South West Water: Brixham Contamination

Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Excerpts
Wednesday 22nd May 2024

(2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Douglas-Miller Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Douglas-Miller) (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness for her question. We have debated a number of times the issue of special measures, and I think I have been clear in the House every time I have stood at the Dispatch Box that the Government will use special measures when the criteria for them are met. I accept that that is quite a high bar, but there are a number of other options for all those water companies that they should fully explore before the Government will consider putting them into special measures.

Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Portrait Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville (LD)
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My Lords, the first television news on the Brixham infection indicated that contamination was contained to those already infected. The next day’s bulletin retracted that statement, telling viewers that the area of contamination had widened. Bottled water was available to some, but not all, living in that area. As the source was known to be a reservoir contaminated by animal faeces, why was action not taken sooner to alert people to the dangers of drinking their tap water and to provide everyone with bottled water?

Lord Douglas-Miller Portrait Lord Douglas-Miller (Con)
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I am always nervous of taking as fact what I read in the papers or listen to on the news. I have spent the morning speaking to the chief inspector of the Drinking Water Inspectorate and he is not able to tell me what the noble Baroness has told me. I am just guessing that he might have slightly better access to that information. It is dangerous to say with that level of assertion that that is what has happened, because it is not what I am hearing. It is a live investigation and I cannot go into the details of what I have been told. I can say that South West Water has been handing out bottled water and in many cases over the last week it has been prioritising priority service customers and vulnerable sites. It has opened three bottled water stations, at Broadsands car park, Freshwater Quarry car park and Churston car boot field. It is supporting both vulnerable areas and local residents with bottled water.

Water Companies: Failure

Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Excerpts
Tuesday 21st May 2024

(2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Douglas-Miller Portrait Lord Douglas-Miller (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness for her very comprehensive plan and look forward to talking to her in detail. In the meantime, I assure her that the Government and Ofwat, the financial regulator of the water sector, carefully monitor the situation. Ofwat continues to engage with Thames Water to support it in improving its resilience within the context of its licence and broader statutory obligations. Fundamentally, it is the companies’ responsibility to continue to raise capital, and they should continue to explore this while fulfilling their statutory obligations of providing water and wastewater services to their customers.

Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Portrait Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville (LD)
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My Lords, the noble Lord referred to the statutory instrument that sets out the action to be taken when water companies are teetering on the verge of bankruptcy, which was debated on 19 February and subsequently passed in the Chamber. The mechanisms are there, so why are the Government havering over implementation and allowing inadequate management of this vital asset to degenerate on a daily basis?

Lord Douglas-Miller Portrait Lord Douglas-Miller (Con)
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My Lords, there is a high bar for the imposition of a special administration regime. A variety of options remain available to Thames Water in securing additional finance and it is vital that all of them are fully explored. The Government are prepared for a range of scenarios across our regulated sectors. If it becomes clear that any company will become insolvent or can no longer fulfil its statutory duties, we will not hesitate to use our powers to request the court to place it into special administration.

Fly-tipping

Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Excerpts
Tuesday 14th May 2024

(2 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Douglas-Miller Portrait Lord Douglas-Miller (Con)
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The noble Baroness raises the issue that the previous noble Lord also raised. It is extremely difficult, by the very nature of the activity, to police it 100%. In his Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan, the Prime Minister made it clear that councils should take a tougher approach to enforcement and make greater use of the fixed penalties available to them. We have also taken steps to encourage councils to issue more of these penalties by increasing transparency on their use, through the publication of annual enforcement league tables. Councils must also now invest the income from this in enforcement activity and clean-up.

Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Portrait Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville (LD)
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My Lords, there has been discussion around the introduction of digital waste tracking by April 2025. This would make a huge difference to the amount of waste produced and dumped, and help to keep the countryside clear of waste pollutants. When is the SI covering digital waste tracking likely to be brought forward?

Lord Douglas-Miller Portrait Lord Douglas-Miller (Con)
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The noble Baroness is absolutely right about digital waste tracking, because it will reduce the ability of waste criminals to hide evidence of the mishandling of waste and will make it easier for authorities to identify waste dropping out of the system, which might indicate illegal activity, such as fly-tipping. Digital waste tracking records will be required when private waste management companies collect household waste. This should enable householders to check whether their waste has been disposed of properly. We are working towards the digital waste tracking service becoming mandatory from April 2025. Prior to the service being mandatory, there will be a period of public use when the service will be available for all to use on a voluntary basis.

Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill

Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Excerpts
Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con)
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My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for his engagement during the passage of the Bill and for the letter he sent me, which I read this afternoon. I echo the concerns expressed by the noble Baroness opposite, because I raised the concerns expressed by the NFU and others that there is still a potential loophole that my noble friend and his department might like to address.

