HC Deb 17 January 1974 vol 867 cc146-7W
Mr. Ralph Howell

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he has completed his consideration of the report by the Advisory Council for Agriculture and Horticulture in England and Wales on straw disposal ;I and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Godber

I have now received from the Advisory Council for Agriculture and Horticulture in England and Wales its report on straw disposal. I am arranging for its publication.

The report states that of the total quantity of straw produced about two-thirds is put to productive use and about one-third is burnt. Burning occurs mainly in the major grain-growing areas where the surplus for which no economic use can be found is very large. In the short term, the council concludes that, for economic and technical reasons, there is at present no practical alternative to burning for a good deal of the straw. But it makes several detailed suggestions for increasing the productive use of straw in the longer term, and these I am following up.

The council considers that farmers should do all they can to avoid smoke and smuts becoming a nuisance or a hazard to others or to themselves. As to the prevention of damage by fire, the council attaches particular importance to the more complete observance of the NFU straw-burning code. It recommends that the code should be reviewed and makes suggestions for its improvement. I believe that this is both urgent and essential and have commended these recommendations to the NFU for its consideration. My officials will be at its disposal as hitherto to assist the NFU in its work.

The council has no criticism to offer of the present law relating to straw burning but observes that further control could be provided by the adoption by local authorities of a model byelaw to be drafted by the Home Office. Such a byelaw has been drafted and is now available to local authorities. Wide publicity will be given to the new arrangements in due course which, I hope, will have a marked effect on the nuisance and damage from these fires which cause such offence at present.