Food Waste and Food Distribution

Selaine Saxby Excerpts
Tuesday 16th April 2024

(2 days, 12 hours ago)

Westminster Hall
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Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby (North Devon) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Ms Vaz. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Jo Gideon) on securing today’s important debate. As she mentioned, 4.6 million tonnes of edible food are wasted in UK households annually. Around a quarter of that food waste is because too much food has been prepared, cooked or served.

I have been a big supporter of FareShare and its work, which in 2023 delivered 33,500 meals through six local community groups back home in North Devon, and more than 132 million meals nationwide. FareShare is the UK’s largest food redistribution charity. It takes surplus food from the food industry that would otherwise go to waste and gets it to a network of 8,500 charities across the UK. However, budget constraints meant that FareShare had to turn down up to 2 million meals-worth of good-to-eat surplus food last year.

I wrote to the Chancellor last November to support the food redistribution sector, because I felt that it was important that the Government continue to support FareShare’s invaluable work for our communities, and that they reconsider the ringfencing of funding for the sector. I am glad that after FareShare’s continuous campaigning, the Government have recently announced a new £15 million fund to tackle surplus food at farm level. The fund will enable farmers to redistribute surplus food that cannot be used commercially. As a very rural MP, I occasionally see different surplus food products in my constituency. I met FareShare very early on in my time in this place, and I was particularly interested to discuss its work with the Country Food Trust, which has championed dishes such as pheasant curry and venison bolognese as high-protein meat sources.

I also want to highlight the Government’s work to combat food waste. They have invested £2.6 million and have supported the Courtauld commitment 2030, which works for a more sustainable supply chain to tackle food waste and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and water use. Commitments also include a target to halve food waste by 2030.

In 2022, the Government consulted on options to improve food waste reporting by large food businesses in England. More than 380,000 responses were received, and hopefully DEFRA will be considering whether mandatory food waste reporting should be introduced in the future. Nearly £13 million has been awarded to over 250 redistribution organisations across the country since 2018 for the provision of warehousing, vehicles, fridges and freezers.

Weekly collections of food waste will be introduced for most households across England by 2026, ending the threat of waste waiting weeks for collection and cutting food waste heading to landfill. I find it bewildering that when I am up in London I have to put my food waste in the bin with everything else, unlike when I back home in North Devon, where we have a separate food caddy collection, so many thanks to North Devon Council for its work in ensuring that the weekly collections continue. I hope that we will be able to stop the move towards the three and four-weekly bin collections that have been seen in some areas of the UK, because we do not want food waste, particularly in a hot summer, to be sat on the doorstep for too long.

When I supported FareShare’s #FoodOnPlates campaign back in 2021, I said that wasting good food should never be cheaper than feeding people. I ask the Minister to look again at some of FareShare’s requests on how to incentivise businesses to redistribute more surplus food and consider long-term plans, such as the national food strategy, to recognise the bigger picture of how our food system is also linked to our environmental goals.

Many residents at home in North Devon have raised concerns with me about the rise in food prices, which impacts us all. As a result, many charities have reported financial difficulties. As the redistribution of food falls within a cross-departmental remit, I hope that the Minister will be able to share some insight into what is being done behind the scenes to support this crucial sector. Let me take this opportunity to put on the record my thanks to everyone back home in North Devon for their ongoing work on food distribution and to reduce our food waste.

Animal Welfare (Import of Dogs, Cats and Ferrets) Bill

Selaine Saxby Excerpts
Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby (North Devon) (Con)
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I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Pets are a part of our family. They provide support and companionship when we need it most. In time-honoured Friday tradition, I would like to name my own pets, from my childhood cat Perdita through to Phoebe, who I adopted while I lived in the States, my yellow Labradors Harry and George, and my current much-adored fox red Labrador, Henry.

Maria Eagle Portrait Maria Eagle (Garston and Halewood) (Lab)
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Has the hon. Lady ever owned a ferret? If so, what was that ferret’s name?

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby
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That is an excellent intervention. I will come to ferrets, but unfortunately I have not had the pleasure of one at home myself.

The companionship of pets was highly valued during the covid pandemic, when there was a surge in demand for puppies and kittens, which unfortunately led to even more upsetting cases of pet smuggling in the UK. During covid, legal commercial imports of dogs rose by nearly 60% to more than 70,000 dogs in 2021, and trends in illegal imports could be expected to be similar.

Puppy and kitten smuggling came on my radar as an MP shortly after the first lockdown began in March 2020, when I was one of those people trying to find a new pup, which were hard to find. I am grateful to my great dog-loving friend Bethany Sawyer for her advice not to see the cute puppy that was the wrong age without both parents available in the advert. While Henry, my fox red Labrador was not smuggled into the country—I met his mum and dad at their farm just above my North Devon home—I understand how the emotions in adopting a new pet and companion often leave some of the rationality and questioning behind. Prices for specific dog breeds doubled, and the UK market struggled to keep up. With huge profits to be made, that imbalance provided ample opportunity for people acting illegally and irresponsibly to import puppies and take advantage of innocent pet buyers, who may not have known that their furry friends were suffering. YouGov polling shows that 83% of the public want the Government to crack down on puppy smuggling.

I was the Parliamentary Private Secretary on the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill Committee, and I am delighted to be flanked by my Whip from that Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for South Derbyshire (Mrs Wheeler) and other members of that Committee who are supporting this Bill. Just this week alone, more than 100 colleagues have dropped in to see the Dogs Trust and support the Bill.

When the kept animals Bill was withdrawn and divided up, I made a commitment to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Dogs Trust that if I came high up in the private Member’s Bill ballot, I would take part of that Bill through. As I am not a regular raffle prize winner, I was more than a bit perplexed to find myself come sixth. I looked at Henry—I am still not sure whether he fully understands all the media attention—and explained that we were going to be helping puppies for many months to come. I am delighted that I have been able to keep that commitment here today.

As a dog owner myself, I find it horrific to hear stories of puppies and kittens being smuggled across the border and the poor conditions they have to endure. Pets are more than just property; they are family. The Bill will ensure that pets are not sold or traded as objects.

Natalie Elphicke Portrait Mrs Natalie Elphicke (Dover) (Con)
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This is such an important Bill, which my hon. Friend is bringing forward with passion and eloquence. Does she agree that the Government must put in funding at the border to deal with the problem and stop the smuggling of puppies, kittens and, indeed, ferrets? It is a worry that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has reduced, or proposed to reduce, biosecurity funding at the port of Dover and in the Dover area. Money must be put behind this important initiative.

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby
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My hon. Friend is a huge advocate for her constituency and the port of Dover. The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, of which I am a member, is indeed looking at some of those matters. The Bill will deliver a manifesto commitment to crack down on puppy, kitten and ferret smuggling by closing loopholes exploited by unscrupulous commercial traders.

Alex Norris Portrait Alex Norris (Nottingham North) (Lab/Co-op)
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I am grateful to the hon. Lady for the passionate case she is making for her Bill, which I think we all support. Her legislation relies quite extensively on regulations. Does she have a sense of how quickly those regulations will come forward once the Bill hopefully passes?

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, and I hope that the Minister can provide guidance on that at the end of the debate.

The Bill will ban the import of puppies and kittens under six months and dogs and cats that are mutilated or heavily pregnant. It will also address the abuse of non-commercial rules that compromise animal welfare and biosecurity by making it more difficult and less profitable for traders to fraudulently import animals for sale under the disguise of owners travelling with their pets. The Bill also addresses the issue of commercial imports being disguised as non-commercial movements by amending the rules that govern the non-commercial movements of dogs, cats and ferrets into Great Britain from third countries.

The puppy trade has become a multimillion-pound, transnational industry, with UK sales of up to 2 million puppies annually and a value of £3 billion. However, 50% of the industry is either illegal or unlicensed and off the enforcement radar. Of that, half originates from animals coming from outside the UK.

According to the Animal and Plant Health Agency, in 2023, more than 500 landings of dogs and cats were intercepted at the port of Dover and found to be non- compliant with import requirements. Of those, 116 puppies and kittens were quarantined for being below the legally required minimum age for import. That data does not include animals detained at airports or found inland. We cannot know the true extent of puppy smuggling operations, so those figures likely capture only a small proportion of the animals smuggled into the country.

Ferrets are included in the Bill, because dogs, cats and ferrets are in the same category for rabies risk. I have not had strong representations from the ferret community, but I would like to mention on the record the ferret of the right hon. and learned Member for Banbury (Victoria Prentis), who was the Minister for the original Bill. Her gorgeous ferret, Roulette, is no longer with us, but I know that the now Attorney General has previously ensured that references to many of her much-loved pets are recorded in this place, and I am delighted to remember Roulette today.

While not many ferrets have made my inbox, I have done much to support the work of our fantastic animal welfare charities on puppy and kitten smuggling, so I will focus on their travel arrangements. Pet animals can be brought into the UK from EU member states through two different schemes. One is for the travel of owners with pets and the other is for the commercial import of pet animals. Under the EU pet travel scheme, or PETS, vaccinated and microchipped dogs, cats and ferrets are allowed to travel between EU countries for non-commercial reasons, as long as they have a pet passport and have complied with all the requirements of the scheme, which include a rabies vaccination.

The current pet travel scheme is designed to allow a maximum of five pets to travel with their owner rather than for the commercial movement of animals intended for sale as pets. Under the scheme, pet owners must fill in a declaration confirming that they will not sell or transfer the ownership of the pet. An approved transport company must be used for the travel of the pets, unless travelling between the UK and Ireland, where a private boat or plane can be used.

Although I understand that the pet travel scheme was created to make it easy for owners to take their family pets on holiday with them, the system has been abused by unscrupulous traders. Traders have taken advantage of the scheme’s simple set-up to illegally import thousands of puppies for sale, making a huge profit at the cost of welfare. The most common method of attempting to smuggle puppies into Great Britain is by bringing them in under the pet travel scheme when they are, in fact, being imported for commercial sale and should instead be subject to the requirements of the Balai directive and the Trade in Animals and Related Products Regulations 2011.

