HC Deb 08 July 1981 vol 8 cc400-1
16. Mr. Beith

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what replies he has received to his invitation to contractors to submit preliminary proposals relating to involvement in the nuclear waste test drilling programme.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Giles Shaw)

There were 17 replies from bodies interested in carrying out geological fieldwork, of which four specifically mentioned research on crystalline rock. Any research which involves drilling will be dependent on the necessary planning consents being obtained.

Mr. Beith

Has not the Minister jumped the gun by issuing invitations, since there is nowhere where these companies can drill after planning permission has been refused, both at Kyle and Carrick in Scotland and in the Northumberland national park? Or has the Minister already decided to overrule the county council before he has seen the inspector's report?

Mr. Shaw

The inspector has not yet submitted his report. Despite the allegations made in local media, no decision on this matter has, therefore, been taken. Those who are responsible for advising on these matters, such as the Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee, have recommended that, despite many other alternative sorts of storage, research work should continue. That is the present policy.

Mr. Cryer

Does the Minister accept that there is widespread objection to any programme of drilling for the implantation of nuclear waste, because of the grave dangers which arise from the storage of nuclear waste, either at depth or in any other way? Will he give a complete assurance that this experimental programme in no way prejudges his decision?

Mr. Shaw

I give the hon. Gentleman that total assurance. We are dealing here with research work.