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3. Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North) (Lab): What proportion of crops grown in the UK over the next five years she estimates will be for the manufacture of biofuels; and if she will make a statement. 
The Minister for Climate Change and the Environment (Mr. Elliot Morley): In November 2005, the Government announced their intention to introduce a renewable transport fuels obligation. It will require 5 per cent. of transport fuel to be from renewable sources by 2010. At this stage, it is not possible to say what proportion of the obligation will be met from UK sources.
Mr. Allen: As we heard during the exchange about palm oil, none of the materials that we think are sustainable is without its own environmental consequences. We all want biofuels, but will the Minister make it clear that we will not denude our rainforests to create them, thus creating even more problems? When he examines the certification scheme on an international basis, will he ensure that it includes all the necessary safeguards, including safeguards for the produceroften an ordinary peasant farmerwho, on occasion, is the unwitting victim of our environmental policy?
Ethanol imports do not necessarily originate in palm oil crops; they may come from wheat crops. Whatever the source of potential imports, however, Government policy must not add to unsustainable pressure in other countries. For that reason we are determined to establish the certification scheme. It is now well advanced, and I will bear in mind my hon. Friend's sensible remarks.
Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering)
(Con): Given the importance of encouraging farmers in this country to grow biofuels as part of the battle against climate
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change, will the Minister consider relaxing EU laws on, for instance, set-aside so that biofuels can be grown on land that would otherwise be unproductive?
Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab): May I caution my hon. Friend on the matter of safeguards? Some people are driving around this country using, for example, used chip fat, as a biofuel. Such materials do not get the 20 per cent. fuel discount, but they are incredibly polluting. We do not really know what is going into these vehiclesit could be just any old rubbish out of a chip pan. What steps are the Government taking, or proposing to take, to safeguard us from the worse air pollution that will result from the use of unauthorised, uncertified biofuels?
Mr. Morley: We very much welcome the use of used cooking oilswhich are sustainable and recyclableas fuel, but my hon. Friend is right to point to the importance of taking into account quality control and the carbon dioxide balance in the processing of biofuels. We have addressed this issue by making capital allowances available for the processing of biofuels, but they are payable only if the processes meet the established standards.
Mr. Stephen Crabb (Preseli Pembrokeshire) (Con): My question is the complete opposite of that asked by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Rob Marris), in that I urge the Minister to speak to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury about revising his interpretation of this rule. Numerous excellent biofuel microbusinesses, such as the Veg Oil Motoring company in my constituency, have researched the environmental benefits of their product. However, they are being put in jeopardy by the Financial Secretary's decision not to include them in the lower duty band.
Mr. Morley: As we heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Rob Marris), quality control is an issue. The whole House will agree that we want to support this industry, which is sustainable and deserves encouragement, but that we also want good standards. In applying capital allowances, which is a form of financial encouragement, it is not unreasonable to ask that the company concerned maintains minimum decent standards.
Mr. Brian Jenkins (Tamworth) (Lab): I do not want to pour water on my hon. Friend's troubled oils, but he must surely recognise that the technology that we are talking about supporting is not in fact sustainable. Will he ensure that we do not spend excessive sums on supporting it, and that we look instead for new technologies to drive our vehicles of the future?
We need a range of technologies and an energy mix, and such a mix is a feature of the current energy review, which is being led by my hon. Friend the Minister for Energy. However, the fact remains that used cooking oils exist, and processing them into fuel is
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a very good way of dealing with them. It is desirable to replace a proportion of the fossil fuels in our fuel mix with biofuels; indeed, we should encourage that.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): All food produced in Britain should of course meet British standards for production and animal welfare. Records on procurement are not held centrally, but public bodies have to balance their support for local producers with a duty to provide value for money for taxpayers.
Adam Afriyie: I thank the Minister for that degree of reassurance. It is clear that we have some of the best, and highest standards of, animal welfare legislation in the world. However, if our public procurement involves the purchase of goods from overseas, where standards may be lower, we may be fuelling the continuation of a lesser standard of care for animals than exists in the UK. Is the Minister aware of any instances of the public procurement of food produced outside the UK containing animal products that are below UK standards?
Mr. Bradshaw: Yes. It is inevitable that products imported from parts of the world that do not meet the same welfare standards as this country has are produced to a lower welfare standard; indeed, in some cases that is true of other parts of the EU. Britain already has higher welfare standards in respect of pigs, for example. That is why I would always urge consumers to buy British meat, which is undoubtedly produced to higher welfare and other standards. However, as the hon. Gentleman knows, we are a major trading nation and we have doubled our meat exports, in both volume and value terms, since 2001. I urge him to be cautious in recommending protectionist measures, which could hit our own exporters.
Mr. Bradshaw: I read a transcript of that report only about an hour and a half ago. I have asked the Food Standards Agency, which is responsible for food safety in this country, and my Department to give an urgent response. I repeat what I said a moment ago to the hon. Member for Windsor (Adam Afriyie): as always, I recommend that British consumers buy British pork, which is raised to higher welfare and other standards. The same is true of British bacon. We consume far too much imported bacon in this country, and British consumers should support British farmers.
Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove)
(Con): Significantly, the Minister has not mentioned the British egg industry, which is under severe threat from
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competition from abroad, where lower standards apply. What is he doing, in terms of public procurement or any other strategy, to protect the British egg industry?
Mr. Bradshaw: I and my ministerial colleague in the House of Lords are responsible for this area of policy. We have regular meetings with the British Egg Industry Council and the British Poultry Council, and we have met those bodies more often recently to discuss the threat from avian flu. However, I hope that I can reassure the hon. Lady by saying that consumption in this country of British-produced eggs and poultry is growinga trend that is not evident in other countries. Again, we have to strike a balance between abiding by international and EU trade laws, from which we benefit as exporters, and encouraging people to support the British egg and poultry industries. As a whole, our domestic production is of a higher standard than that in the rest of the world.
Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab): I presume that my hon. Friend will be aware of the dangers of importing beef from Brazil, where slave labour is used to clear forests and produce very cheap beef at the expense of British farming. Will he ensure that our procurement policies take account of the people who are forced into slave labour and the conditions that they endure, as well as animal welfare standards?
Mr. Bradshaw: I am sure that my hon. Friend will know that our procurement policies are legally constrained by the World Trade Organisation rules, from which, as I just explained, we benefit as exporters. They are also constrained by EU rules, but I guess that my hon. Friend may be pleased to hear that the recent outbreaks of foot and mouth disease in Brazil have caused British imports of Brazilian beef to fall in the past few months. The lifting of our over-30-months scheme means that beef produced in this country that is over 30 years old[Interruption.] I mean beef that is over 30 months old is now allowed to go on to the market, so the future for home-produced beef for domestic consumption and export is very rosy.
Dr. William McCrea (South Antrim) (DUP): Does the Minister accept that there is a sense of frustration among UK farmers? They incur high costs in producing food to the highest possible standard of quality and animal welfare, but have to compete with produce from other countries that is often of a lower standard.
Mr. Bradshaw: I have already implied that I accept that frustration, but there is another side to the equation. We can make something of the fact that our meat and other food is produced to a higher standard, and use that to persuade British and UK consumers to buy it. As I just said, our meat exports have more than doubled, in both value and volume, since 2001. That speaks volumes for the quality of what we produce.
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