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 2017-19 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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Asked on: 25 July 2019
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Squirrels
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what estimate they have made of the size of the red squirrel population in England.
A
Answered on: 08 August 2019

There is insufficient data to give an accurate figure however the recent Review of the Population and Conservation Status of British Mammals (2018), a report by The Mammal Society under contract to Natural England, Natural Resources Wales and Scottish Natural Heritage, estimated the red squirrel population in England to be in the region of 39,000.

Q
Asked by Lord Trees
Asked on: 25 July 2019
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Wild Boar
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what measures they are taking to monitor the numbers and distribution of feral boar in the UK; and what steps are being taken to control their numbers.
A
Answered on: 08 August 2019

Wildlife management in the UK is a devolved issue.

In England, the majority of feral wild boar are thought to reside within the Forest of Dean. This public forest estate is managed by the Forestry Commission which undertakes an annual population survey of the feral wild boar in the Forest of Dean public estate, the results of which are on their website.

Forestry England rangers cull feral wild boar in the Forest of Dean public estate to stop the growth of the population.

On other land, feral wild boar population management is the responsibility of the landowner. The Government can support landowners by providing advice.

Asked on: 18 July 2019
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Sheep Meat: UK Trade with EU
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of warnings from the National Farmers’ Union that leaving the EU without a deal could lead to sheep farmers going out of business and slaughtering their flocks; and what steps they intend to take in response.
A
Answered on: 05 August 2019

The government recognises the particular concerns of our UK sheep farmers and is determined to support them as we leave the EU. The UK is one of the largest producers of sheep in the world and by far the largest exporter of sheepmeat in the EU.

Tariffs on trade are ultimately a tax on consumers, and economic modelling shows that if the EU were to apply the full Most Favoured Nation (MFN) tariff on the sheep sector, lamb prices in the EU are likely to rise. This may dampen demand in the EU resulting in more lamb seeking a market in the UK. Other leading producers like New Zealand may also retreat from the UK market and focus instead on the European market.


Analysis by the NFU suggests that the total cost to the sheep industry in year one under a no deal scenario would be approximately £150 million. Defra is designing contingency plans to ensure that we have the option to provide income support to farmers in the aftermath of a ‘no deal’ exit to mitigate this effect.

Q
Asked on: 17 July 2019
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Plastics: Tourism
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to reduce the use of plastic by businesses in the tourism industry.
A
Answered on: 01 August 2019

Through the Government’s Resources and Waste Strategy for England, published in December last year, sets out our plans to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste from all sectors, including the tourism industry.

We have already made good progress, banning microbeads, removing 15.6 billion plastic bags from circulation with our 5p charge, and committing to restrict the sale and/or distribution of plastic straws, drink stirrers, and plastic-stemmed cotton buds from April 2020.

Furthermore, the 25 Year Environment Plan announced that water companies have been working to create a network of free water refill points across England. Defra is working with Water UK on this roll-out, which is managed by City to Sea. This Thursday 1 August, locations for the first 50 public drinking water foundations for London were announced, part of a £5 million scheme. In September last year, water companies in England published their plans for reducing single-use plastic bottles in their regions. Ministers have written to many retailers, coffee shops and transport hubs asking them to provide tap water, allowing the public to refill bottles. We are also working across Government, for example with the Department for Transport, to encourage transport premises to extend the provision of free water and to publicise this.

Grouped Questions: HL17245
Q
Asked on: 17 July 2019
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Plastics: Bottles
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking, in partnership with relevant businesses, to reduce the use of plastic bottles by tourists.
A
Answered on: 01 August 2019

Through the Government’s Resources and Waste Strategy for England, published in December last year, sets out our plans to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste from all sectors, including the tourism industry.

We have already made good progress, banning microbeads, removing 15.6 billion plastic bags from circulation with our 5p charge, and committing to restrict the sale and/or distribution of plastic straws, drink stirrers, and plastic-stemmed cotton buds from April 2020.

