Therese Coffey – 2019 Statement on the Environment Council

Below is the text of the statement made by Therese Coffey, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, in the House of Commons on 18 July 2019.

I attended the EU Environment Council on 26 June in Luxembourg.​
I wish to update the House on the matters discussed.

Adoption of Council conclusions on a sustainable EU chemicals policy

The presidency invited member states to adopt its conclusions on the development of a “non-toxic environment strategy”, and to take action on other commitments made in the seventh environmental action programme (EAP) and other previous texts, which have yet to be fulfilled.

Member states’ interventions focused on the need to improve the safe management of chemicals, and ensuring the chemicals sector continues to adhere to EU standards, especially with regards to human health and the environment. Therefore, all were in agreement that the “non-toxic environment strategy” should be published before the end of the seventh EAP in 2020. The majority of member states also made it clear that they supported the need to ensure the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) was provided with sustainable and appropriate funding to allow it to continue to be the centre of knowledge on the sustainable management of chemicals, for the benefit of citizens and the environment.

I intervened to support the Council conclusions and to welcome an EU-wide chemical strategy. This was an important opportunity to reinforce our shared ambition for high environmental standards and continued improvement in the safe management of chemicals. I therefore highlighted our willingness to continue to collaborate with member states and the Commission, as well as other international partners, once we have left the EU, fully supporting calls to act on those commitments made in the seventh EAP. I also welcomed the gathering of data to better inform future decisions and to promote a risk-based approach to regulation, highlighting the need to minimise the impact on animals to achieve this aim.

Regulation on water reuse – general approach

The presidency invited member states to agree the proposed general approach on the regulation on water reuse.

The UK, along with a number of other member states, supported the compromise text provided by the presidency and its intention to promote waste water reuse across the EU for agricultural irrigation, within the context of future water scarcity and the circular economy. I made clear that harmonised rules could generate increased interest in reuse and stated that as drafted, the regulation offered a good degree of health and environmental protection. I also offered the forthcoming Finnish presidency our support in the trilogue discussions to follow between the European Parliament, European Commission and European Council.

The presidency concluded the general approach had been agreed, although two member states (Germany and Slovakia) abstained. The Finnish presidency has stated that it would like to begin trilogue negotiations with the European Parliament in October.

Environmental Implementation Review (EIR) – exchange of views

The Council exchanged views on the 2019 EIR report and the actions needed to ensure better implementation of EU environment policies and legislation.​
The member states who intervened broadly welcomed the approach to the second cycle of the EIR, but agreed that additional work was required to identify workable solutions for closing environmental implementation gaps and addressing the root cause of poor implementation.

I took the opportunity to intervene, acknowledging the findings of the 2019 EIR and highlighting some of the additional actions we have taken since the publication of the report. This included the recent announcement of the designation of a further 41 marine conversation zones; the publication of our clean air strategy for England, which was commended by the World Health Organisation; and the forthcoming Environment Bill, which builds on the ambitions set out in our 25-year environment plan for England.

AOB items

The following items were also discussed under any other business.

Clean planet for all (information from the presidency)

Council noted the information from the presidency regarding the Council debates held on the EU’s long-term climate strategy, “Clean Planet for all: strategic long-term vision for a climate neutral economy”. The Commission intervened to speak about the EU’s position ahead of the United Nations climate action summit in September, and its assessment that the EU will overachieve its current 2030 greenhouse gas reduction target. Several member states intervened with their reflections on the discussion on climate at the European Council on 20-21 June, and to comment on the timescales for securing agreement of the EU strategy by 2020.1 intervened to note the Government’s legislation for net zero green- house gas emissions by 2050, the Welsh Government’s announcement of their intention to legislate next year for a 95% reduction by 2050, and the Scottish Government’s amendment to their draft legislation to achieve a 2045 net zero target. I confirmed that the UK supported the EU target of achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, while also recognising the need for a just transition.

