Sam Foster Welcomes PAC Report On The Control Of River Pollution In Northern Ireland
Published on Fri, 27 Apr 2001
Sam Foster MLA, Minister of the Environment, today welcomed publication by the Department of Finance and Personnel of the formal Memorandum of Reply to the Assembly Public Accounts Committee's Report on the Control of River Pollution in Northern Ireland which was published on 27 February 2001.
Mr Foster said: "The Memorandum of Reply, and the PAC report to which it relates, deal with the situation that prevailed before devolution. It would be inappropriate for me as a Minister in the devolved administration to answer in detail for actions and decisions taken under the previous direct rule administration.
"I have, however, already welcomed the PAC Report as a further opportunity to raise the profile of environmental protection here. In particular it underlined the importance of achieving and maintaining high quality waterways. These are essential for the sustainable development of Northern Ireland and for the conservation of our natural resources. The PAC Report has also demonstrated how devolution has enabled the particular needs and circumstances of Northern Ireland to be addressed. The significant increase in the length of rivers monitored is one of a number of achievements which the PAC Report acknowledges. It shows how seriously I take the issue of river quality and how my Department is supporting me in these efforts."
Referring to the increased resources which he has obtained for environmental protection, the Minister continued: "As Minister of the Environment I have sought to ensure that resources are in place both to prevent pollution and to take effective action when pollution occurs. I will shortly be introducing a Fees and Charges scheme to recover my Department’s full costs in administering the discharge consents system. This is consistent with the Polluter Pays principle and I again welcome the Committee's endorsement of this approach. Additional resources are also in place to strengthen regulation of water and sewerage discharges by the Department of Regional Development's Water Service, to implement the EC Water Framework Directive, and to enforce the enhanced anti-pollution powers in the Water (NI) Order 1999, which should become operational from June 2001. As I said when the Report was issued in February, I am grateful to Ministerial colleagues and the Environment Committee for their support in securing the additional resources, and to the PAC for their acknowledgement of the progress made. Work is well underway to translate these additional resources into the extra staff needed to turn these plans into reality."
The Minister concluded: "My Department will continue to do everything it can to maintain, and where appropriate, improve the water quality of Northern Ireland's river systems in line with UK and international legislation and commitments we have given.
"All of us have a part to play in maintaining good water quality. I am grateful to the PAC for their acknowledgement of the progress which has been made in improving water quality in Northern Ireland. The Committee has recommended that our long term goal should be to ensure that our rivers are free from significant pollution. This is a challenge to us to redouble our efforts. As the Memorandum of Reply which has been laid before the Assembly today confirms, my Department and I are willing to rise to that challenge."
Notes to Editors
- The PAC Report, which was published on 27 February 2001, followed an examination of Departmental officials by the Committee on 23 November 2000. This scrutiny was based on the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on the same subject which was published in April 1998.
- The PAC Report contained a number of conclusions, of which 21 required a response by the Department. In a number of cases, the Department noted positive comments made by the Committee. In others, the Department has either confirmed action which has been taken or which is planned for the future, in order to meet the recommendations of the Committee.
- Key commitments given by the Department in response to the Committee's conclusions include the following:
- The publishing of water quality targets for rivers
- efforts to improve industrial compliance with discharge consents
- the publication of an annual report on the compliance of Water Service with discharge standards
- the setting of targets for its response to water pollution emergencies
- the introduction of the new pollution prevention powers in the Water (NI) Order 1999, including Farm Storage Regulations
- the implementation of a fees and charges scheme for the discharge consents system, in line with the policy of full cost recovery, by 1 April 2002
- the examination of options for improved management of field services undertaken on behalf of EHS
- The EHS website is available at·www.ehsni.gov.uk
- A report on pollution statistics and prosecution statistics will be published and made available on the website during May 2001, and a 2000 report on River Quality will be published later this year.
For further information, contact DOE Press Office telephone: 028 9054 0003