the Dogs Trust to tackle puppy smuggling. Our comprehensive approach to this issue encompasses international engagement, enforcement, public communications and tighter regulation. Looking to the future, leaving the EU will open up new approaches to managing our pet travel arrangements.

David Simpson (Upper Bann) (DUP) Parliament Live - Hansard
21 Feb 2019, 9:41 a.m.

We all know the welfare of puppies is vital, but will the Minister enlighten us on what his Department is planning to do when it comes to stricter penalties for those who abuse puppies?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard

There are strict penalties available already, but we will be strengthening sentences for real attempts at animal cruelty from six months to five years. We are just waiting for the right time and legislative vehicle to do that. I know that in Northern Ireland there are already strong standards in place.

Andrew Griffiths (Burton) (Con) Parliament Live - Hansard

3. What steps he is taking to tackle serious and organised waste crime. [909363]

Break in Debate

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

4. What steps he is taking to improve welfare standards for cats. [909364]

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

Cats are cherished members of our families, and it is important that we do all we can to protect their health and welfare. That is why the Government recently updated the welfare code for cats, which highlights the benefits of microchipping, neutering and other aspects of responsible cat ownership. It is also why we are banning third-party sales of kittens in England, which will prevent dealers and pet shops from selling young cats.

Maria Caulfield Portrait Maria Caulfield - Parliament Live - Hansard
21 Feb 2019, 9:46 a.m.

In the interests of equality between cats and dogs, will the Minister look at introducing mandatory microchipping for cats, as is currently the case for dogs? Cats Protection says that 62% of cats in shelters are not microchipped, and it would make returning wandering cats to their owners much easier.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
21 Feb 2019, 9:46 a.m.

I know my hon. Friend is a strong campaigner on this issue. The Government strongly recommend that cat owners get their cat microchipped and keep their records up to date. I am pleased that the proportion of cats that are microchipped has grown in recent years. Lost and stray cats do not pose the same public safety risks as dogs. As a result, our focus should be on publicising the benefits of microchipping rather than making it compulsory at this particular time.

Peter Aldous Portrait Peter Aldous (Waveney) (Con) - Hansard

5. What plans he has for fisheries policy after the UK leaves the EU. [909366]

Break in Debate

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

11. If he will bring forward legislative proposals to ban the human consumption of dog and cat meat. [909375]

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

It is abhorrent to think that our beloved cats and dogs could be eaten. As the Prime Minister said, it is illegal to sell dog and cat meat and there are no abattoirs with a licence to slaughter these animals in the UK. We recognise both the substantive and symbolic nature of the issues raised, and we are exploring what more can be done to address this matter and to send a clearer signal that the consumption of dogs and cats should never be tolerated.

Giles Watling Portrait Giles Watling - Hansard
21 Feb 2019, 9:59 a.m.

There are extensive restrictions in place on the commercial sale of dog meat for human consumption, and I understand that there are similar restrictions on cat meat. Despite those advances, amazingly, the private slaughtering of dogs and cats for private consumption is still legal in this country, and I want that to change. Does my hon. Friend agree that we need to extend the current restrictions to cover the private consumption of dog and cat meat, as my amendment to the Agriculture Bill sets out?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
21 Feb 2019, 9:59 a.m.

There is no evidence that dogs and cats are being consumed in the UK, although I understand and agree with the sentiment behind my hon. Friend’s amendment to the Agriculture Bill. A ban on consumption raises issues of enforcement and prosecution, but I have asked DEFRA officials to explore what more can be done to address these issues. I look forward to having the opportunity to debate these matters further in Westminster Hall this afternoon.

Kirstene Hair (Angus) (Con) Hansard

13. What plans he has to introduce more stringent food labelling laws. [909377]

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Rutley) - Hansard
21 Feb 2019, 10:04 a.m.

The UK has world-leading standards of food information, backed by a rigorous legislative framework, but the Secretary of State has been clear that an overhaul of allergen labelling is needed and DEFRA is working with other Departments to deliver that. We are also committed to reviewing food labelling laws after EU exit, so that consumers’ confidence in the food they buy continues to grow.

Kirstene Hair Parliament Live - Hansard
21 Feb 2019, 10:05 a.m.

My 15-year-old constituent Ethan McColgan has a severe nut allergy. He is one of 2 million people in the UK who have food allergies. Can the Minister reassure Ethan that this matter is an absolute priority for the Government, enabling him to identify and avoid foods that include nuts, and that manufacturers will be forced to comply?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard

The provision of allergen information to the public is very important. It is essential that all UK consumers have complete trust in the food they eat. I understand the concerns of my hon. Friend’s constituent and his family. On 25 January, the Government launched a consultation on how to strengthen the framework on allergens. I encourage her constituent and others in a similar situation to feed their views into that consultation as a matter of urgency.

Colin Clark (Gordon) (Con) Hansard

T1. If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities. [909379]

Break in Debate

Craig Tracey Portrait Craig Tracey (North Warwickshire) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard

T2. Leaving the EU gives us the opportunity to enhance animal welfare standards, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has consistently said that, once we have left, we will control the export of live animals. Will the Minister confirm that all options are still on the table and that a ban remains a possibility? [909380]

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

It has been made clear, and it was a manifesto commitment, that once we leave the European Union, we will take early steps to control the export of live farm animals. We are considering all options in the context of our exit from the EU and as part of our broader commitment to further strengthen animal welfare standards.

Mary Glindon Portrait Mary Glindon (North Tyneside) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard

T5. What steps have the Government taken to ensure that once we leave the EU pet travel scheme, the UK becomes a listed country so that people such as guide dog owners are not disadvantaged? [909385]

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard

I assure the hon. Lady that we are working very closely with the EU and making the necessary applications. We want to ensure that the arrangements—particularly on health—fit everyone, but with guide dog owners in particular, we are working to see what more we can do to help.

Trudy Harrison Portrait Trudy Harrison (Copeland) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard

T4. What is the Department doing to ensure future prosperity and high quality of life for Cumbrian upland and lowland farmers? [909384]

Oral Answers to Questions

David Rutley Excerpts
Thursday 17th January 2019

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Mr Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con) - Hansard

1. How much his Department has spent on preparations for the UK leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement. [908618]

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Rutley) - Hansard
17 Jan 2019, 9:34 a.m.

I bring apologies from the Secretary of State this morning. He will not be attending this meeting because he is attending vital cross-party meetings in Downing Street—[Interruption.] I am sure that Members across the House will understand that those meetings are vitally important at this stage.

In answer to question 1, in the 2017 autumn Budget, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was allocated an additional £310 million to support its work on EU exit preparations in this financial year, 2018-19, with a further £10 million being repurposed from existing budgets. DEFRA is using that additional funding to prepare for and deliver its ambitious programme of EU exit activities in readiness for all scenarios, including preparations for the UK leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement, as is the duty of a responsible Government.

