There have been 24 exchanges between Holly Lynch and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
|Wed 4th March 2020||Flooding||3 interactions (575 words)|
|Wed 26th February 2020||Environment Bill||3 interactions (1,249 words)|
|Mon 24th February 2020||Flooding||3 interactions (98 words)|
|Mon 10th February 2020||Flood Response||3 interactions (126 words)|
|Thu 9th May 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||5 interactions (97 words)|
|Wed 1st May 2019||Environment and Climate Change||3 interactions (851 words)|
|Thu 12th July 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (122 words)|
|Tue 12th June 2018||Coastal Erosion (Westminster Hall)||3 interactions (1,682 words)|
|Thu 7th June 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (108 words)|
|Mon 4th June 2018||Ivory Bill||3 interactions (1,057 words)|
|Wed 2nd May 2018||Reduction of Plastic Waste in the Marine Environment (Westminster Hall)||8 interactions (1,629 words)|
|Thu 26th April 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (59 words)|
|Tue 20th March 2018||Leaving the EU: Fisheries Management||3 interactions (524 words)|
|Thu 8th March 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||5 interactions (199 words)|
|Tue 6th March 2018||Water Supply Disruption||3 interactions (802 words)|
|Wed 28th February 2018||Middle Level Bill||6 interactions (454 words)|
|Tue 27th February 2018||UK Fisheries Policy (Westminster Hall)||9 interactions (1,660 words)|
|Thu 22nd February 2018||Air Quality||3 interactions (383 words)|
|Thu 25th January 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (84 words)|
|Thu 7th December 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (97 words)|
|Thu 7th December 2017||UK Fishing Industry||3 interactions (1,586 words)|
|Tue 14th November 2017||Marine Environment (Westminster Hall)||3 interactions (1,643 words)|
|Thu 26th October 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (139 words)|
|Thu 20th July 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (122 words)|
(6 months, 2 weeks ago)Commons Chamber
I am very glad the First Minister offered a contingency fund for the homes damaged by the floods and that in my constituency we will be getting money from our local authority as well. I ask the Secretary of State: will he provide adequate funding for the properties and the long-term infrastructure that is needed?
In my own constituency, several hundred properties and businesses have been affected by flood risks and the flooding of the River Cole. Action to prevent flooding has been hit by years of Conservative cuts to flood defence spending. The Environment Agency, the emergency services and local authorities all play a significant role in managing and responding to flood risk, but insufficient funds are being spent on protecting the most vulnerable communities from flooding and the consequences of extreme weather. Ministers must urgently fund the schemes that these communities say they need, as well as putting in place longer-term flood prevention strategies with appropriate bodies to prevent flooding and to protect homes and businesses.
Many households cannot afford to meet their insurance premiums, which have skyrocketed, and a recent study showed that 20,000 homes that are not protected by the Government’s insurance scheme are also not protected by flood defences. Can the Minister confirm what discussions have been held with the insurance companies? Will the Government commit to making funding available to homeowners who find themselves unable to claim on their own insurance policies?
One of the businesses in my constituency put £50,000 of its own funding towards flood defences. Despite that, it still suffered losses of over £500,000. In some cases—in fact, in most cases—only two sandbags were provided to households, although six to eight are recommended by the Environment Agency. We need to tackle flood damage and flood risk as a matter of urgency and priority. That can be done only with appropriate levels of funding going to the Environment Agency, local authorities and the emergency services, so will the Minister commit to these funds being put in place to ensure that no homes or businesses suffer unnecessarily from floods? In my own constituency it is the River Cole that needs flood defences to be put in place.
(6 months, 3 weeks ago)Commons Chamber
It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Cardiff North (Anna McMorrin). I endorse much of what she said about the horror that plastic presents to the world and the nonsense of exporting it. She might be interested to know that one of my sad failures as Secretary of State was failing to persuade our coalition partners to introduce a price incentive for a genuinely biodegradable plastic bag. Our charge, which came in shortly after I left but which I legislated for, has reduced the number of bags from 8 billion to 1.1 billion, according to the House of Commons Library, but the ideal is to develop a biodegradable plastic that does not cause this horror in the seas and all the terrible issues she raised.
We have heard many very good maiden speeches and I think there are more to come, so I will speak briefly. I see all this enthusiasm in the Chamber, all this youth, all these excited people wanting to take action as Members of Parliament and benefit their constituents, yet a pillar of the Bill, which I strongly support, is the creation of a quango. When I was Secretary of State, my four key priorities were: to grow the rural economy; improve the environment, not just protect it—which is built into the Bill; and save the country from animal disease and plant disease. The Bill is the basis on which to deliver that. It is not all in there—it is partly an enabling Bill—but I strongly support its clearly stated aims.
The only aspect I would really query is that we do not need another quango. We already have Natural England and the Environment Agency. My right hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove), when he took the Bill through in its early incarnation, said that the staff of the OEP would only number 60 to 120. That dwarfs what we already have in Natural England and the Environment Agency. What we want are strong Ministers. I am delighted by the appointment of my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton Deane (Rebecca Pow) as a Minister and of my right hon. Friend the Member for Camborne and Redruth (George Eustice), who was my junior Minister, as Secretary of State. They are knowledgeable, competent Ministers bringing forward policies that will benefit our farming and marine industries and the environment, both terrestrial and marine.
What we want is a strong mechanism by which Members can question Ministers, ensure that whatever they decide is put into practice and pull them up if it is not. What we do not need is another quango. A quango is not the answer. I have direct experience of that. We had the most terrible floods in Somerset when I was at DEFRA. Why was that? It was because of a very misguided policy. Why was it misguided? It was because the Environment Agency was led by a model quangocrat. Baroness Young of Old Scone had spent seven years as chief executive of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, she had been vice-chairman of the BBC for two years, and she was chief executive of the Environment Agency for eight years. I am sure she would score many points among all those speakers on the Opposition Benches—of course, she was also a Labour Whip.
The policy of Baroness Young in the Somerset levels was to put a limpet mine on every pumping station, and when it came to categories, she wanted policy option 6 for the levels, which was to increase flooding. The result was an environmental catastrophe, costing, according to some estimates, more than £100 million. The water died—the water went stagnant—and all aquatic life disappeared. I went down and talked to some experts on the levels who really understood the local environment, and they said that they had never seen so many wild birds disappear until that year.
What we want is local management. North Shropshire looks as it does thanks to generations of private farmers and private landlords taking huge pride in what they do. What we are doing now on public goods in the Agriculture Bill—and there are more measures in this Bill—is giving people the chance to improve their local environment. I should like the Minister to look at the benefits of nature improvement areas, built around catchments, where we could pool the resources from the landowners’ payments for public goods, from public grants and from other moneys, possibly local, for the purpose of long-term targets. We could concentrate on local species which need building up again. That would deliver real environmental outcomes.
Creating at national level a quango with 60 to 120 busy- bodies who are, for some reason, independent of this House is not the way. We have had enough: we have had 40 years of the European Union telling us what to do, and doing it badly. Following directives designed for polluted European rivers, not our own—that is not the way. The answer is to write laws in this House, and regulations in this House, and set targets in this House, and then control them in this House. That is what we were elected to do. Creating a parody of the European Commission—which is what the OEP is—is emphatically not the answer.
I am looking at the clock, but I will very briefly mention a couple of other issues. I mentioned catchment areas earlier. I should like the Minister to look at the issue of abstraction, because we have to balance the need to grow food and provide adequate water with the need to keep food production going. Food production is vital, and it is still the primary function of the countryside. I should also like the Minister to look at the balance between the precautionary principle and the innovation principle. In the European Union there is an insane hostility towards modern technologies, which has caused real environmental damage. What we should be doing is growing more food on less land, and freeing up land for recreation and planting. We have heard a lot of talk about trees, all of which I entirely endorse, especially in view of the floods. We should be growing more trees in the upper parts of the catchment areas. That is the balance: we will only do that with modern technologies.
Lastly, I want to touch on the subject of endangered species, as did my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling). I am very proud to be wearing the tie of the Red Squirrel Survival Trust. We now have a wonderful opportunity to legislate for the species in this country which really are endangered. We do not have a problem with crested newts—although they have caused terrible problems for our building industry—but we do have a problem with red squirrels and certain crayfish, and those are what we should be targeting.
The Bill presents us with a great opportunity, and I support it, but will the Minister please make sure that it is Members of Parliament in the driving seat?
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Halifax (Holly Lynch), who told us about the situation that her constituents are facing. It has also been a pleasure to listen to the maiden speeches, and I observe that today must be “west midlands day”, because I have heard many excellent speeches from new colleagues from the region. I welcome the Bill and its protections, which will improve air and water quality, restore habitats, create the Office for Environmental Protection, and introduce measures to deal with the impact of plastic waste, on which I will focus.
As somebody who spent 30 years in the packaging industry and as chair of the all-party parliamentary group for the packaging manufacturing industry, I recognise public concerns about litter and where plastic waste ends up. I heard about that on the doorstep during the general election, because litter in our communities has an impact on local environments and the plastic waste finding its way into the oceans has an impact on the global environment. Both are harmful, but both represent the waste of a valuable resource. I have heard many Members today talk about the harm and damage caused by packaging ending up in the wrong place, but I want to take a moment to consider the role of packaging, because we sometimes forget what it is for.
Packaging enables the safe transfer of goods, particularly of food items, ensuring that they are received by the customer in peak condition. The second important role of packaging is not only to provide customers with convenience when picking up their daily food needs, but to give them information about what the product contains. That is of particular importance for food, given concerns about food allergies, nutritional content and sell-by dates, but instructions for use are important in respect of other items. However, that information is absent when people fill their own containers, for which there is a trend in retail.
The final role of packaging is to prevent food waste. Recent innovations, such as resealable packs for cheese and meat, are important in enabling households to get the most out of their food budgets and ensuring that purchased food is consumed. We must not forget that the disposal of food waste is a problem because it creates gases. There is a case for suggesting that the harmful gases given off by food waste cause more environmental harm than an inert plastic product bobbing about in the ocean. I am not suggesting that that is desirable, but we need to consider the relative harms.
If we accept that there is a role for packaging, we need to consider the steps to minimise its impact. The Bill encourages a reduction in the amount of packaging and refers to recycling. There has always been an incentive for manufacturers to use the least amount of material to do the job that the packaging is being asked to do, and the industry has undergone a process called lightweighting over many years. For example, starting in 2007, Coca-Cola worked with WRAP to reduce the weight of the 500 ml bottle from 26 grams to 24 grams, saving 8% of raw material and reducing the need for 1,400 tonnes of PET a year.
