HC Deb 25 May 2004 vol 421 cc1493-4W
Patrick Mercer

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what plans she has to make the regulations for(a) the manufacture and (b) the supply of ammonium nitrate fertiliser more stringent; [172742]

(2) what measures her Department and its predecessors have taken to control the manufacture, storage and use of ammonium nitrate fertiliser; [172745]

(3) how many tonnes of ammonium nitrate fertiliser was manufactured in the United Kingdom in each year since 2000. [172747]

Alun Michael

The Government have taken a number of measures to control the manufacture, storage and use of Ammonium Nitrate fertiliser in the general climate of heightened security. We need to balance the risks of potential misuse associated with AN against its clear and proven benefits in supporting food output in this country.

The Government have been working with the fertiliser industry to improve controls in the storage and supply chain of AN. We have endorsed industry guidelines which advise producers and sellers of AN fertiliser to: sell only to known, bone fide customers, in particular those who have a credit account; refrain from making cash sales; ask questions to potential buyers of AN fertiliser to establish their knowledge of agriculture; in the case of suspicious inquiries, to record and notify the police of the purchaser's name and address (verified by documentary proof such as details from a driving licence) and full details of the inquirer's vehicle, including the registration number.

We are continuing our dialogue with industry and have asked them to produce a code of practice to encourage direct deliveries from manufacturers to farmers to shorten supply chains and ensure better traceability. We have also endorsed industry guidance, produced in collaboration with farmers unions and the police, on "Security of Fertiliser Storage on Farm".

To supplement the voluntary measures, DEFRA has introduced regulations to control the supply of both home produced and imported AN. The regulations require AN fertiliser, with a high nitrogen content, including mixtures, to have satisfied a Detonation Resistance Test and all sellers have to maintain records of sales.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has issued a self-help checklist to all those known to be handling or storing significant quantities of AN. The checklist has been distributed widely. It is aimed at spreading good practice and offering HSE as a source of further advice. Additionally, HSE has lowered the notification threshold under the Notification of Installations Handling Hazardous Substances Regulations 1982 from 500 to 150 tonnes and widened the range of products to be included in the notifications.

The regulations governing the manufacture and supply of AN fertilisers are kept under continuous review and further measures will be taken if necessary.

There are only two companies manufacturing AN fertiliser in the UK. It would not be appropriate to release production figures as it would enable each company to identify the manufacturing output of their competitor and would therefore breach commercial confidentiality.

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