Draft integrated national energy and climate plans (presentation from the Commission)

Council noted the presentation from the Commission concerning the draft national energy and climate plans (NECPs). The Commission stated that they viewed these first drafts as positive overall, though there were areas for improvement.

Regulation on the monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) of C02 emissions for shipping (information from the presidency)

Council noted the information from the presidency concerning the regulation on the monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) of carbon dioxide emissions for shipping. Three member states intervened to raise the importance of aligning the EU MRV regulation with international reporting requirements.

Carbon pricing and aviation taxes (information from the Netherlands delegation)

Council noted the information from the Netherlands delegation on their conference on carbon pricing and aviation taxes, held on 20-21 June in the Hague. The member states which intervened on this AOB stated their support for the Netherland’s initiative.​

Future Environment action programme (information from the Austrian delegation)

Council noted the information from the Austrian delegation on the workshop held in Hainburg on 11 and 12 June. All member states who intervened emphasised their support for an eighth EAP.

Clean mobility and electromobility (information from the Bulgarian delegation)

Council noted the information from the Bulgarian delegation about possible measures to support clean mobility and, in particular, electromobility. Those member states who intervened, whilst supporting the need to look at options to address the rising carbon dioxide levels in Europe and the on-going problems around air quality, highlighted the challenges associated with electric vehicles and the uneven charging infrastructure across Europe.

Recent international meetings-triple COP; UNEA (information from the presidency)

Council noted the information from the presidency with limited interventions.

G7 environment Ministers meeting (information from the French delegation)

Council noted the information from the French delegation with limited interventions.

LIFE regulation (information from the presidency)

Council noted the information from the presidency with limited interventions.

Update on priorities from Finland on their upcoming presidency

Council noted the information from the Finnish delegation with limited interventions.

Additional engagement

In the margins of the Council, I met with a number of my counterparts from member states to discuss on global environmental issues including our legislation for net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and the UK’s bid to host the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP-26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in partnership with Italy under a UK presidency.

Therese Coffey – 2019 Statement on the EU Environment Council

Below is the text of the statement made by Therese Coffey, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, in the House of Commons on 24 June 2019.

The next EU Environment Council will take place on 26 June, in Luxembourg. I will be attending to represent the UK.

On environment items, the main legislative focus will be a general approach on the regulation on water-reuse. In addition, there will also be an exchange of views on the environment implementation review (EIR), as well as the adoption of Council conclusions on a sustainable EU chemicals policy.

Any other business (AOB) will include information from the Commission and the presidency on four items:

Clean Planet for all: Strategic long-term vision for a climate neutral economy (information from the presidency);

A discussion on current legislative proposals (information from the presidency):

A discussion on regulation on LIFE; and

A discussion on shipping monitoring, reporting and verification.

Reports on main recent international meetings (information from the presidency and the Commission):

Triple conference of the parties to the Basel (COP 14), Rotterdam (COP 9) and Stockholm (COP 9) conventions (Geneva, 29 April-10 May 2019); and

Fourth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-4) (Nairobi, 11-15 March 2019).

Communication on the draft integrated national energy and climate plans (presentation by the Commission).

There are currently five member state led AOBs:

Workshop on the “Future environment action programme” (information from the Austrian delegation);

Possible European measures to support clean mobility and in particular, electromobility (information from the Bulgarian delegation);

Conference on carbon pricing and aviation taxes (information from the Netherlands delegation);

G7 Environment Ministers’ meeting (information from the French delegation); and

Work programme of the incoming presidency (information from the Finnish delegation).

Therese Coffey – 2019 Statement on the Environment Council

Below is the text of the statement made by Therese Coffey, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, in the House of Commons on 17 January 2019.

I attended the EU Environment Council on 20 December in Brussels. Mairi Gougeon MSP, the Scottish Minister for Rural Affairs and Natural Environment, also attended. I wish to update the House on the matters discussed.

