HC Deb 17 March 1982 vol 20 cc340-1
4. Mr. Hardy

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he has completed his consultations with industry and local authority associations about his proposals on the import of hazardous waste; and if he will make a statement.

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

Following the Department's review of the controls over imported waste, I announced proposals on 17 December 1981 in a written reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Scunthorpe (Mr. Brown). Consultation with industry, local authorities and other interests began on the same date. A few of the principal consultees are still considering their response to the proposals.

Mr. Hardy

Is the Minister aware that the present situation can justly be described as absurd, not least in regard to weaknesses in the collection and use of information which may be a factor as Britain becomes the dumping ground for every dangerous item of waste in Europe and from further afield?

Mr. Shaw

I repudiate the suggestion made by the hon. Gentleman. I think that he is referring to the importation of Dutch waste, which was 95 per cent. water.

Mr. Farr

Does my hon. Friend agree that, apart from the importation of hazardous waste into Britain, there are also problems associated with the transportation as well as the final disposal of waste within Britain? Will he look into these aspects?

Mr. Shaw

My hon. Friend will be aware of the arrangements made by waste disposal authorities for the selection of sites suitable for handling special waste. I have already reviewed the regulations on this matter and am satisfied that they are working satisfactorily.

Dr. David Clark

Does the Minister appreciate that, despite his disapproval of what my hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Hardy) said, Britain is becoming widely regarded as the dustbin of the world not only for Dutch waste but for waste from the United States, Japan, Eire, Denmark and other parts of the world?

Does he not realise that much of this hazardous waste is stored in east coast ports or is simply poured down disused coal mines? When will he treat this as an urgent problem? When can some action be expected from the Government following the review?

Mr. Shaw

I remind the hon. Gentleman that the Government took immediate action over the incident relating to the importation of Dutch waste. That led to the review of the regulations and to the consultations that are still proceeding.

In regard to the hon. Gentleman's claim that the United Kingdom is becoming a dumping ground, I remind him that we have a significant legitimate trade in the processing of waste. Much imported waste becomes primary raw material for other industries—for example, paper and board. Many jobs are at stake. I am determined to preserve those jobs.