I press my noble friend on reaching a phytosanitary agreement with the EU, the absence of which has meant that poultry producers have lost £85 million in chicken exports to the EU. Poultry exports decreased in value by 69% in the first quarter of 2021. The additional costs and burdens that they had to meet amounted to £60 million in 2021 alone. Those costs are not met by the EU producers, as there are no border controls.

I applaud my noble friend for taking up the issue of labelling, which we discussed on Report. I urge him to ensure that, at the very least, consumers will be made aware that the food they might be about to purchase has been produced in an EU country or a third country and does not meet the standards imposed on our home producers.

Finally, I ask him to use his good offices to ensure that the potential of a first border control post on the EU continental mainland will be achieved at Hook of Holland, using and converting the equine facilities there. Can he use his good offices to ensure that the port of Harwich can be identified as a reciprocal port, to make sure that we have the possibility of a border post and that our food exports reach the EU in a timely and affordable manner? Can he also ensure that we have an SPS agreement with the EU at the earliest possible opportunity?

Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Portrait Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville (LD)
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My Lords, we are at Third Reading; I will be brief and will not ask questions. I thank the Minister for his good humour and patience during the passage of this vital Bill, which had total cross-party support from the most ardent animal rights supporters in the Chamber. Although some of us might have preferred amendments, it was essential that the Bill pass without delay, and I congratulate the Minister on achieving its speedy passage.

Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab)
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My Lords, as it is Third Reading and this is supposed to be formal, I shall be very brief and just say how delighted I am to see how swiftly the Bill has made its passage through both Houses. It is an important Bill that many of us have campaigned to see for many years, and I very much welcome it and thank all those who have been involved.

Pet Abduction Bill

Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Excerpts
Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Portrait Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville (LD)
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My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Black of Brentwood, on his introduction to the Bill, which gave many examples of the poor treatment of abducted animals. He has a strong reputation on animal welfare issues and especially the well-being of dogs and cats. I am grateful to the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, Blue Cross and the House of Lords Library for their briefings. I declare my interest as a dog owner.

During Covid, there was an increase in the number of dogs stolen. Many were extremely valuable, and this is coupled with the rise in the price of puppies and kittens. The Government, following the work of the pet theft task force, are supportive of this Private Member’s Bill. Your Lordships would expect me to refer to the abandoned kept animals Bill, which would have seen legislation on this subject on the statute book before now if it had not been abandoned. The pet theft task force was set up in 2021, but we are now, in 2024, at last debating this issue of pet theft and abduction.

The Bill generated a lot of discussion in the other place, which I have read. The pet theft task force felt that the offence of pet abduction would shift the emphasis from the theft of goods, which has been referred to—this is the effect of the definition in previous legislation on stolen animals—to the welfare of the animal. Since the passage of the animal sentience Act, there has been much more emphasis on the plight of the animal and less on the owner. The noble Lord, Lord Holmes of Richmond, has referred to this and to the need for a more stringent sentence for miscreants.

It is right that the impact of being abducted on a cat or dog is considered. Many will be distraught at the separation from their owners, but it is equally true that the owners will be distraught at the loss of their treasured companions. For numerous elderly men and women who find themselves living on their own, a pet dog or cat is a lifeline. This is the companion that greets them when they get up in the morning and is behind the door when they come in from visiting the day centre or doing their shopping. This is the companion with which they will share their joys and woes. They do not get a verbal response in the way they would from a partner, but they do get affection and are dependable. To have this much-loved companion abducted can be devastating, causing anxiety and depression.

The Bill is a pragmatic way forward. The penalties for abduction are reasonably sufficient for those who are caught, but I am not sure that they will function as a deterrent for the determined criminal. The noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, indicated that he is not content with the penalties for those convicted of abduction and intends to table amendments for Committee.

Microchipping is an essential tool in reuniting a dog or cat with its owner, and perhaps it should be mandatory instead of just encouraged. It is the only fail-safe method of ensuring that the right pet is reunited with the right owner. Many of the abducted pets will be extremely valuable and will have cost their owners thousands of pounds. Others may have been acquired from animal rescue centres. Whatever the case, the loss to the owner is first and foremost emotional and, secondly, about the cost of the pet.

The noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, raised the issue of exotic pets. As someone who at one time kept what could be classed as exotic pets, I look forward to how the noble Lord will include these species in the Bill.

The Bill quite rightly does not get into the muddy waters of who gets custody of a pet after a relationship breakdown. I support the view that this is a matter for adults to negotiate for themselves. Nor will I be drawn into whether the emotional value of a dog is more than that of a cat—the owner will love their pet for what it is, whether a dog or a cat.

