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 by Lord Berkeley
Asked on: 18 March 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Environment Protection
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have, if any, to establish a national environment day; and whether the Keep Britain Tidy campaign will be part of any such plans.
Answered on: 01 April 2020

The Government has no current plans to declare a National Environment Day. There are already a number of established initiatives that encourage care for the environment, including World Environment Day. Defra is working with Keep Britain Tidy to deliver the “Keep it, Bin it” campaign. We are also pleased to support their “Great British Spring Clean” campaign, which has now been rescheduled for the autumn.

The Government made a commitment through the 25 Year Environment Plan to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we found it. 2019 was designated the Year of Green Action in support of the 25 Year Environment Plan goal to connect people with the environment to improve health and well-being.

Asked on: 16 March 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Air Pollution
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government, following the Budget 2020’s commitment to provide £304 million to help local authorities improve air quality, what assessment they have made of the likely annual reduction in overall nitrogen dioxide emissions.
Answered on: 31 March 2020

Emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) reduced by 33% from 2010-18[1] and we are projecting a further 12% reduction in emissions between 2018 and 2020[2], ensuring that we comply with the 2020 NOx emissions target under the Gothenburg Protocol. We are currently working with local authorities with the worst air pollution concentrations to ensure that they take robust action to accelerate air quality improvement. The financial commitment awarded in the Budget will provide local authorities with the funds to take the necessary action and support individuals and businesses that are impacted by local air quality plans.

[1] https://naei.beis.gov.uk/resources/Annex_I_Emissions_reporting_2020_GB_v2.0.xls

[2] https://cdr.eionet.europa.eu/gb/un/clrtap/projected/envxmo40w/index_html

Asked on: 16 March 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Tree Planting
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government following the Budget 2020's commitment to plant enough trees to cover an area the size of Birmingham over the next five years, how many trees they intend to plant in each financial year.
Answered on: 31 March 2020

The Budget announced a £640 million Nature for Climate Fund to increase tree planting in England. This will contribute to the UK-wide planting commitment of 30,000 hectares per year by 2025 set out in the Government’s manifesto. We are working with the devolved administrations to ensure we all deliver towards this UK commitment over this Parliament.

We have not set annual targets but are developing an ambitious programme to deliver the manifesto commitment. Working with key delivery partners and stakeholders, we are developing policies for a new English Tree Strategy, which we will consult on this spring.

Asked on: 16 March 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Plastics: Recycling
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, as part of their plans to introduce a new Plastic Packaging Tax from April 2022, they will also introduce consistent national guidelines for the recycling of such packaging.
Answered on: 31 March 2020

The Government is committed to increasing the amount of packaging collected for recycling. The Environment Bill, which is currently going through the Committee Stage in the House of Commons, includes legislation so that all collectors of waste must collect a core set of materials from households, businesses and other organisations such as schools. The core set of materials will be paper and card, plastic, metal, glass, food and garden waste. The core set will have to be collected separately from residual waste and the dry recyclable materials must not be mixed with food and garden waste. We will consult on the detail of the policy later this year. As stated in the Resources and Waste Strategy, we expect consistency in recycling to be in force from 2023.

Asked on: 16 March 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Flood Control
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on their ability to deliver urgent repairs and upgrades to flood defences.
Answered on: 31 March 2020

Following this winter’s flooding the Environment Agency (EA) is completing inspections of impacted assets and prioritising repairs to those assets that are below required condition. The COVID-19 outbreak may impact the EA’s ability to deliver the asset repair programme as quickly as planned, but it will continue to prioritise the repair of assets that pose the most significant risk to lives and livelihoods.

Q
Asked on: 16 March 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Chemicals: Regulation
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the new system for regulating chemicals which requires technical information to be submitted by businesses to the Health and Safety Executive within two years of the end of the implementation period will be used to improve environmental standards.
Answered on: 31 March 2020

After the transition period, we will maintain an effective regulatory system for the management and control of chemicals which safeguards human health and the environment and can respond to emerging risks. One of the chemicals regulation regimes, UK REACH, will require submission of information by industry within two years to demonstrate their understanding of the risks and safe management of a given substance.