Mr Speaker Hansard

Further to what the Minister has just said, I advise the House that the Secretary of State, in keeping with his usual courtesy, informed me last night of his intended absence. I shall greatly miss him, but we look forward to seeing the fellow again before too long.

Mr Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Hollobone - Parliament Live - Hansard
17 Jan 2019, 9:34 a.m.

Well, I am not sure that the House does understand the Secretary of State’s absence, Mr Speaker. DEFRA questions are only half an hour long; surely those meetings could have been delayed for 30 minutes. My question to the Minister is: will DEFRA be 100% ready in the event of us having to leave with no deal?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
17 Jan 2019, 9:34 a.m.

The Department is working flat out to prepare for no deal. As the House knows, we are bringing on the onshoring of environment, agriculture and fisheries policies, involving 55 major projects and 120 statutory instruments. We will be recruiting around 2,700 officials to ensure that we are well prepared in a no-deal scenario.

Mary Creagh (Wakefield) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard
17 Jan 2019, 9:34 a.m.

We know that householders are stockpiling food and that businesses are spending money that they can ill afford, as is the Minister’s Department, on a no-deal Brexit that would harm the food industry, the farming industry and of course the chemicals industry, which his Department regulates. In a phone call on Tuesday night, the Chancellor said that a no-deal Brexit would be ruled out and off the table by the end of next week. Does the Minister agree?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
17 Jan 2019, 9:34 a.m.

The best way to avoid no deal is by agreeing a deal, and that is why we are working constructively—[Interruption.] The House made its views clear on the Government’s proposed deal and we are now working constructively with major parties across the House to get a deal in place. I am just disappointed that the Leader of the Opposition did not turn up to do that, and that he has not even agreed with the advice of the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

Dame Caroline Spelman (Meriden) (Con) Parliament Live - Hansard
17 Jan 2019, 9:34 a.m.

The Secretary of State is sorely missed this morning. I wanted to commend him for his barnstorming speech last night. Hon. Members and others like myself who represent farming constituencies all received letters before Tuesday’s vote from the farming organisations—the National Farmers Union, the Country Land and Business Association and the Tenant Farmers Association—saying that “above all” they wanted to see a no-deal Brexit ruled out. Given the overwhelming majority in Parliament for that, will the Minister give us some reassurance that the Government will support the view of the majority?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
17 Jan 2019, 9:34 a.m.

Well, I will do my very best to make up for the absence of our esteemed Secretary of State, who did indeed put in a fantastic performance yesterday. I can assure my right hon. Friend that we are working closely with the NFU and the farming sector in seeking to find that deal. We know that many farmers voted to leave, but few wanted to leave with no deal. That is why we are working incredibly hard to ensure that we get that deal into place.

Patrick Grady Portrait Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP) - Parliament Live - Hansard

15. Of the six parties in the House, the Prime Minister met three of them last night. Labour Front Benchers are not meeting her, so I suppose we can work out who the Secretary of State must be meeting today. He told me last week that he thinks the other European countries will be looking enviously at the Prime Minister’s deal. Is that still the Government’s position, and if so, are they not concerned that that would threaten the entire European project, because everyone would want the glorious new future that Britain is going to have? [908635]

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
17 Jan 2019, 9:34 a.m.

The EU has its own challenges, which it is no doubt seeking to take forward. We are clear that we want to take a deal forward. We felt that the deal was a good deal, but Parliament has had its say. We are now responding constructively in these negotiations, and I am grateful to the Scottish National party for taking that forward. I just wish that Labour would take a similar stance.

Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) (Con) Parliament Live - Hansard
17 Jan 2019, 9:39 a.m.

Last Saturday I had the honour of attending the plough service to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Staffordshire NFU, an extremely good organisation representing farmers throughout my constituency. At that service, a number of members came up to me and expressed how concerned they are about any prospect of no deal. Will my hon. Friend set out what the consequences would be for my farmers if there were, indeed, no deal?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
17 Jan 2019, 9:40 a.m.

The Secretary of State has made it clear in his contributions here and at the recent farming conference in Oxford that there could be significant disruption for the farming sector, which is why we are working very hard to make sure that Staffordshire NFU members and farmers across the country get the best possible protection. I meet the NFU every week to listen to and work through its concerns and, of course, the No. 1 priority is to make sure we get this deal. Again, I am grateful to those parties that have sought to become part of that process and dialogue.

Dr Philippa Whitford Portrait Dr Philippa Whitford (Central Ayrshire) (SNP) - Parliament Live - Hansard

14. Without a deal, Scottish farmers could soon face tariffs of 30% on dairy products and 46% on lamb, which would make them uncompetitive and would damage Scotland’s food and drink industry. I would have liked to ask the perhaps future Prime Minister to rule out a no deal, but will the Minister do so? [908634]

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
17 Jan 2019, 9:40 a.m.

I can assure the hon. Lady that I am not the future Prime Minister. That will not happen. She does not have to worry about that. [Interruption.] Well, I am certainly not. I am merely filling in for him while he is not here.

The hon. Lady asks an important question, which other hon. Members have also asked. We want to make sure that protections are in place, and we want to get this deal in place, because a no deal would potentially have a disruptive effect on farmers. We will work together closely to ensure a deal happens.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster (Torbay) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
17 Jan 2019, 9:41 a.m.

It is absolutely right that the Government prepare for all eventualities, including no deal, but does my hon. Friend share my sense of incredulity at hearing those who spent most of this week attacking the deal on the table, and attacking every other deal the EU has ever done, now complaining about the prospect of there not being one?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
17 Jan 2019, 9:41 a.m.

That is the case we made. The Government and many Conservative Members felt that the deal was a good deal, but clearly we now need to respond to what the House has said, and we are doing that.

Mr Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op) - Parliament Live - Hansard
17 Jan 2019, 9:41 a.m.

The Minister is a well-intentioned fella. Will he take a strong message from those of us who care about DEFRA, the environment and our farming sector that we do care, that we are willing to help get this right and that we are willing to do so on an all-party basis, as long as we can bury this nonsense of a no-deal Brexit?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
17 Jan 2019, 9:42 a.m.

The hon. Gentleman is also a good fella with good intentions, and I share his concerns about no deal. What we need to do now is to find a deal that the House can unite behind. The Secretary of State would say that if he were in his place, and it is important that the Leader of the Opposition now joins that process.

Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP) - Parliament Live - Hansard
17 Jan 2019, 9:42 a.m.

I, too, am sorry not to see the Secretary of State in his place at the Dispatch Box after what was quite the bravura audition yesterday. Someone once said:

“The day after we vote to leave, we hold all the cards and we can choose the path we want.”

It seems that those cards and paths have been pretty expensive so far. Can the Minister tell us whether his Department’s largesse has sorted out the export health certificate system, which of course relies on a single spreadsheet? Has he made export agreements with 154 countries to replace the EU agreements? Lastly, has this been the worst poker hand ever played?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
17 Jan 2019, 9:43 a.m.

