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Water Supplies (Nitrates)

Volume 78: debated on Wednesday 8 May 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he has yet made a decision on the applications from water authorities to seek exemption from the regulations limiting the content of nitrates in public water supplies; and if he will make a statement.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be announcing decisions soon.

In considering those applications, will the Minister make it clear that the Government are not giving up the battle to curb nitrate levels, which are regarded by many other Governments as a serious health hazard? Will his Department be willing to initiate action to curb the horrendous use of nitrates in intensive farming, which serves simply to produce more cereals which cannot be disposed of, and pollutes public water supplies throughout the country?

My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to what is potentially a serious problem. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has recently published a code of practice about the application of nitrogenous fertilisers. We hope that it will have the desired effect.

Is my hon. Friend aware of the valuable research into the effects of nitrates on the water supply conducted in particular by the Freshwater Biological Association in my constituency? Is he further aware that the cut in grant that that association now faces is likely to affect dramatically the salutary results that are being obtained from that study?

That is a matter for the Department of Education and Science and the research councils, but the general principle, that the National Environmental Research Council is trying to move more of its research into the universities, is one which most people support.