Drainage

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculutre, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th June 1984.

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Photo of Tim Yeo Tim Yeo , South Suffolk 12:00 am, 7th June 1984

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when his Department expects to produce a review of drainage.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Carlisle Mr Kenneth Carlisle , Lincoln

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he will complete his current review of drainage policy.

Photo of Mrs Peggy Fenner Mrs Peggy Fenner , Medway

The preparatory work in connection with the review has now been completed and I and my colleagues intend to issue a consultation paper during the summer.

Photo of Tim Yeo Tim Yeo , South Suffolk

I thank my hon. Friend for her reply. Is she aware that there is great concern at the non-appearance of the review at a time when some of the country's finest wetlands, such as Halvergate marshes in Norfolk, are under threat, and that it is unacceptable to envisage the destruction of those wetlands with the use of public subsidies?

Photo of Mrs Peggy Fenner Mrs Peggy Fenner , Medway

I appreciate my hon. Friend's concern. I can only assure him that the review has taken some time to complete because of the complex issues involved, but that we seek to publish the consultation document this summer.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Carlisle Mr Kenneth Carlisle , Lincoln

When the review appears, will my hon. Friend ensure that the cost-benefit analyses for large drainage schemes are at last subject to public scrutiny? Does she accept that it is very seldom that truly confidential material is revealed by these analyses, and that when scarce habitats are being drained using public money, public interest demands disclosure?

Photo of Mrs Peggy Fenner Mrs Peggy Fenner , Medway

Officials have considered the possibility of limited disclosure of the results of cost-benefit assessments, and their conclusions will also be included in the consultation paper.

Photo of Mr Andrew Hunter Mr Andrew Hunter , Basingstoke

Will my hon. Friend comment on the general charge that there is little point in draining scarce wetland at public expense in order to produce agricultural surpluses?

Photo of Mrs Peggy Fenner Mrs Peggy Fenner , Medway

Very often, the lands drained are not involved in producing the surpluses of the moment.

Mr. Mark Hughes:

Will the hon. Lady specifically consider the problem of Wakefield? My right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Harrison) is in major difficulty, as the process of draining upstream is causing tremendous damage in the city.

Photo of Mrs Peggy Fenner Mrs Peggy Fenner , Medway

We have arranged a number of meetings on the matter. We are very conscious of the concern expressed by the hon. Gentleman and will keep the matter under review.