George Eustice debates with Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

There have been 108 exchanges between George Eustice and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Thu 25th June 2020 Oral Answers to Questions 51 interactions (1,468 words)
Tue 19th May 2020 Oral Answers to Questions 43 interactions (1,678 words)
Wed 13th May 2020 Remote Division Result: Amendment 39 3 interactions (245 words)
Thu 19th March 2020 Oral Answers to Questions 62 interactions (1,958 words)
Wed 4th March 2020 Flooding 19 interactions (1,964 words)
Wed 26th February 2020 Environment Bill 45 interactions (2,171 words)
Mon 24th February 2020 Flooding 86 interactions (3,528 words)
Thu 13th February 2020 Agriculture Bill (Third sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 17 interactions (2,499 words)
Thu 13th February 2020 Agriculture Bill (Fourth sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 9 interactions (2,195 words)
Wed 12th February 2020 UK Fisheries (Westminster Hall) 3 interactions (1,722 words)
Wed 12th February 2020 Support for Hill Farmers (Westminster Hall) 8 interactions (1,933 words)
Tue 11th February 2020 Agriculture Bill (First sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 8 interactions (2,564 words)
Tue 11th February 2020 Agriculture Bill (Second sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 53 interactions (7,239 words)
Thu 6th February 2020 Oral Answers to Questions 21 interactions (441 words)
Mon 3rd February 2020 Agriculture Bill 4 interactions (1,482 words)
Wed 29th January 2020 Bovine TB: Compensation (Westminster Hall) 6 interactions (1,762 words)
Tue 28th January 2020 Direct Payments to Farmers (Legislative Continuity) Bill 79 interactions (6,168 words)
Tue 21st January 2020 Direct Payments to Farmers (Legislative Continuity) Bill 4 interactions (1,934 words)
Tue 5th November 2019 Renaissance of East Anglian Fisheries Study (Westminster Hall) 3 interactions (1,553 words)
Tue 5th November 2019 Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Ministerial Corrections) 2 interactions (207 words)
Mon 4th November 2019 Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Ministerial Corrections) 2 interactions (250 words)
Thu 31st October 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 11 interactions (342 words)
Wed 30th October 2019 Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Ministerial Corrections) 2 interactions (118 words)
Wed 23rd October 2019 TB in Cattle and Badgers (Westminster Hall) 13 interactions (2,316 words)
Tue 1st October 2019 Exiting the European Union (Agriculture) 28 interactions (4,952 words)
Tue 1st October 2019 Exiting the European Union (Pesticides) 9 interactions (1,572 words)
Tue 3rd September 2019 Sheep Farming: No-deal EU Exit 16 interactions (1,872 words)
Wed 17th July 2019 Aquaculture (Westminster Hall) 3 interactions (98 words)
Tue 16th July 2019 No Deal: Agriculture Tariffs (Westminster Hall) 3 interactions (86 words)
Thu 20th June 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 5 interactions (94 words)
Thu 9th May 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 3 interactions (77 words)
Thu 28th March 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 3 interactions (67 words)
Wed 13th March 2019 UK’s Withdrawal from the European Union 11 interactions (907 words)
Thu 21st February 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 11 interactions (355 words)
Wed 20th February 2019 Exiting the European Union (Aquaculture) 13 interactions (2,276 words)
Wed 20th February 2019 Exiting the European Union (Agriculture) 15 interactions (2,817 words)
Fri 8th February 2019 Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Bill 7 interactions (1,665 words)
Fri 8th February 2019 Rivers Authorities and Land Drainage Bill 3 interactions (1,531 words)
Thu 17th January 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 53 interactions (1,055 words)
Mon 17th December 2018 Fisheries Bill (Ninth sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 73 interactions (5,568 words)
Mon 17th December 2018 Fisheries Bill (Tenth sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 58 interactions (3,890 words)
Mon 17th December 2018 Fisheries Bill (Tenth_PART2 sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 74 interactions (5,540 words)
Thu 13th December 2018 Fisheries Bill (Seventh sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 29 interactions (2,821 words)
Thu 13th December 2018 Fisheries Bill (Eighth sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 77 interactions (8,658 words)
Wed 12th December 2018 UK Fishing Industry (Westminster Hall) 6 interactions (1,871 words)
Tue 11th December 2018 Fisheries Bill (Fifth sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 62 interactions (5,254 words)
Tue 11th December 2018 Fisheries Bill (Sixth sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 89 interactions (7,152 words)
Thu 6th December 2018 Seahorses: Illegal Trade in the UK 2 interactions (1,558 words)
Thu 6th December 2018 Fisheries Bill (Third sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 13 interactions (2,559 words)
Thu 6th December 2018 Fisheries Bill (Fourth sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 32 interactions (3,938 words)
Tue 4th December 2018 Fisheries Bill (First sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 17 interactions (3,027 words)
Tue 4th December 2018 Fisheries Bill (Second sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 30 interactions (5,286 words)
Thu 29th November 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 38 interactions (1,067 words)
Wed 21st November 2018 Fisheries Bill 2 interactions (1,627 words)
Tue 20th November 2018 Agriculture Bill (Fourteenth sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 43 interactions (5,945 words)
Tue 20th November 2018 Agriculture Bill (Thirteenth sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 34 interactions (2,642 words)
Thu 15th November 2018 Agriculture Bill (Twelfth sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 74 interactions (11,246 words)
Tue 13th November 2018 Agriculture Bill (Tenth sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 92 interactions (7,271 words)
Tue 13th November 2018 Agriculture Bill (Ninth sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 50 interactions (4,449 words)
Mon 12th November 2018 Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Ministerial Corrections) 2 interactions (146 words)
Tue 6th November 2018 Badger Cull (Westminster Hall) 15 interactions (2,384 words)
Thu 1st November 2018 Agriculture Bill (Seventh sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 59 interactions (4,496 words)
Thu 1st November 2018 Agriculture Bill (Eighth sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 57 interactions (6,433 words)
Tue 30th October 2018 Agriculture Bill (Sixth sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 55 interactions (6,032 words)
Tue 30th October 2018 Agriculture Bill (Fifth sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 37 interactions (2,959 words)
Thu 25th October 2018 Agriculture Bill (Third sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 11 interactions (1,438 words)
Thu 25th October 2018 Agriculture Bill (Fourth sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 33 interactions (4,194 words)
Tue 23rd October 2018 Agriculture Bill (First sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 16 interactions (4,966 words)
Tue 23rd October 2018 Agriculture Bill (Second sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 30 interactions (3,382 words)
Thu 18th October 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 15 interactions (355 words)
Wed 10th October 2018 Agriculture Bill 4 interactions (1,550 words)
Thu 13th September 2018 Scallop Fishing: Bay of Seine 39 interactions (3,351 words)
Mon 16th July 2018 Dangerous Dogs Act: Staffordshire Bull Terriers (Westminster Hall) 11 interactions (2,476 words)
Thu 12th July 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 27 interactions (645 words)
Tue 3rd July 2018 Uncontrolled Shark Fishing in the Atlantic (Westminster Hall) 2 interactions (1,741 words)
Mon 2nd July 2018 Pet Theft (Westminster Hall) 9 interactions (2,034 words)
Wed 27th June 2018 British Flora: Protection from Imported Diseases (Westminster Hall) 5 interactions (1,477 words)
Tue 26th June 2018 Leaving the EU: Upland Farming (Westminster Hall) 12 interactions (1,888 words)
Thu 14th June 2018 Brexit: Trade in Food (Westminster Hall) 26 interactions (3,220 words)
Wed 13th June 2018 Foie Gras Imports 2 interactions (1,447 words)
Tue 12th June 2018 Coastal Erosion (Westminster Hall) 5 interactions (1,568 words)
Thu 7th June 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 51 interactions (1,263 words)
Mon 4th June 2018 Fur Trade (Westminster Hall) 9 interactions (1,878 words)
Mon 21st May 2018 Sale of Puppies (Westminster Hall) 13 interactions (2,421 words)
Thu 17th May 2018 Plastic Bottles and Coffee Cups 3 interactions (1,918 words)
Mon 14th May 2018 Environment Agency: Enforcement Action 16 interactions (2,104 words)
Tue 8th May 2018 Homeopathy: Veterinary Medicine 6 interactions (1,384 words)
Tue 1st May 2018 Cosmetics Testing on Animals (Westminster Hall) 5 interactions (1,242 words)
Thu 26th April 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 64 interactions (1,288 words)
Tue 17th April 2018 Livestock Worrying: Sussex 2 interactions (1,836 words)
Wed 14th March 2018 Electric Dog Collars (Westminster Hall) 6 interactions (1,722 words)
Thu 8th March 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 78 interactions (2,283 words)
Wed 28th February 2018 Middle Level Bill 3 interactions (293 words)
Tue 27th February 2018 UK Fisheries Policy (Westminster Hall) 9 interactions (1,624 words)
Mon 26th February 2018 Leaving the EU: Live Farm Animal Exports (Westminster Hall) 7 interactions (3,312 words)
Fri 23rd February 2018 Eider Duck: Marine Conservation Zones 2 interactions (1,620 words)
Thu 1st February 2018 Leaving the EU: Agriculture (Westminster Hall) 5 interactions (1,612 words)
Thu 25th January 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 19 interactions (388 words)
Thu 7th December 2017 Oral Answers to Questions 37 interactions (843 words)
Thu 7th December 2017 UK Fishing Industry 7 interactions (1,527 words)
Wed 15th November 2017 Proposed Chicken Farm (Rushden Higham Ferrers) (Westminster Hall) 6 interactions (1,883 words)
Tue 14th November 2017 UK Bee Population (Westminster Hall) 5 interactions (1,801 words)
Wed 1st November 2017 Puppy Smuggling (Westminster Hall) 4 interactions (1,196 words)
Thu 26th October 2017 Oral Answers to Questions 54 interactions (1,617 words)
Tue 17th October 2017 Sale of Puppies 10 interactions (2,524 words)
Thu 20th July 2017 Oral Answers to Questions 53 interactions (1,355 words)
Tue 18th July 2017 Lea Valley Greenhouse Glass Industry 8 interactions (1,461 words)
Thu 6th July 2017 Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (Westminster Hall) 7 interactions (1,981 words)

