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Environment Secretary: Affordable water bills 'crucial'

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has told water firms it is "crucial" that water bills are kept affordable for "hardworking people".

We know that household budgets are under pressure, and keeping water bills affordable is a crucial way we can help hardworking people.

That is why we are pressing hard to make sure customers get a fair deal, by encouraging water companies to look closely at any price increases, introduce social tariffs for vulnerable customers and crack down on bad debt.

– Environment Secretary Owen Paterson

Water firms urged to curb prices by Government

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has called on water companies to "look closely" at whether price increases are necessary and introduce special tariffs for hard-pressed households.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has urged water companies to "look closely" at whether price increases are necessary Credit: PA

In a letter to suppliers, Mr Paterson said the firms should recognise the financial strain people are under.

The intervention came ahead of an Ofwat ruling expected later this week on an application from Thames Water to increase bills by £29 in 2014-15.

The regulator is expected to reject the application and has questioned the profits being made by firms.

It suggested its next Price Review could ease the upward pressure on bills by up to £750 million after 2015.

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'Wicked' to oppose third world GM crops

Groups opposing the use of GM crops in Africa and Asia are "wicked" and possibly condemning millions to an early death, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson told The Independent.

Owen Paterson said those opposing GM crops are "wicked". Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, who are among those opposing GM technology, are "casting a dark shadow over attempts to feed the world", Mr Paterson claims.

The Environment Secretary also backed an open letter by international scientists calling for the rapid release of vitamin A-enhanced rice to help prevent the cause of around a third of the world's child deaths.

He told the newspaper: "It’s just disgusting that little children are allowed to go blind and die because of a hang-up by a small number of people about this technology.

“I feel really strongly about it. I think what they do is absolutely wicked.”

Paterson comment inspires 'badger goalpost' game

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson's explanation that a pilot cull failed to reach its target because "badgers moved the goalposts" has been ridiculed on Twitter.

His comments inspired the online game: "Owen Paterson's Badger Penalty Shootout."

Can you beat those 'pesky badgers' in the penalty shootout game? Credit: usvsth3m
The goalposts swiftly move from side-to-side as you take aim. Credit: usvsth3m
And the victor can share their penalty shootout success on social media sites. Credit: usvsth3m

Environment Sec: 'Badgers moved the goalposts'

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson told the BBC "badgers moved the goalposts" when he was asked why the pilot cull failed to reach its target.

Badgers have moved the goalposts on cull targets, according to the Environment Secretary. Credit: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

A badger cull in west Somerset has been extended in a bid to make up for the shortfall.

When asked why he had "moved the goalposts" and claimed the cull was a success, Mr Paterson said: "The badgers moved the goalposts.

"We're dealing with a wild animal, subject to the vagaries of the weather and disease and breeding patterns."

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UK must 'use every tool in the box' to tackle bovine TB

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has defended the badger cull, saying it is necessary to use "every tool in the box" to tackle the spread of bovine TB.

We know that, despite the strict controls we already have in place, we won't get on top of this terrible disease until we start dealing with the infection in badgers as well as in cattle. That's the clear lesson from Australia, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland and the USA.

That is why these pilot culls are so important. We have to use every tool in the box because TB is so difficult to eradicate and it is spreading rapidly.

If we had a workable vaccine we would use it. A badger vaccine would have no effect on the high proportion of sick badgers in TB hotspots who would continue to spread the disease.

We are working on new badger and cattle vaccines but they are years away from being ready and we cannot afford to wait while TB gets worse.

UK must play a 'leading role in feeding the world'

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said he wanted the UK to have a "leading role in feeding the world" by utilising GM crops.

Mr Paterson said the Government will make the UK the "best place" for companies and research providers to carry out their work by breaking down any barriers they may face.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson pictured at Rothamsted Research in Hertfordshire today. Credit: ITV News

He acknowledged public and environmental fears but insisted that "extensive testing" was in place:

"As with all technologies, public and environmental safety is paramount.

"The truth is that products are subject to extensive testing and development in tightly controlled conditions - progressing from laboratory, to glasshouse, to field trials only when it's safe to do so."

GM crops 'offer a way forward'

Scientists and research companies have welcomed the Environment Secretary Owen Paterson's call for a focus on the benefits of Genetically Modified Crops, saying it "offers a way forward" on a global issue.

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council chief executive Douglas Kell said the technology could be used to "produce enough food for a growing population with fewer inputs".

"A GM approach could offer a way forward and without it we would risk blocking a solution to major global issues. This signal of support helps to keep doors open that could help us in an ever-changing future. "

Genetically modified maize crop grows on a test field in Germany. Credit: Press Association Images

Professor Maurice Moloney from Rothamsted Research said the government's stance would put the UK back into a "leadership position" on the issue of GM crops:

"The Government's initiative puts the UK back into a leadership position in Europe on this issue and will promote a rational approach to the adoption of technologies that our farmers want and need in order to maintain their competitive position in world agriculture."

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