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Tim Farron's Recent Appearances in Parliament

Tim Farron speaking on unaccompanied refugees (Liberal Democrat Newswire)Content supplied and updated by theyworkforyou.com

  • Jan 26, 2021:
    • New Clause 8 - Waste Hierarchy | Environment Bill | Commons debates

      On the air quality amendments, the targets in this Bill do not even meet those recommended by the World Health Organisation, as has been said by other Members. That should rightly alarm all of us, especially given that the UK has such a terrible track record in recent years. When we were a member of the EU, it fined us regularly for failing to meet the targets set at that point. Air quality standards are of the utmost importance, and for the Government to under aim and be under-ambitious here is deeply troubling. We are being asked to accept not only decreased air quality standards, but delayed standards, as this Bill is pushed back once again, after years of delay. Yet, tragically, we now increasingly see "poor air quality" cited as a cause of death on the death certificates of many, many people. As many colleagues from both sides of the House, have said, this is a matter of life and death, Delayed action at this time, in the hiatus between the strong targets and standards we had up to the end of 2020 and the point at which we get whatever standards we will get when this Bill is finally agreed, allows bad habits to build up and bed in, and it makes Britain's poor air quality harder still to clear up.

      On waste, the absence of plastic reduction targets beggars belief, given the rhetoric we have heard from many in the Government. The Conservative manifesto made a specific reference-a promise even-to

      "ban the export of plastic waste"

      to developing countries. The Government have broken that promise. So not only are they not tackling our plastic problem here at home, but we are adding to the plastic problem of poorer countries overseas.

      My amendment 30 related to water quality. We simply want the Government to monitor the impact of the abstraction of water on biodiversity in chalk streams and in other waterways. This Bill does not do that, and it is a simple and obvious request. Only 14% of England's rivers and lakes are in a good quality water position at the moment, so the need for this measure is clear.

      So we see an unambitious Bill and a delay, which means even this poor ambition will be hard to bring to fruition, given that we will have to wait many months. This takes commitment to underachievement to new heights, undermining the quality of our environment and animal welfare. These are times when we need to be setting clear and ambitious targets if we are going to lead the world, but I am afraid that we are lagging far behind.

    • New Clause 1 - Environmental Principles: Public Authorities | Environment Bill | Commons debates

      The Office for Environmental Protection concerns me greatly, because I think it is going to offer us very little protection. Its powers include the terrifying capacity to point out that the Government have failed to safeguard environmental protections or to maintain standards, but it cannot force the Government to comply, it cannot fine and it cannot prosecute. It can shame the Government, but if I could be so flippant, Madam Deputy Speaker, this appears to be a Government who know no shame, as demonstrated by the last-minute decision to delay this already criminally overdue Bill by maybe six months or more.

      This is outrageous, but the Government will tough it out and will probably bear no consequences for doing so. However, there will be huge consequences for our environment, for biodiversity, for future generations and, indeed, for farmers and food producers. No formal regulation over these months and pretty much toothless enforcement thereafter will mean the steady erosion of animal welfare and environmental protections just, as it happens, as the Government are engaging in negotiating trade deals around the world. Some might consider this to be a rather convenient hiatus that will allow them to throw British farming under a bus once again. Farmers will lose the ability to look at our regulation as something that they can use to strengthen their hand when it comes to those negotiations. The undermining of our land management community-of our farmers-is a massive threat to our environment. Without them, we lose the practical capacity to deliver biodiversity gains.

      That delay will also, of course, delay the setting of targets, which is key to the building blocks of the new environmental land management scheme, so it becomes less and less likely that the scheme will be ready and available to all farmers and land managers by 2028. Surely, therefore, if the Government are going to protect those farmers we depend on so much for biodiversity, they should finally accept that they must extend the basic payment scheme at 2020 levels-full levels-until the environmental land management scheme is available to all; otherwise, they will put out of business hundreds of those family farms that we rely on here in Cumbria and elsewhere, which are the very structure that has guaranteed Britain's high standards in the past.