I have a couple of queries. First, I am slightly concerned about cross-border issues. This legislation refers to England and Wales, but it would be easy for abducted pets to be taken over the border to Scotland. Is there likely to be an arrangement with Scotland on the repatriation of pets?

Secondly, the penalties for abduction are severe and include prison sentences. Is it likely that the severity of the sentence would be linked to the value of the cat or dog? If the purpose of altering legislation is so that the pet is treated as a sentient animal and not an inanimate piece of property, as in the Theft Act 1968, it would seem that the sentence of convicted abductors should be linked not to the monetary value of the pet but to the distress caused to both the pet and its owner. Does the Minister agree?

I fully support this Private Member’s Bill and look forward to it passing on to the statute book quickly.

Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill

Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Excerpts
Lord de Clifford Portrait Lord de Clifford (CB)
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From the start of the passage of this Bill through the House, I have been in full support of its stated aims and the improvements it will bring to animal welfare in the farming sector. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, for her support for this amendment both in Committee and in the House today, and for her support and advice in helping me table my first amendment to any Bill in the House. I also express my sincere thanks to the Minister and his extensive team—from his office and Defra—for making time to meet me last week to discuss these amendments.

I still believe that this small amendment has merit, as it would provide future protection not just to animals currently listed in the Bill, but to all animals—such as cattle, horses, sheep, goats and pigs—from this unnecessary trade and long, arduous journeys to other countries. I acknowledge that the Government listened to the results of the initial consultation and to animal charities when preparing the list of animals that had been traded abroad for fattening and slaughter prior to us leaving the EU. This amendment seeks to provide a safety net for all animals in future, if a trade in animals such as rabbits, alpacas and deer were to start due to an opportunity being provided to some to increase income because of changes in society or the environment. In that case, the Minister of State could quickly stop that unnecessary and cruel trade, for the benefit of animal welfare, by extending the list of relevant livestock to include the relevant animal.

I took on board from our meeting the Minister’s enthusiasm to get this Bill on to the statute book as quickly as possible. If the Government supported this amendment, it would delay the passage of the Bill. Given current pressure on parliamentary time, an unwanted consequence might be that time is not found for the Bill to be reconsidered in the other place, resulting in it being lost. That is something I do not wish to see, as the Bill will improve conditions for many animals. I also note concerns about more delegated powers being granted to Ministers of State, which I understand is something we prefer not to do too often. I beg to move.

Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Portrait Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville (LD)
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My Lords, I am conscious that we are on Report and should not, therefore, repeat speeches we have previously made. We are all aware that the whole thrust of the Bill is to prevent live animals experiencing long and distressing journeys to Europe to be fattened or slaughtered. The Bill is short and specific as to the types of animals within its remit.

The noble Lord, Lord de Clifford, has raised again the issue of extending the list of relevant livestock. As the Bill stands, there can be no extension of species: only those listed in Clause 1(4) are covered by the Bill. I believe this is short-sighted. Those of us involved in the passage of the Bill, both in this Chamber and the other place, are not able to anticipate what other species might become attractive for export for fattening or slaughter in future. During the debates at the various stages, other species have been mentioned by noble Lords. It seems sensible and humane for additional species to be added in future without the need for separate legislation to ensure this happens.

The two amendments from the noble Lord, Lord de Clifford, give the Secretary of State, Scottish Ministers and Welsh Ministers the power to amend the list of “relevant livestock”. This is not an outlandish request but a very sensible and pragmatic way forward.

I am aware of the shortage of legislative time for the Bill to pass. I am also mindful that making amendments means that it must return to the Commons, which would delay it getting on to the statute book. However, I also have the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Fookes, from earlier stages of the debate, ringing in my ears. She said that if it is not in the Bill, it will not happen. I subscribe to that view.

I strongly support these two amendments and am looking for reassurance from the Minister that there will be some flexibility in future to ensure that, if necessary, other species can be included in the Bill.

Baroness Fookes Portrait Baroness Fookes (Con)
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My Lords, my name has already been mentioned in this regard and, like others who have spoken, I am fully in sympathy with and support of the thrust of the amendments before us. I worry, however, about what happens if we pass such an amendment and it has to go back to the Commons. I do not know how close we are to a general election, but it is all too easy for things to get lost, particularly when there are other major Bills—perhaps of more interest to others than to us—which might get much further ahead in the queue. Having waited 50 years for a Bill such as this to be passed, I am desperately anxious that it does not fall at the last hurdle. So, reluctantly, I would not wish to vote for this amendment, but my heart is there for it. It is simply a pragmatic reaction.