Oral Answers to Questions

George Eustice Excerpts
Thursday 25th June 2020

(1 month, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Simon Baynes Portrait Simon Baynes (Clwyd South) (Con) - Hansard

What steps he is taking to support the dairy industry during the covid-19 outbreak. [903794]

George Eustice Portrait The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (George Eustice) - Hansard

The Government have had to take some unprecedented steps to control the coronavirus, and it is the case that parts of the dairy industry were affected by the closure of the hospitality sector earlier in March. We have introduced specific measures to support the industry, including a dairy response fund, which opened for applications on 18 June. Payments will begin from 6 July. We have also relaxed elements of competition law, and we are supporting an industry-led promotional campaign.

Simon Baynes Portrait Simon Baynes - Hansard

Would my right hon. Friend be able to work with the Welsh Government to secure greater milk processing capacity in order to add value back to Welsh dairy farmers, particularly in my constituency of Clwyd South, which has been hit hard by the demise of Tomlinson’s Dairies and by bovine TB, so that all farmers can get a fair price for their world-beating Welsh milk?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard

My hon. Friend makes an important point. The Government do indeed work with the devolved Administrations to improve outcomes for our dairy farmers. Indeed, just yesterday, jointly with the devolved Administration, we launched a consultation seeking views from dairy farmers and processors on new regulations to secure transparency and fairness in dairy contracts. As he points out, there are also circumstances where grant funding can be made available to support investment in processing capacity, and that can help add value to the milk produced by our farmers.

Grahame Morris Portrait Grahame Morris (Easington) (Lab) - Hansard

What steps he is taking to protect British food standards under dual tariff proposals. [903795]

Abena Oppong-Asare Portrait Abena Oppong-Asare (Erith and Thamesmead) (Lab) - Hansard

What steps he is taking to protect British food standards under dual tariff proposals. [903807]

George Eustice Portrait The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (George Eustice) - Hansard

Like all Conservative Members, I am proud to have stood on a manifesto commitment that, in all our trade negotiations, we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards. The Secretary of State for International Trade and I are working together to deliver that commitment.

Grahame Morris Portrait Grahame Morris [V] - Hansard

I thank the Secretary of State for that response, but will he restate that he is still willing to stand by his party’s manifesto commitment to put that into law to prevent food from being imported into the United Kingdom that is produced in ways that would be illegal under current legislation? I am thinking particularly about chlorinated chicken.

