Written questions and answers

Written questions allow Members of Parliament to ask government ministers for information on the work, policy and activities of government departments.

Historical written answers can be found in Hansard.

Find the latest written questions and answers for the 2019-21 session below. We welcome your feedback on this service.

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Unique Identifying Number – Every written question in the House of Commons has a UIN per Parliament. In the House of Lords each written questions has a UIN per parliamentary session.
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Q
Asked on: 15 June 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Aarhus Convention
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they now plan to ratify the Aarhus Convention.
Answered on: 25 June 2020

The UK ratified the Aarhus Convention in 2005 and we remain a party in our own right. Our exit from the EU does not change our commitment to respect, protect and fulfil the obligations contained in this important international agreement.

Asked on: 16 June 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Ivory Act 2018
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government when they plan to implement the provisions of the Ivory Act 2018.
Answered on: 23 June 2020

We welcome the Court of Appeal’s ruling last month upholding the world-leading Ivory Act against a claim brought by a part of the antiques industry. The Government is committed to bringing the ivory ban into force as soon as practicable.

Asked on: 03 June 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Water Supply
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government, following reports that Wolverhampton and Shropshire face failure of their water supplies, what steps they are taking to reduce demand and leakage, and to secure supplies, both in the short term in response to dry weather and high usage reportedly due to lockdown, and in the longer term.
Answered on: 17 June 2020

The current water supply issues in Wolverhampton and Shropshire are due to constraints in Severn Trent Water's distribution network, and not a lack of available water. Severn Trent Water has responded to the issue by asking customers to use water wisely to reduce demand. The CEO of Severn Trent Water attended the National Drought Group chaired by the Environment Agency on 5 June 2020 to discuss the current risks and approaches to the dry weather and water demand management.

If the company has issues with available water resources it will activate its statutory Drought Plan to manage the situation. In the long term, the water company will need to assess how it manages its supply and demand, including proactively reducing leakage and managing demand through its statutory Water Resources Management Plan. In addition, through its business plan that it submits to Ofwat it will need to assess whether it has the correct infrastructure to cope with future demands from customers.

Q
Asked by Lord Hylton
Asked on: 03 June 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Droughts
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have put in place to deal with any long spring and summer drought, in particular in relation to the potential impact of such a drought on food supplies and public health.
Answered on: 17 June 2020

This is a devolved matter and the information provided therefore relates to England only.

The Government has a range of policies in place to mitigate the impacts of drought, including the impact on food supplies and public health:

  • The Environment Agency, which has responsibility for managing water resources and protecting the environment, chairs the National Drought Group (NDG). The NDG consists of representatives from regulators such as Public Health England (PHE), the agricultural sector and water companies. This group ensures that all sectors work together and take action to manage any impacts of dry weather and drought.

  • Water companies have the legal duty to supply adequate quantities of wholesome water. To fulfil their duties, water companies maintain statutory drought plans, which set out the short-term actions they will take should a drought develop. Water companies’ drought plans are published on their websites.

The impacts of drought on food supply are mitigated by the UK’s robust and reliable food industry, which is experienced in dealing with scenarios that can affect food supply, from adverse weather damaging crops to transport issues abroad. The size and diversity of the industry is a key factor in enabling the food sector to remain resilient to food supply chain disruptions. The expertise, capability, levers and resilience to plan for and respond to food supply disruption lies within the industry.

The health effects of drought are primarily indirect, including: injury, risk to public and private water supply; dust-related problems for those with pre-existing respiratory and cardiovascular disease; and impacts on mental health and wellbeing. PHE specifically plans for the risks of hot weather, including drought, in the Heatwave and Summer preparedness programme of the Heatwave Plan for England - which became operational in June 2020.

Q
Asked by Lord Greaves
Asked on: 04 June 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Zoos: Coronavirus
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the future prospects for (1) Chester Zoo, (2) other major zoos and (3) small zoos; and what plans they have to secure the future of zoos and their animals.
Answered on: 17 June 2020

We recognise that zoos are working tirelessly during this challenging time to ensure the health and welfare needs of animal collections in their care continue to be met. We have been engaging regularly with zoos, including Chester Zoo, to gather information and supporting evidence to understand the impacts of coronavirus on the sector.

