13 OCT 2017

Star Column - 11th October 2017

"At the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester last week, the Prime Minister set out what the Government is doing to build a country that works for everyone and to build a better future for the next generation. She was clear that we will continue to take a balanced approach to the economy, dealing with our debts whilst also investing in public services.

The standout announcements for me were increasing the affordable housing budget by £2bn to more than £9bn – allowing more homes to be built for social rent; a price cap on energy bills, we are publishing a draft Bill in Parliament this week; and doing more to bring tackling mental health issues into the mainstream. For the record, I am 100% behind Theresa May as our Prime Minister and so are all my colleagues I have spoken to.

Just over a year ago, I attended a ministerial convention on illegal wildlife trade. After that conference, I visited Kruger National Park in South Africa and saw the carcasses of slaughtered rhinos as well as the rhinos that rangers were protecting. Last week we heard that around 20,000 elephants a year are still being slaughtered because of the ivory trade. If current rates of poaching continue then elephants could be extinct in some African countries within decades. This is why the UK is pressing ahead with a full ban on the sale of ivory. A ban stronger than anywhere else in Europe, stronger than the USA and most of the world. Our ban will put the UK front and centre of global efforts to end the trade in ivory and we will continue to press other countries to close their markets where it is contributing to poaching. My department have just started a 12 week consultation on the detail of the ban, to which we will respond early next year.

Finally, thank you to the NFU for organising a visit to Church Farm in Eyke earlier this month. It was great to meet the Flemings (and other farmers from the area) who run a mixture of dairy, livestock and arable farms. We talked about agricultural policy, water abstraction and, of course, Brexit – as well as the farmer led Environmental Scheme which promotes good stewardship of our countryside. It was also lovely to see calving first hand and the challenges on the River Deben."

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