HC Deb 11 January 2000 vol 342 cc133-4
5. Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)

What recent appraisal he has made of ways of limiting the harm done to fish stocks by acid rain. [103255]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Mr. Chris Mullin)

Following the UK signature of the recent UN/ECE protocol, I expect UK emissions of sulphur dioxide, the main cause of acid rain, to fall by 83 per cent. between 1990 and 2010, and the area of ecosystem above the critical load for acidification to decrease by 79 per cent. This action should lead to significant improvements in the condition and numbers of fish stocks.

Mr. Llwyd

I thank the Minister for that reply, which is not very satisfactory. I should declare an interest: I am a fisherman, albeit not a very good one.

The serious point is that the native species of upland brown trout is being decimated. The fish cannot breed because of the acidity of the water. Should not the remit and budget of the Environment Agency be extended to cover immediate and proper research into acidity and restocking?

Mr. Mullin

A great deal of work is being done, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will acknowledge that some progress has been made. One problem is that, although the chemical components involved have shown some recovery, the biological ones have not done so yet. The hon. Gentleman is probably aware that the Environment Agency, the Welsh Executive and the Countryside Commission for Wales initiated an investigation into acid water in Wales. An initial report was published in November. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has had an opportunity to see it, but those bodies tell me that they would be happy to make it available to him, even though it was not written for publication. They would also be happy to discuss the matter with him.

Mr. John Smith (Vale of Glamorgan)

Has my hon. Friend been made aware of any connection between acid rain and climatic changes in general? In particular, has any connection been established with the increase in rainfall? There is considerable concern in Wales about the amount of flooding in the past 18 months, which has been greater than at any time in the previous 50 years. My constituents experienced flooding on Christmas Eve, in an area where they would not normally expect it.

Madam Speaker

Order. That is a long way from the original question.

Mr. Smith

I thank you for bearing with me, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker

I think that I have done very well by the hon. Gentleman. I have extended the good will associated with the time of year, but I am going to move on to another question.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset)

I am sure that the Minister knows that one of the leading fish farms in the country is situated in the Wey valley in my constituency. The farm suffers greatly from the pollution coming from the Dorchester road, where traffic jams occur all year round. Will he have words with his colleagues to ensure—

Madam Speaker

Order. Come on, we must move on. I am being taken advantage of this afternoon.