Michael Gove – 2019 Speech to the National Farmers Union

Below is the text of the speech made by Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, on 19 February 2019.

Friends, it’s a pleasure to be here and a particular pleasure to follow Minette’s brilliant speech. It’s particularly reassuring, Minette, to know that at the end of what’s been a highly successful year of your presidency that the NFU meets in good order under your leadership. And, of course, we meet at a time when the world is facing change.

Our world is at inflection point. Political, technological, social and environmental forces are reshaping the globe more powerfully than ever before, and at an accelerating pace. If we are together to meet, and master, those forces it will require of us – all – adaptability, imagination and clarity of vision.

A Union That Wins

And when it comes to adaptability, imagination and clarity of vision this union is fortunate. Your President, Minette, is one of the most impressive leaders in British public life today. In her first year in office, and it has been a busy first year in office, she has already achieved a huge amount – and I know that she will succeed in achieving even more for you in the months and years ahead.

In the last year, thanks to Minette’s leadership, and the combined efforts of her superb team – Terry Jones, Nick von Westenholz, Guy Smith, Stuart Roberts, John Davis from NFU Cymru among others – the NFU’s voice has been heard at the heart of Government and the changes that you have asked for have, in many cases, been secured.

Alone among sectors, farming has quite rightly secured special treatment in future migration policy with the establishment of a new pilot seasonal workers scheme which has the potential to expand as the market requires in the future.

Again, thanks to NFU advocacy, changes were made this summer to rules on abstraction and grazing to help farmers through a particularly challenging time.

The NFU’s careful deployment of arguments not only shaped our initial Agriculture Bill – the first for a generation – but amendments that your union have been instrumental in designing look set to strengthen it yet further.

Already, the Bill creates new powers to improve the functioning of the supply chain, to support farmers through extreme market disturbance, to safeguard producer organisations and provide new sources of income for farming business. And we are in new discussion about how to go further to support the sustainability of food production and to protect our high standards that Minette rightly underlined were so important in a competitive trading environment

We have been clear – across Government, from the Prime Minister down – that we will not lower our standards in pursuit of trade deals, and that we will use all the tools at our disposal to make sure the standards are protected and you are not left at a competitive disadvantage.

That is why today I welcome Minette’s call to establish a Commission bringing together expertise from across the country and across sectors to ensure that we can maintain the world-class standards which give British food producers their well-deserved global reputation.

It’s not just on maintaining standards that your voice has been heard. You have won guarantees on future funding too.

NFU advocacy has helped guarantee consistent levels of cash support for farming until 2022 – a more durable guarantee than any other EU nation currently enjoys.

And as we, like other nations, move to new methods of support, the NFU’s arguments for a suitable transition period, and appropriate support for productivity investment during that period, have been heard, adopted and will be implemented.

Minette’s own championing of a new Livestock Information Programme to strengthen animal health protections and give food producers a world-leading platform to compete on provenance and quality has also changed policy decisively and it has resulted in additional Government investment.

Alongside those changes, the NFU has also been central to establishing a new Food and Drink Sector Council, laying the groundwork for a new Food and Drink Sector Deal and initiating a new National Food Strategy – again the first for a generation.

We have also listened to the concerns expressed by people in this hall, and articulated so powerfully this morning by Minette, about the need to maintain focus and energy in the fight against Bovine TB. The independent Godfray report confirmed that targeted culling will continue to have an important part to play in tackling this dreadful disease – alongside work to further improve biosecurity – and Minette’s support for the deployment of every tool at our collective disposal to tackle this scourge has been critical.

There’s another scourge farmers have had to endure where more needs to be done – and that is the environmentally damaging and economically costly practice of fly-tipping. The concerns Minette has articulated on your behalf led to the launch of a waste crime review and new policies to tackle this criminality in our waste and resources strategy. The Environment Agency, the police and magistrates all now know that they need to do more and the powers are there. Fly tippers now face the prospect of unlimited fines for their crimes. And let’s be clear- they should pay the price for their behaviour – not innocent farmers.

And when it comes to preparing for every Brexit eventuality, Minette’s arguments for special protection for agriculture and food production in every scenario, with particularly robust protections in the event of no deal, have been heard loud and clear within Government.

So on labour, fairness in the supply chain, support for POs, guarantees on future income, investment in productivity, investment in animal health, support for livestock farmers, support for all farmers facing climate stress, a greater emphasis than ever before in Government policy on food, action to tackle bovine TB, tougher penalties for waste criminals, sensible tariffs, defence of standards.

Minette has been winning battles for everyone in this hall. She is your champion and there could be none better.

Whatever the weaknesses in policy or delivery Government is responsible for, and I will turn to some of them in a moment, Minette and the NFU have been dedicated, indefatigable and successful, again and again, in getting things right for Britain’s farmers.

And one of the critical reasons for that is that Minette, and your leadership team, understand that the future for farming, and food production, requires us all to lean in, to be change-makers rather than reactive or passive in the face of the forces re-shaping our world.

A World Of Change

And we should not underestimate – and I know we don’t – the scale of change we all face. It’s not just Brexit, although I shall say much more about our departure from the EU in a moment.

There are huge demographic changes coming. Our population is increasing, across the globe cities are growing and rural areas are depopulating, the numbers leading increasingly prosperous and middle class lives are mushrooming and all these changes are driving increased demand for food and especially high quality protein, cereals, fruit and vegetables.

At the same time, global warming and other environmental changes are rendering once fertile parts of the globe increasingly inhospitable for agriculture. The nations of the global north – Canada, the US, Europe and, pre-eminently, the United Kingdom will, inevitably, become more and more important in meeting the needs of a hotter and hungrier world.

There are huge opportunities for British agriculture to meet this growing demand and provide a growing share of the world’s food supply.

But in doing so we must lean in to another profound set of changes. Technology is remaking our world and every aspect of our economy. There are – of course – some skills which no technological innovation can ever supersede. The hard-won knowledge of the Lake District shepherd hefting sheep as generations before him or her have done, the careful husbandry of other livestock, the delicate judgements growers make reflecting an understanding of their specific landscapes, they’re are all part of what makes farming such a unique profession.

But while farming depends on special skills, it is also being transformed by the technologies changing all our lives. AI and machine learning, big data and genomics, drones and robotics, decarbonisation of energy generation and advances in battery technology, biotech and life science breakthroughs, electronic monitoring and smart sensors and so much more are re-making the organisation and economics of food production.

Which is why we are investing more in R&D, making support available for investment in the technology which will make individual farm businesses more productive and encouraging collaboration and co-operation in the adoption of new technologies.

Many of these breakthroughs not only increase productivity, they also help us safeguard and improve the natural environment on which not just our future prosperity, but our survival, depends.

Precision application of pesticides and fungicides, drones rather than ground vehicles, gene-edited crops which require no additional chemical protection, data analytics which can refine and target necessary interventions, sensors which can alert us to animal disease and maximise dairy yields, all of these and more can both make food production more efficient and lighten our environmental foot print.

Which is all the more necessary given the scale of environmental pressure we are all facing. Last summer, as Minette reminded us, powerfully underlined the impact of climate change on food production. And as the world warms so the impacts, and volatility of those impacts, will only grow.

As the planet heats up, as oceans acidify, as our rivers and seas become clogged and polluted, as our pollinators become threatened, as the organic content of soil becomes depleted and biodiversity diminishes, the ability of our earth to remain fertile and fecund, to sustain plant, animal and human live, comes under greater and greater stress.

That is why concern for our environment, and careful steps to steward our natural capital, are not diversions from the business of food production, but as everyone in this hall knows they are – central to the future of our food economy. And no-one has been clearer in the need for food production and environmental enhancement to be twin goals of land use than Minette.

Her commitment in pledging that we should aim for a net zero target for carbon emissions from farming is precisely the sort of leadership on the environment the world needs to see. And I am delighted today to applaud her for her vision.

Our changing environment is not the only challenge to which we must rise in preparing our food economy for the future. We need to ensure that we adapt to the growing awareness, and concern, about public health.

With obesity and related conditions – such as diabetes and heart disease – on the rise we need to think more about how we develop a truly healthy food economy. And here I believe that British farming has a leadership role to play second to none.

Every critical component of a healthy diet is produced by British farmers – better than anyone in the world. Cereals and pulses, salads and other vegetables, soft fruit and juices, milk, yoghurt and cheese, poultry and red meat – all the essential elements of a balanced and nutritious diet are produced in abundance and to the highest standards by the people in this hall.

I welcome the increasing public attention paid to the circumstances in which food is produced and the need to make healthy choices in our daily diet. This scrutiny only strengthens the hand of British farmers. A demand for higher standards, for more sustainable production, for high standards in animal welfare and more nutritious choices can only mean a demand for more high quality British produce rather than the alternative.

But while I welcome, as we all should, a more demanding approach from consumers, because British farmers are best placed to meet that demand, we should not shirk, and I will not shy from, defending every sector of British farming. British livestock and British dairy farmers produce the meat, milk and cheese which provide us with the protein, calcium, vitamins and other minerals which contribute to greater choice for all in meeting our need for high quality food.

Dairy farmers deserve protection from activists who would undermine their work, they – our dairy farmers, alongside sheep and beef farmers play a critical role in keeping pastures and other vital landscapes resilient and strengthening rural economies and rural society. That’s why I am an enthusiastic supporter of initiatives such as Febru-dairy which remind us how much we owe our dairy farmers and why, at the end of a hard day at Defra, I am always happy to raise a pint – of full cream milk – to thank them for what they do.

And I am particularly conscious that it is dairy – and even more so livestock – farmers – who face the biggest challenges if we fail, as a government, to secure a good Brexit deal.

Securing The Best Brexit

A majority of farmers voted for Brexit – as did I – and I can understand all too well why farmers did.

The inflexible operation of the Common Agricultural Policy – the three crop rule, the requirement to apply for support by fixed dates after wrestling with the most convoluted bureaucracy, the requirement for mapping and re-mapping which treats honest farmers with grotesque insensitivity, the rigidity with which rules on field margins and hedge cutting have been applied – all these and so much more need to be reformed fundamentally.

Life outside the EU and the CAP will allow us to apply necessary rules with greater proportionality and flexibility. The work of Dame Glenys Stacey in her outstanding report on farm inspection and regulation shows us how to reduce the regulatory and inspection burden and showcase higher standards.

That is not the only gain which life outside the EU can secure for British farming. We can re-make the nature of farm support, directing money to the most deserving.

We can target support for small farmers, upland farmers and innovative active farmers for the goods they generate which are not rewarded in the market.

We can reward better those who are doing all the right things environmentally. And we can support others to make changes they hanker after but whose upfront costs have so far been a deterrent.

And we can forge the right sort of new trade deals. We can secure better access to international markets where demand for lamb is rising even as it falls in Europe.

We can ensure those cuts which UK consumers don’t favour find a bigger share of the market in the areas like the Far East and beyond, allowing better carcass balance and thus equipping domestic producers to meet more of the home demand in areas such as pork and bacon where domestic producers can replace Danish and Dutch production.

All these gains – and more – are open to us as we take back control of food and farming policy and instead of submitting to an out of date and out of touch one size fits all EU policy we can tailor future policy to our needs.

But all these potential gains are potentially compromised, indeed put at severe risk, if we don’t secure a deal with the EU.

The deal the Prime Minister has secured already holds out the prospect of tariff and quota-free access to the European market, with the minimum of friction and the flexibility to operate wholly outside the CAP.

Parliament has asked the Government to improve that deal – specifically by seeking changes to the Northern Ireland backstop and alternative arrangements to the customs approach envisaged in the backstop. The PM and others are negotiating hard in Brussels this week to secure those changes and I am optimistic we will see progress. And I am also optimistic Parliament will back an improved deal.