      Finally, if the Government are going to encourage a new generation of land managers to deliver those biodiversity gains, may I make a plea for them to directly fund Newton Rigg College in Penrith?

  • Jan 25, 2021:
    • Council Tax: Government's Proposed Increase | Commons debates

      To govern is to choose, and the Government have chosen to make local authorities choose between cutting services at this time of all times and imposing a 5% council tax rise.

      I have always opposed the council tax since the Conservatives introduced it in a rush in the early '90s in the poll tax debacle. It was always a wrong form of taxation; it takes more from those who have the least, and it takes less from those who have the most. It is a regressive form of tax, and for the Government to force local authorities-red, yellow and blue-to increase that burden on the families who struggle the most during a pandemic is utterly inexcusable.

      It is a choice that the Government have made to increase council tax by 5% and to hit the worst those families who struggle the most, but there are other choices that this Government have made at the same time. The stamp duty holiday has given a boost of tens of thousands of pounds to people who want to buy second homes. Therefore, people who are struggling by on the minimum wage, paying a much higher proportion of their salary in council tax now than those who are wealthier, get a hit, yet those who can afford not just one home but two or more get a benefit worth tens of thousands of pounds from this Government, who have chosen to give it to them.

      I suggest to the Minister that there is something better he could do with council tax. In communities such as mine in the lakes and dales, where as many as 85% of the properties are second homes-boltholes for folks who are well-off enough mainly to live somewhere else-the impact is colossal. Every single one of those homes is sending no child to the local school and providing no demand for the post office or the bus service, and so those services and facilities end up closing, as they have done in many communities in my part of the world. Yet there are things the Government could do to ameliorate that. Instead of imposing a huge council tax burden on those who are struggling to pay now, why not increase council tax on those who are well-off enough to have more than one home and recycle that money back into local communities?

      Furthermore, why do the Government not deal with their own consultation that closed nearly three years ago on whether to close the loophole that allows second-home owners to pretend that they are a business? They claim business rate relief, and get business rates taken off altogether-so pay no council tax and no business rates. If this Government cared about levelling up, they would not be levelling down Lake district communities by benefiting those wealthy enough to have more than one home while hitting those who are on low incomes to start with.

      The Government have chosen to impose this council tax rise, and council tax always hits the less well-off more than those who are better off. This is the opportunity that the Government have to change their mind, to benefit not just the lakes and dales but the whole of the country as it struggles through this terrible crisis.

  • Jan 21, 2021:
    • Equitable Life | Commons debates

      So here we are again. First, I would like to endorse the calls for an inquiry on some of the wildly inaccurate payments received by Equitable Life pensioners. That transparency is needed by those who are dependent on what they get through the Equitable Life scheme run by the Government for any kind of income in retirement. That is so important.

      This is a reminder of how Governments of various colours have let these people down. It is clear to me that the Government, in their failure to regulate Equitable Life, allowed people a false sense of security when investing and doing what Governments of all shapes, sizes and political hues had encouraged them to do: provide for their own retirement. Those people then discovered, to their horror, that their plans for retirement-often modest plans-had been destroyed.

      The Government's first response was to provide about half a million pounds of support. I am proud that my colleague Vince Cable was instrumental in ensuring that an additional £1 billion was provided in 2010, but even that is far short of the £4.5 billion that the independent ombudsman recognised was owed to the people who have been so cruelly hit by the Equitable Life crisis. People who have been encouraged to save and provide for themselves and their families in retirement, and who then dutifully take that advice, should not be punished and left to a retirement in penury because the Government of the day did not do their job in regulating Equitable Life properly.

      In my community alone, 2,000 victims of the Equitable Life scandal are making the best they can of a reduced circumstances retirement. It seems to me that the Treasury is callously banking on the number of people in receipt and deserving of compensation reducing year on year. That is a tragedy, and the Government should step up right now. It is not only a historical injustice to the 2,000 people in my community who are Equitable Life pensioners that they have not been given their due payments and the retirement that they had saved and provided for. It is also damaging to our communities. Let us remember that if those 2,000 people in Westmorland and Lonsdale were to receive the payments they were due by this Government, it would make a big difference to our local economy. Morally and practically, it is right for this Government to do what the independent ombudsman called for some years ago and pay the full £4.5 billion to those pensioners.