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard

Retained European law brings across a prohibition on treatments such as chlorine washes on chicken and, indeed, hormone treatments on beef. The Government have made it clear that those have been brought across and remain in place. We also stand by our manifesto commitment, which was to protect our food standards and animal welfare standards in trade agreements, but we did not ever say that we would legislate in the Agriculture Bill to do that.

Abena Oppong-Asare Portrait Abena Oppong-Asare - Hansard

Can the Secretary of State explain exactly how a dual tariff would prevent British consumers from having to accept imported food produced by causing animals unnecessary suffering, and how he will support British farmers striving to produce a high standard of food?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard

The hon. Lady makes reference to media speculation. I am sure hon. Members will understand that I cannot give a running commentary on our discussions on a future trade agreement or comment on such media speculation, but I will say that there are many ways, through a trade deal, that a country can agree with another country how to protect food standards—both food safety and animal welfare.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard

The public do not want our British farmers to be undercut by food produced to lower standards abroad. Research by Which? published today shows that eight out of 10 people are worried that trade deals will risk our high animal welfare standards. With the National Farmers Union petition now on 1 million names, it is clear that Ministers are on the wrong side of the argument here, so does the Environment Secretary need any more help convincing the International Trade Secretary to put the Conservative manifesto promise into law?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard

The International Trade Secretary and I are both absolutely committed to delivering our manifesto commitments, but we also have a manifesto commitment to expand the number of free trade agreements that we have, and it is also the case that the UK farming industry has offensive interests, particularly in dairy and in meat such as pork, lamb and beef, in other countries, particularly Asian markets. We want to expand the number of free trade agreements that we have to create opportunities for our industry but also to protect our standards, and that is exactly what we will do.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard - Hansard

I think we all know that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs ministerial team are part of the eight out of 10 who are worried about animal welfare in trade agreements, but may I press the Secretary of State on a slightly different issue related to food standards—the outbreaks of covid-19 in food processing plants across the United Kingdom? This is serious. Any outbreak needs to be contained. Food standards matter, and standards for the people who work in those plants also matter. What assessment has the Environment Secretary made of whether meat processing plants and food factories are especially at risk, and what assessment has he made of the low level of statutory sick pay that forces many people to work in those plants instead of staying at home because they simply would not earn enough money to pay their bills if they did so?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard

I pay tribute to all those working in our food sector, including in manufacturing, who have worked very hard to keep food on our plates during these difficult times. The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. We have heard now of three outbreaks linked to meat plants. They have been picked up through the testing and tracing approach that has been adopted and we are reviewing the guidance. We suspect that these outbreaks might have been linked either to canteens or, potentially, to car-sharing arrangements in those plants. We will be revising guidance to ensure that businesses have the approach that they need to prevent further outbreaks in future.

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

The EU is clear that tariffs to counteract its green box subsidies will not be acceptable. Will the Secretary of State undertake to ensure that domestic food producers are not disadvantaged by matching those green box subsidies for farmers here?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard

As part of our agreement to leave the European Union, we have been working for a couple of years now jointly with the European Union on splitting the World Trade Organisation schedule, including what is called the aggregate market support boxes—the so-called green boxes and amber boxes—and the UK will have an appropriate share of that green box support in the WTO.

Lee Anderson Portrait Lee Anderson (Ashfield) (Con) - Hansard

What steps he is taking to support zoos during the covid-19 outbreak. [903796]

Break in Debate

Neil Parish Portrait Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con) - Hansard

Food insecurity is a great issue, especially with the covid virus. Evidence we are taking in the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs shows that a lot of people are in need of good food. I congratulate the Secretary of State on the system of getting food straight from the farms to those who most need it, but can he extend it even more? I ask because after the pandemic and before the economy recovers properly people are going to need more and more food.

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard

My hon. Friend raises an important point. The Government have made available £16 million to partners such as FareShare to ensure that we can get food to thousands of food charities across the country to support those in need. In addition, we have been looking at other ways in which we can support those who are financially vulnerable at this difficult time.

Mr Richard Holden Portrait Mr Richard Holden (North West Durham) (Con) - Hansard

What assessment he has made of the potential merits of increasing the number of areas that benefit from the countryside stewardship water quality priority areas scheme. [903802]

Break in Debate

Andy Carter Portrait Andy Carter (Warrington South) (Con) - Hansard

What steps he is taking to promote British food producers. [903805]

George Eustice Portrait The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (George Eustice) - Hansard

We are promoting British food and drink producers at home and abroad. Just this week, we announced a package of trade and investment measures to help food and drink businesses grow their overseas trade, which includes reinforcing DEFRA’s Food is GREAT campaign and promoting 50 food and drink export champions. We are also supporting domestic campaigns such as the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board and Dairy UK’s £1 million promotional campaign for milk.

Andy Carter Portrait Andy Carter - Hansard

As the Secretary of State will know, Cheshire is not just renowned for its crumbly cheese. Our new potatoes are on the menu at the world’s finest restaurants, and our salt is being used by chefs all over the world to add flavour to fine food. We also have some of the finest farmers’ markets selling food prepared locally to my constituents in Warrington. What plans does my right hon. Friend have to support farmers and food producers in my constituency to navigate the challenging set of market conditions created by covid-19?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard

My hon. Friend makes an important point. His part of Cheshire is famous for its food, particularly its cheese, but also salt and new potatoes. Many parts of our country are renowned for their high-quality local produce, and we want to support farmers to promote that and add value.

Mr Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op) [V] - Hansard

May I push the Secretary of State on this? Does he agree that the future of British agriculture and the British food industry has to be based on quality and shorter supply chains as we come out of this pandemic? Will he join me in calling for an investigation into what is happening in our meat processing plants? Some of them look rather strange. In the four that I have looked at, many of the workers are reluctant to take a test because they would lose money and be isolated. That is a real problem. Could he look into it?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that this country has built a proud record based on the quality of our food and food provenance in particular, and we will maintain that. On the specific point that he raises about outbreaks of coronavirus at three meat plants, we are looking at that and have been investigating the causes of it. We suspect, as I said earlier, that it is linked either to shared transport or canteen areas, and new guidance will be issued to those meat plants.