Because if we leave without a deal then there will be significant costs to our economy – and in particular to farming and food production.

As things stand, just six weeks before we are due to leave, the EU still have not listed the UK as a full third country in the event of no deal being concluded. That means as I speak that there is no absolute guarantee that we would be able to continue to export food to the EU. I am confident we will secure that listing, but in the event of no deal the EU have also said they will impose strict conditions on our export trade.

If we leave without a deal the EU has been clear that they will levy the full external tariff on all food. That means an increase of at least 40% on sheep meat and beef, rising to well above 100% for some cuts. The impact on upland farmers and the carousel trade in beef would be significant and damaging.

The vast majority of our sheep meat exports – 90%- go to the EU, France in particular. Tariffs at that level would increase prices dramatically. We know that other nations are hungry for that trade. Other EU nations – from Spain to Romania – would seek to supply French markets. And nations like New Zealand and Australia would still have tariff-free trade for a specified quota of sheep meat to the EU while we would have no such access in the event of no deal.

Of course, our exports are in demand because of the high quality of our fresh produce – second to none in the world. But if European buyers do switch contracts because tariffs make our exports significantly more expensive it will be difficult to re-establish our market access even if those tariffs come down in the future.

Tariffs are not the only problem we would face. All products of animal origin entering the EU would face SPS checks. The EU’s current position is that 100% of imports would need to be checked. And, in order to be checked every import would need to go through a border inspection post.

A huge proportion of our food exports to the EU currently go through Calais. As I speak there are no Border Inspection Posts at Calais. None. The French authorities promise to invest in BIP capacity but with just six weeks to go we face considerable uncertainty over future arrangements.

The requirement for checks will inevitably slow the processing of exports, and for every lorry that is delayed at Calais there is a knock-on effect for other haulage and the rapid turn-around of roll-on roll-off ferries.

We can expect, at least in the short term, that those delays in Calais will impede the loading of ferries, constricting supply routes back into Britain and furring up the arteries of commerce on which we all rely. That will only serve to increase transport costs for British exporters.

In addition, UK exporters will also need to comply with new customs paperwork, we’ll need to work with HMRC for new registrations and we’ll need to supply Export Health Certificates where none have been required before.

New labelling will be required for UK products of animal origin exported to the EU and some sectors, such as organic food producers, may not have their products recognised as distinct until some time after we leave.

The combination of tariffs, in some cases doubling or more the price of exports, new checks which will be time-consuming and costly, increased transport frictions and cost, new labelling, customs and SPS requirements will all create significant difficulties for food exporters – small businesses and in particular small livestock farmers would be the worst hit.

The Government is, of course, doing everything it can not just to secure a deal but also to mitigate the impact of leaving without deal. The NFU and others have made strong arguments about the need to ensure stronger tariff protection for British farming, in particular stronger protection for British farming than any other sector of the economy.

In particular, you have argued that we need tariffs on sheepmeat, beef, poultry, dairy, both milk and cheese; and pig meat in order to safeguard our valuable domestic production. Your concerns have been absolutely heard and announcement on new UK tariffs in a no deal scenario – with specific and robust protections for farming – will be made shortly.

And, of course, we also have the power to intervene to provide direct cash support to the most vulnerable sectors and I will not hesitate to provide the support required.

But while I can and will energetically and determinedly try to deal with the consequences of no deal let no one be in any doubt how difficult and damaging it would be for British farming.

Of course, Britain is a great and resourceful country and no sector of our economy is harder-working and more resourceful than our farmers and food producers. Over time we would get through.

But I emphatically do not want to run the risks that leaving without a deal would involve.

It is critically important that every decision-maker in London, every parliamentarian who will vote in coming weeks, understands what no deal would involve for British farmers and food producers. No one can be blithe or blasé about the consequences.

Which is why I hope you will make your voices heard, as you have already, in asking our MPs not to undermine or put at risk the potential gains of Brexit by voting for us to leave without a deal.

Of course, there are many other areas where your voice must also be heard by decision makers in the weeks and months ahead – and other areas where Government can and must do better.

Reform Starts At Home

We have to do better in the delivery of countryside and environmental stewardship payments. They are still in a mess, the consequence partly of historic IT procurement decisions and the split responsibility for scheme administration between Natural England and the RPA, which led to inefficiency and confusion.

Yes, it is the case that the rigidities of EU rule-making made delivery more difficult. But we must take responsibility in Defra for our share of the errors and I do. Which is why we have put in place a new management structure and delivery mechanism for all farm payments.

We have seen an improvement this year in BPS delivery and we will be making further changes to secure full payment for those whom have waited far too long.

We have also committed to making payments to 95% of CS 2018 customers by March 31, and to meet this target I can announce today that we will introduce bridging payments of between £24 and 28 million in early April. So no eligible recipient will wait beyond early April to receive the payment that they deserve.

We also expect to pay 95% of CS final payments by the end of July 2019. And in order to bring down processing times, and speed up completion claims by a month, we will move to making full CS payments straight away.

On ES, there is still more we want and need to do, and our focus is firmly on making operational improvements. We expect to complete 95% of ES 2017 final payments by the end of July.

Since the beginning of October, the remaining 18,000 ES agreements have been handled by the RPA; that number will fall to around 13,000 next year as some people are moved over into CS when their HLS agreements run out. The process should become more efficient now that it is being handled by a single body with a clear line of command. And Paul Caldwell and the team at RPA are already beginning to deliver the changes that we all need to see.

And, of course, as I already mentioned, on BPS claims, 97.4% have been completed this year, with a total value of £1.68 billion. This is the best performance by the RPA since the scheme began in 2015, but any farmers still waiting at the end of March will be automatically offered a 75% bridging payment in early April, in order to secure their future.

I hope these steps will underline how committed we are to improving the payment system. But I know there is more to do.

As there is with our Agriculture Bill. You are right, Minette, to demand that the Bill be properly scrutinised, that thoughtful amendments be considered fairly and more changes made. The Agriculture Bill is not the last word in our plans to support British farming – far from it.

There is much more that we can do to ensure that in procurement policy, trade policy and research investment we strengthen the position of domestic food producers. But we must also use this Bill to create the best possible framework for the future and listen to you as we do so.

I began by outlining the scale of change we all face – in Government, in industry, in society and in farming and food production especially. My ambition is to manage and channel that change to strengthen British farming and the British countryside.

I love the United Kingdom and its countryside in all its diversity and beauty. I was brought up in Aberdeen in a family that has been in the food business for generations. My dad ran a small business providing high quality food to consumers across the UK and my first job after school was working in a farming co-operative, so I want to do everything I can to support our food producers and farmers to lead and prosper in the future.

I believe together we can, if we make change our ally, that if we meet the challenge of improving our environment we can demonstrate global leadership in strengthening our rural economy, if we recognise that economic change provides us with an opportunity to feed more of the world more healthily than ever, we can strengthen rural society and our rural economy. I believe that political change enables us to design policies that suit all of the nations in the UK and all of our rural communities more smartly and sensitively than ever before and I believe technological change allows us to lead the world, as we have in the past, in pioneering a new agricultural revolution that plays to our country’s immense strengths.

I know we can meet, and master, these challenges of the future and I know we will do so if we stay true to the best traditions of British framing exemplified by all those of you in this hall today.

Michael Gove – 2019 Speech on Brexit

Below is the text of the speech made by Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, in the House of Commons on 10 January 2019.

May I begin on a personal note, Mr Speaker? I am very, very grateful to Members on both sides of the House, from all parties, who very kindly contacted me or sent messages over the course of the Christmas holidays following my son’s accident. I am very grateful for the kind words that many sent. My son is recovering well and I just wanted to register my appreciation.

A second brief point I want to make is that I want to ensure that as many colleagues as possible have the opportunity to intervene during my remarks. I recognise that we will be addressing a number of important issues today, not least the vital importance of maintaining environmental protection and the protection of workers’ rights, but I also recognise that many colleagues wish to speak, so I will try to keep my answers as brief as possible.

It is perhaps appropriate, Mr Speaker, given that this is a debate on European matters, that we should be emulating what happens in European football competitions by having a second leg of this debate following the first one. In hotly contested European matches, strong views are sometimes held, not just about the merits of each side, but about the referee, but all I want to say is that I am personally grateful to you, Mr Speaker. You sat through the whole of the first leg of this debate and intend to sit through the second, which is an indication of how important this debate is and how seriously you take your responsibilities. Across the House, we all owe you thanks for how you have facilitated this debate.

I also want to thank the many civil servants in my Department and elsewhere who have worked hard to secure the withdrawal agreement with the European Union. Officials, negotiators and others sometimes find themselves in the firing line but unable to speak for themselves, so let me speak for them: the dedicated public servants in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Department for Exiting the European Union and other Departments have worked hard to honour the referendum result and to secure the best possible deal for the British people. I place on record my thanks and those of my Government colleagues for their wonderful work.

As everyone acknowledges, the deal that we have concluded is a compromise. Those who are critical of it recognise that there are flaws, and those of us who support it also recognise that it has its imperfections, but how could it be otherwise? There are more than 600 Members, all with different and overlapping views on Brexit and its merits, and on how it should be executed. Some 17.4 million people voted to leave—a clear majority—and we must honour that, but we must also respect the fact that 48% of our fellow citizens voted to remain, and their concerns, fears and hopes also have to be taken into consideration.

We are dealing in this negotiation with 27 other EU nations, each with legitimate interests, with which we trade and many of whose citizens live in this country. We consider them our friends and partners in the great enterprise of making sure that a rules-based international order can safeguard the interests of everyone. Inevitably, then, we have to compromise. I recognise that during this debate many principled cases for alternatives will be advanced. I will respect, and have respected, the passion and integrity with which those cases are made, but it is also important to recognise that those who support this compromise, including me, are passionate about delivering on the verdict of the British people in the referendum in a way that also honours the interests of every British citizen. That is what this agreement does. It honours the referendum result while also respecting the vital interests of every part of the United Kingdom and every citizen within it.

Michael Gove – 2019 Oxford Farming Conference Speech

Below is the text of the speech made by Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, at the Oxford Farming Conference on 3 January 2019.

Introduction – History tells us science is the future

One of my favourite Radio Four programmes, second only to Farming Today, is The Long View.

Presented by the superbly talented Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland, The Long View asks us to consider current events in their historical context, draws parallels between the controversies of our time and the challenges of our past.

Few professions take a longer view than agriculture. Farmers plan, invest and produce for the long-term. While those of us in Westminster live in a world of hourly Twitter storms and daily news cycles where a week is now a very long time in politics, farming requires the patience and foresight to think in harvests and lifecycles, to see beyond the immediate and scan the far horizon.

Of course, the immediate political question which all of us must wrestle with is Brexit – and more particularly how Britain leaves the European Union in less than three months’ time. And I will address that question head on in a moment.

But first I do want to take a deliberately longer view. Because, hugely significant as the changes generated by Brexit will be, it’s important that we consider them in the broader context of the wider forces driving change in farming, food policy and our relationship with the rest of the natural world.

Because the truth is as this conference designed to underline. Our world is entering a fourth agricultural revolution.

The first revolution was the move from hunting and gathering to settlement and cultivation – which made possible the generation of surpluses, the beginning of trade and the establishment of civilisation.

The second agricultural revolution was pioneered here in Britain from the 17th through to the 19th centuries. British farmers and land owners developed more sophisticated crop rotation and new mixed farming methods which more efficiently turned pasture into protein and waste into fertiliser. Alongside the development of new seed drills, selective breeding, large-scale drainage schemes and land reclamation all these changes dramatically increased food production. That helped drive an equally dramatic increase in population numbers, which in turn sustained the industrial revolution.

