§ Mr. Stephen Ross
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will make a statement on his policy on drainage grants for nationally and internationally important wetlands and Her Majesty's Government's international obligations under the Ramsar Convention.
§ Mr. Bishop
Drainage authorities are required by Section 11 of the Countryside Act 1968 and by Section 22 of the Water Act 1973 to have regard to conservation and amenity. This duty includes wetlands about which we expect authorities fully to consult with the appropriate interests before submitting applications to us. Should authorities fail to reach agreement we must decide our attitude on the merits of each case. My right hon. Friends the Minister and the Secretary of State for the Environment are in touch about the need to review these procedures in the light of the Ramsar Convention.
Grant applications from farmers under the Ministry's capital grant schemes for drainage work on land within an area designated as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention are subject to consultation between my officers and the Nature Conservancy Council. The Council's advice on whether the proposed work would affect the designated wetland is taken into account before a decision is reached. These consultations with the Council have resulted in modifications being accepted in many cases so that any damage to the wetland may be avoided.