A large part of the Bill is about improving recycling in several ways. First, it extends producer responsibilities by increasing obligations on packaging manufacturers. The industry accepts that it needs to do more and has transformed its approach since the days when I worked in the sector, when there was little regard for what happened once the product had been used.
Consistency in local authority domestic waste collection is also important. People are confused by what goes where, and variation leads to confusion. That needs to be addressed, and I support the intention to simplify labelling on packaging so that what can and cannot be recycled, and which bin to put things in, becomes clearer to consumers. There also needs to be consistency in the use of terms. Why say that something is recyclable if the facilities do not exist to recycle it?
Part 3 addresses deposit return schemes. There are details to consider, but almost all producers in the industry accept DRS. Coca-Cola has an ambition to ensure that all its packaging is recovered so that more is recycled and none ends up as waste or litter, and in early 2017 it confirmed its support for a well-designed DRS.
A DRS must consider a number of items. It must have clear objectives, and it must increase the quality and quantity of the material collected. Quality is about making sure that there is less contamination, and I disagree with my right hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson)—biodegradable plastic is not helpful, because it is a contaminant in the waste stream.
Secondly, on increasing quantity, there is no point incurring the costs of a DRS—reverse vending machines cost up to £15,000 each—if it does not increase the amount of material recycled. There is real concern about displacement and the fact that people who currently put bottles in their domestic household waste stream will take them to the supermarket to get their deposit back, which will not increase the amount that is recycled.
We need to consider the number of return points and whether there will be one at all sales points. Will cafés and restaurants be included? Will the scheme provide an exemption for small retailers that lack the space to install a reverse vending machine? There are serious questions for the Minister about who will pay for it. Given the lower volumes from smaller retailers, how will we make certain that it is cost-neutral for them? The Minister needs to sort out what happens to unredeemed deposits. Not every bottle deposited will be redeemed, so where will those bottles go? Who will manage it?
Finally, we need to ensure consistency with Scotland. I did not hear the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Deidre Brock) say that it would make much more sense and be better for consumers, retailers and beverage producers if we had a UK-wide system. Britvic, which produces soft drinks in my constituency, says that it will otherwise need two separate stock units, one for Scotland and one for England and Wales, which does not make sense.
(6 months, 4 weeks ago)Commons Chamber
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that point, and I am of course more than willing to meet him, other residents and local authority leaders in Calder Valley. I have also undertaken to hold a summit in Yorkshire to discuss flood concerns more generally. There are a number of important projects in the Calder Valley, including at Hebden Bridge and Brighouse. Some of them have concluded, while others have not yet been completed, for reasons that I know he is aware of.
We will, during the course of this week, be issuing local authorities with more detailed guidance on the flood resilience fund. Our view at the moment is not to give it to people who have already claimed it, since they have already invested to make their homes more resilient.
(7 months, 1 week ago)Commons Chamber
I would certainly encourage all local authorities to engage with residents affected by flooding in particular areas and with the various schemes that are available.
I want to extend my sympathies to all the hon. Member’s constituents—it has been devastating for many of them—and I would be very happy to meet her and representatives from her constituency to discuss what has happened and how we can help in the future.
(1 year, 4 months ago)Commons Chamber
The hon. Gentleman raises an important issue. First, I record my thanks to Emma Howard Boyd and Sir James Bevan, the chair and chief executive of the Environment Agency, for the leadership that they have shown on this issue. Under this Government, record amounts have been spent on flood defences and record efforts have been made to combat climate change. However, in both cases, more needs to be done. The national policy statement will be forthcoming shortly.
It is good to see the hon. Lady back in her place for the first DEFRA questions since returning from maternity leave and the safe arrival of baby James. Congratulations.
Protecting our moorland from wildfires is essential. The risk of severe damage from wildfire on wet, well functioning blanket bog is relatively low. Natural England is working with landowners and land managers through its uplands programme to develop long-term management plans. We are also currently undertaking a wildfire review to ensure that our future land management policies minimise the risks of wildfire.
The hon. Lady is absolutely right that healthy wet peatlands help carbon storage and minimise and reduce fire risk. That is why peatland restoration is an urgent priority. DEFRA is currently funding four large-scale peatland restoration projects across England, involving a £10 million fund, including in the north of England uplands, the Welsh borders, Dartmoor and Exmoor and, of course, the south Pennines: vital work that we need to take forward.
(1 year, 4 months ago)Commons Chamber
May I be the second to congratulate most warmly the hon. Member for Newport West (Ruth Jones) on an accomplished maiden speech? Her love of and passion for her constituency shone out in everything she said.
We have done well on climate change, because PwC reports a 42% cut in emissions since 1990, but we are all here today because we know that we must do more and that the need is urgent. Whether from younger people or from Back Benchers across the House, a challenge generally leads to better government and better results. I want to be positive and to point to five areas that are part of the solution. To be fair, the Government are involved in part in all of them, but they need to go further in some.
We have already had mention of electric vehicles and hydrogen vehicles, and I welcome the investment in battery technology and the Government’s efforts so far. However, we have heard today that Norway is far ahead of us, and 1.03 million new energy vehicles, as they are called, were sold in China in the first 11 months of last year, which is an increase of 68%, so we cannot rest on our laurels. I look forward to when ultra low emissions vehicles become more affordable so that more people can buy them.
There is one easy win in the area of transport—this would also deal with air pollution—and that is to take greater action on engine idling, something which New York has done recently with proper enforcement powers. Westminster City Council has its #DontBeIdle campaign, and we could and should do something across the UK about idling. Cycling and walking will also be part of the solution, and I am proud to be the co-chair of the all-party parliamentary cycling group. Roughly 2% of journeys in the UK are made by bike, but the numbers for Germany and the Netherlands are around 10% and 25% respectively. We can go further, but we must mainstream cycling funding, and new roads in particular need to be cycle-friendly. We are not quite there yet.
On aviation, unbelievably, electric planes have a future. I must admit that when I first read about them I had to check that it was not 1 April, but easyJet is looking to bring out a nine-seater prototype this year. By 2027, easyJet and Ryanair are hoping to fly some commercial routes up to distances of 500 km, so aviation can have an electric future, certainly in short-haul flights, and we should welcome that.
We have heard a lot about retrofitting, but why are not all new homes being built as zero-energy-bill homes? I was privileged to welcome the British architect Bill Dunster OBE to my constituency, and he is building such homes now. Not only do they address the climate issue, but not having to pay gas and electricity bills can be critical in helping our low-income constituents to look after their families. We need to accelerate that. The Building Research Establishment in Watford has proved that the technology is there, and we should be doing much more on that front.
We have heard about the forests we are planting, with 50 million trees to be planted in the northern forests and another 11 million trees being planted by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. I am one of probably many MPs who were privileged to send 10 trees to their constituency from the “Commonwealth canopy” scheme organised by the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Frank Field), and that is something we can do, too.
The subject of this debate includes the environment, about which we have not spoken much today, particularly our wildlife. I am privileged to live in a constituency in which, when I go home in the evening, I see deer, muntjacs, foxes, rabbits, pheasants, partridges, woodpeckers, goldfinches, nuthatches and many other wonderful forms of wildlife. We need to make sure they can exist, too.
My constituency also hosts Duke of Burgundy and chalk hill butterflies, and butterflies are one of the creatures most in danger from climate change. Only a very small increase in temperature can cause them difficulties.
In summary, I want a future that is green and profitable, and for which we help our poorer constituents to adapt.
I want to make three very brief points, which I hope will not repeat anything that has been said so far. The first relates to the tone and nature of the debate. It is enormously to be welcomed that there is once again consensus across the House of Commons in favour of taking this issue very seriously.
I recall the time I first went to see, in his then role as Environment Secretary, the brother of the former leader of the Labour party. I put it to the then Environment Secretary that the Conservative party, whose policy review I was running, was prepared to move forward on a climate change Bill, and he said to me, rather memorably, that he could not see any way to prevent consensus from breaking out. It did so, and that climate change Act has protected the whole political class from a great tendency for one party to score points off the other in relation to potentially unpopular measures. As long as we can maintain that consensus, I agree with the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband)—the former Leader of the Labour party and former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change—that we may disagree from time to time about the means by which we achieve things, but we can still move forward satisfactorily.
The second point I want to make relates to the comments made by the right hon. Gentleman and by the other former Energy Secretary who has spoken, the right hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Sir Edward Davey). System change in the UK is required, and only through system change can mass effects be achieved. We should not expect people to take this on themselves individually as a moral crusade. Some noble souls will, but the aggregate effect will be slight compared with that of system change.
System change must work with the grain of human nature. That means, for example, that in electrifying the car fleet, which is by far the greatest current shift that we can achieve, we need to solve range anxiety. The reason that people—even those who can afford to do so, and for whom such cars represent a net saving—do not buy electric cars is that they are worried about the duration for which they will be able to travel. If we ask ourselves the crucial question, “Are you willing to have a car that might not get you home from the constituency?” the answer will always be no.
There is a ready solution; Next Green Car is already setting out plans for recharging stations every 50 miles on our trunk roads, so that no one will ever be more than 50 miles from a recharging station. We are putting a huge amount of effort, as are the car manufacturers, into improving battery storage. We can solve the problem. Sustained governmental effort is required over the succeeding 18 months or so to put us in a position where we can rival Norway, and then we will start to create a virtuous circle.
As soon as those who can already afford to do so start buying electric cars in sufficient quantities, the price will fall naturally. People who are currently less able to afford such cars will then be able to do so, after which prices will fall yet further. We will thus create exactly the sort of extraordinary revolution that we have seen in information technology with the smartphone, of which there were almost none in the world 25 years ago but of which there are now literally billions, including in many impoverished countries.
That brings me to my last point, which is about the item that has not been discussed terribly much this afternoon but will obviously need an awful lot of discussion over the next few years. There are roughly 2.6 billion people living in India and China, and they are living in circumstances that make climate change particularly significant for them. This is about not just the air pollution issues that dominate in Chinese cities, but the extreme tensions relating to the use of water, for example, in the border lands between China and India. The regimes in both countries are very conscious of affairs. They are also conscious of the need to lift up those 2.6 billion people—in the case of China, to lift people out of middle-income status and into being rich, or what they call moderately prosperous, and in the case of India, to lift literally hundreds of millions of people who are still in abject poverty up to the condition of middle income, along with advancing the interests of those who already enjoy middle incomes. That will require a huge amount of additional activity and energy.
