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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

  • Oct 27, 2021:
  • Oct 26, 2021:
  • Oct 25, 2021:
  • Oct 20, 2021:
    • After Clause 72 - Protection of pollinators from pesticides | Environment Bill | Commons debates

      I want to say very briefly that I am deeply concerned that the Government have chosen to disagree with Lords amendment 43. We recognise that there is a gap in the authorisation process for new pesticides, which does not look at the long-term impact of pesticides on bees and other wild pollinators. Others have spoken about the vast importance of bees and wild pollinators to biodiversity and, frankly, to our capacity to feed ourselves as a country. I am yet to be convinced that the Government are acting in the wisest long-term interests of our environment and our agricultural economy by refusing to accept that entirely reasonable amendment from the other place.

      Like others, I am about to talk poop-not for the first time, as I am sure others would add, and nor for the last. Lords amendments 45 to 48 are a collection of reasonable amendments that seek to add pressure on the water companies and Ofwat to ensure that we do not see the dumping of untreated or poorly treated sewage into waterways and lakes without significant penalties or the possibility of local communities getting action quickly to rectify those matters.

      In my community in south Cumbria, we suffered as a consequence of Storm Desmond. We saw the River Kent polluted so very badly by a storm overflow from the Wattsfield treatment works just outside Kendal, and it basically killed the entire fish population of that river. That was Storm Desmond, which, by the way, was meant to be a one-in-200-years event. I can tell the House that in a 10-year period, we had three at least one-in-100-years events. As other hon. Members have mentioned, the idea that storms are the only time there are sewage overflows is absolute nonsense and the water companies hugely abuse that loophole.

      In the neighbouring communities of Burneside and Staveley, one of which is inside the Lake district and the other just outside-beautiful villages-there are regular incidents of sewage on the streets several times a year at certain points. The only answer we tend to get from United Utilities, our water company in the north-west, is that we have to bid for the next capital round for something that it is blindingly obvious needs to be done there and then. They are environmental and public health hazards. It is obvious what needs to be done, but the water company can ignore the community and kick it into the long grass. The pipes need widening, which costs money, and United Utilities knows it does not have to do it, so it does not.

      I am also deeply concerned about the state and quality of the water in Lake Windermere, which is the largest lake in England and the heart of the British tourism industry as the second most-visited place outside of London. I draw hon. Members' attention to my early-day motion 505, which deals with the issue in more detail. We had untreated sewage going into Lake Windermere for the equivalent of 71 full days in 2020. That is a place in the Lake district with 20 million visitors every year. I do not want reports; I want action. I do not want an overview to be taken; I would like United Utilities, and others who contribute to the pollution of our largest lake, to be prosecuted and mandated to take immediate action. That is not happening.

      Likewise, when it comes to septic tanks, there is no regulation, no registration and no help for people with septic tanks to make sure that they comply. I want the Government to make better use of the powers that they already have and designate Lake Windermere and the Rivers Brathay, Kent and Rothay as bathing sites, which would allow action to be taken right away.

      I ask myself why the Government will not accept these four incredibly reasonable amendments from the Lords. My great fear is that they want to protect the water companies more than water quality. This is the moment for them to prove that that is not the case.

      The Lake district is a world heritage site. Earlier this year, we sadly saw Liverpool lose its world heritage site status, reminding us that that is possible. I do not want the Government failing to tackle water quality in the most beautiful part of Britain to be the reason we lose our world heritage site status.

    • Before Clause 1 - Purpose and declaration of biodiversity and climate emergency | Environment Bill | Commons debates

      I am pleased to hear that, Madam Deputy Speaker.

      Let me also say a quick word about James Brokenshire and Sir David Amess. First, their families can be assured of my ongoing prayers for them in the months ahead. We talk about the importance of disagreeing well. Sometimes we think that means that we have to agree and be all mushy and all think the same things. The great thing about Sir David and James is that they held really firm convictions but were able to hold them with grace and kindness. There is a little lesson for all of us in that. In that spirit, I thank the Minister for her engagement on this Bill and how open and accessible she has been. It has been a lengthy affair, but that applies very recently as well, and I thank her for it.