C02 emission standards for heavy-duty vehicles regulation—general approach

Council reached an agreed position (“general approach”) on the regulation on C02 emission standards for heavy-duty vehicles. The European Commission had proposed an indicative 30% reduction in emissions by 2030, with a 15% reduction by 2025.

A full roundtable heard Ministers set out their respective positions. The UK intervened calling for greater ambition for 2030 and stressing the need to agree a strong overall package of measures. The presidency presented a revised proposal; the key element being a binding 2030 target, which was sufficient to achieve a general approach. One member state abstained.

Regulation on LIFE—partial general approach

The presidency introduced its compromise text for a partial general approach of the LIFE programme (the EU’s financial instrument supporting environmental, ​nature conservation and climate action projects throughout the EU), to run from 2021-27. In this revised text, the presidency reintroduced the role of the LIFE committee and placed greater emphasis on geographical balance; member states welcomed the adoption of the partial general approach. While all could support the agreement, a number of member states intervened to restate their preference for higher co-financing rates.

“A Clean Planet for All”: a long-term strategy for EU greenhouse gas emissions reductions—exchange of views

The Commission introduced its long-term strategy on climate, which was published on 28 November 2018, which recommends that the EU aims for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, following which the Council held its first exchange of views. The Council agreed that the strategy should be discussed in multiple council formations in the coming months. Interventions focused on the aim for net zero-emissions, the importance of just transition, the recognition of specific national and regional circumstances, the contribution of technology to decarbonisation, and the role of national long-term strategies.

The UK intervened to highlight that the Inter- governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on 1.5 degrees underscored the urgency of tackling climate change, and welcomed the strategy as a serious response that also underlines the benefits of taking action, and stresses the need to ensure that no one is left behind in the transition. The UK highlighted the action being taken across the UK to tackle climate change, and the role of clean growth in the domestic industrial strategy. The UK welcomed the focus in the strategy on carbon capture usage and storage (CCUS), given its vital importance in reducing the costs of decarbonisation and the need for collaboration to scale up CCUS, and also highlighted the need to consider nature-based solutions.

AOB items

The following items were also discussed under any other business.

1. Report on recent international meetings: United Nations framework convention on climate change 24th session of the conference of the parties

The presidency, Commission, and Poland, which held the presidency of the 24th session of the conference to the parties (COP) to the United Nations framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC), presented on COP24, which took place in Katowice, Poland, on 2 to 14 December 2018. The agreement of the rulebook underpinning the Paris agreement was welcomed as a significant achievement.

2. Report on the implementation of the EU strategy on adaptation to climate change

Council noted the information from the presidency.

3. The “Graz Declaration”—Starting a new era: Clean, safe and affordable mobility for Europe

Council noted the presidency presentation on the Graz declaration, which was agreed at October informal Environment Council (29 and 30 October).

4. Measures at EU level to create the conditions for discontinuing the use of the environmentally problematic substances contained in plant protection products

Council noted the information from the Belgian delegation on plant protection products.​
5. Intermediary sessions of the meeting of the parties to the convention on environmental impact assessment in a transboundary context (Espoo convention) and the protocol on strategic environmental assessment (SEA)

Lithuania, supported by Luxembourg, presented information concerning the draft recommendations of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Espoo Convention Implementation Committee regarding the Ostrovets new nuclear project in Belarus. These recommendations will be tabled for possible endorsement by the intermediary session of the meeting of the parties to the convention in February 2019.

6. Current legislative proposals

The presidency and the Commission provided an update on current environmental legislative proposals: regulation on taxonomy; directive on single-use plastics; the regulation on persistent organic pollutants (POPs) (recast); the regulation on environmental reporting; the directive on drinking water (recast); and the regulation on C02 from cars and vans.

Several member states welcomed the proposals, in particular the progress on the single-use plastics directive. On the recast of the drinking water directive the Commission urged all member states to show flexibility and work together to make swift progress. The UK intervened to welcome the progress on single-use plastics, and outlined the work being done across the UK to tackle plastic waste. On drinking water, the UK noted the recent progress towards a compromise on materials in contact with drinking water, but indicated that there were still outstanding concerns, and on persistent organic pollutants (POPs), the UK intervened to support the Council position on Decabromodiphenyl ether (a flame retardant) and the existing approach for updating the annexes.