This information is required to operate an effective regulatory regime, to understand the hazards and risks of chemicals markets and to ensure their safe use. It will inform the assessment of the risks specific substances pose to human health and the environment and therefore any additional steps that are necessary to mitigate these risks such as identifying Substances of Very High Concern.

Q
Asked on: 18 March 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Air Pollution: Death
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many people they estimate have died from illnesses resulting from poor air quality or air pollution; and whether either (1) a monthly, or (2) a quarterly, breakdown of those figures is available for each such year.
Answered on: 31 March 2020

The Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants estimates that the mortality burden of the air pollution mixture (based on both PM2.5 and NO2) in the UK is equivalent to 28,000 to 36,000 deaths per year. Mortality burden is a statistical way of assessing the impact of diseases and pollution. The equivalent figures at a monthly or quarterly period are not available.

Public Health England has, however, estimated the fraction of adult mortality attributable to long-term exposure to particulate air pollution at local authority level in the Public Health Outcomes Framework. This is available to view and search online at: https://fingertips.phe.org.uk/profile/public-health-outcomes-framework.

Q
Asked by Lord Mawson
Asked on: 23 March 2020
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Commonwealth: Wildlife
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what educational programmes they are supporting in Commonwealth countries to inform local people of any relationship between COVID-19 and other diseases and the trade in wildlife for food; and what steps they are taking to discourage such trade.
Answered on: 31 March 2020

The UK recognises that strong health systems are vital to ensuring health security and we support the Commonwealth's ambition to move towards achieving Universal Health Coverage, enabling countries to prevent, detect and respond to global outbreaks like Coronavirus. The origin of the Covid-19 virus is not yet clear, although it has been linked to viruses occurring in animals. The UK is at the forefront of international efforts to regulate global trade in wild animals and my officials regularly raise our concerns with other governments and with international authorities. The Commonwealth secretariat has launched a Commonwealth Coronavirus Response Centre that aims to provide a wealth of information on COVID-19 and educational resources for Commonwealth countries. Separately, the UK has announced £210 million further funding to the international coalition to find a vaccine, bringing the total amount of UK aid spent to fight COVID-19 to £544 million.

The UK is at the forefront of international efforts to raise awareness and promote action to tackle the Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT). We have continued to address IWT through bilateral discussions and in multilateral partners. Through this work we were able to successfully work with international partners to help secure strong IWT Resolution at last year's United Nations General Assembly. The UK has also announced a £220 million international biodiversity fund to protect and enhance global biodiversity, £30 million of which will go to tackle IWT.

Q
Asked by Lord Hayward
Asked on: 12 March 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Plastic Bags: Fees and Charges
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answers by Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park on 6 March (HL1745 and HL1746), whether they intend to publish the revised impact assessment agreed by the Regulatory Policy Committee; if so, when; and what plans they have to identify the differences between that assessment and their initial assessment.
Answered on: 26 March 2020

The Government will publish the revised impact assessment, which has been assessed as fit for purpose by the Regulatory Policy Committee, alongside the summary of the responses to the consultation and the Government response setting out next steps.

Asked on: 16 March 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Pesticides
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what consideration they are giving to changing (1) UK pesticide standards, in particular maximum residue levels, and (2) the UK's approach to authorising pesticides, in order to achieve future trade agreements.
Answered on: 25 March 2020

The UK is proud of its world-leading food, health and animal welfare standards. We will not compromise on our standards nor put the UK’s biosecurity at risk as we negotiate new trade deals. Any trade agreements must respect the regulatory autonomy of both parties. Now that we have left the EU, the UK will operate an autonomous Sanitary and Phytosanitary regime, which covers the regulation of pesticides, to uphold our existing high standards.