There is no way that anybody preaching from this House or anywhere else in the world is going to tell those countries that they do not have a right to lift their populations into that kind of prosperity. We in the west therefore have a solemn duty to spend our time trying to work out how we can make it easier and cheaper for those countries to achieve that goal, and to work with them to do it. That will require a substantial realignment of not only climate change policy, but our entire western foreign policy, which is of course too large a subject for me to dilate on now. Nevertheless, I hope that if we are to take this issue forward, we can do so with the seriousness that is required in our Foreign Office, and across the western world’s diplomatic establishments, and not just in Departments that are concerned with our domestic affairs.
(2 years, 2 months ago)Commons Chamber
Ofwat, the regulator, has been stringent in the steps that it has taken in order to ensure that performance will be linked to pay in the future.
(2 years, 3 months ago)Westminster Hall
The Scottish Government would have more money if Scotland was an independent country and we had the ability to raise our own taxes and, for example, support immigration and grow our population in the way that we would like it to grow. Immigration is important for coastal communities, particularly because of the people who have moved out of those communities. As my hon. Friend the Member for Livingston mentioned, many of the houses in Pennan are owned by second-home owners, not people who live there. We need to grow Scotland’s population so that people are living there and standing up for and protecting those areas.
The hon. Member for Moray (Douglas Ross) was very clear about how important it is that his constituents are protected, which I completely agree with, but I was concerned about his disregard for the flora and fauna that we also need to protect. A huge number of people have raised concerns about the effect of plastics in our oceans, for example, and I think many of our constituents would be hugely concerned about the impact on marine wildlife of any changes that are sought. That is why it is important that any decisions on protecting areas from coastal erosion are made with the best information, and why the Scottish Government have funded the national coastal change assessment. Phase 1 is completed and they are on to phase 2. Given the dramatic effects of climate change, and that coastal erosion is speeding up, it is incredibly important that any decisions are taken while looking at the current effects of climate change. It is an ever-moving feast and we need to have the best possible information before taking any decisions.
It was interesting to hear some of the issues hon. Members have with studies taking place. Angus Council’s study will not be finished until July 2019; the hon. Member for Angus is pushing for action right now, when the council has not completed its study. The other point that bugs me about what that council is doing is that it has not committed to use the full funding it has been given for the purpose of protecting against coastal erosion. It takes a special kind of hypocrisy for a council to say, “We are not spending all of the money we have been given for this purpose, but we would like some more.” I do not think that is a sensible position to take. The case made by the hon. Member for Angus would be much stronger if the local authority could evidence that it had spent all the money it had been allocated in the correct way to protect against coastal erosion.
Further on funding, the Scottish Government have committed to putting their Crown Estates money towards the betterment of coastal communities, which will be a recurring amount of money provided to councils such as Angus. It would be useful if that council would commit to using the money for preventing coastal erosion, particularly in relation to the concerns around the golf links that the hon. Lady mentioned and the erosion that is happening at some speed in that area.
I represent Aberdeen, with its beautiful beach that was immortalised in the mid-20th century railway posters as “the Silver City with the Golden Sands”. In 2006, action was taken in Aberdeen to protect our coastline from erosion and we now have what are called T-groins—large defences that ensure our beach is not washed away. It was good that that action was taken, but it did not receive universal buy-in when it was first put forward. People, not least the surfing community, raised a number of concerns. It has taken time for that to bed in and for us to be able to prove that it has not had the negative effects suggested.
One of the important things going forward with action on coastal erosion is to ensure that communities buy into it and that we are doing whatever we can to protect housing, properties and tourism, but also marine life. In Scotland, the marine litter strategy was introduced a number of years ago—it is not a new thing. It is about tackling the issues that damage the most vulnerable marine wildlife.
It is very important that we come together. We absolutely must look at making sure that studies are done so that the best possible, futureproofed, action can be taken, but we must get the communities on board, including those in the wider community—perhaps those who do not live near the coast but are particularly concerned about the impact on wildlife. As I have said in Westminster Hall a number of times, we need to work together and we can all learn from each other. Action taken in some places in Scotland could be replicated in some places in England, and vice versa. We need to make sure that with any action we take to protect any of our coastlines, we are learning from the experiences of others and ensuring that those coastlines are protected for future generations.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir David. Like a number of other hon. Members, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Angus (Kirstene Hair) on securing the debate. She articulated the problems facing her constituents in Montrose with passion, and was characteristically robust in the points she made. I am conscious that this issue affects many parts of the country, including my own, as my hon. Friends from various Cornish constituencies pointed out. It is good that so many Members turned up at 9.30 am to raise this important issue in the first debate of the morning when we might face a lateish night in this place.
As the shadow Minister pointed out, the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey), would normally lead on this part of the portfolio. I am covering this debate because, as a number of hon. Members know, she is recuperating from a recent illness. However, she will be following the debate closely, as coastal erosion is an ongoing challenge for her constituency of Suffolk Coastal. I very much look forward to receiving a text from her later this morning, as often happens after such debates, giving me an update on how I did.
As everybody is aware, responsibility for the management of coastal erosion is devolved to the Governments of the four nations of the UK. I will return later to some of what they are doing.
Coastal erosion is a natural process that always has and always will change the shape of our coastline, but change can be distressing for those living nearby. In March this year, we all saw the dramatic pictures from Hemsby when the “beast from the east” struck the coast of Norfolk. That county has a dynamic coastline, which has been retreating progressively over past centuries, but on that occasion the concentrated power of wind and sea eroded nearly 5 metres of shore along a 700-metre frontage, leaving 13 homes balanced precariously above the sea. Proactive management by the Environment Agency and the local council led to residents being evacuated by Great Yarmouth Borough Council. After the storm, 11 properties were demolished and, of the remainder, one property was saved by the owner rolling it back, and another needed only part of it to be demolished as it too was rolled back.
The key difference between fluvial flooding and coastal erosion is that, while still distressing, the impact of fluvial—river—and surface flooding tends to be temporary, while the impact of coastal flooding is terminal and carries much greater risk to human life. Of the £2.5 billion to be invested in flood defences between 2015 and 2021, nearly £1 billion is dedicated to coastal areas, reflecting how seriously we take that challenge.
Given my constituency, I understand people’s concerns. Cornwall has the longest coastline in England, at more than 1,000 kilometres, and the occurrence of coastal flooding is likely to increase threefold over the next 100 years. My constituency has both a north-facing and a south-facing coastline, and some of the exposed cliffs along the north coast have historical rates of coastal erosion of up to 40 metres in the past 100 years. They are likely to experience at least a further 40 metres of erosion in the next 100 years.
Sustainable coastal management needs to embrace change. I recognise that this debate was called on the back of a particular Scottish concern, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Angus, but this is a UK-wide matter and I feel that I should consider how we approach things in each nation, starting of course with England, where the Government set the overall policy and local councils lead on management of coastal erosion risk in their areas.
Earlier this decade, a significant decision was taken by the Government to recognise formally that we would not defend every part of our coastline from erosion. We devolved decision making to a local level, confirming what had already been happening in practice. That made the process for councils designing a shoreline management plan more meaningful. Such plans set out at a high level the policy framework to manage the risk of change.
Covering three time horizons—20, 50 and 100 years—the plans recommend four approaches to management: first, advancing the line, or moving defences out beyond the coast, which is used in some circumstances; secondly, holding the line, which means using either soft or hard defences to reduce or eliminate erosion; thirdly, managed realignment, where we accept the inevitable but manage the process, taking account of local geology and wildlife; and, finally, an approach of no active intervention, which allows nature to take its course.
Much of the debate has focused on whether the devolved Administrations are doing enough to support their councils. I shall say a little about what we do in England. To support our councils, the Environment Agency provides a national picture of what is happening on the coast. It has established national coastal erosion risk maps that provide a consistent assessment of coastal erosion risk around the country and set out a best-practice method for calculating that risk. The agency is also supporting a national refresh of shoreline management plans to ensure that they remain based on accurate information. There is also investment, which, inevitably, was a big feature of this debate.
We put significant investment into coastal erosion prevention. In England, between 2015 and 2021, our plans will see £885 million invested in projects to manage coastal erosion and better to protect communities against flooding from the sea. At the same time as the Government made the decision specifically not to defend the entire coastline, they also made the important decision that any scheme with a positive benefit-cost ratio could still receive some Government funding to support partnership funding locally. We also established corporation tax relief for businesses to contribute to such projects.
Our partnership approach means that schemes that would not have progressed in the past can go ahead if local funding can be found through the partnership model. Our £2.6 billion capital investment programme is expected to attract more than £600 million in partnership funding contributions on top of that.
In Norfolk, an innovative public-private project will provide protection for nationally important gas infra- structure and enhance protection for local communities.
(2 years, 3 months ago)Commons Chamber
My right hon. Friend is of course right, and our thoughts are with the families who have been affected by the floods, particularly the family of Peter Harnwell, who sadly died despite the best efforts of the emergency services when his vehicle was submerged. Thanks to the Government’s efforts, the vast majority of households at high flood risk now have access to home insurance through Flood Re, which has active plans in place to engage with all communities after flood events once the immediate emergency has subsided.
The allocation of flood defence funding is important, as the hon. Lady will appreciate, and it is being properly scrutinised. Conversations are being had and, as I said to the hon. Member for Bury North (James Frith), a decision will be made this summer.
(2 years, 3 months ago)Commons Chamber
It is a pleasure to be the last Back Bencher to speak. I shall be looking to the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann), whose yawning ratio has increased, to see when I should sit back in my place.
I absolutely support this Bill, for all the reasons as everybody else. Therefore, I will not rehearse those arguments and will instead focus on two matters, the first being the definition of ivory. I note the points that have been made about how that can be extended. The explanatory notes say that under clause 35 the definition can indeed be extended to cover beyond elephants. However, that would happen only if the Government took the view that there had been a shift towards trade in other ivory—they would then perhaps then extend this. It would be a bit more up front to put that extension in place immediately and I cannot understand why this is limited just to the elephant tusk.
The second point I want to make is about the exemptions. In the event that we are to have exemptions, and we see the Bill contains some limited ones, surely it makes sense for the Bill Committee to get those absolutely right. Notwithstanding the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Robert Courts), my concern is that I do not find those exemptions particularly tight. There is a series of exemptions. For example, clause 2 refers to pre-1918 rare items and those with artistic, cultural or historical significance. We all have a view on what such things could be and it will be incredibly difficult to differentiate objectively. The Bill also mentions other time limits; there are references to 1975.