  • Jan 15, 2021:
  • Jan 14, 2021:
  • Jan 13, 2021:
    • Immigration | Home Office | Written Answers

      To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whether her Department plans to appoint a Migrants' Commissioner.

    • Elections: May 2021 | Commons debates

      It is great to see the Minister; on behalf of my colleagues, I wish her all the best for a full and speedy recovery. I am personally very keen to have elections in May and even keener that the Government make the decision now and stick to it. Clarity is important to stop the uncertainty that leads to instability within local authorities up and down the country. What adds to that instability, in three parts of England-Somerset, Cumbria and North Yorkshire-is a ludicrous plan for a top-down reorganisation of local government in the midst of a pandemic. Does the Minister agree that it is far wiser for those authorities to focus on delivering social care, education, housing and economic development, rather than labouring under a pointless, badly-timed, top-down reorganisation?

  • Jan 12, 2021:
    • Covid-19 | Commons debates

      I wholeheartedly agree with the hon. Member for North East Derbyshire (Lee Rowley). Careless talk costs lives. We need to be absolutely clear about the science and be behind it.

      On a personal level, I do not care whether the Prime Minister did or did not take a seven-mile bike ride yesterday. What I do care about is the lack of clarity. Clarity ensures that people know what is legitimate and what is not. I say that particularly as a Member of Parliament for the Lake district and the Yorkshire dales. I have no problem with people taking short trips to exercise-I think that is what is intended in the advice. I do have a problem with people packing up their car and making 100-mile or 150-mile journeys to exercise in the Lakes, or indeed anywhere else, at this time.

      I want to focus my remarks on the hospitality industry. Tourism and hospitality is the fourth biggest employer in the country and the biggest employer in Cumbria by some distance. Undoubtedly, it has been the worst hit industry in this country during the pandemic. In my constituency, we have seen a sixfold increase in unemployment. At one stage, more than 40% of the entire workforce in my constituency was on furlough, largely because of the reliance on that remarkably important industry.

      I make some calls for what the Government should do. I have listened to Cumbria tourism businesses over the last few days. First, the Government were right to defer business rates; I ask them to defer business rates for a further year. They were right to cut VAT; I ask them to extend the VAT cut for a further year. They have been right to extend furlough, but even if we ease restrictions in hospitality and tourism after March, they need to consider the continuation of some form of wage support beyond that period. I say that because we have otherwise healthy businesses that will be at the forefront of leading the fightback in our economy once we begin to move out of this crisis period. If we do not back those businesses now, they will be in no state to be part of the fightback. It is the cash that is going to be the problem. It is great for businesses to have the furlough and therefore have staff wages largely covered, but if a third or a quarter of their overheads are not staff-related, even furlough will not save those businesses from going under in the end.

      The cash grants that have been made available to businesses at this time are far lower than those given in the spring. We need equivalent levels of investment in cash flow and grant support for hospitality and tourism businesses to those that we had back in the spring. We also need to stop overlooking the 4,000 people in my constituency who would be counted among the excluded. Many are self-employed or running their own companies, and they are the backbone of any recovery; we need them if we are to get out of this mess after the virus is defeated.

  • Jan 11, 2021:
    • European Bank for Reconstruction and Development: Animal Welfare | Treasury | Written Answers

      To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what discussions he has had with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development on the steps that Bank takes to ensure that all livestock projects it funds meet EU animal welfare standards as required by the terms of that Bank's environmental and social policy.

