Topical Questions

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 21st May 2009.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of David Taylor David Taylor Labour, North West Leicestershire 10:30 am, 21st May 2009

If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

Watch this
Embed this video

Copy and paste this code on your website

Hide

Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The Department's responsibility is to enable us all to live within our environmental means. The Rural Payments Agency has now made full single payment scheme payments to more than 102,000 farmers. That represents 96.2 per cent. of total claims and 96.5 per cent. of the total fund. The RPA is working to make the remaining payments as soon as possible.

Watch this

Photo of David Taylor David Taylor Labour, North West Leicestershire

There have long been pre-stunning requirements for animals slaughtered for food, but exemptions have been made for religious slaughter, mainly affecting halal and the slaughter of lambs. Will the Minister come to a meeting that I have organised after the recess to view a video produced by EBLEX—the English Beef and Lamb Executive—that shows the effects of such slaughter? It cannot be allowed to continue and we must end those exemptions. It is cruel, unacceptable and antediluvian. We must make progress on this issue, and I hope that the Minister will be able to attend the meeting that I have organised.

Watch this

Photo of Jane Kennedy Jane Kennedy Minister of State (Farming and the Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I will be happy—perhaps that is not the right word—to come to the meeting and view the video, although I shall do so with a sinking heart. My visit to an abattoir for pigs and cattle last week sharpened my awareness of the issues. We have a long tradition of religious tolerance, which has led to the exemptions that my hon. Friend mentions, but I will come to the meeting and I will talk with him about diary arrangements. I am aware that this is an issue of acute concern across the UK.

Watch this

Photo of Peter Bone Peter Bone Conservative, Wellingborough

In the golden age of Prime Minister Blair, back in June 2005, he said that the EU rebate was directly linked to common agricultural policy reform. That was four years ago. Does the Secretary of State really believe that that has been achieved?

Watch this

Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

As I indicated in answer to the hon. Gentleman's earlier question, we continue to work hard to try to reform the CAP. There is a wider debate about the size of the European Union budget, and that will come up again when the next financial perspectives are debated. As always, the Government will seek to achieve the most effective expenditure of EU funding, and there will be a discussion about the contribution of different EU member states.

Watch this

Photo of John Barrett John Barrett Shadow Work and Pensions Minister

The Secretary of State will be aware of the millions of pounds that the scrap metal industry has invested to recycle scrapped cars efficiently, but that industry's certificate of destruction is not acceptable under the Government's new scrappage scheme, so it cannot play its part in increasing the number of cars recycled. Will he or his Ministers meet representatives of the industry to see how they can increase the volume of cars being recycled?

Watch this

Photo of Jane Kennedy Jane Kennedy Minister of State (Farming and the Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that problem. I am happy to meet him and representatives of the industry, as he suggests.

Watch this

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Chair, Children, Schools and Families Committee, Chair, Children, Schools and Families Committee

Will my right hon. Friend meet me and Jody Scheckter, the former Formula 1 racing champion, who has a sustainable farm at Laverstoke park in Hampshire? He is trying to get an anaerobic digester, as well as composting to the finest level, but he cannot get an anaerobic digester in this country and is on a two-year waiting list to get one from Germany.

Watch this

Photo of Jane Kennedy Jane Kennedy Minister of State (Farming and the Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I am surprised that he cannot get one. I would be very interested to know the reasons for it being blocked. It is clearly a new technology—actually, it is not that new—that we have to embrace and we are seeking to encourage it at every level. I would be delighted to talk to my hon. Friend and possibly to visit the farmer whom he talked about.

Watch this

Photo of Ann Winterton Ann Winterton Conservative, Congleton

How has New Zealand been able to reduce over a 10-year period the number of TB-infected herds from levels similar to our own to being close to TB-free?

Watch this
G

Sorry to hear you are standing down, but I do not blame you when you get an answers such as Hillery Benn...