Furthermore, the 25 Year Environment Plan announced that water companies have been working to create a network of free water refill points across England. Defra is working with Water UK on this roll-out, which is managed by City to Sea. This Thursday 1 August, locations for the first 50 public drinking water foundations for London were announced, part of a £5 million scheme. In September last year, water companies in England published their plans for reducing single-use plastic bottles in their regions. Ministers have written to many retailers, coffee shops and transport hubs asking them to provide tap water, allowing the public to refill bottles. We are also working across Government, for example with the Department for Transport, to encourage transport premises to extend the provision of free water and to publicise this.

Grouped Questions: HL17244
Q
Asked on: 17 July 2019
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Drinking Water
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to introduce free drinking water fountains at (1) airports, (2) railway and bus stations, and (3) major tourist attractions.
A
Answered on: 01 August 2019

The Government recognises the importance of making drinking water more readily available in public places, as a means of reducing single-use plastic bottles. As laid out in the 25 Year Environment Plan, and Resource and Waste Strategy we are already taking action in this area.

Ministers have supported transport hubs, particularly railway stations and airports, to offer refill points. It is encouraging to see the positive response from Network Rail and rail operators. Around half of the UK's international airports have water fountains enabling customers to refill their own water containers.

The Government is supporting water companies, high street retailers, coffee shops and transport hubs to offer new refill points for people to top-up water bottles for free in every major city and town in England. The water industry is developing a network of refill points through its Refill app, managed by City to Sea. The app signposts to over 20,000 free refill points and is estimated to save over 100 million single use bottles from entering our waste stream by the end of 2019.

Asked on: 17 July 2019
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Water Supply: Colne Valley
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of any risk posed by drilling near the contaminated land site at Newyears Green Bourne, including any associated risks such as the potential closure of the Blackford pumping station.
A
Answered on: 01 August 2019

The site adjacent to Newyears Green Bourne (between Harvil Road and Harefield No.2 Lake) where High Speed 2 (HS2) is to be constructed is not designated as ‘Contaminated Land’ under the Environmental Protection Act 1991 (EPA). However, the Newyears Green Lane landfill site, located 400 metres to the North East of the site adjacent to Newyears Green Bourne is ‘Contaminated Land’.

HS2 have reviewed the potential for contamination to be present on the site adjacent to Newyears Green Bourne by referring to historic mapping, a site walkover and the sampling of groundwater. This investigation has not highlighted any previous activities likely to have caused contamination of the ground or the presence of any contamination attributable to activities on the site.

HS2 contractors are currently assessing risks associated with test piling at this site as part of an application for approval under Schedule 33 of the High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Act 2017. The Environment Agency will then review their risk assessment, which includes consideration of impacts on public water supply abstraction at Blackford pumping station.

Asked on: 17 July 2019
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Water Supply: Chilterns
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what risk management measures have been put in place to control the spread of contaminants into the mid-Chiltern aquifer since 2011.
A
Answered on: 01 August 2019

The Environment Agency (EA) risk-manages the spread of contaminants into the mid-Chiltern groundwater body using the CLR11/Land Contamination Risk Management framework, and the EA’s approach to groundwater protection. The EA agree voluntary remediation statements with relevant parties, and/or serve mandatory remediation notices under Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (EPA).

The EPA also gives the EA the power to enforce and control emissions to groundwater which is part of the Water Framework Directive’s Thames River Basin Management Plan. The plan provides a detailed explanation of the management of both waste water, and pollution from towns, cities and transport. Measures include, but are not limited to:

  • The EA issues environmental permits to protect the environment from pollutants.

  • They work with the water industry to develop a long-term strategy for sewerage to prevent deterioration of permitted discharges.

  • The EA and the Health and Safety Inspectorate enforce restrictions and bans on the use of certain chemicals.

  • Local Government considers the impact on water quality in all aspects of planning and development.

  • The EA uses anti-pollution works powers under the Water Resources Act 1991 to prevent or clean up small scale pollution, e.g. repairing misconnections.

  • Industry, manufacturing and other business comply with existing regulations, e.g. Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010 to make sure that chemicals are properly managed and surface water drainage is properly used and maintained.

  • The EA and Highways England apply the memorandum of understanding agreement covering the strategic road network and remediation of high risk outfalls.

