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4 Dec 2007 : Column 745

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Question, That the proposed words be there added , put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 31 (Questions on amendments):


The House divided: Ayes 300, Noes 198.
Division No. 020]
[7.14 pm



AYES


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Alexander, rh Mr. Douglas
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Mr. David
Anderson, Janet
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, Mr. Ian
Balls, rh Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barlow, Ms Celia
Battle, rh John
Bayley, Hugh
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Sir Stuart
Benn, rh Hilary
Benton, Mr. Joe
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blears, rh Hazel
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Blunkett, rh Mr. David
Borrow, Mr. David S.
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Browne, rh Des
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, rh Andy
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Byrne, Mr. Liam
Caborn, rh Mr. Richard
Cairns, David
Caton, Mr. Martin
Cawsey, Mr. Ian
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clelland, Mr. David
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Connarty, Michael
Cooper, Rosie
Cooper, rh Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, Mr. David
Creagh, Mary
Cruddas, Jon
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs. Claire
David, Mr. Wayne
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Davies, Mr. Quentin
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Denham, rh Mr. John
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Mr. Frank
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flint, Caroline
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Mr. Roger
Goggins, Paul
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Gwynne, Andrew
Hain, rh Mr. Peter
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. David
Hamilton, Mr. Fabian
Hanson, rh Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Mr. Tom

Havard, Mr. Dai
Healey, John
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Heyes, David
Hillier, Meg
Hodge, rh Margaret
Hoey, Kate
Hood, Mr. Jim
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Hughes, rh Beverley
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Ingram, rh Mr. Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, rh Alan
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jowell, rh Tessa
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Keen, Ann
Kelly, rh Ruth
Kennedy, rh Jane
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter
Knight, Jim
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, Mr. David
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
MacDougall, Mr. John
Mackinlay, Andrew
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mahmood, Mr. Khalid
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mallaber, Judy
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Marshall-Andrews, Mr. Robert
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, Dr. Alasdair
McDonnell, John
McFadden, Mr. Pat
McFall, rh John
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McGuire, Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
McNulty, rh Mr. Tony
Meacher, rh Mr. Michael
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Milburn, rh Mr. Alan
Miliband, rh David
Miliband, rh Edward
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Mr. Austin
Moffat, Anne
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Moran, Margaret
Morden, Jessica
Morgan, Julie
Morley, rh Mr. Elliot
Mudie, Mr. George
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murphy, Mr. Jim
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan
Olner, Mr. Bill
Osborne, Sandra
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pope, Mr. Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Purnell, rh James
Rammell, Bill
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robertson, John
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Roy, Mr. Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Christine
Ryan, rh Joan
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mr. Mohammad
Seabeck, Alison
Sharma, Mr. Virendra
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Simpson, Alan
Singh, Mr. Marsha
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andy
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine
Smith, rh Jacqui
Smith, John

Snelgrove, Anne
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Ms Dari
Taylor, Dr. Richard
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Twigg, Derek
Vaz, rh Keith
Walley, Joan
Waltho, Lynda
Ward, Claire
Watson, Mr. Tom
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Wills, Mr. Michael
Wilson, Phil
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Wood, Mike
Woodward, rh Mr. Shaun
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Alan Campbell and
Mr. Dave Watts
NOES


Afriyie, Adam
Ainsworth, Mr. Peter
Alexander, Danny
Amess, Mr. David
Ancram, rh Mr. Michael
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Bacon, Mr. Richard
Baker, Norman
Baron, Mr. John
Barrett, John
Beith, rh Mr. Alan
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Binley, Mr. Brian
Bone, Mr. Peter
Bottomley, Peter
Brake, Tom
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Brooke, Annette
Browne, Mr. Jeremy
Browning, Angela
Bruce, rh Malcolm
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burrowes, Mr. David
Burt, Lorely
Butterfill, Sir John
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Campbell, Mr. Gregory
Carmichael, Mr. Alistair
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Cash, Mr. William
Clark, Greg
Clarke, rh Mr. Kenneth
Clifton-Brown, Mr. Geoffrey
Conway, Derek
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cox, Mr. Geoffrey
Davies, Mr. Dai
Davies, Philip
Davis, rh David (Haltemprice and Howden)
Djanogly, Mr. Jonathan
Dorrell, rh Mr. Stephen
Dorries, Mrs. Nadine
Duddridge, James
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Ellwood, Mr. Tobias
Evennett, Mr. David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Featherstone, Lynne
Field, Mr. Mark
Foster, Mr. Don
Francois, Mr. Mark
Fraser, Mr. Christopher
Gale, Mr. Roger
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
George, Andrew
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gidley, Sandra
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Goldsworthy, Julia
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Gove, Michael
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Hague, rh Mr. William
Hammond, Mr. Philip
Hammond, Stephen
Harper, Mr. Mark
Harris, Dr. Evan
Harvey, Nick
Hayes, Mr. John
Heath, Mr. David
Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
Hendry, Charles
Herbert, Nick
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hogg, rh Mr. Douglas
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holloway, Mr. Adam
Holmes, Paul
Horam, Mr. John
Horwood, Martin
Hosie, Stewart