Lots of questions there, but I can assure the hon. Lady that I am even more saddened not to see the Secretary of State here because I am having to answer all his questions on this subject.

On the hon. Lady’s substantive point, we are working on the export health certificate process, and we are working on the other trade agreements. My hon. Friend the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the farming Minister, is working on those issues as well. Each of those steps is being dealt with.

Stephen Timms Portrait Stephen Timms (East Ham) (Lab) - Hansard

2. When he plans to bring forward legislative proposals for maximum five-year sentences for the most serious crimes of animal cruelty. [908619]

Angela Smith (Penistone and Stocksbridge) (Lab) Hansard

11. When he plans to bring forward legislative proposals for maximum five-year sentences for the most serious crimes of animal cruelty. [908629]

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Rutley) - Hansard
17 Jan 2019, 9:43 a.m.

The Government will introduce the necessary legislation to increase the maximum penalty for animal cruelty from six months’ imprisonment to five years’ imprisonment as soon as parliamentary time allows.

Stephen Timms Portrait Stephen Timms - Parliament Live - Hansard
17 Jan 2019, 9:43 a.m.

I am grateful for that answer, but the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs called for five-year maximum sentences in 2016, Ministers promised it in 2017 and the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said last June that it would be in place by the end of March this year, but there is still no sign of it happening. Why has there been such a long delay? Can the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs give us a firm, reliable timeframe for when this much-needed change will actually take place?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard

I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that we are moving as fast as we can on this. We need to find the right legislative vehicle, but it is our intention to take this forward, as I told yesterday’s Public Bill Committee on Finn’s law.

Angela Smith (Penistone and Stocksbridge) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard
17 Jan 2019, 9:45 a.m.

Can the Minister confirm whether any DEFRA Minister, including the Secretary of State, has had any discussions on five-year sentencing with either the Leader of the House or the Chief Whip in order to secure parliamentary time for this measure?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
17 Jan 2019, 9:44 a.m.

A very active dialogue is going on to determine the right vehicle, involving the usual channels within the House; those conversations have taken place.

Neil Parish Portrait Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
17 Jan 2019, 9:45 a.m.

Can the Government get out of crawler gear and get into first or second, because we have to bring about this five-year sentencing? At the moment, someone who pleads guilty to a horrendous crime of animal cruelty gets a maximum of four months, because they get an automatic 30% reduction. It is crazy that huge amounts of animal welfare abuse happens and we have such short sentences. So please get on with it.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard

We will get on with it. We take animal welfare seriously; we have introduced a third-party ban on sales of puppies and kittens, and we are working on this very actively.

Sir Desmond Swayne Portrait Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard

3. What steps his Department plans to take to maintain standards on the care and protection of animals after the UK leaves the EU. [908620]

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

The Government have made it clear that our exit from the EU will not lead to a lowering of our high animal welfare standards. Our regulatory system will offer the same level of assurance of animal welfare following our departure from the EU as it does now. The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 will ensure that existing EU standards are maintained once we leave the EU, and we are actively exploring options for strengthening the UK system in the future.

Sir Desmond Swayne Portrait Sir Desmond Swayne - Parliament Live - Hansard
17 Jan 2019, 9:46 a.m.

How will the Minister crack down on puppy farming?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
17 Jan 2019, 9:46 a.m.

The ban we announced on 23 December will make sure that there is a ban on third-party sales of puppies and kittens, which will mean that unscrupulous breeders and puppy farmers will no longer be able to hide. This is an important piece of legislation and it shows that we have got into a much higher gear on animal welfare legislation.

Mr Clive Betts Portrait Mr Clive Betts (Sheffield South East) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
17 Jan 2019, 9:46 a.m.

The International Trade Secretary has been touring the world negotiating trade deals in the past few months. Will the Minister say precisely what involvement DEFRA Ministers have in ensuring that animal welfare issues are contained in any agreement that that Secretary of State is concluding?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
17 Jan 2019, 9:46 a.m.

DEFRA leads on agricultural issues in these trade deals and there is a clear intention that our standards will not be watered down.

Mr Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry) (DUP) - Parliament Live - Hansard

Can the Minister lay to rest some of the vile scare stories that have been emanating in the past few months about how, in certain circumstances in which we may leave the EU, there will be a diminution in animal care standards? Can he confirm that whatever the circumstances after 29 March we will retain the highest possible standards?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
17 Jan 2019, 9:46 a.m.

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point, and I assure him that we will make sure the existing regulations come over and we will maintain those high standards.

Melanie Onn (Great Grimsby) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard
17 Jan 2019, 9:47 a.m.

Inside or outside the EU, Boohoo, the online retailer, has been found to be advertising clothing as “faux fur” when in fact it has contained animal fur, including rabbit. So may I ask what checks are in place and what action the Government are prepared to take to ensure that there is no animal cruelty in the clothing industry?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard

The hon. Lady raises an important point. This is a clear trading standards issue and, as I understand it, action has been taken, as it should be in those circumstances.

Mr Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Simon Clarke (Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland) (Con) - Hansard

4. What steps he is taking to tackle serious and organised waste crime. [908621]

Break in Debate

Hannah Bardell Portrait Hannah Bardell (Livingston) (SNP) - Parliament Live - Hansard

T3. Paterson Arran Ltd is a major, important employer in my constituency, and arguably produces the best shortbread in the world. It has written to me raising serious concerns about the impact of a no-deal Brexit. It imports a significant number of commodities, and its business would be seriously damaged by a no-deal Brexit. Will the Minister and the Cabinet now take a no-deal Brexit off the table, extend article 50, and take the vote to the people? [908639]

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

As I have said in reply to earlier questions, we are working very hard to ensure that there is a deal. We want to work with all parties to do that. I was impressed when I met businesses in Scotland with the Food and Drink Federation Scotland. We need to take these steps, and I understand where the company is coming from on those issues.

Peter Heaton-Jones (North Devon) (Con) Parliament Live - Hansard

T6. May I thank the Minister for meeting me and a delegation of farmers from North Devon before Christmas? I am meeting those farmers again tomorrow evening. Can the Minister confirm that the Government are considering their concerns—indeed, our concerns—about the Rural Payments Agency and the Agriculture Bill in particular? [908642]

Oral Answers to Questions

David Rutley Excerpts
Thursday 29th November 2018

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab) Hansard

2. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for International Trade on maintaining environmental and animal welfare standards in future trade agreements. [907903]

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

Ministers and officials from DEFRA regularly meet their counterparts in the Department for International Trade to discuss a wide range of trade issues. The Government are clear that future trade agreements must work for consumers, farmers and businesses in the UK. We will not water down our standards on food safety, animal welfare and environmental protection as part of any future trade deals.

Helen Goodman Parliament Live - Hansard
29 Nov 2018, 9:39 a.m.

