ENVIRONMENT AND RURAL AFFAIRS

We will protect the environment for future generations, make our economy more environmentally sustainable, and improve our quality of life and well-being. There is no contradiction between going green and supporting the economy – we can and will do both.

The bigger picture

Owen Paterson• After years of neglect, we now have a government which will stand up for rural communities.

• We have set out a comprehensive strategy to protect and improve our natural environment in the first Natural Environment White Paper for twenty years.

• We will fight for British interests in Europe through reform of the common agriculture and fisheries policies.

Standing up for the countryside

Action to date

• We have put the countryside at the heart of the government's agenda for economic recovery by establishing the Rural Economy Growth Review.

• We have set up a £20 million Rural Community Broadband Fund to allow rural and upland communities to apply for help with small scale broadband projects.

• We are investing £25 million to boost rural tourism.

• We have delivered a 30 per cent increase in agriculture, horticulture and animal welfare apprenticeships.

Planned actions

• We will invest a total of half a billion pounds in rural broadband by 2015.

• We have unveiled a £165 million package to boost economic growth in the countryside in the coming years, including support for small businesses.

Supporting farmers in tough times

Action to date

• We set up the Farming Regulation Task Force to recommend ways to reduce the burden of regulation on farmers.

• We have reformed the Rural Payments Agency and brought in new leadership so that it delivers a vastly improved service to its customers and much better value for money for taxpayers.

• We have set out a comprehensive strategy to combat bovine TB, which has led to the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of cattle in recent years. We have put in place a series of cattle measures, such as restrictions on movement and we are investing in developing a viable vaccine. We have also approved badger culling in two pilot areas. We are clear these pilots must be carried out in accordance with strict licensing conditions so that they are effective, safe and humane.

Planned actions

• We will assess the impact of badger culling in the two pilot areas and will proceed based on the evidence. We will continue to invest £20 million over five years to develop a viable vaccine to combat bovine TB.

• We are implementing 159 recommendations of the Farming Regulation Task Force to reduce farming regulation.

• We are working with retailers to improve food labelling and ensure that people can be confident in buying British.

• We will legislate to introduce a Groceries Code Adjudicator to give farmers a fair deal.

Protecting the Natural Environment

Action to date

• We have published the first White Paper on the natural environment in 20 years, containing a series of measures to protect biodiversity and wildlife.

• We have announced the first Local Nature Partnerships to strengthen local action to protect and enhance nature.

• We have set up the first 12 Nature Improvement Areas that will receive government funding to transform rural and urban areas.

• We have launched a national tree planting campaign – the Big Tree Plant – which has already seen 100,000 trees planted.

Planned actions

• We will press ahead with more Local Nature Partnerships and Nature Improvement areas so that many more communities can protect the green spaces they value.

• From 2013, we will make sure the value of nature is fully recognised by including natural capital in the UK’s Environmental Accounts.

• We are aiming for 1 million trees to be planted as part of the Big Tree Plant by 2015.

• Over the next four years, we will invest £110 million to restore England’s rivers. This will kick start restoration worth at least £600 million to improve the health of more than 880 lakes, streams and other water bodies, bringing more otters, salmon and other fish back to England’s rivers.

Helping families with water bills

Action to date

• We have enabled water companies to offer ‘social tariffs’ to less well-off households for the first time.

• Households in the South West have faced higher water bills in order to pay for improvements to infrastructure which has previously lagged behind the rest of the country. We are therefore funding South West Water so that it can cut bills by £50 per year for all household customers until at least 2014-15.

Planned actions

• We will set out plans to tackle bad debt in the water industry, which will ultimately reduce bills for ordinary families.

• We will legislate to reform the water industry to reduce the threat of drought, cut bills for consumers and lessen the environmental impact of water abstraction.

Fighting for British interests in Europe

Action to date

• We have told the EU's Agriculture Commissioner that his draft proposals to reform the CAP are not good enough and we will press for significant reform of the CAP so that, over the long term, farm production in Europe is not reliant on direct subsidies.

• We have achieved significant reform of the Common Fisheries Policy through our negotiations in Europe. We have been successful in reaching agreement on banning fish discards, moving powers away from Brussels towards Member States and introducing concrete limits on overfishing.

Planned actions

• From January 2014, fish discard bans will begin to be enforced. This will greatly assist British trawlers relative to their European competitors and improve the animal welfare standards of the fishing industry across Europe.

Ensuring high animal welfare standards

Action to date

• We have set up a new Animal Health and Welfare Board which will for the first time bring together experts, including farmers, veterinarians, welfare experts and others from outside Government together with Defra's Chief Veterinary Officer, to make direct recommendations to Ministers on policy affecting the health and welfare of all kept animals such as farm animals, horses and pets.

• We have published new codes of practice to promote responsible pet ownership of dogs, cats, horses and privately kept non-human primates.

Planned actions

• In this Parliament, we will reduce the use of animals in scientific research and end the testing of household products on animals.

Click here to sign up to our email bulletins.