10 David Simmonds debates involving the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Mon 14th Mar 2022
Wed 26th May 2021
Environment Bill
Commons Chamber

Report stage & Report stage & 3rd reading
Wed 26th Feb 2020
Environment Bill
Commons Chamber

Money resolution & Money resolution: House of Commons & Programme motion & Ways and Means resolution & Ways and Means resolution: House of Commons & Programme motion & Money resolution & Ways and Means resolution

Oral Answers to Questions

David Simmonds Excerpts
Thursday 1st February 2024

(4 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Mark Spencer Portrait Mark Spencer
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I am delighted to work with the hon. Gentleman. We have a track record of working with our DUP friends to solve the challenges that we face. That conversation can continue, and I look forward to working with him to continue to solve those challenges.

David Simmonds Portrait David Simmonds (Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner) (Con)
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9. What steps his Department is taking to help reverse biodiversity loss.

Rebecca Pow Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Rebecca Pow)
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This Government have created a whole framework for restoring nature through our legally binding Environment Act 2021 targets, which include our world-leading commitment to halt the decline of species by 2030. We are accelerating action towards that through our environmental improvement plan. It is a shame I was not asked about this by the shadow Minister, but we have restored an area of wildlife habitats the size of Dorset, we have a network of marine protected areas, 5 million trees were planted last year, we have 55-plus landscape—

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. It was the hon. Member for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner (David Simmonds) who asked the question. Let’s not have a personal battle across the Chamber.

David Simmonds Portrait David Simmonds
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Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner is home to many incredibly important sites for biodiversity, as are many of our London suburbs. Does my hon. Friend agree that the new Riverside park delivered by Harrow council in partnership with the Hatch End Association is a good example of projects that support biodiversity in our suburbs?

Rebecca Pow Portrait Rebecca Pow
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My hon. Friend is a great champion for his local area. He is absolutely right; we are working with a range of local partners and people to put nature at the heart of what we do. I cannot commend Harrow council and the Hatch End Association enough for their work—they are putting in an apple orchard, wetlands and wildflower meadows, which are a superb addition to his already beautiful constituency.

Open Season for Woodcock

David Simmonds Excerpts
Monday 27th February 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

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

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

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David Simmonds Portrait David Simmonds (Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Dame Caroline. It is important for me to start with some constituency context. I represent a constituency in north-west London, which is probably best known for being a suburban area. However, we have more than 80 farms. We have a number of important habitats, in particular for bird life, in Mad Bess woods and Ruislip woods. We have a significant number of members of both the British Association for Shooting and Conservation and the RSPB. We are also home to the well-known Holland & Holland shooting ground, which is used regularly by people who enjoy clay pigeon shooting and who perhaps go on to practise shooting birds.

I have had the opportunity to enjoy both the hospitality of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation and the all-party parliamentary group on shooting and conservation, and I have read the helpful and regular briefings that have come from the RSPB and other interested organisations over the years. It seems that this is an important debate that goes to the heart of many of the issues that Parliament, and us as Members of Parliament, need to consider. We are looking at not just the issues faced by the woodcock population in the United Kingdom, but the many other issues that affect the relationship between humans and animals in so many different ways.

I was a member of the RSPB’s Young Ornithologist Club many years ago. I want to place on the record my thanks in particular to the noble Lord Randall, who has a huge interest in bird life and has been an influence on my thinking on the matter. When we look at the various briefings that Members of Parliament have received on the issue, and at the views set out in the petition itself, it seems there are a number of issues we need to consider.

It is clear that climate change is having a significant impact on the breeding habitats of wild birds around the world, especially migratory species. We need to consider what responsibilities our Government have. We need to consider not just what we can do here in the United Kingdom, but what influence we can bring to bear in international forums to try to secure and improve the provision of those habitats, so that both migratory birds and birds domestic to the United Kingdom can thrive.

I was very struck by the briefing from the Countryside Alliance, which set out a great deal of the history, much of which has already been mentioned by other Members. It highlighted that the habitats that are so important for our woodcock population in the United Kingdom largely derive from environments that were created specifically, over the years, by those wishing to create an environment suitable for pheasant shooting.