I find the exemptions somewhat random, so my idea to throw into the pot is that we have just one pre-defined list—a “now or never” registration, using pre-1947 as the date. People would not be able to add to the list and anything that has not been registered would just get destroyed. That should include museums. Thereafter, we would have the pre-defined set of items in place, we would have certainty and this could not be gamed. We would therefore just have one criterion. That registration process would be paid for, and any excess amounts banked by the Government should be spent on prohibition work in the field in the countries where this exists. If anything in the list is transferred, there should be a 20% tax, which would also go to those causes.
Those are my ideas to throw into the pot. A lot more could be done in Committee to get these exemptions narrowed and standardised, and to give better legal certainty that this will work.
I wish to thank Members from all parties for their contributions to this really important debate. I am encouraged by the strong consensus in the Chamber that the Bill is essential in the fight against the poaching of elephants for their ivory. I am grateful to Members on both sides of the House for that clear cross-party support. There were some excellent speeches from the hon. Members for Workington (Sue Hayman), for Halifax (Holly Lynch) and for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron), who showed such important cross-party consensus on the fact that action must be taken.
Restrictions on commercial activities in ivory and other products from endangered species were first introduced when the United Kingdom became party to the convention on international trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora, CITES, in 1975. The EU wildlife trade regulations introduced in 1997 implement CITES in a stricter manner than is required by the convention. The Bill now builds on those existing regulations to underline the fact the United Kingdom does not accept that ivory should be seen ever as a desirable commodity or, even worse, as a status symbol.
The Government have introduced this Bill quickly—only six weeks after we published our consultation response. We recognise the need to act quickly, which has been highlighted by many Members throughout the House—I am very grateful for that. I am hopeful that Members from across the House will work together to ensure the swift passage of the Bill through Parliament in the weeks ahead.
Before I respond to individual points raised by Members, I should like to pay tribute to the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey). Indeed, this Bill bears the hallmarks of her committed campaigning and energy, which make her such a popular figure in the House. Mr Deputy Speaker, I am sure that you and Members from across the House will join me in wishing her a speedy recovery. I will do everything that I can, to the best of my endeavours, to provide cover for her from the substitutes’ bench until she returns safe and well to join us in this place.
We should also recognise, as many Members have, the incredible efforts of the 70,000 individuals and organisations that took the time to respond to the consultation that was launched last October. It is particularly encouraging that some 88% of respondents supported the ban on the sale of ivory. I thank the environmental bodies represented in those responses, and those from the antiques trade, the music sector and others, for their constructive engagement and support. I have been particularly heartened to see the endorsement of our approach from conservation organisations such as the WWF, the Tusk Trust, the Zoological Society of London, the Born Free Foundation and Stop Ivory, among others. It is most welcome and sincerely appreciated.
That engagement and the level of support for our proposals has convinced us that it is right that the Bill sets out a strong ban to protect elephants in the wild from poaching, with only a very limited number of exemptions for ivory items that would not contribute either directly or indirectly to poaching. We believe that approach is both proportionate and, of course, robust, as it should be.
When I saw elephants in the wild during a very memorable visit to Tanzania in 1988, the African elephant population was estimated to be 600,000.
(2 years, 4 months ago)Westminster Hall
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Edward, and I congratulate the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael) on securing this debate. He made some good points about plastic waste, which is now a fashionable topic. The Government are now at a privileged moment in time in which to take further action on the pollution of our environment, and I hope they take that opportunity.
Members have demonstrated the will to work across the devolved Parliaments. The hon. Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) made superb points about market failure. He reiterated that there is confusion regarding the disposal of a vast amount of products in our shops. Reducing VAT on such products would be a superb nudge to everyone involved in making and disposing of them.
I thank all previous speakers for their views on this highly important issue. I am delighted to take part in a debate on a topic about which I feel strongly, namely the scourge of plastic pollution on the environment. The hon. Member for Stirling (Stephen Kerr) mentioned Barr’s Irn-Bru deposit scheme. How far-sighted of that company, which started in the Falkirk area—[Interruption.] I thought you would like that, Stephen.
While watching the magnificent “Blue Planet”, I was struck by how much we have to thank David Attenborough for ending his TV series with the theme of protecting our marine life. It is a subject close to my heart, and I know the public feel strongly about it, too. Many of my constituents have contacted me about it, and in my work with the Environmental Audit Committee the fight to halt the pollution of our seas by plastic waste goes on.
Scotland has been praised for leading the way in this battle. Nurdle hunt events on beaches in my constituency and East Lothian have allowed people to see how many tiny pieces of plastic litter our rock pools and sand. Because of that, and other awareness-raising events around the country, people have increasingly added their support to combating that creeping threat to waterways. We welcomed the successful UK ban on microbeads, which is a positive move in the ongoing war against pollution. However, the ban covers only products that are designed to go down the drain, which does not even include cosmetics, never mind consumer products. More must be done.
As you know, Sir Edward, many individuals and companies are undertaking good initiatives. For example, on Sunday 29 April I was invited to attend the 100th anniversary of the Falkirk and District Boys Brigade service at Larbert Old church. The Very Rev. Dr John Chalmers, who was a former moderator, spoke and his message was very clear. His speech was captivating. It was about where our planet came from, how it began, and he spoke about “great radiance”, and how we must look after this planet. Those words were not lost on anyone attending the service, especially the young people present. They get the message, and so should decision makers in this place.
Scotland’s decision to charge 5p for a plastic bag was taken up across the UK—I might have a disagreement here with my friend from Northern Ireland, the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon)—and that was another good move for the environment. Sadly, after Brexit we have no guarantees from the UK Government that Scotland will still be in charge of its own laws for protecting our clean water and land. We must keep pressing for answers, and we will.
On my visits to local supermarket giants Asda and Tesco, it was encouraging to see their work to reduce plastic in their products and packaging. Ordinary items such as cotton buds cause real problems for marine life. Through time, they are gradually broken down into small plastic fragments that are scattered through our waterways. That is a massive problem, and we must all do our bit to help reduce it. The Co-op ceased using microbeads in its products in the ’90s, as did Falkirk’s Scottish Fine Soaps Company.
There is more good news, and creative thinking, in a scheme that involves authors and illustrators, including Quentin Blake and Robert Macfarlane, from the publisher Penguin Random House. That new campaign centres on reducing the use of plastics in the book industry. Authors4Oceans asks publishers, book shops and readers to reduce the amount of plastic they use by finding eco alternatives to the bags, straws, bottles and single-use cutlery that ends up at the bottom of the sea. Even its jiffy bags are going to be plastic free.
The alliance between big business and the public is what gets things done and brings about change. The rising tide of plastic waste in the ocean has been described by the UN oceans chief as a “planetary crisis”. How can we disagree with that? There is increasing public appetite for urgent action. It is a horrific fact that in some parts of the sea there is now more plastic by weight than plankton, and that impacts on the environment, wildlife and people. The quantity of plastic in our oceans grows by about 8 million tonnes per year, and plastic production is set to double.
DEFRA’s marine litter monitoring, which measures the number of items found on the sea floor, found an increase of 150% last year. Meanwhile, the UK approach to this crisis remains rather inward-looking. Let us get away from this silo-thinking. Unlike Scotland and Northern Ireland, the UK seems to lack a clear plan. Although the UK marine strategy acknowledges plastic as a problem in the context of marine litter and as a danger to wildlife, the Environmental Audit Committee’s inquiry into plastic bottles criticised it for its weak analysis. The EAC identified the need for more research, and outlined a basic environmental monitoring programme. Actual measures were sparse—surely the precautionary principle would suggest that we act as well as research the problem. The only monitoring of floating plastics under the marine strategy is a DEFRA initiative to measure the prevalence of plastic items in the stomachs of dead seabirds, especially fulmars, that members of the public have found washed up on the beach. A fulmar is roughly the size of a small chicken, and it only eats plastic that looks like fish eggs—I have here some nurdles; these are what kill the birds—so that plan will not detect items such as floating water bottles.
Marine issues are transnational, and the EU’s integrated maritime policy provides the framework through which the UK and its neighbours strategise and legislate for the future of their seas. What will happen to that co-operation post-Brexit? Amid the uncertainty, we have an onslaught of words and announcements, including consultations on charges for single-use plastics and a deposit return scheme for England. As hon. Members know, the Scottish Government have already committed to such a scheme. Local authorities in England and Wales can issue on-the-spot fines for litter louts, but what about fly-tippers who refuse to pay up?
The Government’s Waste and Resources Action Programme has signed up major retailers and manufacturers to its plastics pact and promises a “resource revolution”. That is good, but it does not go far enough, because there is no enforcement mechanism. The UK Government are taking a soft approach by refusing to implement practical solutions recommended by the EAC such as the 25p latte levy, and instead they seek voluntary agreements with coffee chains.
The UK Government have sought only voluntary agreements for manufacturers and retailers to reduce plastic packaging. Like the hon. Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double), I would like to use the nudge principle and colour code all plastic bottles and coffee cups in green, amber and red, to make it simple, so that when people have the thing in front of them, they can put it into the appropriate coloured bin. For example, action on microbeads was limited to a narrow class of products, against the advice of the EAC. There is too much reliance on citizen participation, though it is great to clean up litter and collect research data. Austerity is forcing local authorities to cut essential services that are needed to help them meet litter-related targets.
Over the years, I have felt that my concerns with environmental issues have often fallen on deaf ears. I do not feel that any more. I think the public are behind us and we are finally realising that there is no such thing as throwing something away on our poor, choked planet. I will conclude by saying that if you want to change the world, you get busy in your own little corner. The EAC has already done that and it has served this Parliament well.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Edward. I congratulate the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael) on securing the debate. I am pleased to inform the House of our progress in addressing the global issue of plastic pollution in the maritime environment. The hon. Member for Halifax (Holly Lynch) talked passionately about wanting to introduce biodegradable straws, and I am pleased that we will be able to do that in due course. We must be able to prevent and tackle waste wherever it appears, which is why it is important to work on a domestic and a global scale. We work with multilateral organisations, such as the G7, which is developing a plastics charter, and the UN on the clean seas initiative. Through the International Maritime Organisation, we collectively oversee the international convention for the prevention of pollution from ships, which is of similar importance.
At the Commonwealth summit two weeks ago, the Prime Minister outlined her key priorities for oceans. The 53 nations set out a Commonwealth blue charter, which highlighted the key things for tackling issues affecting the blue sea. It was important that we could work together to find an interest in how to develop the responses to some of those challenges, particularly those that focus on improvements to oceans and plastics.
