National Food Strategy Independent Review

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Excerpts
Tuesday 20th July 2021

(2 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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One of the most fascinating parts of the report was when it spoke about satiety. The junk food cycle is based on the desire to eat more than we need to feel sated. That is a real problem and a cycle that we have to break if we are to tackle obesity and other wider health issues.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait The Senior Deputy Speaker (Lord Gardiner of Kimble)
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My Lords, the time allowed for this Question has elapsed.

Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Excerpts
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Gardiner of Kimble) (Con)
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My Lords, before my noble friend Lord Randall of Uxbridge proceeds with the Bill, I will make a very brief statement about legislative consent. The Bill, which increases the maximum custodial penalty for the worst acts of animal cruelty, has enjoyed cross-party support in both Houses. It would bring both England and Wales into line with the existing sentencing regimes for animal cruelty offences in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Animal welfare is a devolved matter, meaning that the Bill is subject to the legislative consent process. The Welsh Government laid a legislative consent memorandum for the Bill before the Senedd in February, advising that they support the Bill applying to Wales.

The timing of the Senedd elections and the Queen’s Speech means that there is now insufficient time for the Senedd to consider a legislative consent Motion before the end of this Session of the UK Parliament. Letting the Bill fall at this very late stage would be a regrettable outcome for both England and Wales alike. Given the circumstances, and mindful of the support expressed for the Bill by both the Welsh Government and other parties in Wales, the UK Government have decided to maintain their support for the Bill, notwithstanding that the Senedd has yet to pass a consent Motion. In the event that the Bill receives Royal Assent tomorrow, as I would hope, the incoming Senedd would have time to provide its support for the Bill after the election period and before the Act comes into force. We believe that this represents a pragmatic solution that will deliver widely supported enhancements to welfare and protection of animals in England and Wales.

Motion

Moved by

Common Organisation of the Markets in Agricultural Products (Wine) (Amendment, etc.) Regulations 2021

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Excerpts
Thursday 15th April 2021

(2 years, 12 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Moved by
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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That the Grand Committee do consider the Common Organisation of the Markets in Agricultural Products (Wine) (Amendment, etc.) Regulations 2021.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Gardiner of Kimble) (Con)
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My Lords, this instrument concerns protection of geographical indications in Great Britain. GIs are a form of intellectual property protection for the names of food, drink and agricultural products with qualities attributable to the place they are produced or the traditional methods by which they are made. Wider examples include Scotch whisky, Welsh lamb and Melton Mowbray pork pies. This instrument concerns only wines such as an English regional wine, iconic products such as champagne and Rioja, and corresponding traditional terms: for example, grand cru or sparkling. It contains a necessary amendment to the retained EU regulation which provides the legal basis for the wine geographical indication scheme.

The amendment made by this short and technical instrument corrects an error in the original legislation, identified since the end of the transition period. I express my considerable apology and regret for this. Clearly, one seeks to have all legislation in the perfect form. I can report that this error was identified within the department. We immediately sought to remedy it, hence this instrument has used the “made affirmative” procedure. It ensures that the proper registration and protection of GIs and traditional terms in Great Britain continues and that the UK maintains compliance with its international agreements.

This SI does not make any wider policy changes. It corrects article 107 of retained EU regulation 1308/2013, concerning protected wine names and traditional terms. Three separate exit instruments provided for amendments in relation to this article, but in the process an inadvertent revocation was made of the text that was intended to be in place. This instrument puts the intended provision in place, ensuring that all established wine GIs and traditional terms are fully protected and legitimately appear on a public register of wines and traditional terms. “Established” means those names that were protected under the relevant EU schemes on the last day of the transition period. This in turn ensures that the UK Government fully comply with their GI commitments under the EU withdrawal agreement, and the WTO’s TRIPS obligations—the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement.

As well as making a direct amendment to a retained EU regulation, the instrument includes a corresponding revocation of domestic secondary legislation. The provision revoked is Regulation 6(3) of SI 2020/1452, one of the previous exit instruments I mentioned. As the provision has been rendered ineffective, it is being removed for clarity.

Since this instrument entered into force on 10 March 2021, the relevant entries in our public GI registers have been updated to show the date of registration as 10 March, rather than 31 December 2020. This change has been made to just over 2,000 records; seven of these are UK names, the rest are predominantly from EU countries. We have engaged with the Food Standards Agency and the network of trading standards authorities, who have confirmed that they are not aware of any wine GI infringements during this period.

We have also engaged with the European Commission and have provided reassurance that we are not aware of any breaches with respect to the affected product names given our checks with the responsible bodies. Furthermore, we have confirmed with the Intellectual Property Office that there have not been any conflicts with trademark applications during the period in question. We have also engaged with the two main UK wine trade bodies, the Wine and Spirit Trade Association and WineGB, and with the Scottish and Welsh Governments. All were appreciative of the quick efforts we had taken to rectify the error and our engagement with them; they reported no knowledge of any breaches to affected product names. I reassure your Lordships that all product names under the three other GI schemes have not been affected, including spirit drinks and agri- foods, nor are wine GIs and traditional terms which are protected domestically through other international agreements.

As I have outlined, the regulations in this instrument are essential to ensure that the UK and EU wine GIs and traditional terms are appropriately protected in Great Britain, and that we comply with our important international obligations. For those reasons, I beg to move.

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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to what has been a very constructive debate. It is clearly essential that we have the right legislation in place for the effective operation of the UK’s wine GI scheme, with appropriate product name protections visibly in place.

I enjoyed my noble friend Lord Hannan of Kingsclere’s absolute endorsement of viticulture in this country, and if I could trade some counties with my him and the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, in Suffolk we have some excellent wine production as well. Clearly, the champagne houses are not only buying land in Kent because of climate change but also because the soil structure is very similar to that obviously famous part of France—and that is why there is this commitment. The export of English and Welsh wines, in particular, around the world is an area of expansion and growth, and I am pleased that my noble friend mentioned innovation start-ups, which are really important.

I reiterate to both noble Baronesses my regret that the error has happened, but I would also like to remark upon their thoughtfulness in raising the matter of the official, whom I am not allowed to name, who detected this error. I am very grateful for their generosity. I am aware—as we all are, because we are all engaged in this—of the significant pressures on both policy and legal teams with regard to the SI programme. This was particularly the case in the run-up to the end of the transition. That is why, to pick up the important point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, we will continue to review and improve our processes in respect of legal and policy checks and clearances of legislation. This will include a consideration as to whether there is enough resource in place. I regret every error; the perfect form is something we strive for, but sometimes these things happen. I will always be up front when they do, but we obviously need to do everything we can to stop these issues manifesting themselves.

My noble friends raised the issue of VI-1s, which already exist for wine imports from other origins, such as Australia, the United States and Chile. These wines remain extremely competitive in our, and, indeed, the EU’s, marketplace. We believe the new self-certification requirement to be appropriate and affordable.

I also say to my noble friends, particularly my noble friends Lord Moynihan and Lord Holmes of Richmond, that leaving the EU of course gives us the opportunity to consider and review changes in policy to suit the needs of British people and our businesses. We will continue to monitor all areas of retained EU law, including those concerning wine certification, to ensure that they are fit for purpose. I remember my noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond raising the electronic transmission of wine certification strongly in debate on the Agriculture Bill. It is possible to transmit by those means and we will consider all aspects of VI-1 processes and their transmission. Our immediate attention has been focused on whether VI-1s serve a practical and useful purpose in today’s global wine trade. However, I remember the document and officials are considering this area.