  • The EA and Network Rail operate under the terms of a memorandum of understanding covering contaminated land, water discharge and use of pesticides.

  • The EA and the water industry investigate and deal with misconnections, for example, through the National Misconnections Strategy group and in accordance with Defra’s diffuse urban action plan.

  • Local Government works with industry, manufacturing and other business (Local Enterprise Partnerships), and non-governmental organisations (catchment partnerships and Local Nature Partnerships) to develop joint improvement programmes.

Asked on: 17 July 2019
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Water Supply: Ickenham
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the case for the Ickenham water pumping station to be reopened.
A
Answered on: 01 August 2019

No assessment has been made. The Environment Agency has not received any notification or supporting risk assessments from the water company regarding reopening the Ickenham water pumping station.

Q
Asked on: 18 July 2019
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Water Abstraction
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether a timetable has been set for the implementation of the water abstraction plan, published on 15 December 2017; and what progress has been made on that plan to date.
A
Answered on: 01 August 2019

The Government’s report on the progress made in reforming the arrangements for managing water abstraction in England presented to Parliament in May 2019 included a timetable for completion of the water abstraction plan, which is progressing on schedule.

The report is published and is attached.

Abstraction Reform Report 2019 (PDF Document, 3.35 MB)
Q
Asked on: 18 July 2019
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Water: Pipelines
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many water leaks have been recorded by each water company in each of the last five years.
A
Answered on: 01 August 2019

The Environment Agency’s records for water company leakage are in the table:

Total leakage Ml/d

2013-14

2014-15

2015-16

2016-17

2017-18

Affinity Water

178.70

182.64

179.57

171.68

173.92

Anglian Water

192.72

192.00

182.65

184.72

182.66

Bristol Water

43.65

45.11

44.22

46.42

46.64

Cambridge Water

12.71

13.53

13.24

14.32

14.39

Essex & Suffolk Water

58.39

60.86

62.42

68.08

66.17

Northumbrian Water

134.04

136.79

134.66

133.82

137.05

Portsmouth Water

29.50

28.85

28.06

30.37

32.87

Bournemouth Water

20.67

20.56

19.63

19.11

19.11

Severn Trent Water

441.00

440.40

429.39

423.56

445.52

South East Water

92.56

92.43

88.11

88.63

87.69

South Staffordshire Water

66.88

69.22

69.88

69.85

72.41

South West Water

84.07

84.36

83.75

84.40

88.13

Southern Water

84.59

81.69

83.91

88.11

88.16

Sutton & East Surrey Water

23.93

24.16

24.17

24.30

24.16

Thames Water

648.14

657.39

645.90

667.84

685.38

United Utilities

451.90

453.89

451.96

439.34

453.76

Wessex Water

69.33

68.57

68.35

68.35

67.68

Yorkshire Water

282.29

288.32

285.11

295.17

300.28

England total

2916.19

2941.89

2896.35

2918.07

2986.47

Water company leakage records for the last three years are published on the Discover Water website. This will shortly include leakage records for 2018-19.

Q
Asked on: 18 July 2019
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Plastics: Compost
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to replace biodegradable plastic with compostable plastic.
A
Answered on: 01 August 2019

The Government published a call for evidence on standards for bio-based, biodegradable and compostable plastics. We want to gain a better understanding of the overall sustainability of these materials and whether product standards could provide reassurance of this. The call for evidence will run until 14 October and a Government response will be published taking the responses into account.

Asked on: 15 July 2019
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Hunting
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to introduce legislation to ban the import of hunting trophies into the UK.
A
Answered on: 31 July 2019

The Government takes the conservation of endangered species seriously, with imports of hunting trophies into the UK subject to strict controls under the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations.

The UK is also continuing to work hard on the international stage to agree tough, transparent, global standards on trophy hunting to make sure hunting safeguards are of the highest standard and there is no impact on the sustainability of the species concerned. We will continue to discuss this with other countries.