During the Commonwealth meeting, we announced with Vanuatu that we had set up an agreement in which Commonwealth member states will join forces in the fight against plastic pollution by pledging action and enterprising approaches, such as the global ghost gear initiative, which seeks to encourage the greater removal of one of the most dangerous forms of marine litter. Seven countries have come forward so far in support of the alliance: New Zealand, Australia, Kenya, Ghana, St Lucia, Fiji and Sri Lanka. Engaging companies and non-governmental organisations will be essential to meet the challenge of plastic pollution.
The Commonwealth clean oceans alliance will work in partnership with the World Economic Forum, Sky, Waitrose, Coca-Cola, Fauna and Flora International and the World Wide Fund for Nature to share expertise and experience and push for global change. The Prime Minister also announced £61.4 million in funding to boost global research and to help countries across the Commonwealth stop plastic waste entering the oceans.
Our deposit return scheme has been highlighted. It is key that we want to boost recycling rates and reduce littering of those bottles. As has been said, it will be subject to consultation later this year. One of the challenges of the DRS is that in this country we use more plastic material in the on-the-go environment than any other country around the world. It will take some time for us to come up with the context to put forward because we have to recognise that the process that individuals use, and the way the scheme is processed, is quite different in Norway, Sweden and Germany, which I went to see. We need to consider how we can bring the scheme in line with transport activities. On-the-go activity needs to be considered to ensure that, instead of people throwing plastics away to be disbanded or having always to take them back to their homes or to a particular supermarket, there are potentially ways open to submit them at a rail station or something similar nearby.
We have already committed to reforming our producer responsibility schemes to better incentivise producers to be more resource efficient. We are already talking to industry and other groups about how we might reform the packaging waste regulations to encourage businesses to design their packaging products in a more sustainable way, to encourage the greater use of recycled material in those products, and to stimulate the increase of collection, reprocessing and recycling of packaging waste. As part of the upcoming resources and waste strategy, we will set out options for the kind of packaging waste producer responsibility system that we think will work best to deliver our ambitions.
Earlier this year we announced our world-leading ban on microbeads in rinse-off personal care products, which will finally come into force before the end of next month. Furthermore, we have announced that, subject to a consultation later this year, we will remove the sale of plastic straws, plastic drink stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds in England. We will consider, however, that straws may be required by some consumers who suffer from disabilities and other medical conditions. As the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland highlighted, Scotland has also announced a consultation on those matters. We are keen to continue to work with the devolved Administrations so that we share ambitions to take things forward. We will recognise that as we take steps forward.
Our plastic bag charge has been in place since 2015. To give credit to the other nations, England was the last to introduce it. We have had huge success since then, with more than 9 billion bags being taken out of circulation. We have announced that we will take further action on all plastic bags, and in the short term, newsagents have started to take proactive action. Recent research by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science showed a decrease in the amount of plastic bags found on the UK’s seabed.
We will continue to look at ways to reduce plastic waste. Improving and encouraging the removal of high-harm material such as ghost gear should be encouraged. In his spring statement, the Chancellor launched a call for evidence to seek views on how the tax system or charges could reduce waste from single-use plastics. We need to get better at understanding potential forms, sources and types of impact of different types of marine litter. The Marine Management Organisation is looking at evidence in English seas for that. To improve understanding about the origin of litter and its potential extraction, we are working through the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation to improve capability to mark fishing gear, which supports our guidance in UK waters. Ropes, lines and pots are marine litter of the highest harm type. To reduce that threat, the UK co-leads an action group with Sweden within the OSPAR convention to develop and promote best practice for the fishing industry and competent authorities.
The Government cannot do it alone. We support initiatives such as Fishing for Litter, the beach cleans run by the Marine Conservation Society and Surfers Against Sewage, and the other work that people do every day to clean up our seas and look for new ways to reuse and recycle what is recovered. We are pleased that Morrisons has recently announced that it will sign the global ghost gear initiative. We are delighted to be supporting the ground-breaking UK plastics pact that was announced last week, which brings together more than 40 companies, NGOs and the Government with the aim of creating a circular economy to tackle plastic waste.
I hope that I have provided the House with a satisfactory outline of what we are doing to reduce plastic waste in the marine environment. We will continue to work with other countries, NGOs, industry and experts from across the board to go further.
I hope Alistair Carmichael will have 30 seconds at the end.
(2 years, 4 months ago)Commons Chamber
When we publish White Papers, we always ensure that there is plenty of time to discuss their content before legislation is proposed.
We have already made many changes to give additional quota to the small under-10 metre fleet in particular. We permanently realigned some unused quota in 2012, and since the introduction of the discard ban, the annual quota uplift has been top-sliced and additional quota given to the under-10 metre sector each and every year.
(2 years, 6 months ago)Commons Chamber
Yes, my hon. Friend, the Chairman of the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, is absolutely right. One of the critical things we can do is make sure, not just from 1 January 2021 but in December 2020, that we are negotiating as an independent coastal state. We will be able to join the regional fisheries management organisations in advance of the December 2020 negotiations—organisations that any independent coastal state has to be part of to secure fishing opportunities and ensure that the marine environment is adequately protected.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her questions. The first thing to make clear is that we are leaving the London fisheries convention, and we will be fully out of the convention, as we will be out of the common fisheries policy, by the time the implementation period ends.
However, it is also important to recognise, as the hon. Lady mentioned, that our share of the total allowable catch during the implementation period, including 2019, will not be altered. That is a protection for all those who want to make sure that we have the stability required to prepare for the additional opportunities that will come at the end of the implementation period.
The critical point remains that the dividing line—I hesitate to say it is a red line—between the Government and their supporters and the Government’s critics is that we believe that, when we leave the European Union, we should leave the common fisheries policy. It is not the position of any other political party in this House that we should leave the common fisheries policy and take advantage of the opportunities that accrue. In that regard, the comments of my hon. Friend the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food about the capacity of the UK to say what it will and will not accept refer clearly and unambiguously to what will occur after the implementation period ends and we are an independent coastal state outside the European Union.
(2 years, 6 months ago)Commons Chamber
We have always been clear that when we leave the European Union, we leave the common fisheries policy and become an independent coastal state under international law. There are, of course, always annual negotiations—even for countries outside the EU—to agree an approach on the management of shared stocks, and we envisage that such meetings will continue. I can confirm that the UK Government’s view is that there is a trade discussion to take place. We want a free trade agreement and a fisheries discussion to take place, and we want to take back control of our waters.
As I said in my recent statement to the House, I have ordered Ofwat to undertake a review of what has been happening. I have asked for a report to be made available—there might be an interim one by the end of this month—and I will be able to update the hon. Lady after that.
As we set out in our strategic policy statement to Ofwat, there is an expectation of the increased investment that needs to be made by the industry, and the price review is under way. Water companies will be coming out with their consultation, but when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State spoke to the water industry at Water UK a few weeks ago, he read it the riot act. He has said that he will give Ofwat whatever powers it needs so that the water companies will up their game.
(2 years, 6 months ago)Commons Chamber
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I promise my response will not be diluted.
I would like to take this opportunity to update the House on the water supply situation following the severe weather experienced last week. The exceptionally cold spell and the rapid thaw that followed has caused widespread water supply issues in the country. Over the weekend, and at the start of this week, tens of thousands of people across southern England have experienced loss of water supply in their homes, and even more have had to cope with low water pressure following leaks from burst pipes. I entirely recognise that it has been a stressful and difficult time for many residents and businesses.
The immediate priority is to get water back up and running for those who have been affected, particularly vulnerable people, businesses, hospitals and care homes. Water companies have been following standard practice, including isolating bursts and redirecting water to mitigate the problem. Bottled water has been provided in the areas most badly affected, and water has been provided by tanker to keep hospitals open.
This morning I chaired a meeting with water company chief executives, Ofwat and Water UK to make sure that water companies in England are working to restore supplies as quickly as possible and that water companies in other parts of the country are preparing for the thaw as it spreads across the country. That will include learning any lessons from places that have already experienced thawing through higher temperatures. The challenge the sector faces is the sheer number of bursts following the rapid change in weather across multiple companies’ networks. Many of them have been relatively small and difficult to detect, and some of the loss of pressure is due to leaks in private homes and businesses.
As of 10.30 am today, based on the information provided by the chief executives on the phone call, we are aware of 5,000 properties still affected in Streatham. The principal source of the problem is airlocks in the water network, which Thames Water is acting to remove, and we expect that to be completed today. Southern Water reconnected supply to more than 10,000 properties overnight, and 867 properties in Hastings are still experiencing problems. We expect everyone there to be reconnected by this afternoon. South East Water has identified approximately 2,000 properties spread across Kent and Sussex that are still without supply, and we expect that they will be reconnected today. South West Water has approximately 1,500 properties affected, but that is changing on a rolling basis as the thaw progresses west. Yorkshire Water has identified 13 affected properties.
Some water companies have identified higher demand than usual on service reservoirs, which indicates that there are burst pipes that need to be dealt with. I want to encourage householders and businesses to report leaks and burst pipes, including those on their property, not just those on public highways.
Water companies have been working hard to address the issues for customers, though I recognise the frustration that many have had in contacting their water companies. I have been assured that companies have increased their staff on the ground who are out identifying where bursts have occurred and repairing them, as well as moving water across their networks to balance supply across the areas they serve. We should recognise the efforts of the hard-working engineers and all involved in working through the night to fix these problems.
Once the situation is restored to normal, we expect Ofwat to formally review the performance of the companies during this period. That will be a thorough review. As well as problems being identified, I want to see excellent examples of practice and preparation shared across the sector. The Government will consider any recommendations from the review and act decisively to address any short- comings exposed. As part of that review, Ofwat will decide whether statutory compensation should be paid. Of course, water companies will want to consider how they compensate customers on a discretionary basis, and I discussed that with the chief executives this morning.
This Government actively support a properly regulated water sector. We have high expectations of water companies increasing their investment in their water and sewerage networks. That was laid out clearly in the strategic policy statement issued to Ofwat last September and reinforced by my right hon. Friend the Environment Secretary when he addressed the water industry last week and said that he expects the industry to increase investment and improve services by maintaining a resilient network, fixing leaks promptly where they occur and preparing for severe weather.
As my right hon. Friend has said, we want a water industry that works for everyone, is fit for the future, improves performance and makes sure that bill payers are getting the best possible value for money. Ofwat will be given any powers it needs, and we will back it in action that it needs to take to ensure that water companies up their game.
