My Department and the Agricultural Research Council are co-operating in a joint programme of investigations into the problems of farm waste disposal. The aim is to develop practical and economic disposal methods which will avoid any deleterious effect on the environment.
Does the Department accept that about 12 million cattle and 7 million pigs are more or less under intensive farming, and that the sewage disposal problem is equivalent to that of 200 million human beings? In those circumstances, does the Department accept the recommendation of the Royal Commission on the Environment that certain financial incentives should be given to farmers to persuade them to use manure in intensive farming?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for drawing that useful information to the notice of the House. Though I am interested to hear about it, I should say that it is difficult to include slurry in the fertiliser subsidy, since the contents of slurry vary so much, and the subsidy is based on fertiliser content. Economic inducements are also a difficult matter, but I would point out that we grant-aid such things as slurry tanks and slurry ponds.
Does my hon. Friend realise that there is a good deal of urgency in this matter, since in many areas river authorities are becoming anxious about the effluent flowing into rivers, and that it is a costly process to put the matter right? Could not some form of grant-aided help be given, as this would be welcomed by the industry?