The £14 million Zoos Support Fund was opened on 4 May to help those zoos, safari parks, aquariums and eligible farm visitor attractions in severe financial distress due to the disruption caused by coronavirus. This Fund remains open for applications until 19 July 2020.

As announced by the Prime Minister on 10 June, outdoor areas of zoos and safari parks are now allowed to reopen, subject to appropriate social distancing measures being in place. Allowing zoos to reopen is an integral step towards supporting an early financial recovery.

Consideration of proposals for any longer-term support that might be needed for the sector is ongoing. With the help and support of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) we are working diligently to find the best way forward.

Q
Asked by Lord Greaves
Asked on: 04 June 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Lapwings: Conservation
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their assessment of the current (1) numbers, and (2) distribution, of lapwings in the United Kingdom, and what plans they have to support an increase in their numbers.
Answered on: 17 June 2020

The latest estimates of lapwing are 6,500 pairs and 620,000 individuals in Britain (Frost et al. 2020).

The latest national bird survey, ‘Bird Atlas 2007-11’, published results on the distribution of lapwing during the breeding and non-breeding seasons. In Britain, during the breeding season, lapwing were present in 2,241 ten-kilometre squares, which is 74% of the total. Except for southwest England, lapwing breed almost throughout rural England. During the non-breeding season, lapwing were present in 2,309 ten-kilometre squares, which is 80% of the total.

The lapwing is a species of conservation concern and is closely associated with the farmed and managed landscape therefore agri-environment schemes have an important role to play in its recovery.

The current Countryside Stewardship (CS) scheme includes tailored options designed to meet the requirements of breeding lapwings on grassland and arable farmland, including the management of grassland to provide the right structure for nesting and to supply food for chicks. On arable farmland CS fallow plots have been created and designed to suit lapwing that breed in that particular habitat. This year, new CS options are also available which will benefit lapwings.

Asked on: 02 June 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Food: Labelling
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether talks relating to future international trade agreements will include possible reductions of current requirements for clear labelling of food to support people in making healthy choices in respect of the sugar, salt and fat content of foods.
Answered on: 16 June 2020

Whilst food labelling is a devolved matter, the same labelling rules currently apply across the UK. Under Article 30 of our Food Information to Consumers Regulations it is a requirement to provide a nutritional declaration on the label of pre-packed foods placed on the UK market. This declaration must include a range of information including details of sugar, fat and salt content. These regulations and requirements will continue to apply across the UK when the Transition Period ends on 31 December 2020. After the Transition Period we will work with the devolved administrations to ensure consumers remain well informed about their food.

We have been clear that in all of our trade negotiations we will not compromise on our high environmental, animal welfare and food safety standards. In trade negotiations we will ensure our right to regulate in this area is preserved, including the ability to set our own mandatory labelling requirements to be met for both food produced domestically and food which is imported. Of course, our rules will also continue to be in line with our international obligations. The Government has committed to a rapid review and consultation on the role of labelling to promote high standards and animal welfare, and remains committed to delivering informative food and drink labelling and marketing standards to protect consumer interests, ensuring that consumers can have confidence in the food and drink they buy.

Asked on: 02 June 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Animal Welfare and Environment Protection: Trade Agreements
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether talks relating to future international trade agreements will include possible reductions of current requirements for animal welfare and environmental standards.
Answered on: 16 June 2020

The Government is committed to upholding our manifesto commitment that in all of our trade negotiations we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food safety standards. We remain firmly committed to upholding our standards outside the EU, and at the end of the Transition Period the EU Withdrawal Act will transfer all existing EU provisions on environmental protection, animal welfare, and food safety, including existing import requirements, onto the UK statute book.

