HC Deb 22 May 1940 vol 361 cc142-3
38. Mr. R. C. Morrison

asked the Minister of Supply whether he is aware that many thousands of tons of saleable refuse are being dumped or burnt annually by local authorities or their contractors which, if reclaimed, would provide valuable and essential material for industry and agriculture, besides affording substantial relief to the ratepayers; and whether he will appoint a committee to investigate and report upon a plan for the immediate establishment of a public utility company to undertake the work of reclaiming, processing, and disposal of saleable refuse on a national scale?

The Minister of Supply (Mr. Herbert Morrison)

I am aware that many thousands of tons of house refuse are dumped or incinerated annually by local authorities or their contractors. Over 900local authorities now have salvage schemes in operation for the recovery of useful materials from the refuse or for the interception of these materials before being placed with the refuse. Much more can be done in this direction using the existing machinery of the local authorities and without recourse to capital expenditure or the utilisation of large tonnages of steel for the erection of new refuse disposal plants. A plan for a public utility company to undertake the work on a national scale has been submitted to the Ministry of Supply, and I am considering the advisability of appointing a committee to investigate and report upon it. I am also reviewing carefully the whole position in regard to salvage.

Miss Rathbone

Would the right hon. Gentleman tell us how many local authorities have not yet adopted schemes and whether steps are being taken to bring them into line with more active authorities?

Mr. Morrison

I cannot say the number of local authorities who have not done so, but the number co-operating in some way or another is 870.With regard to the second part of the Supplementary Question, I have that matter under active consideration.

Mr. Davidson

Could my right hon. Friend indicate when we may have a definite decision about the result of the review now proceeding?

Mr. Morrison

I hope it will be quite soon.

Mr. George Griffiths

Is the Minister aware that some local authorities have been collecting material for the last six weeks and cannot sell it?

Mr. Morrison

I will see that that point is taken into consideration.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the problem is not so much the salvage of valuable materials which are readily saleable, but the fact that the lost fertility of English soil is largely due to animal and vegetable refuse having been dumped outside farms instead of being returned to the soil as was done in previous generations?

Mr. Morrison

I quite appreciate the importance of that point.

Mr. Gibson

Arising out of the original answer, can the Minister say how many of these 900 local authorities are in Scotland?

Mr. Morrison

I cannot say without notice.