Oral Answers to Questions

John Bercow Excerpts
Thursday 31st October 2019

(10 months, 4 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Zac Goldsmith - Hansard

The hon. Gentleman knows my views on the issue; we have discussed it many times. From the Back Benches and as a Minister, I have debated the issue with him, although we have been on the same side of the debate. I am appalled by the very concept of wanting to shoot these extraordinarily beautiful, endangered wild animals. I cannot see any obvious link between that activity and protection of those animals. However, we are obliged as a Government, before embarking on any kind of legislation to prevent the import of trophies, to consult so that we know exactly what the impacts of that potential legislative change would be. So we have to do that consultation. We have to do it in an honest fashion. On the back of that consultation, we will take whatever steps are necessary, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that this is not an issue that we intend to kick into the long grass.

Mr Speaker Hansard
31 Oct 2019, 9:39 a.m.

May I just say that I am not ignoring the hon. Member for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Angela Smith)? I am conscious that she has Question 6, on which another party wishes to come in, so it would perhaps be better for her to wait until then. We look forward to hearing from her in a few minutes.

Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Sue Hayman (Workington) (Lab) - Hansard
31 Oct 2019, 9:40 a.m.

I wish you all the best for the future, Mr Speaker, and thank you for chairing DEFRA questions with such patience and consideration over the last few years.

We know that there are loopholes in the Hunting Act 2004 which are being exploited. A Labour Government would strengthen the hunting ban, so may I ask what the Conservative Government have been doing to stop foxhunters from breaking the law?

Break in Debate

Theresa Villiers Portrait Theresa Villiers - Hansard
31 Oct 2019, 9:43 a.m.

As my right hon. Friend the Minister of State has said, we believe that it is crucial for all our laws to be properly enforced, including the Hunting Act, and we will continue to engage with the appropriate authorities to ensure that that is the case.

Mr Speaker Hansard
31 Oct 2019, 9:43 a.m.

It is a great pleasure to call Dame Caroline Spelman. I am very sorry that the right hon. Lady is leaving the House. I know that she will be performing in her own right later, but she will be greatly missed by Members in all parts of the House.

Dame Caroline Spelman (Meriden) (Con) Hansard
31 Oct 2019, 9:43 a.m.

That is very kind of you, Mr Speaker. I will save my tribute for the right time, in due course.

Unfortunately, as colleagues with rural constituencies may know, at this time of the year there is a steep rise in the number of abandoned horses as winter approaches. A couple of weeks ago I personally dealt with four abandoned ponies, including two foals barely weaned at 12 weeks. They were in a terrible condition: their feet had never been trimmed, their ribs were showing, and they had lice and mites. I had to get them rehomed.

I welcome the Government’s proposals to take a tougher line with those who abuse animals in this way, but can my right hon. Friend reassure me—gently, given the problem with her voice today—that the Government will support the police and local authorities in taking action and enforcing the law on these criminals?

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Ruth Cadbury Portrait Ruth Cadbury - Hansard

Mr Speaker, may I first thank you on behalf of many of us for the role you have played in ensuring that this elected House calls the Executive to account with such fervour? Also, could you turn your attention to the bag that is in the cupboard in your office, which requires your signature so I can use it as a raffle prize?

Mr Speaker Hansard
31 Oct 2019, 9:47 a.m.

It will be done today.

Ruth Cadbury Portrait Ruth Cadbury - Hansard
31 Oct 2019, 9:47 a.m.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. We know that the ultra low emission zone in central London has been a huge success, bringing about a 36% reduction in nitrogen dioxide pollution in London. Does the Minister not agree that it is vital that the Government support the Mayor of London in his efforts to tackle air pollution, and will she please support the expansion of the ULEZ in 2021?

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Rebecca Pow Portrait Rebecca Pow - Hansard
31 Oct 2019, 9:50 a.m.

That question is of great interest to me as a former horticultural journalist. Green walls are a great thing. Not only do they look great, but they help by taking in carbon emissions and so on. DEFRA has an air quality grant programme that can help local authorities to fund projects to tackle air pollution in specific areas like schools, so that school could ask for support under the programme. Good question.

Mr Speaker Hansard

On my last day in the Chair, it gives me particular pleasure again to call—Bambos Charalambous!

Bambos Charalambous Portrait Bambos Charalambous (Enfield, Southgate) (Lab) - Hansard
31 Oct 2019, 9:51 a.m.

One of the things that I will certainly miss when you are not in the Chair is how you pronounce my name, Mr Speaker. Thank you so much.

Why does the Environment Bill not include World Health Organisation targets for air pollutants or set clear targets to meet them?

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Theresa Villiers Portrait Theresa Villiers - Hansard

Yes, I can.

Mr Speaker Hansard
31 Oct 2019, 10:04 a.m.

It brings me further great pleasure, on my last day in the Chair, to call again Thangam Debbonaire.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab) - Hansard
31 Oct 2019, 10:04 a.m.

Oh Mr Speaker, I do not know what to say. I am going to miss this. Thank you for everything you have done for Back Benchers.