We have also been clear in our approach to negotiating new trade deals that the UK will decide how we set and maintain our own standards and regulations and operate our own autonomous sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) regime. Any future trade deal must work for consumers, farmers, and businesses in the UK, and as with all negotiations, we will be prepared to walk away if that is in the national interest.

Asked on: 02 June 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Droughts: Greater London
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government, what assessment they have made of the likelihood that drought measures will need to be imposed in the Greater London area.
Answered on: 16 June 2020

Water companies supplying the Greater London area have reported that, despite the dry spring, their storage levels are normal and there is a low risk that they will need to implement restrictions this summer due to water availability.

Further consecutive months of exceptionally dry weather (below 60% of long term average rainfall) could lead to a deterioration in reservoir storage and require further action, but at present the water resources situation in London is normal.

If there continues to be significantly less rainfall than average, there will be impacts on the environment and on water availability for agriculture. The Environment Agency is working with all sectors through the National Drought Group to ensure that collaborative action is taken to minimise the impacts of drought.

At present water companies across the country are reporting unprecedented high demands on water supplies and this is putting pressure on parts of their distribution networks. They are taking action to maintain supplies to customers.

Asked on: 02 June 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Animal Products: Imports
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have, if any, to introduce legislation to ban the import of hunting trophies, including animal heads and carcasses.
Answered on: 16 June 2020

The Government takes the conservation of endangered species seriously and committed to banning the import of hunting trophies from endangered species in our manifesto. A consultation on controls on the import and export of hunting trophies to and from the UK was undertaken between 2 November 2019 and 25 February 2020. The outcome of the consultation, and the accompanying call for evidence will inform our next steps. We are continuing to work on this important area and will publish the Government response as soon as it is practical to do so.

The UK is Party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which regulates international trade in endangered species and aims to ensure it does not threaten their survival. Under these internationally agreed rules, imports of hunting trophies into the UK from species listed under CITES, including elephants, hippopotamuses, lions and cheetahs are subject to strict controls.

Hunting trophies are currently allowed to be imported into the UK where they meet current criteria and demonstrate the import will have no detrimental impact on the conservation status or survival of these species, that the specimens have been obtained from a legal and sustainable hunting operation and in accordance with the legislation on the protection of the species concerned. There are however import suspensions relating to certain species coming from particular countries where the hunting of those species is not considered sustainable. These are kept under review.

Grouped Questions: HL5106
Asked on: 02 June 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Animal Welfare
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to legislate to define animal sentience.
Answered on: 16 June 2020

The Government is committed to further strengthening our world-leading animal welfare standards. We have committed to bringing in new laws on animal sentience. Any necessary changes required to domestic legislation will be made in a rigorous and comprehensive way and will be brought forward when Parliamentary time allows.

Additionally, we have committed to ending excessively long journeys, and banning the keeping of primates as pets. We want to increase maximum sentences for animal cruelty, which is being taken forward as a Private Members Bill.

Asked on: 02 June 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Animal Products: Imports
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, under current regulations, trophy hunters were able to bring body parts from threatened and vulnerable species such as elephants, hippopotamuses, lions and cheetahs into the UK over the last 10 years.
Answered on: 16 June 2020

The Government takes the conservation of endangered species seriously and committed to banning the import of hunting trophies from endangered species in our manifesto. A consultation on controls on the import and export of hunting trophies to and from the UK was undertaken between 2 November 2019 and 25 February 2020. The outcome of the consultation, and the accompanying call for evidence will inform our next steps. We are continuing to work on this important area and will publish the Government response as soon as it is practical to do so.

The UK is Party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which regulates international trade in endangered species and aims to ensure it does not threaten their survival. Under these internationally agreed rules, imports of hunting trophies into the UK from species listed under CITES, including elephants, hippopotamuses, lions and cheetahs are subject to strict controls.

Hunting trophies are currently allowed to be imported into the UK where they meet current criteria and demonstrate the import will have no detrimental impact on the conservation status or survival of these species, that the specimens have been obtained from a legal and sustainable hunting operation and in accordance with the legislation on the protection of the species concerned. There are however import suspensions relating to certain species coming from particular countries where the hunting of those species is not considered sustainable. These are kept under review.

