Ash Dieback

Debate between Lord Krebs and Lord Gardiner of Kimble
Tuesday 25th June 2019

(5 years ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, that is precisely why we funded, and the Tree Council has published, a toolkit that helps local authorities to manage the effects of ash dieback; it contains guidance and case studies. I congratulate the authorities in Norfolk, Devon, Kent, Suffolk and Leicestershire, which are all working collaboratively. One of the key points is that, as part of the process, they are replanting, particularly in Devon. We are working closely with local authorities and other agencies.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs
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My Lords, as the Minister has already acknowledged, ash dieback is part of the wider biosecurity problem in this country. Can he remind the House what additional measures the Government are taking to promote biosecurity in relation not just to tree diseases, but to all infectious diseases and other organisms that might come into the country?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, the whole issue of biosecurity is absolutely essential, which is why we have increased the number of inspectors at borders. It is important that we keep these pests and diseases out and, using the Asian hornet as an example, that we have the readiness, equipment and knowledge to ensure that, if it arrives, we eradicate it immediately. One of the problems is that in the past we have allowed things to establish when we really should have zero tolerance at the very beginning.

Office for Environmental Protection

Debate between Lord Krebs and Lord Gardiner of Kimble
Wednesday 22nd May 2019

(5 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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I can assure noble Lords that we work closely. The reports of the Environmental Audit Committee, the EFRA Committee and indeed of our own committee have been immensely valuable in responding to the draft environment (principles and governance) Bill. We will be considering the responses as positively as we can, but obviously the most important thing is to ensure that we enhance the environment and that we have the right legislation in place to do that.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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My Lords, as the Minister will be aware, the two main concerns raised by the Environmental Audit Committee and the EFRA Select Committee in the other place—as well as the EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee, of which I am a member, in your Lordships’ House—have been about the independence of the OEP and its enforcement powers. I hope the Minister will be able to confirm to the House that, in considering these three Select Committee reports, the Government will take steps to ensure that the OEP is fully independent and has enforcement powers comparable to those currently exercised by the Commission and the ECJ.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, I reply in the same vein to the noble Lord. We found the responses of the three committees very helpful. Referring to Clause 12(1) of the draft Bill, I can say that the OEP will set its own work plan independently of government. It is absolutely clear that this body must be independent from Defra. Ministers cannot set its programme of activity or improperly influence its decision-making, and it will be accountable to Parliament. The absolute intention of this is to ensure we have an independent body so that we can all be confident we are enhancing the environment.

Agriculture: Carbon Emissions

Debate between Lord Krebs and Lord Gardiner of Kimble
Tuesday 2nd April 2019

(5 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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The noble Lord is absolutely right. Peatland offers the best carbon storage—double that of woodland. It is immensely important, and that is why we are implementing four projects to restore more than 148,000 acres of peatland over the next three years. Clearly, as we have seen in horticulture, the important thing is that—quite rightly—there is not quite the use of peat that there used to be, as it is such an important part of our ecosystem.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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My Lords, no doubt the Minister will be aware that the Climate Change Committee, in its 2018 annual report to Parliament, noted that there had been no reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture between 2012 and 2017. Does he agree with the Climate Change Committee’s recommendation that the Government should “replace” the,

“voluntary industry-led framework, which has so far failed to meet emissions targets … with a stronger framework”?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, clearly we endorse the greenhouse gas plan by industry, but we are looking at further ways in which we can improve it. In fact, we have commissioned research from Scotland’s Rural College into greenhouse gas mitigation options to address what we think are existing knowledge gaps. Certainly we are working and commissioning on how best we can reduce emissions from agriculture, which produces about 10% of our emissions.

River Ecosystems

Debate between Lord Krebs and Lord Gardiner of Kimble
Wednesday 27th February 2019

(5 years, 4 months ago)

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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, this goes back to the products produced and the importance, with research and technology, of alternatives. It is why our ban on microbeads is tremendously important. We need to do more, both in our own products but more generally with what we put on the land. That is where alternatives and precision farming will be very important.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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My Lords, can the Minister tell us his department’s assessment of the impact of future climate change on our rivers and freshwaters and what steps are being taken to deal with the threat of climate change on water quality and quantity?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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The noble Lord raises something hugely important: we have not only to adapt but to mitigate. That is why the environmental land management schemes, involving what we hope will be 70% of the land farmed in this country, will be precisely about how we mitigate and adapt and how we ensure that we improve water quality through things such as planting trees and better environmental management generally.

Farming: Carbon Emissions

Debate between Lord Krebs and Lord Gardiner of Kimble
Tuesday 12th February 2019

(5 years, 5 months ago)

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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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The noble Lord is absolutely right about another key strand of work, which is reducing the extraordinarily high amount of food waste produced by many households. That is happening with retailers through WRAP and the Courtauld commitment, but we need to change how we conduct ourselves and reduce food waste, because it is highly inefficient unnecessarily to produce food.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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My Lords, the Minister will be aware of the climate change committee’s 2018 progress report to Parliament, in which it states that not enough progress has been made in reducing emission from agriculture and land use in comparison with other sectors of the economy. It particularly highlights the failure of voluntary measures to achieve reductions. Does he therefore agree that in future, if we are to move towards net zero in agriculture, there will have to be more mandatory legislation to encourage farmers to comply?

Environment Plan

Debate between Lord Krebs and Lord Gardiner of Kimble
Thursday 29th November 2018

(5 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, the noble Baroness indicates the work that is going on with 100 experts from Defra and arm’s-length bodies on the framework, including the Natural Capital Committee, so that we have indicators from the plan that ensure both transparency and accountability. This will come forward as draft legislation, and I cannot pre-empt that, but there will obviously be pre-legislative scrutiny, and I very much hope that noble Lords will engage in that. That is precisely what we should be doing, because we want to advance the environment—the whole basis of the 25-year environment plan—and put it on a statutory basis.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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My Lords, I understand, and hear very often, that this Government have a commitment to protect the environment and, indeed, to leave it in a better state than they found it. Can the Minister explain how he reconciles this ambition with the fact that the budget for the body charged with protecting habitats and species in England, Natural England, has been slashed by 45% during the last five years? According to its chairman, Andrew Sells, Natural England is now gagged by Defra so that it cannot make independent statements to the press. In case this is seen as part of overall austerity, I remind noble Lords that Defra has increased its own headcount by 1,300 staff.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, the 25-year environment plan will involve: environmental land management; an environmental net gain principle; a resources and waste strategy coming forward; a clean air strategy coming forward; a review of national parks already in place; and we are reducing plastic waste. These are just some examples of the Government’s intent, the strongest possible intent, that we shall be the first generation to enhance the environment. As for Natural England, it does a very good job. All public bodies have had to ensure that we find enough money for essential services during a very difficult time after 2008, and that has borne fruit. That is how the vulnerable, at a very difficult time, were cared for.