HC Deb 15 July 1998 vol 316 cc180-1W
Mr. Chaytor

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to improve the quantity and quality of public information on(a) air quality and (b) water quality. [49009]

Angela Eagle

My Department and the Environment Agency strive continuously to improve the quantity and quality of information on air and water quality made available to the public.

My Department's standard of dissemination of air pollution information is amongst the best in the world. Hourly information on a range of air pollutants, together with a forecast, is made available to the public via CEEFAX, TELETEXT, the Internet, by Freephone and the media. The National Air Quality Archive, containing all data collected in the Department's national networks, is freely available on the Internet, together with statistical summaries and a wide range of supplementary information. My Department also regularly publishes research reports on ambient concentrations and emissions of air pollutants in the UK. In addition, my Department publishes a number of leaflets for the public on air quality issues. It is my intention to continue to make as much information on air pollution available to the public as possible.

The Drinking Water Inspectorate publishes an Annual Report on drinking water quality in England and Wales; a non-technical leaflet about its role which contains key statistics on drinking water quality; and simple leaflets reporting drinking water quality for each water company. It has also produced leaflets on lead in drinking water; chlorine, smell and taste; and problems with drinking water. All leaflets are available free of charge from the Inspectorate or through the Internet. Their content and style have been reviewed and improved following market research. More detailed information on the results of all compliance tests for drinking water quality is available for inspection on public records held by water companies.

The Environment Agency recently published a report, The State of the Environment of England and Wales: Fresh Waters, and will be producing a similar report on the coastal environment. Data on water quality are made publicly available through the Agency's public registers. Information on water quality and water resources is available in the State of the Environment section on the Agency's Internet site, which is being extended. The network of 7,000 monitoring sites to monitor water quality is the most comprehensive in Europe. The Agency is currently reviewing its monitoring activities to ensure that they respond to changing needs.

Air quality and water quality data are also published in the annual Digest of Environmental Statistics and summary booklet The Environment in your Pocket, which is distributed widely to schools and others. Measures of air and water quality are likely to be included in the set of indicators that will accompany the revised sustainable development strategy.