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Written Question
Whales
12 Jan 2022

Questioner: John Spellar (LAB - Warley)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment his department has made of the potential merits of a revival of the whale population on (a) the international marine environment and (b) carbon capture.

Answered by Rebecca Pow

The UK Government plays a leading role championing the conservation and welfare of all cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) both in the UK and internationally. We fully recognise the importance of whale populations to the marine ecosystem, and the vital role they play to sequester carbon.

We play an active role in the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and are Vice Chair of the IWC’s Conservation Committee. The Conservation Committee considers a wide range of cetacean conservation issues, which includes increasing our understanding of their important role in ecosystem functioning and climate change.

Research into the carbon capture potential from whales is ongoing within the scientific community and we anticipate some of this research to be reported on at the IWC’s Scientific Committee meeting in May this year. Defra officials and UK scientists will attend this meeting which will help improve our understanding of the importance of cetaceans in carbon sequestration.


Written Question
Fisheries
10 Sep 2021

Questioner: John Spellar (LAB - Warley)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what support his Department is providing to countries affected by illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

Answered by Victoria Prentis

The UK is committed to tackling illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing globally. IUU fishing continues to be one of the most serious threats to ocean ecosystems, sustainable fisheries and the exploitation of protected and vulnerable marine species.

The UK has launched a £500 million Blue Planet Fund that will support developing countries to protect the marine environment and reduce poverty. The Fund is managed by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). Financed from the UK Official Development Assistance Budget, the Fund will help eligible countries reduce poverty, protect and sustainably manage their marine resources and address human-generated threats across four key themes: sustainable seafood, biodiversity, climate change, and marine pollution. Tackling IUU fishing has been identified as one of the priority outcomes of the Blue Planet Fund.


Written Question
Dogs: Smuggling
18 Mar 2021

Questioner: John Spellar (LAB - Warley)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, pursuant to the answer of 5 March 2021 to Question 157953, how many people were (a) charged with and (b) convicted of puppy smuggling last year.

Answered by Victoria Prentis

Defra does not hold data on the number of individuals charged with and convicted of puppy smuggling related offences. Local authorities are the enforcement and prosecution body for puppy smuggling related offences. In 2020, the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) was notified of two prosecutions by local authorities under the following legislation: The Welfare of Animals (Transport)(England) Order 2006, The Animal Health Act 1981, The Rabies (Importation of Dogs, Cats and Other Mammals) Order 1974 and The Trade in Animals and Related Products Regulations 2011. However, local authorities are not required to notify Defra or APHA of prosecutions related to puppy smuggling and so this figure may not represent the total number of cases. We suspect the low number of prosecutions reported for 2020 was a result of courts being closed and cases delayed due to the Coronavirus pandemic.


Written Question
Dogs: Imports
5 Mar 2021

Questioner: John Spellar (LAB - Warley)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, if he will introduce measures to restrict the age at which puppies can be imported to at least 14 weeks.

Answered by Victoria Prentis

Defra takes the issue of puppy smuggling and other illegal importations of pets seriously. It is an abhorrent trade which causes suffering to these animals and puts the health of pets and people in the UK at risk.

As per our pet travel and commercial importation requirements, the minimum age a cat, dog or ferret can be vaccinated against rabies is 12 weeks old, followed by a 21 day wait when travelling from an EU Member State or another 'listed' third country. This means that the minimum age a cat, dog or ferret can enter GB from an EU Member State or another listed third country is 15 weeks old.

At present, there has been no substantive change to the pet travel requirements for pets entering Great Britain (GB) from the EU.

Now the Transition Period has ended, we have the opportunity to manage our own pet travel and commercial importation rules. We are actively listening to the concerns of stakeholders and the Government is considering options to strengthen our efforts to tackle puppy smuggling. These options will take into consideration the results from our latest disease risk assessments for GB and recommendations of stakeholders such as the British Veterinary Association and Dogs Trust, and recent parliamentary work from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee.


Written Question
Asia-Pacific Region: Fish
4 Mar 2021

Questioner: John Spellar (LAB - Warley)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what diplomatic steps his Department is taking (a) separately and (b) with countries in the Asia-Pacific region to help maintain fish stocks in that region.

