§ Mr. Llew Smith
To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what recent assessment he has made of the persistent environmental effects on Welsh farms of the radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl accident in 1986; and if he will make an assessment on the effect on the Welsh economy of the radioactive pollution. 
§ Mr. Gwilym Jones
In Wales radiocaesium contamination from the Chernobyl accident affects certain upland areas of sheep grazing, predominantly where there is a high peat content. While there is a general decline from year to year in the activity rate of radiocaesium, the actual rate of decline in these areas depends on the interaction of a number of factors such as soil type, vegetation, weather, drainage and sheep grazing preference. The variable interaction between these factors does not enable an accurate forecast to be made of the length of time sheep controls will be required.
Regular monitoring of radiocaesium levels in sheep, and other relevant information, enables suitable areas to be identified for a comprehensive survey and assessment to determine the prospects for removing controls. Following such work, my right hon. Friend was able to 978W life controls from more than 65 sq km in the Snowdon area on 17 January 1996. This reduced the area originally affected by sheep controls from more than 4,000 sq km to approximately 580 sq km.
It was recognised that the introduction of sheep controls would have some economic effect on part of the Welsh sheep industry. To mitigate this, the sheep compensation scheme was introduced in July 1986 to compensate farmers whose enterprises had been disrupted as a consequence of sheep controls. So far in Wales over £7,900,000 has been paid to farmers affected. This compensation has been paid primarily to recompense farmers for the inconvenience and disruption of sheep controls; payments for market losses as a result of the Chernobyl accident have been comparatively small.