Countryside Alliance Parliamentary Update – 19th December 2017

  • Debates
  • Select Committees
  • Rural Communities
  • Shooting
  • Away from Westminster

Highlights

Wildlife law essays launched at Countryside Alliance Christmas Reception

In light of our decision to leave the EU, the Countryside Alliance is asking the question ‘Where next for nature?’. We have published a collection of essays from individuals and organisations who have a wealth of experience and knowledge of wildlife and the countryside to help inform and stimulate this important debate. The essays were launched at the annual Countryside Alliance Christmas Reception in Parliament on Monday 11 December and we will be initiating a public conversation on wildlife law in the New Year.

Finalists announced in the CA Awards 2017 following 11,000 public nominations

The Awards are the Countryside Alliance’s annual celebration of British food and farming, enterprise and community, supported through small hard-working businesses. This year we received over 11,000 inspiring nominations, meaning these finalists truly are the best of the best. 130 finalists will be narrowed down over the next few months with regional champions from each category invited to a reception in the House of Lords in Spring 2018 when national winners of each category will be announced. View the finalists here.

Countryside Alliance welcomes new Animal Welfare Bill but questions its timing

The Countryside Alliance supports the proposals on sentencing and is clear that animals are sentient as our legislation, especially the Animal Welfare Act, recognises. However, this Bill should not distract Defra from the essential task of implementing a new agricultural policy to replace the CAP, and the Government must resist any attempts to turn this from a bill to protect animal welfare into a bill to promote the animal rights agenda. Read more here.

Debates

Agricultural, fisheries, and rural economy – 2 November

The House of Lords held a debate on “opportunities and challenges for agriculture, fisheries, and rural economy in the UK”. Our President, Baroness Mallalieu, raised the work of the Countryside Alliance Awards in recognising and celebrating rural businesses. Our briefing note is available here.

Rural economy in Wales – 28 November

A Westminster Hall Debate took place on “the future of the rural economy in Wales”. The debate was a chance for the Countryside Alliance to highlight some of our Brexit policies, particularly maintaining tariff- free trade with the EU for food and agricultural produce. Our briefing note is available here.

Natural environment and animal welfare – 7 December

The House of Lords debated “improving animal welfare and the natural environment”. The debate was an opportunity to set out the benefits of a managed countryside. Our briefing note is available here.

Banking in rural areas – 18 December

An Adjournment Debate took place in the House of Commons on “RBS branch closures in rural areas”. The Countryside Alliance has called for digital connectivity and skills to be improved to ensure those living and working in rural areas are able to access banking services online. Our briefing note is available here.

Select Committees

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Our written evidence to the inquiry into Brexit: Trade in food has been published and is available here. We have also submitted evidence to the Fisheries inquiry on the importance of recreational fishing and the need to continue improvements in water quality outside of the EU, the evidence is available here.

Welsh Affairs

Our written evidence to the inquiry into Brexit: Agriculture, Trade and the repatriation of powers has been published and is available here.

Rural Communities

New immigration policy must reflect needs of rural economy

The Countryside Alliance has called for a new immigration policy to reflect the needs of all businesses in the rural economy and include a new seasonal agricultural workers scheme to ensure that businesses have access to the labour they require at important times of the year. In written evidence submitted to the Migration Advisory Committee, the Countryside Alliance stressed the importance of EU workers to the food and farming industry, and related sectors such as game farming and forestry.

Urban housing at the centre of Autumn Budget

The Chancellor, Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP, used his Autumn Budget to announce reductions in stamp duty, a commitment to simplify planning law, and new financial support, which he hopes will increase house building. Whilst these measures are welcome, the Countryside Alliance is concerned by the lack of policies designed to address the challenge in rural areas and has renewed calls for the Government to endorse innovative policies to support small scale sustainable developments. Read more here.

Beaver return must be closely monitored

The Countryside Alliance has expressed concerns about ‘rewilding’ being adopted as a general policy and believes it is right that trial releases are decided on a case by case basis. If the four beavers released into the Forest of Dean can be shown to improve the natural environment without expense to local businesses, communities, or other wildlife then their release should be welcomed but safeguards must be in place. Read more here.

