Environment

Agriculture Bill & Animal Welfare

Our landmark Agriculture Bill will transform British farming, enabling a balance between food production and the environment which will safeguard our countryside and farming communities for the future. This is one of the most important environmental reforms for many years, rewarding farmers for the work they do to safeguard our environment and helping us meet crucial goals on climate change and protecting nature and biodiversity. 

The UK will move away from the EU’s bureaucratic Common Agricultural Policy and towards a fairer system which rewards our hard-working farmers for delivering public goods, celebrating their world-leading environmental work and innovative, modern approach to food production.

The government will continue to champion British produce and support farmers to adapt to our new pioneering approach to agriculture through a seven-year transition period in England, ensuring we unleash the potential of our farmers for the future.

In terms of  animal welfare, UK officials continue to engage with foreign officials in preparation for the launch of negotiations and to help build a shared understanding of our countries’ approaches and ambitions for a future trade relationship. Discussions have focused on building knowledge of our respective current domestic standards in these areas and understanding how our Partner Countries have treated them in some of their existing trade agreements.

Throughout these exploratory discussions the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has stressed the importance of maintaining our high standards on welfare, food safety and the environment in future, all of which the Government’s election manifesto committed to protecting.

Animal welfare is an issue that I care passionately about and I will continue to push the government to improve animal welfare standards going forward. I recently led a Westminster Hall debate on the issue of non-stun slaughter where I welcomed the news that the government will be holding discussions with stakeholders so that we can move forward in ensuring we prevent unnecessary suffering of animals at slaughter. This is of great concern to me personally, but also to my constituents and the wider public.

As well as being food producers, farmers are the custodians of our countryside and it's important that we support them. I have held many meetings with local farmers and have tried to help them with their issues and will be supporting this bill.

 

Floods: River Dredging

Following the recent floods, I have received many emails from constituents regarding river dredging.

The Environment Agency is responsible for managing the risk of flooding from main rivers.  Dredging is one of many interventions used by the EA to manage rivers.

In 2010, the EA carried out a comprehensive series of trials to review and update understanding of the benefits and effectiveness of dredging. The trials showed that dredging can reduce flood risk, but its effectiveness and value for money varies significantly depending on the location. In many cases, rivers naturally return to their pre-dredged state very quickly, and therefore any flood risk benefits are so short lived that the work cannot be economically justified. The EA state that is unlikely to be effective in isolation but it can be part of a solution involving multiple interventions.

Other activities the EA uses to manage rivers include clearing aquatic weed within rivers, removing blockages such as shoals of silt, clearing debris from screens and gates and removing obstructions such as trees, so that water can flow freely. Without these interventions more flooding would have occurred over the last decade, although it is difficult to quantity this benefit.

I recently took place in a flooding debate where I highlighted my view that we should clear out ditches more regularly. I understand the Environment Agency’s concerns regarding overuse of dredging however, I have also seen that it has helped enormously in other areas of the country.  I have asked the George Eustice, The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, to consider revisiting this policy and will ask a written question to the relevant Minister to further highlight this issue.

 

Campaign: Save British Nature!

The Environment Bill sets out how the government plan to protect and improve the natural environment in the UK, legislating to ensure the environment is front and centre in future policy making. The bill will enhance wildlife, tackle air pollution, transform how we manage our resources and waste, and improve the resilience of water supplies in a changing climate to ensure we protect and restore the natural environment.

This is one of the key vehicles for delivering the bold vision set out in the 25 Year Environment Plan,  bringing about urgent and meaningful action to tackle the environmental and climate crisis the world is facing. The 25 Year Environment Plan aims to protect the environment by creating richer habitats for wildlife, improving air and water quality and curbing the scourge of plastic in the world’s oceans. In the first year alone, 90% of this plans actions have been delivered or are being progressed.

I understand concerns surrounding the length of these targets however, I can assure you that the government have taken advice from experts when establishing these climate targets. It is important to set a realistic and achievable targets especially, when these are legally binding.

I believe that we have a duty to keep our environment intact for the next generation and I will continue to support the bill in parliament.

 

Friends of the Earth Climate Action

Under the last Conservative government the UK became one of the first countries to call for global action on climate change and, since then, the UK has taken a leading role on the world stage. We have already reduced emissions by a quarter since 2010 and boosted renewables to record levels.

