HC Deb 12 March 1984 vol 56 cc12-3
13. Mr. Teddy Taylor

asked the Secretary of State for Energy whether he has given any recent guidance to the energy-producing industries about the emission of sulphurous fumes from power stations.

Mr. Giles Shaw

The Government examine closely any sign that changes may be needed in control of power station emissions, but I have issued no new guidance.

Mr. Taylor

Does my hon. Friend believe that British power stations are contributing to the growth of the acid rain? Is there any action that the Government can take to improve the situation?

Mr. Shaw

It is a fact that emissions from power stations contribute to the problem known as acid rain, but my hon. Friend will be aware that since 1972 there has been about a 30 per cent. reduction of emissions from United Kingdom power stations. It is therefore by no means certain that the amount that is currently being produced has added significantly to that great international problem.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

What is the Government's response to the Royal Commission's recommendation that there should be a five-year programme of sulphur emission control? Do the Government intend to accept that recommendation and cough up the money to fund it?

Mr. Shaw

The hon. Gentleman will know that the Royal Commission is reporting to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment. If the hon. Gentleman reads the Royal Commission's report correctly, he will note that it has made a recommendation about a single retrofit station being applied. He will also note many other recommendations, one of which states that an increase in nuclear power is desirable.

Mr. Speller

When talking about acid rain, will my hon. Friend confirm that no one is yet sure of the total emission factor, not least because in years gone by there were many more coal-burning chimneys and there were fish, greenery and no apparent problem of acid rain? Does he agree with the pamphlet recently produced in the United States, entitled: A billion dollar solution to a million dollar problem"? Does my hon. Friend therefore accept that we have to think carefully before we spend extensively on what may not be the true cause of the problem?

Mr. Shaw

I agree with my hon. Friend. The problem demands careful research on what should best be done to reduce the incidence of acid rain. My hon. Friend will be aware that the CEGB and the NCB have combined to provide a £5 million budget for international research on the issue.

Sir Paul Hawkins

Will my hon. Friend pursue this matter urgently as our partners in Europe are extremely concerned about acid rain? Does he appreciate that if he visits the Black Forest, as I have, and witnesses the death of trees there and throughout Europe, he will realise that the problem requires urgent attention from the British Government as well as from other Governments?

Mr. Shaw

I accept that my hon. Friend has seen evidence of the problem for himself. He must accept, however, that there are many different aspects to this environmental damage, and that even the Swedes have now taken the view that the problems affecting their forests are different from those affecting their rivers and lakes.

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