I begin by congratulating DEFRA on the contribution that it has no doubt made to the excellent Government document on the implications of Brexit. In the section on agri-food we see that a no deal could produce a 35% reduction in competitiveness, and even the Prime Minister’s estimates predict a reduction of 7%. So will the Minister confirm today that we will not allow unfair competition from imports from countries that produce to lower standards?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
29 Nov 2018, 9:39 a.m.

Yes, I can confirm that.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Zac Goldsmith (Richmond Park) (Con) - Hansard
29 Nov 2018, 9:40 a.m.

My hon. Friend will be aware of the overwhelming support for a ban on the export of live animals after we leave the European Union, and I know he has great sympathy with that position. Can he confirm that under the terms of the withdrawal agreement that would still be possible?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
29 Nov 2018, 9:40 a.m.

Yes, and we have a call for evidence on that.

Paula Sherriff (Dewsbury) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard
29 Nov 2018, 9:40 a.m.

I recently met the lovely children in the reception classes of St John’s infant school in Dewsbury. They have written to the Secretary of State because they have been learning about the poaching of elephants and rhinos and they are really concerned about it. Can the Minister say something today to reassure them so they know we are taking action on this?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
29 Nov 2018, 9:40 a.m.

It is good to hear that the children at St John’s school are taking a keen interest in this. We are taking strong action through the Ivory Bill, and I congratulate the Environment Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey), on the work she is doing to take that forward.

Mr Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
29 Nov 2018, 9:41 a.m.

Will the Minister ensure that under any future trade agreements it is a requirement that food imported into the UK be produced to at least equivalent standards to those required of our domestic producers?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
29 Nov 2018, 9:41 a.m.

Yes—again, we will ensure that we do not water down those standards. I am sure that later in these questions we will hear from the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, my hon. Friend the Member for Camborne and Redruth (George Eustice), who is doing a tremendous job in taking the Agriculture Bill through the House.

Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP) - Parliament Live - Hansard

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said in its report on the Agriculture Bill that the Government should put their money where their mouth is and accept an amendment stipulating that food products imported as part of any future trade deal should meet or exceed British standards relating to production, animal welfare and the environment. I have tabled such an amendment; will the Minister undertake to accept it in order to keep Frankenstein foods off the tables of families the length and breadth of these isles?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
29 Nov 2018, 9:41 a.m.

I know that amendments have been tabled, and they will be properly considered on Report.

Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) (Ind) Hansard

3. What steps he is taking to reduce levels of air pollution to legal limits. [907904]

Break in Debate

Martyn Day Portrait Martyn Day (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (SNP) - Hansard

T4. Guide dog owners rely on their dogs to get around safely. They are rightly worried about what will happen with EU travel after any transition period or, worse still, in the event of no deal, which would require four months of advance planning. What contingencies have the UK Government put in place to minimise delays to guide dog travel? What post-Brexit arrangements will there be for pet travel? [907919]

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

The Government have already set out very clear guidelines as to what needs to be done ahead of no deal. The feedback that we have had already tells us that this is being well received.

Simon Hoare Portrait Simon Hoare (North Dorset) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard

T2. Rural roaming can bring huge benefits to farmers, businesses and our rural communities. We are at a key point in trying to deliver it, so will my right hon. Friend commit to use all his considerable energy to convince the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport that it is the right thing to do, is affordable and can be done quickly? [907917]

Oral Answers to Questions

David Rutley Excerpts
Thursday 18th October 2018

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
David Linden Portrait David Linden (Glasgow East) (SNP) - Hansard

1. What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on maintaining food and drink standards after the UK has left the EU. [907134]

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Rutley) - Hansard
18 Oct 2018, 9:35 a.m.

DEFRA is working closely with the Food Standards Agency and the Department of Health and Social Care to ensure that the regulatory regime for food and drink standards and safety remains robust as the UK leaves the European Union, in order to continue protecting the public and retaining the confidence of consumers, businesses and trading partners overseas. The Secretary of State meets Cabinet colleagues on a weekly basis, when discussions take place on the future relationship the UK will have with the EU.

David Linden Portrait David Linden - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Oct 2018, 9:38 a.m.

The National Audit Office’s report on DEFRA’s readiness for Brexit says that the Department

“will be unable to process the increased volume of export health certificates”

on current capacity and that

“consignments of food could be delayed at the border or prevented from leaving the UK.”

Ports will be gridlocked and the quality produce of Scottish farmers will not reach its foreign markets. There is a spreadsheet to take the place of the EU’s TRACES system—how does the Minister intend to fix this by March?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Oct 2018, 9:36 a.m.

The NAO report also highlighted that there is a high degree of readiness within DEFRA. We have recruited 1,300 people to take this work forward. In my role as Minister with responsibility for food, I am working very closely with others to ensure that we will move on all these issues, whether vets or preparations at the borders.

Meg Hillier Portrait Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op) - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Oct 2018, 9:35 a.m.

At the Public Accounts Committee on Monday, we heard from DEFRA officials about preparedness for Brexit, and we are very concerned. One of the biggest concerns is that many businesses do not know what they will have to do to comply with the rules around Brexit. What is the Minister doing to make sure that real effort is going into telling those companies and businesses how they should be preparing?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Oct 2018, 9:36 a.m.

The hon. Lady makes a very important point. The Government have been setting out technical notices to explain more about what needs to be done in readiness for a no deal scenario. Yesterday, along with the Secretary of State, I met the Food and Drink Sector Council. We are working hard to increase engagement with businesses on the back of those technical notices.

Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP) - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Oct 2018, 9:37 a.m.

This year we saw the highest-quality fruit and veg grown on these islands rotting in the fields because there were not enough workers to pick them. Yesterday the chair of the Migration Advisory Committee said that the fruit and veg sector would shrink if its policies were followed—that would mean farmers going out of business. Does the Minister agree with him that that is a price worth paying, or does he agree with me that ending freedom of movement is a huge mistake?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard

I am not sure that that really fits in with the question, but an important pilot is being taken forward on seasonal workers to address the issues that the hon. Lady raises.

Eddie Hughes Portrait Eddie Hughes (Walsall North) (Con) - Hansard

2. What steps he is taking to increase tree planting. [907135]

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

5. What steps he is taking to increase tree planting. [907139]

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Rutley) - Hansard
18 Oct 2018, 9:37 a.m.

The changes to the woodland carbon fund and the woodland creation planning grant that we successfully piloted in 2017 have been made permanent. We also recently made the countryside stewardship woodland creation grant available all year. In addition, we are providing £5.7 million to kick-start the northern forest, and we have appointed a national tree champion to drive forward our tree planting manifesto commitments.

Eddie Hughes Portrait Eddie Hughes - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Oct 2018, 9:38 a.m.

Does the Minister welcome the work of the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy programme, which is providing saplings to MPs across the country to plant in their constituencies?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Oct 2018, 9:38 a.m.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his characteristically enthusiastic support for that project—we would expect nothing less for the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy initiative, which is truly excellent. I mention in particular the five saplings project, made possible by the work of the Woodland Trust, Sainsbury’s and ITV—the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Frank Field) is also to be commended. Like my hon. Friend, I look forward to planting saplings in my constituency soon, in Macclesfield, and I am pleased that many other colleagues across the House will shortly be doing the same.

