Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Written Questions

8 Questions to Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs tabled by Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown

Date Title Questioner
22 May 2020, 1:54 p.m. Gun Sports: Coronavirus Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown


To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps his Department is taking to enable the early resumption of shooting after the covid-19 outbreak.

Answer (Victoria Prentis)

The Government has said people can now leave their homes for the purposes of open-air recreation in public open spaces to promote their physical or mental health or emotional wellbeing. What counts as “open-air recreation” is not defined in the regulations but would include shooting. The regulations define public open spaces as:

(a) Land laid out as a public garden or used for the purpose of recreation by members of the public;

(b) land which is "open country" as defined in section 59(2) of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, as that definition has been extended by section 16(1) of the Countryside Act 1968;

(c) land which is "access land" for the purposes of Part 1 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (see section 1(1) of that Act)

The Government has published guidance on the phased return of outdoor sport and recreation. Outdoor sports courts and other outdoor sporting activities are permitted to reopen if those responsible for them are ready to do so and they can do so safely, following public health guidance. This can be found on the GOV.UK website at:

6 Mar 2020, 1:03 p.m. Sewage: Rivers Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown


To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, if he will hold discussions with the Environmental Agency on reducing levels of raw sewage discharged into (a) main and (b) non-main rivers by water companies.

Answer (Rebecca Pow)

Ministers hold regular discussions with the Environment Agency (EA), on all environmental issues including water quality. My officials also regularly meet with their EA colleagues to discuss waste water management, including sewage discharges.

In England, the majority of the sewerage system is ‘combined’, meaning that sewage is collected along with rain water run-off. Combined sewer overflows (CSOs) in the sewerage system operate to reduce the risk of sewer flooding of homes and land during heavy rainfall. To prevent discharges, between 2015 to 2020 water companies are installing monitors on up to 13,000 of the 15,000 CSOs in England. These will measure how often and for how long they operate, helping inform where improvement works may be required and providing information to the public about spills. This information has been used to help develop the environmental programme that the water companies will be implementing over the next five years, which includes almost £4 billion of investment to reduce pollution from sewage.

All discharges from CSOs require a permit issued by the EA, containing conditions to protect the environment. The EA has the powers to take action if water companies breach their permits and cause harm to the environment.

11 Feb 2020, 5:41 p.m. Game: Animal Breeding Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown


To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, if she will publish her Department's response to the Wild Justice Challenge on the effect of rearing gamebirds on Sites of Special Scientific Interest; and if she will make a statement.

Answer (Rebecca Pow)

Defra can confirm that the Secretary of State will make a statement shortly. In summary, in response to a pre-action protocol letter from Wild Justice (WJ) in July 2019, last September Defra accepted in its reply that in principle the release of non-native gamebirds on, or affecting, Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) could constitute a “plan or project” requiring appropriate assessment under Article 6(3) of the Habitats Directive. Whether they will actually do so in any given case will depend on whether they may have a significant effect on the specific SPA or SAC in question. This will depend in turn on the nature of the activities, the features and condition of the SPA or SAC, the distance from the SPA or SAC where the activities are carried out and the possible effects of the activities. While not accepting the argument that current laws do not provide for appropriate assessment in such cases, we proposed to undertake a review to consider the legislative arrangements around the relevant activities and whether there were ways in which their effectiveness could be improved.

WJ’s recent pre-action protocol letter of 20 January 2020 essentially demanded that the Secretary of State should provide the timetable and terms of reference for the legislative review and confirm that the Secretary of State will proscribe or regulate gamebird releases within 5km of any SPA or SAC before gamebird introductions commence in Summer 2020. Defra confirmed in its response to WJ that work on the review is underway and that we will announce further details in the coming weeks. Defra confirmed that the review will include, though will not be limited to, consideration of the section 28E Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 consenting process and the use of Special Nature Conservation Orders in relation to non-native gamebirds release, specifically common pheasant and red-legged partridge, as well as exploring other possible options that might be used so that such releases can be subject to appropriate assessment where appropriate.