That has been a consistent issue in the debates relating to any proposed restrictions on the shooting of animals in the United Kingdom. Personally, I have never shot a living creature for fun, but I am quite happy to eat game that has been shot. However, a consistent theme that has arisen through all those debates is that there is a balance between those who manage environments that are crucial for species—but are doing so because of farming, or, in this case, shooting for pleasure—and the need to restrict behaviour that goes against the law or has a long-term negative impact on the wellbeing of those species.

What I found striking in that Countryside Alliance briefing was the evidence that the shooting of animals—with the income derived from that, and the management of those habitats as a result—has been of long-term benefit to the species that we are talking about today, and those that we have debated in previous discussions, in response to previous petitions and wider-spread public concern. So, while I completely understand the views of a good many of my constituents, who have been most persuaded by the views of the RSPB, it seems that we need, at a governmental level, to balance that with the overall environmental and wildlife impact that any further restrictions will introduce.

As a consequence, it seems to me that, when we do balance those two things—I very much agree with the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) that the evidence so far shows that the voluntary actions that have been undertaken have been beneficial—that is an appropriate first step for those of us who have concerns about ensuring that the issue is addressed in the long term.

This is a matter that Government clearly need to keep an eye on. However, while the Government might respond with further regulation, some of which may well be appropriate, the work done with different organisations on moving from lead to steel shot shows how co-operation can produce a much better outcome in animal and environmental welfare than the alternative of seeking regulation that perhaps does not fully consider the impact, particularly on the incomes that support that wildlife and habitat management. We must therefore maintain that sense of co-operation.

That being the case, I am not convinced by the evidence that has been presented that further regulation is justified at this time, nor am I convinced that it would be beneficial for the animal species—woodcock and other creatures—that are part of this overall both economic and wildlife ecosystem. Therefore, I very much agree that, as the hon. Member for Strangford outlined, we should continue to monitor this, but that the status quo represents an appropriate balance between the interests of birds, of the economy, and of people who wish to enjoy shooting as part of their day-to-day lives in our countryside.

Oral Answers to Questions

David Simmonds Excerpts
Thursday 23rd June 2022

(1 year, 12 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jo Churchill Portrait Jo Churchill
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I am very much looking forward to visiting next Monday, and I reassure the hon. Member that while there is no silver bullet, it is important that we use everything we have available. The innovation that is coming in vertical farms, in greenhouses and so on gives us the opportunity to produce more food in the UK to feed ourselves.

David Simmonds Portrait David Simmonds (Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner) (Con)
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T5. I recently joined my neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Joy Morrissey) on a visit to the Colne Valley regional park, which covers a number of Members’ constituencies. It is an important haven for agriculture, aquaculture and leisure. Will the Government support our campaign to improve the protections for this vital green space on the edge of London?

Rebecca Pow Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Rebecca Pow)
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Our landscape review highlighted that areas of outstanding natural beauty are often just as important as national parks to their local communities, as my hon. Friend is demonstrating. We will be working with the National Association for AONBs to better reflect AONBs’ significance through their name and their purposes, and we have allocated additional funding to support that this year. In terms of new AONBs, we are always happy to consider applications from interested parties.

Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [Lords]

David Simmonds Excerpts
Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon
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I certainly do, and I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. I know that the Minister agrees with it, and I know that what we have tonight is a commitment to ensure that Northern Ireland can retain its standards, and that the deals with Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere will not have an adverse impact on the great sector we have in Northern Ireland and indeed in the whole UK. For us in Northern Ireland it is so important to have these standards in place, because we export 80% of our product.

I have one more point to make, and I make it as an animal lover. It relates to the protection of our pets and animals, which is a passion of mine. Since I was a wee boy in Ballywalter, which was not yesterday but back in the 1960s, I have always had a dog. After I met my wife, we always seemed to have a cat. My mailbag has been replicated throughout the whole constituency of Strangford, and again I seek some reassurance that we are in the last stages of getting this right. We are making vast steps in the right direction, but there is a balance between animal welfare and our obligations to the farming community. I declare an interest, as a member of the Ulster Farmers Union, which is the sister body of the National Farmers Union here on the mainland. This delicate balance must be kept, even in these last stages of amending and pushing through this legislation. Again, I am pleased to work with and support the Government on what they are bringing forward. Others have also made magnificent contributions to help get the legislation to where we want it to be.