    • Covid-19 Vaccination Roll-out - [Sir David Amess in the Chair] | Westminster Hall debates

      It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship, Sir David. I thank the hon. Member for Gower (Tonia Antoniazzi) for her great introduction to the debate. I also thank the hundreds of thousands of people who signed the petition, demonstrating the interaction between the people of this country and the Parliament that seeks to represent them. As many hon. Members have said, vaccination is a light at the end of the tunnel that gives us all a sense of hope, but of course the danger is that that tunnel will be longer for some than for others.

      The main topic of the petition is education. People talk about the reopening of schools, but they are open: far more children are being taught in our schools and in school settings today than during the April-May phase of the earliest lockdown, for lots of very good reasons. One reason why schools have been otherwise closed as part of the lockdown is that we recognise that the science shows that although children do not get badly affected by the disease, they clearly spread it.

      We are asking teachers, teaching assistants and other school staff to put themselves in harm's way for good reason, so it is right that they be considered as part of the priority vaccination list alongside others. No one wants to muscle their way to the front of the queue, but we recognise that these are people who are doing an immense service for our children and our country, and who are putting themselves at risk at the same time.

      As a Member of Parliament for a very rural constituency, I am aware that delivering a vaccine in a place such as my constituency, which is bigger than Greater London, is a challenge. I am concerned that there are parts of my community where we have yet to get the vaccine rolled out; I ask for the Minister's intervention, through the CCGs, to ensure that we fast-track site approval. We and the local primary care network particularly want to see delivery of the vaccine at the surgery in Windermere. The primary care network is already delivering it in Grange and in many care homes, but can we get it delivered from the surgery in Windermere as soon as possible? I would like to say the same for the Yorkshire dales end of my constituency: people in Sedbergh in the western dales are having to travel to Kirkby Lonsdale or further to get the vaccine.

      It is important, particularly for older people and people who rely on public transport, that we do not overlook rural communities such as ours and that we ensure that the vaccine is delivered close to where people live. Many hon. Members have talked about the importance of community pharmacists; involving them would allow the Government to roll out the vaccine really close to where people live and get it done more quickly.

      Although I agree that 24/7 delivery of the vaccine is something that we should be doing, I am deeply concerned because I have talked to health professionals from right across my county and it is clear from the number of sites and the staff that we have that the capacity to deliver the vaccine far exceeds the amount of the vaccine. I would like to hear from the Minister what his strategy is for procuring sufficient vaccines so that we can meet those targets.

      I also want to emphasise the importance of data, which people have talked about, so that we can hold the Government to account. For example, I and the whole of the local community would like to know what percentage of over-80s in the LA9 postcode, for instance, have been vaccinated once or even twice. That would ensure that there is healthy competition and would also allow us to hold the Government to account and know whether we will meet the targets. We know that that data exists: NHS England has it, but is not sharing it.

      I have talked to local providers of the vaccine through our primary care networks, and they tell me that they could ask a secondary question themselves. They could double-report, but that takes two minutes per patient. That is time when they could be vaccinating patients, so they think that is a waste of time and a duplication. We know that that data exists because it is being collected, so why is it not being shared? Will the Minister guarantee that that information will be made public this week, district by district-indeed, postcode by postcode?

      There is a light at the end of the tunnel for all of us, but the tunnel is longer for some than for others. What a great disappointment that the nearly 3 million people who are excluded from financial support through the coronavirus crisis continue to be excluded today. For them, the tunnel is impossibly long. They face deep debt and find it hard to abide by the rules and regulations, because to do so very often means not being able to pay their rent or look after and feed their children. I would like answers to the questions that I have put to the Minister when he makes his concluding remarks.

  • Jan 6, 2021:
    • Public Health | Commons debates

      The proposed restrictions are right. There is no greater freedom than the right to life and we are willing to suspend many freedoms to protect especially those who are vulnerable, and those who work night and day in the NHS and our care settings to protect us. They deserve and require us to abide by the regulations and rules-we owe it to them-not least because we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel.