Most of all, I highlight the great work that the pet charities have done to raise this issue. Dogs Trust exposed the cruel puppy smuggling trade in 2014 and has been pushing for changes to the law to help stop it ever since. The Dogs Trust puppy pilot scheme was set up in 2015 to aid the interception of illegally imported puppies by APHA at the ports and to provide care and rehabilitation for them until they find loving new homes. Since then, it has cared for more than 2,000 puppies.

As part of the Dogs Trust puppy smuggling taskforce, I first experienced the documentary and identity checks that currently operate at the border. I saw for myself the tactics that smugglers employ to avoid detection. I thank Dogs Trust for all its hard work in campaigning on this issue and for working with me on the Bill’s progress, through the roundtable and the event this Wednesday to discuss their recent “Tragic Tales and the Decade of Delay” campaign, which featured four real-life case studies of dogs who have been helped by the puppy pilot. Special thanks goes to my local Dogs Trust site in North Devon between Ilfracombe and Braunton, which does exceptional work to rehome dogs locally.

I also thank the RSPCA for its work on this issue and for its #ForPupsSake campaign, especially during the pandemic when interest in getting a puppy sky-rocketed. The campaign called for a stop to illegal puppy imports and highlighted how smuggled puppies can cost the owner more than they think. On behalf of the fluffy, furry kittens, I would like to thank Cats Protection, which published its 2023 “Cats and their Stats” survey. It found that 3% of the cats obtained in the 12 months preceding the survey were from abroad, equating to 50,000 cats. It is unclear what conditions those cats were subjected to during travel.

There have been significant changes in the cat market in the past five years, with a big rise in pure bred and pedigree cats. Of the cats obtained in the past 12 months, 42% were pedigree and pure bred cats, compared with 17% five years ago. It is likely that many of the imported cats are pedigree. Having had a cat while I was living overseas, I know that cats are extremely stressed by transportation over long distances, which in turn can supress their immune systems so that their risk of infectious disease and other stress-related illness is markedly increased by importation.

Vet charities, such as the British Veterinary Association, have also raised directly with me the significant threat posed to biosecurity by the large number of smuggled puppies entering the UK. Although it is not in scope of the Bill, I hope that raising the issue is a first step and that the Department will take forward those concerns. Other charities, such as Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, FOUR PAWS and the Kennel Club, have all done invaluable work to campaign on the issue. I thank them all today.

Moving on to the Bill and the measures that will be enacted through primary legislation, clause 4 will reduce the number of animals that can travel under non-commercial rules from five per person to five per vehicle, or three per foot or air passenger. The charities would have preferred three animals per vehicle, as their research shows that over 97% of pet owners have three or fewer dogs. However, the reduction is a significant and welcome step to tackle the illegal smuggling of pets. The non-commercial rules are intended to make it easier for genuine pet owners to travel. Unscrupulous traders fraudulently claim ownership of several pets that they are actually importing for sale. They do that because the requirements for owners travelling with pets are less stringent. The Bill reduces the number of dogs, cats and ferrets that can be brought into Great Britain non-commercially. Reducing that number is proportionate and takes into consideration other pets owned by the household that may also travel.

Article 5A in clause 4(5) ensures that when a non-commercial movement of a dog, cat or ferret is carried out by an authorised person, it may only take place within five days of the movement of the owner. There is evidence that the ability for a pet to travel with an authorised person under the non-commercial rules is being used as a loophole to bring in animals that should be moved under the commercial import regime, and therefore subject to more stringent requirements for sale or transfer of ownership. The new measures will ensure that pets are moved under the owner’s direct responsibility or, where the pet animal cannot be moved at the same time as the owner, under the responsibility of a person authorised by the owner and within five days of the movement of the owner. An authorised person is one who has authorisation in writing from the owner to carry out the non-commercial movement of the pet animal on their behalf. This will also ensure that only an owner of a pet can sign a declaration that a movement is non-commercial. This will stop non-commercial routes being used as a loophole by traders. Movements that are not within five days will require the dog, cat or ferret to be brought in as a commercial import, rather than a non-commercial movement.

On the measures to be enacted through secondary legislation, the Bill contains an enabling power to make regulations on the bringing of dogs, cats or ferrets into the United Kingdom for the purpose of promoting their welfare. The first regulations that can be made in relation to dogs and cats in Great Britain under that enabling power have been outlined on the face of the Bill to provide reassurance of the Government’s intention to lay the measures through secondary legislation. The enabling powers provide the opportunity for the Government to gather further evidence and discuss the proposals with stakeholders and the public in order to develop the new restrictions effectively. The powers will enable the Government to tackle low welfare imports dynamically. They will allow us the flexibility to address known issues quickly, but also act to close down emerging practices, including those attempting to circumvent previous restrictions.

The Government will use that power alongside the other powers in the Bill. Subsections (2) and (3) to clause 1 introduce prohibitions that restrict the commercial import and non-commercial movement into Great Britain of puppies and kittens under six months. We are still seeing high volumes of smuggled puppies—dogs under six months which do not comply with current animal health rules and are landed in Great Britain for the purpose of commercial sale—as well as other low-welfare movements and imports of pet animals.

I understand the Kennel Club’s concerns about genetic diversity and rescue dogs that are brought into the country at the age of four months. However, the need for a six-month minimum age is due to the practicalities of identifying the age of a dog or a cat that can come into the UK: at six months old, the majority of puppies and kittens will have a full set of permanent incisors, canines and premolars, and can therefore be aged more accurately. The measure will enable the identification of puppies and kittens that are being moved at young ages and are thus at risk of low welfare.

The prohibition is intended to prevent the import of under-age puppies and kittens by increasing the minimum age from 15 weeks to six months. To illustrate the importance of that, I want to talk about Bruce, who is available after today’s sitting for photos in room W3, if you would like to meet him, Mr Speaker. Bruce highlights the need for a change to the minimum age. He is a French bulldog who was seized at the border at just 10 weeks old alongside three of his siblings, who had all endured a journey in cramped and squalid conditions over thousands of miles from Bulgaria in 2018. Ten weeks is well under the 15 weeks that puppies must have reached to legally enter the UK.

Bruce and his siblings were found in a poor condition, infested with worms and severely underweight. All four of the dogs weighed roughly 2.8 kg, which is half the expected weight of French bulldogs of their age. Their passports were faked, with at least three claiming that the dogs had been wormed before they were even born. The dishonest traders claimed that Bruce and his siblings were all their own pets. Upon seizure, however, Dogs Trust staff were able to find evidence of all four dogs being advertised for sale online. Fortunately for Bruce, the Dogs Trust was able to take him in and care for him until he could find his forever home. Bruce has now been rehomed responsibly through the Dogs Trust. He is a very cute French bulldog.

Some of these dogs are bred for fashion, and the Kennel Club, along with other animal charities and vets, has highlighted the health and welfare issues that can be associated with such breeds. Although the issues of breathing and flat-faced dogs are about genetic mutilation and are therefore not in scope of the Bill, I would like to highlight the need still to safeguard dogs of this type that are already in the country. We must look at what else we can do to help with genetic mutilations, which cause our pets to suffer.

Last week, it was reassuring to hear about Crufts’s respiratory function grading—RFG—scheme for brachycephalic dogs, such as French bulldogs, pugs and bulldogs. It was great to meet Dr Jane Ludlow, the vet who has devised the scheme, which assesses dogs with a stethoscope. The dog exercises for three minutes, and the process is then repeated. We saw at first hand that the test is quick and straightforward, and it assigns an RFG rating to each dog. Those with the lowest grades should not breed.

Far too many flat-faced dogs have brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome, known as BOAS, which can chronically impair the ability of the dog to breathe normally and carry out everyday tasks. All the dogs at Crufts had the option of being tested, which becomes compulsory next year, and all those that win are tested to ensure that the breed retains high health standards. I hope that my highlighting this issue today will ensure that more potential pet owners ask questions about the health of the parents of their future pet.

Sarah Champion Portrait Sarah Champion (Rotherham) (Lab)
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I am really glad that the hon. Lady has brought up this issue. I do not know whether she has seen the number of brachycephalic dogs that are going to Battersea because pet owners cannot afford to have the operation. The charity has seen an exponential rise in these dogs being dumped. Does she agree that much more needs to be done?

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby
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I have indeed been to Battersea, which is what really triggered much of my interest in this particular area. Like the hon. Lady, I was deeply shocked by what I saw, which is why it was such a relief to see the new system come into effect at Crufts. It gives people the opportunity to find out whether their dogs are unwell—ideally, before they have been adopted as puppies.

Cats Protection has highlighted the issue of under-age kitten smuggling. Nala was smuggled illegally into the country when she was around eight weeks old. She had been with her owners for eight days when they brought her into the UK from Germany without a pet passport and appropriate vaccinations. They became concerned for her health and took her to a vet, who realised that she had arrived without meeting the requirements of the pet travel scheme and reported the matter to trading standards. The pet travel scheme—PETS—allows pet cats, dogs and ferrets to enter the UK without quarantine as long as they are microchipped, have a pet passport and a rabies vaccination, and have waited 21 days after the vaccination before travelling.

In addition to breaking the terms of PETS and been facing prosecution, Nala’s owners were also unable to pay for the costs of seven weeks of quarantine, which came to £1,500, so they signed her over to feline welfare charity Cats Protection. It ensured that the tiny cat was appropriately quarantined and received vet care before being taken into its Ferndown adoption centre. Despite being removed from her mother at about seven weeks old, a week earlier than is advised, Nala was a lively, energetic kitten, and a suitable home was found for her.