The Secretary of State says that the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill is going to come back to the House as soon as possible; that could be Monday. There is cross-party agreement on this short Bill, and as the Labour DEFRA Whip I have the permission of our shadow Secretary of State to say that we support the Bill, we could crack on, and it could be done and on the statute book before Dissolution. Even at this late stage, why will she not put it on the Order Paper for Monday or Tuesday?

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Theresa Villiers Portrait Theresa Villiers - Hansard

I am not sure that I could go quite that far. Certainly, in providing extra resources for the Environment Agency, we are absolutely determined to crack down on this deeply antisocial crime. I hope the courts will view it seriously and inflict appropriate punishment.

Mr Speaker Hansard
31 Oct 2019, 10:08 a.m.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman. The word “inimitable” could have been invented to describe him, and that is supposed to be the warmest compliment. I genuinely appreciate what he said.

Mr Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry) (DUP) - Hansard
31 Oct 2019, 10:09 a.m.

May I join others in expressing the hope that no circumlocutory measures will be put in place to try to restrict your perorations post your retirement, during the next stage in your career?

May I ask the Minister to liaise with the Northern Ireland authorities to ensure that action is taken on the huge waste dump at Mobuoy, outside Londonderry, to ensure that restrictions are put in place and that we pursue those responsible?

Theresa Villiers Portrait Theresa Villiers - Hansard
31 Oct 2019, 10:09 a.m.

I am happy to engage with the Northern Ireland authorities on that important question.

Mr Speaker Hansard

We are running late, but, of course, the Chair has the benefit of Kantian perfect information. That is to say that I know how many people have or have not applied to speak in subsequent business, and subsequent business is not especially heavily subscribed. My priority is to try to accommodate, within reason, Back Benchers.

Dame Cheryl Gillan Portrait Dame Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con) - Hansard

9. What steps she is taking to protect chalk streams. [900253]

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Dame Cheryl Gillan Portrait Dame Cheryl Gillan - Hansard

Today is a sad day for Buckinghamshire, Mr Speaker, because we are going to lose you as the Member for Buckingham. Before I ask my question of the Minister, may I just say that you have been a superb colleague to sit alongside? I am going to miss you particularly because you will not be there to join me in championing the Chilterns, but you have consistently stood by my side when opposing HS2, and you are to be congratulated on what you have done on autism. As I press for the Chilterns area of outstanding natural beauty to become a national park, I do hope that, even though you will have left this place, you will still stand by my side and support that proposal.

Mr Speaker Hansard
31 Oct 2019, 10:10 a.m.

I will.

Dame Cheryl Gillan Portrait Dame Cheryl Gillan - Hansard
31 Oct 2019, 10:11 a.m.

Thank you.

The Chess and the Misbourne are ecologically vulnerable chalk streams in my constituency, and there are several in the Chilterns that are under threat. HS2 Ltd has now said that it requires 8 million litres of water a day for two years in order to build phase 1 of HS2. That means that we could face over-abstraction again, and could see these streams irreparably damaged or destroyed altogether. Will Ministers really take this on board and work with the Department for Transport to get HS2 cancelled—and, if not, to protect these absolutely precious pieces of our environment for our future generations?

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Gillian Keegan Portrait Gillian Keegan (Chichester) (Con) - Hansard

T3. May I add my personal words, Mr Speaker? Thank you for your friendship, your support and your guidance to all new Members as you have helped us to navigate our way through what, at times, feels like a very turbulent Parliament. From my family to yours, I look forward to seeing much more of you in your retirement. It has been a pleasure to serve with you for a couple of years. [900264]

Mr Speaker Hansard
31 Oct 2019, 10:15 a.m.

The hon. Lady is an excellent godparent.

Gillian Keegan Portrait Gillian Keegan - Hansard
31 Oct 2019, 10:16 a.m.

Thank you very much, too, to Oliver and Freddie. I look forward to seeing very much more of you.

Pagham Harbour in my constituency is one of the best places to see wildlife in the UK, covering 600 hectares of salt marshes, mudflats, reed beds and lagoons. It is an important natural store of carbon and it absorbs up to 310 tonnes per hectare. What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to ensure that carbon-rich natural habitats are protected to improve biodiversity and help us to reach net zero by 2050?

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Theresa Villiers Portrait Theresa Villiers - Hansard
31 Oct 2019, 10:27 a.m.

Of course I am happy to give a commitment to engage with colleagues in the DFT on these important matters. It is of course vital that HS2 Ltd does all it can to ensure that it meets its obligations in a timely way in relation to farming and environmental concerns.

Mr Speaker Hansard

Order. I have stretched the envelope as widely as I think is reasonable, but we must move on.

The right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington, representing the House of Commons Commission, was asked—

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Mr Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard
31 Oct 2019, 10:29 a.m.

Mr Speaker, may I quickly say what a joy you have been for all genuine Back Benchers during your time in the Chair? We started a relationship early in your career here, and I saw you improve as a parliamentarian step by step. People sometimes forget the great inquiry you made into special educational needs under Tony Blair. I also remember other good things that you did with me, and others, on anti-bullying, as well as a cross-party campaign on autism.