Alex Chalk Portrait Alex Chalk - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Oct 2018, 9:38 a.m.

Trees are carbon sinks that lock in greenhouse gases while promoting biodiversity, so what steps is my hon. Friend taking to press forward with forestry investment zones for large-scale woodland creation?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
18 Oct 2018, midnight

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question and his keen interest in the need to drive forward ambitious plans to plant more trees. He is a tree champion in his own right. Our national tree champion, Sir William Worsley, is launching the first forestry investment zone pilot in Cumbria today. That new project will help landowners to create vital new woodland and unlock the economic benefits of forestry in areas not traditionally used for tree planting. The project will also provide lessons on how best to support forestry investment.

Mr Speaker Hansard
18 Oct 2018, midnight

I call Tom Tugendhat, who has Question 6. Where is the fella? He is not here. I hope he is not indisposed. I think it is more likely that the hon. Gentleman is planting a tree.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard
18 Oct 2018, midnight

Trees play a vital role in upper catchment management, by preventing flooding. Environment Agency representatives said in a meeting last week that upper catchment management needs prioritisation. How is the Minister planning for that, and will he ensure that there is provision for it in the Budget?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
18 Oct 2018, midnight

I know that the hon. Lady has a keen interest in that issue. I will be working closely with the Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey), to take these activities forward.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP) - Hansard
18 Oct 2018, midnight

I welcome the Minister’s response. On my land back home, we have planted some 3,500 trees over time, but the important thing is to have trees planted by young people. The Woodland Trust in Northern Ireland, led by Patrick Cregg, is running a scheme whereby every school will plant a tree. Has the Department had an opportunity to engage with the Woodland Trust and education providers to make that happen?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
18 Oct 2018, midnight

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. We need to get young people connected with trees and the importance of woodland, and we are working closely with the Woodland Trust on exactly that initiative.

Theresa Villiers Portrait Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet) (Con) - Hansard
18 Oct 2018, midnight

Given the huge importance of trees to our environment and our quality of life, does the Minister agree that we must ensure that the planning system protects protected trees and woodland wherever it can when new development is being considered?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
18 Oct 2018, midnight

Yes, that is really important. I think my right hon. Friend will also welcome our commitment to ensure that we will see 1 million more trees in our towns and cities. Trees play a vital role not just in the countryside and more generally but in our towns and close to urban areas.

Sue Hayman (Workington) (Lab) Hansard
18 Oct 2018, midnight

Tree planting is important for ecological diversity and protecting vital habitats. Sites of special scientific interest protect the UK’s most important places for trees and wildlife, but a Greenpeace investigation has found that almost half of SSSIs have not been examined in the last six years, as required by national guidelines. Now that the Prime Minister has announced an end to austerity, what new resources will the Minister commit to, to reverse the alarming neglect and decline of habitats and species across the UK?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
18 Oct 2018, midnight

That is an important issue. Natural England is focusing carefully on the SSSIs that are most at risk and will ensure that those resources are targeted, for maximum impact in those vital areas.

Sue Hayman Hansard
18 Oct 2018, midnight

If the Minister cannot commit to new resources for our habitats, what commitments can we expect in the Budget to restore our beloved local parks, which are so important to the environment, health and local communities? Will the Minister confirm how much funding the Government’s parks action group has been allocated and how many of the group’s recommendations he has delivered?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard

Clearly we will have to wait and see what comes up in the Budget on 29 October, but we are working closely with the parks Minister on that agenda.

Alex Burghart Portrait Alex Burghart (Brentwood and Ongar) (Con) - Hansard

3. What recent discussions he has had with representatives of the water companies on their performance. [907137]

Break in Debate

Stephen Pound (Ealing North) (Lab) Hansard

8. What discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on UK participation in the European Food Safety Authority after the UK leaves the EU. [907143]

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Rutley) - Hansard
18 Oct 2018, 9:55 a.m.

After our departure from the EU, our priority will be to maintain the UK’s high standards of food safety. We are considering options for the future of risk assessment and scientific advice in the UK as part of the exit negotiations. We are seeking to retain the long tradition of close scientific collaboration with the EFSA. The Secretary of State meets Cabinet colleagues weekly at Cabinet, and through relevant Sub-Committees, where discussions take place on the future relationship that the UK will have with the EU and associated bodies.

Stephen Pound Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Oct 2018, 9:55 a.m.

I appreciate that the Minister has already addressed a similar question from the hon. Member for Glasgow East (David Linden), but this contribution should not be seen in any way as evidence of collusion between me and the Scottish National party. As we move from—to use Fintan O’Toole’s phrase—the “epic dream” of Brexit to the nightmare reality, we find ourselves having to deal with more and more aspects of minutiae. I implore the Minister not to forget the dairy farmers of Northern Ireland and, particularly in this area, to concentrate on discussions with Cabinet colleagues so that we do not let down those dairy farmers, who face a terrible future as a result of that disastrous decision of June 2016.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Oct 2018, 9:56 a.m.

I had never really thought of the hon. Gentleman as colluding. He is incredibly independently minded—we respect him for that—and forthright in his views.

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. We will do all that we can to support dairy farmers across the UK, not least in Cheshire, where I also have many dairy farmers. Of course, we will be working across the board not only to ensure that the best possible standards of food safety are maintained, but to support agriculture as we move to a world outside the EU.

Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) (Con) Parliament Live - Hansard

9. What progress the Government have made on reintroducing a seasonal agricultural workers scheme. [907144]

Oral Answers to Questions

David Rutley Excerpts
Thursday 7th June 2018

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
James Frith (Bury North) (Lab) Hansard

3. What assessment he has made of the effect of changes in the level of funding for flood defences on the effectiveness of those defences. [905705]

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Rutley) - Parliament Live - Hansard
7 Jun 2018, 9:40 a.m.

The Government are investing £2.6 billion to better protect the country from flooding. This includes a programme of more than 1,500 flood defence schemes, which will better protect 300,000 homes by 2021. The programme will deliver £30 billion of economic benefit for the next 50 years and is projected to reduce overall flood risk to the economy by 5% by 2021.

James Frith Parliament Live - Hansard
7 Jun 2018, 9:40 a.m.

The 2015 Boxing day floods devastated the Redvales and Radcliffe areas of Bury. The Environment Agency has drawn up a £37 million flood defence scheme for the area but, after raising £30 million between the EA, Greater Manchester and Bury Council, there is a £7 million shortfall. That shortfall would be covered if the bid with the Minister were successful. After being unsuccessful in the first round, we are to be considered again for funding from the £40 million pot for deprived areas. Can he update me on the progress of the bid? Successful bids to date have protected fewer than 100 homes, but ours would protect 1,200.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
7 Jun 2018, 9:40 a.m.