David Simmonds Portrait David Simmonds (Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner) (Con)
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We heard again, in the opening remarks of the hon. Member for Oldham West and Royton (Jim McMahon), that ours is a nation of animal-lovers, and that view has been reflected in contributions from Members on both sides of the House tonight. I have considerable sympathy with the observation made by many—particularly the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Alex Davies-Jones)—that if we are to remain a nation which fulfils that ambition, we must update our legislation from time to time. The UK is a country known throughout the world for what is often a very good process for identifying effective and proportionate regulation. That is reflected in the Bill, which is why I support it so strongly.

My constituency is unashamedly suburban in character. Given that past debates of this kind have been characterised as pitting town against country, it is enormously helpful for me to be here as the representative of a constituency where there are more than 80 farms and where fishing and fishing-associated businesses are very much present, but which also contains a significant number of members of animal welfare and, indeed, animal rights organisations. Throughout the Bill’s progress, I have been struck by the messages that have emerged and have shown how strongly people feel about the need for us to ensure that the update in the Bill is turned into practical reality. We sometimes have lengthy debates in the House and pass laws that appear to be stringent, but then fail to ensure that they are reflected in the experience of the people or, as in this context, the animals that they are designed to protect.

I have a great deal of sympathy with what was said by the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron), although like many others I am not sure whether this Bill is the right place for his new clause, because in my constituency the River Colne has been hugely affected by sewage discharges. That has in turn affected fishing lakes and businesses involved in, for instance, water sports. We need to ensure that the measures outlined in the House during the passage of the Environment Act 2021 find their way into rigorous enforcement so that our constituents see cleaner, safer water, both for livestock and for human use, as part of their day-to-day lives.

I am a greater fan of the EU lawmaking process than, perhaps, many other Members. My experience has been mainly on the education side, but I think that ensuring that every stakeholder has the opportunity to contribute so we can ensure that the laws that emerge from their contribution reflect the widest possible range of concerns and are as effective as possible is a very worthwhile process. My right hon. Friend the Member for North Thanet (Sir Roger Gale) expressed concerns in this regard. In the spirit of trying to create legislation that constitutes an effective compromise and will make the difference to animal welfare that we want to see, I wholly endorse amendment 2, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for The Cotswolds (Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown), and I hope that the Government will adopt it enthusiastically tonight.

Both my right hon. Friend the Member for North Thanet and the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) spoke of the need to ensure that we make a real difference. Whether we are talking about dogs or horses, animals kept as pets, animals that are part of our food industry, animals in our farms, animals in our rivers or animals that may be bred for sport, we must not just refer sentimentally to the highest possible standards, but ensure that our laws are in step with those in other countries, especially when it comes to trade deals. The food businesses in my constituency need to see high standards in the United Kingdom that reflect the high standards they expect to find in the markets with which we trade, and we need to ensure that those markets can trade freely with us on the basis of a high degree of parity.

Roger Gale Portrait Sir Roger Gale
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My hon. Friend has been extremely generous in his comments about my own remarks. The briefing from the Countryside Alliance on amendment 2 indicates that this would reintroduce the terms of the Lisbon treaty, which was designed to protect bullfighting, and by implication would also protect foxhunting.

David Simmonds Portrait David Simmonds
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That is no doubt a valid concern in the context of the Lisbon treaty, but when it comes to protecting events that are part of our heritage, those events need to be already taking place and legal in the country to which the rules apply.

An element that was designed to protect bullfighting in Spain, which has never been present in the United Kingdom, would not fall to be protected within that legislation.

My hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Greg Smith) made some extremely clear and effective remarks. He made a valid point about the need to ensure that in the composition of any committee, we exclude not those with connections to interest groups but those who have expressed a view that would prejudge their position on a matter where they were required to be independent. That is an essential consideration. We make that same requirement for those who sit on juries or deal with court cases. For example, we require magistrates to declare any reason for excluding themselves from sitting in judgment on a case. The same applies to local authority councillors dealing with a planning application when they have a direct stake in the process. My hon. Friend has raised a valid point there, and in the light of other comments from across the House, there is clearly an opportunity to develop that a little further to take into account the widest possible audience of stakeholders. The point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for North Thanet about the Countryside Alliance was also valid, and I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham has taken that on board.

Oral Answers to Questions

David Simmonds Excerpts
Thursday 22nd July 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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The right hon. Member for East Hampshire, representing the Parliamentary Works Sponsor Body, was asked was asked—
David Simmonds Portrait David Simmonds (Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner) (Con)
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What recent estimate that body has made of the total cost of the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster.

Damian Hinds Portrait Damian Hinds (East Hampshire)
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The Sponsor Body, supported by the Delivery Authority, is currently developing the detailed plan that will for the first time give an accurate sense of the costs and timescales and the full detail of the work needed for restoration and renewal. It will be put before both Houses for a decision before works commence. Securing best value for money is fundamental.

David Simmonds Portrait David Simmonds [V]
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Given that the House has debated the subject numerous times, supported the Joint Committee’s 2016 proposal and passed the Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Act 2019, does my right hon. Friend agree that continually re-examining the scope and cost of the project increases the risk that we are not making our national Parliament fit for purpose and runs the risk of us having our own Notre-Dame moment with our beautiful and historic building?

Damian Hinds Portrait Damian Hinds
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My hon. Friend is right to mention the terrible fire at Notre-Dame, which serves as a reminder to us all of the risk to our great heritage assets. He is also right that putting off works tends to increase costs eventually, so I agree entirely about the time sensitivity of action and thank him for his timely reminder.

Grouse Shooting

David Simmonds Excerpts
Monday 21st June 2021

(2 years, 12 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

David Simmonds Portrait David Simmonds (Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner) (Con) [V]
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For the record, I declare my membership of the all-party parliamentary group on shooting and conservation, although, like my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Tom Hunt) and the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon), I have never personally been grouse shooting.

The constituency of Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner has no grouse moors, but it is home to many people who have an interest in animal welfare and to a business that supports residents who enjoy shooting as a recreation, albeit with no live animals involved locally. As a consequence, I have had the opportunity hear from constituents on both sides of the debate today.

Humans have shaped our environment enormously over many centuries. As a consequence, all of us living today have a responsibility to protect and enhance our environment whether or not we approve of what previous generations did or of what future generations might have planned for it. Whether our moorlands or many of our fishing rivers, our natural environment has been shaped by human activity over generations. The biodiversity around us today is a result of those actions.

One of the issues cited most often is that of heather burning. That habitat management is required if we want the habitat to continue to prosper. There are clearly two major benefits from the burning. First, it promotes the new growth of heather and grass, which supports a wide range of wildlife in addition to grouse, including curlew, lapwing and golden plover, as well as deer and hares.

Even more important from a human perspective is the prevention of wildfires, as a number of Members have mentioned. Back in 2003, for example, a wildfire on the National Trust’s Bleaklow destroyed more than 2,000 acres of rare habitat and all the heather on the neighbouring 2,500-acre moor. The sad reality is that the CO2 levels—a climate change issue—being released from wildfires has increased dramatically in the last five years. If we want to prevent and reduce those emissions, controlled firebreaks are a necessary part of our toolkit. The practice has many different names depending on where we are in the country, but the idea behind prescribed burning is that it is a quick burn that removes the canopy and does not affect the underlying peat or soil layer that is so important to the biodiversity of our environment.

The other theme running through the debate is our feelings about animal welfare-related issues and the distaste that many people feel about the idea of killing live creatures for fun. Although I share that sentiment, I also recognise that in the UK and throughout the world, different forms of hunting are not just an essential part of good husbandry of nature; they also underpin the funding that enables conservation and biodiversity efforts to proceed, both in the United Kingdom and across the world. Where we humans have created an ecosystem, we have a responsibility to manage it. Those who are proposing bans on the actions that they personally dislike need also to consider who will undertake and pay for the husbandry of those animal populations, so that familiar problems such as parasite infections and out-of-control predation do not simply replace one unpleasant fate with another.