Someone should also mention what you had to put up with due to the concerted malicious press campaign that was run against you, and your family, at a certain time in your career. It was a disgrace to British journalism and the profession of journalism. It did not come from the redtops—it was The Times and the Prime Minister’s Daily Telegraph. It came from journalists from whom we had expected better. Some of us stood by you at that time, and we will continue to stand by you. You are a young man with a career in front of you. I hope that you will do startling things, and that this miserable Prime Minister, who yesterday could not even pay tribute to the Father of the House, will put you in the House of Lords as your office deserves.

Mr Speaker Hansard
31 Oct 2019, 10:31 a.m.

That is extraordinarily kind of the hon. Gentleman. I think he was also going to ask about the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art.

Mr Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Sheerman - Hansard

I like the range of art that we have, Mr Speaker, but it should be more accessible. Why do we have to pay a surcharge in our shops to pay for your art?

Mr Speaker Hansard
31 Oct 2019, 10:31 a.m.

Very good. The hon. Gentleman is a dextrous parliamentarian who can always think on his feet.

Tom Brake Hansard

I believe that was probably a bid for a portrait of you to be provided in the House, Mr Speaker, so we look forward to that.

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Sir Edward Leigh Portrait Sir Edward Leigh - Hansard

Of course the NAO will not get involved in the political argument about whether the programme is wise, but it has already reported three times on HS2. It found that the cost and benefit estimates underpinning the business case were uncertain, and addressed the weaknesses in the business case and in the estimate of the cost of land. I assure my right hon. Friend that the NAO will leave no stone unturned to ensure we get value for money from this project, if it proceeds.

Mr Speaker Hansard
31 Oct 2019, 10:46 a.m.

Order. Colleagues, I would like to accommodate all remaining Questions on the Order Paper, but we must also consider those waiting for subsequent business. I do not intend or wish to be guilty of any discourtesy to colleagues in that regard, so I appeal to colleagues who are being accommodated late to be pithy. In so far as we have taken up time because people have been extraordinarily nice about me, while that is enjoyable for me, from this point on it is unnecessary.

Martin Vickers Portrait Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con) - Hansard

6. What assessment the National Audit Office has made of the potential effect on its work of the UK leaving the EU. [900274]

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Dame Caroline Spelman Hansard
31 Oct 2019, 10:54 a.m.

Those are such kind words, and I will treasure them; I really appreciate the thought that went into expressing them. On the work of our prison chaplains and in particular the focus on ex-prisoners being reconciled into their communities, my hon. Friend is right. I did in fact host a meeting in Parliament with Bishops Christine and Rachel of Newcastle and Gloucester respectively, which focused on the great need there is to provide a suitable transition for women as they leave prison and return to the community and to address some of the long-standing issues from which they suffer. I commend the work of the Re-Unite project in Gloucester and the Anawim women’s centre in Birmingham; they are doing a remarkable job in helping these women make that transition.

Mr Speaker Hansard
31 Oct 2019, 10:55 a.m.

The hon. Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) has offered a beautiful tribute, but every word of it was richly deserved by the right hon. Lady.

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

9. What discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on the effective use of churches in the telecommunications network. [900277]

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Dame Caroline Spelman Hansard
31 Oct 2019, 11:06 a.m.

I thank my hon. Friend for his kind words. For the record, I must say that being Second Church Estates Commissioner has been a great blessing. When I was invited to do the job, David Cameron said to me, “The thing about this role, Caroline, is that you are answerable only to the Queen and God.” What a privilege that is!

It so happens that I met the diocesan directors of communication yesterday at Canterbury cathedral, and they are all really aware of the transition that the Church needs to make into a fully digital version of what it does today. I have given the House an indication of that, but for those of us who still like a hard copy of things to inspire us, I draw hon. Members’ attention to the fact that the forthcoming busy time will at some point be coterminous with Advent, for which the Church has published a “Follow the Star” booklet, which hon. Members are welcome to avail themselves of.

Mr Speaker Hansard
31 Oct 2019, 11:07 a.m.

That was magnificently done. I hope that I can be forgiven for saying to the hon. Member for Romford (Andrew Rosindell), and more widely to the House, that as the hon. Gentleman referenced Switzerland, and I am on my last day, he has given me my cue to say that the best thing about Switzerland is not its skiing, its chocolate, its watches or its financial services; the best thing about Switzerland is Roger Federer.

Luke Graham (Ochil and South Perthshire) (Con) Hansard
31 Oct 2019, 11:07 a.m.

Mr Speaker, I should like to pass on my thanks to you, on behalf of Scottish Conservative MPs. You have given us the opportunity to speak so that our constituents know that the Scottish National party is not the only voice for Scotland in this place. It is good for our Parliament, our country and our democracy that all the voices are heard, so I thank you for that.

What conversations have been had with the Department, and indeed the estates in Scotland, to ensure that the Government’s new initiatives on the shared rural network for mobile coverage and the exciting new developments on broadband will mean that the estates in Scotland can be used and leveraged so that my constituents can benefit as much as constituents elsewhere in the UK?