Sustainable Use of Soil: Royal Commission Report (Hansard, 16 January 1997)
HL Deb 16 January 1997 vol 577 cc36-7WA
Lord Milverton

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When their response to the Nineteenth Report of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution on the Sustainable Use of Soil will be published.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Earl Ferrers)

We have today published the government response to the Nineteenth Report of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution on theSustainable Use of Soil. Soil is a vital resource, and different activities can constrain its future use. It is necessary to seek to understand these effects more clearly in order to avoid causing unwitting damage. The commission's report provides a valuable contribution to this process.

We have accepted its main recommendation that we should produce a more explicit strategy for soil protection. We intend to publish this for public consultation in the spring. This will allow us to build on the many policies and actions which are already contributing to the effective stewardship of soil. The Soil Strategy will draw together existing work, clarify our goals and identify clear commitments for future action. It will also address the overall monitoring framework for soils, including the issues of access to soil data and the better integration of existing data.

Our detailed responses to the 90 other recommendations which were made by the Royal Commission and which cover all aspects of soil use are also set out in the government response. Amongst the most important recommendations which are accepted by the Government are:

implementing the new contaminated land regime as soon as is practicable (Recommendation 2). The Department of the Environment is currently evaluating the responses to its consultation on statutory guidance;

reviewing legislation relating to the Environment Agencies once they have had time to establish themselves (Recommendation 4). A study of existing legislation is planned in order to identify the scope for rationalisation;

considering further ways to encourage farmers to seek advice on erosion control (Recommendation 18). MAFF, for example, is planning to issue an advisory booklet in 1997 to complement the Soil Code; and

pursuing action to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions (Recommendation 41). Amongst other measures, the Government are contributing to the European Union Acidification Strategy planned for mid-1997.

Copies of the government response are being placed in the Library of the House.