Previous Section Index Home Page

Dairy Industry

8. Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): What assessment he has made of the effect on domestic dairy farming of the growth in demand for dairy products in China. [144191]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Barry Gardiner): The global dairy market is currently very positive, with demand outstripping supply and prices for all commodities at very high levels. That is beginning to be reflected in UK farm-gate prices, which are at their highest levels since 2004, with further increases expected. The UK dairy industry is actively investigating how it can benefit from the expansion of the Chinese market.

Mr. Hollobone: As the diet of people in China becomes increasingly westernised, is there not a great opportunity for UK dairy farmers to take advantage of that huge market? What steps are the Government taking actively to encourage British dairy farmers to access that market?

Barry Gardiner: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. As I am sure that he knows, last year the International Dairy Federation held the world dairy congress in Shanghai. Since then, Jim Begg, president of the IDF and director general of Dairy UK, has made a number of trips to China to promote the UK dairy industry. The hon. Gentleman may recall that I
21 Jun 2007 : Column 1511
said earlier that our room for manoeuvre in the commodities market is slightly more limited than that of our European competitors because of the volume of liquid milk we consume domestically, which leaves much less for value-added products. None the less, there are real opportunities in China if we can get niche and branded products on to the Chinese market, which is clearly responding positively to such products. The hon. Gentleman’s comments about the change in Chinese dietary traditions and practices are absolutely right—it is a great opportunity.

Light Pollution

9. Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells) (Con): What recent steps he has taken to tackle light pollution. [144192]

The Minister for Local Environment, Marine and Animal Welfare (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): Stronger powers were provided to local authorities to tackle light pollution under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005, which makes light pollution a statutory nuisance and enables individuals to take private action through the magistrates court.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: Because of light pollution, half our population never see the stars of the galaxy in which we live. The Government love to talk about the environment, but why have we been waiting since December 2003 for the promised extension to planning guidance statement 23 to deal with the problem, and save energy at the same time? When will the Government publish that important document for consultation?

Mr. Bradshaw: The right hon. Gentleman is right: there has been a delay, which I very much regret. I suspect that as it is a Department for Communities and Local Government issue it is tied up with the overall planning reform announced in the planning White Paper, but like him I hope that is brought forward as quickly as possible. That does not mean to say that the Government have been inactive. We have allocated £600 million to private finance initiative schemes to improve the quality of street lighting to reduce the amount of lighting that simply goes up into the sky and spoils the view, as the right hon. Gentleman rightly says. Progress has also been made in domestic and sports facilities lighting. [ Interruption. ] My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has just reminded me that there is a climate change crossover, as well. Excessive illumination contributes to climate change. If the right hon. Gentleman is in London tonight, he may like to join in the “London lights out” campaign. I am sure that the House will be aware of the campaign—between 9 pm and 10 pm we are all expected to turn our lights out.

John Penrose (Weston-super-Mare) (Con): Does the Minister agree that one way to deal with the problems of light pollution would be for the Government to support the measures in my ten-minute Bill on tranquillity, which I introduced earlier in the Session? If the Minister is not willing to endorse the Bill at the Dispatch Box this morning, perhaps he would be willing to accept the principle behind it—that it is vital to measure tranquillity objectively and to protect and preserve it in future.

21 Jun 2007 : Column 1512

Mr. Bradshaw: I hear what the hon. Gentleman says and I will certainly reflect on the appeal that he makes to me. I share his concern about the amount of noise and light pollution in society. The Government have taken measures through the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 and we will take further measures to address noise and light pollution. The quality of people’s lives is important and they expect politicians to address those concerns.

Battery Hens

10. Dr. Nick Palmer (Broxtowe) (Lab): If he will make a statement on improvement of conditions for egg-laying battery hens. [144193]

The Minister for Local Environment, Marine and Animal Welfare (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): Keeping laying hens in conventional battery cages will be banned throughout the European Union from January 2012. No new conventional cages have been brought into use since 2003 and existing cages have to have more space and a claw-shortening device.

Dr. Palmer: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his reply. Animal welfare campaigners are enthusiastic about the ban that will be in place by 2013, but they are nervous about rumours that there might be a delay. Will he assure the House that Britain will resist any delay? Does he welcome the actions of Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencer in phasing out even enriched cages?