Answered by Victoria Prentis

The UK is taking action on a number of international fisheries issues alongside our international counterparts including from the Asia-Pacific region. These include, but are not limited to, playing a leading role in the global fight to prevent, deter and eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing, and engaging proactively in the work of Regional Fisheries Management Organisations, to which many Asia-Pacific countries are also party, to ensure more sustainable management of high seas fisheries and maintain stocks in those waters. We are also participating actively in UN fora such as the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Committee on Fisheries, and advocating for the elimination of incentives and harmful subsidies for fisheries that are detrimental to the conservation of marine biodiversity in the ongoing negotiations at the World Trade Organization, and in the context of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.


Written Question
Genetic Engineering
25 Feb 2021

Questioner: John Spellar (LAB - Warley)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what his Department's policy is on gene editing.

Answered by Victoria Prentis

Defra’s view is that gene-edited organisms should not be regulated as genetically modified organisms if the end product could have been produced naturally, or by traditional breeding methods. Such gene-edited organisms would not contain DNA from other species. Defra is currently consulting on a proposal to amend the definition of a genetically modified organism as it applies in England.


Written Question
Poultry: Animal Welfare
9 Nov 2020

Questioner: John Spellar (LAB - Warley)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what comparative assessment his Department has made of the welfare standards for the production of chicken in (a) Poland, (b) the Netherlands and (c) the UK.

Answered by Victoria Prentis

As members of the European Union, Poland and the Netherlands will need to comply with the European regulations concerning animal welfare standards, including Council Directive 2007/43/EC which lays down minimum rules for the protection of chickens kept for meat production. As we leave the EU, we are committed to maintaining our position as one of the world leaders in animal welfare and want to improve and build upon that record, working in partnership with farmers to support healthier, higher welfare animals.


Written Question
Coronavirus: Laboratories
29 Sep 2020

Questioner: John Spellar (LAB - Warley)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what laboratory capacity his Department and it's Agencies have provided to NHS Test and Trace.

Answered by Victoria Prentis

Defra’s agencies have significant laboratory capacity and expertise that have been repurposed and provided to NHS Test and Trace.

Defra’s Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) temporarily supplied staff and equipment to the Lighthouse laboratories and has a contract with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to test up to 2000 samples per day. APHA also has a contractually based involvement in a research project called Safe & Certain (DHSC-funded project), coordinated by University of Southampton, which involves direct testing on saliva samples. APHA participated in Phase 1 of the project (July/August 2020) and is now embarking on Phase 2 involving testing of up to 60,000 samples over the next month.

The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Science (Cefas) provided four key pieces of Polymerase Chain Reaction testing equipment to the UK’s mass diagnostics facility in Northern Ireland, and personal protective equipment to NHS facilities in the Dorset region. Cefas has registered details of its remaining capacity through DHSC’s online portal.

The Environment Agency has been working with core Defra and the Joint Biosecurity Centre to trial the use of waste water testing for Covid-19 RNA, to help identify increases in Covid-19 prevalence at population level and help target testing capacity.

Fera Science Ltd provided critical testing equipment to the Lighthouse laboratory in Glasgow.


Written Question
Poultry: Imports
18 Jun 2020

Questioner: John Spellar (LAB - Warley)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what the value was of imported chicken to the UK in 2019; and what the top five countries were for imported chicken to this country in that year.

Answered by Victoria Prentis

According to the latest HMRC Overseas Trade Statistics, UK imports of chicken in 2019 were worth £1.1 billion.

The top five countries importing chicken into the UK in 2019 were as follows:

  1. Netherlands £470 million
  2. Poland £250 million
  3. Germany £80 million
  4. Irish Republic £80 million
  5. Belgium £50 million

Written Question
Droughts
17 Jun 2020

Questioner: John Spellar (LAB - Warley)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment he has made of level of risk of a hose-pipe ban in summer 2020; and what his policy is on new reservoir provision.

Answered by Rebecca Pow

This is a devolved matter and the information provided therefore relates to England only.

The Government has a range of policies in place to mitigate the impacts of drought:

  • The Environment Agency, which has responsibility for managing water resources and protecting the environment, chairs the National Drought Group (NDG). The NDG consists of representatives from regulators such as Public Health England (PHE), the agricultural sector and water companies. This group ensures that all sectors work together and take action to manage any impacts of dry weather and drought.