7. Report on recent international meeting—convention on biological diversity (CBD) and update from the UK on the London illegal wildlife conference

The Commission and presidency reported back on the recent international meeting on the convention on biological diversity (CBD), in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt on 17 to 29 November. The UK intervened to welcome progress so far and to highlight the commitment that needs to be shown from Governments, civil society and business in order to develop an ambitious post-2020 biodiversity framework.

Following this, the UK gave a short update on the outcomes of the London illegal wildlife trade (IWT) conference held on 11 and 12 October 2018, outlining the importance of member states continuing to work together to tackle this important issue, and the need to treat IWT as a serious organised crime.

8. The future of European environment policy—Towards an 8th EU environment action programme

Council noted the information from the presidency on plans to develop an eighth EU environment action programme.

9. Environmental and climate ambition of the future CAP

Council noted the information from the German delegation, supported by the Luxembourg delegation.

Therese Coffey – 2018 Speech to Chatham House Forest Governance Forum

Below is the text of the speech made by Therese Coffey, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Environment, on 9 November 2018.

Thank you Chatham House for inviting me to speak today. I am delighted to be here, to welcome you to the United Kingdom from so many corners of the world, and to say a few words about our renewed ambition to work in partnership to tackle what remains a huge global challenge of fighting forest crimes and promoting sustainable forest-friendly commodity production – whether for timber, cocoa, soy, or palm oil.

The broad range of representatives, delegates and contributors here, and the scope of your agenda, certainly illustrate the global reach of the Forum, from new science on isotopes, to regulations in Korea and new partnerships in Honduras and Guyana.

Over the last two years, we have been focused on addressing the impact of deforestation and illegal logging. During my recent visits to Mozambique, Uganda and Kenya, and last month’s Illegal Wildlife Trade conference here in London, ministers and officials reaffirmed the destructive effects of deforestation and illegal logging – on people’s lives and livelihoods, in terms the loss of revenues, the links to organised crime, and the destructive impact on wildlife habitats. But I have also been impressed by the determination with which these countries are fighting these threats, for example by protecting mangroves in Mozambique. Addressing the challenges of environmental and forest crime, and promoting good governance of our natural resources really does matter – for me, for the UK Government, for all of you here today, for planet Earth.

You know the scale of forest crime is a major global challenge. According to recent World Bank research, in some countries almost 90 per cent of timber production is illegal. World-wide, exports of illegally logged timber are worth at least $20 billion a year, and that is probably an under-estimate. These illegal practices undermine the rule of law and fuel corruption, lose billions in potential tax revenues, deter investment and prevent the growth of sustainable businesses. We also know that the livelihoods of over 1 billion poor people and rural communities depend on forests. For forests to contribute to sustainable economic growth and biodiversity conservation we need to see massive improvements in how they are protected and managed.

Efforts to curb illegal logging are also critical to the global fight against climate change and biodiversity loss. Deforestation and land use change cause around one quarter of greenhouse gas emissions impacting on the functioning of ecosystems and contributing to the loss of species. So we cannot ignore this.

The UK is one of the largest global importers of timber, and we recognise our shared responsibility to tackle this problem. For the last twenty years we have been at the forefront of international action against illegal logging. We successfully argued for the inclusion of the topic in the 1998 G8 Action Programme on Forests, we worked together with the G8 and developing countries to organise a series of ministerial conferences, and we played a major role in formulating and implementing the EU’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade Action Plan – FLEGT, to use its rather clunky acronym.