The hon. Gentleman has been a clear champion for his local community in raising these issues with the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey). He can be assured that his bid is being given serious consideration in relation to the £40 million floods fund for growth and regeneration and that decisions will be made by the summer.

Dame Caroline Spelman (Meriden) (Con) Hansard
7 Jun 2018, 9:44 a.m.

Mr Speaker, I am sure that you have seen the devastating pictures of flooding in Birmingham, the wider west midlands and other parts of the country, including 30 to 40 homes in my constituency. Is it not the case that it was the Conservatives who secured universal affordable flood insurance for the victims after inheriting a situation in which the Association of British Insurers had given notice to end the so-called statement of principles in 2008?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
7 Jun 2018, 9:45 a.m.

My right hon. Friend is of course right, and our thoughts are with the families who have been affected by the floods, particularly the family of Peter Harnwell, who sadly died despite the best efforts of the emergency services when his vehicle was submerged. Thanks to the Government’s efforts, the vast majority of households at high flood risk now have access to home insurance through Flood Re, which has active plans in place to engage with all communities after flood events once the immediate emergency has subsided.

Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch (Halifax) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
7 Jun 2018, 9:45 a.m.

I join the Minister in sending our sincere condolences to the family of the gentleman who sadly died in Walsall following the extreme flash flooding earlier this month. I also pay tribute to the emergency services and others who worked so hard to protect our communities during that period of extreme weather.

Further to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (James Frith), in the 2017 autumn Budget, the Government allocated £40 million to boost regeneration in communities at high risk of flooding but, six months on, not a penny has been allocated. Will the Minister tell the House what is causing that delay?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
7 Jun 2018, 9:46 a.m.

The allocation of flood defence funding is important, as the hon. Lady will appreciate, and it is being properly scrutinised. Conversations are being had and, as I said to the hon. Member for Bury North (James Frith), a decision will be made this summer.

John Howell Portrait John Howell (Henley) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
7 Jun 2018, 9:46 a.m.

Will the Minister confirm that the creation of 15 hectares of new habitat remains a funded part of the Oxford flood alleviation scheme, which may affect my constituents?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
7 Jun 2018, 9:46 a.m.

I do not know the detail of that scheme, but I will talk about it in depth with my hon. Friend afterwards to give him the assurances that he needs.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op) - Parliament Live - Hansard
7 Jun 2018, 9:46 a.m.

The best form of flood defence is upper catchment management, yet the £45 million provided in York is going towards downstream emergency measures. It was not incorporated in the national strategic review, so what are the Minister’s plans to start investing in upland management?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
7 Jun 2018, 9:47 a.m.

The hon. Lady makes an important point. Looking at natural ways to tackle floods, such as planting trees and wood-based flood defences further upstream, is a priority. We are taking that action further forward with a fund and a plan.

Martin Vickers Portrait Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
7 Jun 2018, 9:47 a.m.

The Minister will recall that the entire Humber estuary, particularly my constituency, was badly affected by a tidal surge in December 2013. There is still concern among residents that insufficient work has been done. Will the Minister meet me and neighbouring MPs to provide an update?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
7 Jun 2018, 9:47 a.m.

I understand the concerns raised by my hon. Friend, and I am of course more than willing to meet him to discuss them in detail.

Mark Pawsey Portrait Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con) - Hansard

4. What steps he is taking to reform producer responsibility systems to incentivise producers to take more responsibility for the environmental effects of their products. [905708]

Break in Debate

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab) Hansard

7. What plans his Department has to limit the environmental effect of fracking. [905713]

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Rutley) - Hansard
7 Jun 2018, 9:56 a.m.

DEFRA and the Environment Agency take the environmental risks associated with oil and gas exploration very seriously. We have a robust regulatory regime, drawn from global best practice and more than 50 years’ experience of regulating the onshore oil and gas industry safely in this country. The Environment Agency will issue a permit only if it is satisfied that any risks to people and the environment can be effectively managed.

Mr Cunningham Parliament Live - Hansard
7 Jun 2018, 9:56 a.m.

Given that lots of people are concerned in certain areas where fracking can happen, what is the Minister doing to hold meaningful discussions and involve them in the decision making, so that they feel that their voice has been heard?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
7 Jun 2018, 9:59 a.m.

As always, the hon. Gentleman asks an insightful question. Our regulatory regime currently lets local residents have their say on two stages in the environmental permitting process: when the application is received by the Environment Agency; and at the draft decision stage, before the permit is finalised. A public consultation takes place once the planning application has been permitted. On 17 May, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government set out that they would be strengthening community engagement further by consulting in due course on the potential to make pre-application consultation a statutory requirement.

Mr Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard
7 Jun 2018, 9:57 a.m.

Why does the Minister not make a statement on behalf of the Government to stop fracking altogether?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard

The Government believe, rightly, that shale gas plays an important part in our energy mix and will be an important bridging fuel in the transition to renewable technologies.

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

8. What steps he is taking to support the UK fishing industry as the UK leaves the EU. [905714]

Ivory Bill

(2nd reading: House of Commons)
(Money resolution: House of Commons)
David Rutley Excerpts
Monday 4th June 2018

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Bill Main Page
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch (Halifax) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
4 Jun 2018, 9:38 p.m.

We have had an excellent debate this evening, and I thank Members from across the House for their contributions. To reiterate what my hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State said in her opening speech, the Labour party welcomes this Bill and we will be supporting it this evening. Of course we will, however, be seeking to play a role in testing and tightening it in Committee, particularly on its exemptions.

We have heard some well researched and articulated speeches and interventions, and I shall mention just a few. My hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Liz Twist) and the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon), among others, made an important point about online sales. There must not be an online market for such items, and I would be keen to explore every opportunity to close loopholes for the sale and trade of ivory as this Bill progresses. My hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mary Creagh), the Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, and others made an important point about the funding of the National Wildlife Crime Unit. It is an important part of resourcing the enforcement efforts required to really enact this legislation in the way that we envisage, and I look to the Government to reassure us further on that point and commit to funding the unit beyond 2020.

The right hon. Member for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson) made a passionate speech based on his experience in this policy area and rightly paid tribute to the bold action taken by the Chinese Government. He also reflected on the difficult and insatiable relationship between supply and demand that will persist unless we step in and sever it.

The hon. Member for Walsall North (Eddie Hughes) made a characteristically interesting speech that I thoroughly enjoyed. He made a serious point about the economic impact on certain countries of banning the ivory trade and what we might need to consider by way of support as we move through the transition.

It is worth reflecting on the public’s role in the progress that has led to the Bill before us and thanking them for their contributions. I am mindful that the last time the House debated this issue was in a Westminster Hall debate on an e-petition calling on the Government to shut down the domestic ivory trade, which secured more than 100,000 signatures. Further to that, as the Secretary of State mentioned, after the Government opened their consultation on the proposals at the end of last year, a staggering 70,000 people and organisations responded. More than 80% of responses were in favour of measures to ban ivory sales in the UK; that has no doubt assisted in the shaping of the Bill.