Grouped Questions: HL5105
Asked on: 02 June 2020
Department for International Development
Overseas Aid: Coronavirus
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to prioritise climate justice in the allocation of Official Development Assistance to developing countries recovering from the effects of COVID-19.
Answered on: 15 June 2020

The impacts of climate change will disproportionately affect the lives of the poorest and most marginalised. The UK’s aid programme, including our international climate finance, prioritises the interests of the world’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged. Our international response to COVID-19 is focused on securing a strong global health response, in particular supporting countries most vulnerable to the impact of the virus, accelerating the search for a vaccine and new treatments and supporting the global economy. We recognise that there is a connection between healthy lives, healthy societies and a healthy environment.

The steps taken to rebuild economies will have a profound impact on future sustainability, resilience and wellbeing. The Prime Minister recently addressed a high-level event at the invitation of the United Nations Secretary General focussed on ‘recovering better for sustainability,’ and as we prepare for COP26, we are urging the world to take the opportunity to make the recovery clean, inclusive and resilient.

Asked on: 02 June 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill 2019–21 sponsored by the Member of Parliament for West Dorset.
Answered on: 09 June 2020

The Government is supporting the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill as it makes its way through Parliament. The Bill will increase the maximum custodial penalty for animal cruelty from 6 months’ imprisonment to 5 years’ imprisonment.

The new maximum penalty of five years is in line with campaigns by key stakeholders such as Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, Dogs Trust and the RSPCA. This is a positive step forward in improving animal welfare and will act as a serious deterrent against cruelty and neglect. Northern Ireland has already set the maximum penalty for animal cruelty offences at five years’ imprisonment, and the Scottish Government introduced the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill on 30 September 2019. The Welsh Government have confirmed that the new maximum penalty being proposed should apply in Wales.

The increase to five years' imprisonment will provide one of the toughest sanctions in Europe, strengthening the UK's position as a global leader on animal welfare. This builds on recent positive action the Government has taken to improve animal welfare standards, such as a requirement for CCTV in all slaughterhouses and implementing one of the world's toughest ivory bans. For companion animals, we have introduced new updated minimum welfare standards for pet selling, dog breeding, riding schools, animal boarding and exhibiting animals; as well as a ban on the commercial third-party sale of puppies and kittens.

Asked on: 20 May 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Beavers
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government when a national beaver strategy for England is expected to be delivered; and what plans they have to increase beaver numbers in the UK.
Answered on: 04 June 2020

Biodiversity, including species reintroductions, is a devolved issue and this answer relates to England only. The Government remains committed to providing opportunities for the reintroduction of formerly native species, such as beaver, as set out in our 25 Year Environment Plan.

At the Government’s request and with the agreement of the Devon Wildlife Trust, Natural England has extended the River Otter Beaver Trial until 31 August 2020, and is analysing the results of this trial and a range of experience with beavers across the UK and in other countries.

This analysis will inform decisions on the future of River Otter beavers and the status of beaver in England, including our approach for future reintroductions, management and licensing.

Asked on: 20 May 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Sites of Special Scientific Interest: Wildlife
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to restore the condition of Sites of Special Scientific Interest to ensure that all such sites are favourable to wildlife.
Answered on: 04 June 2020

The 25 Year Environment Plan commits us to restoring 75% of our 1 million hectares of terrestrial and freshwater protected sites to favourable condition by 2042. Defra and Natural England are working with land owners and managers and others to improve the condition of our protected sites as a core component of a Nature Recovery Network.

Q
Asked by Lord Greaves
Asked on: 21 May 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Air Pollution: Coronavirus
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the short- and long-term improvements to health resultant from the reduction in air pollution during the COVID-19 pandemic; and what plans they have to prevent levels of traffic and air pollution returning to pre-COVID-19 levels, particularly in cities, towns and other urban areas, and along major transport routes.
Answered on: 04 June 2020

Nitrogen dioxide pollution at the roadside has almost halved during the lockdown period as a result of reduced emissions from traffic, with much smaller reductions observed for particulate matter in urban areas. Emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants from energy use and transport are likely to be much lower than in normal times, on account of reduced energy demand and much lower road traffic. The Government recently launched a rapid call for evidence to ensure we can fully understand any changes that may have occurred in terms of pollution emissions, concentrations and human exposure over the current period. Defra’s Air Quality Expert Group is analysing those responses.