The third agricultural revolution was even more significant in its scale. In the middle decades of the last century, pioneering work by visionary scientists such as Norman Borlaug, whose granddaughter is with us here today, transformed the scale of food production worldwide. New seed varieties were generated that powerfully improved yields and, alongside improvements in fertiliser manufacture, pest control and other forms of crop protection, they allowed developing nations to overcome scarcity and hunger, laying the groundwork for the global economic growth which has lifted billions out of poverty.

Now, we are on the verge of another revolution in how we produce our food.

That is why I particularly welcome what your chairman, Tom Allen-Stevens, called earlier the ‘brazenly positive’ tone of this conference. ‘We stand on the threshold of new horizons,’ Tom argued. ‘Never before has our industry been offered the World of Opportunity that presents itself here, before us, today.’

He’s right. Accelerating technological advances he mentioned such as the drive towards artificial intelligence, the more sophisticated than ever analysis of big data, drone development, machine learning and robotics will together allow us to dramatically improve productivity on traditionally farmed land not least by reducing the need for labour, minimising the imprint of vehicles on the soil, applying inputs overall more precisely, adjusting cultivation techniques more sensitively and therefore using far fewer natural resources, whether carbon, nitrogen or water, in order to maximise growth.

Data analytics, allied to sensors which monitor the health of livestock, will also allow us to develop the optimal environment for animals, helping us to get their nutrition right, safeguard their welfare and improve both dairy and meat production.

Gene-editing holds out the promise of dramatically accelerating the gains we have secured through selective breeding in the past. The ability to give Mother Nature a helping hand by driving the process of evolution at higher speed should allow us to develop plant varieties and crops which are more resistant to disease and pests and less reliant on chemical protection and chemical fertiliser. They will be higher-yielding and more environmentally sustainable.

Vertical farming, with vegetables grown in temperature, moisture and nutrition-controlled indoor environments can also guarantee improvements in yield while at the same time limiting environmental externalities. And of course, vertical farms not only minimise land use but can of course be located close to the urban population centres they serve.

We are also likely to see more and more of our need for protein met by aquaculture and cellular agriculture. Fish farming is an increasingly efficient way of using crops to generate nutritious proteins. And advances in synthetic biology may allow us to create traditional animal products – from gelatine and egg whites to milk and even meat – in labs.

The potential for Britain to lead in this revolution is huge. Which is why Tom Allen-Stevens is right to look to the future with confidence.

Of course, there are challenges. To take advantage of precision technology, AI, robotics and data analytics requires a level of capital investment which is not available to all. There are important ethical, and economic, questions about gene-editing which we need to debate. Vertical farming relies on energy inputs which are currently costly and carbon-intensive. Fish farming of course generates its own environmental externalities. And lab-grown proteins, meanwhile, are very far from everyone’s idea of a mouth-watering treat – and are currently extremely expensive.

But while there are big questions we need to debate about how we handle these new technologies – and where better to debate them than at the Oxford Farming Conference? – we cannot wish away these changes any more than we can ignore having to deal with the impact of climate change, air pollution, soil depletion, global population growth, the stress placed on water resources, the tide of plastic in our oceans, deforestation and biodiversity loss.

Because the background against which this fourth agricultural revolution is occurring – indeed many of the stimuli for it – are the environmental and social factors I’ve just, briefly, listed.

The requirement to use less carbon, to limit the nitrous oxide entering our atmosphere and the nitrates entering our rivers, to improve the organic content and fertility of our soil, to renew, reuse and recycle finite natural resources and yet, at the same time, to also improve resource productivity as the human population grows, all these are the forces driving technological innovation.

Science is thus both making us aware of why agriculture needs to change and also enabling that change to meet our needs.

This fourth agricultural revolution will therefore require us to change the way we work on the land and invest in its future, will force us to reform the role of Government in regulating and supporting farming; will demand new thinking and new talent in food production, and will, inevitably, require tough choices to be made. For some, the adjustment will be undoubtedly challenging.

But no change is not an option.

Reform is vital to modernise the sector and capitalise on technological advances. In 2016/17, more than half of the UK’s farms earned less than £20,000 and a fifth made no profit at all. As John Varley of Clinton Estates observes: ‘These statistics would make most investors that are not looking for tax breaks steer well clear.’

If, however, we embrace the potential of the fourth revolution we can guarantee the future of the United Kingdom as a major global food producer; we can play our part in alleviating poverty and scarcity; we can replenish our store of natural capital, secure investment for the innovations in tackling waste, pollution and emissions which the world will increasingly need – and hand on both a healthier economy and an enriched environment to the next generation. So as the German statesman Otto von Bismarck once put it, ‘If revolution there is to be, far better to undertake it than undergo it.’

So today I hope to outline how Defra sees its role in the midst of this fourth revolution – with respect to all the areas for which the department is responsible – food, the rural economy, and our environment.

Thinking strategically about food

Food first.

Food production has been a success story for Britain. Food and drink is our biggest manufacturing sector, with our food and drink contributing £113 billion to the economy every year. And the consumer has benefited from the enterprise and innovation of our food producers. British citizens have a wider choice of high-quality food than ever before and the cost of food for the consumer has fallen significantly in recent decades.

We have safe, nutritious, affordable food in abundance in this country because of our farmers – their hard work, enterprise and commitment.

But we cannot take this bounty for granted. And nor can we ignore the looming problems that we face.

In a world facing the pressures I listed earlier, how do we provide food security for this country? Do the economics of contemporary food production add up? How do we help those, in this country, and across the globe, who are living in poverty? The diet is central to health, does our approach to food currently maximise human well-being? And critically what do we think is required to make food production in this country truly sustainable?

The fourth agricultural revolution would require us to rethink the future of food in any case, but if coming scientific and technical innovations are to be harnessed wisely, and in harmony with human flourishing, then we need as a country to have a much wider, and more informed, debate about food.

That is why I have asked Defra’s lead non-executive director, the food entrepreneur Henry Dimbleby, to lead on the development of a new Food Strategy. He will be visiting farms and food producers and working with people across the industry to ensure we ask the right questions.

On food security, for example, I think that it is critical that we conceptualise the challenge properly. Our food security currently rests on both healthy domestic food production and of course global trading links.

Healthy domestic production in the future is likely to require not just investment in new technology but are also improving the resilience of the environment on which we depend for future growth. So food security in the future should mean for example, returning soils to robust health, and improving their organic content.

It should also mean keeping pollinator numbers healthy and improving animal welfare and husbandry to minimise health problems and disease risk.

It will probably also require us to build in resilience and flexibility to our agricultural sector so we can deal with changes we cannot anticipate by ensuring we having diversity in the size and type of farm business in this country.

And it also means guarding against those looming changes we can foresee – taking steps to minimise flood risk, adapt to climate change and safeguard biodiversity so we have a rich bank of natural capital on which to draw for the future.

Food security necessarily also involves providing consumers not just with a plentiful and resilient supply of food but with guarantees on provenance and welfare. Which is why the new Livestock Information Programme which Minette Batters has championed and helped to secure this year is so important. It will enable us to reassure domestic consumers on the safety of our produce as well as securing a competitive edge in a world market where quality is increasingly key.

Now of course with respect to future trade, we know that there will always be food, and materials required for food production, which we will have to source from abroad.

But we also know that climate change is going to have an impact on the resilience, and range, of food production in other countries particularly in the global south – so countries like our own will have to play an even more important role in world food production.

And if we are to maintain our own resilience and reputation for quality, that means we must maintain our own high environmental and animal welfare standards, and we must not barter them away in pursuit of a necessarily short-term trade-off.

And that takes me to another one of the key questions about the economics of food production. Affordable food for every citizen is a key goal of public policy. But we should be clear about the real costs of food production.

Beef or soybeans produced to scale on land in other countries that have been cleared of vast hectares of forests may appear cheap but in fact such food is costing the earth. The loss of forest cover imposes environmental costs on all of us, as valuable carbon sinks disappear and a defence against climate change is dismantled. The argument that we can lower the cost of food by importing from countries that have pursued deforestation policies ignores the fact that we all have to pay for the environmental damage in other ways.

There are, of course, other key economic questions the food strategy must address. While consumers have enjoyed the benefits of increased efficiency in British farming why have farmers not reaped anything like the same benefits?

Compared with a generation ago, it is often the case that farmers receive a lower share of the money that we, the public, hand over to supermarkets and other food retailers. That’s in part because of post-farm gate innovation, and supermarkets offering consumers added value – scrubbed potatoes; chickens seasoned and sold in roasting bags – which customers are happy to pay more for, but that innovation has inevitably reduced the percentage of the final price which has gone to the farmer.

So as farmers become even more efficient, and get an even better return per hectare – how can we ensure that we have a profitable farm sector alongside low prices for good food?

Part of the answer is greater transparency. The more information we have – and especially the more information an increasingly discerning public have when they make consumer choices – the better markets work. And if markets aren’t working because some players are operating unfairly or anti-competitively, then government should intervene.

Intervention is also required when it comes to health. The growth in obesity, the acceleration in numbers of patients with Type 2 Diabetes, the spiralling in cases of diet-related heart disease and cancers, all require us to look at the impact of what we eat on how we live, and die.

This challenge, however, requires very careful handling. A crude attempt to label certain foods, meat and dairy, as somehow inherently unhealthy does not do justice to the scale and complexity of the problem and neither does crude calorie labelling.

A proper food strategy must look more widely at the socio-economic factors and trends relating to diet and health problems such as obesity, diabetes and other diet-related illnesses. The fact that these problems disproportionately affect more disadvantaged sectors of society should offend our sense of social justice. That’s why we need to ask searching questions about just where, how and why poor diet occurs – and seek answers.

I want our Food Strategy to be ambitious, to ask big questions, to challenge lazy orthodoxies. To place food security on a sounder footing, enable food producers to plan for the future with confidence, provide a proper understanding of the real economics of the food industry, harness the potential of new technology to improve productivity, make that productivity growth genuinely sustainable – and to improve the nation’s health. I see our Food Strategy as another opportunity for Britain to show a lead in this world of opportunity.

Of course there is already one conspicuous way in which we do lead the world in terms of food. Our universities are home to some of the most respected agriculture, food and environmental science, vet medicine, land management, chemistry, zoology and botany departments in the world. A new generation of farmers, scientists, bio and agri-tech entrepreneurs are already reinforcing Britain’s reputation as a centre of excellence in innovation.

But I want us to go further. There is a huge opportunity for British talent to shape the Fourth Agricultural Revolution. We need to ensure we attract even more talent people into the food and farming industry.

I have been hugely encouraged in that regard by the work of colleagues such as Don Curry, Fiona Kendrick, Peter Kendall and Minette Batters who have been collaborating to think creatively about the skills and talent we will need in the future to maintain leadership in the food production sector.

And we will be saying more about what Government can do to help when recommendations come forward through the Food and Drink Sector Council but I have already been discussing with the Business Secretary Greg Clark and the new Higher Education and Science Minister Chris Skidmore the need for all us collectively to show even greater ambition.

Enhancing the environment for rural businesses

Now of course, food is at the heart of every farming business and farming is the backbone of the rural economy. Our ambition at Defra to lead the world in our thinking about food depends on our ability in the first place to maintain a healthy farming sector and overall a robust rural economy. That in turn requires us to think about the role of Government in supporting all those who work and live in the countryside.

We have already pledged to spend the same level on farm support in cash terms after we leave the European Union right up to the end of this Parliament. That is and often forgotten a greater degree of security over future funding for farming than that enjoyed by any other existing EU nation.