Jerome Mayhew Portrait Jerome Mayhew (Broadland) (Con) - Hansard

What steps he is taking to increase the productivity of UK farms. [903806]

Break in Debate

Paul Bristow Portrait Paul Bristow (Peterborough) (Con) - Hansard

If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities. [903844]

George Eustice Portrait The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (George Eustice) - Hansard

The coronavirus has created many challenges for our country, and the response of our key workers throughout the epidemic has been quite extraordinary. As we take the next steps closer to normality, I would like to take this opportunity to record our thanks to all those working in the food supply chain for the phenomenal way they have responded. From farmers to food manufacturers, and from the delivery drivers to all those working in food retail, their response has been truly phenomenal.

Paul Bristow Portrait Paul Bristow - Hansard

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. The agricultural land around Peterborough is some of the best land in the country. With that in mind, could he let us know how he plans to increase UK food and drink exports to emerging markets such as the Gulf?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard

This week, we announced new measures on exports, with export champions to lead the way in opening new markets and to get more of our fantastic food and produce in those overseas markets. I have in recent years attended exhibitions such as Gulfood in the Gulf, where there are indeed many opportunities, particularly for our lamb sector.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock (Barnsley East) (Lab) - Hansard

Last November, after the devastating floods, the Prime Minister committed to holding a summit to improve flood defences in the north of England. Can I ask the Secretary of State why, six months on, this summit has not taken place? Can he set a date, and can he confirm that the Prime Minister will honour his commitment and be in attendance?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard

The reason that we have not yet had that summit is quite simple: it is that the coronavirus outbreak has taken up quite a lot of our time and obviously made it very difficult to physically travel to areas. I think it would be better to have a summit such as that physically in the location, rather than it being yet another Zoom meeting. However, I can give the hon. Lady a guarantee that that summit will indeed take place. I gave that commitment and it will happen.

Christian Wakeford Portrait Christian Wakeford (Bury South) (Con) - Hansard

The green belt is rightly described as the green lungs around our towns and cities, and it is rightly cherished by residents across the country, including myself. Can my right hon. Friend advise what cross-Government working has been taking place to promote our manifesto commitment to protect and enhance the green belt, including areas such as Elton reservoir and Simister in my constituency? [903846]

Break in Debate

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

Animal welfare charities are witnessing a sharp increase in need and this is expected to rise, while hundreds of charity staff in the sector are being made redundant. Some charities are struggling to cover their core costs, animal feed and vet bills. When will the Secretary of State bring forward his strategy and the necessary funding to support these vital animal welfare charities? [903845]

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard

We are aware that animal welfare charities have suffered from a fall in donations and have had to close during the coronavirus epidemic. There was an application that was considered as part of a charities fund, but we will continue to work with those groups to identify the support that they need.

Matt Vickers Portrait Matt Vickers (Stockton South) (Con) - Hansard

Many people across Stockton South, including me, enjoy a cheeky Nando’s or a finger-lickin’ good KFC, but we are concerned about the prospect of chlorinated chicken. Can the Minister guarantee that chlorinated chicken will not be on the menu in our trade negotiations, and that we will remain a world leader on food and animal welfare standards? [903847]

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard

As I explained earlier, in any trade negotiation it will be for the UK to determine what goes into the so-called sanitary and phytosanitary chapter, which addresses these issues. As I also pointed out, there is currently a prohibition on the sale of any poultry treated with a chlorine wash.

Steve McCabe Portrait Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab) - Hansard

Some 75,000 people work in meat processing in this country. Meat processing plants have been linked to the spread of the virus in many countries, and we have had convincing evidence from Professor Wood at Cambridge and Professor Semple at Liverpool on the risks at these plants. What measures specific to food processing plants has the Minister put in place? [903848]

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard

Very early in this crisis, we worked with Public Health England on guidance for these plants. It included, in some cases, spacing out staff on the production line to maintain a distance of 2 metres, and, where that was not possible, ensuring that things were arranged so that staff were facing away from one another. It also involved increased hygiene, new measures on canteens and guidance on car-share arrangements. As I have said, as a result of the three outbreaks that have occurred, we are reviewing those matters.

Andy Carter Portrait Andy Carter (Warrington South) (Con) - Hansard

I return to the topic covered by my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton South (Matt Vickers), although I am less of a finger-licker than he is. Many of my constituents in Warrington South have written to me on their concerns about maintaining high food standards in future trade arrangements, many of them driven by misinformation from the Opposition. Does my right hon. Friend agree that sticking with the UK’s high food and animal welfare standards is, among other things, in this Government’s interest, because that is what customers in this country expect and demand from UK food producers? [903849]

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard

We in this country have built a very sophisticated and valuable market based on the safety of our food, the standards of our food and our high animal welfare standards. We have committed in our manifesto to maintaining those.

Matt Western Portrait Matt Western (Warwick and Leamington) (Lab) - Hansard

Perhaps I could dwell on this finger-licking topic that has come up so frequently. Is not the simple truth that because so much of our food consumption goes through the food services sector—in the likes of prisons, hospitals, schools and the chains of restaurants on our high street—with a great proportion of it, the consumer will never know? That is the great fear. The US does not want labelling or descriptors, so those consumers will never know what they are consuming. [903852]

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. Food labelling can improve transparency, particularly in the retail sector, but of course there are limitations in that around 50% of food goes into the food services sector. That is why we will be addressing these matters in our trade agreements.

Dr Philippa Whitford Portrait Dr Philippa Whitford (Central Ayrshire) (SNP) [V] - Hansard

Overuse of antibiotics in animal farming has been identified as contributing to bacterial resistance. With American cattle receiving 13 times the amount of antibiotics that UK herds receive, how does the Minister plan to guard against importing resistant bacteria in US beef? [903857]

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard

There has been a global effort to tackle antimicrobial resistance and, in particular, to reduce the use of antibiotics in agriculture, especially the critically important antibiotics. The UK is a leader in that and has adopted farm husbandry that has made it possible to reduce the use of antibiotics. We have also worked with international partners, including the United States, to assist them to achieve the same.

Oral Answers to Questions

George Eustice Excerpts
Tuesday 19th May 2020

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Shaun Bailey Portrait Shaun Bailey (West Bromwich West) (Con) - Hansard

Whether he plans to promote pubs as takeaway restaurants during the covid-19 outbreak. [902747]

George Eustice Portrait The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (George Eustice) - Hansard

The Government welcome the reopening of food-to-go businesses in line with social distancing measures and have relaxed planning rules so that pubs and restaurants can operate as hot food takeaways. We published guidance for restaurants offering takeaway or delivery services, which has been widely welcomed by the sector. The UK Government, along with the devolved Administrations, are working closely with the food and drink and hospitality sectors to support their gradual reopening and continued operations.