Put bluntly, the ecosystem that we have created requires the management of animal numbers. In my view, it is much better to do that in a way that supports the economy of that ecosystem so that animals killed with a purpose are being eaten, contributing to the conservation and welfare of that animal population, rather than abdicating our responsibilities to the detriment of biodiversity and animal welfare at home and aboard.

To conclude, we need to consider the net effect of our decisions on our environment. It seems clear to me that the proposed ban is likely to produce a net disadvantage to our environment and our biodiversity, and must therefore be opposed.

Geraint Davies Portrait Geraint Davies (Swansea West) (Lab/Co-op) [V]
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The world faces a catastrophic climate change crisis, yet this Bill falls very short, particularly at a time when we are the host of COP26 and should basically be taking on the leadership of the entire world. After all, global emissions are up by 60% since the Kyoto conference in 1990, while global temperatures are up by 1.2° C on the 1850 base rate and will hit the 1.5° level by 2030 on the current forecast, which will mean loss of land and major problems of migration, food loss and so on. Meanwhile, some 7 million people are dying every year from air pollution caused by fossil fuel extraction and use. I am therefore very pleased that new clause 29 attempts to link human health with environmental health. After all, on the latest figures, 64,000 people a year die from air pollution at a cost of £20 billion to our economy.

Of course, we know that air pollution was registered as the cause of death in the tragic case of Ella Kissi-Debrah. In the prevention of death report that followed, the coroner recommended that we should enforce in law the World Health Organisation air pollution limits. Following a meeting I had with the Environment Secretary and Ella’s mother, Rosamund, the Environment Secretary said that he would look again at that, and I hope he will when the Bill comes back from the Lords.

We know that air pollution is worse in poorer and more diverse communities, and according to the Max Planck Society, it increases the risk and level of death from coronavirus by around 12%. Other studies have been done by, for example, Harvard, showing that link. Dominic Cummings has just reminded us that coronavirus is airborne and that more emphasis needs to be put on that, but we also need to place more emphasis on air pollution. We know that the infection rate, as well as the death rate, is higher with air pollution. We therefore need legally binding WHO limits.

Let me turn to fracking. Methane emissions are 80 times worse than carbon dioxide for global warming. Given that and the fact that we know from satellite photography that fracking is responsible for 5% fugitive emissions—in other words, 5% of the methane is leaked—fracking is worse than coal for climate change and should simply be banned.

We need more trees, not just to absorb but to store carbon by including them in infrastructure and construction instead of concrete. If concrete were a country, it would be the third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. I am glad that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Beth Winter) said, Wales is taking a lead on this. In Wales, we have appointed a Minister for Climate Change, Julie James, who also represents Swansea West. She will push forward plans for a national forest and using wood in building. In contrast, in the UK, most of the hardwood is burned, causing not just climate change but harmful pollution. Hardwood should be pulped and put into insulation in construction instead.

Brexit means that we have more food miles. We need an initiative in COP26 to put carbon pricing into trade. China, for example, now generates 28% of global carbon emissions, with more emissions per head than Britain. We therefore need a joined-up approach, led by the Bill, that includes trade, transport, health, local government, planning and housing, not just a DEFRA-led effort, which will make little difference to the massive problems we face.

In summary, we need much more, much sooner from all our Departments. We need to improve the Bill dramatically to make a real difference and take global leadership.

David Simmonds Portrait David Simmonds (Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner) (Con) [V]
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I draw the House’s attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. I am a serving local councillor and a vice-president of the Local Government Association, which I will reference during my contribution.

There are many things to be welcomed in the Bill. The first, which is particularly important to my constituents, is that we will see some improvement in air quality as a result of the measures in it. It is clear that, in many respects, legislation is the start, not the finish of a process. Different Departments will issue a great deal of guidance to local authorities and other bodies to set out the mechanics of how the powers will be used and improvements brought about.

