Debates between Elliot Colburn and Rebecca Pow during the 2019 Parliament

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Elliot Colburn and Rebecca Pow
Thursday 25th May 2023

(9 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn (Carshalton and Wallington) (Con)
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6. What steps she is taking to reduce the environmental impact of waste incineration.

Rebecca Pow Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Rebecca Pow)
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We want to see less waste being sent to incinerators, which is why we set a statutory target to halve the 2019 level of residual waste by 2042. The Environment Agency inspects and audits energy from waste plants to ensure that they are complying with the requirements of their environmental permits, which include strict emissions limits and associated strict requirements to monitor those limits.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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Only about 20% of the waste that goes into the Beddington incinerator in my constituency is plastic, but it makes up three quarters of the harmful particulates that come out of the chimney stacks. Technology is available to extract plastic before it is burnt, and is being trialled around the country. Does the Minister agree that all waste incineration plants should be installing this technology as soon as possible?

Rebecca Pow Portrait Rebecca Pow
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We have legislated to prevent incinerators from accepting separately collected paper, metal, glass and plastic unless they have gone through a recycling facility first. We are trying to reduce all our waste but particularly plastic, and our plastic packaging reforms, which are under way, will mean that, overall, less waste will be incinerated.

Shark Fins Bill

Debate between Elliot Colburn and Rebecca Pow
Rebecca Pow Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Rebecca Pow)
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It is a pleasure to serve under you, Mrs Cummins, and it is a pleasure to be back. What a wonderful first Bill to be back for; it is always great to be part of a Bill Committee where there is a general consensus—even with our Scottish friends—because we all agree that it is a good thing to do. It is exactly the sort of thing that we should be leading the way on.

I must thank the hon. Member for Neath for bringing forward the Bill and for all her work on this. Indeed, I thank the whole Committee, because I believe that its members all have some reason for being on it. Possibly they have had their arms twisted, but, individually, each of us has some feeling, experience or knowledge on the issue, and I genuinely think that that is very helpful. It just goes to show that we mean business.

Nobody disagrees that shark finning is a gross practice. It is cruel and unsustainable. In fact, listening to some of the comments this morning makes my stomach turn; it is pretty grim. In the UK, shark finning has been banned for nearly 20 years, but this Bill goes an extra step to ban the import and export of the detached shark fins and shark-fin products. It is the only way that we can be sure that we are not inadvertently fuelling unsustainable practices abroad. The Bill is fully supported by Government, and we will do all we can to support its swift passage.

I am proud of our strong marine track record internationally. I went to the UN ocean conference in Portugal just a few months ago, and it was clear that the UK is considered a world leader on a lot of this conservation action. I do not think that we talk about that enough at home—how we are really seen as leaders. I think that this Bill will be another example; people will be watching us and what we have done.

We have committed to the protection and management of shark species, and the Bill is another step towards that. To reiterate, when we say sharks, that also includes rays and skates. I went to the Birmingham National Sea Life Centre not long ago; I do not know if anybody here has been there but it is a wonderful place to see those creatures. The skates and rays were enormous creatures; they were sort of like underwater flying machines, really. To think that we cause them such damage really brings home why we need this Bill to protect them. As my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay so ably described to us, pulling off a creature’s fins inflicts a gross, cruel, painful and slow death. Sharks produce very few young compared with other fish, making them even more vulnerable if people carry out such practices on the scale mentioned by the hon. Member for Bootle. It affects their whole life cycle.

As we heard on Second Reading, the International Union for Conservation of Nature states that over 25% of sharks, rays and skates are threatened with extinction. Removing these top predators would have a catastrophic impact right the way down the food chain. This what my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford was really referring to. She has a great deal of knowledge in this area, particularly on dolphins. This is impacting the whole food chain.

We have heard some statistics. Something like 73 million sharks are caught I think annually—the exact sum is up for debate. A huge proportion of those—not all of them—would be affected by this, but a great proportion of them would have had their fins ripped off, so this is a really important step on our global journey on shark conservation. It will help us to consolidate our position as world leaders.

I want to touch on the point that was raised ably by the hon. Member for Leeds North West. CITES is holding its 19th meeting of the conference of the parties right now. I spoke to our team out there—it is in South America—and we are co-proponents of a proposal to list a further 54 shark species in the requiem shark family. The hon. Member named some previous species to be listed, and that group of sharks accounts for 85% of the global shark fin trade. I will name a few of them—I do not want to keep us here for hours—because includes sharks most of us never even think about, such as the tiger shark, the bull shark, the lemon shark, the spinner shark, the blacknose shark, the blacktip shark, the grey reef shark, the silky shark, the dusky shark, the blue shark, the copper shark. There are loads of them, and 54 species will now be on the list. That means they have to be controlled much more closely, and people will be given a permit to catch them only if that would not be detrimental to the survival of the species, so that is a really good move that our own Government are involved in right now.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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I am grateful to the Minister for giving way and, through her, also thank the hon. Member for Neath for introducing this Bill.