David Johnston Portrait David Johnston [V] - Hansard

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Pubs like the Fleur De Lys in East Hagbourne have been doing a great job, with takeaway pints of beer and food three nights a week, from fish and chips to roasts. Can he confirm that he actively encourages that but knows that it is not a substitute for being properly open and that the Government will work with pubs to guide them on how they can do so safely as soon as possible?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard

We were very clear when we imposed the original restrictions at the point of lockdown that those did not extend to takeaway food outlets. We were clear that we wanted to support those pubs and restaurants that wanted to remain open, offering takeaway food. Those that have done have made an important contribution to our food supply at this difficult time, and we very much welcome the steps they have taken. Of course, we also recognise that until things return to something closer to normal and they can reopen normally—hopefully later this summer—that will not give them all the trade they previously had.

Shaun Bailey Portrait Shaun Bailey [V] - Hansard

I am encouraged by my right hon. Friend’s response. Our pubs are at the heart of the communities I represent in Wednesbury, Oldbury and Tipton. What work will he be undertaking alongside his colleagues across Government and, more importantly, on a regional level with our West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street, to ensure that pubs in the Black Country have all the means necessary to survive and thrive again once the crisis is over?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard

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) - Hansard

What steps he is taking to ensure the maintenance of supermarket supply chains during the covid-19 outbreak. [902734]

George Eustice Portrait The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (George Eustice) - Hansard

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] - Hansard

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 - Hansard

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.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab) - Hansard

The resilience of the food supply chains has been impressive, and we thank all those who work on our farms and in processing factories and the pickers, delivery drivers and, of course, shop workers who have kept the food flowing to our supermarkets. The foolish dismantling of the seasonal agricultural workers scheme, now made worse by the covid crisis, means that we face an alarming shortfall in the 70,000 experienced people needed to pick our crops. The laudable “Pick for Britain” campaign may help, but it was reported only a few weeks ago that of the 50,000 applicants, only 112 had made it into the field. Can the Secretary of State tell us what those figures are today and what is his plan B?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard

We estimate that only about a third of the east European workforce who would usually come to work on our farms are here or have continued to come. That means that we will need a British workforce to step up and assist in getting the harvest in this year, and we are very encouraged by the results so far. The hon. Gentleman is right that a few weeks ago, when it was early in the season, there were not many jobs. But we are now approaching the peak season in June, and employers are starting to recruit more and more British workers. For instance, G’s salads currently has more than 400 British people working on its farms today

Mr Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con) - Hansard

What assessment he has made of the adequacy of the supply of food during the covid-19 outbreak. [902738]

George Eustice Portrait The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (George Eustice) - Hansard

The food industry has responded quickly and impressively to the significant changes in demand that we have seen over the past month. That has ensured supply into stores and people’s homes across the country, and has demonstrated that the supply chain remains resilient. The Government have supported the industry with proportionate and temporary relaxations of competition law and drivers’ hours and extended delivery hours.

Mr Peter Bone Portrait Mr Bone - Hansard

The Secretary of State is absolutely right: British farmers have been brilliant in getting food on the table. Does he agree, therefore, that there is no need for US-style industrial factory farming of poultry in this country, and will he look into the rotten proposal from my constituency, which I wrote to him about on 15 April?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard

I am aware, as it has been drawn to my attention, following my hon. Friend’s question, that there is a letter that I have yet to respond to; I will respond to that. Obviously, the issues that he has raised are predominantly issues for the environment agencies that carry out such environmental assessments. He mentions US-style poultry. Obviously, some approaches to poultry farming in the US will not be lawful in the United Kingdom, so I can reassure him on that.

Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP) [V] - Hansard

The adequacy of the food supply includes the nutritional values and the production standards. The Government whipped their Back Benchers to vote against maintaining food standards for imports in the Agriculture Bill, and now we are hearing that it is a fire sale in the US trade deal. How can the public ensure that the food in our shops remains of the same quality as it is now?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard

This Government have a very clear manifesto commitment that we will protect our food standards in all our trade negotiations. Certain practices, such as chlorine washes on chicken or hormones in beef, are subject to a prohibition on sale in the UK, and that law remains in place. It is also the case that, as we advance trade negotiations with all third countries, animal welfare is one of the issues that we will be seeking to promote.

Ian Levy Portrait Ian Levy (Blyth Valley) (Con) - Hansard

What steps he is taking to promote (a) good hygiene and (b) social distancing in supermarkets. [902739]

Sir David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford) (Con) - Hansard

What steps he is taking to promote (a) good hygiene and (b) social distancing in supermarkets. [902744]

George Eustice Portrait The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (George Eustice) - Hansard

From the outset, we have worked extensively with retailers and Public Health England to establish best practice and publish guidance on social distancing and hygiene, to keep staff and customers safe. Industry has adapted effectively and quickly, and measures introduced include signage and floor markings to help customers maintain distance, screens at tills and limits on the number of customers in store.

Ian Levy Portrait Ian Levy [V] - Hansard

On a recent visit to my local supermarket in Blyth, I was pleased to see that the supermarkets are taking all the necessary precautions to try to protect the public while they are out shopping. Those include cleaning stations, markings on the floor and regular announcements to tell people to maintain social distance. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, as measures are relaxed and we move forward, we must all be aware and mindful while out shopping, to protect not only ourselves but the staff, who have been providing an invaluable service during this pandemic?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard

On the latter point, I take the opportunity to pay tribute to all those key workers working throughout our food supply chain, from those working on farms to those working in logistics and food manufacturing, and of course those working in our supermarkets. They have helped to ensure that the nation has remained fed, and the work that they have done has been truly phenomenal.

I also agree with my hon. Friend that as we seek to evolve the current restrictions and move back to something closer to life as normal, we all have a great deal that we can learn from the measures that have been put in place by supermarkets—and also in factory environments by our food processors.

Sir David Evennett [V] - Hansard

I congratulate my local Sainsbury’s stores in Erith Road, Barnehurst, and in Crayford on their good organisation and friendly staff. Does my right hon. Friend agree that other businesses will be able to learn lessons from the actions taken by supermarkets to ensure good hygiene and social distancing?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right: our supermarket retailers acted within hours—certainly within 24 hours—to implement social distancing when lockdown occurred. They acted swiftly, and we have learned a lot along the way, in conjunction with Public Health England. I can tell my right hon. Friend that the experiences of our supermarkets and food manufacturers have been shared extensively with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, as it has developed safer-working protocols for other parts of the economy, because we can—absolutely—learn from the steps that supermarkets and others have taken.