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Moved by
2: After Clause 6, insert the following new Clause—
“Review of the impact on farmingWithin six months of the day on which this Act is passed, the Secretary of State must publish and lay before Parliament a review of the impact of this Act on farming in Great Britain.”
Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Portrait Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville (LD)
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My Lords, following the debate in Committee and the Minister’s comments, I have retabled my amendment. The NFU, which represents the farming community, is concerned that the import of both live animals and carcasses of animals that have not been raised to the same welfare standards as pertained in the UK will undercut our own industrious farmers.

The issue of cheaper imports of live animals and carcasses for the food industry has been of constant concern to British farmers since the country voted to leave the EU. The benefit from the relaxation of rules and regulations promised as a result of Brexit has failed to materialise, and farmers are leaving their profession at an alarming rate. The quest for cheaper food at any cost is not a mantra that we should be signing up to as a country. Farming is not a job where you clock on at 8.30 am and clock off at 5.30 pm; it is a way of life, a vocation that involves a love of the land and growing crops and vegetables, and rearing quality livestock to high welfare standards to produce meat that consumers want to buy. The British public want to support our farmers. They do not want to see them undercut, disadvantaged and forced out of business by substandard imports.

The border control regime introduced recently is having an adverse effect on the food and farming communities. In my amendment, I ask that, six months after the Bill’s implementation, a review is undertaken to assess the effect of the measures in the Bill on our farming community. Coupled with the changes made with the rolling out of ELMS and the appalling weather we have suffered, there has been a detrimental impact on farmers. The Bill, which is so important for animal welfare and our country’s reputation for high standards for animal welfare, could be the last straw for many farmers. I urge the Government to agree to this amendment so that a review of the real state of the farming community can be carried out and action taken, if needed, to help support this vital element of our economy and landscape. I beg to move.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con)
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My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, on bringing forward this amendment. While I will not support it at a vote, for reasons that were rehearsed in the previous debate, I hope that my noble friend the Minister will look carefully at having a review of the impact on farming, for a number of reasons.

First, the noble Baroness referred to the importance of farming to rural areas and indeed the country as a whole. According to the figures prepared by the NFU for Second Reading, the United Kingdom is one of the largest livestock producers in Europe, with an industry that is worth £14.7 billion to the economy each year. Compared to the export of fresh and frozen meat, live export from GB is a small, but important, component of the sector. In 2020, the UK exported a total of 751 million live animals. As we know, now that there are effectively no border control posts in the EU, that trade is effectively not happening anymore.

In the letter that my noble friend very kindly sent to us following Second Reading, he states:

“The final destination for the vast majority of livestock exported for slaughter from Northern Ireland is the Republic of Ireland with around 1,800 cattle, 13,200 pigs and 352,000 sheep moved directly to slaughter in 2023”.


He went on:

“By comparison, only 11,000 sheep were exported for slaughter from Northern Ireland to continental Europe”.


He then states:

“There were no movements of livestock from Northern Ireland for slaughter or fattening to destinations beyond other parts of the UK and Europe”.


I take this opportunity to press my noble friend for any reassurance he can give the House that this is indeed the case. We debated this in Committee, and it was also debated in the other place. I am not convinced that the loophole does not remain. There is a possibility for even longer journeys than those that went through the channel ports, and that the category of animal covered by the Bill may be exported from the Republic of Ireland to the rest of the European Union.

My noble friend has always replied to questions from me and others about the reasons why there are no border control posts on continental Europe at this time. He quite rightly states that it is a matter of commercial interest for those ports. Surely my noble friend will agree that it is a matter of great commercial interest for those livestock producers who have spent generations investing heavily in the genetics of the breeding stock of the United Kingdom that, at this point, there is no possibility of exporting breeding stock for breeding purposes. I would like an assurance from my noble friend that this will resume at the earliest possible opportunity.

I would like to update the House on a briefing I have had from the NFU in this regard. This was at an earlier stage; there may have been further developments since then. The NFU states that there is a genuine will to establish a reciprocal route between Harwich and Hook of Holland. The Dutch port authorities, the NVWA, Stena Line and a commercial operator all want to press ahead. The NFU had heard that there was going to be a change in EU regulation that would allow an existing equine facility to be licensed and approved for ungulates, subject to the appropriate scheduling and protocols: full licensing and disinfection of the facility. I looked this up, and ungulates are mammals on the hoof, with which many noble Lords will be familiar.

The existing equine border control post in Hook of Holland has five stables and could accommodate consignments of about 10 cattle, 25 sheep or 25 pigs. If dual use is not possible, there is an unused area adjacent to the office area of the border control post that could be retrofitted with penning and a small handling system. If this was allowed to proceed, it would carry more weight to a modest border control post development at Harwich. I declare my interest in that I was the MEP for Harwich for 10 years, and I maintain an interest in the development of the port on a purely personal basis.