      Given that the vaccination programme is beginning, it is all the more urgent that the Government recognise the importance of supporting the economy and everybody within it throughout the coming months. We know that it is not an ill-defined and possibly indefinite period, but that this will be over at some point in the coming months. That is a source of great joy and should focus the Chancellor's mind on the support that he needs to give those who are missing out. There are many of them: people who have been self-employed for less than two years; directors of very small limited companies, such as taxi drivers; people who have been on maternity leave. They have been excluded from support. It is an outrage that those people have been left to get into deeper and deeper debt because the Government have yet to devise a mechanism for supporting them. They must do so now. We need those people to build our economy back once we are out of this situation. To let them flounder in poverty now is outrageous and unacceptable.

      I would also like the Government to pay attention to the needs and the plight of our outdoor education centres, which are in serious danger of closure. Many have already lost more than a third of their workforce in the past few months. There needs to be a Scotland-style direct grant support payment for those centres so that we can keep them going and they can contribute for years to come.

      I also want the Government to come up with a specific and properly funded strategy for dealing with the backlog in cancer treatment. We estimate that 60,000 years of life will be lost to cancer due to the coronavirus pandemic, and it could get worse.

      The vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel. It is wonderful and I pay tribute to everyone involved in making that come to be and in administering the vaccines as we speak. However, the Government are making that tunnel a little bit longer than they need to. It is clear that supply of vaccine to places in South Cumbria is not as good as it might be. Places such as Sedbergh and Windermere have not yet got vaccination centres. Those sites need to be approved.

      Finally, given that our teachers are teaching the children of key workers, they should also be vaccinated as a priority.

  • Dec 17, 2020:
  • Dec 16, 2020:
    • Breast Cancer Screening - [Sir Edward Leigh in the Chair] | Westminster Hall debates

      It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Edward. I thank the hon. Member for High Peak (Robert Largan) for securing this debate. The hon. Member for West Bromwich East (Nicola Richards) made a remarkably good speech, citing her own family's experience.

      Both hon. Members have spoken about Breast Cancer Now's assessment that almost 1 million women have missed a screening during this period. Its assessment is that that would mean 8,650 women may be out there with undetected breast cancer. Cancer Research UK assesses that screening services are running at 60% capacity. That means the situation is getting worse week by week. A hundred fewer women started treatment for breast cancer each day in May and June than during those months in 2019.

      If we look beyond breast cancer, in my county of Cumbria there is a 17% reduction in the number of people starting cancer treatment this year compared to 2019. It is fair to assume, therefore, that roughly one in six people who would have been diagnosed with cancers of all kinds is out there undiagnosed. We know that for every four weeks treatment is delayed, for whatever reason, the chances one has of survival fall by 10%. That delay in treatment can be due to a delay in people coming forward, a delay in diagnosis and a delay in treatment.

      Any Government of any combination of colours would have been thrown by the coronavirus. In those early months the messaging was really good and powerful: "Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives." It often occurs to me that the position of the NHS in British society, the affection in which it is held, was a key driver. I suspect that in another country, where the message might have been, "Protect the expensive private healthcare that you use, through exorbitant insurance models," would probably have been less compelling. The NHS was a key driver and the Government deployed it well.

      Why were we protecting the NHS? We were doing so not only so that we could tackle covid, but so that the NHS could carry on its lifesaving work in every other area. People not coming forward for treatment, for reasons that have been mentioned, such as being scared of being infected or nervousness about being a burden and troubling staff, is a huge part of the reason why the backlog exists.

      There were treatment cancellations for perfectly good clinical reasons, as well as those for not good clinical reasons. I am chair of the all-party parliamentary group on radiotherapy, and Members would be staggered if I did not talk about radiotherapy as a treatment for breast cancer and other forms. Radiotherapy is the clean form of cancer treatment. It does not affect immunity and is not likely to open up someone to infection. The amount of radiotherapy being delivered during that period should not have been changed, because people are at no more risk of covid from taking it and, because it is a clean form of treatment, it should be substitutionary. It could be used, and in some cases has been, as a substitute for more risky forms of cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy and surgery, where that was necessary. In some cases, that has happened, which should be noted.