Anna McMorrin Portrait Anna McMorrin (Cardiff North) (Lab) - Hansard

What assessment he has made of the risk to food security from the covid-19 outbreak. [902743]

George Eustice Portrait The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (George Eustice) - Hansard
19 May 2020, 12:02 a.m.

The coronavirus response has exemplified the resilience of the UK food supply chain. Industry has responded quickly to significant changes in demand to ensure that people have the food they need. In the initial few weeks, when there was an episode of panic buying, our food manufacturers increased output by some 50%.

Although our food security depends on both international trade and domestic production, this crisis has brought home the crucial importance of domestic food production. We are fortunate to have some of the most innovative food manufacturers and producers in the world, and I pay tribute to all they have done in recent months.

Anna McMorrin Portrait Anna McMorrin [V] - Hansard

Between April and September last year, the Trussell Trust reported a 23% rise in the number of food parcels provided across the UK. As of April this year, the figure has doubled. Given the World Bank’s recent warning of a covid-19 worldwide food price spike, as well as the alarming rise in unemployment we have seen today, what steps is the Secretary of State taking to alleviate the shameful growth in food poverty?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard

We recognise that, as a result of the coronavirus crisis, the financial vulnerability of households has also increased. That is why, last week, the Government announced a new £16 million fund to support food charities, including refuges and homeless hostels. The food will be distributed by our existing partners in FareShare.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard

Food bank demand is surging, up on average by between 60% and 80% from pre-virus levels. Now, unemployment is soaring, up by nearly 70% last month. It is clear that we need measures that match the scale of the crisis. Last week, the Secretary of State whipped his MPs to reject Labour’s sensible proposals for an emergency coronavirus food plan. With The Times reporting that the Prime Minister is now keen on a food plan of his own, dealing with obesity and coronavirus, will the Secretary of State confirm that the Government’s urgently needed food strategy, which must include a coronavirus focus, will be published before the recession bites?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard

The food strategy that is being developed by Henry Dimbleby, one of our non-executive directors, will involve an initial report in the autumn setting out the approach and the nature of the challenges, and the final report is expected in the early part of next year.

Mr Richard Bacon Portrait Mr Richard Bacon (South Norfolk) (Con) - Hansard

What recent steps he has taken to promote UK food producers. [902746]

George Eustice Portrait The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (George Eustice) - Hansard

Our food and farming industry plays a crucial role in challenging times, and we are co-funding a £1 million campaign to promote milk, alongside industry and devolved Government partners. We are also supporting the fishing industry by promoting a wide variety of seafood species from UK waters. A further campaign is promoting beef across the devolved nations, and our Food is GREAT campaign, which showcases internationally products from across our four nations, has delivered successful trade and consumer focused marketing activities.

Mr Richard Bacon Portrait Mr Bacon [V] - Hansard

Given that there is already mandatory country of origin labelling for fish, fruit, vegetables, eggs, wine, honey, olive oil and beef, does the Secretary of State agree that now is the right time for mandatory country of origin labelling for all meat, so that consumers can never be misled by dodgy imports produced in conditions that would be unlawful here and which are sold as if they were British?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard

As my hon. Friend has pointed out, there has been a long-standing legal provision for mandatory country of origin labelling on beef, in which, to claim that the country of origin is the UK, the animal must be born, reared and slaughtered in the UK. Those regulations on mandatory country of origin labelling were extended several years ago to cover all principal meat species. They do not yet extend to processed goods that might contain multiple goods, but there have been significant steps forward in broadening the scope of mandatory country of origin labelling.

John McNally Portrait John Mc Nally (Falkirk) (SNP) - Hansard

What additional financial support he plans to provide to food producers to mitigate the effect of the covid-19 outbreak. [902760]

Tommy Sheppard Portrait Tommy Sheppard (Edinburgh East) (SNP) - Hansard

What additional financial support he plans to provide to food producers to mitigate the effect of the covid-19 outbreak. [902766]

George Eustice Portrait The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (George Eustice) - Hansard

We are working closely with the agriculture and fishing industries to manage the negative impacts of covid-19. In addition to HM Treasury’s financial support packages, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has announced support schemes for the dairy and fishing industries, and we continue to monitor other sectors.

John McNally Portrait John Mc Nally [V] - Hansard

Will DEFRA Ministers go further and insist with their counterparts in the Department for International Trade on high standards for animal welfare, phytosanitary and food production imports to protect our domestic food producers?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard

The Government are very clear—and it was set out in our manifesto—that we will not compromise on our high food and animal welfare standards as we approach trade agreements. Specifically, that means that the UK will determine its own domestic standards when it comes to the so-called SPS chapter—those sanitary and phytosanitary issues—relating in particular to food safety. Those will be set at a UK level and we will not abandon or change those standards in response to demands from other countries.

Tommy Sheppard Portrait Tommy Sheppard [V] - Hansard

I note that today’s announcement by the Department for International Trade does not change agricultural tariffs, so how will DEFRA Ministers ensure that the new tariff regimes after Brexit continue to favour our long-established and profitable trade in that sector with member states of the European Union? How will they ensure that the tariffs prevent our marketplace from being flooded with low-quality products from elsewhere in the world?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard

The new UK global tariff that has been announced today does retain tariffs for most key agricultural products, including those sensitive agricultural products that are often discussed in this House. The answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question is that we would seek to grant tariff-free access to EU trading partners in future through a free trade agreement, and we have set out clearly the legal text of an acceptable free trade agreement should our partners wish to enter into such an agreement. Maintaining those agricultural tariffs also ensures that we do not expose our market in the short term to lower-standard products from other countries.

Jeff Smith Portrait Jeff Smith (Manchester, Withington) (Lab) - Hansard

What assessment he has made of the effect on air quality of the reduction in the use of motor vehicles during the covid-19 lockdown. [902740]

Remote Division Result: Amendment 39

(3rd reading: House of Commons)
George Eustice Excerpts
Wednesday 13th May 2020

(3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Bill Main Page
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing) - Hansard

I call the Secretary of State, who I am afraid has only two minutes to speak.