If that is the case, will my noble friend the Minister concede that it is now a matter of urgency to proceed with the creation of a border control post at Hook of Holland, where equine facilities could be converted in very short order? Will he use his and Defra’s good offices and lend their weight to such a proposal? I personally believe that it is unacceptable that this trade is not going on at the moment. It is clearly not a Brexit dividend and is really harming livestock production in this country. At Second Reading, the National Sheep Association informed us that, because of the lack of a border control post in the EU, most of the trade has simply not happened since we left the European Union. Therefore, the Bill is not necessary because it is not happening and it will not happen any time soon.

I conclude by pressing my noble friend on the figures and saying why I believe the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, is right to press for this amendment. The figures for food and live animals are simply not clear. On a cursory glance of the UK trade figures from the Office for National Statistics, we are told that currently EU imports to the UK are £3.2 billion—which means the EU remains the largest exporter to the UK —and imports from non-EU countries are £1.3 billion. I am sure the House will appreciate that it is not clear in the figures what are live imports and exports, and what are clean or dressed pig carcasses or other imports. Those figures could be more greatly clarified than is currently the case. It would be very helpful if my noble friend was able to share that information today. If not, it would be enormously interesting if he could write to us.

Finally, it is a note of enormous regret that, while we have banned—for very good reasons—battery cage egg and poultry production in this country, we are now harming our own producers by importing eggs and poultry from third countries to the tune of billions. That is a complete own goal, and I hope that the Government will address it at the earliest opportunity.

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Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Portrait Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville (LD)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baronesses who have taken part in this short debate. I reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, that were there a review of the impact of this Bill on the farming community, it would not be my wish that the exportation of live animals for slaughter or fattening should recommence—absolutely not. I am committed to the fact that the Bill will stop that happening; it is a revolting practice and causes a lot of animal suffering. I am absolutely clear about that.

My concern is about the impact of the continuing changes that are going on around farmers and their cumulative effect on them. I thank the Minister for his response and his reassurances. I sincerely hope that he is right that the impact on farmers will be minimal. Farmers are continually undermined on all fronts, in some cases by the import of cheaper produce that is not produced to the same standard as our own British farmers’ produce—the Minister referred to this.

I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, for raising the issue of labelling. I would be grateful if the Minister could copy me into whatever response he gives to her, because it is important that when the consumer buys something they know whether or not it is from an animal that has been reared to the same standards as our own. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 2 withdrawn.

Sea Fisheries (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2024

Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Excerpts
Tuesday 7th May 2024

(2 months, 2 weeks ago)

Grand Committee
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Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Portrait Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville (LD)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his introduction and for his time, and that of his officials, in providing a briefing on this statutory instrument.

When reading through the Explanatory Memorandum and the SI itself, I was confused about what exactly was expected of both commercial fisheries and recreational fishers. I am delighted that Atlantic tuna stocks have increased to such an extent that the UK is now in a position to be allocated quota for the fishing of tuna to begin once again.

Of the quota currently allocated to the UK as a whole by the international commission, as the Minister has said, 39 tonnes is for commercial fisheries, 16 tonnes is for recreational fishers and 10 tonnes is for research purposes. Commercial fisheries will apply for a licence and recreational fishers for a permit. Whatever is caught has be measured, weighed and recorded. The commercial fisheries will get to land their catch and send it to be sold and the recreational fishers will have to throw their catch back, live if at all possible, under the CHART programme and ICCAT requirements. I understand that, for a recreational fisher, the skill of the man or woman against the guile of the fish is a great part of the experience, but it seems to me that not to be able to land your catch at all, even though you have a permit, is likely to discourage rather than encourage applying for a permit in the first place.

My only concern with this SI is the enforcement of the quota against the fish caught and landed. The restrictions are strict on how this should happen. It will be easy for enforcement authorities to see who has a commercial licence, and thus be alerted to a commercial vessel fishing for bluefin tuna without a licence and so take action. On the recreational front, I think this will be more difficult: the fisher with a permit is likely to be indistinguishable at sea from the fisher with no permit. The fisher with no permit may also be fishing for other fish and hiding their tuna catch among that fish, and certainly not throwing the tuna back.

Extensive consultation took place on this SI and the previous one we debated in February. I have read this and understand that the consultation was positive, for the greater part, and welcomed the introduction of the quota and the way in which it was to be monitored. However, I would be grateful if the Minister could say how the bluefin tuna fish quotas are to be policed. Are there sufficient personnel to carry out effective monitoring of this new fishing quota, and will this be carried out by the MMO?