A number of points were also made about the whole scenario of the wine world, including by the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter. The first thing to say is that the United Kingdom is one of the most important global wine-trading nations. The UK is second only to the United States of America in the value of imports. She also raised the point that there were issues, which we have all identified, post the end of the transition with imports and arrival. My understanding is that these matters are improving all the time, as paperwork becomes better understood. A lot of attention has been paid to this and it is improving. It was interesting that imports from France and Italy were down by 10% in 2020, compared to 2019, but imports from Spain were up by 10%. Those are the three countries which have a significant supply issue.

I certainly want to take up the opportunities that my noble friends have raised for exports of our excellent English and Welsh wines. I should also say that we have recently extended the easement where any wines arriving from the EU will not need to have associated wine certification to 1 January 2022. This will provide time for the sector to adjust to the new trading arrangements, including those set out under the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

I agree that there have been these initial problems with exports to certain EU member states. We have a considerable interest in wine exports to the EU, of course, which total about £400 million per annum. This is largely made up of re-exports of imported wine from countries such as Australia, Chile and the United States, and fine wines from all around the world. Those problems are very important not only for our own domestic wine but obviously for this significant re-exporting, which is a key feature and part of the employment aspects of this sector.

We have been working hard with the companies concerned in this area and with their agents, our diplomatic network and member states to resolve the immediate issues, and what can be done to ensure these problems do not reoccur for future shipments. I cannot promise that we are in the perfect form on these matters as yet. What I know is that, across the piece, as exports have been building up since 1 January, these issues have been resolved and trade is starting to re-energise itself—not only because of coronavirus but because of the work we are doing in this sector.

With those comments and, if I may say so, a general endorsement of the opportunities for domestic wine consumption and exports, I recommend that the Committee agrees to these regulations so that we can rectify an error which, thank goodness, was identified by an excellent official. There was no issue with any goods and, from the work we have done, we are clear that there was no issue of any difficulty during those nine weeks. We would of course not have wanted that to arise. I will look at Hansard in case there are some points that I may not have covered, but with those remarks I commend the instrument to the Committee.

Motion agreed.

Plant Health etc. (Fees) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2021

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Excerpts
Thursday 15th April 2021

(2 years, 12 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Moved by
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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That the Grand Committee do consider the Plant Health etc. (Fees) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2021.

Relevant document: 50th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Gardiner of Kimble) (Con)
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My Lords, this instrument extends the current regime of charging for plant health import checks to apply to checks carried out on consignments from EU member states, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. This is in line with the standard approach that the full cost of service delivery be recovered from businesses using plant health services.

It is our responsibility to protect biosecurity across plant and animal health, and the wider ecosystem. To that end, plant health checks—documentary, identity and physical—are carried out on regulated consignments imported into England from non-EU countries which may carry pests or diseases that could pose a risk to our biosecurity. Currently, the highest-risk commodities are subject to 100% documentary, identity and physical checks. The level of identity and physical checks on other commodities is based on risk.

During our membership of the EU, plants and plant products were able to enter the UK from EU member states without the need for any import checks. However, inspections carried out as part of Defra surveillance programmes have identified instances where EU consignments have contained plant pests or diseases that could pose a threat to UK biosecurity.

To address that threat, and in line with retained law, from 1 January 2021 the existing regime of plant health checks is being extended to consignments of regulated plants, plant products and other objects imported from EU member states, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Under the agreed phased approach, which allows businesses time to adjust to the new arrangements, higher-risk goods, such as plants for planting, have been subject to documentary, identity and physical checks from January. This has already resulted in a number of interceptions of consignments with pests and diseases, allowing appropriate statutory action to be taken. Documentary checks on other, lower-risk regulated plants, plant products and other objects will commence on 1 January 2022, with identity and physical checks applied from March 2022.

It is UK government policy to charge for many publicly provided goods and services. The standard approach is to set fees to recover the full costs of service delivery. This relieves the general taxpayer of costs, so that they are properly borne by users who benefit from a service. This allows for a more equitable distribution of public resources and enables lower public expenditure and borrowing. Charging for plant health services is consistent with the principle that businesses using these services should bear the costs of any measures to prevent harm that they might otherwise cause by their actions or inactions, since most serious plant pests and diseases that arrive and spread in this country do so via commercial trade in plants and plant produce.

Fees are applied for checks under the Plant Health etc. (Fees) (England) Regulations 2018. For lower-risk consignments eligible for reduced levels of physical checks, a proportionally reduced fee is applied to every imported consignment. This SI amends the 2018 regulations. It extends charging for plant health checks to also apply to checks carried out on consignments from EU member states, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. In addition to ensuring equity with those importing from non-EU countries, it also reflects that exports into the EU are subject to chargeable import checks, so there is a degree of reciprocity.

We have worked closely with individual operators and industry bodies, including the Horticultural Trades Association, Fresh Produce Consortium and the National Farmers’ Union on developing our approach to dealing with imports from the EU. To give businesses time to adjust to the new arrangements, the fees for documentary, identity and physical checks on the higher-risk goods, and for documentary checks on other goods, will not be applied until June 2021, despite checks being undertaken since 1 January. Fees for identity and physical checks on the remaining regulated goods from EU member states, Switzerland and Liechtenstein will be applied from March 2022.

Under the 2018 regulations, there is a single combined fee for a documentary and identity check, reflecting the fact that both those checks were previously carried out at 100% on all consignments. From 1 January the frequency of the identity check is linked to that of the physical check as both checks are carried out at the same time. So any reduction in the level of physical inspection will also apply to the identity check. This instrument therefore provides for a separate fee for documentary and identity checks for all consignments. This SI does not make any other changes to existing fees for checks on consignments imported from non-EU countries, other than Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

This SI applies to England only. The vast majority of consignments entering GB from the EU do so via England. The Scottish and Welsh Governments are following the same phased approach in terms of the timetable for inspecting EU consignments and applying fees to recover the cost of those inspections.

This instrument is necessary because it provides for fees to be charged for plant health checks on commodities imported from EU member states, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, thereby providing consistency with imports from the rest of the world, where fees already apply. I beg to move.

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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
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My Lords, I am very grateful to all noble Lords for what has been a constructive and interesting debate. If there are any points that time does not permit me to cover today, I will of course write to your Lordships.

I was struck by all the comments about biosecurity and why we are doing this. It is to protect plant biosecurity, as was made clear by my noble friend Lady Redfern and the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville. It is absolutely key that we embark on this in a very serious and important way. I was also struck by my noble friend Lady Redfern, absolutely rightly, referring to the importance of the safety of those working to deal with pests, disease and invasive non-native species, all of which impinge upon our biosecurity.

Given the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, and others, I thought it would be helpful to summarise the timetable for the introduction of checks and associated fees. On 1 January 2021, documentary, identity and physical checks were introduced on high-risk EU goods and carried out at places of destination. No fees are currently applied for these checks. On 1 June 2021, fees will be introduced for documentary, identity and physical checks on high-risk goods and for documentary checks on other goods. On 1 January 2022, physical inspections of high-risk goods will move to border control posts. On 1 March 2022, identity and physical checks on other goods will commence at border controls posts, with fees then applied for those checks.

