§ Mr. Spearing
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what evidence he has received concerning fallout of airborne straw and ash over urban areas occasioned by the burning of surplus straw in rural areas; and what steps he has taken to prevent any repetition in the summer of 1984.
§ Mrs. Fenner
Having reviewed the problems which arose during last year's unusual weather conditions, we were convinced that stronger measures needed to be introduced to control the practice of straw and stubble burning. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department announced on 20 March the issue of revised model byelaws which greatly strengthen the controls on this practice. In particular, these new byelaws, by restricting the area which may be burnt at one time, will limit the creation of thermal air currents which carry straw ash and smuts. There is also a requirement in the byelaws for ash to be incorporated into the soil within 36 hours of burning. I understand from the Home Office that the uptake of these model byelaws by the local authorities in England and Wales has been encouraging. The National Farmers Union has revised its code of practice on straw and stubble burning to comply with these new byelaws and this is being distributed to all cereal growers. The Agricultural Training Board has also recently announced a training course, based on a new video, to help farmers and their employees to carry out straw burning safely. These organisations and this Ministry will be taking every opportunity, both before and during the coming harvest, to bring the details of the byelaws and the NFU code to the attention of the farming community.