George Eustice Portrait The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (George Eustice) - Hansard

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

I would like to acknowledge the work that has got us to this point. In particular, I would like to thank DEFRA officials, those who provided evidence and especially those Members who served on the Bill Committee. I am conscious that the restricted nature of the hybrid Parliament means that many of those Committee members have found it difficult to contribute to this stage of proceedings, but they all contributed comprehensively during earlier stages, and the points they raised have been heard.

The Government stood on a manifesto commitment to guarantee the current annual budget for farmers in every year of the new Parliament. Our farmers need stability, certainty and a smooth seven-year transition to adapt to our new policy of public money for public goods, and the Bill provides for that.

This is the second outing of this Bill. I was involved in the last Parliament at Committee stage for the first. We have made a number of changes since then, including strengthening parliamentary scrutiny with the requirement for a multi-annual plan; a strengthened duty around food security, with five-yearly reviews of food security; and a new clause on the importance of food production. Finally, I am conscious that animal welfare has been a big feature of the debate. The Government have a manifesto commitment that in all trade deals, they will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard - Hansard

Labour will not allow farmers to go out of business to secure a trade deal with Donald Trump. It is unusual for any party to vote against Third Reading of a Bill, but we will vote against this Bill because the issue of farm standards for our food is not a technical one; it is fundamental to what kind of country we are. We support high standards for our British farmers, and we demand that all food imported into our country after our Brexit transition periods ends adheres to those same high standards that our British farmers have to adhere to.

Two hours and fifteen minutes having elapsed since the resumption of proceedings on consideration, the debate was interrupted (Order, this day).

Oral Answers to Questions

George Eustice Excerpts
Thursday 19th March 2020

(4 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab) - Hansard

4. What steps he is taking with Cabinet colleagues to maintain food supplies for vulnerable people in the (a) North East and (b) UK during the covid-19 outbreak. [901643]

George Eustice Portrait The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (George Eustice) - Hansard
19 Mar 2020, 9:40 a.m.

The Government are in close contact with representatives of the food supply chain and with local authorities, including those in the north-east, and also with charities, to ensure that those who need to stay at home will have continued access to food. We have well established ways of working with the food industry during disruption and our retailers already have highly resilient supply chains and are working around the clock to ensure that people have the food and other products that they need.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah - Hansard

All of us found the images of empty supermarket shelves disturbing, but for those who are vulnerable, aged, unwell, isolated or dependent on food banks, that is causing real fear as to where their next meal is coming from. In the north-east, we have excellent local producers, but much of our food is dependent on supply chains, and I am afraid the Secretary of State’s response will not have given the reassurance required. What specifically is he doing to ensure the supply of food to the supermarket shelves and from the supermarket shelves to people’s homes?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard

It is very important to note that we have significant resilience in our food supply chain, in that food manufacturers are used to coping with increases in demand, not least every year during Christmas. There is not a shortage of food. The challenge we have had is getting food to shelves in time when people have been purchasing more. That is why we have taken steps including setting aside delivery curfews so lorries can run around the clock, and relaxing driver hours to ensure that deliveries can take place more frequently. We are in discussion with Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government colleagues about other support that we would deliver locally to get food to those who are self-isolating.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard

I thank the Secretary of State for meeting me and the rest of the shadow DEFRA team this week to discuss concerns about the national crisis and food availability. I urge him to go further on some of the measures he has set out. I hope my questions are seen as being asked in a constructive spirit.

People are worried about how they will feed their family, especially if they are self-isolating, have had their income slashed to statutory sick pay or have lost their job. However, millions are already in food poverty, and this is an immediate family emergency for many of them. With food banks running low on food, and given that many food bank volunteers are over the age of 70 and will soon need to self-isolate, what steps is the Secretary of State taking to assist those in genuine hunger today?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard

As I have said, we have taken a number of steps to ensure that we can get food to supermarkets. I have been in daily calls with the food supply sector. Those have included discussions about food banks, and we are in dialogue with supermarkets to ensure that they get access to the supplies they need. I welcome the constructive approach that the shadow Secretary of State is taking. We are also working on specific proposals to help the most vulnerable—those with clinical problems—to ensure that we can get food to them should they be self-isolating.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard - Hansard

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. I think he will need to provide more detail for those who are in genuine hunger today; the hope of detail in the future is not reassuring people at the moment. If I may press him further on supermarkets, we discussed the so-called grey hour, when elderly people can shop before the rest of society goes into the supermarkets. Will he press the Department for Transport to relax the times for free bus pass use to ensure that people can get to the supermarkets? Will he also ensure that every supermarket, not just the Co-op, is still contributing food to food banks and organisations such as FareShare? I suspect that he and his colleagues will want to ensure a private sector-led solution wherever possible, but I press him on this issue, because we will not get through this crisis unless there is Government intervention to support those people and ensure that food supply chains remain open.

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that there is a role for the Government. We must take action to set aside any obstacles to making the food supply chain operate in a way that ensures that people have food. On food banks, as I said, we are in discussion with supermarkets. We have also had discussions with them about competition law, and we will take whatever action is necessary to ensure that they can jointly plan their approach to these matters. For the most vulnerable, we are working on proposals that my colleagues in MHCLG will announce shortly.

Theresa Villiers Portrait Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet) (Con) - Hansard

Getting home deliveries to potentially millions of self-isolating households is a massive logistical exercise. Is it time for the Government to think about further intervention, including, I am afraid, the suspension of competition rules, so retailers and haulage companies can work together to meet this huge national challenge?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard

My right hon. Friend makes a very important point. That is why earlier this week we had a detailed workshop with both retailers and food processors to identify what they would like to do and what changes to competition law we would need to consider and implement. We are working on that right now.

Mark Pritchard Portrait Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con) - Hansard

Telford and Wrekin Council will now have to deliver 5,000 free school meals a day without being able to do so through schools, except for key workers’ children. What more can the Government do, given that many volunteers and people working in charities who might offer to backfill where support is required may be self-isolating or may have been encouraged by the Government to self-isolate? There really is an issue with logistics.

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is working on a national volunteer project to co-ordinate the many offers of volunteer help that we have had. In the context of food, we have been working very closely with supermarkets to expand their click-and-collect services to make it easier, where possible, for them to expand their delivery capacity to homes. We continue to work with other groups to identify how we can get food to people at this difficult time.

