Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 22nd January 1987.
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what studies have been conducted by his Department on the use of nitrogen-based fertilisers on farms and their effects on water catchment areas.
My Department is undertaking a number of studies aimed at enabling nitrogen fertilisers to be used more efficiently and reducing the nitrate available for leaching to water. These include studies specifically designed to provide better information on leaching losses from a range of different crop and management practices.
I thank the Minister for that answer. Does he realise that there is widespread and growing public concern about the level of nitrate pollution in parts of this country and that an important source of that pollution is nitrogen-based fertilisers? Is he aware that in a study by the Department of the Environment published last December East Anglis was classified as one of the worst polluted areas in the country? Does he agree that as the need for massive surpluses is well and truly over the Government should be maintaining stringent controls on the level of nitrate pollution? What is he going to do about that?
I know of the hon. Gentleman's great interest in this matter, both within his constituency, which is probably why he asked the question, and on a wider basis. The Ministry fully understands the implications of nitrogen pollution and has already set in hand a series of studies, including work on the efficiency of the use of fertilisers and the uptake of soil-derived nitrogen, the response of grazed permanent grassland to nitrogen fertilisers, predicting fertiliser needs for individual farms, modelling the interaction of nitrate leaching, the need for denitrification of agricultural soils and leaching losses from different crop rotations, management practices and soils. We are working with the DHHS, the NFU, the Country Landowners Association and others along the lines suggested by the hon. Gentleman.
Will my hon. Friend acknowledge the importance of the work being undertaken at the National Vegetable Research Station in computer modelling of nitrogen usage by crops, which is pointing the way to reduced pollution? Is he aware that as a result of the arrangements it has made with the growers, as things now stand the Horticultural Development Council will have available to fund this and other important areas of research only half the amount previously indicated by the Ministry? Will the Minister restore the missing £1 million?
I fully understand my hon. Friend's concern about the horticulture industry and the institute which I believe is based in his constituency. Research and development are important, and it is doubly important that those who benefit from research and development also contribute to it.
The way in which we implement EEC directives will mean that all parts of the country will comply with them.