Defra explained that the object of the review is to identify the most suitable approach, and that the Secretary of State will not take any steps that pre-empt the outcome. Given the scope of what is involved, Defra stated that it is not in its view reasonable nor realistic to expect measures to be implemented before summer/autumn 2020.

20 Jun 2018, 4:44 p.m. Countryside Stewardship Scheme Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown


To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment he has made of the (a) effectiveness of the introduction of the mid-tier countryside stewardship scheme and (b) the effect of the introduction of that scheme on processing existing (i) entry and (ii) higher level stewardship claims.

Answer (George Eustice)

Almost 6,000 mid-tier agreements under Countryside Stewardship (CS) are currently in place. A further 10,500 Mid-Tier applications packs have been requested for agreements that would start on 1 January 2019, an increase of 39% on last year.

Natural England, who currently administer the scheme, have been under severe pressure and this has resulted in delays to the issuing of agreements and the processing of payments. We have been working hard to address this, by, for instance introducing 75% bridging payments to CS agreement holders who have yet to receive either an advance or full payment. Agreement offers for the 2018 period were all issued by end-May, allowing agreement holders to submit their claim by 15th June.

14 Jun 2018, 1:44 p.m. Countryside Stewardship Scheme Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown


To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, how many (a) entry level and (b) higher level Stewardship payments remain outstanding for (i) 2016 and (ii) 2017; and whether his Department has set a date for all such outstanding payments to be resolved.

Answer (George Eustice)

A table containing the requested information can be found below. Defra has recently approved additional recovery actions and we now expect Environmental Stewardship advanced and final payments to be substantially completed by mid-August 2018 and mid-October 2018 respectively.

Claim period


Payments due

Claims withdrawn or rejected

Payments complete

Payments outstanding

2016 end of year











2017 mid-year











2017 end of year











12 Apr 2018, 9:34 a.m. Environmental Stewardship Scheme Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown


To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, how many claims for payment for work under the Higher Level Stewardship scheme which took place in (a) 2015-16 and (b) 2016-17 are unresolved; and whether he has set a target date for the resolution of those claims.

Answer (George Eustice)

Holders of Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) agreements receive two payments: an advance and a final payment.

1,111 (20%) of HLS agreements are still to receive their final payment for 2016.

6,774 (52%) of HLS agreements are still to receive a payment for 2017.

There is no set deadline for Environmental Stewardship payments. Natural England is focused on making the payments and we are keeping farming groups regularly updated on progress.

4 Dec 2017, 5:44 p.m. Animal Welfare Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown


To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what priority his Department accords to animal sentience when setting its policies on animal welfare standards.

Answer (George Eustice)

The Secretary of State set out the Government’s position in a Written Ministerial Statement on 23 November:

1 Nov 2017, 5:56 p.m. Conservation Board for the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty: Membership Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown


To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, how many members of the board responsible for Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Conservation Area reside in Cotswold district; and how many members of that board are elected representatives of the residents of Cotswold district.

Answer (Dr Thérèse Coffey)

The number of members of the conservation board responsible for the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) who reside in Cotswold district is as follows:

  1. Of the 14 Secretary of State appointed members: two members currently reside in the Cotswold District Council (CDC) area. One of the two members (although already appointed) has not yet taken up his duties. He will do so on 1 December 2017.

  2. Of the 15 local authority members: two members currently reside in the CDC area. The CDC representative resides in the CDC area. A second member, the Gloucestershire County Council representative represents a division within the CDC area and resides in the CDC area.

  3. Of the eight parish members: three members reside in the CDC area and represent parishes within the CDC area.

    The Cotswolds AONB covers a significantly larger geographical area than that of the CDC. The Cotswolds AONB geographical area does not actually include all of the CDC area. This is reflected in the Board’s membership.

    The current overall membership of the Cotswolds AONB Conservation Board is as follows:

Cotswolds Conservation Board: Membership

Secretary of State Appointed Members

Local Authorities

Parish Councils