I recognise, however, that farming, because it is a quintessentially long-term business, benefits from as much certainty as possible about the future. And with the scale of change coming that I mentioned earlier, the more assurance we can provide the better.

I cannot, here, entirely pre-empt the outcome of the Government’s Spending Review. But both the Chancellor and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury are committed to using that review to support growth, encourage technological innovation, demonstrate British leadership in areas of business excellence as well as spreading prosperity more equitably across the country. So if we can embrace the changes I’ve been discussing today, we will ensure British agriculture, and the rural economy more widely, will be able to benefit in that Spending Review. Embracing change, supporting reform is the key to unlocking the Treasury’s special box.

But while I cannot pre-empt the outcome of the Spending Review I can continue to demonstrate the case for, and put in place the policies that will underpin, long-term investment.

That is why we have secured a seven-year agricultural transition, beyond the 21-month transition period set out in the EU Withdrawal Agreement, to enable farm businesses to plan ahead.

That is also why we have published proposals to allow for agricultural support payments to be rolled forward into a lump sum which can used now to re-model farm businesses for the future.

And it is also why we have commissioned a review by Lord Bew of Donnegore to look at what factors should be taken into account to ensure an equitable intra-UK allocation of domestic farm support funding.

And, again, in advance of the Spending Review the government has also made a commitment to invest in the extension and improvement of rural broadband coverage. In the Budget the government announced that it would invest a further £200m over the next two years providing full fibre broadband in rural areas. This is in line with the ‘outside-in approach’ set out in last year’s Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review, which committed to connecting remote rural areas so that the UK has a truly nationwide, state-of-the-art, broadband network at last.

Because we all now, the potential of the Fourth Agricultural Revolution will only be fully realised if we ensure the very best levels of digital connectivity across rural Britain and that is why this investment has been prioritised.

All of these investments sit alongside our other commitments to invest in rural communities. In our Agriculture Bill we make provision for payments to improve productivity specifically, to support collaboration and to help rural businesses cope with change. It is critically important that we support efforts to bring farmers together, and also support innovation and collaboration – because that will help ensure that we keep a wide range of different farm businesses resilient in the face of change.

As I mentioned earlier in the context of food security, it is particularly important that we are sensitive to the need of smaller farmers, because I’m acutely aware that for many of them, the changes in how we provide support and the changes in how technology will affect food production raise real challenges. But in many parts of the country it is smaller farmers who preserve, in the words of the Prince of Wales, the culture in agriculture. From the Lake District to Exmoor, from East Sussex to Teesdale, there is alongside our natural environment a delicate human ecology we need to consider, we also need to consider the natural environment as we seek to conserve and enhance.

And in reflecting on the challenges faced by smaller farmers, especially livestock farmers, it is important to be straight about the really significant challenge which would be posed by a no deal Brexit.

Now as I suspect some of you may know, I argued for Britain to leave the European Union and I believe strongly that our departure allows us to rejuvenate our democracy, make power more accountable, escape from the bureaucratic straitjacket of the CAP and develop a more vibrant farming sector with access to technologies the EU is turning its back on.

Leaving the EU also means we can end support for inefficient area-based payments which as we know reward the already wealthy and hold back innovation, and we can move to support genuine productivity enhancement – and also support public goods like clean air or climate change mitigation which stem from the improvement of soil health, the improvement of water quality and or the improvement of pollinator habitats. We can also better support our organic farming, landscape restoration and biodiversity enrichment; as well as improving public access to the countryside.

All of these are real gains which our departure from the EU can bring risk, but these real gains risk being undermined if we leave the EU without a deal.

Of course, a nation as adaptable, resilient and creative as ours can and will flourish over time, even without a deal.

But the turbulence which would be generated by our departure without a deal would be considerable. As I said earlier, it would hit those who are our smaller farmers and smaller food businesses.

I know that some of the predictions about what might happen without a deal have been dismissed as another episode of Project Fear, a re-run of the lurid claims in the 2016 referendum that a vote to leave would trigger an automatic recession.

At the time, I vigorously rejected those projections and indeed was criticised by some for being too dismissive of expert opinion. Well, no recession came and the economic forecasts turned out to be unfounded. But while Project Fear proved to be fiction, when we look at what a no-deal Brexit could involve we do need to be clear about the costs and facts.

A no-deal Brexit means we would face overall tariff rates of around 11% on agricultural products. But some sectors would be much more severely affected.

According to the AHDB’s excellent Horizon report, we export around 15% of our beef production and around a third of lamb. In both cases about 90% of that export trade goes to the EU. Some of that trade is routed through Rotterdam to other markets beyond the EU but most of it goes to European consumers.

It’s a grim but inescapable fact that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the effective tariffs on beef and sheep meat would be above 40% – in some cases well above that.

While exchange rates might take some of the strain, the costs imposed by new tariffs would undoubtedly exceed any adjustment in the currency markets. And, of course, if the pound does make exports more competitive, it also feeds inflationary pressures at home.

Tariffs are not the only issue. While the EU have pledged to accelerate the process whereby the UK is recognised as a third country and we can continue to export food to their markets freely, all products of animal origin will have to go through border inspection posts and, at the moment, the EU have said 100% of products will face sanitary and phytosanitary checks.

Much of our trade currently reaches European markets through the narrow straits between Dover and Calais. At the moment there are no border inspection posts at Calais. While we do hope the French take steps to build capacity there, that capacity is unlikely by the end of March to be generous.

The EU have also said that hauliers from the UK can carry export goods to EU markets but they cannot make multiple journeys from EU country to EU country and thus the costs of haulage could rise as well.

The combination of significant tariffs when none exist now, friction and checks at the border when none exist now and requirements to re-route or pay more for transport when current arrangements are frictionless, will all add to costs for producers.

As will new labelling requirements, potential delays in the recognition of organic products, potentially reduced labour flows and the need to provide export health certificates for the EU market which are not needed now.

Of course we can, and are at Defra, doing everything to mitigate those costs and are developing plans to help support the industry in a variety of contingencies. But nobody can be blithe or blasé about the real impact on food producers of leaving without a deal.

That is just one of the reasons why I hope my colleagues in Parliament support the Prime Minister’s deal. It isn’t perfect – but we should never make the perfect the enemy of the good. It not only gives us a 21-month transition period in which current access is completely unaffected, it also allows us to maintain continuous tariff-free and quota-free access to EU markets for our exporters after that, allows us to diverge from EU regulation in many areas after the transition; means that we will leave the Common Agricultural Policy and it also ends all mandatory payments to the EU.

If Parliament doesn’t back the Prime Minister’s deal all those gains will be put at risk. If we do secure support for the deal, however, then we can forge ahead with further reforms which can put Britain in a world-leading position, not just in food production but also in the wise stewardship of our natural assets.

The critical business of enhancing the environment

Outside the EU and the CAP we can reward farmers for the goods they generate which are not rewarded in the market.

Our proposed Environmental Land Management contracts will provide farmers and other land managers with a pipeline of income to supplement the money they make from food production, forestry and other business activities. ELMs should be seen as an additional crop, with the Government, rather than a commercial player, entering into a contract with farmers to ensure we increase the provision of environmental services, many of which will also enhance farm productivity.

ELM payments are designed not just to complement existing sources of income but also complement existing initiatives many farmers already pursue.

For example, the adoption of minimum tillage techniques can not only decrease costs and improve productivity but it also reduces run-off and erosion. That is a public good which contributes to improving water quality and for which farmers could be paid.

Similarly, farmers who have chosen to go organic can secure a premium in the market for their produce but their contribution to improving the level of organic matter in our soil also leads to more carbon sequestration and broader environmental resilience. These public goods too could be rewarded.

Uplands livestock farmers, including commoners of course, are responsible for maintaining some of our most iconic landscapes in the condition which not just sustains their farm businesses but also acts as a habitat for precious native species. Improved habitats with more diverse wildlife – which are likely to attract tourist income to less favoured areas – are also a public good we could recognise.

Equally, farmers could be rewarded for enhancing the natural capital of which they are stewards – protecting ancient woodland, bringing woodland under active management or restoring peat bogs. These all generate public goods by adding to our carbon storage, boosting air quality, tackling global warming, and also improving water quality.

And because we recognise that farming is a long-term business we believe these public goods should be paid for through multi-annual contracts.

I recognise that there will be wariness among some about how we propose to administer these contracts because the recent record of delivery with environmental and countryside stewardship payments has been so woeful.

But recent changes at both Natural England and the Rural Payments Agency are beginning to address the problems we face. And we are relentlessly focused on how to streamline the bureaucracy we have inherited under the CAP to ensure farmers can concentrate on their core business of sustainable food production and enhancement of our natural capital.

That is why I commissioned Dame Glenys Stacey to look at the whole landscape of farm regulation and inspection. Her report, which is a brilliant analysis of how to make inspection more proportionate, focused and effective, makes clear that outside the EU and the CAP we can have less onerous inspection, simpler regulation and greater confidence in the maintenance of high standards. Just as I believe we can be world leaders in food production and environmental enhancement so I believe we can, building on Dame Glenys’s work, set the global gold standard in trusted, transparent and efficient regulation of farming.

There is a world of opportunity for British agriculture if we are prepared to embrace the opportunities that our policy reforms and the wider technological revolution can bring.

With an ambitious new Food Strategy, a properly funded 25 Year Environment Plan, rising investment in agritech, world-leading centres of agricultural science, a new generation of entrepreneurs in the food industry, an innovative new system of support for the provision of environmental services and, above all, farmers across the country committed to demonstrating leadership in everything they do – I believe this country, just as it led the Great Agricultural Revolution of the 18th century can be the vanguard nation for this century’s New Agricultural Revolution. And I look forward to the participants in this Oxford Farming Conference leading the way.

Michael Gove – 2018 Statement on the 25 Year Environment Plan

Below is the text of the statement made by Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, in the House of Commons on 19 December 2018.

This Government have made a commitment to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it. This landmark environment Bill—the first in over 20 years—will be an essential step towards this goal. We will support increased biodiversity and thriving plants and wildlife. We will continue to clean up our air and our water, creating a healthier environment. We will cut down unnecessary resource use and waste, reducing our impact on the world and shaping a more efficient, sustainable and competitive economy.

The draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill is one key aspect of this ambitious broader environment Bill that will be introduced early in the second parliamentary Session. These draft clauses will put environmental ambition and accountability at the heart of Government. It will create a framework for environmental governance, demonstrating this Government’s strong commitment ​to maintain environmental protection as we leave the EU. The draft Bill applies to England and to reserved matters UK-wide.

First, these draft clauses include a set of environmental principles to guide future policy making. It also requires the Government to publish a policy statement which sets out how Ministers should interpret and apply these environmental principles. Ministers will need to have regard to this statement when developing their policies. Through this approach, we will firmly embed practical and proportionate environmental considerations in policy making.

Secondly, these draft clauses commit Government to have a plan for improving the environment and to regularly review progress on this plan, publishing a set of indicators. This creates a strong, long-term, economy-wide incentive for action on our landmark 25-year environment plan, which sets crucial changes in motion to improve the environment within a generation.

Thirdly, the draft Bill creates a new, statutory and independent environment body: the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP). This new domestic body will support and uphold standards as we leave the EU. The OEP will be able to scrutinise and advise on environmental legislation and the current 25-year environment plan; investigate complaints; and take enforcement action, including through legal proceedings if needed. Establishing the OEP will ensure that this and every future Government benefit from the expertise vested in a consistent, long-term, independent body on the environment.

In developing these draft clauses, we have drawn on the views and expertise of as many stakeholders and members of the public as possible. We held a 12-week consultation on “Environmental Principles and Governance after EU Exit” from May to August 2018. The monumental 176,746 responses we received are proof of the strength of public interest in this new legislation.