Grouped Questions: HL17151 | HL17153
Asked on: 15 July 2019
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Hunting
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they will take to work with other governments to include a ban on hunting trophies in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
A
Answered on: 31 July 2019

There are no proposals tabled at the CITES CoP18 on this issue.

Asked on: 15 July 2019
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Hunting
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they will take to work with other governments, including (1) the government of South Africa, and (2) the government the United States, to end canned hunting.
A
Answered on: 31 July 2019

The Government takes the conservation of endangered species seriously, with imports of hunting trophies into the UK subject to strict controls under the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations.

The UK is also continuing to work hard on the international stage to agree tough, transparent, global standards on trophy hunting to make sure hunting safeguards are of the highest standard and there is no impact on the sustainability of the species concerned. We will continue to discuss this with other countries.

Grouped Questions: HL17149 | HL17153
Asked on: 15 July 2019
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Giraffes: Conservation
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they will take to work with other governments to classify giraffes as an endangered species.
A
Answered on: 31 July 2019

The Government takes the conservation of endangered species seriously and is also guided by evidence.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is internationally recognised for its work in identifying the conservation status of species, known as the “Red List”. IUCN currently classifies Giraffes as ‘Vulnerable’. For the extinction risk of Giraffes to be increased to ‘Endangered’ the species must meet several additional classification criteria, for example a considerable reduction in population size must be seen.

Asked on: 15 July 2019
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Hunting
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will introduce legislation to prohibit individuals who have been engaged in trophy hunting from entering the UK.
A
Answered on: 31 July 2019

The Government takes the conservation of endangered species seriously, with imports of hunting trophies into the UK subject to strict controls under the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations.

The UK is also continuing to work hard on the international stage to agree tough, transparent, global standards on trophy hunting to make sure hunting safeguards are of the highest standard and there is no impact on the sustainability of the species concerned. We will continue to discuss this with other countries.

Grouped Questions: HL17149 | HL17151
Asked on: 15 July 2019
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Litter: Waste Disposal
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to make it easier for citizens to help keep land and roads clear of litter by ensuring Councils and Highways England carry out their obligations under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
A
Answered on: 31 July 2019

Under section 91 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, any person who is aggrieved by the want of cleanliness of any relevant land or highway may bring proceedings in the magistrates’ court against the body responsible for cleaning it.

In the Litter Strategy, we made a commitment to review, by the end of this Parliament, the mechanism by which councils and other land-managers can be held to account for maintaining their land to the standards set out in the Code of Practice, considering a range of options to make it easier for citizens to hold land‑managers to account for delivering their responsibilities.

Asked on: 15 July 2019
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Sewage: Water Treatment
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to Written Answer by Lord Gardiner of Kimble on 10 July (HL16703), whether an individual employee could be held accountable and penalised for providing false data about sewage spills to Ofwat.
A
Answered on: 31 July 2019

Under section 207(1) of the Water Industry Act 1991, it is a criminal offence to knowingly or recklessly provide information under the Act that is false in a material respect.

Proceedings for an offence under section 207(1) can be brought by or with the consent of the Secretary of State or of the Director of Public Prosecutions. A conviction is punishable by a fine.

Proceedings could be taken against an individual or the company.

Ofwat is not a criminal enforcement body, so has no role in bringing proceedings under section 207(1).

Asked on: 22 July 2019
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Trees: Diseases
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what lessons were learnt as a result of the loss of English elm trees as a result of Dutch elm disease; and whether those lessons are being applied to ash dieback.
A
Answered on: 31 July 2019

Safeguarding plant health remains one of Defra’s top priorities. The full findings from Government funded research into the lessons learned from the UK Dutch elm disease outbreak were published by Imperial College in 2011 and an independent taskforce on Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity was convened after the arrival of ash dieback in 2012. The Government has implemented all of the recommendations of the taskforce, including appointment of the Chief Plant Health Officer, development of a prioritised risk register, strengthened border security, import regulations and governance arrangements.

The Tree Health Resilience Strategy - the first major publication to come out of the 25-Year Environment Plan sets out a new proactive approach to tree health, with landowners, charities, the public and government working together to take actions to build resilience against pests and diseases to protect the nation’s trees.

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