HC Deb 26 April 2004 vol 420 c823W
Mrs. Iris Robinson

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment he has been made of the effects of the Nitrates Directive on the(a) pig, (b) poultry and (c) dairy industry in Northern Ireland; and if he will undertake a full consultation before the provisions are adopted. [166828]

Angela Smith

Responsibility for ensuring that Northern Ireland meets its obligations under the Nitrates Directive rests jointly with my Department and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. The hon. Member for Dudley and I recognise that implementation of the Nitrates Directive will have significant implications for the farming industry. However, we also recognise that agriculture is a major source of water pollution and that measures to minimise the negative impact from agriculture must be introduced if we are to meet the requirements of the Directive. Our officials have been working closely with the industry in developing our proposals for compliance. The first of these, relating to the application of an action programme under the Directive to the whole of Northern Ireland, is currently the subject of a consultation exercise launched on 14 April 2004. Two further consultation exercises, on associated action programme measures and draft regulations, are planned for May 2004 and April 2005 respectively. An Economic Appraisal on the implementation of the Directive has also been carried out.

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is currently consulting in parallel on a Farm Waste Management Scheme to provide capital grant support and has allocated funding of £30 million.

In addition, our officials are also committed to working with the industry to explore innovative and alternative approaches to slurry disposal which will be particularly important in the dairy, pig and poultry sectors.