Clauses 1(3)(b) and 1(4)(b) introduce prohibitions that restrict the commercial import and non-commercial movement into Great Britain of heavily pregnant dogs and cats—those that are more than 42 days pregnant. There is an emerging trend in the import of pregnant dogs, but there is a strong consensus to tackle that, with Dogs Trust polling showing 79% support for a ban on the import of heavily pregnant dogs. The prohibition in the Bill is intended to ensure the welfare of pregnant dogs and cats by lowering the gestation limit to prohibit the movement into Great Britain from a third country of dogs and cats that are more than 42 days pregnant—and so within the final third of the gestation. That aligns with clear markers in pregnancy, and therefore pregnant dogs and cats under that limit can be more easily identified. In addition, we expect that traders will respond to an increase in the minimum age for importing puppies and kittens by increasing the number of pregnant dogs and cats that they import. This measure is needed to prevent that anticipated increase in imports of low-welfare dogs and cats from producers with unacceptable welfare standards.

The tragic case of Snowy, the heavily pregnant bichon Maltese, shows how important this measure is in this Bill. Snowy was seized at the port of Dover in May 2023, after being illegally transported into the UK. Before she was intercepted, Snowy had travelled to the UK from an EU country. Snowy was 56 days pregnant when she was seized—in the final 10% of her pregnancy, when it is illegal to transport dogs. Just days after she was seized, and despite her ordeal, Snowy gave birth to four healthy puppies. Snowy and her puppies have all now been responsibly rehomed through the Dogs Trust. The disturbing trend of transporting heavily pregnant dogs into the country in the later stages of pregnancy causes significant suffering and health implications to both mum and puppies. Not only will importing one dog attract less suspicion at the border, but as responsible buyers will ask to see the puppies with their mother, this tactic allows criminals to give the impression of being legitimate breeders, and thus avoid being reported to trading standards.

Clauses 1(3)(c) and 1(4)(c) introduce prohibitions that restrict the commercial import and non-commercial movement into Great Britain of dogs and cats with non-exempted mutilations, for example, dogs with cropped ears or docked tails, and declawed cats. From my previous meetings with pet charities, I know there is a clear consensus among the charities about a ban on dogs and cats with cropped ears and declawed cats, and I am delighted that it has been taken forward. The intended approach to the prohibition of mutilated animals is set out in further detail in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs consultation “Commercial and Non-Commercial Movements of Pets into Great Britain”. The summary of responses and the Government response to that consultation are due to be published in due course, and I am very much looking forward to seeing the consultation response.

The ban on cropped ears mutilations would have helped six-year-old Maisie, who came into RSPCA care in October 2023 due to welfare concerns. She was incredibly malnourished and underweight. She is a sweet and gentle girl who absolutely loves playing with a football, chasing tennis balls and eating sausages. She arrived in RSPCA care with a docked tail and cropped ears. She has a passport from overseas, so the RSPCA believes she was imported having already been cropped and docked. Unfortunately, it is not just dogs that are mutilated. Many kittens are subjected to declawing, an extremely painful and distressing procedure that prevents cats from exhibiting normal scratching behaviour, and is the equivalent of amputating a human fingertip at the first knuckle. Although it is already illegal for cats to be declawed in the UK. Cats Protection, the RSPCA and Battersea have been campaigning hard to ensure that cats with this mutilation are included in the Bill and banned from importation. That is both to deter any market or interest in declawed cats, and to keep in line with ensuring that the highest standards of cat welfare are consistently maintained in the UK. The PDSA “Animal Wellbeing Report 2022” states that

“alarmingly, 5% of cat owners who got their cat from abroad, equating to 31,000 cats, told us that they chose to get their pet from abroad because they wanted them to be declawed.”

Clause 1(2)(b) delivers relevant exemptions to the prohibitions, for example, for recognised assistance dogs or military or service working animals. The enforcement measures and exemptions for the Bill will be delivered through secondary legislation. As with the exemptions, delivering the enforcement measures through secondary legislation will enable us to work closely with enforcement bodies to develop guidance and ensure they have the correct tools to deliver these measures effectively.

Matthew Pennycook Portrait Matthew Pennycook (Greenwich and Woolwich) (Lab)
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I commend the hon. Lady for bringing forward this Bill. The legislation we pass in this place is only as effective as the enforcement that follows from it. A 2014 Dogs Trust investigation found that two of the authorities involved in enforcing breaches of existing regulations in this area—the Animal and Plant Health Agency and trading standards—had no officers on active duty at ports of entry over weekends. Does she agree that, as well as passing this welcome piece of legislation, we need assurances from the Minister about the resourcing and capacity of those agencies to ensure the Bill is properly enforced?

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby
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Although I agree that we need to ensure enforcement, as I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mrs Elphicke), I believe we have an opportunity today to highlight the need to educate people who are about to adopt a puppy or kitten. They need to ask those questions. If illegally imported animals are not adopted, the trade will dry up. I agree with the hon. Gentleman, but I also think we have an opportunity today to extend knowledge about the process of adopting —I have learned so much in developing this Bill.

The measures will be enacted through secondary legislation in order to refine the scope and detail of the policy and take on the views of the public and key stakeholders. The Bill provides that the prohibitions must be enacted the first time the enabling power is used in relation to dogs and cats in Great Britain to show commitment to delivering these measures. I have been assured by the Department, which I thank for its help in getting the Bill to this point, that it will lay secondary legislation as soon as possible following Royal Assent, and DEFRA officials are already working on developing it. That will ensure that the Bill is future-proofed and that it responds dynamically to smuggling practices.

As is the nature of organised crime, the illegal pet trade is unpredictable and ever-changing. These enabling powers will ensure the Government can tackle low-welfare imports dynamically. They provide the flexibility to address known issues quickly, and ensure that we can act in the future to close down emerging practices whereby people try to circumvent previous restrictions.

Finally, let me set out how this will be applied as a GB-wide Bill, and the extent and application involving the devolved Administrations. Clause 3 sets out the meaning of “appropriate national authority” regarding the devolved Administrations. Clause 8 sets out the territorial extent of the Bill and describes the jurisdictions in which the Bill will form part of the law. The territorial extent and application of the Bill is England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, except clauses 4, 5 and 6, which extend and apply only to England, Wales and Scotland.

The Bill relates to animal welfare, which is a devolved matter in Scotland and Wales, including in relation to the regulation of movement of animals for the purposes of protecting animal welfare. In Northern Ireland, animal welfare is generally a transferred matter, but the subject matter of this Bill means that the reserved matter in schedule 3(20) to the Northern Ireland Act 1998 is engaged. I thank my DUP colleagues, the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) and the right hon. Member for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson), who are unable to join us today but have written to support the Bill.

Karin Smyth Portrait Karin Smyth (Bristol South) (Lab)
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The hon. Lady is making an excellent speech about this really important Bill, which I fully support. It is good to see it coming forward. As she outlined, we are still waiting for a consultation response from the Government, but does she agree that it is deeply disappointing that the Government dropped their Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, which would have looked at these issues more carefully? We need greater action from the Government on animal welfare. Even though this Bill will help, we need more.

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby
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This Government have done more on animal welfare than any previous Government, and we will continue to do so. Like everyone else, I was disappointed that that Bill collapsed, but that was due to amendments that changed the nature of the original Bill. I very much welcome the cross-party support for this Bill.

The amendments to the non-commercial pet travel scheme rules and related measures, which include the maximum number of dogs, cats and ferrets that can be moved into Great Britain within five days of the owner’s movements will extend to England, Wales and Scotland. The Bill does not apply to the domestic movement of dogs, cats and ferrets within our United Kingdom, so travel between Northern Ireland and Great Britian will not be affected.

Many colleagues and hon. Friends are in the Chamber to support this Bill, and I know that some may think that we have not gone far enough, but we need to be pragmatic with this Bill and do not want perfection to be the enemy of the good. I believe that, as it stands, it will do a lot to safeguard the welfare of the thousands of puppies, cats and ferrets that come into Great Britain from overseas each year. It will also prevent the heartache and unexpected cost to families who unknowingly buy young and ill pets that often come with hidden health conditions.

The measures I have outlined aim to make vast animal welfare improvements to the current pet import rules. With secondary legislation, the measures will go further than the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill to ensure that loopholes are tightened. I again thank all the charities and interested groups that have shared their views about the Bill. I hope that the Bill has met some of the expectations and illustrated the positive steps that we are taking to stop this cruel trade. We are a nation of animal lovers—a Parliament of pet lovers—and this legislation will ensure that the UK is leading the world when it comes to animal welfare.

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Ashley Dalton Portrait Ashley Dalton
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I thank my right hon. Friend for recognising how important this is in farming communities such as mine. This is crucial, and we have legislation in place, some of which many farmers find quite onerous, to protect the biosecurity of their livestock and land. It is particularly relevant in my constituency, which has wetlands and bird sanctuaries.

Some protections are difficult to put in place, and I have had long discussions with chicken and wildfowl breeders in West Lancashire about the things they have to do to protect our nation’s biosecurity. We need to ensure there is continuing awareness of the legislation because, obviously, parasitic infections take no notice of borders.

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby
- Hansard - -

As I said in my speech, this is not covered by the Bill, and the British Veterinary Association is quite comfortable that it is not fully included and that the EFRA Committee is continuing its work in this area.

Ashley Dalton Portrait Ashley Dalton
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Lady for that welcome clarification.

The provision in the Bill to reduce the number of animals that can be claimed as personal pets, and that can therefore be imported under the pet travel scheme regulations, will help to address this biosecurity risk. Reducing the number of puppies, kittens and ferrets that can be admitted to just three will help to reduce the numbers that a smuggler can import under these less stringent biosecurity rules.

Proposed new article 5A of the regulations should further help to limit abuse of the pet travel scheme. Under this article, the movement of a cat, dog or ferret would not be classed as non-commercial unless the animal is accompanied by its owner, or unless the movement occurs within five days of its owner arriving in the country. This change would help to prevent abuse of the non-commercial importation regulations and limit the awful feigning of commercial animals as pets to circumvent the requirements for commercial imports.

Alongside that reduction, the Bill would place an emphasis on greater enforcement mechanisms, which we have talked about at length. I would welcome any further detail that the hon. Member for North Devon can provide to ensure that this sensible and worthwhile legislation is able to be enforced.



