Data: Public Availability

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th July 2016.

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Photo of Craig Whittaker Craig Whittaker Conservative, Calder Valley 12:00 am, 7th July 2016

What progress her Department and its agencies have made on making data publicly available in the last 12 months.

Photo of Elizabeth Truss Elizabeth Truss The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Last summer, I set a target for DEFRA of releasing 8,000 datasets. By this summer, I am delighted to say that we have achieved 11,000 datasets, which means that more than a third of Government data is DEFRA data. This is bringing real benefits to people, providing information about air quality, better flooding data and landscape data for farmers and architects.

Photo of Craig Whittaker Craig Whittaker Conservative, Calder Valley

As the Calder Valley assesses how to spend the much appreciated funding for flood defences, many community groups want to contribute to alleviating floods—doing things such as planting trees, building dams and upland management, to name but a few. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that information on all water flows held by the Environment Agency and Natural England will be made readily available to help community groups to decide where the schemes should be placed?

Photo of Elizabeth Truss Elizabeth Truss The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

My hon. Friend has done a fantastic job in championing the Calder Valley. I want to ensure that all that information is available so that we can manage whole catchments, including the Calder, for flood defences. What happened over last year’s very difficult floods was that more information was made available to the public. For example, there were 19.5 million hits on our flood information service website. What I want to do is make even more information available to the public.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

Does the Secretary of State keep data on how many scientists are working in agricultural technology and on how much money is spent on agricultural technology and research? Is she not worried that, with ChemChina taking over Syngenta and the amazing Jealott’s Hill research capacity, there is a real danger of our research space being eroded?

Photo of Elizabeth Truss Elizabeth Truss The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that our research base and our agri-tech are vitally important. That is the future of agriculture, with more precision farming and better use of data. I am determined to do all we can to protect and grow that. That is why we are investing £160 million in our agri-tech budget. Of course we need to plan even more for the future.

Photo of Rob Marris Rob Marris Labour, Wolverhampton South West

Has the Department made available up-to-date data on the effect of the temporary neonicotinoid ban both on agricultural production and the health of bees, especially honey bees? If not, when will that data be available?

Photo of Elizabeth Truss Elizabeth Truss The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

We are looking at further research in this area. More research is due to be published and there are already many published pieces of research. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the decision on the use of neonicotinoids in the UK is made by the independent pesticides committee. It is made by Ministers, but we follow the scientific advice of that committee, whose minutes are fully published.