The noble Baronesses on the Front Benches opposite raised the devolved Administrations. The Scottish and Welsh Governments are following the same phased approach as in England in terms of the timetable for inspecting EU consignments and applying fees to recover the costs of those inspections. In all parts of GB, fees will set to recover fully the cost of services provided, in line with the general Treasury principle on cost recovery. As services in Wales are provided by APHA on behalf of the Welsh Government, fees in Wales will mirror those in England. A different cost-base applies in Scotland, so there may be some differences to actual fees, but the same methodology and principles apply.

I give the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, my absolute assurance that the devolved Administrations are currently checking high-priority plants. We are working very closely and extensively with our devolved counterparts on operational readiness to ensure that our policies and plans are operable. For example, a UK plant health post-transition period operational readiness board—I am sorry, that is such a long phrase—has been established to discuss planning with devolved Administrations. This includes weekly meetings to consider policy issues, including fees. We have been working closely with officials from all the devolved Administrations to design future common frameworks where they are necessary, in line with principles on common frameworks.

I understand the point about working closely with industry. My noble friend Lady McIntosh and the noble Baronesses, Lady Bakewell and Lady Hayman, raised this. We have maintained regular engagement with the industry—indeed, I have been at a number of the meetings, particularly with the Horticultural Trades Association—on post-transition planning with individual operators and through key stakeholder groups. This included an explanation of the planned charging regime for EU imports, which was followed up with details of the actual changes. Discussions were held through fora such as the plant health advisory forum, the tree health policy group and the Ornamental Horticulture Roundtable Group. In addition, there was frequent bilateral engagement on EU imports with key stakeholders, such as the Horticultural Trades Association, the Fresh Produce Consortium, the National Farmers’ Union, the Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association and—I declare my membership—the Royal Horticultural Society, which we have also been working with.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Ritchie and Lady Hayman, my noble friend Lady McIntosh and others more generally raised the important point of how best we can support business with the changes that I think we have all agreed are desirable, given the interceptions that we have identified already, and before this new regime. We have been listening carefully to the concerns of industry to make sure that the new requirements are practical, proportionate and—importantly—risk-based. The import controls on EU-regulated goods are being phased in over 14 months. Regulated goods are not currently being held at the border for import checks in order to help trade flow. All EU high-priority goods may be checked at places of destination until January 2022, minimising that disruption at the border.

On a point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, the Government have invested £705 million to ensure that our border systems are functional from 1 January and will be fully operational in line with the phasing plan. Operating hours for plant health services have also been adjusted to service business needs, while ensuring that biosecurity standards continue to be maintained and strengthened in ways that support trade and the smooth flow of goods. I think it was my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes who made the point about the importance of biosecurity but also trade flows and supply.

So far as the financial costs raised in this debate, we have been clear that, in line with Treasury rules, the Animal & Plant Health Agency recovers the cost of delivering these services from businesses that use them. Low-risk goods will receive a lower frequency of checks; fees therefore need to be adapted to ensure that there is no over-recovery of costs.

My noble friend Lady McIntosh raised engagement with the EU. There is ongoing and active engagement with the EU on all these matters. She also raised the AIC report. We have regular contact and engagement with the AIC. She also mentioned FERA, which conducts seed testing to support imports and exports. The cost of seed inspections is £128.13 per consignment for a 100% inspection and £6.40 for a 5% inspection rate. Specific seeds are listed in the SI.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, asked about risks from Northern Ireland goods. The island of Ireland is of course a single epidemiological unit. It is really important that we respect both their biosecurity and ours. We have a risk-targeted surveillance programme, which monitors movement of plants from all origins. Again, it is important that we look at this constantly. She also raised the risks to woodlands. We review risks on a continuous basis through the UK plant health risk register and take action in response to new threats, including emergency regulations, such as those for Xylella.

The noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, raised the definition of high-priority plants. High-priority plants are those that pose the greatest potential risk to GB biosecurity. This includes shrubs and plants for planting not intended for final users, host plants of Xylella—for instance, lavender and rosemary—and other plant material for propagation, such as seeds and cuttings. Fees are based on the actual cost and time that it takes to inspect different categories of material.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, also raised costs. The methodology used to calculate these fees was fully consulted on in 2017 and has not changed. Fee income is carefully monitored to ensure that there is no over-recovery or under-recovery. Any discrepancy would normally be rectified in the following year. However, for this year, to ensure that there is no significant over-recovery of costs, APHA and Defra will monitor fee income on a monthly basis, which is important.

The noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, also raised Northern Ireland. In line with the principles of unfettered market access, there is no requirement for export phytosanitary certificates to accompany qualifying Northern Ireland goods moving from Northern Ireland to GB, so there are no associated fees. There will also be no import checks on those qualifying goods entering GB and no additional costs to trade as a result of plant health service delivery by APHA.

I am sorry if that was a very brisk description of some of the questions asked by the Committee. However, I commend this statutory instrument to your Lordships.

Motion agreed.

Direct Payments to Farmers (Reductions and Simplifications) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2021

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Excerpts
Monday 22nd March 2021

(3 years ago)

Lords Chamber
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Moved by
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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That the draft Regulations laid before the House on 24 February be approved.

Relevant document: 48th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Gardiner of Kimble) (Con)
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My Lords, I declare my farming interests, as set out in the register. As the matters in these two instruments are closely related, I hope that it would be helpful to your Lordships to consider them together. Made using powers under the Agriculture Act 2020, they implement important aspects of our new agricultural policy, set out in the agricultural transition plan published in November 2020. Both instruments apply only to England.

I turn first to the Direct Payments to Farmers (Reductions and Simplifications) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2021, which sets reductions that will be applied to direct payments made to farmers for the 2021 claim year. The Government are committed to phasing out direct payments that are poorly targeted and offer poor value for money. This will be done over a seven-year agricultural transition period, and it will free up money to fund a new system of paying farmers and land managers for delivering public goods. This includes paying farmers to improve the environment, improve animal health and welfare, and reduce carbon emissions. All funding released from these reductions will be reinvested into new schemes in this Parliament. Help will be offered to those who need it to plan and manage their businesses through the transition.

The reductions will be applied in a fair way, with higher reductions initially applied to amounts in higher payment bands. The reductions for the 2021 scheme are modest, at 5% for around 80% of farmers. This is within the margin of the currency rate changes often experienced in previous regimes. We first published these reductions in 2018, so farmers have had time to prepare.

The Government are on track to introduce new schemes this year, while continuing to fund new and existing countryside stewardship agreements. From this year, farmers will be able to apply for grants under the farming investment fund to help them invest in equipment and technology and boost their productivity. This year, we will also begin the sustainable farming incentive, the first of our pilots under the environmental land management national pilot scheme. Payments to the first pilot participants will be made before the end of the year, before the scheme is rolled out more widely from 2022. These will be funded from the reductions to direct payments. The instrument also makes minor amendments to reflect the fact that direct payments will be calculated in sterling rather than euros from the 2021 claim year onwards.

The instrument also amends the direct payments rules to remove the euro thresholds below which the Rural Payments Agency does not need to recover overpayments or payment entitlements, or charge interest. When deciding whether recoveries should be made, the Rural Payments Agency will apply the principles in the Treasury’s Managing Public Money guidance.

