HC Deb 05 July 1972 vol 840 cc525-8
7. Mr. David Steel

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will place in the Library a copy of the public speech he made to the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm on 6th June.

22. Mr. Fowler

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how much will the United Kingdom be subscribing to the Environment Fund agreed at Stockholm.

23. Mr. Laurance Reed

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what response there was in Stockholm to his offer to house the new United Nations Environment Secretariat in London.

26. Mr. Douglas-Mann

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will make a statement concerning Her Majesty's Government's contribution to the United Nations Conference on the Environment at Stockholm.

Mr. Peter Walker

In addressing the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment on 6th June, I put forward an eight-point programme of practical and attainable international action. In brief this covered ocean dumping, clean rivers, monitoring, information exchanges, technical assistance, a new United Nations institution and a fund, and a declaration. I am glad to be able to inform the House that our objectives in all these areas were attained. I am satisfied that the conference has laid a firm basis for future international co-operation on environmental problems.

My offer of London as a home for the new United Nations secretariat was well received and will be evaluated together with other offers. Pending the result of this process no firm figure can be given for the United Kingdom contribution to the voluntary fund but it will not be less than 5 per cent. of the total.

I took the opportunity while in Stockholm to meet a number of representatives of developing countries, and I am convinced that the conference brought about a greater degree of common understanding of environmental problems between industrialised countries and the developing world. The latter welcomes the prospect of technical aid on these problems to which the new United Nations fund will make a valuable contribution.

I have placed in the Library copies of my speech to the conference and I will place provisional texts of the agreed declaration and action programme. When study of the action programme has been completed I will consider whether further publicity is needed.

I should like to express my gratitude to the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) and to others representing interests outside the Government who joined our delegation and helped to make a success of our participation.

Mr. Steel

I shall confine my supplementary question to one part of the right hon. Gentleman's statement. While we welcomed and fully supported the proposal that the United Nations Environment Agency might be set up in this country, does the Secretary of State agree that there is a feeling about the number of public agencies already in London? If it is not possible for the agency to go elsewhere, would he consider a proposal to move some other agency from London and so not add to environmental problems here in inviting this agency, which is very welcome, to this country?

Mr. Walker

I shall certainly bear that view in mind.

Sir D. Renton

At what stage and to what extent was it acknowledged at Stockholm that the threat to the environment is due to a combination of economic development and population growth?

Mr. Walker

This subject formed a considerable part of the discussions that took place, and a United Nations conference on problems of population will take place in the foreseeable future.

Mr. Douglas-Mann

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that there is considerable concern about the difference between what was said at Stockholm and the actions of Governments throughout the world? Will he consider setting up not a departmental inquiry, as was suggested at Stockholm, but a Select Committee of this House to consider the implementation of some of the recommendations of his own working party report, particularly "Sinews for Survival", in particular paragraph 192 of that report? Is the Secretary of State aware that the working party concluded that there is not much time to spare?

Mr. Walker

My Department is carrying out an extensive inquiry, but the setting up of a Select Committee is not a matter for me to decide.

Mr. Crosland

I believe that the United Kingdom Government delegation at Stockholm made an extremely impressive contribution to the success of the conference. I should like to put two points to the right hon. Gentleman. First. will he agree, as I am sure he does, that Stockholm will prove to be important not for the eloquent speeches that were made but for such follow-up action as may occur? It is, of course, too early to comment on that, but will the right hon. Gentleman consider, perhaps in the autumn when the House reassembles, presenting a White Paper telling us what follow-up action has been taken?

Secondly, as to the new United Nations Environmental Fund, which I greatly welcome, may I put it that the British contribution should not come from the existing aid programme but must be in addition to it?

Mr. Walker

I am most grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his kind comments and I must express gratitude for the part he played in the conference. I shall certainly consider the suggestion of publishing a White Paper in the autumn outlining follow-up action. I agree that it is the follow-up to Stockholm that is all important. The fund will be additional to existing aid.