      I will quickly rattle through three bits of the Bill: first, the World Health Organisation target set out in Lords amendment 3. As we head out on this new adventure outside the European Union, the aim should be to have higher standards, or at least standards as high as those that we set as members of that union, but it looks as though we are going for those that are lower, and that is very regrettable.

      We have already heard about the enormous health impact of poor air quality, and it is not just in big cities. In Kendal-in my community and on the edge of the Lake District-Lowther Street has been rated as one of the 200 most polluted streets in the United Kingdom. It is everywhere that this issue matters. We know the impact on asthma, on lung function and on people being hospitalised for cardiovascular and respiratory conditions. Sadly, we heard accurately about the appalling impact and the loss of life, particularly of Ella, but also of thousands of others each year. I do not see why the Government, much as I respect what the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Aaron Bell) said, would set themselves unambitious targets that they could achieve when they could set harder targets that would be more of a challenge. The Government should not be disagreeing with Lords amendment 3.

      I also want to speak to the Government motion to disagree with Lords amendment 28. That amendment was put forward in the other place by my noble Friend Baroness Parminter. I will not support the Government motion, because it is bizarre that Defence and Treasury Ministers are effectively exempt from having to have due regard to environmental principles while making policies. When the Government scrapped the Department of Energy and Climate Change, many of us thought that was an inexcusable move, but the weak excuse that the Government used was, "All Departments should have due regard for the environment and climate change, not just one, that is why we are getting rid of the Department of Energy and Climate Change." If that is the case, why are the Government exempting two of the most important Departments?

      Perhaps the Ministry of Defence and the Treasury are the Departments that will find it hardest to take into account environmental policies in their decision making, but that is all the more reason to force them to do it. We cannot say that climate change is an existential threat on the one hand and on the other give major Departments a cop-out.

      Moving on, Lords amendments 31 and 33 relate to the office for environmental protection. Here we have a new regulator clearly and demonstrably weaker and less independent than the one that it is to replace. That is obviously a backward step, and there is no denying it. However much the Government may have improved things from a weaker position to start off with, we are nowhere near what we have let go. We have an office for environmental protection that is too weak to enforce and too compromised to be trusted. The courts will be limited, as we know, in the sanctions they impose. The work of the office for environmental protection can be directed by Government, as we have been hearing, which is a case of the Government deciding whether the regulator can mark its homework. Clause 24 of the Bill gives DEFRA the power to issue guidance to the OEP on how it should enforce environmental law against DEFRA and other public bodies. It is clear that that is not full independence as promised. It is a step back from the situation we currently have.

      My final point is that it is odd to say the least-very peculiar-that the office for environmental protection, in seeking to enforce environmental standards in this country, will not have power to assess the impact on the United Kingdom's environmental standards of trade deals with other countries. Deals that permit imports produced with lower environmental and animal welfare standards will undercut and ruin British farmers and will lead to lower standards here, too.

      This is a long overdue Bill, yet within it, there are so many things that are left to be desired. This is such an important set of issues that to come here with a Bill that leaves us with standards lower and less well enforced than we had beforehand, with a regulator less independent than the one we had before, is clearly a backward step.

  • Oct 18, 2021:
  • Sep 29, 2021:
  • Sep 27, 2021:
  • Sep 23, 2021:
  • Sep 22, 2021:
  • Sep 21, 2021:
    • Project Gigabit | Westminster Hall debates

      I apologise for interrupting the Minister's helpful speech. The 60,000 figure is very important, but does she recognise that as things stand, unless she defers the deadline for the voucher scheme on Friday, the communities that I have listed, which I got from B4RN, will be in limbo at the very least? While they could have looked forward to a connection very quickly, over the next year or so, they will now be at best put back several years. Can she not think of a way of doing both: of ensuring that she connects the 60,000 she talks about, while not dumping and pulling the plug on those communities that I just listed?