The hon. Lady asked a number of questions, mostly about company structures, but she will understand that we have been focused on customer experiences in the past 48 hours in particular. That said, my right hon. Friend the Environment Secretary read the riot act to the water industry last week.
We recognise that over £140 billion has been invested in infrastructure since privatisation, but we still believe that more needs to be done. The hon. Lady will also recognise that, on average, water bills have fallen in real terms in the past five years—over the price review period. It is important that we get an appropriate balance between investment, recognising that people expect to be able to turn on the tap and get water—I fully accept that many households in London are still not receiving water—and customer bills. It is important to have a regulated water industry to achieve such a balance.
I think Jonson Cox has been an active chairman of Ofwat in challenging the water companies. In particular, he has taken on Thames Water about its financing arrangements. Again, the Department and Ministers have made it clear to the water companies that we expect them to accelerate the changes to their financial structures. I recognise that those structures were put in place some time ago, but we have said that we expect them to change more rapidly than some of their current plans suggest.
Overall, we need to recognise that the review—I have asked Ofwat to report back to me by the end of the month—may be only an interim one, with the initial lessons about what has happened. In the short term, however, I am conscious that we must continue to put pressure on Thames Water in particular to make sure that it reconnects households as quickly as possible.
(2 years, 6 months ago)Commons Chamber
Okay, amendment 26 is to clause 15, line 38. The clause, on the protocol of removal of vessels, states:
“The Commissioners must, in consultation with the Navigation Advisory Committee, prepare, publish and maintain a protocol on the use of powers under or by virtue of this Act to remove vessels.”
My amendment proposes to change “in consultation with” to “in conjunction with”, because it seems to me that the Navigation Advisory Committee should work jointly with the commissioners rather than just in consultation with them on this important matter. Again, amendment 25 tries to reduce the powers conferred upon the commissioners under clause 14(4) and how they can be exercised.
As I said at the beginning, this is a much improved Bill, compared with how it was. It has now reached the stage where, because all the amendments have been grouped together, it would not be sensible to test the will of the House on each one—I am glad that you agree with me on that proposition, Mr Deputy Speaker. However, the Bill’s promoters are worried about whether the fact that we are discussing these things in the House today means that they cannot be discussed further when the Bill gets to the other place. My understanding is that when it goes to the other place, there is a fresh opportunity for people to put in petitions, in which they can include whatever they wish to, and I am sure that the other place will build upon the discussions that we are having this evening and have had prior to it, so that eventually, the Bill will be even better than it is now.
Break in Debate
Does the hon. Lady have any sympathy with any of my hon. Friend’s amendments, particularly the one about no charge
“being payable in respect of the use of the waterway by a vessel being used by a person who is registered disabled”?
Is that not something the Labour party would welcome?
It is a pleasure to get another opportunity to speak on the Bill. Given that it has already had its Second Reading, I will focus my remarks on today’s amendments and the changes made in Committee.
As the hon. Member for Halifax (Holly Lynch) just mentioned, a number of positive changes were made to the Bill in response to the petitioners’ concerns, and I was grateful to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Sir Christopher Chope) say that changes had been made and that people had listened. It is appropriate, however, that I say briefly why I do not think it would be appropriate for the amendments and new clauses to be accepted.
New clause 1 would set a minimum navigation depth actually lower than the one in current legislation. New clauses 2 to 5 refer to specific facilities that could be provided. As suggested in an intervention, it does not seem logical to specify in statute things such as coin-operated water showers. Were that to sit in primary legislation, it would run the danger of the Bill becoming completely outdated. It also makes sense for users, via the mechanisms proposed in the Bill, to be able to discuss what are appropriate facilities. The inclusion of some of these items might also render particular powers ineffective where planning permission is refused. I therefore urge the House to reject all the new clauses.
(2 years, 6 months ago)Westminster Hall
HMRC and the Government have taken a number of steps to lose tax over a number of years, so it is interesting that they might be trying to have the best of both worlds, or have their cake and eat it, while leaving some of our boats unfortunately without fishermen.
I am mindful of time—I agreed to give up some of my time so that more Members could speak, because I think a plurality of voice is important. The hon. Member for St Ives (Derek Thomas) mentioned 29 March 2019, as did a number of other Members. The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael) expressed the frustration that we all feel with the centralised, bureaucratic and unresponsive CFP. The point about data collection every two years was important.
The hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman) mentioned the Danes. I was reminded of how the Secretary of State had one message for our fishermen when he was in Peterhead, but when he was in Copenhagen a few weeks later, quite a different message for our fishermen turned up on Twitter, together with a nice message for the fishermen of Jutland. Perhaps we can get that sorted out one way or the other.
Coal and fish were mentioned by the hon. Member for South Thanet (Craig Mackinlay), as was Aneurin Bevan. I am tempted to ask who sold out the fisheries and closed down the pits, but I wouldn’t do that. The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (David Duguid) made important points about the improvement in fish stocks. Nineteen key stocks are now about 70% fished to sustainability, up from 60% in 2015. There has been some improvement.
I have debated with the hon. Member for South East Cornwall (Mrs Murray) in this Chamber many a time. In fact, many years ago, she tragically lost her late husband and is forever held in respect in fisheries debates—we all listen closely to whatever she has to say.
The right hon. Member for Newbury was right in what he said about the tragedy of the commons. That can affect fisheries, and we must remember that under the previous fisheries policy, herring stocks collapsed from overfishing. We must look to ourselves, because we are as guilty as anybody if given the opportunity to go over the quota on fishing.
I would like to touch on a number of points, but will not because I promised to allow others to speak. However, I wish to stress the importance of migrant workers. We talk about getting migrant workers in for agriculture, but we need them for fisheries as well. People come from the Philippines and Ghana—I know some of them personally—and they live on the island I am from. They are fantastic men and we need more of them. They are great and they add to the community. We want them and there is no reason for not having them. It is usually the Minister responsible for immigration in London who stops them coming—everybody else wants them. I asked the Secretary of State what will happen to EU boats when he takes the quota from them, whether there will be a difference between a historic quota and a boat quota, and how and when that will happen. He dodged the question and said that the catch was going on
“to the plates of people from the Western Isles to the south-west of England,”—[Official Report, 25 January 2018; Vol. 635, c. 396.]
I said, “Good dodge”, and he said, “Thank you” in the Chamber, but today I am looking for more of a straight answer from the Minister.
Finally, the antipathy that I and many others feel towards the CFP is not really mirrored in Ireland, and I wonder whether they had better negotiators back in the ’70s and the ’90s than we had in Scotland going through London. Certainly, Ireland would not move discussions from Dublin to London, which is why we should start in Edinburgh this time round.
Could the hon. Lady clarify what the Labour party’s position is? Has she just read out the Labour party’s position? Is it what the PECH Committee has said?
The Brexit Committee was told by Norwegian witnesses that, because Norway is not in the customs union, there are high tariffs on processed fish and they send their fish to Poland and Germany to be processed. Does the hon. Lady agree that, if the United Kingdom leaves the customs union, many fish processing jobs will be lost in Scotland and beyond?
Is the hon. Lady also saying that it is Labour policy that we should be prepared to bargain away fish stocks in order to get that customs agreement?
(2 years, 7 months ago)Commons Chamber
This matter warrants the urgent attention of the House, which is, of course, why I granted the application for the urgent question. However, I am keen that we make timely progress, as the Back-Bench debates are heavily subscribed. There is, therefore, a premium on observation of time limits from the Front Bench and on very pithy inquiries from the back. I know that that will be reflected in succinct replies from the Minister.
As I have said before, I take this issue very seriously. I am not surprised that the hon. Lady failed to mention that the Welsh Labour Government were also a defendant in the judicial review. Welsh Ministers admitted that the Welsh element of the air quality plan last year did not satisfy the legal requirements, which is why they have undertaken to publish a supplemental plan. Frankly, therefore, the issue is not confined to the Minister at the Dispatch Box today.
Present problems with air quality in the UK are a direct result of the EU’s failed emissions testing regime, the actions of certain irresponsible car manufacturers and the rapid increase in the number of diesel cars on the roads since 2001. I should also point out that 21 other EU member states are also breaching legal air quality limits. I try not to take a partisan approach on this, but I am fed up with the Opposition simply not accepting their part of the responsibility. It was the last Labour Government who incentivised diesel cars. Between 2000 and 2010, the sale of diesel cars shot up from 15% to nearly half of all vehicles sold. I am not saying that previous Labour Ministers did not act in good faith, but as we have found out through a freedom of information request, Labour ignored advice that diesel fumes were toxic and pushed on, on the basis of lowering CO2 emissions.
We do not intend to appeal the ruling because, in essence, the judgment turned on a narrow issue: that areas with shorter-term exceedances ought to be mandated to take action. We had already asked local authorities to do that and are more than happy to say that we will now issue legally binding directions stating that they need to take action. We will work with them. We had already asked them to provide initial information and plans, and we are now asking them to come to London next week so that we can go through those in detail and talk through the kinds of resources they need to ensure better air quality for the citizens we all represent.
(2 years, 7 months ago)Commons Chamber
We are talking about water companies and the protection of assets. Surface water is the responsibility of local councils. We are working on a strategy, led by the Environment Agency, which has overall strategic oversight on this, and we will be doing more on surface water flooding this year.
When the Government made the decision to have a six-year plan for funding, they dramatically changed the situation for householders and businesses. The decision allowed the Environment Agency to have long-term plans instead of having a year-to-year hand-to-mouth existence. The hon. Lady should welcome the fact that we have that in place, and we will be working on future budgets at the appropriate time.
(2 years, 9 months ago)Commons Chamber
Since the floods of December 2015, when about 600 properties were flooded, we have invested £17 million to upgrade the Foss barrier. That includes eight high-volume pumps to provide an even greater standard of protection than before, and we have developed a five-year plan to invest £45 million in new defences that will better protect 2,000 properties.
As I have indicated, the overall level of flood defence resilience is good, including in Lancashire. I am very concerned about the people who suffered that shock flooding the other week, and I will of course meet the affected MPs. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale (David Morris) is seeing me next week to discuss this very matter.