Digital divide is still real in rural areas

Ofcom’s Connected Nations 2017 Report released this month states that 1.1million premises still do not have access to decent broadband, meaning that 17% of rural homes and businesses are unable to receive decent broadband and 82% cannot receive a 4G signal. It is an improving picture for rural areas but progress is slow and the digital divide is still significant, holding back the countryside economically and socially. Read more here.

Shooting

Gamebird sector cuts antibiotic use by 36%

The Countryside Alliance welcomed a big fall in the amount of antibiotic used in the rearing of pheasants and partridges in the UK. Figures endorsed by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) were released in October and showed that antibiotics used in gamebirds were brought down voluntarily by 36% in 2017 compared to use in 2016, comfortably exceeding the 25% reduction target for gamebirds developed by the sector and agreed by the VMD earlier this year. Read more here.

Defra bust grouse subsidy myth

In a Government response to the latest parliamentary petition against grouse shooting, the Government has once again stated the conservation benefits of grouse shooting and highlighted the economic value of grouse shooting to the rural economy. The Government has also used the opportunity to state that “neither subsidies nor agri-environment payments are paid to farmers to support shooting activities”. We hope this will stop newspapers and other media outlets repeating the myth that grouse shooting receives subsidies.

New firearms licensing medical procedure failing

Background medical checks were introduced last year for firearm and shotgun applications, with the purpose of improving public safety. However, the guidance for these checks is being bypassed, and in some cases, deliberately ignored by medical practices across the country. Applicants are being charged up to £200 for checks which should be free and in some cases are being refused access to their local medical practice if the invoice is not paid. The Countryside Alliance has written to the Policing Minister, Nick Hurd MP, and is seeking a quick resolution. Read more here.

Vote to licence grouse shooting based on “political prejudice”

The SNP National Council passed a motion last month calling for grouse shooting to be licensed and for  the number of dogs used in exempt hunting to be limited. The decision ignores the Bonomy Review into Scottish hunting legislation which found no problem with an unlimited number of dogs, and pre-empts the findings of a Scottish Parliament inquiry which is considering shoot licensing. The Scottish Countryside Alliance has described the decision as “one of the worst examples of political prejudice”. Read more here.

Away from Westminster

Attend a Boxing Day meet this Christmas

Boxing Day will, as ever, see hunts supported by huge crowds of people of all ages at meets taking place all over the country. This year we have launched an interactive map for Boxing Day meets so that you can find where your local pack will meet and join us in celebrating this important day in the hunting year. Even if you are away visiting family or friends you will be able to locate the most suitable meet venue to show your support for this festive event. View the map here.

Raising the Game at the Welsh Assembly

The Countryside Alliance took their flagship project Game to Eat to the heart of Welsh politics on Wednesday 22 November as part of the celebrations for Great British Game Week. The event received cross party support from Assembly Members, as well as journalists and supporters, who were treated to game dishes of rabbit casserole, duck and pheasant Thai curry, venison burgers, stir fried partridge and more. Nine ultimate game sausage roll recipes can be found here.

Casting for Recovery retreat dates announced for 2018

Casting for Recovery UK & Ireland, the unique fly fishing charitable programme which offers fly fishing retreats as therapy to ladies with breast cancer, has announced six residential retreats for 2018, with registrations opening on a rolling basis from January. View the dates and locations for the retreats here.

Fishing for Schools young champions visit Parliament

Fishing for Schools courses usually take place a long way from Westminster but last month 24 young anglers from across the UK visited Parliament for a reception in the House of Commons. Each school where the programme operates was asked to nominate one pupil whom they thought had achieved the most through the course to be their champion and it is these youngsters who were commended at the reception on Wednesday 15 November. A full list of champions can be found here.

And Finally…

Bacon is best

The inaugural pheasant cooking competition between Countryside Alliance staff, known as the ‘Pheasant Cup’, was won by a dish involving pheasant breast wrapped in bacon. The competition was staged during Great British Game Week to promote the benefits of game meat. All entries, including recipes, can be viewed here.

For more information on any of the articles please contact: 
James Legge

Head of Political

[email protected] 0207 840 9263

James Somerville-Meikle

Political Relations Manager

[email protected] 0207 840 9262