I understand that the main concentration of UK bluefin tuna is around Scarborough, Scotland and Ireland, and obviously around Wales as well if the Welsh are considering applying for a quota. This should help with the policing. However, it is likely that some fishers and charter boats will try their luck outside these areas. How are the other areas to be policed?

The Minister indicated that once the quota limit has been reached, fishing for bluefin tuna will cease for that year. Since the monitoring of what is caught and landed appears to be very tight, it should be easy to ascertain when the quota limit has been reached, but this will not take account of any illegal fishing that has taken place. Can the Minister give reassurances on this matter?

I am delighted that tuna stocks have recovered to such an extent that the UK is now eligible for quota allocation. However, it will be essential for the catch to be strictly monitored against the quota in order to prevent overfishing in the future. I have to say that I am very concerned by the remarks from the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, about the banning of fishing for pollock. I look forward to the Minister’s response to his questions.

Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his thorough introduction to this SI. He talked about bluefin tuna or, as they are known in the SI, BFT, which means I can think of them only as the “Big Friendly Tuna”. They were pushed to the brink of extinction because of overfishing, so it is really welcome that the fish have returned to UK waters over the past decade and that populations are recovering in other areas such as the Mediterranean, as noble Lords have referred to.

I want to look at just a few bits. Paragraph 7.10 of the Explanatory Memorandum outlines that

“Defra intends to open a BFT CRRF”—

I have not decided what else CRRF could be, but there are a lot of acronyms in the Explanatory Memorandum. The maximum scale of the CRRF is to do with the availability of the quota. We heard in the Minister’s introduction and in noble Lords’ comments about the implications of that quota in the long term, not just as it is set now.

I was also interested to see in paragraph 10.3 that there was a fairly thorough consultation between July and September 2023. Paragraph 10.3 outlines a number of ways in which the scheme has been revised following the consultation. One of the things I wanted to pick up on, and I will come back to, is the reasons why the introduction of permit charges was delayed.

One of the responses to this announcement was from the leader of the Blue Marine Foundation, Charles Clover—I am sure the Minister knows this. Charles Clover said he is anxious that

“we are just starting off a cycle of commercial fishing far too early in its recovery which we cannot control. We are creating a new commercial interest in fishing bluefin which will need close scrutiny. Realistically, the survival of the bluefin now will be about setting quotas strictly within scientific advice”.

Clearly, we all want this to work. Can the Minister say something regarding Charles Clover’s concerns? On the face of it, the quota that has been brought in by Defra looks absolutely fine, and we support the SI, but, having looked at the Blue Marine Foundation’s comments, I ask the Minister: how will the quota be kept under review? Will Defra be prepared to make significant changes if the data suggests that any changes are needed? How would that come into play?

On that point, I want to look at what my noble friend Lord Berkeley said about pollock. Again, this is about the accuracy of quotas, when this is reviewed, how it is implemented and the impacts on the fishing industry. It is often very small boats that rely on this for their living.

To come back to the postponement of the introduction of permits, the Explanatory Memorandum says that

“the introduction of charges for permits has been postponed, to allow time for further work to confirm the scope and scale of such charges, as well as how any charging income would be used”.

Questions were asked about the delay in charging for permits when this SI was debated in the other place. The Minister responded that permits would ensure that

“the whole industry will be conducted responsibly, with the best welfare in mind”,—[Official Report, Commons, Fourth Delegated Legislation Committee, 24/4/24; col. 8.]

which obviously we support, but it would be useful to have a bit more information as to the timescales for this, what is likely to happen and what it is likely to look like when it comes in. What does “further work” mean? What kind of work is being carried out? It would be useful to know. Having said that, we are supportive of this. It is good for the industry and for coastal communities, and it is great that we have tuna back.

I hope the Minister will forgive me, because I know this is not what the SI is about, but I want briefly to raise concerns about the salmon farming industry, following a story I read in the media this morning. Official figures from the Scottish Government suggest that farmed salmon mortality hit record levels last year, with over 17 million deaths. There has been increased incidence of mass mortality events in farms elsewhere in the world. We know that these mass die-offs are believed to include sea lice infestations and environmental stressors, such as poor oxygen levels in water, with overpopulation of pens exacerbating the problems.

I was concerned about Defra’s decision to allow Salmon Scotland’s application to change the protected name wording on the front packaging from “Scottish farmed salmon” to “Scottish salmon”, as I think that is pretty misleading. That change is also not supported by Animal Equality UK and WildFish, which say that, as well as being misleading, it breaches assimilated EU Regulation 1151/2012—the Minister may want to write that down—on quality schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs. I am aware that this is outside the scope and subject of this SI, and I apologise to the Minister for being a little cheeky, but I know that he has a particular interest in and knowledge of this area, so I would be grateful if he could look into this.