Howarth, David
Howarth, Mr. Gerald
Hunt, Mr. Jeremy
Hunter, Mark
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Johnson, Mr. Boris
Key, Robert
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Laing, Mrs. Eleanor
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lamb, Norman
Lansley, Mr. Andrew
Laws, Mr. David
Leigh, Mr. Edward
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Luff, Peter
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
MacNeil, Mr. Angus
Main, Anne
Maples, Mr. John
Mates, rh Mr. Michael
Maude, rh Mr. Francis
May, rh Mrs. Theresa
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Mercer, Patrick
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Milton, Anne
Moore, Mr. Michael
Moss, Mr. Malcolm
Mundell, David
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Neill, Robert
Newmark, Mr. Brooks
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Öpik, Lembit
Ottaway, Richard
Paice, Mr. James
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Penning, Mike
Penrose, John
Pickles, Mr. Eric
Price, Adam
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Pritchard, Mark
Pugh, Dr. John
Randall, Mr. John
Rennie, Willie
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Angus
Robinson, rh Mr. Peter
Rogerson, Dan
Rosindell, Andrew
Ruffley, Mr. David
Russell, Bob
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Scott, Mr. Lee
Selous, Andrew
Shapps, Grant
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Simpson, Mr. Keith
Smith, Sir Robert
Soames, Mr. Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs. Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob
Spring, Mr. Richard
Stanley, rh Sir John
Steen, Mr. Anthony
Streeter, Mr. Gary
Stuart, Mr. Graham

Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swinson, Jo
Swire, Mr. Hugo
Syms, Mr. Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Mr. Ian
Taylor, Matthew
Thurso, John
Tredinnick, David
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vaizey, Mr. Edward
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Wallace, Mr. Ben
Waterson, Mr. Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Webb, Steve
Weir, Mr. Mike
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
Willetts, Mr. David
Williams, Stephen
Willis, Mr. Phil
Willott, Jenny
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Wilson, Sammy
Winterton, Ann
Wishart, Pete
Yeo, Mr. Tim
Young, rh Sir George
Younger-Ross, Richard
Tellers for the Noes:

Jeremy Wright and
Mr. Stewart Jackson
Question accordingly agreed to.
4 Dec 2007 : Column 749

4 Dec 2007 : Column 750

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Mr. Deputy Speaker forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.

Resolved,


4 Dec 2007 : Column 753

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): I inform the House that Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment standing in the name of the Prime Minister. I remind the Members that there will be a 10-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches.

7.25 pm

Mr. Peter Ainsworth (East Surrey) (Con): I beg to move,

Recent weeks have witnessed a series of events that have raised fundamental questions about the competence of the present Government—the handling of the Northern Rock crisis, the loss by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs of the personal details of millions of families, and now allegations of illegal fundraising. All those seem to be stark evidence that Labour has lost the plot. As anyone who has had half an eye open to issues affecting rural areas, farming and the environment will tell you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, one Government Department has for several years jostled with the Home Office for the honour of setting the pace in the incompetence stakes. The fact that others are catching up is no reason to let the present Secretary of State off the hook.

Throughout its relatively short and undistinguished life, the performance of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has been, frankly, abysmal. In fact, the list of DEFRA failures is so extensive that this could end up being a very long speech. However, I am aware that a large number of hon. Members wish to contribute, so I will restrain myself.

DEFRA was cobbled together following the terrible mismanagement of the foot and mouth crisis in 2001. It was rumoured at the time that, as well as the political necessity of culling the old Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, one of the reasons for setting up the new Department was to give the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Margaret Beckett) a job that met her aspirations. Almost immediately, it acquired two alternative nicknames—“Deafear” and “Deathrow”, both of which turned out to be strangely appropriate!

Since its early days, beset by a catalogue of failures, the Department has lurched from one crisis to the next. At the heart of our agricultural industry and as custodians of our landscape, farmers should feel that DEFRA is fighting their corner, not letting them down. The Department’s initial response to a growing awareness that something was wrong with the Rural Payments Agency was characteristic: it denied that there was a problem at all. I say it was characteristic because this is a Department that lives in a permanent state of denial about its own inadequacies.


