HC Deb 12 November 1981 vol 12 cc651-2
18. Mr. Bendall

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether, in view of the smoke hazard to motorway transport, he will consider introducing legislation to make it illegal to burn stubble in fields after harvesting.

Mrs. Fenner

No, Sir.

Mr. Bendall

Can my hon. Friend assure us that she will have words with the Department of Transport with a view to introducing fog lights when stubble is burnt, to minimise serious accidents?

Mrs. Fenner

That is an interesting suggestion, but it is already an offence under highways Acts to light a fire within 50 ft of the centre line of a highway so as to cause damage to it or a user. Furthermore, local authorities can and do introduce byelaws with financial penalties.

Mr. Stoddart

Is the hon. Lady aware that in the vicinity of my constituency accidents involving damage and injury have been caused by smoke from burning stubble drifting across motorways, and that it is not good enough to continue to make excuses? Will she reconsider this matter and inquire into the claims made for stubble burning as against ploughing-in?

Mrs. Fenner

Cultivating straw into the soil has many disadvantages, but I recognise the concern about stubble burning. Each year my Department publicises the code of practice, which has generally proved successful. Nevertheless, MAFF officials are discussing with the NFU the scope for tightening the code.

Mr. Maclennan

Is the Minister satisfied that the code is being broadly adhered to?

Mrs. Fenner

I hope that I made it clear that there may well be scope to improve the code.