On air quality, I particularly highlight the need to ensure that local authorities and any others who are charged with responsibility for implementing the measures, achieving the targets and delivering the plans have meaningful powers that enable them to tackle sources of air pollution. In the context of London, where my constituency is—the capital, which has busy and congested roads—we need to ensure that local authorities have effective powers at their disposal to tackle issues such as vehicle idling, which contributes so much to air pollution, especially near schools, hospitals and other places where vulnerable people are placed at risk.

Let me move on to plastics. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Chris Loder), who has been very active in bringing issues around plastics to the Government’s attention throughout the debates on the Bill. It is particularly important that local authorities ensure that in the provisions for producer responsibility, sufficient funding finds its way to those who will then be processing the plastic for recycling. Producers in the UK pay very little by comparison with those in most other developed countries in Europe towards the cost of recycling their products, and therefore that cost is heavily subsidised, if not entirely met in many places, by council tax payers. So we should ask those who are making these products that are then polluting our environment to ensure that they are providing the facilities and resources required to make that recycling happen in reality.

On the wider impact on recycling systems, a number of Members welcomed consistency around local authority recycling practices. We need to recognise that the sale of the recyclable elements of household waste already makes a significant contribution to the cost of household waste collections; it affects all our constituents, although there are different systems in use around the country. We need to ensure that programmes such as deposit return schemes do not hit council tax payers by removing so much of the recyclable material from household waste collections that a significant increase in council tax is needed to subsidise that difference. We need to make sure that when that guidance is issued to local authorities it reflects the discharge of their responsibilities on the ground.

I very much support the point made by a number of Members that we need to look at the whole picture for all kinds of goods and services so that we recognise the wider environmental impact, including the impact that might happen elsewhere. We are simply kidding ourselves and our constituents if we are offshoring pollution rather than dealing with it directly by ensuring that what we do in our behaviour and the way we deliver services is reducing the environmental impact.

I finally want to touch on a couple of issues that impact in particular on the natural environment and biodiversity. I very much welcome the work my right hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Philip Dunne) has done in strengthening and making more robust the policy on sewage discharge. The River Colne, a beauty spot that abuts my constituency and is very popular with my constituents, is significantly affected by sewage discharge. Again, we need to ensure that there are effective measures that make a substantial difference.

On biodiversity net gain, I simply make a request to Ministers that when the guidance is issued about how that will be managed through the planning process, we ensure as far as possible that biodiversity gain through planning is maintained locally, so that the local communities that see the impact of the developments in their area also see the benefit of the biodiversity gain envisaged through the planning system.

Lee Rowley Portrait Lee Rowley (North East Derbyshire) (Con)
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I rise to speak on fracking, an issue close to my constituents’ hearts and mine, and to reject clearly the unnecessary and transparently political new clause 12. Since I was elected to this place in 2017, I have spoken out against fracking, held debates, proposed Bills, submitted questions, chaired an all-party group, spoken at planning committees and hearings and appeals against QCs, and generally made a nuisance of myself to the Government Front Bench about fracking, because I wanted it stopped at Marsh Lane and in North East Derbyshire, and I make no apologies for that. I was delighted when the Government put a moratorium on fracking, and I am glad to have played a very small role in getting us to that place.

Yet suddenly, a year and a half after the moratorium was imposed, we have a burning issue—a problem so acute that a series of straw men have been wheeled out from the Opposition Benches over the course of this debate, creating the need to ban something that is effectively dead already. The hon. Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Cat Smith), who is not in her place at present, said we only have empty words. Well, empty words have a funny way of stopping any fracking happening since that moratorium in late 2017, and of ensuring that licences in her own county were partially handed back by the operator of the fracking area.

Why is it that 49 Labour MPs have suddenly decided that there is new urgency to legislate on this matter? There is not. We know there is no urgency, precisely because those 49 Labour MPs have shown almost zero interest in that issue in recent times. Forty-three of those 49 were in Parliament between 2017 and 2019. Where were those hon. Members when the all-party parliamentary group on fracking, which I chaired, talked about all these issues in extraordinary detail?