The UK Government and devolved administrations have assured stakeholders that we will maintain current standards of environmental and health protection. Our EU exit legislation has carried across unchanged all of the statutory requirements of the EU regime relating to standards of protection, maximum residue level and approval of active substances. We will continue to ensure that decisions on the use of pesticides are based on careful scientific assessment of the risks, with the aim of achieving a high level of protection for people and the environment.

We will continue to draw on the considerable scientific and technical expertise of the Health and Safety Executive which will continue to operate as our expert national regulator on behalf of the UK Government and the devolved administrations. This puts the UK in a strong position in terms of having the necessary capacity and expertise to be able to take its own independent decisions after the transition period. There is a comprehensive Government programme of monitoring of pesticide residues in food, including imports, to determine whether food available to UK consumers complies with the statutory residue levels and is safe. The results of this monitoring are published following consideration by the Defra Expert Committee on Pesticide Residues in Food. We will not compromise on these standards in our trade negotiations.

Asked on: 09 March 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Asbestos
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they intend to (1) maintain the total prohibition on the use of asbestos, and (2) rule out any instance of permitting products containing up to one per cent of asbestos as per regulations in the United States, after December 2020.
Answered on: 24 March 2020

At the end of the transition period, the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (as amended by the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020) will convert the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation & restriction of Chemicals (REACH) Regulation into domestic law. All existing EU REACH restrictions will be carried over to UK REACH at that point, including those relating to asbestos.

The Government has no plans to revise these restrictions or alter the way asbestos is regulated in the UK.

Asked on: 09 March 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Timber
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to reduce the amount of timber imported annually; and what plans they have to enable England to become a net exporter of timber.
Answered on: 19 March 2020

This spring we will consult on an English Tree Strategy, including measures to support our domestic timber industry.

We are working to understand the scope for increasing UK-sourced timber in buildings, and our commitment to increase tree planting will increase the supply of domestically grown timber, reducing current reliance on imports.

Increasing the use of domestically grown timber in construction is a goal of the Clean Growth Strategy and 25 Year Plan for the Environment. This can lock up carbon in the long term and create a market for domestic timber.

Q
Asked on: 04 March 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Dogs: Meat
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what urgent steps they intend to take explicitly to ban the slaughter of dogs for human consumption in the UK.
Answered on: 18 March 2020

I can assure you that the Government shares the public’s high regard for animal welfare, including the welfare of dogs, and we are committed to making the UK a world leader in protection of animals as we leave the EU. The Government has made wide ranging commitments on animal welfare.

The Government is appalled by the prospect of dogs being consumed. However, it is already illegal to sell dog meat for human consumption and the Government has seen no evidence that dog meat is being sold or consumed in this country. We are confident that the current position in this country sends a clear message that the slaughter and consumption of dogs will never be acceptable.

Q
Asked by Lord Greaves
Asked on: 04 March 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Floods: Earby
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the most recent flooding in Earby; and whether the proposed further flood mitigation work there will take place in time to take advantage of any EU funding that has been agreed.
Answered on: 18 March 2020

The Government recognises the impact the recent flooding incidents have had on communities and sympathises with those affected.

The Earby Flood Alleviation Scheme is split into Phase 2 and Phase 3. Phase 2 of the scheme is currently at the Outline Business Case stage and qualifies for £1.03 million in Flood Defence Grant in Aid. The project has sourced the following partnership funding: £635,000 of European Structural Investment Fund; and £15,000 from Pendle Borough Council. The project team are working with Pendle Borough Council to look for options to address the funding gap to allow the project to progress.

Asked on: 09 March 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Forests
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the ability of landowners and foresters to be able to plant and grow strands of commercial broadleaved trees which may be affected by pests and diseases.
Answered on: 18 March 2020

The latest Woodland Natural Capital Accounts were published by the Office for National Statistics in February 2020. These classify 85% of woodlands in Great Britain as in a favourable condition for tree health. They also provide information on the number of sites and felling areas under Statutory Plant Health Notices.