We have worked together with businesses in the international timber trade, such as those dealing in construction, furniture and paper, to exclude illegal, high-risk timber from the British market. We have encouraged the development of company responsible purchasing policies and through using public procurement policy – the government’s own buying power – to source legal and sustainable wood products. Since 2013 our implementation of the EU Timber Regulation has ensured that all companies placing timber on the UK market have been required to scrutinise their supply chains to minimise the risk of their handling illegal products.

And we have supported forest-rich developing countries to put in place their own systems for tackling illegal logging.

Two years ago Indonesia became the first country to ensure that all its timber exports can affirm, through a license, that they are verified as legally produced. The EU now requires all timber imports from Indonesia to be accompanied by a license – from construction timbers through to furniture and paper.

Since 2016, the relevant UK authority – the Office of Product Safety and Standards – has verified more than 8,000 licences accompanying Indonesian exports, reassuring British companies that the timber products they put on sale are legal throughout the entire supply chain.

The UK has benefited from these changes. The UK is the largest importer of timber in Europe, so these transformational reforms in Indonesia open up an important source of high-quality, legal wood for UK companies.

Creating the governance systems to regulate, track and assure legality has been a massive achievement, particularly for such a large and diverse country, and I want to pay tribute to the dedication and determination shown by our partners in Indonesia, government, business and civil society alike. It gives a strong, positive message for other countries working to bring an end to illegal logging.

Even where the licensing system has not yet been put in place, the agreements have led to measurable improvements in forest governance: reforms to the framework of laws, policies and institutions, the inclusion of business and civil society in decision-making, improvements in transparency, and much else besides. These help lay the foundations for deep-seated, lasting progress in the fight against illegal logging.

Measures to reform governance are at the heart of our efforts to combat illegal logging and the trade in illegal timber.

Critical ingredients for these governance reforms have included:

Recognising the need for clear legal frameworks that set out responsibilities of people living with forests, of businesses and governments. In particular we need to ensure indigenous people and forest communities have secure rights and access to the forests they need for both their livelihoods and, indeed, their identity. Embedding these rights in law is a pre-condition to effective enforcement of their rights.

As well as clear rights and responsibilities, we need mechanisms that bring people together to design, oversee and enforce these legal arrangements. These mechanisms require access to information and increased capacity of community and private sector representatives to engage in policy processes. It is the shared understanding of policy that gives legitimacy to sector governance. DFID’s Forest Governance Markets and Climate programme, which sponsors this event, is at the forefront of this agenda.

We need the active involvement of the private sector to ensure that the reforms support their efforts to see responsible practices right down through their supply chains.

We need transparency to help us monitor what is working and what is not, and to hold us, and our partners to account. This transparency helps us to communicate and promote the results of these efforts in our own and international markets which in turn we hope will improve the incentives for good governance and responsible business.

l look forward to learning from your efforts to improve governance. In this room you have a tremendous richness of experience and Forums like this one today are important for us, to take stock, learn and adapt as we work to scale up efforts to stop illegal logging and its associated irresponsible trade.

We know illegal deforestation is not limited to the forest sector. Globally, high demand for agriculture commodities such as palm oil, soya, rubber and cocoa are also driving illegal forest clearance and undermining the rule of law. As you no doubt will be discussing in greater depth at this meeting, this forest clearance is now the greater source of illegal timber on the market. So it cannot be ignored.

Earlier this year, the UK Government set out our ambition in a 25 year Environment Plan to support and protect the world’s forests, supporting sustainable agriculture and enhancing sustainability, and supporting zero-deforestation supply chains.

My department, alongside DFID and BEIS, is supporting work to promote sustainable supply chains of other commodities, such as palm oil and soya that may put forests at risk. We are actively engaged with international efforts to promote sustainable supply chains, with other countries in the Amsterdam Group that aims at promoting zero-deforestation commodity supply chains, with the Tropical Forest Alliance and other business-led initiatives promoting responsible investment. And a few weeks ago, I held a roundtable discussion with my Ministerial colleagues from DFID and BEIS and leaders in the financial and commodities sector on establishing a Global Resource Initiative, to improve the sustainability of key commodities and reduce deforestation.