Having looked at the Bill with great interest, and having considered the specifics of each measure carefully, I am proud to support the hon. Member for North Devon in the passage of the Bill. Along with many millions in this country, I hold our pets in the highest regard. They make the lives of families and individuals up and down the country fuller and brighter. It is with the societal benefit of cats, dogs and ferrets and their welfare and health in mind that I am proud to support the Bill. Its measures will protect the welfare of our domestic animal imports and protect our animals and public health at home.

I also support the Bill because, as I said, we sadly lost our cat, Colin, to congenital heart disease just after we had moved house. We are looking forward to getting a new cat—yet to be named—and hopefully a new dog, which I am insisting will be called Kenneth. It is really important to me that legislation is in place to ensure that anybody buying a new cat, dog or ferret as a member of their family can be reassured that it has been treated properly. After the contribution from my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Samantha Dixon), I am seriously considering also getting a ferret. My father has always wanted one.

Once again, I thank the hon. Member for North Devon and congratulate her on picking up what the Government have hitherto refused to advance. This is a necessary, important and common-sense piece of legislation that I urge all Members who are present today to support.

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Maria Eagle Portrait Maria Eagle (Garston and Halewood) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I congratulate the hon. Member for North Devon (Selaine Saxby) on bringing the Bill forward and on coming up in the private Members’ Bill ballot. That is not easy—it has only happened to me once in 26 years—so she has done well.

The hon. Lady has picked an issue that is very important to many Members from across the House. I can say for sure that over the years I have been a Member—as I say, it is now 26 years—the postbag I have received, either by letter or more recently by email, text and social media, has been overwhelmingly dominated by those constituents who write to me about improving animal welfare. I suspect my experience is not dissimilar to that of many other Members, and that we all get a big postbag from our constituents raising animal welfare issues. We are indeed a nation of animal lovers, so she has done well to select this issue. I am not being unpleasant to her if I say that she seems to have had some help with the drafting. Given the issue’s complications, that is probably a good thing. I am sure the Government have improved on the drafting of the more comprehensive animal welfare Bill that they withdrew, which included some of these issues.

I can compliment the hon. Lady on one other thing, before I move on to the substance of the Bill, which is that she is implementing a manifesto commitment of her party. That is more than the Government have managed to do so far from their own Front Bench, so she should be congratulated on that too. It is not a usual or easy thing to do. The only issue is whether this Parliament will last long enough for her to get the Bill all the way on to the statute book. Obviously, it has to go through the other place and its remaining stages here. If the Bill passes Second Reading today, there are a few Bills ahead of it, so there is a bit of a queue in Committee. My advice to her, as somebody who sort of managed to get a private Member’s Bill on to the statute book by forcing the Government to do it later, is to not stop fussing behind the scenes: do not stop pressing and pushing them to make sure that if the Bill passes Second Reading, and it looks very much as if it will—

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby
- Hansard - -

I thank the right hon. Lady for her kind words, but she clearly does not know me very well; I never stop pushing.

Maria Eagle Portrait Maria Eagle
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am very glad to hear that, because it certainly gives her a better chance of making sure the Government do not go soft or slack when it comes to doing the necessary things to ensure the Bill ends up on the statute book. She would be congratulated by many from across the House if she managed that. Obviously, the regulations will have to be written and consulted on. The Bill has to go through the Committee and Report stages in this House. There is a concertina effect on when private Members’ Bill Fridays are coming up, so she will have to get the Bill through Committee fast. That would be my other little bit of advice: there is a queue of Bills ahead of her that have passed Second Reading, so she needs to keep pushing in the right direction.

The Bill takes up some of the provisions that were in the more comprehensive Bill that, as I recall, the Government withdrew in 2023. They have been trying to legislate on this issue since the 2019 election, when it was in their manifesto, so I think it is a good thing that the hon. Lady is bringing forward these provisions. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing North (James Murray) said, there is a little extra detail in this Bill than was apparent in the original legislation. That is also a good thing. It is not correct, as is the modern fashion in legislative drafting, to leave everything to the regulations; sometimes it is a good idea to have the provisions in primary legislation. That might make me a bit old fashioned, but I do think that there is something to be said for it. I congratulate the hon. Member for North Devon on getting a few more details on precisely what is going to be done into primary legislation. That holds to the feet of whatever Government are then trying to implement the legislation to the fire, and there is something to be said for that.

The change in the law that the hon. Lady is seeking to make is good in respect of dogs and cats, as has been mentioned by a number of hon. Members. Currently, the lower age limit to import a dog or cat is 15 weeks. Pregnant dogs and cats may be imported—as the hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Dr Hudson), who has extra knowledge of these things, mentioned— until the last 10% of their pregnancy. Up to five dogs or cats can be imported per person, and the owner can authorise somebody else to travel for them. The changes that are being made to those limits can only be entirely good, for the reasons that have been made by other Members during the course of this debate and that I will not repeat.

Ferrets are included in the short title of the Bill. The hon. Member for North Devon was kind enough to respond to me when I intervened on her, saying that the reason that ferrets had been included is that they can get rabies, so there is something desirable to be said about controlling the import of ferrets. That, for me, is a good enough reason to include them in the short title of the Bill, but I have noticed that we do not seem to have had a lot of representations about ferrets, or examples of the abuse of ferrets in the way that we have in respect of dogs and cats. Perhaps the Minister, when he comes to reply, can let us know whether ferrets are there purely as a rabies control measure, or whether there is evidence that there is abuse in the importation of ferrets? I do not have a wide knowledge of that, so I would be interested to know whether the issues facing ferrets are similar to those of dogs and cats, or whether the fact that they are in the short title of the Bill is simply to do with disease control. To my mind, that is a good enough reason, but I wonder whether there should be further provisions on the safety of ferrets that are not set out in the regulations so far. I would be interested to hear what the Minister has to say.

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Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

I thank the Minister and my right hon. and hon. Friends who have spoken today. I also thank my team for all the work that they have put in behind the scenes to get to this point today, including Tara Benniman, Emily Gordon and Alice Richards, who is on maternity leave, watching at home with baby Luke and cat Beany. I also remind Members that Pixie the one-eyed spaniel and Bruce the French bulldog will be available for media engagements in W3 at the end of today’s sitting.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time; to stand committed to a Public Bill Committee (Standing Order No. 63).

South West Water

Selaine Saxby Excerpts
Tuesday 5th March 2024

(1 month, 2 weeks ago)

Westminster Hall
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Richard Foord Portrait Richard Foord
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Liberal Democrat policy is to abolish Ofwat but very much to bolster the Environment Agency. We need to ensure that we have a regulator with teeth. As I have said to the hon. Member before, if the Environment Agency has teeth, they are in a glass of water by the side of the bed. He says he thinks that South West Water will hear his concerns, but I point out that the chief executive only forwent her bonus when it was plain that the level of outrage and campaigning in the west country was such that anything else would have been unacceptable. I should say that it is under pressure from parties like the Liberal Democrats that the Conservatives seem to have been talking in recent weeks about water companies and their executives not taking their bonuses when their performance is so poor.

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby (North Devon) (Con)
- Hansard - -

In clarifying Liberal Democrat policy and the actions they have taken, perhaps the hon. Gentleman could explain what his party’s leader, the right hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Ed Davey), did to tackle this issue when he was Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change between 2012 and 2015.

Richard Foord Portrait Richard Foord
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I would be very happy to. Of course, at that time the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change had different responsibilities.

Our policy now is very much about reforming water companies’ boards. They need to be transformed into public benefit companies. We need boards to have grassroots campaigners such as those I gathered together last night. We had Surfers Against Sewage and the Women’s Institute, which is pushing its “Water You Waiting For?” campaign. Fantastic campaigners such as these need a voice at the board level of these companies, otherwise we will face the catastrophe of our tourist hotspots being struck with the affliction that is water pollution. According to Blue Flag, four of the 10 beaches most affected by pollution last year were in Devon, including Sidmouth, which endured over 600 hours of sewage spills.

We heard earlier in the debate about the Environment Agency. In my view, we need to see the end of operator self-monitoring, which is where water companies get to gather their data themselves before passing it to the regulator. It means that they can potentially vary the data they are collecting. Water companies are essentially marking their own homework. This is having a devastating effect on some tourist areas such as the ones in Honiton.

I feel that there is a mismatch between the rhetoric we have heard this afternoon from some hon. Members and their voting records. I point them to 25 January 2023, when we voted on the draft Environmental Targets (Water) (England) Regulations 2022 and when I was very proud to insist that the Government should have more stringent targets for water pollution. I can see, Mr Henderson, that you are suggesting I have reached the end of my time, but I am grateful to have had the chance to make my remarks.

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby (North Devon) (Con)
- Hansard - -

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Henderson. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for East Devon (Simon Jupp) for securing today’s important debate.

I must declare an interest: I surf. I surfed on Sunday on a beach that South West Water’s website advised it was safe to surf on and had been for 24 hours. However, a well-known campaign group assured me that it had a sewage alert on it. This happens week after week. A campaign group has chosen to misrepresent the data it has, issuing sewage alerts when the combined storm overflows run and scaring people from entering our beautiful waters. Yes, we would all like the combined storm overflows to not run so often, but they are over 95% rainwater, and on most of North Devon’s stunning surf beaches they rush out into the Atlantic ocean. It does not take 48 hours for the tide to sort that out. The recommended gold standard for removing overflow waters is one tidal rotation, which is 12.5 hours.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank South West Water for the work it has done to date, which saw Croyde, one of the jewels of the surf crown, move from having “good” to “excellent” bathing water quality last year. I also thank the company for working with the event organisers—the ones who accepted—over the Christmas period to try to get our big Christmas swims out safely. Huge confusion is being caused on our beaches, with a Victorian bathing water season still in place, meaning that the most accurate data from the Environment Agency is not available from September through to May. We are a hardy bunch in North Devon. We are out all year round.