We welcome the forthcoming parliamentary pre-legislative scrutiny to ensure that these draft clauses makes the best possible contribution to protecting our environment as we leave the EU. By creating a new, independent body to hold the Government to account on environmental law, incorporating environmental principles in law, and committing the Government to making and reviewing plans to improve the environment, we are taking unprecedented steps forward to help secure a cleaner, greener future.

Water conservation report: action taken and planned by Government to encourage the conservation of water

Today I am also laying before Parliament the water conservation report. This report provides an account of the work done by the Government to encourage the conservation of water since the publication of the previous report in 2014. The report will also set out the Government’s current plans for water conservation and policy options for demand management in the future.

The report sets out the importance of demand management, including leakage, in securing resilient water supplies to respond to future challenges including climate change, population growth and the need to protect the environment better. These changes are needed alongside new water resources infrastructure, including reservoirs and water transfers, to provide a plentiful supply of water for future generations.​

The report commits the Government to launch a call for evidence on setting an ambitious target for personal water consumption. Alongside this, we will hold a consultation to examine the policy options required to support the target. This will include exploratory questions around the labelling of water-using products, improving building standards, the future role of metering, and behaviour change including improving information for consumers.

The report also endorses the water companies’ commitment to reducing leakage by 50% by 2050.

Michael Gove – 2018 Speech on Climate Change

Below is the text of the speech made by Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, on 26 November 2018.

I want to begin on a personal note. I am fortunate as Secretary of State for the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to work alongside some of the most gifted, dedicated and impressive public servants in the country.

Given the strength in depth of the departmental team, and their willingness to work so hard for the common good, it is invidious to single any one out.

But there is one individual, and one team, to whom I, and we all in this country, owe a special debt.

And that is to Professor Ian Boyd, Defra’s Chief Scientific Adviser, and his team.

Everything we do at Defra has to be rooted in science. Whether it is reflecting on the future of food, farming or the marine environment, considering what our approach should be to the chemicals we use in agriculture, revising how we should manage our water resources, reviewing how we enhance biodiversity, assessing where the greatest productivity gains from new technologies might accrue or in a countless number of other different areas, policy must be shaped above all by evidence, reason and rigour. And there are few people more adept at assessing the evidence, deploying reason to make sense of it and applying the lessons for public policy with real rigour than Ian and his team. I want to take this opportunity today to put on record how profoundly grateful I am for his leadership.

And there is perhaps no area of public policy where scientific rigour is required in shaping policy making than in dealing with the challenge of climate change.


Today, as we launch the fourth generation of our UK Climate Projections, it is clear that the planet and its weather patterns are changing before our eyes.

Sea levels, for example – which we are becoming more accurate at measuring, thanks to advances in instruments and monitoring systems. In the 20th century the oceans rose around 15cm and the rate of increase has since quickened. Just since 2000, levels have risen around six centimetres, based on a global-average rise of 3.2mm a year. Our seas are storing increasing amounts of heat: around half of all ocean warming has occurred since 1997. Even as we take action to slow carbon dioxide pollution now, physics dictates that the climate will keep heating up for decades to come.

Peer-reviewed scientific research states that the rapid warming is substantially due to the methane, nitrous oxide, and fossil fuel emissions we produce.

The great ice sheets of Greenland and some parts of Antarctica are increasingly unstable. Rising seas are rendering the storm surges not only of hurricanes but also regular high tides more of a threat.


Food and water security are affected, as is national security. Across the planet, people, plants, animals and also diseases are on the move, searching for habitats in which to thrive, escaping erratic and extreme weather events which deliver too much rain, too little rain, searing summer temperatures, colder winters.

Science is clear that there will be changes in ecosystems caused by the climate. WWF’s recent Living Planet report revealed a 60% fall in global wildlife populations in just over 40 years. One of the main causes of this devastating decline is climate change.

We cannot predict the net effects to ecosystems, but the likelihood is that many will be negative. Some native flora and fauna will struggle. Marine ecosystems will experience warmer and more acidic seas. New pests and diseases could thrive. Deteriorating soil quality and moisture, coupled with less reliable water supply, will reduce agricultural yields, as we have already seen this summer.

Around the world, fears are growing for the existence of some low-lying countries – most of the 1,000 or so Marshall Islands, covering 29 slender coral atolls in the South Pacific, are less than six feet above sea level – and the future of a great number of coastal cities, including Miami, New York and Venice.

And while climate change cannot be blamed for growing wealth inequality, it is the case that it disproportionately affects nations with the least resources to cope – nations which have also contributed least to emissions in the first place. In the coming years, they will expect the developed world to deliver what Mary Robinson, the former Irish president and environmental campaigner, calls ‘climate justice’ – sharing fairly the burdens and benefits of climate change and its impacts.

Still Time to Act

In all, 91 authors from 40 countries, including the UK, spent two years developing the recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change into the impact it is having on the natural world. They assessed over 6,000 scientific papers and received 42,000 expert comments.

The final report – an impressive display of international collaboration – makes clear that the 1.5˚C warming limit is still within reach – if nations can act together. Panel members argue that in order to stay within the limit, global net greenhouse gas emissions produced by human activity need to be zero by the middle of the century.

By 2050, we are committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80%, compared to 1990 levels. Since 1990 we have cut emissions by 42% – faster than any other G7 nation – and our economy has grown by two-thirds. Tackling climate change is not a binary process which requires us to champion the planet over national prosperity. Indeed market mechanisms, like reverse auctions for new clean energy capacity and the carbon price on electricity generation, have been hugely successful in delivering these cuts in emissions.

You will know that reducing emissions in order to mitigate climate change in the UK is the responsibility of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, under the excellent leadership of my colleagues Greg Clark, the Secretary of State, and Claire Perry, the cabinet minister with responsibility for climate change. Their Clean Growth Strategy, published last year, set out a comprehensive suite of policies to meet our climate targets and to capture the industrial opportunities from clean growth. I also welcomed Claire’s letter to the Committee on Climate Change last month requesting advice on a net zero emissions target.

Defra’s particular brief is to help adapt to a warming planet, supporting the developing world to do the same, and contributing to global diplomatic and scientific initiatives to understand climate change’s effects.

But because we are also responsible for sectors of our waste policy, agriculture, landscapes and f-gases – Defra necessarily has a significant role in mitigation as well.

In a moment, I will go into greater detail about the opportunities we have identified – within domestic agriculture and wider land use, our approach to storing and managing water, our reforms of resources and waste cycles plus international action to support other countries cope with climate change – to ensure that we are even better placed to manage future risks, adapt to threats and increase resilience and preparedness.

First, however, I want to look at how climate change is reshaping our environment in slightly greater detail.


Insurance data shows that between 1980 and 2016, the number of climate-related natural catastrophes, like flooding, rose several times faster than disasters with a geological source: erupting volcanoes, tsunamis, or severe earthquakes.

In Africa, the Sahara Desert has grown in size by 10 per cent since 1920. Scientists believe that about two-thirds of the change might be down to natural cycles, and the rest to climate change. The Desert’s edges – defined by rainfall, or the lack of it – have crept northward and southward, reducing some countries’ ability to grow food. The Sahara has encroached 500miles into Libya for example, in winter months.

Just recently in America, Hurricane Michael made landfall in the Florida panhandle in October with winds of around 155mph, making this the strongest storm to hit the continental United States since Hurricane Andrew in 1992. At least 32 people died as the hurricane tore through Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia, and more than a million people were left without power. Barely a month later and California’s wildfires are the deadliest in the history of the state, which in the past five years has experienced four of the five warmest summers on record. Towering ‘firenadoes’ engulfed brush, trees and scrub which was bone-dry because autumn rainfall again arrived late – and there has been up to 30% less rain than average. Tragically, for those who lost their lives and homes, the season of strong offshore winds began on schedule – fanning flames that would have spread less easily in damper conditions.

It’s not only in typically hot, dry countries where extremes of weather are felt. Climate change is warming polar regions twice as fast as other parts of the world. In July this year, wildfires spread across Arctic regions in Sweden. While not unprecedented, the fires have become bigger over the past 15 years as boreal forests, tundra and peatlands dry up, meaning the fires are harder to put out.

In the UK, we have experienced our own share of extremes. Nine of the 10 warmest years have occurred since 2002 and the mean sea level around the UK, corrected for land movement, has risen by about 16cm since the start of the 20th century.

Already, the winter of 2013-2014 was the wettest on record for the UK. And then, between November 2015 and January 2016, we experienced the most rain ever in that period, saturating the ground and causing some of the most severe floods in a century.

It will take a long time for people in Northumberland, Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire to forget the devastation caused by Storms Desmond and Eva. Around 16,000 houses were inundated and some river levels were up to a metre higher than previous records. Communities were devastated, infrastructure was damaged, and for many families and businesses the financial hardship and emotional distress lasted long after the floodwaters had receded.

As for 2018, during a six-week spell in summer, daytime temperatures consistently topped 30C. Wildfires burned for weeks on Saddleworth Moor and Winter Hill as well as other areas, damaging precious peat bogs and harming nesting birds such as curlews, the golden plover and lapwings. Crops wilted in parched fields and farmers had to dig into their winter silage to feed livestock struggling in poor grazing conditions.

Now it is, of course, impossible for anyone to predict the future with absolute certainty. But we are in the UK fortunate to have climate scientists whose knowledge and experience are world-leading. In producing this first major update of climate projections for nearly 10 years, they have given governments, local authorities, land managers, national infrastructure bodies and other businesses an invaluable set of tools with which to assess the nature and scale of challenges, and take decisions accordingly. The projections – based on a range of emissions scenarios – will enable them to make sensible, practical choices based on scientific evidence that will save time, hardship and money when the storms do come.

For the first time, there are international projections as well as regional projections. This means other nations will be able to use the data – to gauge the risks for food supply chains, perhaps, or check rainfall projections for the likelihood of localised flooding.

The projections show quite clearly the benefit of limiting emissions.

Under the highest emission scenario, warming by 2070 is in the range 0.9˚C to 5.4°C in summer, compared to the recent past (1981-2000).

Sea levels are projected to continue to rise around the UK to the year 2100 – and reach higher levels than were forecast in the 2009 data. For London, under the high emissions scenario, levels are likely to be at least 53cm higher, and could be as much as 1.15m. That was not unexpected, however, and I can confirm that it has already been factored into our flooding adaptation planning.

It is because we know further climate changes are inevitable – notwithstanding strenuous international efforts to limit their extent – that we are planning for a wide range of possible futures. It would be irresponsible in the circumstances to do otherwise. This is why we are aiming to limit warming to well below 2 degrees – but the environment agency is preparing for 4 degrees when planning flood defences. We know that every half a degree makes an enormous difference to outcomes. Keeping warming to 1.5˚C rather than 2˚C, as the Paris Agreement urges us to attempt, spares up to 10million people from being exposed to the risks of rising seas, according to the IPCC.


So what is Defra doing to meet this global challenge?

Climate change will manifest itself most acutely in our hydrologic system: the intense rainfall of the winter, the arid heat of the summer, and rising sea levels will be how we experience climate change most immediately in our everyday lives. Using the best scientific evidence from our projections, we are taking action to improve our resilience.

Flooding and coastal change

Successive Governments have made good progress on mitigating flood risk, protecting lives and reducing the damage to our homes and businesses. Between 2015 and 2021, this Government is investing a record £2.6 billion in flood defences, maintained by colleagues from the Environment Agency. And we are on track to meet our manifesto commitment of better protecting 300,000 homes from flooding by 2021.

