HC Deb 17 December 1986 vol 107 cc1199-200
12. Mr. Lord

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will make a statement on the results of his latest discussions about acid rain with his colleagues in the European Council of Environment Ministers.

Mr. Waldegrave

As the President of the Council, I tabled compromise proposals aimed at securing progress on acid rain. Sadly, some countres found our proposals too onerous for them.

Mr. Lord

Will my hon. Friend confirm that it is now not the United Kingdom that is hindering progress on this issue? Which countries are still dragging their feet?

Mr. Waldegrave

My hon. Friend is right. The Commissioner, Mr. Stanley Davis, made it clear after that Council meeting that Britain, as the presidency, had made genuine efforts to take matters forward. The countries that had most difficulty at the previous Council were Spain and the Republic of Ireland, but several other countries, such as Portugal, also face problems.

Mr. Chris Smith

Instead of always seeking compromise proposals which preserve Britain's status as one of the major world producers of sulphur dioxide pollutant, why do the Government not implement the recommendations of the report from the Select Committee on the Environment, which was produced more than two years ago?

Mr. Waldegrave

Because it is the judgment of the Government that to spend so much money in such a short time would produce no benefits worth the expenditure. The hon. Gentleman is a little out of date in constantly harping on about the problems, as he sees it, from the British Government's point of view. Some European countries, including the big polluting countries, such as Spain, have far greater problems.

Dr. David Clark

Will the Minister stop deluding himself into believing that Britain is no longer regarded as the bad neighbour of Europe when it comes to acidic emissions? Will he assure the House that the Government will press ahead with the commitment to retrofit three power stations, beginning next year?

Mr. Waldegrave

On the latter point, yes. On the former point, if Britain has a worse image than it deserves, which is the truth, it is not a little because of our adversarial system of politics, whereby nearly half the Members here spend their time saying that everything done in this country is wrong.