Finally, this instrument makes two consequential amendments which were not covered in the Direct Payments to Farmers and Cross-Compliance (Simplifications) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2020. It removes a redundant cross-reference relating to the greening rules which were removed by that previous instrument. It also changes a percentage figure used to calculate young farmer payments, ensuring the value of these payments will not be affected by the removal of the greening payment.

The Agriculture (Financial Assistance) Regulations 2021 put in place financial data publication and enforcement and monitoring requirements for four financial assistance schemes: Countryside Stewardship, the Farming Investment Fund, the environmental land management national pilot scheme, and the tree health pilot. All these schemes are established under the Agriculture Act 2020. The environmental land management pilot scheme will comprise three schemes, the first being the sustainable farming incentive.

This instrument will provide a critical opportunity to test, refine and develop environmental land management and tree health schemes in pilot form, ahead of their full launch. Countryside Stewardship will be a simplified version of the EU countryside stewardship and environmental stewardship schemes, and a further iteration of the domestic scheme, which opened for applications in 2020 and 2021. I say for the sake of clarity that this instrument provides for rules applying to schemes opened under domestic legislation, while earlier countryside stewardship and environmental stewardship agreements remain subject to enforcement and monitoring under CAP rules. The Farming Investment Fund will provide grants to farmers, foresters and growers so they can invest in equipment, technology and infrastructure to help their businesses prosper while improving resource efficiency and enhancing the environment.

This instrument will require information about financial assistance given under these schemes to be published, consistent with the Government’s commitment to transparency in the use of public funds. Information published will include the total or aggregated payment received by a beneficiary for each scheme they are in and a description of activities financed by the payment, and could enable public analysis; for example, university research. Publication of personal data will not be required for payments below a de minimis level or in respect of payments made under the tree health pilot, where, instead, aggregated data will be published.

In terms of checks, enforcement and monitoring, this instrument provides for a flexible and proportionate framework ensuring that the purposes of schemes are delivered. Provisions include checking eligibility criteria at application stage and monitoring compliance with individual grant agreements and scheme conditions. A range of enforcement options are available under the instrument in the event of a breach, including withholding of payments, recovering payments previously awarded and prohibiting a person from receiving payments under any scheme for up to two years, thereby ensuring that public funds are properly expended, suitably protected against fraud and provide value for money.

The instrument provides powers of entry and inspection to enforce compliance with scheme agreements; for example, to check or inspect land, livestock, crops, plants or machinery and to verify compliance of conditions and review any activities carried out under the schemes. A formal complaints and appeals process is available if agreement holders are aggrieved by certain decisions taken by the department.

These instruments implement provisions in the Agriculture Act 2020. They begin the move from the inefficient direct payments model of the CAP and provide an important framework allowing new financial assistance schemes to operate effectively in line with the agricultural transition plan. I beg to move.

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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for contributing to this very interesting debate. I am afraid that, inevitably, there are matters of detail on which I will have to write to noble Lords. I open with the reference of the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, to Defra: I think not only of socks but of other garments that have been worked extremely hard. In turn, I reference the work of farmers, which has been so evident last year—as it has been throughout history—in the production of food for our nation. Also, as my noble friend Lord Caithness said, contrary to some of the contributions, my experience of farmers and landowners includes the work that they do that has not been rewarded on enhancements on their farms. They do it free of charge because they want an attractive farm and are custodians of their land for the next generations.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, asked about the SI situation. Our intention is that we may well lay an SI every year—a point that the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, made. We intend to allow Parliament to debate the reductions closer to when they will be applied. The savings from reductions in direct payments will be ring-fenced for agriculture—a point raised by noble Lords. The noble Earl, Lord Devon, and my noble friend Lord Northbrook asked about the money saved on direct payments and where it is to be redeployed. The 2021 direct payments reductions will free up between £169 million and £179 million to be redirected into more Countryside Stewardship agreements, higher-level stewardship extensions and other schemes for farmers.

The reductions that we plan to apply to direct payments for 2021 to 2024 were set out in our agricultural transition plan on 30 November 2020. We intend to continue to make gradual reductions in direct payments across the rest of the transition period until the last year of direct payments in 2027. The new schemes will address productivity, hence profitability, and environmental enhancement. Mindful of my own farm, on productivity improvements, I think of what precision farming and integrated pest management present in terms of enhancement of the environment but also increasing productivity. That is a point I make to the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley of Knighton.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, referred to the future farming resilience fund phase 2 and its launch. The grant application process for the next round of funding is planned to open at the end of this month.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, asked for clarification on percentages. This instrument changes a figure used in the calculation of the young farmer payment from 25% to 17.5%. This ensures that eligible farmers receive roughly the same amount for their young farmer payment as they did before the greening payment was removed. I say to my noble friend Lord Trenchard that the removal of the greening payment was indeed, I think, a sensible simplification.

My noble friend Lord Caithness and several other noble Lords would like more information on new schemes. Obviously, I understand that. The Farming is Changing leaflet was made available to farmers and land managers last November. We have since published further information about the schemes. The Countryside Stewardship scheme opened an application window on 9 February. Details of the sustainable farming incentive scheme pilot were published on 10 March.

Perhaps I may unite my noble friend Lord Caithness and the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, on this matter. They both spoke about ensuring that visitors and, indeed, their dogs respect the countryside. I was at a meeting on this last week. Natural England is working on a refresh of the Countryside Code alongside stakeholders, and a relaunch of advice to the public is planned for Easter. There is much more to be done on educating the many people we want to come to enjoy the countryside to respect it. It is a working and living countryside that we all want to enjoy.

The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, raised an important point about new entrants, and my noble friend Lady McIntosh raised the issue of retirement schemes. These are clearly all part of what we want to do to encourage new entrants. We plan to carry out a consultation on the proposed lump-sum exit scheme, but it is not covered by the regulations.

A number of noble Lords raised the issue of upland farms and lowland farms—a range of farms. As I said before, our pilots are intended to involve farms of all sizes, topography and tenures, and it is very important that they work. That is why the pilots are all about a codesign—a point I should have made—with the people who will take them forward, and we will then have a national rollout.

The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, raised an issue that I do not see as an either/or. I am absolutely convinced that benign pastoral farming of livestock is a net benefit to the environment and a producer of healthy food, as is the production of fruit and vegetables. I am not sure that fruit and vegetables would be very easy to produce on some of the uplands that we all know of. Different parts of the country produce different parts of our food and all sectors are important in the balanced diet we wish.

My noble friend Lord Lilley raised an interesting point about the taxpayer and the consumer, one of which I am very conscious as a farmer and a receiver of support. I do not have time to get into it today, but I was talking to a New Zealand Minister of a previous Administration about the consequences of the change that my noble friend mentioned there for the environment and how unpopular it was with many parts of the electorate. That is why we seek a balance and why I spent quite a lot of time during the passage of the then Agriculture Bill stressing that the farmer has many purposes. The first, of course, is producing food but, with 70% of the land of this country of ours farmed, farmers play a crucial role in ensuring that we address emissions, climate change, environment enhancement, clean water, clean air and many other things besides.