Sewage Pollution: Lakes and Rivers

Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Excerpts
Tuesday 30th April 2024

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Douglas-Miller Portrait Lord Douglas-Miller (Con)
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The noble Duke has a profound knowledge of this issue, so I will bow to that on this occasion. I commit to speaking to the Environment Agency on this issue and will take that point forward.

Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Portrait Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville (LD)
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My Lords, there should be a general principle of transparency and openness where water companies are concerned. A tribunal recently overturned the ICO’s decision to support a water company’s attempt to withhold sewage flow data. It is unlikely that water companies will publish information unless forced to do so. Will the Minister change Ofwat’s strategic statement to make it clear that transparency—the routine publication of sewage data—is a condition of licensing?

Lord Douglas-Miller Portrait Lord Douglas-Miller (Con)
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I will certainly commit to taking the noble Baroness’s suggestion back to the department.

Fur: Import and Sale

Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Excerpts
Monday 22nd April 2024

(3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Douglas-Miller Portrait Lord Douglas-Miller (Con)
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My Lords, there is a good news story on this, because the volume of fur that is imported and exported has fallen by 50% in the past five years. In the action plan for animal welfare, Defra committed to explore potential action in relation to the import of fur from abroad. The call for evidence that Defra published in 2021 was a key step in delivering that commitment. A summary of the replies received should be published in due course; in the meantime, we are continuing to build our evidence base on the fur sector, which will be used to inform any future action on the fur trade. We have also commissioned a report from our expert Animal Welfare Committee, which I mentioned earlier, on what constitutes responsible sourcing in the fur industry. This report will support our understanding of the fur industry and help to inform our next steps.

Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Portrait Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville (LD)
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My Lords, the import of fur is unnecessary. The killing of Canadian bears for their pelts is still used to make bearskin headgear for the Grenadier Guards at Buckingham Palace. These come at a minimum cost of £650 each. The MoD orders between 50 and 100 bearskins each year. In 2020, the MoD stated that the quality of alternative material did not match natural fur. Surely, the Minister would agree that it is time for this unnecessary practice to be discontinued without delay.

Lord Douglas-Miller Portrait Lord Douglas-Miller (Con)
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My Lords, the wearing of bearskins by the Guards division is a matter for the Ministry of Defence. We are continuing to build our evidence base on the fur sector, which will be used to inform the future of the fur trade, and we will continue to share this evidence with other government departments, including the Ministry of Defence.

Official Controls (Fees and Charges) (Amendment) Regulations 2024

Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Excerpts
Thursday 18th April 2024

(3 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Finally, my understanding—I stand to be corrected if I am wrong about this—is that the rates in the SIs we are debating now cover only the points of entry at Eurotunnel and the Port of Dover. Other commercial entry points—about 30 of them—are setting their own rates. Can the Minister tell me anything about what those rates will be? Are they paralleling these rates, in essence, or are they higher? Of course, it is very difficult for companies to move from one supply chain to another so what is the situation there, particularly for small and medium enterprises? I stress that supermarkets and big commercial companies will be able to pass on these costs but that is often not the case for small and medium-sized enterprises. This is of great concern to many sectors in that small and medium-sized business area.
Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Portrait Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville (LD)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his introduction to these two statutory instruments. On the face of it, they seem fairly straightforward and relate to the border target operating model. The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee has flagged that this is a matter of interest to the House.

The first instrument relates to sanitary and phytosanitary border controls—SPS. The second relates to SPS controls applying to imports of live animals, animal products, high-risk food and feed of non-animal origin, plants and plant products at the border. This second SI contains a large and potentially complex list of products; however, the instrument appears to deal only with plants and plant products. Also, the risk-based import checks on medium-risk goods applies to goods from some countries that are EU member states, as well as Liechtenstein and Switzerland. These countries’ goods that are not within scope include fruit and vegetables, which are currently treated as low risk.

I have some questions about these two instruments and wish to ask for some clarification. Paragraph 7.3 of the Explanatory Memorandum for the first instrument, on fees and charges, states:

“This instrument changes the duty to charge to a power to charge by extending the circumstances in which the CA”—


competent authority—

“may reduce charges or waive them altogether”.

The Minister has mentioned this already. I am concerned that, if the charge is waived, it could mean that the imported product would be cheaper than a homegrown or home-produced one, which would disadvantage our farmers and horticulturalists. Can the Minister provide reassurance on this issue?