With that in mind, I want to focus on the serious problem that occurred in North Devon just three weeks ago, when there was a raw sewage spill from a sewage treatment works due to an electrical fault caused by a contractor on site. This resulted in six hours of raw sewage running into a large river that runs straight out to sea. Yes, there are questions for South West Water about the incident, but accidents do happen. South West Water reported it in line with all procedures.

The Environment Agency recommended closing four beaches and posted details of the sewage incident on its website. Unfortunately, it informed only one of the two councils that needed to be notified. No one told people on the beaches. The well-known campaign group, which we would think would rush to issue a sewage alert, did nothing of the sort. Its “sewage alert” has no definition; it literally means that the storm overflow had gone at some point in the previous 48 hours. The group chooses not to use the information that is available to it from the Environment Agency, which details when there is a real sewage pollution issue. In that respect, I have an issue with the South West Water website as well, which only includes data on its own storm overflows. However, it is at least clear that that is what the company is doing.

Most people do not use the Environment Agency website, which is not a fancy app that says when there is a problem. On that day, although we now know that sewage was being released, the campaign group that apparently prides itself on supporting surfers did not use the data available to it and surfing lessons went ahead.

Many people who regularly use the beaches in North Devon gave up on the campaign app some time ago. One surf school said, “We’d never go surfing if we listened to them.” I ask the Minister this question: what more can be done urgently to provide accurate information to those wishing to bathe or surf at this time of year? I urge the campaign group to think a bit harder about the information it is spreading—

Toby Perkins Portrait Mr Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Lady, but she has mentioned many times this “campaign group”. I assume she means Surfers Against Sewage, but can she be clear for the record whom she is being critical of?

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby
- Hansard - -

I am happy to clarify, but by the same token the group does not actually like it when I mention it by name.

As I was saying, I urge the group to think a bit harder about the information it is spreading and at least try to issue a sewage alert when there actually is sewage. I say that because when the group set itself up 40 years ago, it ran a brilliant campaign and quite rightly so, as there was a lot of work to do. However, the group now privately states: “With regard to the beaches in your constituency, we totally agree that huge improvements have been made to water quality there and in many places around the country.” However, the group does not like me repeating that in public, as it undermines its very existence.

Yes, South West Water has more to do. I want to know how that incident at Ashford and two more incidents at Croyde over Christmas happened. Most of all, however, I want people to have easy access to accurate information about when it is safe to enter the water on some of the finest beaches in the world.

Hedgerows: Legal Protection

Selaine Saxby Excerpts
Wednesday 24th January 2024

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Westminster Hall
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Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby (North Devon) (Con)
- Hansard - -

I beg to move,

That this House has considered legal protections for hedgerows.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship this morning, Ms Elliott. I welcome the work of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and its consultation last June, which sought to ensure that protections for hedgerows will continue, following the end of cross-compliance protections this January. I thank the Minister for her engagement on the issue and, as an advisory board member of the Conservative Environment Network, I thank the network for its help in relation to this debate.

Our green and pleasant land has been a source of national pride for centuries. Looking at the gently rolling hills of my North Devon constituency, it is easy to see why. The land is a green patchwork, stitched together by hedgerows. I am proud to be one of the 85 MPs and peers who are hedgerow heroes for the Campaign to Protect Rural England, continuously calling on the Government to commit to significant hedgerow planting and restoration.

The Government have made many welcome steps towards protecting hedgerows. The Environment Act 2021 introduced a mandatory biodiversity net gain requirement for new development, along with local nature recovery strategies to target the best places for nature recovery and wider environmental benefits. In January 2023, under the refreshed 25-year environment plan, the Government announced a target to create or restore 30,000 miles of hedgerows by 2037 and 45,000 miles of hedgerows by 2050. That target will result in 360,000 miles of English hedgerows, which is 10% above the 1984 peak.

Other positives include clear regulations prohibiting the removal of countryside hedgerows without approval, and our countryside stewardship schemes, which help to maintain and restore over 10,000 km of existing hedgerows and plant an additional 4,000 km across the country. Countryside stewardship provides financial incentives for farmers, foresters and land managers to look after and improve the environment. Under grant type BE3—management of hedgerows—farmers will be paid £13 per 100 metres for one side of a hedge. That is available for the countryside stewardship mid-tier and higher-tier options, and will go towards improving the structure and longevity of hedgerows and maintaining them as distinctive and historic landscape features.

Healthy hedgerows are visually appealing, but they are also unsung heroes. Their roots absorb excess water and help to reduce the risk of flooding. Their leaves provide a source of shade for livestock in the summer and shelter in the winter. Their thick, tangled branches are home to countless iconic British species, from the humble hedgehog to bats, turtle doves and yellowhammers. Hedges are also home to precious pollinators, without which we would all go hungry. Over 1,500 invertebrates, including bees, beetles, spiders and hoverflies, have been identified in hedgerows in the UK. Spring-flowering trees and shrubs, such as blackthorn and hawthorn, which are often found in hedgerows, can be important sources of spring foraging for wild bee species in intensively managed landscapes.

The National Trust is very keen that I highlight its annual BlossomWatch campaign. Blackthorn and hawthorn blossom hedgerow is some of the most spectacular to be found anywhere in our countryside. The National Trust highlights that since 1945, the UK’s hedgerow network has shrunk by about 50%. That is concerning because hedgerows are not just an iconic feature of our landscapes, but critical habitats for our wildlife that clean our air and help with carbon capture and reducing flooding. The National Trust welcomes the Government’s target to create or restore 30,000 miles of hedgerows by 2037 and 45,000 by 2050.

According to the Government’s independent adviser on climate change, the Climate Change Committee, hedgerows are key to meeting our legally binding commitment to reach net zero by 2050. The committee has recommended increasing the length of hedgerows by 40% by 2050. Studies suggest that England’s hedges could already hold as much as 9 million tonnes of carbon. Unmanaged hedgerows are estimated to sequester over 140 tonnes of carbon per hectare, compared with 169 tonnes for a 30-year native woodland. If hedgerows are properly managed, they could sequester even more, both in their woody stems and in the roots below.

I am a genuine believer in our farmers as the best custodians of our countryside. However, we have lost nearly 118,000 miles of hedgerows in the UK since the 1950s, when farmers were encouraged to increase the intensity of their production.

Gregory Campbell Portrait Mr Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry) (DUP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I congratulate the hon. Lady on securing the debate. She mentions the importance of the farming community and what they do to secure, promote and enhance hedgerows in our nation. Does she agree that we need to do as much as we can to support them in their much-needed task, which people often forget about and take for granted?

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby
- Hansard - -

I agree entirely, and I will speak further about what more we can do to support farmers. My North Devon constituency is home to a large number of farmers.

There are few legal protections to prevent poor hedgerow management practices. When I was a councillor, I was contacted every year without fail about the cutting of local hedgerows. The problem is that the lack of a landscape criterion means that locally distinctive hedgerows are not protected and local authorities are often powerless to retain them. According to CPRE, more than half of local authorities feel that existing exceptions for built development lead to unacceptable or avoidable hedgerow loss.

Prior to the UK’s departure from the EU, cross-compliance rules governed eligibility for the EU’s common agricultural policy and provided basic environmental protections. The UK has now replaced CAP, and the rules ceased to apply as of 31 January 2023. It is worth noting that the majority of rules under cross-compliance are now covered by domestic legislation, but although the Hedgerows Regulations 1997 protect some hedgerows from being removed, there are now no regulations to protect hedgerows from harmful management practices such as ploughing too close to the base, spraying them with chemicals and cutting them at the wrong time of year.

Perhaps this is an apt time to mention the no-cutting period. The Big Garden Birdwatch—the world’s largest garden wildlife survey, organised by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds—is happening this weekend. Every year, hundreds of thousands of nature lovers take part and help to build a picture of how garden birds are faring in the UK. If hon. Members have not signed up already, that is something for this weekend. A no-cutting period would ensure that hedgerows are not cut back during the important bird nesting season from early spring to late summer. Any reduction or loss of the no-cutting period would place severe additional pressures on farmland bird species that are already facing spiralling declines. A no-cutting period would benefit not just birds, but bees.

Colleagues have told me that there is a problem with highway authorities cutting grass verges and roadside hedges at the wrong time of year. Cutting roadside hedges destroys all the wild flowers, which have great benefits in helping bees to pollinate. It is also important to recognise that hedgerows need management, and that should be incorporated into any scheme, as many birds nest inside the hedgerows to protect them from predators, not on the bits that need trimming.

One of the UK’s very rare bumblebees, the brown-banded carder bee, was spotted in Braunton last summer. Maintaining road verges with pollinators in mind can create a network of habitat that can connect populations of bumblebees, allowing them to find suitable flowers to pollinate. I want to give a big thank you to Braunton parish council and the local volunteers at the Bumblebee Conservation Trust for their work.

Recent research by CPRE has found that planting hedgerows on arable land can boost the production of pollinating insects, increase crop yields by 10% and reduce pesticide use by 30%. The study examines what it would mean for farmers if the UK’s hedgerow network were expanded by 40% by 2050. It calculates that for every £1 invested in hedgerows, farmers would see a £1.73 return from higher crop yields.

A petition supported by North Devon residents states:

“All hedgerow cutting or trimming and non-essential tree felling should be banned between March and August to give declining bird species a chance to breed undisturbed by human activity.”

The Hedgerows Regulations 1997 offer limited legal protection, as they apply only to narrowly defined important hedges. Broadly, a hedgerow is considered important if it is at least 30 years old and meets criteria based on the number of plant and animal species it supports, its historical significance, and associated hedge features such as a hedge bank, ditch or tree.