  • Water companies have the legal duty to supply adequate quantities of wholesome water. To fulfil their duties, water companies maintain statutory drought plans, which set out the short-term actions they will take should a drought develop. Water companies’ drought plans are published on their websites.

The Government is committed to a ‘twin track approach’ of managing water demand, including leakage reduction, and increasing supply, including the development of reservoirs.

Water companies have the statutory duty to develop and maintain efficient and economical systems of water service provision which will provide security of supply for customers. Statutory water resources management plans show how companies will meet this duty and manage water supply and demand for at least the next 25 years.

The National Framework for water resources brings together industry, regulators and Government to improve water company planning of water supplies. This includes investigating and developing new supplies such as reservoirs, supported by a £469 million fund for the development of strategic supplies.


Written Question
Fisheries
16 Jun 2020

Questioner: John Spellar (LAB - Warley)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps is his Department is taking with its international counterparts to prevent over-fishing in the world's oceans by distant water fishing fleets.

Answered by Victoria Prentis

The UK is taking firm action on this issue alongside our international counterparts across a wide range of fronts. These include, but are not limited to, playing a leading role in the global fight to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and engaging proactively in the work of Regional Fisheries Management Organisations to ensure more sustainable management of high seas fisheries. We are also advocating for the elimination of incentives and subsidies for fisheries that are detrimental to the conservation of marine biodiversity in the current negotiations at the World Trade Organisation and in the context of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.


Written Question
Public Sector: Food
16 Jun 2020

Questioner: John Spellar (LAB - Warley)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, with reference to his Department's Food is GREAT campaign, what discussions he has had with his Cabinet colleagues on ensuring that (a) Government departments and (b) other public bodies prioritise British produce in their purchases.

Answered by Victoria Prentis

Defra is having conversations across Government with regard to food procurement policy, and how we can highlight the importance of buying domestic food. We will build on this engagement and review how the public sector, including hospitals, schools and prisons, can benefit from sourcing British produce. At the end of the Transition Period, there will be further scope to prioritise British produce in the public sector.

The UK's growing reputation for quality food and drink, with high standards of food safety, animal welfare and sustainability is an excellent platform to increase demand for our products still further. Defra's Food is GREAT campaign leverages this growing reputation and helps businesses to succeed in overseas markets by ensuring global recognition of UK excellence in food and drink, whilst encouraging our food and drink companies to export more.


Written Question
Trees: Railways
27 May 2020

Questioner: John Spellar (LAB - Warley)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, with reference to the English Tree Strategy consultation, what discussions officials in his Department have had with officials from the Department of Transport on trees along railway lines.

Answered by Rebecca Pow

Defra has been working closely with other departments, including the Department for Transport (DfT), to develop the England Tree Strategy consultation.

The consultation will consider the role that all trees and woodland can play in delivering the 25 Year Environment Plan. In this way it echoes and aligns with DfT’s work to establish a clear position with Network Rail on the role of rail infrastructure in supporting the delivery of the 25 Year Environment Plan. Network Rail is responsible for 20,000km of track and around 6.3 million trees with the potential to support biodiversity around the country. DfT has therefore asked Network Rail to achieve no net loss in biodiversity on its existing lineside estate by 2024 and to achieve biodiversity net gain on each route by 2040.


Written Question
Angling: Coronavirus
12 May 2020

Questioner: John Spellar (LAB - Warley)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, with reference to the covid-19 outbreak, what steps his Department is taking to enable the early resumption of angling.

Answered by Victoria Prentis

Every citizen must stay alert to protect the NHS and save lives. From Wednesday 13 May, angling can resume in England, as long as participants are with their household or on their own and follow social distancing guidance.


Written Question
Dogs: Tagging
26 Feb 2020

Questioner: John Spellar (LAB - Warley)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment his Department has made of the effect of the prevalence pet microchip databases on dog owners.

Answered by Victoria Prentis

Under The Microchipping of Dogs (England) Regulations 2015 all microchip databases are required to meet strict requirements, including having their records linked to each other to enable anyone searching for a microchip entry to know to which database it is registered. Any database found not to be complying with the 2015 Regulation faces a fine of up to £2,500 and having their ability to operate as a microchip database removed. There are currently thirteen compliant databases.

The 2015 Regulations are currently subject to a Post Implementation Review. As part of the review we will look at what effect the prevalence of microchip databases is having on dog owners.