We are also pioneering ‘natural flood defences’, which support biodiversity and sequester carbon while lowering the risk of flooding. In Pickering, in North Yorkshire, we have slowed the water flow from the uplands by planting trees, restoring heathland, and installing leaky dams. And in Medmerry, in West Sussex, the EA has actually realigned the coast, by allowing the water to breach the sea walls (creating new wetland habitats for wigeons and snipes): a new defence has been built to protect individual homes.

But as the risk of flooding and coastal erosion increases, we need a new long-term approach. Government will publish a long term policy statement next year, and the Environment Agency will issue a new 50-year strategy, also next year. I believe these should explore new philosophies around flood and coast management.

First, the need to achieve a balance between limiting the likelihood of flooding and upgrading our resilience to it when it happens. In other words, exploring how much to spend on reducing the risks that homes and businesses will flood, and how much to spend on helping people to cope if and when they are flooded. It will not always be possible to prevent every flood. We cannot build defences to protect every single building or reinforce every retreating coast line. We will be looking at ways we can encourage every local area to strive for greater overall resilience that takes into account all the different levers from land use planning to better water storage upstream, and tackles both flood prevention and response. We need our communities and infrastructure to be better prepared for floods and coastal change, so that they recover more quickly from the damage and disruption and, where necessary, to help people and communities move out of harm’s way.

Second, the need for communities and businesses to work alongside government to reduce their own flood risk. We want to see more businesses designing in resilience when they invest in new buildings. The climate projections provide high-quality data about the nature of the risks to help steer these new flood investments.


In the UK, we take for granted a plentiful supply of clean water. Yet our high population density means the available water per person is actually less than in many Mediterranean countries. And the experience of this summer, and the evidence of the projections, underscore the need to make our water supplies more resilient to a warmer climate in the future.

We have a twin-track approach. On the supply side, we need to capture and store more rainwater. And on the demand side, we must conserve and use the water more efficiently once we have caught it.

Since privatisation, water companies have invested around £140 billion in our water infrastructure. Earlier this year, I challenged them to focus more on investing in improved performance than on shareholder dividends. I am pleased to see that their latest business plans for the next spending period indicate good progress, with proposals for more than £50 billion of investment between 2020 and 2025. Ofwat will now scrutinise water companies’ business plans to make sure they have responded adequately to this challenge.

Climate change, coupled with a rising population, will require new water supply infrastructure. In part because of company behaviour, in part because of regulatory barriers, we have not built any major new reservoirs in this country since the industry was privatised. So this week we are laying before Parliament a new draft National Policy Statement, setting out how we will expedite the construction of new infrastructure, like water transfers and reservoirs.

Relying solely on new water infrastructure would prove expensive for bill payers and create pressures on the natural environment. So we will also tackle waste and excessive consumption of water. Since privatisation, leakage has fallen by a third. But we still lose three billion litres of water to leaks every day. That’s why I am setting water companies a stretching new target to halve leakage by 2050.


The need to address climate change means we must also change how we use and manage our land, and do more to protect and restore our carbon-rich natural habitats and the wildlife they support.


On our agricultural land, more extreme weather will harm crop yields and make market prices more volatile. Some parts of the world will cease to be able to produce food because of rising sea levels or a lack of rainfall. UK farmers have the opportunity to play an even more important role in global food production as a result.

And at the same time as managing these impacts, farmers must also be supported as we move towards a carbon neutral economy.

We will use the powers in the Agriculture Bill to reward farmers who mitigate and adapt to climate change on their land through our new Environmental Land Management scheme. There are a range of potential measures which we can support farmers to implement that tackle climate change and improve productivity.

Planting cover crops reduces carbon emissions from soil, improves soil health, and reduces runoff into watercourses. Agroforestry provides shelter for livestock from harsh weather, while improving soil and water quality and storing carbon. And since 2010, Defra has supported the industry-led greenhouse gas action plan for agriculture. This voluntary action has made an important start to emission reduction in agriculture. As our emissions targets become more stringent, we have to support farmers in their efforts to ensure emissions fall further.

We are exploring how to reform fertiliser use, which will reduce climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions as well as biodiversity-harming ammonia emissions. And next year, we will start developing a new emissions reduction plan for agriculture, in which we will set out our long-term vision for a more productive, low-carbon farming sector.

New technology will play a critical role in enabling the farming industry to meet these challenges. Precision farming will enable farmers to cut back on expensive, energy-intensive, and environmentally-harmful inputs, such as fertilisers. Vertical farming will effectively eliminate emissions from soil, while making more efficient use of land and increasing the resilience of crops to extreme weather.

Land use

Peatlands are our largest terrestrial carbon store and a precious habitat for wildlife. Yet despite some successful rewetting projects in recent years, just 13% of England’s peatland is in near natural condition. Next year, we will publish a new England Peat Strategy. This will explain how, over the next 25 years, we will improve the condition of our peatlands, so that they function better for the climate, wildlife, and people.

Through this strategy, we want to restore our blanket bogs in the uplands. And for the first time we will aim to improve the condition of agricultural peat in the lowlands. These peatlands, which were drained centuries ago to enable productive agriculture, produce the highest emissions of all our peatlands. The East Anglian Fens are estimated to have between 30 and 60 harvests left before the peat is gone. Their degraded condition is bad both for the climate and for farmers who rely on these fertile soils.

Universal restoration will not be possible given the importance of the land for food production. So I am today announcing a new task force, to generate new solutions for repairing lowland peat and build consensus among farmers, conservationists, and academics.

Woodland is another critical natural asset for our response to climate change.

Protecting our ancient woodlands and bringing more woodland into active management will help to improve the resilience to climate change of the wildlife that inhabits our forests. And planting more trees is a highly cost-effective method for storing additional carbon from the atmosphere.

Through Countryside Stewardship and the Woodland Carbon Fund, we are making progress towards our target to plant 11 million new trees in this parliament. And we have supported the planting of over 15 million trees since 2010. But to meet future carbon budgets and our long-term target to increase woodland cover from 10% to 12% in England by 2060, we will need to significantly increase planting rates. That’s why next year, we will consult on a new English Tree Strategy in which we set out what benefits we value from trees and how we will accelerate woodland creation.

We are also improving our package of incentives for forestry. In the Budget, the Chancellor announced a £50 million Woodland Carbon Guarantee scheme. This will pump prime the woodland carbon offset market, helping to stimulate private sector demand for offset units and driving more investment into forestry.

We are looking at the opportunities to increase demand for domestic carbon offsets from compliance markets. We also announced a new £10 million fund for urban and street trees, which will sequester carbon emissions and bring these wondrous natural assets closer to people. And from 2024 our new Environmental Land Management scheme will reward land managers for the benefits provided by woodland creation and management.


As well as working with water companies, farmers and land managers to help meet the challenges of climate change we are also developing a new Resources and Waste Strategy.

We will set out measures to improve resource productivity, maximising the value of products by increasing reuse and recycling, and minimising waste. We are determined to create a more circular economy.

I have made it a particular priority of my department to end the environmental, economic, and moral scandal of food waste.

Sent to landfill, food decomposes producing methane, a potent greenhouse gas. So we want to ensure more councils collect food waste separately and send it to anaerobic digestion plants to create green biogas for heating our homes and fertiliser to improve the soil.

We should also try to prevent nutritious and healthy food being thrown away in the first place. That’s why, last month, I announced a new £15 million fund to redistribute surplus food that would otherwise have been wasted to go charities who help those most in need.

International leadership

Alongside the domestic action we are taking, we can also help other nations be more ambitious.

We are a world-leader in supporting international development, both financially and through technical assistance. The UK is the third largest aid donor in the world, after the United States and Germany, and one of a handful of countries committed to, and also achieving, spending 0.7% of gross national income on official development assistance.

Climate change and other interrelated environmental impacts are exacerbating poverty and erasing – or increasing the fragility of – development gains. And the crisis facing our natural world is growing.

Protecting and restoring nature is essential for securing genuinely sustainable development. That is why we need to ensure that our funding for international development supports work to deal with climate change and biodiversity loss.

The government has committed nearly £6 billion of funding between 2016 and 2020 to help developing countries both reduce emissions and build resilience to the impacts of climate change. Defra is spending part of this and my department, working with DFID, BEIS and the FCO, is prioritising projects and activities that can deliver benefits for sustainable development, poverty alleviation, and biodiversity, as well as climate mitigation and climate adaptation.

An example of this is mangrove conservation and restoration. Mangroves are important habitats for a variety of important species. They are vital nurseries for many key commercial fisheries thereby supporting livelihoods. They sequester carbon emissions contributing to climate mitigation and do so up to six times as much as some tropical forests. And they reduce the impacts of climate change, by absorbing the energy of storms, hurricanes, and typhoons that will increase in frequency and severity as a result of climate change. This is essential for managing climate impacts facing coastal communities across the tropics.

Many of these mangroves have been degraded and do not provide the full range of potential benefits. That is why I am today announcing an additional £13 million to fund mangroves restoration. This will support projects in small island developing states like Jamaica and those with high rates of deforestation like Colombia. We plan to scale funding to mangrove and other win-win nature-based solutions in the future.

We need to make societies around the world much more resilient to climate change. The UK is leading international efforts on climate resilience for the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit in 2019. We are also helping gather evidence on the actions needed to adapt to climate change ahead of the 2019 summit by co-convening the new Global Commission on Adaptation, co-Chaired by Ban Ki-moon, the former UN Secretary General; Bill Gates; and Kristalina Georgieva, CEO of the World Bank. Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency – and our de facto climate resilience ambassador – is one of the commissioners.

The 2019 summit is important and is intended to help build momentum in advance of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP26) in 2020.

This will be five years after the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and levels of climate ambition will be reviewed and revised with the aim of closing the gap between current climate commitments and the well below 2°C objective. Key to securing these commitments will be significantly improving the availability of finance for climate adaptation in developing countries. That is one of the reasons why the UK has decided to prioritise climate resilience in 2019.

Between now and 2020 it is also critical that we better connect the international climate negotiations with those focused on nature and biodiversity. It is impossible to meet climate mitigation and climate adaptation objectives without the natural environment, and we can’t save nature without tackling climate change.

In 2020 China is hosting the Convention on Biological Diversity Conference Of Parties 15. This is an opportunity to push for a new international agreement, similar in scale and scope as the Paris Agreement on climate change, but focused on halting and then reversing the crisis facing the natural world. We will work closely with international partners and allies to secure the highest possible ambition agreement at CBD COP15.

The UK has also been at the forefront of international efforts to control F-gases, a greenhouse gas found in some refrigeration and heating appliances. In 2016, we supported the Kigali amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which will introduce controls on the use of hydrofluorocarbons, a type of F-gas, from the start of next year. Estimates suggest this could avoid up to 0.5 degrees of warming by the end of the century.

However, as countries develop economically, the growth of air conditioning is a major challenge for reducing emissions. So, as well as taking action domestically to implement the amendment, we’re supporting higher ambition internationally by making available an additional voluntary contribution of $2m to incentivise energy efficiency improvements alongside reductions in hydrofluorocarbons.


Collectively, collaboratively, we have the potential to protect and enhance our environment.

The answers lie in support for greater scientific investment and innovation.

Throughout history, the endeavour and imagination of scientists has redefined the limits of what is possible, and it is only by heeding scientific warnings more keenly than ever before and supporting scientific research more strongly than ever before that we can safeguard our planet and our species’ survival.

Scientific knowledge is, always, a good in itself. In that sense, there can never be too much information. The more we know, the greater our ability to shape events for the better. But also the heavier the responsibility to act. When it comes to climate change we now, thanks to the efforts of the UK’s scientists know more than ever before the urgency of acting. Which is why not just I, but future generations, are so much in their debt.