We will continue to nurture sustainable trade and harness its potential to drive sustainable development, supporting our developing country partners, and working in partnership with UK businesses, to drive growth and tackle climate change.

But, let me be clear, without sound governance arrangements in place in both tropical producer countries and consumer countries, private and public finance will struggle to slow down deforestation. The returns to cutting down and capturing the capital locked in standing forests, whether by corporate business, small holders or organised criminals, is just so high that we will not succeed without legal and social measures that reward the good guys and exclude the bad.

Investment and finance are important in our fight to preserve forests and habitats but without bringing together coalitions of interested parties to establish new rules and norms, we will forever be fighting against the tide. That is why meetings such as the one today are important: you help sustain the momentum that drives the challenging governance reforms forward.

The UK cannot tackle illegal deforestation and illegal logging alone. This is a global agenda.

The UK was instrumental in establishing the EU Timber Regulation and we are now making arrangements to put this into UK law, for after we leave the EU.

Other consumer countries have also established legislation to exclude illegal and high risk products from their markets: the US, Australia, Japan, Switzerland and, recently Korea – I see in the agenda that you have a session reviewing this welcome development

However, the global lockdown on illegal trade is not yet complete. There is one big hole in the fence. About 60% of the trade in tropical hardwoods now goes through China, with over 60% being consumed inside China. I recognise the difficulties for China in finalising mandatory regulations and enforcement arrangements, given the scale of demand from consumers domestically, in China and from other consumer markets, such as the UK.

Unfortunately, no-one from the Chinese government is here today, but we know, through our forest partnership with China, that they are well aware of their global responsibility and are keenly aware of the potential damage resulting from deforestation, as they witnessed first-hand with devastating floods in the 1990s. They appreciate, based on their own experiences, the technical challenges and the huge costs associated with reforestation. But unregulated production and unregulated trade, as you will be exploring at this meeting, has already brought irreversible damage on many tropical forests.

We will continue to encourage China to put in place and enforce their own mandatory regulations. We look forward to an announcement from China, closing this gap in the global market – perhaps at a future Chatham House event.

As the UK exits the EU we are determined to grow our ambition as framed by the policies of the FLEGT action plan – to encourage other markets to better regulate their imports and to work with producers to recognise their national systems of legality assurance. We are very keen to promote the principles of our work under EU FLEGT policies to a global level – building actions that link consumer markets with producer country efforts to regulate and ensure full compliance with their environmental and social laws

In 2020, the UK, along with 196 other countries, will agree and adopt a post-2020 strategic framework for biodiversity under the Convention on Biological Diversity. This is a key moment to bend the curve away from biodiversity loss and shape a positive future for nature and people. All sectors have a role to play, including the forestry sector, and it is critical that the industry are part of that discussion from the start.

Finally, for this audience, and in these days where the UK’s exit from the EU remains in the headlines, let me return to the UK commitment to climate change, deforestation and illegal logging.

We remain committed to the environment, to mitigating climate change, to reducing deforestation and to preventing illegal logging

The EU Timber Regulation will be brought into UK law and the UK will put in place mechanisms to recognise the licensing systems of producer countries currently engaged in Voluntary Partnership Agreements with the EU

We remain committed to supporting the governance reforms of developing countries that underpin their legality assurance systems that will eventually result in licences for exports

We continue to promote responsible, legal and sustainable trade in agricultural commodities, such as palm oil, soya, beef, cocoa, and rubber – now more damaging to tropical forests than illegal logging

These UK commitments extend beyond this government and, in broad terms, across all parties in Parliament.

They resonate with concerns about the environment, fair trade and international development that go beyond “insiders and committed activists” and excite wider interest in our society.

Our commitment is not just to stand-alone programmes to mitigate climate change and arrest deforestation. This commitment aligns with other initiatives, including:

Tackling organised crime, the green washing of illegal proceeds;

Promoting rule of law; and

Encouraging democratic decision-making that brings citizens, communities, interest groups, the private sector and government together to formulate and enforce laws, based on transparency and public access to information.