My noble friend Lady McIntosh and the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, asked about the devolved Administrations, with whom we work closely; as I said before, the future agriculture framework is important in that regard. I should also say that the time-limited package to support farmers in protected landscapes, particularly upland farmers, is an important scheme that we are working on.

Turning to financial assistance, the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, asked about the onus on the Secretary of State to come up with the detail of schemes. The scope of this instrument is specifically enforcement, monitoring and data publication in relation to the schemes. This reflects the relevant powers of the Agriculture Act 2020. The detail of the schemes themselves will be set out in guidance.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, and my noble friend Lord Caithness asked when detailed guidance for the four schemes would be published. Detailed guidance for each scheme will be published ahead of its launch so, for tree health, we will publish this summer; for environmental land management, guidance will be published ahead of the application window for pilot opening in June.

A number of noble Lords raised the issue of the new schemes. Our ambition is to deliver new schemes which are simpler for farmers than their predecessors, and we have worked closely with a range of stakeholders to ensure that.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, asked about the agency’s readiness for the pilot. The RPA inspectorate has been preparing inspectors over the past 18 months to move towards a more supportive tone of inspections. Indeed, the RPA payment record has become very impressive.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Jones and Lady Bakewell, asked about consultation. During the consultation, Defra engaged with 59 key stakeholder organisations to ensure that it had a thorough understanding of their views. Those views became extremely helpful and their responses were invaluable. The results of the consultation were summarised in a response document.

The noble Earl, Lord Devon, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Bakewell and Lady Jones, asked about the independence of the appeals process. Under Regulation 31 of the Agriculture (Financial Assistance) Regulations 2021, the Secretary of State must appoint a person or persons to consider appeals. In practice, this will be an independent panel, which is the process currently in use. The Independent Agricultural Appeals Panel is an advisory non-departmental public body; members are independent external experts.

I am afraid that I will have to write on many other points. I will deal with the definitions referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Devon, which will give him reassurance. I say to my noble friend Lord Northbrook that we are working on this, but there is more to be done—many of the export problems have now been resolved. The tree health pilot is being delivered by the Forestry Commission. With those details and many more to come, I beg to move.

Motion agreed.

Agriculture (Financial Assistance) Regulations 2021

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Excerpts
Monday 22nd March 2021

(3 years ago)

Lords Chamber
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Moved by
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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That the draft Regulations laid before the House on 1 March be approved.

Relevant document: 49th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

Motion agreed.

Food Prices: Agricultural Policy

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Excerpts
Thursday 18th March 2021

(3 years ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Carrington Portrait Lord Carrington (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper and take the opportunity to declare my farming interests.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Gardiner of Kimble) (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I declare my farming interests as set out in the register. Our assessment is that consumer food prices are not likely to be significantly affected by farming reforms. The main drivers of food prices include import costs, exchange rates and domestic production and manufacturing costs. We regularly monitor prices, and the food security report will inform any appropriate policy responses. The Government are committed to supporting the most vulnerable in society.

Lord Carrington Portrait Lord Carrington (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his valuable response. With action necessary to address climate change, biodiversity, food waste, diet, trade issues and much more, it all points to higher food prices, which have a disproportionate effect on the poorest, largest and elderly households. Ensuring a safety net is essential. Who in the Government will be accountable for co-ordinating the actions of departments to achieve the desired but sometimes conflicting outcomes around food, health, farming, land use and trade?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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My Lords, that is one reason why, since the Covid outbreak, the Department for Work and Pensions has established a working group on the cost of living, where food vulnerability is discussed alongside other issues by all Ministers whose departments have a role in ensuring food security. I accept that farming will have to do many things, one of which is to produce very healthy food. There has been £280 billion of support since March 2020 to families and children, which I think is a good record from the Government.

Lord Fowler Portrait The Lord Speaker (Lord Fowler)
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The noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick, has withdrawn so I call the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin of Kennington.

Baroness Jenkin of Kennington Portrait Baroness Jenkin of Kennington (Con) [V]
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My Lords, my noble friend will be aware of concern about the impact of potential trade deals on food prices and quality. Is my noble friend aware of a recent Sustain LSE report which showed that obesity rose in both Mexico and Canada following their trade deals with the United States? Does he agree that, if the Government were tempted to solve the problem of rising food prices by importing cheap, poor-quality food, it would nudge lower-income families into buying it, thereby exacerbating the obesity problem?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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My Lords, the Government are very clear that our trade deals will not compromise our food standards. All food, regardless of agreement, will have to meet our import requirements. Clearly, obesity must be addressed. The Government’s strategy of July last year took forward actions of the childhood obesity plan, setting out measures and ambitious targets to halve by 2030 the number of children living with obesity and to get the country fitter and healthier.

Lord Curry of Kirkharle Portrait Lord Curry of Kirkharle (CB) [V]
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My Lords, the level of home production could well have an impact on food prices. Can the Minister confirm what assessments the Government have made of the effect that their current policies will have on the level of self-sufficiency of homegrown food? What efforts are the Government making to increase the volume of homegrown food in public sector procurement?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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My Lords, clearly it is important that there is strong domestic production. We currently produce 66% of our national supply and 77% of indigenous foods. Food production is extremely important and, with Section (1)4 of the Agriculture Act in particular, we will be working with farmers on that as well as on the environmental enhancement we want.

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, 8.4 million people in the UK live in food poverty. It is no coincidence that those worst affected are precisely those who were most hard hit by Covid—minority ethnic communities and older and disabled people. Research by the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission, of which I am a commissioner, makes it clear that future agriculture needs to deliver food, particularly fruit and vegetables, that is healthy, environmentally sound and affordable. How will the Government amend the agricultural transition plan, which is strangely silent about food, to prioritise not cheap food but healthy food grown in agroecological systems and ensure that this will be widely available at accessible prices?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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My Lords, noble Lords will remember, and as I have said, Section 1(4) of the Agriculture Act is precisely to ensure that financial assistance schemes are within that context, and it is the duty of the Secretary of State to consider food production. Our purpose is to ensure that there is healthy food for all to eat at affordable prices.

Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Portrait Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville (LD) [V]
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My Lords, the Government’s ambitious plans to move farmers from direct farm payments to a system whereby they manage their whole business differently to deliver profitable food production and the recovery of nature must be a step in the right direction. However, as other noble Lords have said, we are currently seeing the queues at food banks increasing as people struggle to feed their families. Surely food prices are likely to rise and increase the cost of food for those on low incomes. The Government say they have strategies to deal with this but give no details. Can the Minister give some detail on how feeding those on low incomes will actually happen?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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There are two points. In the last year, food prices have fallen by 0.8% and, as I mentioned, there is the £280 billion of support. Obviously with a successful economy, recovery from Covid and more people returning to work, matters will improve. There will always be a safety net and that is why I mentioned that £280 billion has gone towards supporting the vulnerable.

