HC Deb 24 October 1984 vol 65 cc675-6
3. Mr. Allan Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what recent representations he hay received on acid deposition; and if he will make statement.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. William Waldegrave)

In the last three months my right hon. Friend has received about 40 representations about the effects of acid deposition. We have also, of course, recently received the Environment Select Committee's report on this subject, to which the Government's response will be published shortly.

Mr. Roberts

Will the Minister undertake to publish that response as quickly as possible and ensure that there is a full debate in the House on the report of the Select Committee, as it is obvious from the evidence that the Select Committee received that the problem is extremely urgent? Damage is now occurring to the British environment as a result of sulphur and nitrogen emissions. We should be warned clearly in advance by the damage to forests and lakes in central Europe and Scandinavia.

Mr. Waldegrave

The answer to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question is yes. The second part is not for me, but I shall report it to those who are responsible for such matters.

Mr. Forman

Although it may be necessary to press ahead with further scientific research into this serious problem, may I ask whether my hon. Friend and his Department accept that there is a strong argument for pursuing in parallel the imposition of special equipment in some power stations on a pilot basis to ascertain whether the practical effect would be to limit this harmful pollution?

Mr. Waldegrave

That was one of the recommendations of the Royal Commission to which the Government will be responding. It is worth remembering that Britain has made a major contribution already. That fact is sometimes forgotten. From the peak of our deposition we have achieved a diminution of nearly 40 per cent., which is more than can be said for any other country.

Mr. Alton

When does the Minister expect to respond to the reports of Royal Commission and of the Select Committee? When do the Government expect to be able to comply with the EEC directive on emission control? Will grants be made available to the ecclesiastical authorities in view of the damage that is being caused to many of our churches by acid deposition?

Mr. Waldegrave

There will be no unnecessary delay in response to the reports of the Royal Commission and of the Select Committee. The negotiations on the large plan directive have only just started. The British Government and many other countries, have serious reservations about the target figures for sulphur and nitrogen that appear it the draft proposals.

Mr. Chapman

If the Government are shortly to make a response to the Select Committee's report, will my hon. Friend confirm that the Committee's recommendation, that new motor vehicles should be designed so that then is a 40 per cent. reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions, both a feasible and practical step to take?

Mr. Waldegrave

Without pre-empting the response to the Select Committee's report, I can say that the Government have made no secret of their view that the lean-burn engine, the route recommended by the Select Committee, is the sensible way to proceed.

Dr. David Clark

In the light of the Select Committee's report, the Royal Commission's report and growing public concern on this issue, will the Minister face his international and national responsibilities and instigate immediate action, and, in addition, set up a national inquiry into the effect of acidic emissions on both urban and rural environments?

Mr. Waldegrave

With respect to the hon. Gentleman, calls for immediate action and inquiries are perhaps the easy part of the response. The British contribution to diminishing the output of acid emission into the atmosphere has been considerable. I do not agree with Labour Members that the reduction is the result of the recession. Fuel substitution and fuel economy have played a major part in the diminution. We should not rush into action without taking a careful view of the costs and benefits involved.

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