Mr. Bradshaw: We certainly welcome any measures taken by retailers and private individuals to encourage the consumption of food produced in a more welfare-friendly way. I can give the hon. Gentleman the assurance that he seeks: the UK will remain robust in insisting that the European Union sticks to its current timetable for the ban on battery cages.

Coastal Erosion (Warden Bay)

13. Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey) (Lab): Whether the coastal erosion plans for Warden bay include replanting shrubs and trees at the top of the cliffs. [144196]

The Minister for Climate Change and the Environment (Ian Pearson): The Forestry Commission visited Warden bay on 8 June to advise whether trees and woodland might be used to assist in managing coastal erosion. The commission has now written to the local authority and I will ask it to send a copy of its letter to my hon. Friend.

Derek Wyatt: Is my hon. Friend aware that there was a 50-acre site of Dutch elm at the top of the cliff, which had to be taken down? That is one of the reasons why the cliff is a “C” shape. We are busy putting £865,000 of rubble at the bottom, but the top is also going. May I press him on who would fund putting trees and hedges back at the top?

Ian Pearson: I am certainly aware that there are cliff-top issues, particularly with regard to drainage. Planting shrubs can play a role in addressing that. I am not sure that that is necessarily the responsibility of the
21 Jun 2007 : Column 1513
Environment Agency, which is funding the coastal erosion work. If my hon. Friend wants to have a discussion with me, I would be happy to see whether there are possibilities for future funding.

Carbon Dioxide Reduction

15. Kerry McCarthy (Bristol, East) (Lab): What guidance his Department is planning to give the public on the offsetting of carbon dioxide emissions. [144198]

The Minister for Climate Change and the Environment (Ian Pearson): In January, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs launched a consultation on establishing a code of best practice for carbon offsetting. The consultation closed on 13 April. We are considering the responses and we aim to have the code in place by the end of the year.

Kerry McCarthy: I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. According to a recent UN report, the livestock sector is responsible for 18 per cent. of greenhouse gas emissions measured in CO2 equivalents. That is more than cars, planes and other forms of transport combined. Given that the global production of meat is predicted to double by 2050 and milk production to grow almost as quickly, does he agree that urgent steps must be taken either to reduce the environmental impact per unit of production or to halt its growth? What advice would he give consumers who might be concerned about the environmental impact that the consumption of such products is having?

Ian Pearson: The livestock and dairy industries are an important part of the United Kingdom economy and will, I am sure, continue to remain so for a long time. I think it right that, like other sectors of the economy, the meat and livestock industry does what it can to address the issue of climate change and to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. It is taking action to do that, but more action is needed. My hon. Friend makes a number of valid points, but eating meat is a personal choice and the Government have no intention of moving the direction that she suggests.

Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove) (Con): Does the Minister agree that although carbon offsetting is not an unworthwhile activity, the Government could do a lot more to cut household emissions of carbon dioxide?

Ian Pearson: As a Government, we believe strongly that carbon offsetting is an option, but it is not the only answer to tackling climate change. The best thing to do is to avoid CO2 emissions in the first place, and the next best thing is to try to reduce CO2 emissions, but there are some emissions that it is impossible in our daily lives to avoid or to reduce. That is where offsetting is a viable option. When people are thinking of taking their summer holiday this year, I would encourage them to consider offsetting their CO2 emissions. It is a good thing to do.

Business Advice (Rural Areas)

16. Mrs. Ann Cryer (Keighley) (Lab): What support is provided by his Department for the giving of business advice to farmers and other rural enterprises. [144199]

21 Jun 2007 : Column 1514

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Barry Gardiner): Support to both urban and rural businesses, including farmers, is provided by regional development agencies, as part of their mainstream business support services delivered through the Business Link network. Those activities are funded through the RDA single programme. Support through the rural development programme for England, to make agriculture and forestry more competitive, will also be delivered through RDAs.

Mrs. Cryer: Will my hon. Friend explain in a little more detail how his Department will make advice to farmers available through the regional development agency for farmers who wish to diversify? I have 400 farmers scattered around the beautiful parts of the Aire, Worth and Wharfe valleys.