Submitted by George Hallifield Continue reading

Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Each country has taken a different approach, but if the hon. Lady is raising the issue of culling, I noted with interest the recent remarks of the Opposition spokesperson on this subject. I was slightly disappointed that what he put out made no reference at all to the 10-year study that involved culling 11,000 badgers and the conclusions of the independent scientific group report. If we are going to deal with this problem, as we are all determined to do, we must have regard to the evidence about what works and what does not work. What we are seeking to do, in particular by developing vaccines, is to find an effective method of dealing with the problem. As the independent scientific group study in the UK reported—the study was carried out over 10 years—culling has been shown not to meaningfully contribute to the control of bovine TB.

Watch this

Photo of Mary Creagh Mary Creagh Labour, Wakefield

Hon. Members will remember the tragic death of Archie-Lee Hirst, who was savaged to death by his family rottweiler over the Christmas holidays in 2007-08. Has my right hon. Friend had a chance to look at the private Member's Bill promoted by our hon. Friend Ms Smith with the support of the Communication Workers Union and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals? It aims to make owners responsible for keeping their dogs under control even on private property. Will my right hon. Friend make a statement on that?

Watch this

Photo of Jane Kennedy Jane Kennedy Minister of State (Farming and the Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I met our hon. Friend Ms Smith and representatives of the CWU earlier this week. I am studying both her Bill and the Bill that is being debated in the other place. I appreciate the public concern, but a raft of measures is already in place. We need better enforcement and we are encouraging greater enforcement. I do not have a closed mind on either Bill and I am studying them carefully.

Watch this

Photo of Michael Jack Michael Jack Conservative, Fylde

It has emerged in the last 48 hours that one of my constituents has removed 50 ft of sand dunes in St. Anne's to improve the view from his house. It turns out that that is a legal act and, from inquiries with English Heritage, it seems that it does not have any powers to deal with this removal of an important coastal feature, with all its impact on biodiversity. Will the Secretary of State have early discussions with English Heritage to rectify this problem?

Watch this
j

Not only does this remove "a costal feature" but it breaches the sea defences.I have viewed this today.In my view this is clearly "building work in on or over land"and as such requires planning permission.

Submitted by john turner

Photo of Huw Irranca-Davies Huw Irranca-Davies Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Marine and Natural Environment)

This matter has come to my attention and I am pleased that the right hon. Gentleman has raised it. We do not know the full particulars of the story, because it has only come to our attention within the past 24 to 36 hours. I am more than happy to investigate and to speak to the necessary bodies and authorities to get to the bottom of this and to see the best way forward. We all share his concern for the protection of one of our most valuable resources—the natural environment.

Watch this

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

Now that it appears that my right hon. Friend is going to deal with Jody Scheckter's problem with his anaerobic digester, there is a farmer in my constituency—I will not give his name, but I have already written to her about the matter—who wants some help, too. His only claim to fame in the sporting field, compared with that of Jody Scheckter, is that he has a grandson who is a national hunt jockey. Can she help?

Watch this

Photo of Jane Kennedy Jane Kennedy Minister of State (Farming and the Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Irrespective of the sporting prowess of those who are seeking to establish anaerobic digestion on their premises, I am working very hard with DEFRA officials and the regional development organisations that are responsible for channelling the funding for such projects to ensure that they get exactly the help that my hon. Friend seeks.

Watch this

Photo of Andrew Rosindell Andrew Rosindell Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

The Secretary of State may be aware that we are soon to launch the friends of the River Rom group in Romford. It will be a community organisation of local activists working to enhance and restore pride in our local river, from which our town gets its name. What support does the Department give to groups working in the local community to ensure that rivers are properly looked after and maintained, and restored to their former glory?

Watch this

Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I am absolutely delighted to hear that the hon. Gentleman's local community is taking that initiative. We need a lot more like it, and I would give such schemes every encouragement. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary is looking at what further practical assistance we might be able to give, but the fact that local communities are taking such a close interest in our rivers and looking after such a vital resource is evidence of a growing awareness of the contribution that biodiversity and water make to our society. The more people take an interest, the better chance we have that rivers will be better looked after and that further improvements in water quality will result.

Watch this