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19 Dec 2002 : Column 996continued
The Minister for Rural Affairs (Alun Michael): The Burns report, published in June 2000, concluded that hunting, as an economic activity, is so small as to be almost invisible in terms of national aggregates. The Bill that I have introduced is based on principle and will depend on the decisions of the independent registrar and tribunal.
Miss McIntosh : I am grateful to receive that reply. The Minister is obviously trying to strike a fine balance between maintaining a form of pest control through the Bill and maintaining the level of the quarried species in their natural habitat. He will be aware that Vale of York is virtually unique in having about 10 different hunts across its terrain, most of which hunt in part on upland farm land. Does that mean that he can give me a guarantee today that each of those hunts will continue under his Bill?
Alun Michael: Of course not, because cases have to be considered against the criteria. We want legislation that is tough but fair and which deals with the issue of cruelty and recognises the activities that are necessarythe test of necessity is set out clearly in the Billfor eradicating pests and protecting livestock, crops and so on.
Paddy Tipping (Sherwood): Does my right hon. Friend accept that farmers and land managers take conservation and landscaping steps that are an enhancement for game and fish stocks? Will he make it absolutely clear that he and his colleagues have no plans to ban shooting or fishing?
Alun Michael: I can confirm that absolutely, and my hon. Friend is right to point to the steps that are undertaken for the conservation of the environment. What really makes a difference is how we are assisting farmers through the England rural development programme and the agri-environmental schemes that are part of it. That is very much a part of the future in ensuring that we have the right biodiversity in our countryside.
Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome): During the debate the other day, the right hon. Gentleman recognised that if there is a ban on the hunts or a reduction in their number, it will cause particular problems for disposal of fallen stock. Does he recognise that there is a problem, irrespective of whether the hunting ban is introduced, that will be exacerbated by the on-farm burial regulations? Will he introduce the
Alun Michael: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to point out that there will be a change in respect of fallen stock, irrespective of the decisions that are taken on the Hunting Bill. It is a real problem that needs to be addressed. On-farm burial will not be an option in future. I can confirm that a great deal of work is going on. Again, the Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley), has taken a leading part in discussing with the industriesdisposal and farmingthe best way to achieve a comprehensive solution to the problem that the hon. Gentleman rightly identifies.
Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire): Is it not the case that hunts cannot always control their hounds? Hounds following a scent disrupt riding schools, and disturb farm animals and people in their gardens. Would a ban not help in that regard?
Bob Spink (Castle Point): A Countryside Agency report shows that the countryside is in enormous economic and social difficulty. Will the Minister not show a little Christmas good will to people living in the countryside by stopping the nonsense of the hunting legislation and concentrating on what we should be doingtackling the #25 billion pensions tax and the problem of street crime?
Alun Michael: The hon. Gentleman is right about one thing. The most important issues for rural people are incomes, jobs, health, education and all the other matters to which we devote most of our time in the Department. DEFRA was established to tackle such problems. Hunting is a very small part of the issue for the countryside. Not everyone wants hunting to continue; many country people want a ban. The emphasis should be on the matters that I just mentioned. It is Members of Parliament, on both the pro-hunting and the anti-hunting side, who made hunting such an important issue that the Government made a commitment to enable Parliament to reach a conclusionwhich it will do.
The Minister for the Environment (Mr. Michael Meacher): The Government welcome the contribution of horticulture to the UK economy, which is worth some #2 billion at the farm gate and supports substantial downstream activity in packhouses, processing and the garden industry. We will continue to work with the industry through the sustainable farming and food
Hugh Robertson : The Minister will knownot least because DEFRA gave me the figuresthat a staggering 10.8 per cent. of the national orchard has been lost in the last three years. That is before the effects of this year's Agricultural Wages Board settlement are taken into account. What specific help is the Minister giving fruit farmers now; and, equally important, what is his long-term vision of the future of horticulture?
Mr. Meacher: I have already answered the last part of that question. We intend, through the newly announced farming and food strategy, to give substantial help to the horticulture sector, which, as I said, is worth about #2 billion.
The hon. Gentleman knows very well that funding to promote specific United Kingdom products is not permitted by European Union state aid rules. The industry, however, receives substantial help to increase competitiveness through research, which I believe is currently worth about #10 million a year. That has helped the development of, for instance, new apple varieties such as Meridian and to increase apple storage, which is a problem in northern Europe. I believe that 73 producer organisations are working in this country under the EU fruit and vegetable regime.
9. Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South): What estimate she has made of the environmental impact of the projected expansion of air travel with special reference to climate change; and if she will make a statement. 
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Margaret Beckett): The intergovernmental panel on climate change has estimated that, if current rates of growth are maintained, air travel and air transport could be responsible for between 3 and 15 per cent. of manmade forcing of the global climate by 2050. There is a growing view that the aviation industry, like other industries, needs to pay for the environmental damage that it causes.
Mr. Mullin : My right hon. Friend has obviously noticed that the aviation industry appears to have plans for indefinite expansion. Has she also noticed that the Department for Transport appears to go along with those plans? Has her Department been consulted, and if so what response has it given?
Margaret Beckett: My hon. Friend is right to point out that the airline industry, like any other industry, is understandably trying to grow. He is also right to draw attention to growing concern about the potential impact. However, I do not think it fair to my right hon. Friend the
It is always important for a Government to maintain a balance between identifying what may happen and considering what decisions they need to take as a result, and considering what ought to happen. I can only say that, as ever, we are engaged in dialogue about the possible impact, not only within our own Government but in the EU and with the International Civil Aviation Organisation, where continuing discussions are taking place.
Mr. George Osborne (Tatton): Dialogue is all very well, but if future expansion is to take place we need to know the impact of major airport expansion not just on the global environment, but on the local environment, which concerns people in my constituency who live at the end of the runways at Manchester airport. As her Department sponsors such projects, will the Secretary of State undertake research into the environmental damage that aircraft cause?
Margaret Beckett: I take the hon. Gentleman's point. I am sure that he will appreciate that such damage is difficult to assess. We hope to be successful in reducing other sources of pollution through other measures. If so, pollution from aviation will play a larger part. However, that is not easy to assess, which is why it was not included in the Kyoto protocol agreement. We shall have to consider the problem carefully, but there will not be any easy, quick answers.
Norman Baker (Lewes): Is not the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) right when he says that the Department for Transport is planning for a massive expansion of the airline industry, and caves in to every demand that it makes? Does not that have massive environmental implications, such as the doubling of carbon emissions between 1990 and 2010, and a further take-off after that? Is not the reality that the right hon. Lady's Department, however well meaning, has no power within Government these days, and the Department for Transport and the Department of Trade and Industry do what they want irrespective of the impact on the environment? Is it not time she had a word with the Prime Minister to put the environment back at the heart of Government?
Margaret Beckett: The hon. Gentleman suggests that we should do more to assess the environmental impact of aviation, but there is no easy, separate assessment that we can make. All I can say to him is what I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South. Neither the Department for Transport nor the Government as a whole are indifferent to these issues. Unlike the hon. Gentleman, we recognise that this is a difficult issue to which no one, especially not the Liberal Democrats, has any easy answers.
Mr. Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster): In the right hon. Lady's discussions with the Secretary of State for Transport, will she stress the importance of examining the cumulative impact on the environment, especially of the proposed third runway at Heathrow?
Margaret Beckett: As I said, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport is engaged in a long and thorough consultation process. He is mindful, as I am, of the varying effects that these decisions have on the environment. As both Conservative Members have observed, there is an impact on the local environment as well as the international effects.