4 Dec 2007 : Column 754

Let us take today’s amendment by the Prime Minister to our motion. It

without, of course, mentioning that the foot and mouth outbreak was started because of faulty drains at a laboratory site licensed by DEFRA. It also omits to mention that the foot and mouth outbreak was declared over before it was. As we shall no doubt hear later in the debate, there were plenty of individual occasions when the Government’s response to animal diseases this year was neither swift nor effective.

Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle) (Lab): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Ainsworth: I will, but not very often, as time is short.

Mr. Martlew: I am grateful. The hon. Gentleman refers to animal diseases, so may I take him back to mad cow disease and BSE and ask him how many humans died because of the incompetence of the Conservative Government?

Mr. Ainsworth: You may well decide, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that that has very little to do with DEFRA— [Interruption.]

The Government’s amendment even “congratulates the Government” on setting up the Department in the first place. I rather doubt that many who have had to contend with DEFRA over the years will share in the general air of back-slapping—certainly not the one third of farmers who live in poverty; certainly not those affected by movement restrictions and export bans during the recent foot and mouth outbreak; certainly not those who were driven to the brink of financial ruin as a result of DEFRA’s bungled implementation of the single farm payment; and certainly not the insurance industry, which this week called for “improved national leadership” on flood defences.

It would be good to be able to say that the hardship caused by the incompetent handling of farm payments was now behind us, but it is not. Apart from the fact that the whole fiasco could end up with the taxpayer having to foot a bill for hundreds of millions of pounds in European Union fines, nearly £75,000 is still owed to farmers from 2005, and £1.7 million remains outstanding from last year.

It was the mess at the Rural Payments Agency that substantially kick-started the financial problems that have dogged the Department ever since. Last year DEFRA Ministers were forced to cut budgets by over £200 million, and this year we learn that further cuts of around £270 million are needed to balance the books. Of course Conservative Members are always keen to find sustainable ways of reducing unnecessary expenditure, but forced cuts brought about by financial mismanagement are a different matter altogether.

Let us take the impact on Natural England, which is being asked to cut its budget for next year by £12.5 million. Today it published a board paper that sets out the likely consequences and presents options that will impinge on measures to promote biodiversity, wildlife enhancement and nature reserves. The paper states:


4 Dec 2007 : Column 755

that “once again” is quite telling, for this is not an isolated instance—

An organisation that is, I believe, less than two years old is already fighting a battle for its survival, and not for the first time.

Then there is the issue of bovine tuberculosis. We are still without an adequate policy to tackle bovine TB, which has so far cost the taxpayer more than £500 million. There is also the seemingly relentless rise in regulation. There is much talk of light-touch regulation, but the cost to business of DEFRA regulations is now put at about £530 million a year.

Mr. Martlew: It is interesting that the hon. Gentleman should raise that point. A significant number of regulatory reform orders with which my Select Committee has dealt in recent years have come from DEFRA. Can the hon. Gentleman explain why the Conservative party does not turn up at the Select Committee’s meetings?

Mr. Ainsworth: I think that that is a rather pathetic question. The hon. Gentleman might like to tell us whether DEFRA is on target to fulfil its promise, set out in “Maximising outcomes, minimising burdens”, which commits it to delivering a £158.8 million annual reduction in administrative burdens by 2010. Are the Government on target for that? I wonder. I think not.

This is not how it should be. Farmers should feel that the Government are there to serve them, not the other way round. Basic competence on the part of Government is an essential prerequisite for the important task of rebuilding trust. There should be a positive relationship between the farming industry and DEFRA’s policy process.

More broadly, the rural community as a whole has been neglected. Those living in rural areas know only too well the problems that they face with declining services, problems over accommodation and a huge programme of post office closures. Without its own house being in order, it is small wonder that people have lost faith in DEFRA’s ability to handle the big issues. It seems caught in a downward spiral, with high staff turnover, hundreds seeking early retirement, and rock-bottom morale. The fact that the Department has a part-time permanent secretary may or may not impinge on its performance; all I can say is that if I were the permanent secretary at DEFRA, I would probably want to be part-time as well.

To add insult to injury, we discovered recently that over the last five years DEFRA had spent more than £1 billion on consultancy fees. That is a staggering sum, and what is there to show for it? Does dependence on outside consultants reflect, in some way, a sense of insecurity within the Department itself?


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