Michael Gove – 2018 Speech to Conservative Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, at the Conservative Party Conference held in Birmingham on 1 October 2018.

Thank you Lewis, for your inspirational story.

Your idealism, your dedication and your courage are an example to us all.

Thank you for campaigning on behalf of our precious oceans.

Our island nation has been defined by its relationship with the sea.

It has been our doorway to global trade, a treasure house of oil and gas, and the home to teeming stocks of fish.

But now our oceans are in danger.

Danger from climate change, from chemical residues, from exploitation and indeed from plastic.

The equivalent of a dumper truck of plastic is dropped in the sea every minute of every day.

Unless we change course, by the year 2050 the seas will contain more plastic than fish.

We cannot, and we will not, allow that to happen.

Which is why we need, in the words of Winston Churchill, action this day.

And we are acting.

Already the plastic bag charge has cut the number distributed by almost 90 per cent.

We are unleashing the innovative energy of our scientists, and the entrepreneurial flair of our businesses, to develop new greener products that are already generating new jobs.

And later this year we will launch a new front in the war against waste.

We will take steps to make recycling easier, invest in cleaner technologies, and take tougher action against the fly-tippers and waste criminals who pollute our landscape and trash our blue planet.

Determined, focussed and effective action to conserve our environment from a Conservative Government.

As we know all too well from our history, if you want a mess cleared up you need a Conservative Government.

In 1979, after our economy had been trashed by Labour, it was a Conservative Government that came to the rescue.

And in 2010, we inherited a deficit out of control, rocketing unemployment and young lives wasted.

But now, thanks to the steps we took, we have a dramatically reduced deficit, three million new jobs created and youth unemployment is at a record low.

The Conservatives rescued our country again.

I feel obliged to point out that every step of this essential economic repair was vigorously opposed by the Labour Party.

And if last week told us anything, it’s that we must not allow Labour to wreck our economy ever again.

Harold Wilson used to say the Labour Party was a moral crusade or it was nothing.

Now Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party is a toxic cocktail of unrepentant Marxism-Leninism and unacceptable antisemitism.

They are giving all the errors of the twentieth century another chance to wreck our society.

We’ve seen how this story ends before – in misery and shame.

When our Jewish friends and neighbours live in fear for their futures, let us stand with them against prejudice, against intimidation, against bigotry and against hate.

So let us take action today. Right here, right now.

Let a message come loud and clear from this hall, a message of unshakeable solidarity with the Jewish community.

And this week, in this Party, for the sake of our children, let us commit to unite so that the Moscow-loving, Hamas-hugging, high-taxing, moderate-bashing, job-destroying, National Anthem-avoiding, NATO-hating, class war-provoking, one-man museum of economic folly that is Jeremy Corbyn, is never let anywhere near Downing Street.

And we should also never forget that Labour’s threat to the economy is also a threat to the environment.

You can’t invest in enhancing the environment unless you have a healthy economy.

Just as you can’t have sustainable growth without protecting the environment.

And with our world warming, our forest cover dwindling, our wildlife in danger and our global population growing, we desperately need action this day.

Which is why the work of the great DEFRA team is so critical.

For all the fantastic work that they do, I thank my Parliamentary colleagues: George Eustice, Therese Coffey, David Rutley, John Gardiner, Charlotte Vere, Iain Stewart, Kevin Hollinrake and Craig Tracey.

For the great job they do, thank you also to the brilliant team of civil servants in DEFRA and its agencies.

I also want to thank tens of thousands of more great people who I get to work with.

They are people upon whom this country depends so much. They are the backbone of Britain. Our farmers. Let’s show them our appreciation.

If we are to feed a hungry world and safeguard the soil, the water and the air on which sustainable food production depend, then we in Government need to act to secure a better future for farming.

And leaving the European Union allows us to act faster and more flexibly to sweep away the barriers which have stood in the way of modernising farming.

Our new Agriculture Bill will help farmers to be more productive and ensure they get a fair price for their produce.

It will mean that they can invest in new technology to help them provide a harvest for the world.

And when we are outside the EU, we will also publish a new food strategy for Britain.

We will ensure that food production is truly sustainable, replenishing the soil, using energy wisely and supporting innovation.

And we will reform food labelling so that we uphold the highest animal welfare standards and give consumers the information they need to stay safe.

Food and drink is one of our greatest success stories, not least here in Birmingham and the Midlands, home of Cadbury’s and the Balti, Staffordshire cheese and Melton Mowbray pork pies.

Conservative ministers will act to ensure that we lead the world in safe, affordable, healthy food.

And the first step in that strategy will be reducing food waste.

Every year, millions of tonnes of good, nutritious, edible food is thrown away.

This is an environmental, economic and moral folly, and we will address it.

I can announce action this day to invest £15 million so that food which would otherwise be wasted is redistributed to those most in need.

Working with industry and charities, we should be able to get up to 250 million extra meals a year onto the tables and plates of the most deserving in our society.

This is determined green action from a Conservative Government.

Action that helps the planet, helps the poorest and remains true to our Conservative values.

And no Conservative value runs deeper than the desire to make our world better for our children.

To be Conservative is to love what we know, to cherish our home, and there is no more beautiful home on Earth than ours.

Whether it’s the Lake District that so moved Wordsworth, the Yorkshire Dales that inspired the Brontes, the stark majesty of the Fens or the lush green fields of Somerset, Dorset and Devon, we are heirs to an inheritance of natural beauty which moves the soul.

But over the course of the last hundred years, we have seen that beauty besmirched, nature in retreat and wildlife threatened.

We have lost more than half of our farmland birds.

Water voles, red squirrels and hedgehogs have been increasingly under threat.

More than 90% of our wildflower meadows are gone.

We have a responsibility to the next generation, to the place we call home and to the whole planet, to reverse that destruction.

And that is exactly what this Conservative Government will do.

We will pay our farmers the money that they deserve – the money that they need – to look after our countryside and restore natural beauty.

We will make more space for nature with stronger protection for ancient woodland while planting eleven million new trees.

And we will ensure that when the new homes we need are built, that developers not only meet the highest standards of quality in design but they also reverse environmental damage and invest in a greener, more beautiful Britain.

And outside the European Union we can also right another historic wrong.

We can at long last reverse the tragic decline of our fishing industry.

And yes, for me this is personal.

My dad worked in the fish trade and 35 years ago his small business had to close, as the fishing industry suffered inside the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy.

The CFP has inflicted deep economic and environmental damage.

But now, thanks to our vote to Leave, we are taking back control of our waters.

More fish for British boats means that there could be millions of pounds extra earned by our fishermen.

And we will make sure that we fish sustainably, by ensuring that we decide who fishes in our seas and on what terms.

As an independent coastal state, we will once more be in control of one of our most precious, renewable, national assets.

Let us all keep our eyes on that prize – a new sea of opportunity.

And leaving the EU also allows us to set a global standard for environmental protection – to deliver a Green Brexit.

No one voted to leave in order to harm the environment – far from it.

So through the first Environment Bill in more than 20 years, we will restore nature, purify our air, and ensure the powerful are properly held to account for their commitments to the natural world.

We can also do more on a mission close to my heart and to so many British hearts – improving animal welfare.

The animals who share this planet with us, and indeed often share a home with us, need our care and protection.

Exploitation, callousness and cruelty are never acceptable.

Animals are our fellow sentient beings.

They show loyalty and devotion, and they know pleasure and pain.

They are partners with us in evolution’s great pattern of life.

And that is why this Government is acting today to protect and enhance animal welfare.

Already we have acted to ensure that CCTV cameras are installed in all abattoirs so there is no hiding place for cruelty.

And we are acting against the cruel abuse of puppy farming by making sure that domestic pets cannot be trafficked for tainted cash.

We will also use the full force of the criminal law to punish those responsible for the worst acts of cruelty.

At the moment those who abuse animals face a maximum sentence of 6 months.

We will ensure that is increased to 5 years.

We will show zero tolerance towards those who have zero compassion for animals.

And internationally we are protecting our most endangered species, by deploying our money and elite troops to tackle the criminal gangs who are responsible for slaughtering one of the world’s most iconic species: the African elephant.

In the last ten years almost a quarter of the population of African elephants has been eradicated – victims of the poachers who are feeding the illegal trade in ivory.

That is why we are introducing some of the world’s toughest measures to tackle this trade.

We have a duty to take action this day to ensure this slaughter stops and we save the African elephant from extinction.

But we know that there is more that we have to do to uphold our manifesto pledge to hand on our environment in a better state to our children.

We need more action on pollution to secure clean air for our children to breathe.

More action to safeguard marine wildlife by increasing the area of the world’s oceans which is protected from less than 10% to 30%.

More action to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that fuel global warming.

More action to get water companies to tackle leakage and invest in the environment.

More action to bring dwindling fish stocks back to our rivers.

More action to save other endangered species from pangolins to rhinos.

More action to develop the technologies which will free us from reliance on harmful chemicals.

More action to help our bees and pollinators.

In short, more action to preserve our world.

Some people might say that we are setting our sights too high.

To them I say, you don’t know our party.

It was Conservatives who abolished the slave trade, cleared Victorian slums, made working conditions decent in our factories, gave our cities clean water, delivered equal votes for women, introduced equal marriage for all, fought against fascism and communism, extended state education to all, built record numbers of homes for working people, led the fight against global warming, established the first national living wage, gave the poorest pupils in our schools the most money, allowed record numbers of working people to graduate from university, and ensured a record number of people were in work.

We are the party of real progress and radical reform.

The party relentlessly focused on the future and its promise.

The party that cherishes what we have in this country and wants us to be an example to the whole world.

And together, united, we can ensure that this country, and our world, are cleaner, greener and stronger.

Thank you.

Michael Gove – 2018 Speech on the Agriculture Bill

Below is the text of the statement made by Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, in the House of Commons on 12 September 2018.

Today, I am introducing the Agriculture Bill into the House of Commons, fulfilling the Government’s promise to deliver a green Brexit. The Bill marks a decisive shift in our support for farmers. It ensures we will reward them properly at last for the work they do to enhance the environment around us. It will help them grow more high quality food in a more sustainable way, and it will ensure public money is spent more efficiently and effectively.

Nearly three quarters of England is farmland. For too long, Brussels has set the rules on how we maintain and enhance our distinctive environment, and how we grow crops and improve food production. The European Union’s common agricultural policy has held back Britain, economically and environmentally. Bureaucracy has stifled innovation. Subsidies have been paid based on the size of individual land holdings, not the contribution farmers make to society. Habitats have been lost and soil health eroded.

The Agriculture Bill sets out our new policy of paying public money for public goods. Its framework for investing money in wildlife habitats, clean air and water, and healthy soil—natural assets upon which our wellbeing and economic prosperity depend —will help reduce flood risk, prevent and mitigate the effects of climate change, and ensure that the public enjoy easier access to our countryside. The Bill will help us leave the environment in a better state for future generations, as set out in the Government’s 25-year environment plan.

On this, Back British Farming Day, the Agriculture Bill also sets out how we will support a profitable sector producing high-quality food, encourage innovative new entrants to this way of life, and help farmers get a fair price for their produce. In order to provide certainty, farmers will be supported over a seven year transition period as we as leave the EU’s common agricultural policy (CAP). The Bill includes measures to incentivise more long-term thinking and investment, and help farm businesses become more resilient and productive. And we will be introducing transitional support schemes to enable on-farm investment, for example in equipment and technology to deliver public goods and to support new entrants to get into farming. This is an ambitious Bill—representing the first new domestic farming policy in nearly 50 years—which ensures that our farmers’ contribution to maintaining our countryside and producing healthy food will be greater than ever before. It is the first step towards a brighter, better and greener future for farming and our natural world outside the EU.