(2 years, 9 months ago)Commons Chamber
This is the first time that I have taken part in the annual fishing debate, and I am delighted to have this opportunity to sum up for the Scottish National party. Although I was born in Aberdeen and have lived most of my life there, before I was five I lived in Gamrie, which is also known as Gardenstown, near Banff in the north-east of Scotland. That little community has historically been dominated by fishing and continues to be so to this day. My great-great-grandfather, John Murray, was killed while fishing, at the age of 34, during the first world war. My grandfather—my “granda”—John West, was the skipper of the Banff-registered May Lily, a 70-foot trawler that went out from Gamrie. He skippered that vessel from 1968 to 1975, having been on it for a number of years before that. The fishing history is strong in my family, particularly on my dad’s side.
It was a very different landscape back then; people had very different attitudes. The boats were much smaller, and people stayed on one fishing boat for much longer than they perhaps do nowadays. Things have moved quite significantly, particularly since the 1970s, but even in recent years there has been a significant change. One of the big changes in recent years has been the increase in sustainability. The hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Andrew Bowie) mentioned cod stocks, and the reason for the increase in sustainability is the better management of the fishing stocks. We are able to look at this scientifically and sustainably to ensure that the stocks continue to grow so that we can ensure the future of the fishing industry for the long term in the north-east of Scotland and across the rest of the United Kingdom. In the UK, 65% of the tonnage of fish landed by UK vessels is landed by Scottish vessels. Over 50% of all fishing jobs in the UK are in Scotland, as are 56% of the jobs involved in going out fishing, rather than in the processing side.
The SNP has regularly raised a number of concerns about the way in which the UK deals with fishing. The deficiencies of the common fisheries policy have been raised by my colleagues and by other Members across the House today, but we have particular concerns about the way in which the UK decides to divvy up the quotas. The North sea whiting top-slice continues to be a major concern to us. Allowing English coastal communities to have more for their 10-metre-and-under inshore vessels is disadvantaging Scottish fishermen. The Scottish Government have been absolutely consistent in their criticism of that policy, and we will continue to be so.
Another thing that my colleagues have mentioned is the UK’s swap package, particularly in relation to blue whiting. That continues to be a concern for us as well. We cannot be swapping with Norway and not getting back what our fishermen fish. We have been consistent in our criticism of the way in which the UK Government have prioritised the fishing industry. It is incredibly important in the north-east of Scotland. It is not that we want to see less priority being given to fishermen in English coastal communities; we want to see more priority given to those who are trawling for white fish in particular in the north-east of Scotland and across the whole of Scotland. That is another major concern.
A number of Members have talked about Brexit. I want to mention the new port and the refurbishments that have been done at the port in Peterhead. More than £5 million of the money that went into the new port came from the European Union, and a further £6 million came from the Scottish Government to improve the port at Peterhead. I understand that the new fish market is under way, and is looking very positive. However, that could not have been done in the same format without the European money that we have received, and we would like some clarity from the Minister as to what will replace it. What will he do to ensure that our fishing industry is fit for the future, particularly in relation to the critical infrastructure that is needed? Peterhead is an amazing port that lands a significant proportion of the fish that is landed across the United Kingdom, and we need to ensure that we can continue to have the curve on them.
In more Brexit-related issues, the hon. Member for South East Cornwall (Mrs Murray), who introduced the debate, talked specifically about trading with France, but few people seem to realise how much we export to France, which is the destination for 27.5% of our fish exports. It is therefore incredibly important for our fish processors and fishermen and for everybody involved in the fishing industry that we have a trade deal with France, and therefore the whole European Union, that allows us to export that amount with few hold-ups at customs and that does not have the 7% to 11% tariffs that we would see under WTO rules, which would be a major problem. As has been mentioned already, leaving the single market will cost the industry about £42 million, which is an incredible amount of money.
My last point is about the Government’s prioritisation of looking at the industries that will be hit by Brexit. I am unsure of their level of prioritisation, but the little prioritisation that they are doing seems to be concentrated on industries that offer a particularly high tax take for the Treasury, such as the finance and car industries. I want them to look a little more at the communities that will be decimated by the loss of a certain industry, such as fishing, and to prioritise on that basis as well.
I thank the hon. Member for Halifax (Holly Lynch) for her good wishes for us at the upcoming negotiations. I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for South East Cornwall (Mrs Murray) and the all-party group on fisheries on securing this annual debate. It takes place at a crucial time, because every year in November and December we have a series of important fisheries negotiations, and this will be the fifth year I attend the December Fisheries Council. It is also crucial because of the context: the fact that we are leaving the EU and working on future domestic fisheries policy, as a number of hon. Members have pointed out.
Fishing, aquaculture and fish processing is an incredibly important industry for this country, contributing £1.5 billion to our economy and employing 33,000 people. My hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Stephen Kerr) pointed out the great potential for aquaculture, and we have seen some fantastic results in the Scottish salmon industry —this is one of our great exports. I am more than happy to meet him to discuss his thoughts and proposals to take that forward in his constituency. The catching sector is also vital to many of our coastal communities, as the sheer number of contributions we have heard today attests. We have heard contributions from Members from Northern Ireland, Cornwall, Wales, Scotland and the east coast, and from those on the channel. We have heard from Members from right around our country—[Interruption.] Sorry, have I missed one?
(2 years, 10 months ago)Westminster Hall
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Owen. The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) has secured a vital debate today on marine degradation and the threat to our seas. We have heard many good points about how marine environments and resources are being threatened, degraded or destroyed locally and internationally.
The hon. Member for Huddersfield made some excellent points about sustainable development and mentioned the sage advice of David Attenborough. I think we all thank goodness for that man, because the world actually listens to him. The hon. Gentleman made us aware of his longstanding association with social entrepreneurship; his concerns about plastic and microbeads are shared by all those in the Chamber, and his passion was not lost on us. The hon. Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith), in an intervention, made an important point about the Marine Stewardship Council tick—something that leads us all to assume that ethical, approved practices are in place. Real doubts are now emerging about whether the MSC awards the blue tick to questionable fishing areas.
The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) made a point about recycling, and about educating people from primary school children through to older people such as me, to think about what we do with our purchases, and how we dispose of them. His point was well made and much appreciated. International co-operation was also mentioned, and I will refer to that later in my speech. Again, the point was well made and much needed.
The hon. Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double) shared his concerns about the future of his beautiful area, and expressed his views on the plastic throwaway culture. It is good that the Government are trying to help as much as they can, because we all share the same concerns. The hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) shared her knowledge and concerns about marine protected areas and the threat to the marine environment in her constituency. Her consistency on these matters throughout this Parliament has been well noted. The hon. Member for Wells (James Heappey) mentioned his awareness of the amount of plastic bags being washed up on our beaches, and through the tributaries and along the river networks that lead to them. My hon. Friend the Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson) made excellent points about marine planning, of which she is a great champion. She described the positive steps that the Scottish Government were taking to address those problems, and said how valuable our seas were to us all.
The right hon. Member for Newbury (Richard Benyon) made an interesting observation on the lightbulb moment throughout the world on MPAs in general. That was much appreciated, although I do not know the poet to whom he referred—perhaps I will try to research him a bit later. The hon. Member for Rochdale (Tony Lloyd) pointed out the need for global co-operation on action that needs to be taken, and I totally agree with him.
The principal threats are climate change, marine pollution, unsustainable resource extraction, and the physical degradation of marine and coastal habitats and landscapes. Such transnational problems can be solved only by international co-operation. Globally, humans are exerting multiple pressures on 41% of the marine area, and we harvest 40% of the ocean’s productivity. Some 30% of global fish stocks are recognised as being overfished, and the quantity of predatory fish has halved in 40 years. The world’s seas have already absorbed about a third of the carbon dioxide emissions for which humans have been responsible. Although that has been a valuable carbon sink, it has reduced the pH of the oceans from 8.2 to 8.1, with the possibility of a decline to 7.8 by 2100. That reduces the concentration of calcium and other minerals in sea water, threatening shellfish and coral species. Such acidification hinders the ability of marine ecosystems to absorb carbon, and it is thought to be one of the reasons why the marine absorption of carbon has slowed since the year 2000.
Melting sea ice has caused a global average rise in sea levels, and the rate by which it is rising is increasing. Local tidal variations and the effects of post-glacial rebound mean that rises are higher in the south of England than in Scotland—southern England is subsiding by about 1 mm to 2 mm per year; Scotland is rising by a similar amount. A 50 cm rise in relative sea level would endanger 200 km of England’s coastal flood defences. That represents 20% of the total length of those defences, and their destruction would nearly triple the number of properties at high risk from coastal flooding—a very concerning and worrying trend for those communities.
As my hon. Friend the Member for North Ayrshire and Arran said, Scotland has a massive fish farming industry, which we recognise is not without its problems. The salmon industry in Scotland, Norway, Canada and elsewhere is under investigation for its impact on wild fish and marine ecosystems. I am sure that the House will welcome the inquiry into the environmental impact of fish farming that will be carried out by the Scottish Government early next year—they have not shied away from their responsibilities.
It has been estimated that 8 million tonnes of plastic enter Europe’s oceans every year, which represents an extraordinary and insidious threat to the health of our seas. In light of the findings of an inquiry into microplastic pollution, which was carried out by the Environmental Audit Committee, of which I am a member, I ask whether the “renewed strategy” on waste and resources that was promised by the Secretary of State will include effective measures to tackle the origin of most marine litter, which is litter on land. We should work with and follow the Scottish Government in establishing a strategy to tackle marine litter, and support efforts to reduce the escape of pre-production plastic pellets—I have here some nurdles. We should praise the efforts of the charity Fidra, which is raising awareness of this awful problem in Scotland, and hopefully we can ensure that the upcoming ban on microbeads extends to all consumer products.
I had a lot to say about the Chagos islands and various other things, but I shall now conclude my remarks because of time. As a wealthy maritime country, the UK has more opportunity than most to show leadership in the fight to safeguard the future of our oceans. However, as we have heard, there is a long way to go before that is achieved in reality as well as on paper. Today we welcome this debate, and we hope that the Government will now deliver the political will to follow through on what we have discussed and debated today.
It is a huge pleasure to serve under your chairmanship today, Mr Owen. As I represent a coastal constituency, I can assure hon. Members that the marine environment is very important to me.
Dare I say, when I first saw the title of today’s debate, I was slightly surprised: the UK’s historic role in the matter would perhaps have been more appropriate. I hope to inform the House today—I thank Members for what has already been said about the progress that has been made—about the leadership role we have taken in enhancing the marine environment around our coastline, in the north-east Atlantic and throughout the world, especially through our overseas territories. The United Kingdom has an excellent track record on protecting the marine environment and we will certainly continue to do so after leaving the EU. We will continue to honour our international obligations and note the importance of UN sustainability goal 14 in that respect. That is why we will continue to pursue local and global alliances to protect our rivers, seas and oceans.