The ability to waive charges also seems at odds with the second instrument, on official charges and frequency of checks. Paragraph 7.2 of its EM states:

“Changes are being made to the fees legislation to reflect the level of identity and physical checks determined in accordance with the 2022 Regulations … ensuring the full cost of services to conduct import checks are recovered from businesses using these services”.


Further on, the last sentence of paragraph 7.4 says:

“The existing fees legislation ensures that the cost of plant health services, including import inspections, is recovered via fees”.


Either the fees are to be charged on a cost-recovery basis or they can be reduced—or waived altogether. Perhaps one SI legislates for full cost recovery while the other allows for the waiving of fees and charges. Can the Minister give clarity on this issue?

Paragraph 7.4 of the first instrument’s EM states that

“not all consignments will … attend a BCP”—

a border control post. It also says that fees and charges can be levied digitally and away from the BCP. Some have raised concerns that this may not be safe and that consignments should be capable of being inspected at the BCP. The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, also raised concerns about the security of plants. Can the Minister comment?

Consultation through targeted stakeholders ran for 10 weeks. The second instrument’s EM indicates:

“The respondents were generally supportive”.


I have read the letter from Defra, dated 24 February, on the consultation responses; I have also looked at the responses online. There were three. Two were from Scottish businesses that raised no concerns. The third was from the NFU; it highlighted its concern about the flat rate fee for plants for planting, which should be extended to include bulbs for planting, and the definition of the final user. Defra’s response to the NFU was that its concerns are outside the scope of the consultation as the instrument is for medium-risk goods while bulbs are high-risk goods. On this basis, we are told that the consultation response was “generally supportive”, which just goes to show that, with a bit of ingenuity, you can make a consultation give whatever response you want it to.

The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee raised concerns about the common user charge, which is to be introduced later this year and does not require legislation. This means that there will be no parliamentary oversight of the charge, its impact and whether it will be draconian or not likely to actually cover the costs of implementation. Would the Minister care to comment on the introduction of this common user charge?

I am not opposed to these two SIs, but I am somewhat dismayed by the way in which they are being introduced and the lack of clarity over the implementation of the charges and fees. I look forward to the Minister’s clarification.

Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab)
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My Lords, looking first at the Official Controls (Fees and Charges) (Amendment) Regulations in front of us, previous speakers have clearly raised concerns about BTOM. I have also done so in the past; the Minister and I have discussed this in the Chamber previously. However, with this SI, we are particularly concerned about the potential impact on small businesses and the fact that the charges also need to be considered in the broader context of the increased charges, particularly for small businesses, since we left the EU. I am aware that the Government believe that there is not going to be any serious impact on small businesses but our concerns come from within that broader context, because we know that British importers have been paying further costs over the last few years since we moved to the new system of trade with the EU.

Around 30% of the food that we consume in the UK comes from the EU, so it is incredibly important that, when we bring in new systems, we avoid any confusion, chaos or delays. It would be useful to hear reassurances from the Minister on these issues because small businesses are particularly worried about this, as well as the increased costs. Once you start getting delays, as I am sure the Minister knows, they have a huge impact on perishable fresh produce. How confident is the Minister that this can go through smoothly?

The British Chambers of Commerce has complained to the Government about the lack of communication and information provided. How has the Minister’s department been working with businesses, particularly small businesses, on improving the communications and information that chambers of commerce have raised concerns about? What clarifications have been provided following the concerns raised?

The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, talked about the fact that this provides competent authorities with greater flexibility to determine fees and charges, and that this is now on a recovery basis. She asked some questions around that, but I just wondered if there are any precedents for recovery like this, with fees and charges being done on a cost-recovery basis. What are the precedents around that?

The other thing I was going to raise also applies, to a certain extent, to the plant health SI and is around the lack of consultation. I am aware that there is no statutory duty to consult on this issue but, considering the number of concerns that have been raised around BTOM and its rollout, including the very late announcement of the common user charge, I wonder whether the department might have followed a different process, with the benefit of hindsight. It could have done a bit more consultation with industry to avoid those concerns and late rollouts. In future, when looking at the different trade mechanisms that will need to come in, will it perhaps look more broadly at working with business at an earlier stage to avoid some of the, shall we say, glitches that have happened?

I agree with very much with what both noble Baronesses have said already on the draft plant health fees statutory instrument, so I will not go into great detail. The concerns of the Horticultural Trades Association have been clearly laid out: the impact of the volume of checks that will be required and whether that will lead to further delays. The importance of the horticultural sector to our economy needs greater recognition. It would be good if the Minister could give some indication to the Horticultural Trades Association on ornamental horticulture, plus vine horticulture, tomatoes, and others. We have seen gaps on our supermarkets shelves in recent years. It would be very good if our horticultural sector was better supported and encouraged.