Michael Gove – 2018 Speech on Clean Air Strategy

Below is the text of the speech made by Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, on 22 May 2018.

Today, the Government published their consultation on a clean air strategy. At the most fundamental level, our health and prosperity depend on the health of the planet on which we live. From the air we breathe to the water we drink, the food we eat and the energy which powers our homes and businesses, we need to ensure we have a healthy and sustainable environment.

Nowhere is this more true than in the case of air quality. Air pollution is a major public health risk ranking alongside cancer, heart disease and obesity. It causes more harm than passive smoking.

This clean air strategy sets out the case for action and demonstrates this Government’s determination to improve our air quality. Leaving the EU provides us with an excellent opportunity to be even more ambitious about achieving cleaner air for the health of the nation, and for our environment and the biodiversity it sustains. We want to do all that we can to reduce people’s exposure to pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, ammonia, volatile organic compounds, particulate matter and sulphur dioxide.

Air pollution has improved since 2010, but we recognise that there is more to do. This comprehensive clean air strategy sets out how we will tackle all sources of air pollution, making our air healthier to breathe, protecting nature and boosting the economy.

Government must act to tackle air pollution which shortens lives. We are already acting to reduce concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (N02) around roads from cars, but vehicles are not the only source of toxic emissions. Air pollution is a result of the way we currently generate power, heat our homes, produce food, manufacture consumer goods and power transport. Better, cleaner technologies and simple changes in behaviour will tackle the pollution that claims lives.

The new strategy is a key part of our 25-year plan to leave our environment in a better state than we found it. It sets out the comprehensive action that is required from across all parts of government and society to meet the challenge. By 2025, we will halve the number of people living in locations where concentrations of particulate matter are above the World Health Organisation guideline limit of 10 ug/m3, protecting public health.

Through the introduction of new primary legislation, we will introduce a stronger and more coherent legislative framework for action to tackle air pollution, giving local government new powers to take decisive action in areas with an air pollution problem.

We are investing £10 million in improving our modelling, data and analytical tools to give a more precise picture of current air quality and the impact of policies on it in ​future. Alongside this, we will seek ways to support further investment in research and innovation, in partnership with UKRI, which will help the UK become world leaders in clean technology and secure further emissions reductions.

From farming to consumer products, a large range of other day-to-day practices, processes and products produce harmful emissions. Of particular concern is burning wood and coal to heat a home, which contributes 38% to harmful particulate matter emissions. It is why we will ensure only the cleanest fuels will be available for sale and only the cleanest stoves will be available to buy and install.

For the first time, the Government will take concerted action to tackle ammonia from farming by requiring and supporting farmers to invest in the infrastructure and equipment that will reduce emissions. The agriculture sector accounts for 88% of UK emissions of ammonia, and action by farmers can make a big difference in reducing the impacts of excess nitrogen on sensitive habitats and reducing the overall background levels of particulates in the atmosphere.

Government cannot act alone in tackling air pollution, and our strategy sets out how we will work with businesses, farmers and industry to implement lasting solutions to reduce air pollution, and the importance of each of us taking action and playing an important role in cleaning up our air for the next generation.

These actions will, we hope, ensure that this country is recognised as the leading global champion of cleaner air for the next generation.

Michael Gove – 2018 Speech on Plant Health

Below is the text of the speech made by Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, RHS Chelsea Flower Show on 21 May 2018.

Thank you for those incredibly kind words and thank you also for the chance to come to Chelsea. Like all of you here I’m captivated by what’s been achieved by the designers, growers and everyone who has been brought together to create something truly magical for a limited period of time and something that we can all share.

It’s a very special moment in the light of the nation Chelsea Flower Show. It’s a very special organisation the RHS and can I begin by expressing the thanks that I feel all of us to Sir Nicholas, the RHS and to everyone who has made this Chelsea possible. Can we show our gratitude please.

This has been something of a Chelsea weekend for me. I spent Saturday at Wembley with my son watching Chelsea Football Club who afloat the FA cup. I can see that many of you were there. But it’s a somewhat different crowd who are here this afternoon. But what we are also celebrating is excellence in another field.

But of course, both the Chelsea Flower Show and the FA cup were significant events this weekend. But there’s another event even more significant, if you forgive me this weekend, that was of course, the wonderful wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. And like many of you, I was held wrapped by the sermon delivered by Michael Curry. I thought that perhaps after hearing that sermon I should rewrite my speech.

I shall begin thus, there’s a power in flowers, flower power can change the world. And indeed, there is a power in flowers, and flowers can change our world because its flowers that provide us with food and drink. It’s flowers that clean up the mess that mankind makes and ensures that climate change can be dealt with by coping with the CO2 that we emit.

It’s flowers increasingly that are providing the treatments that will heal the sick. It’s flowers that ensure our Earth remains in balance. And in that sense, those who invest and those who care for, those who husband and nurture flowers, those who work in horticulture are those who are contributing so powerfully to keeping our Earth in balance and ensuring that future generations have a chance to flourish. So Chelsea as well as being an amazing celebration of creative, aesthetic power and of commercial flavour.

It’s also a celebration of those who do the most fundamental work of all, the work of nurturing this planet, the only one that we have, so it can survive and flourish in the future. But of course, that work as Nicholas reminded us is threatened and challenged by the impact of globalisation and climate change.

Now of course, globalisation and trade brings many benefits, it’s the single most powerful force for rescuing us from poverty and of course, the whole history of the RHS, the history of Chelsea is a history of taking different parts of the globe and celebrating fusion and growth.

But even as our history is one of trade and interchanging, even as globalisation brings benefits. We know that the unique mixture of global trade flows on the scale that we have at the moment, and climate change occurring at the pace it is at the moment creates new threats and new dangers to the UK’s environment and particularly to plant life here. Whether it’s Oak Processionary Moth or Xlyella, it is the case that changing weather and also the flow of international trade brings to our shores, bugs, parasites and threats which now have a chance to flourish, multiple and cause devastation as never before.

And that requires vigilance and above all, it requires a partnership between Government and the industry in order to ensure that we can continue to enjoy the benefits of trade. But we also provide protection for that which we grow here. And in particular, I want to thank Nicola Spence and all those who within the Defra family do so much in order to ensure that we have appropriate protection for that what we grow here. And the particular threat of Xlyella as Sir Nicholas pointed out has acted as a wakeup call, a particular goad to ensure that we do everything necessary in order to provide protection for our plants and our environment.

And the plant health service carries out targeted inspections of plant and wood imports at ports and airports every day of the year in order to ensure that we can be protected. For the past five years, the UK and the work of the plant health service has ensure this have made around 900 interceptions of harmful organisms from Non-EU countries. That’s more than any other EU member state, that’s around 40% of the EU total, and it’s that energetic work which has ensured that our nurses can continue to flourish and we can continue to protect that what we grow here. And only last week, our plant inspectors outed the thousand pest to the UK plant health register. It’s an invaluable tool which reflects the outstanding work in making sure that we screen new pests and new diseases, and ensure that growing here can continue successfully. And of course, we continue to monitor these threats and we continually seek to ensure that we have the arrangements in place and expertise at hand in order to be able to deal with threats like Xlyella and others.

Now of course, as well as the action that’s been taken which already exists within the Defra family. There’s more activity that we are launching today which you may have heard about. Today we are launching the Action Oak initiative and this particular initiative is intended to ensure that we, Defra, the RHS and others can bring together world-leading research in order to ensure that the oak, one of our most iconic species, can be protected from the predators and pests that increasingly pose a threat to this amazing example of the glory in the garden that is England. And of course that work, the Action Oak initiative, is simply one of a number of areas of collaboration which Defra seeks to lead with people in this room and with industry beyond it.

And Sir Nicholas has already spoken about the new senior cross-industry alliance which meets for the first time on Wednesday and it will bring together the nurseries, retailers, tree suppliers, landscapers, foresters and of course our Chief Plant Officer Nicola. To ensure that all of the usual rivalries that exist in the commercial world are put aside so we can have one joint endeavour in order to provide the highest levels of biosecurity, in order to provide them with the reassurance they need. And in particular, we should note that here at Chelsea decisions have already been taken without waiting for Government in order to ensure that the appropriate protections are in place.

And that’s the case the RHS here has banned from its show. Nine of the overseas growing species that are already known to be a Xlyella risk, including rosemary and oleander. And of course where the RHS have led, other nurseries are leading, Barcham is a specialist tree grower has again displayed outstanding leadership in the way it grows its own stock and makes sure it never imports any plants from immediate release. I believe that it’s through working together with the best in the industry and making sure that we use the expertise that we have that to provide that higher level of biosecurity which Nicholas has asked for and is so important.

Because since we published our biosecurity strategy in 2014, I believe that we in this country have built a stronger reputation for setting the highest standards of biosecurity for plants and trees. Our approach is based on science combined with grassroots visualise and with the inspections which our expert team are responsible for. But we all agree in this room that there is no room for complacency and I do believe that there are opportunities as we leave the European Union to tighten our security further.

In the ten years’ time, I wanted to be able to say that our oaks are thriving, that pests have been kept at bay, and I want my children and grandchildren to be able to come to Chelsea to marvel at the diversity of what is on show here. To pleasure and joy in the nature world around them, and to know that the power that there is in flowers is their preserved and enhanced for generations yet to come.

Thank you all very much.

Holly Lynch – 2018 Speech on UK Fisheries

Below is the text of the speech made by Holly Lynch, the Labour MP for Halifax, in the House of Commons on 20 March 2018.

I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael) for securing this urgent question and to the Secretary of State for his response. However, I am afraid I still have several questions.

The Secretary of State, alongside the Fisheries Minister, has asserted time and time again that the UK would take back absolute control of our waters from day one of leaving both the European Union and the 1964 London fisheries convention. However, following announcements made in the last 48 hours, we now know that the rest of the Government has been having very different conversations with the EU27. The announcement made by the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier, ahead of formal phase two negotiations, made it clear that the UK would continue to be part of the common fisheries policy for the duration of a 21-month post-Brexit transition period, extending up to 2020.​
The announcement that Britain’s share of the total allowable catch will remain unchanged during the transition period contradicts all other previous Government statements in relation to post-Brexit fisheries, and it is understandable that many coastal MPs and fishing communities feel so angry and let down. The Government’s failure to meet their previously stated aims through negotiations is one that now requires greater explanation and examination on the Floor of the House. The Government must be absolutely clear about who is leading the negotiations on fishing and what their position is. Have the Government failed to secure their desired position, as advocated by the Secretary of State and the Fisheries Minister, or was that never the position of our negotiating team and the rest of the Cabinet? If that red line has moved, can the Secretary of State tell the House whether there has been an exchange, and if so, what was secured instead?

Less than a month ago, in a Westminster Hall debate on the UK’s fisheries policy secured by the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Scott Mann), I asked the Fisheries Minister whether he had seen the draft proposals from the European Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries—the PECH Committee—and what the Government’s response was. He informed me that

“at the end of the day, it does not really matter what the European Union asks for, but what we are prepared to grant it.”—[Official Report, 27 February 2018; Vol. 636, c. 314WH.]

With that in mind, can the Secretary of State now be explicit in outlining what the Government are prepared to grant the EU in relation to fisheries? Can he also inform the House what the transition arrangement with the EU will mean for the London convention?

The Secretary of State will have seen the comments from the less-than-satisfied representative fishing organisations and the bold statements—and actions—of his own Back Benchers. Any post-Brexit fisheries policy must be rebalanced to work for our coastal communities and have a sustainable approach at its very core. What we need now from the Government is a move away from the chaotic approach we have seen this week and, instead, honesty and clarity about their negotiating position and exactly what that means for the fishing industry.