Tag Archives: DEFRA

News-Westminster palace

The recent heatwave has got everyone hot under the collar – none more so than MP’s keen to reject a pay RISE. Whilst the country was sweltering the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) proposed a cool 11% hike in MP’s salaries from their basic £66,396 to £75,000 per annum ‘after years of pay restraint’.

The Conservatives considered it ‘entirely inappropriate’ that Government should cost more in times of austerity.

This triggered the Party Leaders to outdo each other in rejecting any increase. PM David Cameron kicked-off by saying the Conservatives considered it ‘entirely inappropriate’ that Government should cost more in times of austerity. His deputy Nick Clegg responded for the LibDems who consider it ‘totally incomprehensible’ given the restraint imposed on other public sector workers. Finally, Ed Milliband topped them both by announcing Labour rejected any increase outright and if it was imposed then personally he won’t accept it.

Westminster watchers are waiting to see if this goes nuclear. Will IPSA be disbanded as part of the public sector cuts and party leaders impose a pay CUT on all MP’s? That’s one way to show solidarity with the country and win the next election.

PR campaign to convince the EU genetically-modified food is the solution to food price hikes.

This news was less than welcome to well-meaning Environment Secretary Owen Paterson who was already having a bad month. Only three weeks after launching his PR campaign to convince the EU genetically-modified food is the solution to food price hikes the world’s leading GM seed producer, Monsanto, announced it was pulling out of Europe.

The Company confirmed it was withdrawing all it’s applications for new crops in frustration at EU delays in approvals. ‘As the EU today is effectively a conventional seed market…we will focus on enabling imports of biotech crops’ it said. In other words: ‘We won’t grow GM in the EU but we will continue to sell GM produce’. Hmmmmmm… Maybe Greenpeace and the Prince of Wales should postpone any celebration.

Meanwhile other campaigners were also having a poke at Owens department, Defra. They launched fresh calls for a ‘plastic bag levy’ in England after it was revealed a record-breaking 7 billion single-use plastic bags were handed out to shoppers last year. The figures from WRAP – the Waste and Resources Action Programme – confirmed that ‘Bags for Life’ sales fell whilst suggesting that top-up shopping at convenience stores was causing the rise, together with online groceries delivered in plastic bags.

England is the only part of the UK which does not have a levy on plastic bags and saw a 4.4% increase in bag usage last year.

In Wales, where a 5p levy was introduced in 2011 usage has plunged by 76 per cent so Samantha Harding, spokesperson for the ‘Break the Bag Habit’ Coalition, said there was ‘no credible excuse’ left for not imposing a levy.

But Owen Paterson’s department, Defra prevaricated and said: ‘We’re considering all the relevant factors, including the pressure on household budgets’ and ‘We intend to work with the industry to encourage the development of a viable biodegradable carrier bag’.

What is not clear is why Defra needs to get involved at all. The Welsh Assembly just introduced a ban and waited for retailers to find solutions, which they were commendably quick to do.

Tesco and Asda have admitted their ‘Everyday Value’ and ‘Smartprice’ Still Water is actually tap water.

Finally, do you remember the episode of ‘Only Fools and Horses’ where Delboy rebottled tap water to sell it as ‘Peckham Spring’? Hilarious – and like all good ideas quickly copied by the competition. Tesco and Asda have admitted their ‘Everyday Value’ and ‘Smartprice’ Still Water is actually tap water bought at one third of a penny per litre before being bottled and sold on for 17p for two litres. Apart from the massive profit margin this makes sense because tap water has already been filtered with chlorine to polish off any nasties. Tesco though were then accused of taking the proverbial in the heatwave by hiking the price for two litres from 17p to 24p.

This not-entirely-earthshaking news was revealed in Cardiff when NHS nurse Ross Evans, 33, went shopping at the Culverhouse Cross Tesco to buy water for his patients. Quite why an NHS nurse was buying water for his patients is unclear but strange things happen in Cardiff. You may remember how Tesco Cardiff barred the Jedi Knight brotherhood from shopping whilst wearing their hooded robes. And banned Elaine Carmody and her friends for shopping in their pyjamas and bare feet.

Anyway, the 33-year old father-of-two said: ‘I didn’t expect Tesco to be so immoral as to put up the price of water in the middle of heatwave and cash in on people’s misery. This is shameless profiteering. When I realised the price of the bottles had gone up from 17p to 24p I put them down again and walked out.’

Beer may well be a better choice.