HC Deb 17 December 1986 vol 107 c1194
7. Mr. Wigley

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects the United Kingdom to have reduced sulphur emissions to 70 per cent. of their 1980 level.

Mr. Waldegrave

By the end of the 1990s, if not before.

Mr. Wigley

Is the Minister aware that more than 200 lakes in Wales are now devoid of fish life due to growing acidification and that a survey in Scotland has shown that a reduction in emissions of more than 50 per cent. is required to abate the acidification level? As the Government's programme will achieve a reduction of only 14 per cent., will the Minister consider a further programme of investment, with particular regard to Aberthaw power station in Wales?

Mr. Waldegrave

I am well aware of the Welsh situation, but in referring to it the hon. Gentleman reminds us of the other issues involved. A good deal of the Welsh acidification has probably been caused by forestry. The programme announced by the Government will achieve a 14 per cent. reduction in addition to cuts already in train. We shall have achieved a reduction of perhaps 55 per cent. from peak by the mid-1990s. Few countries will have done better than that.

Mr. McCrindle

Can my hon. Friend tell us anything about mercury emissions and whether there are any plans for a reclamation programme for the millions of batteries jettisoned by people in this country every year?

Mr. Waldegrave

That is a serious matter, on which the European Community is preparing a directive. There has been contact with manufacturers in recent years to secure a reduction in the amount of mercury in batteries, but further action may be required.

Mr. Alton

Is the Minister aware that his replies have not changed since January, despite the Prime Minister's much-vaunted visit to Norway, and that nothing has been done to take this country into the 30 per cent. club of nations or to incorporate fluidised bed combustion units in our power stations to reduce emissions of sulphur dioxide, of which 300,000 tonnes continue to fall on the people of Norway every year from our coal-burning power stations?

Mr. Waldegrave

An excellent article in this week's New Scientist shows a shift in scientific consensus towards nitrogren as being responsible for the damage.

Mr. Allan Roberts

It is tree damage.

Mr. Waldegrave

As the hon. Gentleman says, it is tree damage. These matters are always changing. Another change since the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) asked about this in January has been the commitment of £600 million of electricity consumers' money to improve the situation further.