I think, based on the contributions we have heard, that we all share a great sadness that the illegal wildlife trade has grown rapidly in recent years. It is absolutely right that we take robust domestic action to tackle it head on, while demonstrating leadership on this issue to the rest of the world. Despite the convention on international trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora, to which 183 states are party, and the introduction of an international ivory ban in 1989, we have still witnessed a worrying upward trend in illegal killings since the mid-2000s. As we have heard, recent estimates of African savanna elephant populations indicated a 30% decline in numbers between 2007 and 2014. That is 144,000 fewer elephants.

The examples of decisive action taken by the US and China have already had a positive impact, so we welcome this domestic action, which we hope will help to turn around the situation. One issue that we wish to explore further in Committee is the possibility of displacement and unintended consequences, for which we will have to be ready. There have been suggestions that the Chinese Government’s interventions on ivory may have brought about an increase in trade in neighbouring states in which controls are more relaxed. I was interested to hear the point made by the hon. Member for Mid Derbyshire (Mrs Latham) about mammoth tusks, which proves that workarounds will be found by unscrupulous poachers if there is scope for them to find them.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy), the hon. Members for North Dorset (Simon Hoare), for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman) and for Mid Derbyshire, the right hon. Member for North Shropshire and several others made the point that clause 35 sets out the meaning of ivory as being

“ivory from the tusk or tooth of an elephant.”

Both the Bill and the explanatory notes reflect on the possibility of a clampdown on elephant ivory resulting in an increased threat to other animals—such as hippopotamuses or a variety of marine animals—but neither offers a comprehensive framework for responding to that threat. Sadly, we can envisage that unintended consequence becoming a reality if we are not prepared for it.

Labour has long been the party of animal welfare, from banning foxhunting and fur farms in the UK to the introduction of the landmark Animal Welfare Act 2006, and I am grateful to the hon. Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess) for acknowledging that. In an insightful speech, the Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish), said that nobody could get legislation through quickly like the Secretary of State. That having been said, we welcome the opportunity to congratulate the Secretary of State and his team on finally bringing some legislation to the Chamber. For all his bold announcements, we are reassured that he is finally translating the words and consultations into action and law change, as this is the first piece of primary legislation that we have seen from him since his appointment to the role.

Earlier, the hon. Member for North Thanet (Sir Roger Gale) made the point that if the Government can implement a comprehensive ban on ivory, they could also look into a comprehensive ban on fur, as debated in Westminster Hall today. Further to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East, they could also look into banning the use of animals in circuses. We look forward to seeing legislation on both those issues in the not-too-distant future. Again, we welcome the legislation before us and look forward to revisiting the detail in Committee.

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Rutley) - Parliament Live - Hansard
4 Jun 2018, 9:44 p.m.

I wish to thank Members from all parties for their contributions to this really important debate. I am encouraged by the strong consensus in the Chamber that the Bill is essential in the fight against the poaching of elephants for their ivory. I am grateful to Members on both sides of the House for that clear cross-party support. There were some excellent speeches from the hon. Members for Workington (Sue Hayman), for Halifax (Holly Lynch) and for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron), who showed such important cross-party consensus on the fact that action must be taken.

Restrictions on commercial activities in ivory and other products from endangered species were first introduced when the United Kingdom became party to the convention on international trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora, CITES, in 1975. The EU wildlife trade regulations introduced in 1997 implement CITES in a stricter manner than is required by the convention. The Bill now builds on those existing regulations to underline the fact the United Kingdom does not accept that ivory should be seen ever as a desirable commodity or, even worse, as a status symbol.

The Government have introduced this Bill quickly—only six weeks after we published our consultation response. We recognise the need to act quickly, which has been highlighted by many Members throughout the House—I am very grateful for that. I am hopeful that Members from across the House will work together to ensure the swift passage of the Bill through Parliament in the weeks ahead.

Before I respond to individual points raised by Members, I should like to pay tribute to the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey). Indeed, this Bill bears the hallmarks of her committed campaigning and energy, which make her such a popular figure in the House. Mr Deputy Speaker, I am sure that you and Members from across the House will join me in wishing her a speedy recovery. I will do everything that I can, to the best of my endeavours, to provide cover for her from the substitutes’ bench until she returns safe and well to join us in this place.

We should also recognise, as many Members have, the incredible efforts of the 70,000 individuals and organisations that took the time to respond to the consultation that was launched last October. It is particularly encouraging that some 88% of respondents supported the ban on the sale of ivory. I thank the environmental bodies represented in those responses, and those from the antiques trade, the music sector and others, for their constructive engagement and support. I have been particularly heartened to see the endorsement of our approach from conservation organisations such as the WWF, the Tusk Trust, the Zoological Society of London, the Born Free Foundation and Stop Ivory, among others. It is most welcome and sincerely appreciated.

That engagement and the level of support for our proposals has convinced us that it is right that the Bill sets out a strong ban to protect elephants in the wild from poaching, with only a very limited number of exemptions for ivory items that would not contribute either directly or indirectly to poaching. We believe that approach is both proportionate and, of course, robust, as it should be.

When I saw elephants in the wild during a very memorable visit to Tanzania in 1988, the African elephant population was estimated to be 600,000.

Sir David Amess Portrait Sir David Amess - Hansard
4 Jun 2018, 9:48 p.m.

I have been listening very carefully to what my hon. Friend is saying. When it comes to the Committee stage of the Bill, will he look very carefully at what colleagues on both sides of the House have said and extend the ban to include, for instance, rhino horns?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
4 Jun 2018, 9:48 p.m.

We have already taken very strong action to combat the illegal trade in rhino horn. Other Members have also talked about the need to extend that to other ivory-bearing species—I will come on to that later if I can. Under clause 35, the Secretary of State does have powers to extend that ban if there is sufficient displacement. That is a delegated power and we will obviously take it very seriously. We can debate that more in Committee.

As I was saying, figures for the elephant population have moved from 600,000 when I visited Tanzania to just 415,000. That is a depressing decline of more than 30%. As many Members have said, we need to ensure that future generations will be able to see these splendid and iconic creatures in their natural habitats and not in captivity. We want future generations to be able to benefit from that.

We are taking positive steps that will lead the way in the global fight against elephants heading towards extinction. The Bill achieves that by banning commercial activities in ivory, which we define as buying, selling or hiring ivory; offering to buy, sell or hire ivory; and keeping ivory for sale. In so doing, we will put a responsibility on both the buyer and the seller, and capture the actions taken by the middlemen who facilitate or support the trade—for example, those advertising ivory illegally. Many hon. Members have mentioned their concerns about online trade, which the Bill seeks to tackle absolutely. However, it should be noted that the ban will not prohibit owning, inheriting, donating or bequeathing ivory that is currently permitted. That will extend to Northumbrian pipes, which my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mrs Trevelyan) will be pleased to hear.