The UK Plant Health Risk Register contains the details of over 1,000 plant pests and pathogens which have been assessed for their potential to be damaging to the UK. 350 of these are forest pests, 17 of which are considered high priority and are tracked in an annual corporate performance indicator published by the Forestry Commission.

Deer, grey squirrels and rabbits can also prevent trees and woodlands establishing and realising their full potential.

This information is used by the Forestry Commission to assess applications for new woodlands (for timber production and other purposes). Landowners who do not include a mixture of tree species, suited to site conditions, adequately protected and resilient to known pests and disease threats, will not receive grant aid for woodland creation. In England, grants are available to help owners restock woodlands after felling due to a tree health issue, including where disease has killed ash, a broadleaf species planted for timber production in the past. The Government also works in partnership with others to reduce the negative impacts of squirrels and deer on trees.

Asked on: 04 March 2020
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Norfolk Island
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon on 18 February (HL1480), whether an Act of Parliament established Norfolk Island as a Territory of the Commonwealth of Australia; and if not, (1) how it was established as such a territory, and (2) how Parliament was consulted.
Answered on: 17 March 2020

In 1914 Norfolk Island became a Territory under the authority of the Commonwealth of Australia by way of a (UK) Order in Council and the (Australian) Norfolk Island Act of 1913 (enacted by the Australian Parliament).

Asked on: 04 March 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Air Pollution
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to reduce air pollution.
Answered on: 17 March 2020

Our Clean Air Strategy (CAS) sets out an ambitious programme of action to reduce air pollutant emissions from a wide range of sources. The World Health Organization has recognised the CAS as an example for the rest of the world to follow.

The Environment Bill, which was introduced to Parliament on 30 January, delivers a number of key elements of the strategy including making a clear commitment to set a legally binding target to reduce fine particulate matter. In addition, on 21 February, we published our response to the Government’s consultation on cleaner domestic burning of solid fuels which sets out our intent to phase out the sale of bituminous (house) coal and smaller quantities of wet wood.

We have also put in place a £3.5 billion plan to tackle roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations.

Q
Asked by Lord Truscott
Asked on: 04 March 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Climate Change
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of whether the Gulf Stream is slowing; and whether any such slowing is having an effect on (1) the UK's climate, and (2) any increase in extreme weather events, including flooding.
Answered on: 17 March 2020

The Gulf Stream is a small part of a large, global-scale ocean ‘conveyor belt’ of circulation, driven by winds and by differences in temperature and salinity, known as the ‘Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation’ (AMOC). The AMOC has been measured since 2004 by an international observation system called RAPID, in which the UK plays a leading role. These measurements have shown a slowing over the last decade, however much of this may be from natural variability.

A recent assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published in the Special Report on Oceans and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, found some evidence to indicate the AMOC has already weakened relative to the pre-industrial period (1850 – 1900), and finds it very likely that the AMOC will continue weakening over the rest of the 21st Century.

A large slowing of the AMOC would be expected to cause more winter storms over northern Europe, a decrease in marine biological productivity in the North Atlantic and changes in sea level. These effects would be superimposed on the effects of climate warming due to greenhouse gases, and they are included in the climate model projections used by the IPCC. At this stage we do not have evidence that the observed weakening of the AMOC has had a detectable impact on the UK climate.

The second Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA) published in 2017 identifies risks to flooding and coastal change as one of the UK’s top six risks from climate change. The second National Adaptation Programme (NAP) published in 2018, sets out a plan of actions across Government to address these risks (amongst others identified in the CCRA) over the following 5 years. In addition, updated UK Climate Projections (UKCP18) are a key tool to help the Government, businesses and the public understand the future climate and enable them to make climate-resilient decisions.