That is indeed very good news. Will the Minister confirm that the Government will keep the level of the fines in this Bill under review because enforcement of this Bill will be important to deter the practice from happening altogether? Will the Minister assure me that enforcement against the import and export of shark fins will be important in the Government’s application of this Bill?

Rebecca Pow Portrait Rebecca Pow
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Of course, and I thank my hon. Friend for that good point. We have a paragraph in the schedule about the way the penalties work and the appropriate authority can revoke the exemption certificate if the right information is not supplied. The penalties are up to £3,000—actually, that is for providing inaccurate information about what they are doing. Of course, the whole system will be enforced by ensuring that Border Force and others know what to look for.

I want to highlight that it is leaving the EU that has enabled us to have this opportunity, and we have probably moved much more quickly than we might have done because, had we been in the EU, we would have had to get the agreement of all member states. That would potentially have been slow, so at least we have been able to get this matter taken forward in an individual Bill.

We have had widespread support for the Bill from non-governmental organisations. Organisations such as the Shark Trust, Shark Guardian, the Blue Marine Foundation and the Wildlife Conservation Society have done a great deal of work, for which I thank them. They have spoken to many of our MPs.

To wind up, I am so grateful to the hon. Lady for her work on this important Bill and, of course, to the Committee. The Government will do all that we can to support the Bill’s passage through both Houses and get it on to the statute books so that we can protect this iconic and critical species for generations to come.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Elliot Colburn and Rebecca Pow
Thursday 25th June 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Rebecca Pow Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Rebecca Pow)
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Our resources and waste strategy, published in December 2018, sets out ambitious plans for how we will minimise waste, promote resource efficiency and move towards a more circular economy where we will reduce waste, reuse and recycle much more than we do now. It combines short and long-term actions and gives a clear long-term policy direction in line with our 25-year environment plan.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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As the Minister knows, the waste hierarchy calls for a reduction in the amount of waste we produce as the best way to tackle waste in this country, followed closely by reusing and recycling that waste. Can she update me on the measures that her Department is taking to reduce the amount of waste produced in this country as part of our green recovery from covid, and will she consider Carshalton and Wallington as a pilot area for any new schemes, such as a deposit return scheme?

Rebecca Pow Portrait Rebecca Pow
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My hon. Friend is always representing his constituency and pushing for new things, and rightly so. The combined effect of the measures set out in the resources and waste strategy and the Environment Bill will be to minimise the amount of waste that reaches the lower levels of the waste hierarchy, including disposal to landfill. We remain committed to eliminating all avoidable plastic by the end of 2042. We have already committed in our manifesto to introducing a deposit return scheme. Unfortunately, we cannot consider the pilot in his area, but I thank him for his support. We look forward to it being introduced, and the second consultation will be under way next year.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Elliot Colburn and Rebecca Pow
Thursday 6th February 2020

(4 years ago)

Commons Chamber
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Rebecca Pow Portrait Rebecca Pow
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I thank the hon. Member for his comments. I am delighted that he is so interested in the scheme. The first consultation had very wide support and we will have a further consultation. The industries wanting to use the collected recycled materials, particularly plastics, want very pure and well-sorted materials so that they can then turn them into the next products. We are thinking about this very seriously. More will be heard in the second consultation and that will come through in the Environment Bill.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn (Carshalton and Wallington) (Con)
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7. What steps her Department is taking to reduce air pollution.

--- Later in debate ---
Rebecca Pow Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Rebecca Pow)
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Our clean air strategy sets out an ambitious programme of action to reduce air pollution from a wide range of sources. We have also put in place a £3.5 billion plan to tackle roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations. Our Environment Bill delivers key parts of our world-leading clean air strategy and makes a clear commitment to set a legally binding target to reduce fine particulate matter, as well as enabling local authorities to take more effective action to tackle air pollution in their areas.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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I thank the Minister for her response. She will know that incineration is considered to only be slightly better than landfill when it comes to disposing of waste, but Lib Dem-run Sutton Council seems to think that its Beddington incinerator has no harmful effects at all on my Carshalton and Wallington constituents. Does she agree that the council should improve air quality monitoring near the site, tackle congestion and be much more ambitious as regards tackling air pollution?

Rebecca Pow Portrait Rebecca Pow
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I am aware that Sutton Council approved the development of the Beddington incinerator as an alternative to landfill, which would have a higher pollution impact. The incinerator is required to operate in compliance with the permit conditions set by the Environment Agency, as I am sure my hon. Friend knows; he has mentioned the incinerator before. We encourage all local authorities, including obviously his Lib Dem-run council, to take action to improve air quality. I urge him to keep pressing it to keep within its commitments.