The Bill sets out five limited and targeted exemptions to the ban, including a de minimis exemption for items with low ivory content; musical instruments; portrait miniatures; sales to and between accredited museums; and items assessed as being the rarest and most important examples of their type. Those strictly defined exemptions were informed by the consultation and by fully examining global best practice. They have been carefully designed to cover items that, when sold, do not directly or indirectly fuel the poaching of elephants. A certification process is applied to the exemption for the rarest and most important items, while a self-registration process applies to the other four categories.

Finally, the Bill provides for the offences, sanctions and powers necessary for the enforcement of the ban. A mixed regime of criminal and civil sanctions has been applied, recognising that offences are likely to range in severity. Enforcement agencies are empowered by the Bill to ensure that those acting in breach of the ban will face the appropriate punishment. We remain committed to setting a high bar internationally on sanctions for illegal wildlife trade activities. As such, the maximum criminal sanction of five years’ imprisonment or an unlimited fine will be applied. That is in line with existing sanctions under the Control of Trade in Endangered Species (Enforcement) Regulations 1997. Those penalties rightly reflect the serious nature of the ban. The powers to enforce the ban will be conferred upon the regulatory body, the police and customs officials. Those powers are derived from the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

Let me move on to some of the issues that hon. Members have raised in this consensual and important debate. It is great to have the support that we have seen from across the House, including from my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Derbyshire (Mrs Latham) and the Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish). We heard from Northern Ireland with the contribution of the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon), and from my hon. Friends the Members for Southend West (Sir David Amess), for Newbury (Richard Benyon) and for Walsall North (Eddie Hughes), with characteristic flair and commitment.

My right hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson) raised a number of important points. I praise his commitment to this vital work and the contribution he made when he was Secretary of State. He raised concerns about the rarest and most important items. I reassure him that clause 3 is very much a framework, not a comprehensive list; further information will be given in guidance. He and the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow also suggested an annual register of the rarest and most important exempted items. We will happily look at how that data can be published, including by using the new IT system that will be developed to facilitate this task.

Members were concerned about online sales. The Bill captures and fully addresses that issue. As I said before, it will be an offence to facilitate a sale. Some Members mentioned how important it is to look at other ivory-bearing species. They included my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith), who has made huge contributions on this subject, and my hon. Friends the Members for North East Hampshire (Mr Jayawardena), for North Dorset (Simon Hoare) and for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman)—my hon. Friend came up at the rear of the debate, but made an important contribution. Clause 35 will provide that opportunity. I would also like to reassure some colleagues, who have wondered whether the Bill covers Asian elephants, that it categorically covers both African and Asian elephants.

The hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) raised what he called the Elgin question. I can tell my hon. Friend—he knows why I call him that—that it should be called the Bassetlaw question, without a doubt. I will make sure that I get back to him in writing to address the question of whether ivory should be returned to a museum in a country of origin.

The hon. Member for Workington asked about funding for enforcement. The Office of Product Safety and Standards has now been confirmed as the regulator. It will have a vital role in working with the police and customs officials to tackle this very significant crime. We can talk more about that role in Committee, as I hope she agrees. The work carried out by the National Wildlife Crime Unit is also absolutely critical. She asked about funding for that work. I assure her that we are looking at that vital issue ahead of the IWT conference, and I am sure that the Secretary of State will be working on it with the Home Secretary.

Mr Ranil Jayawardena Portrait Mr Jayawardena - Hansard
4 Jun 2018, 9:55 p.m.

I should declare an interest in relation to a visit I made to Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka, much conservation work is done with Asian elephants. Currently, however, Sri Lanka is not eligible for aid funding. In line with what my hon. Friends the Members for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) and for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith), among others, have said, will the Minister agree to look at how more aid funding could be allocated to supporting conservation efforts?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
4 Jun 2018, 9:56 p.m.

That is an important point. I am sure that the Secretary of State has been looking at it over recent months, and I will be happy to raise it as well and to meet my hon. Friend to discuss it more fully.

Mr Owen Paterson Portrait Mr Paterson - Hansard
4 Jun 2018, 9:56 p.m.

The Minister touched on the conference in October. As there is tremendous, overwhelming and, I think, unanimous support for the Bill, how quickly does he think he and his colleagues can get it through the Commons, through the other place, and on to the statute book?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
4 Jun 2018, 9:56 p.m.

That is a vital question. I have looked at my boss, the Secretary of State, and his look said it all: it will be at pace. I am sure that there will be the same commitment when we work with Members from across the House. This activity needs to be stopped, and it needs to be stopped very speedily. We will be playing our part in Parliament to make sure that that happens.

The hon. Member for Workington asked what actions are being taken to lobby other countries. Clearly, the IWT conference will be a chance to take that work forward. The Secretary of State and the Foreign Secretary are working very hard to make sure that this work is taken forward with other states around the world.

My hon. Friend the Member for Southend West confirmed his passion for protecting elephants, but it is also important to note that he confirmed that he is a national treasure himself—one that should definitely be preserved.

It has been a real honour to have been able to participate in this debate and to help to take forward this vital legislation on behalf of the Government, but also on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal. We do wish her a very speedy return to this House.

We want these proposals to be passed through the House speedily, but also to be implemented speedily to tackle the heinous crime of poaching. I am grateful to Members on both sides of the House for the support that they have shown for this Bill. I urge them to continue to demonstrate their support as the Bill makes progress through Parliament—hopefully very speedy progress, because that is what it definitely deserves. I know that through the media others will be watching what we are doing in this House. With the illegal wildlife trade conference in October, global leaders will be arriving in London. They will be able to look at what we are doing, and we will be able to demonstrate to others that we mean what we say on ending the trade in ivory. We hope that other nations will follow our lead by helping to close down their own domestic markets, and that this Bill will inspire them to do so. I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Ivory Bill (Programme)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83A(7)),

That the following provisions shall apply to the Ivory Bill:

Committal

(1) The Bill shall be committed to a Public Bill Committee.

Proceedings in Public Bill Committee

(2) Proceedings in the Public Bill Committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion on Thursday 21 June 2018.

(3) The Public Bill Committee shall have leave to sit twice on the first day on which it meets.

Consideration and up to and including Third Reading

(4) Proceedings on Consideration and any proceedings in legislative grand committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour before the moment of interruption on the day on which those proceedings are commenced.

(5) Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the moment of interruption on that day.

(6) Standing Order No. 83B (Programming committees) shall not apply to proceedings on Consideration and up to and including Third Reading.

Other proceedings

(7) Any other proceedings on the Bill may be programmed.—(Rebecca Harris.)

Question agreed to.

Ivory Bill (Money)

Queen’s recommendation signified.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 52(1)(a)),

That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Ivory Bill, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of any expenditure incurred by the Secretary of State under or by virtue of the Act.—(Rebecca Harris.)

Question agreed to.