Lord Dobbs Portrait Lord Dobbs (Con) [V]
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Does my noble friend agree that every grain of evidence, from the Corn Laws onwards, shows that free trade and innovation provide more plentiful food, of a higher quality and at a lower price—thank you Aldi, Lidl, Tesco and all the others—and that systems of trade protection in the past have led to higher prices and shortages for poorer families? Does he agree that, once we have sorted out the inevitable adjustments that we face in leaving the protectionist common agricultural policy, British consumers can expect to feed themselves better and for less, rather than paying higher prices to subsidise inefficient farmers in other countries? For the many, not the few, you might say. Do not we all have a great deal to look forward to?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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My Lords, we will champion free and fair trade and lower barriers at every opportunity. There are great opportunities for British food to be exported. In all the trade agreements that we negotiate, we will stand up for British farming and we will always ensure that the UK FTAs are fair and reciprocal. There is great opportunity for our domestic producers to export as well as have very strong production. Yes, I agree that free trade has been a great success over the centuries.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab)
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My Lords, as we know, the sustainable farming proposals are for England only. The devolved nations are drawing up their own proposals for reform, which could lead to differential food prices across the UK. Can the Minister update the House on the progress of the joint working group set up to carry out market surveillance and ensure that the UK internal market does not end up with winners and losers in the food price sector?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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My Lords, we have set up the UK agricultural support framework precisely to ensure that there is non-legislative collaboration and co-operation on agricultural support between the four UK Administrations. We will continue with this effective co-ordination and dialogue, so that the internal market of the UK is secure.

Lord Bird Portrait Lord Bird (CB)
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Does the Minister agree that a low- wage economy is one reason why we have food poverty? If we look at the agricultural industry, we see some of the lowest wages in the UK. How are we going to square that one? We want cheap food, but we want it by having cheap labour in the countryside.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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My Lords, agricultural innovation will make a considerable difference to the qualifications and skills of the next generations of agricultural and horticultural workers. This is going to be an area of great expansion.

Lord Fowler Portrait The Lord Speaker (Lord Fowler)
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My Lords, sadly the time allowed for this Question has elapsed.

EU: Fishing Industry Negotiations

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Excerpts
Thursday 4th March 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Gardiner of Kimble) (Con) [V]
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My Lords—[Inaudible.] During the negotiation of the trade and co-operation agreement, Ministers and officials met frequently with representatives of the fishing industry, including the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations and the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, to update them on the negotiations and discuss their views on them.

Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon Portrait Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon (Lab)
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I thank the Minister for his Answer. The issue of fisheries was raised in your Lordships’ House last Thursday. The end of December 2020 saw us leaving the EU, and during that time, we had a rolling commentary on the Brexit negotiation on fisheries and how we would be taking back our waters. The truth is we have not—not to the extent that fishermen thought we would. Did members of the fisheries organisations take part in the Brexit negotiation? Does the Minister think that if they had been part of the negotiation, it would have had a better outcome? The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations had written to the Prime Minister on this matter back in February—

None Portrait Noble Lords
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Too long!

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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[Inaudible.] The noble Lord, Lord Frost, and other Ministers and officials were in close touch with the fishing interests. The trade co-operation agreement has made some progress, increasing quota, ensuring regulatory autonomy and no tariffs, and controlling access to fish in our waters.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern (Con) [V]
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My Lords, have the difficulties been resolved with the health of shellfish being sent to Europe and with sending Scottish seafood to the EU, particularly in respect of consignments made up from more than one source?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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My Lords, there is an overall improvement in the situation, but we all agree that more work needs to be done. That is why Defra has invited exporters to in-depth workshops, 11 of them in the past few weeks, on issues including export health certificates. We are also working closely with the Scottish Government, Food Standards Scotland and other government departments to learn from the establishment and operation of existing hubs in Scotland. Although the situation is improving, we in Defra and other government bodies are doing considerable work.

Lord Bishop of St Albans Portrait The Lord Bishop of St Albans
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My Lords, there is an immediate, pressing problem for many of our fishermen, who are suffering. What are Her Majesty’s Government doing to increase fish consumption in the domestic market? Do we need a fish and chips tsar or someone to encourage people to eat fish? More importantly, in the negotiations with the EU, will the Government work towards a flexible arrangement that allows for better quota swaps?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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My Lords, we will be pragmatic and we will work robustly with the EU and, indeed, with Norway and the Faroe Islands. Importantly, Defra and Seafish are working together on the Love Seafood campaign precisely to encourage the domestic consumption of excellent fish that hitherto we may not have consumed.

Baroness Quin Portrait Baroness Quin (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, the situation seems to make a mockery of the Prime Minister’s claim that his Brexit deal would involve

“no non-tariff barriers to trade.”

May I take up with the Minister the worrying situation in my local port of North Shields, which is England’s biggest prawn port and heavily dependent on exports to France and Spain, where trade continues to be severely disrupted by delays, complicated red tape and, in some cases, prohibitive extra costs?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I would like the noble Baroness to let me have further details on this issue, which I will speak to the Fisheries Minister about, because we are having daily conversations with, for instance, the French embassy. I would like to hear more about the situation in North Shields; our task is to resolve these matters.

Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson (LD) [V]
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My Lords, many parts of the industry are heading for bankruptcy, yet within the agreement we have the mechanism of a Specialised Committee on Fisheries, which has not yet met. The Minister, Victoria Prentis, recently said:

“Details on how the committee will function will be communicated once they are finalised.”


This is not good enough. Surely, the Government need to pull their finger out. In this third month of Brexit, when is this specialised committee actually going to meet?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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My Lords, until the TCA has been ratified in the European Parliament, the Partnership Council and its specialised committees will not start to function. We in the UK are ready for them to be operational and are making our plans.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, in February last year the Secretary of State wrote to the EU Commissioner raising concerns about its decision to ban the import of class B live bivalve molluscs. In a subsequent letter to food exporters, dated 10 December 2020, it was confirmed that exports of these molluscs would be prohibited. So, why did the Secretary of State claim in a parliamentary Statement this January that he had only recently been made aware of the situation, when, seemingly, he had known and done nothing about it for a year?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I will look into this because that is entirely contrary to my understanding, which is that the European Commissioner made it clear that this was an acceptable trade. We were most surprised to hear that the export of live bivalve molluscs from class B waters would not be accepted. We think that that is not well founded in law and we have sought a meeting with Commissioner Kyriakides on this matter.

Earl of Shrewsbury Portrait The Earl of Shrewsbury (Con)
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My Lords, will my noble friend join me in condemning recent illegal operations carried out by Greenpeace: dumping large boulders in shallow fishing waters, potentially causing great risk to fishing vessels and their crews? Can he assure me that adequate resources are being and will be made available to ensure effective protection of the UK’s fishing waters and fleet?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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My Lords, everyone should take note of and abide by the regulations. The actions by Greenpeace within the Brighton Offshore Marine Conservation Zone are subject to a live investigation by the Marine Management Organisation. The Government have significantly increased the number of personnel and surveillance assets dedicated to fisheries protection.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, the Scottish seafood industry is world class but it has been let down by the lack of preparation for implementing this agreement beyond the negotiations, and by the political polarisation of the Scottish and UK Governments whenever these matters are discussed. Has the department, or the UK Government as whole, learned any lessons from this disaster? Will they seek a much more understanding, partnership-based, mutually respectful relationship with the Scottish Government in the future?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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My Lords, again, I am interested in what the noble Lord has said because my experience, certainly at Fisheries Councils, is of strong collaboration between all the devolved Administrations. The Secretary of State has had regular dialogue with Fergus Ewing and that will continue, because we have a mutual interest in advancing the export and domestic consumption of excellent products from both Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Portrait Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville (LD) [V]
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My Lords, there is a balance to be struck between a thriving fishing industry and the conservation of fish stocks. The network of marine protected areas is at risk. Information from Greenpeace shows that destructive fishing boats spend hundreds of hours fishing inside places that are meant to be protected. While I do not condone the actions of Greenpeace, it is true that bottom trawlers and scallop dredgers are ripping up protected seabeds with impunity. What are the Government doing to correct this?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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We are ensuring through our sustainability objectives that all of the marine environment in the UK system is protected. That is what we intend to do, and that is why there were deliberations on the now enacted Fisheries Bill. We will be working on ensuring an improvement in our marine ecosystem.

