DECC questions

I went along to DECC questions today, despite having had my original question about the Green Investment Bank removed from the Order Paper and bundled off to BIS for a response. Chris Huhne, the Secretary of State, was delayed on his way back from China (apparently his flight was meant to get in at 5.30am, but he was stranded somewhere)  so it fell to Greg Barker, the Environment Minister, to answer in his place.

At Topicals* I asked:

“As Ministers are no doubt aware, the Sustainable Livestock Bill will be before the House tomorrow. I appreciate that it is led by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs at the domestic level, but what is the Minister doing to ensure that the issue is on the agenda at the international climate change talks?”

Gregory Barker: 

“It is a DEFRA issue, and obviously we will be asking our DEFRA colleagues how they think we, when representing the United Kingdom at Cancun, can best present the wider green agenda. However, I will talk to my colleagues in DEFRA, and if the hon. Lady wishes to make particular representations to me, I shall be glad to receive them.”

This is shorthand for “I haven’t the slightest idea what you’re talking about” which was fairly evident in his demeanour. That “what the hell is this woman on about” expression briefly flickered across his face, before he started flannelling. 

I appreciate the Minister was standing in for the Secretary of State. And I appreciate it’s a Defra-led issue, which I why I very helpfully gave the Minister a bit of a get-out clause in my question, which he seized with gratitude. However…. is it too much to expect that Ministers at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (the clue being in the title) would have at least a rudimentary knowledge of the campaign to highlight the environmental impact of the livestock sector? It’s been raised at UN level after all.

Some of us have been pushing for some time for it to be put high on the agenda at international climate talks. In advance of Copenhagen I was told it would be discussed because agriculture was an important issue for the EU accession countries, but I don’t think it was an agenda item in its own right, and it certainly didn’t receive the attention it warrants. So we need to keep pushing!

I’ll be following up on Greg Barker’s promise to talk to Defra** Ministers by tabling a written question asking him what the outcome of those discussions were. Will give him a few weeks first to get round to it!

*Topicals = we have topical questions during the last 15 minutes of oral questions, where we can ask whatever we like.

** I don’t know why we refer to DECC as DECC but Defra as Defra. We just do.

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