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Farm Pollution

Volume 174: debated on Monday 18 June 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will give details about steps taken by his Department in order to quantify the damage to health and safety of people and environment caused by cases of farm pollution in Scotland.

[holding answer 8 June 1990]: The Scottish farm waste liaison group compiles records of pollution incidents and publishes information on the numbers and types of such incidents. The group, which was established in 1981, comprises representatives of river purification boards, the Scottish agricultural college and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland.Reports on specific incidents are made in the annual reports of the river purification authority concerned. There are very few recorded cases of direct damage to health arising from specific farm pollution incidents.

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement regarding the role of his Department in the care and protection of the health and safety of the Scottish people and environment from farm pollution.

[holding answer 8 June 1990]: I refer the hon. Member to my answer on 8 June, Official Report, Vol. 173, column 737. The Government aim by a policy of education, regulation and enforcement to reduce farm pollution at source in the interests of safeguarding public health and protecting the environment.The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland, together with other Departments, keeps the use and effectiveness of pesticides under review. Where it is justified on scientific grounds action is taken to ban substances whose continued use is found to be unacceptable. The Department was associated with the preparation of a code of practice for the safe use of pesticides on farms and holdings published earlier this year. Guidance has also been issued on the operation of intensive livestock units and on the control of slurry spreading.The safeguarding of public health is one of the objectives of the Sludge (Use in Agriculture) Regulations 1989, a measure introduced recently to protect the environment, and in particular the soil, when sewage sludge is used in agriculture.The Scottish Development Department sponsors the seven Scottish river purification boards which, along with the three islands councils, are responsible under the Control of Pollution Act 1974 for controlling pollution of the water environment. Their powers were recently improved and strengthened in the Water Act 1989. Where pollution of water occurs, whether from farm or other sources, it falls on these authorities both to take action to safeguard health by notifying water authorities and the public likely to be affected and to assemble evidence against the possibility of offenders being prosecuted.All employers and the self-employed, including farmers, have a general duty under section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of persons who may be affected by their work activities.The specific obligations relating to the protection of employees' health imposed on employers by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations also extend so far as reasonably practicable to non-employees both on and off the employer's premises.