HC Deb 17 June 2002 vol 387 cc53-4W
Mr. Lidington

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the compatibility of the Government's commitments concerning the EC Nitrates Directive made in the Action Plan for Farming of March 2000 and the proposal made in her recent consultation document on the Nitrates Directive. [62086]

Mr. Meacher

The Government are fully committed to minimising the extra burden on farmers, consistent with its legal responsibilities. Particular action that we have taken to implement the commitments set out in the Action Programme for Farming of March 2000 includesConsultation, through the consultation document "How should England implement the 1991 Nitrates Directive?". We are currently carefully considering all the issues raised in the responses to this consultation and will shortly announce which approach will be adopted. Development of implementation support for farmers through working with stakeholder organisations to prepare workable guidance and advice, including updates to a series of free guideline booklets for farmers. Giving farmers time to prepare for implementation through bringing the Action Programme measures into effect within the new areas on 19 December 2002. As a result, the first closed period, during which the spreading of manures is prohibited, will not be until August 2003. We continue to operate a derogation which allows a higher limit than that set in the Directive for spreading nitrates on grassland. Steps are being taken to secure this derogation at EU level. The grant rate under the Farm Waste Grant Scheme was increased from 25 per cent. to 40 per cent. of eligible expenditure on 30 November 2000. The Government conducted bilateral meetings with member states and found that there is very little support for re-negotiating the requirements of the Nitrates Directive because of the widely held perception that re-examination of scientific evidence will result in tighter legislation.

Mr. Lidington

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make it her policy to commission and publish a veterinary risk assessment of the greater inter-farm movements of manure arising from the proposals in the Government's consultation document on nitrate vulnerable zones. [61594]

Mr. Meacher

There are no plans at present to undertake a veterinary risk assessment of the inter-farm movement of manure arising from implementing the Nitrates Directive, as such movements already take place and the veterinary risks are addressed in existing guidance for farmers. The general principles of decreasing the risk of spreading disease while transporting manure are included in the free guidance booklets "Guidelines for farmers in NVZs" and "Manure Planning in NVZs" which we intend to send to all farmers newly affected by the Nitrates Directive. They are:

  1. (1) maintaining a leak and spillage proof vehicle;
  2. (2) ensuring that the exterior of the vehicle is clean before leaving the farm;
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  4. (3) spreading manure on arable land or grassland used for forage conservation where possible;
  5. (4) storing and spreading the manure as per recommendations of codes of good practice.

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