Work of DEFRA.
Tuesday 6 December at 2.00 pm in The Grimond Room, Portcullis House
The Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Dr Thérèse Coffey MP, is to be questioned on a wide range of topics - from the rising cost of living to sewage pollution - by MPs on the parliamentary committee that scrutinises her department.
With food inflation at its highest rate for many years, Dr Coffey may be asked about government assistance for farmers facing high feed, fertilizer and fuel costs as well how DEFRA , working with other government departments, supports low-income families accessing healthy nutritious food.
There are also likely to be questions on labour shortages in the food and farming sectors and the issuing of visas to foreign workers. An EFRA Committee inquiry that published a report in April 2022 heard from the National Farmers Union that labour shortages were “probably the single biggest issue” facing food supply chains.
Dr Neil Hudson, MP for Penrith and The Border and Member of the EFRA Committee said:
“Our EFRA Select Committee is there to scrutinise the work of DEFRA and provide advice and recommendations to support the sectors that this Government Department has jurisdiction over. As part of that, it is vital that we quiz ministers on the issues facing these sectors. From food security, to farming payments, to labour issues, to Avian Influenza to stopping pollution of our waterways, we will thoroughly probe the Department. I am holding a Farmer Roadshow in Penrith today for Cumbrian farmers, so I will be able to garner their views to take to our EFRA Inquiry Session next week.”
The Committee is also like to follow up on its recent session on bird flu, which has killed around half of the free-range turkeys being produced for Christmas, and the mass deaths of crab and lobster than have been seen off the North East Coast.
The Secretary of State may also be questioned on the range of environmental targets her department is due to set - then deliver on - under the Environment Act 2021. The deadline for publishing these targets has already passed.
The issue of sewage discharge into the sea and rivers is likely to be raised. Sewage is only supposed to be discharged into waterways or the sea at times of very heavy rainfall - when drains cannot cope with the combined rainwater and effluent in the system. However, the EFRA Committee has heard of many discharges outside these periods of very heavy rainfall – so-called “dry spills”. Other environmental issues, such as air quality and biodiversity are also likely to be discussed.
- Rt Hon Dr Thérèse Coffey MP, Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
- Tamara Finkelstein, Permanent Secretary, DEFRA