The 2023 DEFRA consultation on protecting hedgerows included questions about ensuring continued protection for hedgerows after the end of cross-compliance. That meant that to receive the basic payment scheme, farmers and land managers were required to maintain overall standards and put in place hedgerow management measures. However, although the Department held a consultation last June on the shape of future regulations, no amendments have been made since their introduction in 1997. The Government have yet to respond, and they missed their deadline last year to replicate the previous rules in UK law. The Department has stated:

“We are determined to protect and restore vital wildlife habitats and have recently consulted on continuing hedgerow protections after the end of cross compliance and will publish a summary of responses as well as outline our next steps shortly.”

I hope that the Minister can clarify when “shortly” is, as the delayed Government response to the consultation risks a regulatory gap in the protection of hedgerows under basic hedgerow management standards.

Farmers make countless sacrifices to produce the food we eat, and they care deeply for their land. They are as much a part of the landscape as they are custodians of it. Farmers are integral to rural communities such as mine in North Devon: they help to stitch them together, create jobs and produce high-quality food, all while caring for our much-loved countryside. I will always champion our great British farmers and ensure that their voices are heard.

I welcome the good news from the Secretary of State this month regarding the latest upgrades to the UK’s farming schemes since Brexit to help support our farmers, including a 10% increase in the average value of agreements in the sustainable farming incentive and countryside stewardship schemes. A streamlined single application process for farmers to apply for the schemes is also to be warmly welcomed. I am pleased that the process has been made simpler for British farmers to access. Those upgrades underpin the Government’s commitment to support farmers and take actions to boost sustainable food production while delivering positive outcomes for the environment.

Now that we are outside the EU, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a bespoke system of farm support that better rewards farmers, protects our natural environment and is unique to our national circumstances. The new environmental land management schemes are a step in the right direction. ELMS deliver much greater value for taxpayers’ money and create a new revenue stream for farmers to complement the money they receive for food production. ELMS also help in tackling long-term threats to our food security by encouraging more sustainable farming practices and improving key assets for food production, such as soil health, water quality and healthy hedgerows.

It was great to visit the farm of my constituent David Chugg in Kingsheanton with the National Farmers Union and see the work being done to plant small trees into hedgerows as part of an ELM scheme. I am glad that the new ELM scheme means that farms such as David’s will have their management of hedgerows funded, in recognition of their historic, cultural and environmental value to our countryside.

The Government’s target is for 70% of farms to sign up to the sustainable farming incentive by 2028, and I welcome the good progress being made towards that goal. However, even if the target is met and all those farms sign up to the existing hedgerow options, it is estimated that 120,000 km of hedgerows will be left with little meaningful legal protection. The Government’s primary focus on incentivising good environmental stewardship over punitive enforcement is the right one.

Farmers have three relevant options as part of the sustainable farming incentive under ELM, with payments on offer for the measurement, management and planting of new hedgerows, but some level of legislative protection for our most precious natural assets is necessary. I therefore urge the Government to update the Hedgerows Regulations to include protections against harmful management practices. That is essential to replace the protections lost with the end of cross-compliance. We should also broaden our ambitions and think more carefully about the type of regulatory environment we want to create.

In 2018, my right hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove) commissioned the Stacey review. The review set out to rationalise the basis on which future farming regulations should be made to safeguard animal and plant welfare, ensure good land management and prevent hazards. Proportionate, smart regulation enables farmers to fulfil those goals, and the review contained a series of wide-ranging recommendations to strengthen and simplify regulation. Unfortunately, the Government have still not issued a formal response. I call on the Minister to do so.

Farming is an unpredictable business, and the hundreds of farmers whose land still lies under water after Storm Henk are a testament to that. It is our duty as policymakers to provide them with certainty and the tools they need to strengthen their resilience. North Devon residents have also signed a petition to make the protection of hedgerows a condition of ELMS and BPS subsidies. We need to ensure that farmers have the confidence to engage with that process. To ensure that farmers have that confidence in ELMS, to restore our natural world and to boost our food security, the Government should at the very least increase the ELMS budget in line with inflation and index future budgets to inflation. Consumer price inflation ran at an average of 4.18% from December 2019 to October 2023. The £2.4 billion annual budget should therefore increase by at least £400 million to restore it to its original value.

Whitehall could also be less prescriptive in the payments that it makes available to farmers. I would like to see more market-based payment rates for ELMS, reflective of our environmental needs and the demands from farmers. Options with the greatest environmental benefits or those with the lowest sign-up rates should have their payment rates boosted to increase uptake. To meet the Climate Change Committee’s recommendations to increase the length of hedgerows, SFI options for the planting and careful management of hedgerows should be included.

Farmers also need greater advice on how to access the opportunities available. After speaking to farmers in my constituency, I know how important that is. I hope the Minister will look to appoint regional and local farm champions to provide peer-to-peer advice and training on sustainable and profitable farm practices.

To sum up, I have a few suggestions for the Minister. We should introduce a landscape criterion in the regulations to give local authorities more discretion to protect hedgerows that are important to the local landscape character, but might not meet the current criteria for importance. We should improve the Hedgerows Regulations so that they are easier for local authorities to implement: any simplification should strengthen hedgerow protection, not weaken it. We should consider a closed season over winter for when hedgerow removal notices can be submitted to local authorities. That would allow comprehensive surveys of the hedgerow to take place, as required, before removal is permitted.

The key point that I want to stress is the need for those regulations that have been lost under cross-compliance, which relate to the management of hedgerows. Although I know that hedgerow planting is not a silver bullet for agricultural carbon emissions, it can play a significant role alongside good soil management, agroforestry and uptake of low carbon fertilisers.

We have just found out that our Lib Dem-run district council will miss its 2030 net zero target after having reduced its greenhouse gases by only 16% in the last four years. I hope that the Government can facilitate our farmers in filling some of the gaps that the Lib Dems have left, and secure, enhance and extend our stunning network of hedgerows across North Devon and the country.

I trust the farmers in North Devon to look after their hedgerows. They understand the link between good hedgerows, better biodiversity and improved productivity, but we must look at the next steps on protection. It is important that we boost our biodiversity to strengthen our rural economies and maximise the benefits of our beautiful countryside. We need to ensure that our hedgerows are legally protected.

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Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby
- Hansard - -

It has been a privilege to have you in the Chair today, Ms Elliott. I thank all hon. Members for their contributions. I thank the hon. Member for Cambridge (Daniel Zeichner) for his concern about the family disputes on our side of the House, and I reassure him that the Conservative Environment Network acts as an umbrella organisation and occasional mediator. It is the largest caucus in this place, and supports the party of rural Britain and the first Government ever to legislate to protect our environment.

I look forward to supporting new legal protections for hedgerows, and thank the Minister for pulling that rabbit out of the hedgerow this morning. I hope that the consultation response is imminent, which should be sooner than “shortly”. I also hope, for all the hedgerow heroes who care so much, that both those events will come to pass before the hawthorn and blackthorn blossom emerges.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House has considered legal protections for hedgerows.

Groceries Supply Code of Practice

Selaine Saxby Excerpts
Monday 22nd January 2024

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Westminster Hall
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Each debate is chaired by an MP from the Panel of Chairs, rather than the Speaker or Deputy Speaker. A Government Minister will give the final speech, and no votes may be called on the debate topic.

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Christina Rees Portrait Christina Rees
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is a champion for the farmers in his constituency, and I hope to come to those issues later in my speech.

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby (North Devon) (Con)
- Hansard - -

I thank the hon. Lady for giving way and for her excellent speech on this important topic. Does she agree that farmers such as those in North Devon have a huge role to play in our green transition and that supermarkets have a duty to ensure that farmers are getting a fair and just price for their produce, otherwise they have no hope of producing it sustainably?

Christina Rees Portrait Christina Rees
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Definitely, and I will come on to that. I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention.

Sustainable Farming Initiative

Selaine Saxby Excerpts
Tuesday 19th December 2023

(4 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Absolutely. If we do not give people stability of income and certainty, how can we expect them to provide the food and the environmental gains that we need?

I challenge the Minister to come up with any industry that has been penalised as badly by the Government over the past four years as our farmers. To be fair, I do not think the Government actually intended to do so much harm to farming and farmers. I do not believe they sat down and decided to break their promise to farmers and make a net cut of more than a sixth in farm spending, but those cuts have happened all the same because of flaws built into the system either by accident or by design, which have led to predictable and ever-increasing sums of money being taken out of farming, while smaller and less predictable amounts have been introduced.

Let me set out some of the flaws, in the hope that the Minister will address them. First, the system has built-in perverse incentives, as my hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Helen Morgan) said, which mean that farmers at the forefront of environmental work are penalised. Farmers who are in an existing higher level stewardship or uplands entry level stewardship scheme lose their BPS—by the end of this month, they will have lost between 35% and 50%—yet they cannot fully access SFI. In other words, farmers already doing good environmental work can only lose income from this process. That is especially so in the Lake district, the Cartmel peninsula, the dales and the Eden valley—some of our most treasured and picturesque landscapes. In upland areas, basic payments typically make up 60% of financial support. Farmers in those beautiful places, which are so essential to our heritage, our environment and our tourism economy are stuck. They are already in stewardship schemes, but their BPS is being removed and they cannot meaningfully access SFI.

The Lake district is a world heritage site. If the landscape changes dramatically for the worse in the next few years because of the Government’s failure to understand the impact of their error, that world heritage site status is at risk, and its loss would cause huge damage to our vital hospitality and tourism economy in Cumbria, which serves 20 million visitors a year and sustains 60,000 jobs.

The Government’s failure to allow farmers to stack schemes to deliver more for nature is foolish and bureaucratic, and it means that they were always going to be taking more away from farmers than they could ever give back.

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby (North Devon) (Con)
- Hansard - -

I am not sure whether things are just different in North Devon, but my farmers seem to be able to stack their schemes. I was asked to come here today by a lovely lady called Debbs Harding, who is part of the Nature Friendly Farming Network, to fully endorse this programme. Yes, there is more to be done—there is always more to be done. However, I am delighted to hear that the Liberal Democrats welcome the schemes and are not just going back to Brexit, which has been their previous position.

Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

On the point that SFI can add value, the reality is that, with the exception of moorland options, there is no reason for anybody in a stewardship scheme to add to what they currently lose. My colleague from Appleby, who said he can only replace 7% of what he loses from BPS, is typical of many people. There are exceptions, of course, and I could name people who have done well out of it. Yet when we have taken out the best part of half a billion and put in £155 million to replace it, it stands to reason that the average farmer in North Devon and everywhere else is worse off.

I try to give the Government some credit by saying that this is incompetence and not malice. They did not mean to break their promise; they have just botched the transition and broken it by accident. However, if the Minister will not address the flaw that prevents farmers in stewardship schemes from meaningfully accessing SFI, we can only conclude that the betrayal of England’s farmers is not accidental after all, but deliberate. Will he look at the matter urgently, so that we do not lose farmers pushed to the brink due to the Government’s obvious failure?

Another flaw in the Government’s approach to the new scheme is that they keep chopping and changing. The Rural Payments Agency cannot keep up with the constant flux, as the Government reinvent SFI every few months. The platform for delivery is struggling to keep pace. For example, the Government’s latest edict is that everyone who began an SFI application in September must have completed it by 31 December. If they have not completed and submitted it by then, all their details will be wiped and they will have to go back to square one and start again. To add to that, the Government’s insistence on drip-feeding SFI options to farmers means that many have not applied because they are worried that if they do, a better new option may be revealed soon after.

Government Support for a Circular Economy

Selaine Saxby Excerpts
Wednesday 25th October 2023

(5 months, 3 weeks ago)

Westminster Hall
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Caroline Ansell Portrait Caroline Ansell (Eastbourne) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move,

That this House has considered Government support for a circular economy.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hosie. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which is a leading non-governmental organisation on the topic, the circular economy is

“a system where materials never become waste”

and the natural environment is able to regenerate, and in which

“products and materials are kept in circulation through processes like maintenance, reuse, refurbishment, remanufacture, recycling, and composting.”

The sustainable and regenerative system that it creates is one in which economic growth is decoupled from our resource consumption.

I hope to make it clear that there are economic opportunities to be derived from a more circular economy. It is great example of the environment and the economy going hand in hand, rather than being pitted against one another as competing and conflicting aims. The approach runs counter to the linear “take, make and dispose” approach to resource consumption to which we have become accustomed.

To illustrate the status quo, imagine a single-use plastic bottle of water. The bottle takes approximately five seconds to produce in a factory. It is transported to a shop for someone to buy, and it takes around five minutes to drink, at which point it is put in the bin. Having taken just five seconds to produce and five minutes to consume, the plastic bottle can then stay in our environment for 500 years. Even then—as I have been cautioned by the founder and lead member of Plastic Free Eastbourne, who is a modest local hero—the journey does not end there. Every piece of plastic that we have ever produced is still with us somewhere. When a plastic bottle eventually starts to degrade, it does not simply disappear; it breaks down into smaller parts—microplastics and even nanoplastics.

That is one of the reasons for the campaign to roll out refillable water bottles, which hon. Members will see if they visit my fair constituency of Eastbourne. The first refillable water bottle station, which I had the great privilege to attend back in the time between lockdowns, was introduced in 2021. That one refill station has now sprung to 14, and a further five are in the pipeline, so that people can return again and again to fill their bottles, in their own circular economy.

Plastic bottles are still in production in their millions, and we pay for the convenience, perhaps without thinking about the inevitable hidden costs to our environment. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has undertaken hugely important work in order to make strides in this area, and specifically to improve recycling rates in England. As recently as this weekend, DEFRA made important announcements about its reforms for simpler recycling, which will see councils across England providing for the collection of the same set of materials from households, including a weekly food waste collection.

There is perhaps a higher calling to that notion of food waste. I met just this week with an enterprise called Too Good to Go. Its app connects local shoppers to local businesses that are anxious to pass on food that would otherwise go to waste. In my constituency alone, 70,000 kg of food—equivalent in its carbon emissions, I am told, to 156 days of constant warm showers—has been saved from landfill.

The recycling reforms do not stop there. I know that the Minister’s Department has been working tirelessly to create an extended producer responsibility scheme for packaging that moves the burden of responsibility and payment for waste management from local councils to packaging producers. The scheme will help to ensure that the polluter pays for the packaging legacy that it creates. In doing so, it will encourage innovation and lower packaging use. It will also ensure that all the packaging we use has a clear label stating “recycle” or “do not recycle”.

As the Minister will know, last week was Recycling Week 2023. The theme was “the big recycling hunt”—an entire week dedicated to shedding light on the recyclable everyday household items that we do not put in the recycling bin, such as aerosols and plastic cleaning and toiletry bottles. With so many random recycling labels out there, the presence of a standard, recognisable label will remove doubt and help consumers to get it right when they go to the recycling bin.

Another critical aspect of the extended producer responsibility scheme is the modulated fee structure. In theory, that will mean that producers are charged different amounts, paying less for recyclable items than non-recyclable ones. However, I understand that industry is still awaiting the details, meaning that the timeline for roll-out is stretched, and there could be a scenario in which producers are paying into the scheme before the modulated fee structure has been implemented. The modulated fee structure is the key to driving the action we want to see from packaging producers. Could the Minister provide further clarity on the timeline? We need to ensure that we incentivise producers not only correctly but in a sufficiently timely manner for them to deliver change to their packaging.

The third pillar to these packaging reforms is the deposit return scheme for drinks containers. I know that progress on that policy has been fraught due to factors outside of DEFRA’s control, but it was an aspiration and ambition raised at Plastic Free Eastbourne’s recent water summit. It is considered an important solution, so how do we focus on it? It has worked incredibly well for our European neighbours, albeit less so across the border in Scotland. I understand that there are potentially lessons to be learned from that experience. I would welcome an update from the Minister on the scheme.

Individually and collectively, the reforms will be game changing for our recycling system and help to boost our stubbornly low recycling rates in Eastbourne and across England. In my own council area, the recycling rate sits at 32.8%, which is sadly below the national average of 44% and below next-door Wealden’s 48%. I am concerned about the risk that a focus on recycling may overshadow other processes I have referenced, such as reduction, reuse, refurbishment, re-manufacture and composting, which are all so critical to the creation of a circular economy.

Speaking of composting, let me return briefly to the topic of food waste. It is certainly welcome news that households will now have a weekly food waste collection. Even collecting food waste in its own bin has been shown to reduce the amount of waste created, perhaps by embarrassing people—awkward but true—into cutting their waste. The carbon emissions from food waste are enormous and represent a huge waste of money and food. Processing food waste through composting and anaerobic digestion will help to reduce the emissions that would have been created if it had gone into the general waste bin.

I also want to draw attention to what other countries, such as Italy, are doing with their collection of food waste and compostable plastics. Those plastics are made from bioplastics, which means that, unlike regular plastics, they are not made using fossil fuels and they break down quickly in industrial composting facilities. This challenge—the move from fossil-based plastics to those made from more sustainable and renewable raw materials such as corn and starch—was the subject of a petition by Eastbourne’s plastic-free community that garnered 1,446 signatures. This important topic was covered in some depth by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee in its report published earlier this year.

I am aware that there are challenges in the transition to bioplastics, including with disposal, the question of one-time use, and the use of land to grow the raw materials. But the march towards the bioeconomy the world over, with ever-increasing uptake and interest in bioplastics, is something that we must surely be watching with keen interest. I understand that the UK does not have as many composting facilities as anaerobic digestion plants, but compostable plastics are increasingly being adopted by businesses that want to do the right thing for the environment.

Compostable plastics are a clear example of the market in action. Recognising the problem posed by single-use plastic waste, companies have invested in research and development, and come up with an innovative tech-driven solution. There are many businesses already operating in this space, and we should surely incentivise them rather than disadvantaging them with a framework that does not recognise the good that their work could represent.

The applications of compostable plastics are broad. I have seen them used in items such as coffee cups, packaging for online clothing deliveries, coffee pods, sauce sachets, tea bags, and—perhaps most relatably—food waste caddy liners. The Government and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation are in agreement that there is a role for compostable plastics in specific applications such as coffee pods and tea bags. In a recent DEFRA consultation on consistency in recycling, 77% of respondents approved of the introduction of compostable caddy liners, a move supported by the Bio-based and Biodegradable Industries Association, but the commentary in the executive summary suggests quite the opposite—that a majority disagreed with that move. Is that something that the Minister could resolve?

I have devoted a lot of time to packaging—I think that reflects both where the general public’s interest lies and where DEFRA has taken most steps—but packaging is only part of the circular economy. The UK throws away 300,000 tonnes of electrical waste from households and businesses each year. That makes us the world’s second largest annual contributor of e-waste, averaging a whopping 23.9 kg per person. The idea of fast tech—the disposable use of electronic goods—is gaining prominence among campaigners, and disposable vapes in particular have become a focus. The Government have taken steps to tackle disposable vapes, but the issue is much broader.

To illustrate that, recent research by Material Focus revealed that there are 7.5 million unused electrical children’s toys hidden in households across the UK. Even if they do make it out of the cupboard, they do not necessarily go to the right place. Three million toys have been sent to landfill in the past six months alone. That is enough to fill Hamleys’ flagship Regent Street store nearly 14 times over—not fun; we have all seen “Toy Story 3”.

I understand that some councils are voluntarily introducing kerbside or communal bins for e-waste collection. Even rolled out at scale, however, will that tackle the problem head on? Do we not need to look further upstream to the design of products and the obligations that we place on their producers?

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby (North Devon) (Con)
- Hansard - -

I thank my hon. Friend for her excellent speech and for bringing this important matter before the House. She is talking about encouraging people to behave a certain way with reusable products, but does she agree that this place could also utilise the tax system more effectively? Take period products: unlike products that cannot be reused, we tax products promoted as “period pants” at 20%. Will she join me in supporting the Marks & Spencer campaign that went to No. 10 yesterday and saying “pants to the tax”?