Oral Answers to Questions

David Simmonds Excerpts
Thursday 22nd April 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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David Simmonds Portrait David Simmonds  (Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner) (Con) [V]
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According to research compiled by the Local Government Association, the manufacturers of food packaging in the UK contribute only about 10% of the cost of recycling their products. Does my right hon. Friend agree that as part of the efforts that we are undertaking to improve the recycling of waste food packaging, we need to see the manufacturers of that packaging contribute much more towards the costs of recycling their products, in line with the contribution they make in other countries, rather than leaving our council tax payers to foot most of the bill?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice
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I very much agree with my hon. Friend on this matter. As he will be aware, the Environment Bill introduces the concept of extended producer responsibility, and we are consulting on that at the moment. In future, the manufacturers and the users of packaging for products will take responsibility for recycling it.

Oral Answers to Questions

David Simmonds Excerpts
Tuesday 19th May 2020

(4 years, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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George Eustice Portrait George Eustice
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My hon. Friend makes an important point. Pubs are at the heart of our community, and the fact that they have been forced to close has caused difficulty for many of them. As the Prime Minister has outlined, we intend that the hospitality sector, including pubs, will be able to tentatively start gradually opening, hopefully during the month of July, subject to the epidemiology supporting such a move. We are already working with the hospitality and pub sector to identify what social distancing measures they might be able to put in place to make that work properly.

David Simmonds Portrait David Simmonds (Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner) (Con)
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What steps he is taking to ensure the maintenance of supermarket supply chains during the covid-19 outbreak.

George Eustice Portrait The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (George Eustice)
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We have worked closely with retailers and suppliers to ensure the security of supply chains, while also protecting staff safety. I would like to put on record again my thanks to the sector for demonstrating such resilience and flexibility in the face of the crisis. Staff have worked around the clock to ensure that people have the food they need. To support industry, we have introduced temporary measures, including temporary relaxations to competition law, and extended delivery hour regulations, and we have published guidance to help to ensure that workplaces and retail spaces are as safe as possible.

David Simmonds Portrait David Simmonds [V]
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To support the resilience of the supermarkets and food shops on which my constituents in Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner depend, what steps is my right hon. Friend taking to ensure that people who work in food supply and food retail are able to access priority testing for covid-19, so that they can get back to work?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice
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I can reassure my hon. Friend that all essential workers, including all those involved in the food supply chain, are eligible for testing. We are working with the food sector to ensure that employees who are either self-isolating with symptoms of the coronavirus or who have a symptomatic household member are able to access those tests. Eligible workers who are self-isolating can apply for a test directly online or can be referred for a test by their employer.

Environment Bill

David Simmonds Excerpts
Money resolution & Money resolution: House of Commons & Programme motion & Ways and Means resolution & Ways and Means resolution: House of Commons
Wednesday 26th February 2020

(4 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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James Davies Portrait Dr James Davies (Vale of Clwyd) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Glasgow East (David Linden) and his comments on nappies—an issue I know plenty about—as well as numerous other speeches from excellent contributors today.

I welcome the Bill and the significant focus that the Government are placing on our environment. Recent flooding, including in St Asaph in my constituency, highlights the fact that the provisions of the Climate Change Act 2008 are more important than ever. The Bill will help to underpin some of the changes we need to fulfil its net zero target as well as to achieve much more.

As we move away from oversight by the EU, we need a new domestic framework for environmental governance and, as has been heard, the Bill will set up a new Office for Environmental Protection not only to provide advice, but to monitor, scrutinise and enforce environmental law across the UK. We have an opportunity to lead the world on environmental matters, and I welcome the fact that the Bill makes provision in a number of specific areas. I would like to focus today on two of those areas: air quality and waste reduction.