Building from this work, on the 15th of October 2019, the government introduced a landmark Bill to tackle the biggest environmental priorities of our time. Once passed, environmental principles will be enshrined in law and measures will be introduced to improve air and water quality, tackle plastic pollution and restore habitats so plants and wildlife can thrive.

The Government has set a target to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste within the lifetime of the 25 Year Environment Plan (by 2042). To ensure that the UK hit this target £20 million of funding has been set aside for research and development, managed through the Plastics Innovation Fund. In addition, a further £10 million was committed in the 2018 Autumn Budget for continued/additional plastics research and development along with £10 million to pioneer innovative approaches to boosting recycling and reducing litter.

I have previously signed up to the Sky Ocean Rescue ‘Pass on plastic’ campaign, inspiring people to make everyday changes to help end plastic pollution.  In March 2019, I held a very useful meeting with Housing Minister Kit Malthouse to discuss how we can make sure new buildings are self-sufficient in electricity, another large environmental cause. Additionally, during the ‘Time is Now’ protests in June last year, I met with constituents to discuss a variety of environmental issues including, the problem of plastic pollution in our nation’s rivers.

I believe that we have a duty to keep our environment intact for the next generation and I will continue to speak with constituents about these issues and support legislation to protect the environment.

 

Protect our rivers

The Government has set a target to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste within the lifetime of the 25 Year Environment Plan (by 2042). To ensure that the UK hit this target, £20 million of funding has been set aside for research and development, managed through the Plastics Innovation Fund. In addition, a further £10 million was committed in the 2018 Autumn Budget for continued/additional plastics research and development along with £10 million to pioneer innovative approaches to boosting recycling and reducing litter.

As you may have seen, on the 15th of October the government introduced a landmark Environment Bill to tackle the biggest environmental priorities of our time. Once passed, environmental principles will be enshrined in law and measures will be introduced to improve air and water quality, tackle plastic pollution and restore habitats so plants and wildlife can thrive.

I believe that it is important we work to restore our environment and ensure we are first generation to leave the natural environment in a better state than we found it which is why I will be supporting the governments proposed environmental policy. 

 

Amazon rainforest fires

The Amazon rainforest hosts the richest biodiversity of any ecosystem on the planet and it is important that the UK do all that we can to protect it.

The Prime Minister announced at G7 session on climate change that the UK will donate £10 million to help protect and restore the Amazon rainforest in Brazil - including in areas affected by the current fires. The new funding builds on support the UK has already invested to restore the rainforest in Brazil and neighboring countries and will help safeguard the huge biodiversity of animal and plant species found in the Amazon.

In addition, the UK is increasing its contribution to the Green Climate Fund whose projects safeguard forests and land – including in the Amazon, reduce emissions, and help people cope with the effects of climate change in developing countries. The fund supports a number of programmes to preserve natural habitats around the world – including to tackle deforestation in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil.

 

Plastic pollution

Plastic pollution is an issue that needs to be tackled, which is why last year I signed up to the Sky Ocean Rescue ‘Pass on plastic’ campaign, inspiring people to make everyday changes to help end plastic pollution. 

The government have funded a 5-year-long study to investigate the potential harm caused by microplastics in the marine environment. As a result of this study, last year the government introduced one of the world’s strongest bans on microbeads in rinse-off personal care products. Microbeads, like other microplastics, do not biodegrade and therefore accumulate in the environment.

The government are working with water companies and researchers to understand the scale of the issue, evaluate the effectiveness of treatment systems at removing microplastics and assess the impacts of microplastics in aquatic environments. Research is continuing, the UK is funding a study at the University of Plymouth into textiles and tyres which are estimated to be significant sources of microplastics in the marine environment.

Our priority will continue to be preventing plastic entering the environment in the first place and eliminating avoidable plastic waste over the lifetime of the 25 Year Environment Plan.

 

Climate change and net-zero

In 2018 the government published a 25 Year Environment Plan. The plan aims to protect the environment by creating richer habitats for wildlife, improving air and water quality and curbing the scourge of plastic in the world’s oceans. In the first year alone, 90% of the plan’s actions have been delivered or are being progressed. As announced by the Prime Minister in 2018, the government is currently preparing the first Environment Bill for 20 years which will place the 25 Year Environment Plan on statutory footing and put environmental ambition and accountability at the heart of government. More information about this plan can be found here

I recently discussed the net zero target with constituents at the 'Time Is Now' event in Westminster. Most welcomed this bill however noted that the 2050 target date was too far away.  However, it is important to note that we have taken advice from experts at The independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC) who advised that 2050 would be an ‘appropriate UK contribution to the Paris Agreement’. A 2050 target doesn’t rule out achieving it earlier However, it’s important to set a realistic and achievable target as it is a legally-binding framework.