Caroline Ansell Portrait Caroline Ansell
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for saying “pants to the tax”, and I am happy to confirm that I am 100% behind the campaign. It is a strange and extraordinary anomaly that period pants are classified as a garment, rather than as a period product. I cannot imagine anyone wearing period pants on other days of the month, just for fashion or pleasure, so I 100% subscribe to the campaign. We would be levelling up not only by changing the VAT regime for period pants, but by distinguishing between disposable and reusable. Surely we want to promote reusable in this context. It would be an important incentive because it would give choice, and my understanding is that the leading companies have pledged that the tax difference would be passed on to customers. This is another important way in which we can use the frameworks and levers around VAT and tax, as my hon. Friend said, to help people make the best and wisest decisions. I thank her for mentioning that important campaign.

Some products are more easily reused and repaired than others. A more circular approach in general would be a welcome step up in ambition, but I understand that the Minister is actively engaged through reforms to the waste electrical and electronic equipment regulations. It would be good to hear how those reforms are progressing.

Each year, only 1% of clothes are recycled into new clothes. It has been estimated that one truckload of clothing is landfilled or burned every second globally. On our high streets, charity shops do a fantastic job of providing access to textile reuse, both for clothing and for sometimes overlooked purposes such as furniture upholstery. Access to charity stores has helped to normalise reuse.

The work of charity shops will only go so far, however, and does not tackle the root cause. Back in 2018, the Government committed to consult on a textile extended producer responsibility scheme, but that has been superseded by other pressing priorities for the Department. However, there was a commitment to help establish the best waste hierarchy in order to better manage textile waste. With the Government target to halve residual waste, we have an incentive to tackle textile waste, but without a clear route to correct disposal, clothes will continue to be sent to landfill and incineration. In the light of that, I wonder what more the Minister might have planned to tackle textile waste.

This might be a Miranda Hart moment: my notes say “lubes”. For the benefit of Hansard, however, I might resort to “lubricants”. I wish to make some comments about cross-departmental collaboration. Energy is a resource that we must husband effectively and efficiently. With the UK target to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, we have been made to reassess our relationship with energy and the composition of specific resources that that might require.

Intuitively, we know that a more circular economy is one that uses renewable energy sources. In the south, looking across the downland from Eastbourne, we can see the most glorious vista across the waves to Rampion offshore wind farm, which powers half the homes in Sussex, and there is an ambition for an extension that would take in the whole county. As we continue to adopt renewables at scale, we must make sure that the resources that go into harvesting the energy are sustainable. The topic of blade recyclability is gaining traction, but the sustainability mindset should cover all aspects of the process, right down to whether the lubricants used in the generation of energy are sustainable. If our wind farms made the transition to bio-based lubricants, typically from vegetable oils, that would be very effective. Of course, the UK has abundant bio-based resources, such as rapeseed oil, for producing bio-lubricants.

There are further advantages to the adoption of a bio-based fuel. Bio-based fuels not only extend the life of the machinery, as evidenced by the Eden Project, but have a wider economic and environmental benefit: if they are accidentally discharged into the environment, they are benign compared with petroleum-based lubricants. Although waste and resources as a whole sit with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, wind turbines are a Department for Energy Security and Net Zero matter. It is vital that cross-cutting, cross-Department issues do not fall through the cracks, so I would love to know what work could be undertaken between DEFRA and DESNZ around such issues and challenges. I will take that up with colleagues in DESNZ.

I know that by covering only packaging, electronics, textiles and renewables, I have missed out many other sectors that would benefit from a circular economy, but I hope that I have gone some way towards illustrating the opportunities, and the case for Government support. Business giants such as Currys, Apple, M&S and IKEA have been experimenting with reuse and take-back schemes. Indeed, the likes of eBay stake their entire business model on reuse. I am sporting my latest purchase: my vintage M&S jacket recently procured through eBay. They are joined by a suite of start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises across the country that have put the circular economy at their heart. However, across the board, businesses are concerned that without stronger incentives, we will perhaps not see the leap from small-scale initiatives and trials to mass roll-out.

A circular economy is more efficient. It can save us money and make us money. In short, this is not a hair-shirted environmental mission. There are economic opportunities to be pursued, but after decades of disposability, there is work to be done to ensure that action is aligned with the Government’s commitment to creating a more circular economy.

Environmental Protection

Selaine Saxby Excerpts
Tuesday 18th July 2023

(9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jim McMahon Portrait Jim McMahon (Oldham West and Royton) (Lab/Co-op)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The only reason we are here today is that, after 13 years, the country we love, and the quality of life for millions of working people, are suffering from the Tory sewage scandal. As a direct result of the Government’s actions, raw human waste was dumped across our country for more than 11 million hours, resulting in 1.5 million sewage dumps—more than 800 every single day.

Millions of water customers—our constituents—have paid their hard-earned money in good faith for their waste water to be treated properly. Instead, they see the places that they care about—the places where they have put down roots and invested their families’ shared futures—being polluted. Those sewage dumps go into the sea, where people swim; into the canals, along which people cycle and walk their dogs on the towpath; into the rivers, where people fish or canoe; on to the beaches, where our children and grandchildren build sandcastles; and, of course, into our leisure and beauty hotspots, where hard-working local businesses rely on tourists to come flocking in numbers.

On 14 October last year, I asked the Government what assessment had been made of

“the economic impact of beach closures as a result of sewage pollution on coastal businesses”.

The Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the hon. Member for Copeland (Trudy Harrison), confirmed that her Department had not made such an assessment. Can the Secretary tell me today whether her Department has finally worked out the economic impact of sewage discharges on those businesses—yes or no?

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby (North Devon) (Con)
- Hansard - -

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there is scaremongering by Opposition MPs about the level of sewage being discharged, and that some of us have outstanding bathing water on our beaches because there has already been significant investment? It is important to recognise the difference between combined sewer overflow and the alternative to it running out to sea; less than 5% is contaminated water. Is it rushing up through people’s front rooms?

Jim McMahon Portrait Jim McMahon
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Nuance and facts do matter in this type of debate, but the facts speak for themselves, frankly: going by the Government’s figures, there are 800 such discharges each and every day. As we see right across the country, including in my own region, beaches are completely closed off to members of the public, and that has a material impact on the businesses who rely in good faith on tourists coming. That is the lived experience of people there, and we should not decry that either, so let us get the balance right and accept that this issue needs to be addressed.

A responsible Government would undertake an economic impact assessment to truly understand the impact of the problem, but the order itself states that an economic

“impact assessment has not been produced for this instrument as no, or no significant, impact on the private, voluntary or public sectors is foreseen.”

That feels to me as if the Government have their head in the sand.

Animal Welfare (Kept Animals)

Selaine Saxby Excerpts
Wednesday 21st June 2023

(10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby (North Devon) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

Like others, I am disappointed that we are not progressing with the legislation. As the Parliamentary Private Secretary on the original Bill Committee, I am familiar with it, but to such an extent that I was in agreement with the current Secretary of State’s decision that the only way to deliver the legislation, which is in the manifesto that we stood upon, is to expedite the individual components. I hope we can do that. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the ministerial team for their ongoing engagement and explanation of what has been going on.

It is an interesting day to have chosen for this debate. Earlier today, I attended the first parliamentary Great Get Together, which was hosted by the hon. Member for Batley and Spen (Kim Leadbeater) in honour of her late sister, who quite rightly said:

“we are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us.”—[Official Report, 3 June 2015; Vol. 596, c. 675.]

Having been PPS on the Bill Committee, I know that there is consensus to get these measures through, which is why I am somewhat staggered to find that the Opposition party would stoop so low as to play politics with puppies, because that is what we are looking at. When Government Members go home tonight there will be a social media campaign that says that we have done X, Y and Z to puppies. The reality is that we are delivering the legislation that will enable us to do what we said we would do.

Labour has been in opposition a long time, which is great for this country, but it means that they have no idea how to deliver complex legislation. If the ministerial team decide that it has to be broken down to enable it to get through, I have confidence in this Minister to do that. Like most of us, I would dearly like to stop 10,000 puppies being illegally imported each year and I want the legislation to be speeded up so we can stop it as soon as possible.

I want to take the opportunity to thank the animal welfare organisations I have campaigned with since I got to this House—Dogs Trust, Cats Protection, the RSPCA and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home. Like all of us, they want to find a way to deliver this legislation smoothly, so that we can unite behind our much loved animals.

Oral Answers to Questions

Selaine Saxby Excerpts
Thursday 25th May 2023

(10 months, 4 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Michael Tomlinson Portrait The Solicitor General
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman does not welcome the strategy. He was calling for it, and the shadow Attorney General, the right hon. Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry), was calling for it at the last Attorney General questions. We promised that it would be delivered soon—I remember that exchange—and, indeed, it was delivered soon after those questions. He will know that that strategy sits within the Home Office, which is absolutely right, and I will continue to work with the Home Office on the fraud strategy. I am sure he will be pleased, as my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest West (Sir Desmond Swayne) was, with the written ministerial statement yesterday specifically on the subject of this Question.

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby (North Devon) (Con)
- Hansard - -

6. What steps the Crown Prosecution Service is taking to support the prosecution of domestic abuse cases.

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

8. What steps the Crown Prosecution Service is taking to support the prosecution of domestic abuse cases.

Victoria Prentis Portrait The Attorney General (Victoria Prentis)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We are committed to increasing the volume of prosecutions and supporting more victims of domestic abuse. For example, we have ensured that victims now have much longer to report offences.

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby
- Hansard - -

Can my right hon. and learned Friend outline what is being done to encourage the reporting of rape and sexual assault in rural areas, where victims may be less likely to report these crimes due to distant support services?

Victoria Prentis Portrait The Attorney General
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is a great champion for her rural area. She will be pleased to know that, in the south-west England CPS area, we consistently see one of the highest conviction rates for rape and domestic abuse. Her area is covered by Operation Soteria, which is testing new ways of working between the police and the CPS.