      For example, bladder radiotherapy treatment is now at 160% of normal levels and capacity. In that area at least, we are using that clean technology to catch up with cancer in that area. The problem is that it is not the case across the board. We do not have figures since summer, but Public Health England has just released figures from April to the summer, which showed a 15% drop in radiotherapy treatments started during that time. That includes starting in April, so that cannot have been a response to fewer people coming through.

      The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommendations and guidance at the beginning of coronavirus were to stop, postpone or delay radiotherapy treatment-for no clinical reason whatsoever. Some cancer centres followed that advice and people did not get treatment. We know what that means for people's likelihood of surviving. That 15% drop in radiotherapy treatment will have cost lives. It was unnecessary and it means that the backlog is even greater than it would have been.

      Cancer Research UK has estimated that we will unnecessarily lose 35,000 lives to cancer because of the crisis. The British Medical Journal published research a few weeks ago that showed we would lose, as a country, 60,000 additional years of life to cancer, because of the coronavirus crisis.

      When breast cancer screening services are running at just 60% of capacity and we are witnessing a 50% reduction in the number of people starting radiotherapy treatment, we see a backlog that can only be getting worse as we speak. I want to endorse what has been said by the Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, the right hon. Member for South West Surrey (Jeremy Hunt)-that it will take NHS cancer screening, diagnostics and treatment services, as a piece, operating at 120%usb capacity for two solid years to catch up fully with the backlog, to catch up with cancer.

      Members will have been as deeply moved as I was by the recent sad death of Sherwin Hall, a 27-year-old father of two, as a result of delayed treatment. His family have been supported by the Catch Up With Cancer campaign, launched by the family of Kelly Smith, who also died far too young as a result of delays to her treatment during this process. Catch Up With Cancer estimates that the backlog might be up to 100,000 people. This is a national crisis on the scale of covid-different, but on the same scale-and it needs a response as ambitious and as urgent as the NHS's correct response to covid. However, in the comprehensive spending review there was just a single mention of cancer in the entire document.

      There are three issues at play here, the first of which is people having the confidence and awareness to come forward, as has been mentioned. The second is the diagnostic process and the third is the treatment. Issue one, the issue of people being brought forward or encouraged to come forward for treatment, is about strong public health and public information messages, and all of us getting behind them and being open about the necessity-as was mentioned, rightly, by the hon. Member for West Bromwich East-for a person to come forward if they have the slightest hint of a doubt that something might be wrong or unusual with any part of their body.

      Issues two and three, diagnostics and treatment, need more than an ad campaign. They need more than good public relations and public information: they need money. It has been mentioned that within the CSR, £325 million was set aside for diagnostic machines, but the CSR says that that is

      "enough funding to replace over two thirds of imaging equipment that is over 10 years old."

      In other words, it is money to replace some of the stuff that ought to have already been replaced. It is not new-it is not expanded capacity-and yet, when it comes to treatment, we have not got even that.

      This was the Government's opportunity. As chair of the all-party parliamentary group on radiotherapy, along with the Catch Up With Cancer campaign and the all-party parliamentary group on cancer-which I am proud to also be a member of-we made a submission to the Department of Health and Social Care and to the Treasury, calling for an immediate fund to catch up with cancer. That did not arrive, and I am going to shock the Minister by reminding her of a promise that she made me in this place a couple of weeks ago-to meet me and the Catch Up With Cancer team before Christmas, to look at how we can get that urgently needed ring-fenced investment through the spending review and into additional cancer diagnosis and treatments. I would like to hold her to that promise, and I hope she will refer to it in her closing remarks.

      Alongside covid, the early diagnosis of women with breast cancer, so that we can treat them and cure them, is an ongoing problem. The United Kingdom is towards the bottom of the league tables for most of the major cancers when it comes to survival. To the Government's credit, they acknowledged that in the NHS long-term plan released two years ago. Its fundamental aim-the headline part of that NHS long-term plan-was to diagnose more people early with all cancers, including breast cancer, so that we could treat them and cure them, and so that survival rates would be far better than the terrible situation that we have for most cancers in this country now.