We all know that there are increasing global pressures on our marine environment. That is true in terms of managing the different uses of the sea, whether that is fishing and aquaculture, maritime, energy or other uses of the seabed. In the United Kingdom, we have a comprehensive set of measures in place to ensure that we protect and enhance our marine environment and ensure that it is managed sustainably.
The UK’s marine strategy—our current maritime plan—sets out our overall approach to managing the marine environment around our seas. We have nearly 300 marine protected areas and, by 2020, we will deliver an MPA network that will cover 25% of the United Kingdom’s exclusive economic zone. We are on track to provide 4 million sq km of protected ocean across our overseas territories by 2020. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Richard Benyon) said, together that provides a substantial blue belt for our seas and oceans. We will continue to work globally on marine protection and are committed to establishing a new UN agreement for the conservation and sustainable use of the marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, which will deliver MPAs across the world’s oceans.
We are also making our fisheries sustainable. We have a well-developed approach of evaluating stocks alongside ways to monitor how practices are impacting the marine environment. That is successful. The United Kingdom continues to make significant progress in achieving maximum sustainable yield, with 29 stocks that are of UK interest in line with that standard in 2017, compared with 25 last year. The actions that we are taking are working, and the 2016 “State of Nature” report showed that the change in abundance of marine species overall has increased by 37% since 1970. But we do not hide away from the challenges of what is affecting the marine environment, including marine pollution. We know that we all need to work together to stop that pollution at source, in transit and at its landing point.
There are various sources of plastic entering our seas and oceans and, unfortunately, a lot of that is due to human behaviour. It is estimated that 80% of the plastic in the ocean comes from land. Active pursuit of our litter strategy, which the hon. Member for Falkirk (John Mc Nally) mentioned, will help to address that. We want to continue to recycle more of our plastics at home and in the business environment. As has also been pointed out, the 5p plastic bag charge has cut the use of plastic bags by more than 80%, or 9 billion, in just over one year. All four nations have that levy.
Our microbead ban will be one of the toughest in the world. We are using the information gathered from the consultation on the use of plastic microbeads to identify what further action is needed to address marine plastic pollution. In terms of an update, we had to notify both the World Trade Organisation and the European Commission because of a potential single market restriction. We have had clearance from that perspective and are now finishing our final bits of regulatory process in preparation for laying the appropriate legislation before the House. We have taken evidence in our consultation and are making sure that it will be the toughest ban in the world.
We have a call for evidence on reward and return schemes for plastic bottles, but I should point out to the House that, although bottles and caps are often found on our beaches, we still need to tackle other issues of litter, such as wrappers, fishing gear and other plastics. We have also signed up to Operation Clean Sweep, which focuses on eliminating plastic pellets—or nurdles, as the hon. Member for Falkirk said—from the environment. We have ring-fenced 10% of our litter innovation fund for the marine environment, but it is clear that, despite those efforts, we cannot prevent all litter from reaching the sea, although we will try. It does not sit still; this is a transboundary issue. As hon. Members said, we literally see waves of plastic circulating around the seas.
Managing the marine environment is a global issue. The United Nations sustainable development goals set the global targets for the sustainable use of the marine environment. The Government will use the forthcoming Commonwealth summit to further co-operation to deliver those global goals. In June, the UK joined the UN Clean Seas campaign, which aims to connect individuals, civil society groups, industry and Governments to transform habits, practices, standards and policies. The G7 adopted its marine litter plan in 2015, and we continue to work on that. More recently, we joined the Global Partnership on Marine Litter and the Global Ghost Gear Initiative—an alliance of the fishing industry, where non-governmental organisations and Government agencies work together to solve the problem of lost and abandoned “ghost” fishing gear, which can trap sea life.
We continue to work with the International Maritime Organisation. One of its conventions, MARPOL, is one of the most important international maritime and environmental conventions. It seeks to eliminate pollution by oil and other harmful substances completely and minimise the accidental spillage of such substances from sea vessels. MARPOL is regularly updated and forms part of UK law.
Thinking further afield, we are providing £10 million to support key marine initiatives abroad. We have allocated £4.8 million to drive forward the creation of the blue belt across the overseas territories, and £5.2 million to marine projects in the two most recent rounds of the Darwin Initiative and Darwin Plus grant schemes, which help to protect coral reefs and increase coastal communities’ resilience to climate change. However, as I said earlier, there is more we can do, which is why the UK Government are committed to the UK agreement on protecting more parts of the world’s oceans.
The risk of global CO2 emissions is a greater threat. As hon. Members highlighted, there has unfortunately been a change in the output of China and India. To tackle that issue, we need to work together globally. We need to save ocean life and the very planet we all inhabit.
The oceans are key to generating oxygen and are directly responsible for every other breath we take. Climate change is having a direct impact through ocean acidification, which threatens the very basis of the marine foodweb itself. As has been pointed out, corals vital to biodiversity, fisheries and tourism are threatened by the twin threats of acidification of the seas and the continuing rise in water temperature. That is why this Saturday, in Bonn at COP23 on the United Nations framework convention on climate change, I signed the “Because the Ocean” declaration on behalf of the UK, which links us directly to the Paris agreement. In the UK, we brought scientists, Governments, their agencies and NGOs into the Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership, which has just published a study entitled “Marine Climate Change Impacts: 10 years’ experience of science to policy reporting”.
Earlier this year, we published a synopsis of our UK ocean acidification research programme. Based on current projections, cold water corals will be 20% to 30% weaker, causing reef disintegration and losing the rich biodiversity that they support. Such linkages have been further developed by the UK’s active engagement internationally on ocean monitoring and observing.
We have world-class marine science in the UK at several universities and research facilities, including Government bodies such as the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee. We intend to work internationally to address the challenging scientific questions that remain, and we will continue to invest.
I was delighted that the National Oceanography Centre has just been awarded £19 million from the industrial strategy challenge fund, which will help it to develop autonomous underwater vehicles with sensors measuring nutrients and seawater carbonate chemistry, again extending our knowledge in that area.
I am sure the House recognises the amount of work that my hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double) has done through his all-party group. He wanted me to mention combined sewer overflows, which prevent sewage from backing up into homes and businesses. I assure him that we are working with South West Water and local councils in Cornwall to help to prevent discharges from combined sewers at times of heavy rainfall by reducing the amount of water entering the sewerage system.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wells (James Heappey) referred to the issues affecting Burnham-on-Sea. I am happy to talk to him further about that matter to see what we can do to work with local farmers to reduce the amount of run-off. He is right to point out that there are many readily available alternatives to plastics, including cotton buds and a deposit-return scheme. The hon. Member for Halifax (Holly Lynch) talked about reducing the number of straws in circulation. I agree—straws suck. We need to work together wherever we can.
The hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) asked a series of questions. The Government of the South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands produced a 2012 plan for a marine protected area, which is working. They are undertaking their first review of it. Working with the Satellite Applications Catapult and OceanMind, we are using technology to ensure that monitoring and enforcement are more effective than ever before, but I am aware of the wider calls for that.
On the Antarctic, the Government are absolutely committed to working with other nations. In 2009, the UK proposed the South Orkneys marine protected area, and it was accepted. Last year, the Ross sea MPA was finally created—it is about the size of the UK and France put together. We continue to support further MPA proposals. On the United Nations convention on the law of the sea, I am aware of the draft resolution, and we are actively engaged on that matter.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Newbury was right to highlight the blue belt, which we want to continue to make effective. I will raise his concern about pulse fishing with the Minister with responsibility for fisheries.
I hope I have addressed the issues that have been raised. I assure the hon. Members for Falkirk and for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson) that we will continue to work with the Scottish Government, but they will take their own action to tackle the issues that have been raised.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State does listen to experts. That is what he did when he listened to the Expert Committee on Pesticides and voted for further restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids, which I am sure have been welcomed across the House. The 25-year environment plan is still being formed, but as I pointed out, the UK marine strategy, which has been widely welcomed, is already in place. The principles to which the hon. Member for Halifax referred are very important. They were originally set out in the Rio declaration, and we will continue to put them into effect in our environmental legislation.
I hope I have been able to address most of the other points that were raised. The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) was right to talk about recycling. I encourage Kirklees Council to get its recycling rate up from 28.5%. I know he will lead by example.
I commend hon. Members’ concern for the marine environment. It seems that we are all avid watchers of “Blue Planet II”. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will recognise that we are not complacent about this issue, which is why we are taking a proactive leadership role. I thank him for giving me the opportunity to demonstrate to the House exactly what leadership actions we have taken.
(2 years, 10 months ago)Commons Chamber
I very much agree with my hon. Friend and I know that many Scottish Conservative MPs have worked closely with Scottish industry on the issue. The fishing industry is very important in Scotland. Roughly half of the industry is located there, and sectors such as the pelagic sector, which targets mackerel, the largest fish species that we target in this country, are of incredible economic importance. I reassure my hon. Friend that I regularly meet fishing industry leaders in Scotland to discuss their concerns.
I join the hon. Lady in offering sincere condolences to the family of the crew member who sadly lost his life with the loss of the Solstice in the west country. She will be aware that this issue is covered by the Department for Transport and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, but I have had the opportunity to discuss the matter with my colleague the shipping Minister, and I know that the marine accident investigation unit will carry out an investigation in the normal way. In addition, and to respond to the points the hon. Lady has raised, he has asked the marine accident investigation unit to consider whether we have adequately learned the lessons from previous accidents—which, as she said, have some similarities—and whether there are wider trends on which we ought to reflect and change policy.
(3 years, 2 months ago)Commons Chamber
My hon. Friend makes a very good point. It did not surprise me, though it may have surprised others, that we increased the representation of Scottish Conservatives in this House by 1,200% at the general election, not least in the north-east and Ochil and South Perthshire, where farmers are suffering as a result of the maladministration of the Scottish Government. Many of them are asking why the Scottish Government cannot learn from the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs and, instead of prating on about independence and constitutional uncertainty, learn from their partners in the rest of the United Kingdom.
I can tell the hon. Lady exactly what taking back control means. When we leave the EU we automatically, under international law, become an independent coastal state. That means that we will have responsibility for managing our exclusive economic zone, which is 200 nautical miles or the median line. We already enforce those waters. The hon. Lady raises concerns about the number of vessels, but most of the work these days is digital. We have a control room in Newcastle that monitors the movement of every single fishing vessel in the country.