HC Deb 27 July 1977 vol 936 cc621-3
13. Mr. Forman

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what consultations he has had subsequent to the Government's reply to the Sixth Report of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution.

Mr. Shore

We have received a favourable response on the White Paper from the Royal Commission. As regards implementation, the detailed arrangements for the Nuclear Waste Management Advisory Committee are in hand, and a review of the research programme has begun.

Mr. Forman

In the right hon. Gentleman's conversations in the light of the Government's White Paper, has the Secretary of State been prompted to reconsider his rather negative attitude to the proposal for a nuclear waste disposal corporation as recommended in the Flowers Report? What steps have been taken to establish the high-level independent body to look at the interaction between energy policy and environmental policy, and when will we get a debate in Parliament on this very important issue?

Mr. Shore

I recognise and welcome the hon. Gentleman's interest in this most important matter. I would like to be more forthcoming but I cannot say when we are having a debate. However, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will continue to press for a debate. He will have every support that I can give him. I have not rejected the idea of a nuclear waste disposal corporation. I have said that I would seek the advice of the waste disposal advisory committee on the question whether such a corporation would be a useful further development of our disposal policy. I shall put that question to that body when we have formed it. As for the high-level body to advise the Secretary of State for Energy and myself, I hope that we shall be able to make progress on that after my right hon. Friend announces the completion of the formation of the Energy Commission.

Mr. Nelson

Will the right hon. Gentleman please bear in mind that many of us would welcome a statutorily formed nuclear waste advisory committee and would welcome that body being given some executive functions? What steps have been taken to form it?

Mr. Shore

We are obviously consulting widely, but I hope before long to be able to announce the composition of the advisory committee as well as its terms of reference. As for its having executive powers, the hon. Member will recognise from my statement that I am not as yet persuaded that it is right. The advisory committee will give us valuable advice on how we should exercise our responsibilities in this field, including the field of research.

Mr. Hooley

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the disposal of nuclear waste is one of the three key factors in the whole nuclear energy programme? Does he agree that there is no case for proceeding with the nuclear power programme until this problem is solved?

Mr. Shore

As my hon. Friend rightly says, the satisfactory disposal of nuclear waste is the key to the future large-scale development of nuclear power. That is precisely why, in response to the Royal Commission, we have taken a number of new initiatives and set up a number of new organisations to help solve this most difficult of problems.