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Volume 174: debated on Monday 18 June 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will establish an effective monitoring system for ground-level ozone in Wales.

As my right hon. Friend told the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) on 24 May, the ozone monitoring network operated by Warren Spring laboratory includes a site in Wales.

Given the dangers that high ozone levels at ground level can cause, should not the Welsh Office have a monitoring system right across Wales? Elderly people, pregnant women, children under two years of age and people suffering from bronchitis, emphysema and asthma —I am an asthma sufferer—are all at risk. Will the Minister commit himself to ensuring Government and European Community legislation designed to keep down ozone levels, which are highly dangerous to people and to the planet generally?

The hon. Gentleman is wrong. The levels in May 1990 showed a peak of 120 parts per billion at a number of sites, including Aston Hill in Wales, but there is no cause for concern. I assure the hon. Gentleman that levels of 300 parts per billion are not uncommon in Austria and Switzerland. We have a monitoring network of 17 sites in the United Kingdom and we always keep it under review.

It is an extremely felicitous expression of congratulations to the new knight on the Government Front Bench.

The issue of the ozone layer and ozone gases at ground level is important. It is a further example of a greenhouse gas. Will the Minister assure the House that there is an effective monitoring programme throughout Wales? Here we have an opportunity to make a contribution to the international environment.

I have already referred to the 17 monitoring sites in the United Kingdom which is considered an adequate number. They include a site at Aston Hill in Wales. The hon. Gentleman may know that the Welsh Office is currently funding the Institute for Terrestrial Ecology at Bangor in respect of research into the effects of ozone and other pollutants on the health of plant species in Wales.