      I say to the Minister that if we are successful in diagnosing more people sooner, earlier-and we must be successful-we will then need the capacity to treat those people, and we do not have that. Radiotherapy is part of the solution, so it is absolutely essential to invest now in the kit, the technology and-as has been mentioned-the workforce, in order to be able to deliver treatments to those people who have been diagnosed early. How tragic would it be to diagnose maybe tens of thousands more people earlier than we do at the moment, and then not have the kit, the capacity, the staff or the technology to treat them? That is a challenge that the Government can meet, and I hope the Minister will take that on board and do just that.

  • Dec 15, 2020:
    • After Clause 10 - Further exclusions from market access principles | United Kingdom Internal Market Bill | Commons debates

      I am overwhelmed by a sense of déjà vu, with the Labour Front Bench getting more grief than the Treasury Front Bench, as back in the day. I am also overwhelmed with a sense of déjà vu because I feel a great sense of this Government being in the same place-in my heart, in my mind-as the European Commission once was. Back in the days when we were not little Britain, I remember feeling enormous frustration and anger with the European Commission when it would do stupid things, in particular with agriculture, playing into the hands of separatists who only wanted the end of our relationship with the European Union.

      I feel exactly the same about this Government now playing into the hands of my friends and colleagues around me on the SNP Benches-to whom this is music to their ears-by undermining the Union and being cloth-eared in the process. The Minister has had every chance to accept Lords amendments and to do what he can to stand behind the integrity of the Union and of the devolution settlement.

      I have another great concern. I mentioned agriculture a minute ago, and what is critical in the race to the bottom that is built into the Bill when it comes to standards of farming, animal welfare and the environment is something that is not restricted to the Bill alone; it is something that the Government are repeating in other areas of their approach. We have seen the failure of the Government to accept proposals from my party and others that the high standards of British animal welfare and our environmental standards should be written into all new trade deals, but those were refused at every turn-clearly preparing the way to sell out farmers in all corners of the United Kingdom at the first chance the Government get in any trade deal.

      At the same time, although most of us in this House agree with the Government's direction in terms of the English changes to farm payments-from basic payments to the environmental land management scheme-the plan has been to underfund the scheme and to bodge it, getting rid of the basic payments before the new payments are in place, therefore killing off English family farms, which are the unit that allows us to have high-quality animal welfare and environmental standards. All those things together paint a picture of a Government who have lost touch with the countryside and with agriculture, and are prepared to set out a range of policies-almost a manifesto, a catalogue, of attacks on British farming-that undermine our standards, animal welfare and the quality of our produce, and to sell our farmers down the river.

      I am proud of the quality of British farming, throughout these islands, and I want the standards that are the highest in any nation to be the highest across all four. I would love the Government to learn from the mistakes of the European Commission-not to play into the hands of separatists, but to make sure that they defend our Union and the devolution settlement.

  • Dec 14, 2020:
    • Dark Skies | Commons debates

      The Minister is making a good case, and it is important that we hear what the Government intend to do when it comes to working with the planning guidance. Does he agree that planning authorities-particularly cash-strapped national parks-will always worry about the potential of losing an appeal, at great cost to them and the local community, and that they will need real confidence and support from the Government to allow them to say a flat no to developers who seek to bring about developments that threaten our dark skies?

    • Dark Skies | Commons debates

      I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman not only for his generosity in giving way but for his success in bringing this debate, which is massively important, to the Floor of the House. He is the Member of Parliament for Britain's newest national park, whereas I speak as one who represents two rather old ones: the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales. I am sure he would agree with me that part of the attraction of places like ours is not just the landscape itself, but the landscape that is silhouetted by the canopy of stars above. In his report and recommendation to Government, will he call on them to toughen up planning powers, in national parks and in other planning authorities as well, to prevent developers encroaching on our areas and adding to light pollution, which removes the appeal and the beauty that we both share in our beautiful parts of the world?