Smith Irritation With "Scrappy" Pollution Vote

10 March 2009
Scotland's only full member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee Alyn Smith has today (Tuesday) criticised a bad tempered and scrappy vote in Strasbourg which will see additional pollution rules foisted upon certain types of agriculture, chiefly the pig sector.

One bright spot, however, for Scotland was that attempts to bring in much of the poultry sector to the rules were defeated.

The SNP MEP, who voted throughout with the recommendations of NFU Scotland, was also critical of the procedure used by the Environment Committee of the Parliament and by the Plenary authorities, which led to a number of amendments being declared inadmissible in a bad tempered voting session which saw a number of contradictory and legally unworkable amendments passed.

The intention of the dossier is to govern the emissions from major industries like manufacturing and steel mills, but there were a number of significant side effects for Agriculture. Smith abstained on the final vote, but the package was passed 402 votes in favour to 189 against.

Speaking after the vote, Smith said:

"I'm not sure the spectators in the public gallery had much of a good impression of the Parliament today, yet again a dossier has come through the Environment Committee to create a procedural train crash in plenary.

"As ever, the principle of the legislation, that large installations - be they agricultural, industrial, energy or steel plants - should be subject to pollution controls is difficult to object to, but the devil was in the detail. While this dossier will, I suspect, cause us few real problems in Scotland, I am not convinced that including agriculture in pollution rules which are better suited to steel plants and waste incinerators is sensible or necessary.

"The key for us was the attempts to bring the poultry sector into the rules, with proposals that the minimum threshold which would trigger the rules would be 30,000 birds rather than the current 40,000. This amendment was roundly defeated. We also won a crucial vote whereby manure and slurry spreading on areas already covered by existing nitrates legislation will not be brought into the IPPC rules but instead be governed by the NVZ rules as they stand, thereby avoiding legal duplication for no real benefit.

"All in all a pretty scrappy day, but compared to what this dossier could have been I suppose we should be grateful for small mercies. Of course, the implementation of the rules will be key, and I will keep an eye on the Scottish and UK implementation to make sure it is as user friendly as possible."