Barry Gardiner: I am well aware that my hon. Friend is a keen champion of her local farming community. She will know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, in his speech to the royal show last year, spoke about farm diversification and the need to examine the barriers that farmers experience when trying to diversify their farm businesses. The report that has come back shows that 50 per cent. of farmers in England have some form of diversified activity, and for almost 60 per cent. of those farm businesses that income accounts for a quarter or more of the total farm income, so that is a key area. We will ensure through the rural development programme for England, administered by the RDAs, that axis 1 and axis 3 of the programme deliver about £600 million of benefit to rural communities, much of it to the effect that my hon. Friend mentioned.

Carbon Dioxide Reduction

17. Mr. David Amess (Southend, West) (Con): What measures he plans to use to assess progress towards meeting the Government’s target for reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 2010. [144200]

The Minister for Climate Change and the Environment (Ian Pearson): DEFRA publishes annual statistics on UK carbon dioxide emissions, as well as verified emissions data and surrendered allowances under the EU emissions trading scheme. That information allows us to measure progress towards our emissions reduction targets.

Mr. Amess: The national audit has shown that the Government’s own buildings and refurbishment programmes have achieved only 9 per cent. of their target. Why is that?

Ian Pearson: It is clear that we. as a Government. need to do better in respect of the Government office estate. That is one of the reasons why in July last year we announced new sustainable operation targets for the Government estate, and why we have said that we want the Government Office estate to be carbon-neutral by 2012. To be honest, I think our performance to date has been a little disappointing. Although it has been good in places, it has been patchy, and the National
21 Jun 2007 : Column 1515
Audit Office recognised that. We need to work harder at that, right across Government.

Mr. Simon Burns (West Chelmsford) (Con): Would it not assist the Government in trying to reach their targets if the Government, Parliament, the Mayor of London and the Greater London authority were to switch off the lights in their buildings during the night?

21 Jun 2007 : Column 1516

Ian Pearson: There are a number of issues around that point, but, broadly, the answer is yes. In some cases, lights need to be on at night for cleaning purposes, but the Government have been considering how cleaning can be undertaken in daylight hours. We can do more on optimising systems to switch off lights when buildings are not being used, and a programme of work has been implemented across Government.

21 Jun 2007 : Column 1517

Business of the House

11.30 am

Mrs. Theresa May (Maidenhead) (Con): May I ask the Leader of the House to give us the forthcoming business?

The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Jack Straw): The business for the coming week will be as follows:

Monday 25 June—Motion to approve a Ways and Means resolution on the Finance Bill, followed by remaining stages of the Finance Bill (Day 1). It is also expected that the Prime Minister will make a statement following the European Union Council.

Tuesday 26 June—Conclusion of remaining stages of the Finance Bill, followed by a motion to approve a money resolution on the Off-Road Vehicles (Registration) Bill.

Wednesday 27 June—Remaining stages of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Bill [Lords].

Thursday 28 June—If necessary, consideration of Lords Amendments, followed by remaining stages of the Concessionary Bus Travel Bill [Lords] .

Friday 29 June—Private Members’ Bills.

The provisional business for the week commencing 2 July will be:

Monday 2 July—Opposition Day [15th allotted day]. There will be a debate on an Opposition motion. Subject to be announced.

Tuesday 3 July—Consideration of Lords Amendments to the Statistics and Registration Service Bill, followed if necessary by consideration of Lords amendments.

Wednesday 4 July—Second Reading of the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Bill.

Thursday 5 July—Remaining stages of the Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Bill [Lords], followed by a motion to approve a European document relating to global navigation systems.

Friday 6 July—The House will not be sitting.

Mrs. May: I thank the Leader of the House for giving us the future business. This may be the last time that he takes business questions. [Hon. Members: “Ahh!”] I thank him for the way in which he has always treated the House with respect. He will be able to look back on his term of office with satisfaction, because he has introduced many changes that will make parliamentary procedure more effective.

Dr. Phyllis Starkey (Milton Keynes, South-West) (Lab): Not enough.

Mrs. May: There is dissent on the Labour Back Benches.

According to the Prime Minister,

yet Colonel Bob Stewart has said that the Army

We now know that last year the Ministry of Defence was given the opportunity to hire military transport
21 Jun 2007 : Column 1518
helicopters for Afghanistan, but despite the crippling transportation shortage there, Ministers turned down the opportunity. We have a debate later today on armed forces personnel, but can we have a debate on the lack of equipment for our brave and loyal troops?

Ahead of today’s intergovernmental conference, Downing street has said that there is no need for a referendum

Next Section Index Home Page