First, up to 36,000 deaths in the UK are linked to air pollution each year, which is known, above all, to contribute to cardiovascular and respiratory disease. Much attention is focused on fine particulate matter—solid and liquid particles from various sources of 2.5 microns or less, which can penetrate deep into lung passageways and enter the bloodstream. It is important to recognise that, although the very worst levels of air pollution are found in our major cities, air pollution affects all parts of the country. Recently, I carried a British Heart Foundation particulate monitor around my constituency as part of a wider study being conducted by the University of Edinburgh. Daily exposure to fine particulate matter was relatively low at 11 to 43 micrograms of matter per cubic metre, but for brief periods in the vicinity of main roads, I recorded levels greater than 10 times the current EU limits we subscribe to, and more than 20 times the World Health Organisation recommended levels. These figures are concerning, and I am pleased that the Bill contains a commitment to a new legally binding target for levels of fine particulate matter. I encourage Ministers to go further and consider whether a specific figure should be included in legislation at this point, based on WHO recommendations of an annual mean level of 10 micrograms per cubic metre.

David Simmonds Portrait David Simmonds (Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner) (Con)
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I support my hon. Friend’s point. The legal enforceability of these limits is a vital consideration for the House. I was deputy leader of a local authority that took the last Labour Government to judicial review to try to force them to comply with EU air quality limits from which they sought and achieved a derogation, meaning that my constituents continue to be subject to the emissions from Heathrow, which already far exceed those limits. That demonstrated to me the weakness of the enforcement. As the new Office for Environmental Protection comes forward, I urge Minister to take very seriously the concerns outlined by my hon. Friend and which I support. Our residents want us rigorously to ensure that the limits are enforced at a local level.

James Davies Portrait Dr Davies
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That is quite right, and—in addition to average annual exposure—daily maximum exposure limits are also important.

Let me turn to waste reduction. The mantra of “reduce, reuse, recycle” remains as relevant as ever. Many local authorities have effective recycling initiatives in place. Denbighshire County Council in my constituency offers popular co-mingled and food waste collections. In Denbighshire, the capture rate of dry co-mingled recyclables is estimated at a very impressive 85% to 90%. Those recyclables go on to be separated at a modern and efficient site in Deeside. When looking to make new provisions, we should not lose sight of such successes, but equally we need to consider whether we can reduce the amount of waste we are producing, and, while our drive to reduce single-use plastics is ongoing, what our approach is to energy recovery through incineration. In particular, we should not generally be shipping plastic waste abroad, and certainly not without a clear idea as to how it will be managed appropriately. I am pleased that the Bill makes reference to the regulation of such shipments.

Producer responsibility is a key element of the Bill. I welcome the UK-wide provisions that encourage businesses to pay the full net cost of managing their products at end of life. This can help to drive up the use of sustainable and more easily reusable and recyclable packaging, and improve labelling on recyclable content. In doing so, however, we should consider the approach to small businesses and the need to avoid a disproportionate impact on them. It is also important to be clear about the timescale for the introduction of such a charge, as larger companies are likely to have the resources to develop more environmentally friendly products, whereas small and medium-sized enterprises might not have the same flexibility.

I endorse the proposal to facilitate a charge in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for single-use plastic items issued in connection with goods and services—for example, takeaways—following the clear success of the carrier bag charge, but we need to ensure that reasonable alternatives are widely available.

Many are pleased to see the proposals relating to a deposit return scheme in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and I am glad that the programme has the support of the Food and Drink Federation. A deposit return scheme can help to increase reuse and recycling, and tackle litter, but great thought needs to go into its set-up. For the sake of both consumers and producers, such a scheme needs to operate—or at least be compatible —on a UK-wide basis. We need to be certain that it makes environmental and practical sense to collect certain materials via a deposit return scheme as opposed to kerbside recycling schemes, and to bear in mind the ongoing economic viability of these local authority recycling schemes, which are partly funded by the collection of valuable materials such as aluminium.

The Government may want to consider the impact of such a scheme on small business owners and in particular shopkeepers. Many convenience stores will not have the space to store bottles or install reverse vending machines, and it is a real concern of the industry that customers will change their shopping habits towards larger stores as the deposit return scheme is introduced, as they have done in Germany.

I congratulate the Government on bringing forward this Bill, welcome the provisions within it and look forward to seeing it progress.