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con) - Hansard
19 Mar 2020, midnight

Care homes and other residential settings that have been let down by their wholesale food suppliers are now being told by supermarkets that they will be treated just like any other consumer. Two chickens do not go a long way if they have 136 residents to feed. Will the Secretary of State urgently look into this issue for all residential settings, please?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard
19 Mar 2020, midnight

I am happy to look at the specific issue that my hon. Friend raised. However, it is also worth noting that while there has been an increase in demand at retail shops, notably in supermarkets, there has been a sharp fall in demand in the service trade, as restaurants, pubs and so forth find that demand for their services has plummeted. Our understanding at the moment is that there are not issues in the food service supply chain, but I am happy to take up any particular case that he might have.

Jim McMahon Portrait Jim McMahon (Oldham West and Royton) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard

Our supermarket workers have shown themselves to be the heroes of retail, making sure that people get fed and get the food that they need, but there are real concerns about whether they can maintain that service if they are not included in the list of key workers. Of course, many will have children who will need care if the schools cannot accommodate them. Can we have an assurance today that our retail workers will be on the list of key workers?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard
19 Mar 2020, midnight

The Prime Minister made reference yesterday to the importance of those working in the food retail sector, in particular. Later today, the Government will announce jobs defined as key workers, but I can assure him that we fully recognise that over 25% of staff generally working in the food supply chain have children of school age, and that will be reflected when the list is published.

Kevin Hollinrake Portrait Kevin Hollinrake (Thirsk and Malton) (Con) - Hansard

5. What steps he is taking to support farmers. [901644]

Damian Hinds Portrait Damian Hinds (East Hampshire) (Con) - Hansard

10. What steps he is taking to support farmers. [901652]

George Eustice Portrait The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (George Eustice) - Hansard

We have committed to maintaining the budget for our future agriculture policy at the same level as now, but to direct it differently. We are designing our farming reforms with those who work in agriculture and considering resilience issues. During the transition period, farmers will have time to adapt and prepare for the new policy.

Kevin Hollinrake Portrait Kevin Hollinrake - Hansard
19 Mar 2020, midnight

Farmers’ and landowners’ ability to protect their crops and their livestock will be seriously compromised unless general licences are issued for protected areas, gulls and traps this spring. Will my right hon. Friend set out what he can do to make sure that that is the case?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard
19 Mar 2020, midnight

My hon. Friend raises an important point. I am aware that Natural England intends to circulate the stoat-trapping general licence to stakeholders this week, and it is working hard to grant those licences as soon as possible. People wishing to control wild birds in protected areas need to apply for an individual licence, as must those wishing to control lesser black-backed or herring gulls except for safety reasons, given their poorer conservation status. We are also considering the best future approach as part of our review.

Damian Hinds Portrait Damian Hinds - Hansard
19 Mar 2020, midnight

Right now, DEFRA, quite rightly, is focused totally on the food-supply questions that we have been talking about, but will my right hon. Friend also confirm that he will look to move forward with a trade and standards commission for food quality for UK consumers and for a fair field for our farmers?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard
19 Mar 2020, midnight

My right hon. Friend makes a very important point. He will be aware that our manifesto and our published objectives for the US trade deal make it clear that we will protect our food standards and animal welfare in any future trade deals. I am aware that there has been a proposal for a trade and standards commission, which we are considering, and we are in discussion with other Departments, such as the Department for International Trade, about how best to ensure that agricultural expertise is fully reflected as part of the negotiating team.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab) - Hansard
19 Mar 2020, midnight

If the motto in past crises was “Dig for Victory”, so far this one has been much more “Distribute for Victory”. Of course, the retail sector is very important, but I am less sanguine than the Secretary of State about future food supply and I think that we need to make sure that we support all those in that chain. The poultry industry, for instance, is very time-dependent. Two or three days extra for chickens on farms can lead to a whole range of welfare and logistical issues. Can I take it that the Secretary of State is pressing his colleagues to ensure that all those in the food supply chain are recognised on the Government list of key groups of workers, so we make sure that we secure our future food security?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard
19 Mar 2020, 12:02 a.m.

As I said in response to an earlier question, the Government recognise that a significant number of staff working throughout the supply chain, both retailers and food processors, have children of school age; we estimate that the figure is between 25% and 33%. We therefore recognise that many of them will need to be defined as key workers, but further information on that will be published by the Government later today.

Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan (Angus) (SNP) - Hansard
19 Mar 2020, 12:03 a.m.

The standards of agriculture produce and animal welfare in Angus and elsewhere in these islands is among the best in the world. Is it not the case that the standards of imports are not always up to the standards of UK production? Is it not important that we follow the simple premise that, if something cannot lawfully meet the UK standards of production, it should not lawfully be imported to the UK? Will the Secretary of State enshrine that in the Government’s legislation?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard

We had a clear commitment in our manifesto to protect food standards and animal welfare in any future trade deals we do. Our view is that the right way to do that is through getting our mandate and approach to the negotiations right, and not necessarily by attempting to draft something in legislation.

Craig Whittaker Portrait Craig Whittaker (Calder Valley) (Con) - Hansard

6. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government on reforming the support package provided to flooded areas. [901647]

George Eustice Portrait The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (George Eustice) - Hansard
19 Mar 2020, 12:04 a.m.

The Government activated the flood recovery framework in November 2019 and February 2020 to provide support to communities such as Calderdale, where 100 mm of rain fell in just 12 hours, causing extensive flooding. I extend my thanks to all those involved in the responses to recent floods, including those in Calderdale; I thank the local council, the Environment Agency, the military and emergency services for all their hard work.

Craig Whittaker Portrait Craig Whittaker - Hansard
19 Mar 2020, 12:04 a.m.

As my right hon. Friend is aware, the funding package comes from several different Departments and, in the case of an isolated incident like that of the Calder Valley after Storm Ciara, and even after 1,200 properties were flooded, Government support for households was not triggered. Will he ensure that support by way of an off-the-shelf package is available for any affected area in future and that no area has to wait nine days again for support?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard
19 Mar 2020, 12:04 a.m.

My hon. Friend raises an important point. We are having discussions across government about having a consistent threshold above which the flood recovery framework might be activated. On Storm Ciara, which affected his constituency very badly, in the event, we decided to treat Storms Ciara and Dennis as a single episode, which meant that Calderdale did qualify for the same support that other areas had.

Mr Richard Holden Portrait Mr Richard Holden (North West Durham) (Con) -