Lord Fowler Portrait The Lord Speaker (Lord Fowler)
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My Lords, the time allowed for this Question has elapsed. We now come to the fourth Oral Question.

Fishing Sector and Coastal Communities

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Excerpts
Thursday 25th February 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking (1) to support coastal communities, and (2) to improve the capacity of the fishing sector, before 2026.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Gardiner of Kimble) (Con) [V]
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My Lords, the Government have committed to a fund of £100 million to invest in landing capacity, processing, distribution, science, technology and skills to advance the industry. In addition, there is £32.7 million in place of EU funding and £23 million for the seafood disruption support scheme and the seafood response fund. Furthermore, the UK shared prosperity fund will create opportunities for coastal communities.

Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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I thank the Minister for that Answer. I am sure that he is as fed up as I am with those using fishing as an excuse to indulge in Brexit bashing. I am also sure that he will confirm that the fate and future of fishing is now in sovereign hands. However, that also means that the awful fishing deal is a sovereign sell-out, and now the Government need to own it. I am glad to hear about the millions of pounds being put into this area, but fishing communities see these as rather demeaning handouts. It is good to hear the Prime Minister calling on us to eat British fish, but can the Minister give us a bit more detail on the long-term thinking and imaginative initiatives that will transform and modernise the industry and turn coastal communities into world-class hubs of productive growth? I am thinking about top-class fishing apprentices, ambitious technical—

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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My Lords, a number of points were made there, but it is important to stress that the £100 million fund is about advancing infrastructure projects, rolling out science, innovation and technology, and—among many other things—encouraging new entrants into what we believe is, after all, a very healthy source of food that has a great future.

Earl of Shrewsbury Portrait The Earl of Shrewsbury (Con)
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My Lords, my noble friend will be aware of an ongoing television documentary about sea fishing communities in Cornwall. I recommend it to him. It describes, among other matters, the considerable problems faced by small family fishing businesses in the aftermath of our withdrawal from the EU. One way in which they might survive is to process and sell direct to the public, but the equipment to enable them to do this—and do it professionally and efficiently—is very expensive. What plans do Her Majesty’s Government have to grant-aid such ventures, which might ensure the survival of these micro family businesses and thus shore up their communities?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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My Lords, my noble friend highlights an important documentary and the fact that fishing businesses are at the heart of many coastal communities. As I said, they supply a healthy source of food to the public. In England, we will open a new grant scheme in April to replace the EU-funded EMFF. This will support sustainable growth for the sector in England, including supporting businesses to recover from Covid and adapt to new trading conditions outside the EU. I recommend the documentary as well.

Viscount Hanworth Portrait Viscount Hanworth (Lab)
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My Lords, foremost of the eight objectives declared in the Fisheries Act 2020 is the sustainability objective, which aims to ensure that fish stocks are maintained at levels that avoid the danger of their radical depletion. Can the Minister tell us how this objective is to be reconciled with the expansion in the capacity of the British fishing fleet? Moreover, can he explain why the Government resisted during the passage of the Fisheries Bill calls to declare sustainability an immediate and unequivocal objective, and why they preferred to describe it as only a “long-term” objective?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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My Lords, we had many deliberations on sustainability during the passage of the Fisheries Bill. It is absolutely at the heart of the legislation, which is why we believe that there is compatibility between sustainable fishing and modernising and rejuvenating our fishing sector with new technology, new nets, REM and all the things we want to do. This is an important source of food, but the harvest needs to be sustainable.

Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Portrait Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville (LD) [V]
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My Lords, coastal and fishing communities are suffering extreme economic decline due to Covid. The Prime Minister’s exit road map will help tourist communities, but not as quickly as they would like. However, fisher men and women are in the depths of despair, as has already been said. They were promised prosperity but have received a slap in the face—especially shell fisheries. The Minister has given various figures on support, but how will this affect individual fisheries, especially in Cornwall?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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My Lords, the recent announcements are UK-wide. We want all coastal communities across the United Kingdom to benefit from these schemes and funds. We think that there is a strong future for the communities. They will command a lot of public support in terms of fiscal support, as I have described, and I am far more confident than I think the noble Baroness is portraying. There are difficulties, and we need to overcome them and advance.

Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab) [V]
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The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, just mentioned the shellfish industry and the devastating impact on it as a result of the ban on British shellfish in the EU. What progress is being made with the European Commission on lifting this ban? Also, the Minister mentioned the Seafood Disruption Support Scheme. The criteria for it are limited in scope and the scheme does not appear to match the ambition initially indicated by government Ministers. Can the Minister assure me that the scheme will be sufficient to support those businesses affected, some of which have had no income at all this year?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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My Lords, these are important points and we are seeking an urgent resolution to the matter of live bivalve molluscs from class B waters. We have an extremely strong legal case and we are awaiting a meeting with the commissioner. I should say that those businesses impacted by this disruption to trade can apply for support via the seafood response fund, which seeks to ensure that the shellfish sector is supported during this difficult period.

Earl of Caithness Portrait The Earl of Caithness (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend on expanding the seafood support scheme, but that scheme ran out on 31 January. Will it be extended into next month? May I also follow up on the point made by my noble friend Lord Shrewsbury in a slightly wider form? What are the Government doing to help fishermen sell more fish to the British people and get us to eat the fish that they produce rather than sending it overseas?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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My Lords, on 21 February we announced the seafood response fund, which will expand the support to help with the fixed costs of shellfish catch and aquaculture businesses. That fund is to open in early March, which I think covers the point made by my noble friend. I agree that we need to eat more fish and that we need to promote greater consumer awareness of the number of species in UK waters. Through Seafish and the Domestic Seafood Supply Scheme, we are looking to increase the domestic consumption of our excellent produce.

Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate Portrait Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate (Non-Afl) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, many coastal communities in the UK rely on tourism and travel for their survival and are particularly hard hit by lockdowns and curbs on movement. Does the Minister share the hope that the quarantine restrictions at entry points to the country will have the positive effect of encouraging British families to take a staycation this year, which would kick-start coastal economies and bring the jobs and growth so sorely needed?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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I agree with the noble Lord that there are many opportunities across our coastal and rural communities to welcome visitors this year, as soon as lockdown easements make it safe to do so. I will also say that everyone should enjoy themselves while ensuring that the coastal and rural communities are respected as well.

Baroness Whitaker Portrait Baroness Whitaker (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, the government response to the Select Committee on Regenerating Seaside Towns and Communities, of which I was a member, made welcome undertakings about town regeneration, which Newhaven, my nearest town, has welcomed. What is the Government’s assessment of the impact and outcomes of their education proposals, such as the opportunity areas programme, along with the promotion of adult learning and basic skills in the use of technology—tied, I hope, to maritime and environmental contexts? These are essential to real regeneration.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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As I said, the £100 million scheme will involve working on the right skills for new entrants into the fishing sector. However, I should also say that, since 2012, £229 million has been invested in 369 projects via the coastal communities fund. Every £1 invested has secured up to an £8 boost to coastal economies. The investment we need to make in coastal and fishing communities will show the benefits that come from it.