I wish you well and I look forward to hearing of the outcomes of this the 28th illegal logging forum at Chatham House.

Therese Coffey – 2018 Statement on Salisbury Incident

Below is the text of the statement made by Therese Coffey, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, in the House of Commons on 17 April 2018.

Following the indiscriminate and reckless use of a nerve agent in Salisbury on 4 March 2018, decontamination work is starting this week to bring a small number of potentially contaminated sites back into safe use for the people of Salisbury and its visitors. A lot of preparatory work has been completed already and these plans will now be discussed with the local community and businesses.

In total nine sites, three of which are in the city centre, have been identified as requiring some level of specialist decontamination. The focus will be on returning public spaces to full use as soon as possible, but only where it is safe to do so. The Government will work closely with both the affected businesses and the victims of this appalling act as detailed plans are put into effect.

In the case of London Road cemetery, after extensive investigations and testing, it has been established that it was not contaminated and is therefore being fully reopened to the public today.

The other sites will remain secured and the current scientific assessment is that the remainder of Salisbury is safe for residents and visitors. Public Health England have reaffirmed that the risk to the general public is low.

The community will begin to see more activity from this week and overall it will take some months before all sites are decontaminated and returned to normal use. During this time some cordons will be expanded to ensure safety and allow workers access to the sites with specialist equipment. This will be kept to a minimum wherever possible and the community will be kept informed as work progresses on each site.

The decontamination work is being planned and overseen by my Department with additional specialist advice from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Public Health England, the Department for Health and Social Care, the Home Office and the Ministry of Defence. The work will be delivered in partnership with Wiltshire Council with support from the Ministry of Defence, who are providing specialist teams to carry out the work on the sites. In some cases they will be supported by other Government specialists or specialist contractors.

The Government are basing their approach on the best scientific evidence and advice to ensure all decontamination is carried out in a thorough and careful way. Thanks to detailed information gathered during the investigation and the clear scientific understanding of how the agent works and is spread, the likely level of contamination at each site is known.

Specialists have developed tailored decontamination plans for each site. To refine these plans, specialist personnel will be collecting additional samples from some sites, building on testing carried out during the ​investigation. This information will be used to ensure the plans are correct and that decontamination will be effective.

The decontamination work will involve a process of testing, removal of items which could be contaminated and that might harbour residual amounts of the agent, chemical cleaning and retesting. All waste will be safely removed and incinerated and each site will not be released until decontamination is complete.

This work to bring the closed sites back into public use will go hand-in-hand with the £2.5 million already announced on 27 March to support businesses, boost tourism and meet unexpected costs in the response and recovery effort in the city.

Therese Coffey – 2018 Statement on Local Government in Suffolk

Below is the text of the statement made by Therese Coffey in the House of Commons on 8 February 2018.

On 7 November and 30 November respectively I told the House that I was minded to implement, subject to parliamentary approval, locally-supported proposals I had received from the respective councils to merge district councils in east Suffolk and in west Suffolk, and I invited representations before I took my final decisions on these proposals.

Having carefully considered all the representations I have received and all the relevant information available to me, I am today announcing that I have decided to implement, subject to parliamentary approval, both proposals—that is to merge Suffolk Coastal and Waveney ​district councils to become a new single district council named East Suffolk, and to merge Forest Heath District Council and St Edmundsbury Borough Council to become a new single district council named West Suffolk.

I have reached my decisions having regard to the criteria for district council mergers I announced to the House on 7 November. I am satisfied that these criteria are met and that both new district councils are likely to improve local government and service delivery in their areas, command a good deal of local support, and that each council area is a credible geography.

I now intend to prepare and lay before Parliament drafts of the necessary secondary legislation to give effect to my decisions. My intention is that if Parliament approves this legislation the new councils will be established on 1 April 2019 with the first elections to the councils held on 2 May 2019.