Chair of the Environment,
Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee
Neil Parish MP
It is a pleasure to write the forward to this year’s Environment Edition of The Parliamentary Review. Environmental and rural affairs issues have been at the forefront of parliamentary business over the past twelve months.
Improving air quality and reducing the concentration of harmful chemicals in the air we breathe has become a hugely prominent issue in our towns and inner cities. In December 2015, DEFRA produced a comprehensive plan to deal with the problem, which is linked to 40,000 early deaths every year.
The Government has announced a National Flood Resilience Review to assess how we can better protect ourselves from future flooding and extreme weather events.
A new Great British Food Unit has been established to massively increase British food exports to £6bn to help more British food companies sell their produce around the world. Under my chairmanship, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee has published reports on farmgate prices, winter flooding and air quality. It’s fantastic to see environmental issues so high on the agenda, with a growing recognition of the importance of our natural environmental and safeguarding it for future generations.
Of course, the biggest single topic for the environment and British agriculture in the past twelve months has been the Brexit vote. The agricultural industry want assurances about support payments previously provided from the Common Agricultural Policy. Farmers and food and drink producers want to know what sort of access to the EU market they will have after Britain leaves the EU.
Businesses and campaigners want to see how the British Government will replace or enhance environmental standards on air and water quality, greenhouse gases and land usage previously dictated from Brussels.
There will be substantial work for the new Defra Secretary of State, Andrea Leadsom, and her new team to carry out. The EFRA Committee will be doing its utmost to scrutinise their work and ensure the best possible deal for British agriculture and our environment in the Brexit negotiations.
I look forward to holding the Government to account on all these issues in the coming year.