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Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on co-operation between the UK Government and the Irish Government on monitoring pollution in the Irish Sea. 
Mr. Meacher [holding answer 21 March 2002]: There has been extensive co-operation in recent years, including shared research programmes, between the UK and the Irish Government on the pollution of the Irish Sea, particularly in the production of the Quality Status Report (QSR) for the Celtic Seas in 2000.
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This report, which is available in the Library, forms part of a wider assessment made within OSPAR, the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North East Atlantic. It concluded that ecosystem effects due to pollution are generally confined to urbanised estuaries and that environmental effects of most contaminants routinely monitored appear to be either stable, or decreasing, with the main problem being caused by tributyl tin.
Although there is no specific co-operation on monitoring of radioactivity in the Irish Sea, officials from the UK and the Irish Government meet on a bi-annual basis in the form of the UK/Irish Contact Group on Radioactivity where information on monitoring of the Irish Sea is passed to the Irish side.
Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what checks are made by the State Veterinary Service on imports of cattle from France as part of re-stocking schemes following foot and mouth disease; how many cattle have been found to be carrying the disease brucellosis; when the last case of brucellosis was reported in the United Kingdom; and if she will make a statement. 
Since imports were allowed to restart following foot and mouth disease, no imported cattle have been confirmed as carrying brucellosis. Although initial blood tests on a consignment of cattle imported in February gave a single positive and four inconclusive results, subsequent tests have proved negative and brucellosis was not confirmed.
Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the regulations governing the spreading of farms' (a) own manure and (b) brought-in manure on set aside land under the Nitrate Vulnerable Zones Directive. 
Mr. Meacher: Under the Nitrates Directive 1991, Action Programme measures operate in existing Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) which were designated in 1996 and currently cover around 8 per cent. of England's land area.
The Action Programme measures for spreading organic manure currently apply to all land within an NVZ, irrespective of whether the manure is a farm's own or imported from another farm. Spreading organic manure is prohibited when:
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Certain other detailed requirements also apply, described in the DEFRA booklet PB5505 "Guidelines for Farmers in NVZs", available through DEFRA publications (08459 556000) or the internet (via a web link at http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/water/quality/nitrate).
Under the Arable Area Payments Scheme Regulations, the storage and application of manure on set-aside land is restricted to manure produced on the farmer's own holding between 15 January and 31 August each year. DEFRA is currently considering whether any change to this set-aside rule could be justified.
Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the effect on ground phase hydrological cycle water quality of the four specific months during which manure is not to be spread as defined in the Nitrate Vulnerable Zones Directive in those areas to which the Directive is applied. 
Mr. Meacher: Scientific studies such as "Strategies to Encourage Better Use of Nitrogen in Animal Manures" contained in MAFF Booklet PB4401 "Tackling Nitrate from AgricultureStrategy from Science", available from DEFRA publications (08459 556000), demonstrate that autumn months are the most crucial ones for reducing the risk of nitrate pollution.
Under the Nitrates Directive 1991, farmers inside Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) follow Action Programme measures detailing closed periods which prohibit the spreading of slurry, poultry manures or liquid digested sewage sludge on sandy or shallow soils between 1 August to 1 November (arable land) or 1 September to 1 November (grassland or arable land with an autumn-sown crop).
On uncropped land there is no crop uptake of nitrate in the autumn so the closed period during August, September and October aims to prevent applications of slurry, poultry manures or liquid digested sewage sludge on sandy or shallow soils between harvest and 1 November. August application of these manures on grassland and land sown with autumn sown crops allows time for uptake of nitrate by growing crops; the closed period is limited to September and October where the risk of nitrate leaching remains high. Applications after 1 November entail a lower risk of nitrate leaching because conversion of manure nitrogen to nitrate in the soil is limited by lower soil temperatures in most winters.
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Mr. Meacher: The Environment Agency received a report of pollution entering the River Aire from a closed landfill site in March 2000. The incident was investigated and was categorised as a minor incident which has a limited effect on water quality. Their enquiries showed the cause of the incident to be a malfunctioning pump carrying leachate from a decommissioned landfill site to the public foul water sewer. North Yorkshire County Council is responsible for maintaining the pump and is taking steps to gain access to the land, which is controlled by a tenant farmer, in order to carry out the necessary work.
The River Aire at Skipton is routinely monitored for chemistry and biology at two sampling pointsCarleton and Cononley. The most recent results recorded for Carleton are class B (good) for both chemistry and biology.
Overall, there has been a continuing trend of improving quality to this stretch of the Aire in response to improvements at Snaygill (Skipton) sewage treatment works. Results for 2001 are not yet available.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what information she has collated on the (a) health consequences and (b) public nuisance arising from traffic noise pollution; and if she will make a statement.
Mr. Meacher: The government has supported a number of studies into the health effects of various sources of noise. A number of these consider road traffic noise including: "Health Effects based Noise Assessment Methods: A Review and Feasibility Study", which is available on the DEFRA website (www.defra.gov.uk), and "The effects of relieving traffic congestion on noise exposure, noise annoyance, well-being and psychiatric morbitdity: annex to the by-pass study" which is available from the Department of Health. The government is also contributing to the European study: "Road traffic and Aircraft Noise exposure and Children's cognition and Health" (RANCH).
Road traffic noise does not generally fall within the legal definition of a public nuisance and, as such, there are no figures available relating to this. The government does, however, take the issue of noise seriously and periodically records people's attitudes to noise. This exercise established that in 1991 29 per cent. of respondents who reported hearing road traffic noise stated that they were adversely affected by it. This survey has recently been repeated and the results are expected to be published in May.
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The repeated survey and the development of the Ambient Noise Strategy, which includes establishing the number of people exposed to road traffic noise, will build on the work already carried out to address noise from this source.
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