Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: The work of Defra.
Witnesses: Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Michael Gove: Today I am announcing that the amount transferred from farmers’ Pillar 1 direct payments to Pillar 2 rural development in England will remain at 12% for 2019 and 2020. Leaving the EU presents an unprecedented opportunity to develop a new system that works for us. The Government has committed to maintain the same total in cash funds until the end of this parliament. As we prepare to...
Michael Gove: The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill will convert the existing body of EU environmental and animal welfare law into United Kingdom law. The Government have made it clear that we intend, as a minimum, to retain our existing standards of environmental and animal welfare once we have left the EU. We have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world and I intend us to remain world...
Michael Gove: I congratulate my hon. Friend on her election in Chelmsford and also thank her for her dedicated work in the European Parliament on many of these issues. I, like her, received many representations from constituents about these issues, and my commitment is clear: while we want to lead the world in free trade, we also want to remain a world leader in animal welfare. There will be no compromise...
Michael Gove: I share the hon. Gentleman’s commitment to ensure that our bee population and our pollinators are protected. I pay close attention to the science in that report, and we will ensure that our policy on neonicotinoids follows existing EU protections and is enhanced in line with the science.
Michael Gove: Absolutely. Before we entered the European Union, we recognised in our own legislation that animals were sentient beings. I am an animal; we are all animals, and therefore I care—[Interruption.] I am predominantly herbivorous, I should add. It is an absolutely vital commitment that we have to ensure that all creation is maintained, enhanced and protected.
Michael Gove: Better.
Michael Gove: My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. She was an outstanding Secretary of State in this Department, and the leadership that she continues to show in this area is outstanding, too. She is absolutely right: we want to transcribe and read across existing protections, including the precautionary principle, and then enhance them as and when appropriate.
Michael Gove: We need to be aware that there are always forces that will lead some small farmers occasionally to want to co-operate with others—to meet capital investment requirements, for example. One thing is clear: I do not want to see, and we will not have, US-style farming in this country. The future for British farming is in quality and provenance, maintaining high environmental and animal...
Michael Gove: Since being appointed as the Secretary of State, I have met with the Scottish Agriculture Minister and the Scottish Environment Minister at the royal highland show. I will continue to work with all of the devolved Administrations, and indeed to consult more widely, on the design of any new system of agricultural support.
Michael Gove: What I can confirm is that the conversation I had with the Scottish Agriculture Minister and the Scottish Environment Minister was cordial. We have committed to working constructively together, and each of the devolved Assemblies and devolved Administrations has a role to play in helping us to design the successor regime to the common agricultural policy.
Michael Gove: I can absolutely confirm that to my hon. Friend. I am looking forward to going to Builth Wells on Monday. It will be my second visit to Wales in a week; I was in Cardiff last week talking to NFU Cymru, the Farmers Union of Wales, and the Country Land and Business Association in Wales. As someone whose wife is Welsh, my affection for my hon. Friend’s constituency—and, indeed, for...
Michael Gove: It certainly is by Mrs Gove.
Michael Gove: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker—[Interruption.] Well, I think we are all on the same page in the Conservative party and singing from the same hymn sheet. We have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world, and I am continually building on this. We plan reforms to pet sales and licensing, to live exports, and to welfare at slaughter, and we are considering some other...
Michael Gove: Absolutely. May I take this opportunity to congratulate my hon. Friend not just on her election to this House but on her brilliant maiden speech yesterday? Consultation with environmental and animal welfare groups has been at the heart of the approach that DEFRA has taken, and it has also been central to developing the new policy agenda that I hope to take forward.
Michael Gove: I certainly will. Again—
Michael Gove: The hon. Gentleman is a doughty champion for his constituents, never more so than in raising this case. I have already talked to the Environment Agency about the increase in the number of illegal waste sites and the damage that that does to human and, indeed, animal health and welfare. We are reviewing how we investigate and prosecute the criminals behind this activity.
Michael Gove: I am actively reviewing this matter. As my hon. Friend knows, I am not someone who will automatically reach for stronger criminal sanctions as the only route to dealing with a problem, but there are particular cases of animal cruelty where we may well need to revisit the existing criminal sanctions in order to ensure that the very worst behaviour is dealt with using the full force of the law.
Michael Gove: The law of the land must always be enforced without fear or favour.
Michael Gove: The Government have committed to providing the same cash total in funds for farm support until the end of the Parliament. We have also announced our intention to introduce an agriculture Bill in this Session to provide stability for farmers as we leave the European Union, and of course we will continue to protect and enhance our natural environment.