Our ambitious aims to decarbonise transport, improve air quality and support more active forms of travel have not changed. The Transport Secretary set out our plan to encourage new travel habits and support zero emission forms of travel - a clear signal of our commitment to delivering on these aims. As we rebuild our economy in response to the coronavirus pandemic, we must continue to shape an economy and society that are cleaner, greener and more resilient.

Asked on: 19 May 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Air Pollution: Standards
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they intend to bring forward amendments which would include the World Health Organisation’s guideline air pollution limits in the Environment Bill.
Answered on: 03 June 2020

Government is committed to tackling a diversity of pollutants which harm human health and the environment. We already have ambitious and statutory emission reduction ceilings in place for five key air pollutants, as well as legally binding concentration limits. However, the case for even more ambitious action on fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is especially strong, as it is the pollutant that has the most significant impact on health.

The Environment Bill establishes a legally binding duty to set a target for PM2.5, in addition to a long-term air quality target. We are committed to setting challenging targets and following an evidence-based process, seeking advice from a range of experts, in addition to giving consideration to the World Health Organization’s air quality guidelines. The targets will be set in secondary legislation at the end of this process. It would not be an effective approach to commit in primary legislation to achieving a target, without giving due consideration to its achievability and the measures required to meet that target. Stakeholders, Parliament and the public will have the opportunity to comment on, and input into, the process of developing this target.

Q
Asked by Lord Patten
Asked on: 14 May 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Hedges and Ditches
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the impact on (1) the environment, and (2) road safety, of the cutting of roadside verges and hedges in English local authority areas since 2015; and whether they have plans for a review of these practices.
Answered on: 01 June 2020

Our roadside verges and hedges can provide a rich refuge for plants and for the pollinators and other wildlife they support. The responsibility for managing England’s strategic road network falls to Highways England and the local road network to local authorities.

All public bodies, including Highways England and local authorities, have a legal duty under the 2006 Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act to have regard to conserving biodiversity when exercising their functions. Management of road verges, hedgerows and other green spaces to support wildflowers, pollinators and other wildlife is one way in which public bodies can discharge this duty, although those public bodies also have to ensure public safety.

The UK Roads Liaison Group’s Code of Practice on Well Managed Highway Infrastructure recommends that authorities manage highway verges, trees and landscaped areas with regard to their nature conservation value and biodiversity principles as well as whole-life costing, highway safety and serviceability.

Many public bodies are already taking action to enhance biodiversity along public roads. Highways England’s Biodiversity Action Plan sets out its approach to promoting biodiversity while balancing this with safety on the strategic road network. A number of local authorities are also working with conservation groups such as the local Wildlife Trust to plan and implement biodiversity enhancements alongside roads.

Defra, alongside our external partners and other Government departments, regularly reviews the evidence on the value to wildlife of roadside verges and hedges, and strongly encourages positive management that balances wildlife and safety.

Asked on: 14 May 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
International Council for the Exploration of the Sea
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to clarify their relationship with the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea; and when they expect to conclude the agreements that are necessary before 31 December.
Answered on: 28 May 2020

The UK has agreed in principle a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). This will ensure the advice we require is in place so that the UK can continue to meet its international and domestic commitments and obligations on sustainability. The MoU will be signed by December 2020, entering into force on 1 January 2021.

The UK has been a member of ICES since its inception in 1902 and we intend to continue playing a strong role in it in the future. UK scientists make a significant contribution to the science that generates ICES’s advice, including annual recommendations for total allowable catches, and they will continue to provide their scientific expertise. The UK will continue to provide strong support for ICES’s scientific activities in 2020 and beyond.

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