Lord Fowler Portrait The Lord Speaker (Lord Fowler)
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The time allowed for this Question has elapsed and we now come to the third Oral Question.

UK Shellfish Sector

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Excerpts
Wednesday 10th February 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to reports of restrictions on the export of live bivalve molluscs to the European Union, what steps they are taking to support the shellfish sector in the United Kingdom.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Gardiner of Kimble) (Con) [V]
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My Lords, we recognise the importance of this long-standing trade and the impact of restrictions on a valued industry. Live bivalve molluscs ready for human consumption can be exported to the EU as “products of animal origin”. The Secretary of State raised the matter of exporting from GB class B waters with EU Commissioner Kyriakides, and we are pressing for an urgent solution to enable trade to resume.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con)
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My Lords, will my noble friend join me in extending our good wishes and regrets to Baron Shellfish of Bridlington, which prospered as one of the success stories of the common market, selling direct to customers in the European Union in the 1970s? Because of the bureaucratic and administrative barriers to trade since 1 January, it is now ceasing to trade, which is highly regrettable.

Given the recent ban, to which my noble friend referred, on exports from the UK of live bivalve molluscs, what plans do the Government have to use the regulatory framework set up under the trade and co-operation agreement with the EU? When does he expect that the specialised committee on fisheries will be set up? This would seem to be a classic case of an ideal solution being found by talking, rather than taking retaliatory tit-for-tat action.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I agree with my noble friend’s tone. We seek to have a quick discussion with Commissioner Kyriakides about how this trade can resume. We do not believe that the legal interpretation that they are putting on the class B waters is correct. We are working very closely with stakeholders and the devolved Administrations: my right honourable friend the Secretary of State will have further discussions with the Welsh and Scottish Ministers tomorrow. We wish to resolve this matter. Of course, we want to ensure the smooth passage of exports of our excellent produce.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, yesterday, the Minister was uncharacteristically reluctant to answer my question about compensation, so I will ask it again today: will the fishers affected by this EU ruling have access to the £23 million disruption fund, made available to other fishers whose markets have been disrupted? Will the Government consider increasing that fund now that so many fishers seem to be in need of that kind of compensation?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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My Lords, of course I shall seek to answer the noble Baroness’s question. The £23 million fund for financial assistance announced today is for those businesses that suffered a financial loss because of

“delays related to the export of fresh or live fish and shellfish to the EU during January”.

With our dialogue with the Commission, we seek to resume this valued trade from class B waters, which we think is completely justified under the law. What is more, many EU businesses have invested in depuration facilities, and that is what they wish.

Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson (LD) [V]
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My Lords, the Minister will be very aware of the damage that has been done to various aspects of the fishing industry by the trade and co-operation agreement and the lack of other agreements. It is very important that the Government get their own view over in this case, so would the Minister or one of his colleagues come down to Cornwall with the noble Lord, Lord Frost, who negotiated the deal, to explain all these issues face to face with the industry itself?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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I am grateful to the noble Lord, and this gives me an opportunity to mention the very regular dialogue that there is between Defra and stakeholders that work with the exporters—the UK Seafood Exports Working Group, for instance. Of course I will take back to the Fisheries Minister the point about meeting Cornish fishing interest groups, and I am sure that they will be part of the discussions that we need to have to work towards resolution of some of these matters.

Duke of Montrose Portrait The Duke of Montrose (Con) [V]
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My Lords, we can all agree that this is a desperate time for a great many small businesses in this field. The latest figure I have seen for the size of this part of the industry was from 2019, when sales were recorded as £113 million; they now must be much more. Can my noble friend the Minister tell the House what proportion of UK production has been affected by this ban? What proportion of the remaining trade takes place in Northern Ireland?

This is a different angle from that voiced by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, but I believe that a concern for the industry is that the £23 million support package appears to be geared to those who handle exports and is less likely to be accessible to the catching sector. It is reassuring to know that the Scottish Government have promised £6.5 million to help with the costs of the vessels involved; will further support be available from the UK?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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My Lords, there were quite a number of questions there. In terms of trade, the figures are that the annual value of exports of live fresh bivalve molluscs to the EU in 2019 was £13.8 million, excluding scallops, which are less affected by this issue. The other point is that this particular ban does not relate to Northern Ireland. On the issue of support, in addition to the £23 million support scheme for across the UK, there is a newly established Scottish Seafood Exports Task Force, which will be engaging with Scotland and Scottish interests. In addition, there is the £100 million UK fisheries funding, which is £100 million over three years and begins in April, for the rejuvenation and modernisation of fishing fleets.

Lord Taylor of Goss Moor Portrait Lord Taylor of Goss Moor (LD) [V]
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As the Minister will be aware, the new rules also require export hygiene certificates. These would be a considerable cost to fishermen, but Cornwall Council is using Defra funding at the moment to meet those costs. However, that runs out in March. Can the Minister indicate that new funding will be made available so that these costs do not hit fishermen?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I will take that particular point back to the Fisheries Minister, because it is important that that is received by my honourable friend. Clearly, we want to ensure that there is a smooth passage of exports, and that is what we are working on to resolve in the particular matter of class B live bivalve molluscs.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Portrait Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (CB) [V]
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Will the Government urgently redeploy the £23 million seafood winter scheme funding, which was set aside for a no-deal Brexit, to install and reupholster tanks and UV filters for mollusc fish farms to create a market-ready product for export and home promotion as well as maintaining and creating local jobs? Will the Government also work with water companies to improve run-off water quality discharged into our coastal waters?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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The noble Baroness makes two important points on the improvement of our waters. The water industry has invested £200 million in improving waters. We need to work on improving our waterways and marine environments, which is part of the 25-year environment plan. Also, the £100 million scheme may well apply to depuration and facilities, but I should say that, as part of the profile of this trade there are depuration facilities on the continent, so that the molluscs are purified close to the point of human consumption. This is part of the business model, and we think that this trade is legitimate and should resume.

Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD)
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My Lords, would the Minister agree that this is a situation where a little bit of compromise would be advisable? Standing on principles of control is not something we should do here, because the only alternative to keep this industry going is to encourage us all to eat moules frites more frequently.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord. We are seeking a pragmatic solution to this matter.

Baroness Sheehan Portrait Baroness Sheehan (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I would like to follow on from the question from the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay. The Minister said a little bit about what needs to be done to bring our class B waters up to class A standards. Can he say how long he thinks this might take? Will the Government move this into a higher priority area now?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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On the timeframe, there has been a lot of work to improve waters and achieve our water regulation standard results in shellfish waters of high class B quality. As I say, there is investment, and this will need to continue. Part of our 25-year environment plan is to have three quarters of our water in its natural state. This is going to need investment, and we are working on this. But I want to emphasise that our molluscs from class B waters are of very high quality, and we wish to work with permission to ensure that this legitimate trade, which is important around the country, is resumed.

Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Baroness Garden of Frognal) (LD)
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My Lords, I am delighted to say that all supplementary questions have been asked.