 

Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans

The governments ambition is to make cycling and walking the natural choices for short journeys, or as part of longer journeys, by 2040. To achieve this, the government require co-operation from the various government departments, agencies, third sector organisations and local authorities. The government's Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (CWIS), published in April 2017, identified £1.2 billion of funding available for cycling and walking projects over the period 2016-21. 

Since then, additional funding streams have been made available including the Transforming Cities Fund, Clean Air Fund, Future High Streets Fund and Housing Infrastructure Fund. Spending on cycling and walking in England has doubled from £3.50 per head to around £7 per head in this four-year spending review period alone. Almost £2bn of funding is now projected to be invested in cycling and walking projects between 2016/17 to 2020/21. Many of the decisions on the allocation of these funds will be made by the relevant local body, in line with the governments devolution and localism agenda. The government want to let local authorities make those decisions where possible.

I feel that this is a great start and will work to bring the 2040 target forward. 

 

Onshore Wind Farms

In 2015 I voted against the abolition of subsidies for onshore wind farms during a debate about the Onshore Wind Turbine Subsidies Abolition Bill. However, there are issues with Onshore wind farms that cannot be ignored.

Despite wind farms being one of the cheaper forms of renewable energy, they are dependent on the wind blowing at the right speed in order to reach maximum output. Wind speed is variable day to day and as a result wind farms are unable to respond to spikes in demand for power. It is important that the UK focuses on getting value for money, ensuring that money is invested in renewable power sources fit for the needs for the UK.

Although subsidies have been cut for onshore wind farms in recent years, this does not prevent new onshore wind farms being developed in areas that are suitable for wind energy. In 2015, the government announced new considerations local authorities will need to evaluate when processing applications for onshore farms.  Local authorities must ensure that:

  • the development site is in an area identified as suitable for wind energy development in a local or neighbourhood plan; and
  • following consultation, it can be demonstrated that the planning impacts identified by affected local communities have been fully addressed and therefore the proposal has their backing

This ensures that that local people have the final say on wind farm applications and that onshore wind farms are only developed in areas fit for purpose.

I think it is important that the UK has a mix of energy supplies, which includes a baseload supply which can always be relied upon, as well as other forms of energy such as wind power. In the third quarter of 2018 the UK generated over a third of its energy from renewable sources. I hope that the UK can increase this in the coming years through further research into new renewable energy sources.

 

The Environment Bill 

I believe that we have a duty to keep our environment intact for the next generation. In 2018 the government published a 25 Year Environment Plan. The plan aims to protect the environment by creating richer habitats for wildlife, improving air and water quality and curbing the scourge of plastic in the world’s oceans.

The plan also pledges to:

  • Provide international leadership and leading by example
     
  • Consult on setting up a new independent body to hold government to account and a new set of environmental principles to underpin policy-making
  • Refresh the 25 Year Environment Plan regularly to ensure that collectively we are focusing on the right priorities

In May 2019 the government published the first progress report of its landmark  Environment Plan indicating that, in the first year alone, 90% of the plan’s actions have been delivered or are being progressed. As announced by the Prime Minister in 2018, the government is currently preparing the first Environment Bill for 20 years which will place the 25 Year Environment Plan on statutory footing and put environmental ambition and accountability at the heart of government.

 

Children's Health and Air Pollution

It is important that our children are breathing clean air, free of pollution. The government’s Air Quality Grant Programme provides funding to local authorities; funding projects in local communities to tackle air pollution and reduce emissions affecting schools, businesses and residents. Local authorities have a duty to monitor and assess air quality and to take action to reduce pollution where these breach statutory limits, and are best placed to determine local priorities.

While all measures which reduce air pollution will reduce exposure of children to these harmful pollutants, some projects have elements that are specifically targeted at children. Details of further funding from the Air Quality Grant Programme, including funding specifically directed at children can be found on the Air Quality Grant Programme webpage: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/air-quality-grant-programme.

The Government has committed £3.5 billion overall to deliver actions across all sectors and achieve cleaner air for people of all ages, including all vulnerable groups such as young children. The Environment Bill will also include strong commitments to improve the air we all breathe.