Asked on: 02 March 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Noise: Pollution
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of (1) the case for gathering information on noise complaints in England, and (2) the health impacts of noise in England.
Answered on: 16 March 2020

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health surveys local authorities to monitor and track changes in the amount of noise complaints received under statutory nuisance legislation. Their most recent survey report is available at https://www.cieh.org/policy/campaigns/noise-survey/, and includes some data on types of noise complaints. Given the existence of these surveys, the Government has not made a recent assessment of the case for gathering data on noise complaints. The data from these surveys feeds into Public Health England’s Public Health Outcomes Framework, published on GOV.UK, which includes three indicators related to the health impacts of noise in England. These are: the rate of complaints about noise; the percentage of the population exposed to high levels of road, rail and air transport noise during the daytime; and the percentage of the population exposed to high levels of road, rail and air transport noise during the night-time. More information and data, including trends, is available at https://fingertips.phe.org.uk/profile/public-health-outcomes-framework.

The Government estimates that the annual social cost of urban road noise in England is in the region of £7 to 10 billion. In 2019 we convened the Interdepartmental Group on Costs and Benefits (Noise Subject Group) to assess the latest evidence for valuing noise impacts in England, including impacts on health. This expert Group has commissioned evidence reviews relating to potential health outcomes from exposure to noise from a range of sources, and the outputs of these reviews will be taken into account in considering whether any updates to relevant Government guidance are required.

Reports published to date can be found at the following sites: http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Default.aspx?Menu=Menu&Module=More&Location=None&ProjectID=20395&FromSearch=Y&Publisher=1&SearchText=cardiovascular&SortString=ProjectCode&SortOrder=Asc&Paging=10#Description; and http://sciencesearch.defra.gov.uk/Default.aspx?Menu=Menu&Module=More&Location=None&ProjectID=20398&FromSearch=Y&Publisher=1&SearchText=specific%20health&SortString=ProjectCode&SortOrder=Asc&Paging=10#Description.

Grouped Questions: HL2033 | HL2034
Asked on: 02 March 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Noise: Pollution
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what estimate they have made of the number noise complaints received by local authorities in England in each year since 2015.
Answered on: 16 March 2020

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health surveys local authorities to monitor and track changes in the amount of noise complaints received under statutory nuisance legislation. Their most recent survey report is available at https://www.cieh.org/policy/campaigns/noise-survey/, and includes some data on types of noise complaints. Given the existence of these surveys, the Government has not made a recent assessment of the case for gathering data on noise complaints. The data from these surveys feeds into Public Health England’s Public Health Outcomes Framework, published on GOV.UK, which includes three indicators related to the health impacts of noise in England. These are: the rate of complaints about noise; the percentage of the population exposed to high levels of road, rail and air transport noise during the daytime; and the percentage of the population exposed to high levels of road, rail and air transport noise during the night-time. More information and data, including trends, is available at https://fingertips.phe.org.uk/profile/public-health-outcomes-framework.

The Government estimates that the annual social cost of urban road noise in England is in the region of £7 to 10 billion. In 2019 we convened the Interdepartmental Group on Costs and Benefits (Noise Subject Group) to assess the latest evidence for valuing noise impacts in England, including impacts on health. This expert Group has commissioned evidence reviews relating to potential health outcomes from exposure to noise from a range of sources, and the outputs of these reviews will be taken into account in considering whether any updates to relevant Government guidance are required.

Reports published to date can be found at the following sites: http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Default.aspx?Menu=Menu&Module=More&Location=None&ProjectID=20395&FromSearch=Y&Publisher=1&SearchText=cardiovascular&SortString=ProjectCode&SortOrder=Asc&Paging=10#Description; and http://sciencesearch.defra.gov.uk/Default.aspx?Menu=Menu&Module=More&Location=None&ProjectID=20398&FromSearch=Y&Publisher=1&SearchText=specific%20health&SortString=ProjectCode&SortOrder=Asc&Paging=10#Description.

Grouped Questions: HL2032 | HL2034
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