HC Deb 22 January 1986 vol 90 cc293-4
5. Mr. Colvin

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the recommendations of the document produced by the Commission on Environmental Pollution entitled "Managing Waste—the Duty of Care".

Mr. Waldegrave

My right hon. Friend announced on 10 December last a number of measures which the Government propose to take to tighten up control over waste disposal. Some of those respond directly to recommendations in the latest report of the Royal Commission on environmental pollution. The Government are considering the other recommendations and will be responding fully later this year.

Mr. Colvin

Is my hon. Friend aware that the report, on page 160, suggests that the regulatory authorities should be more ready to communicate the findings of their investigations to the public in an open-minded way? Does he agree with the recommendation that waste companies should be more ready to make the results of monitoring of waste plants public, in order to allay anxiety that can arise from the veil of secrecy which at present overrides the monitoring results?

Mr. Waldegrave

My hon. Friend has become an expert on such matters as a result of events in his constituency. His comments are correct. The Government intend to try to achieve further openness in these matters. A working group is trying to find ways to do that without loading intolerable burdens on industry. I accept the policy direction in which my hon. Friend wishes to move.

Mr. Heffer

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the Government's failure to deal with pollution of the environment has been absolute? Over the years they have done nothing to carry out the proposals in the reports of commissions. Is it not time that they faced the problem of pollution? Unless we are careful, the entire nation will be dying stage by stage, because the Government have not begun to deal with the problems of pollution.

Mr. Waldegrave

I think the hon. Gentleman has shot himself in what the late Fats Waller called one of his pedal extremities. The Government moved quickly to accept many of the recommendations of the most recent Royal Commission on environmental pollution. For over 10 years the previous Labour Government—of which the hon. Gentleman was a member for a time—failed to introduce part II of the Control of Pollution Act 1974, which we have now moved to implement.

Dr. David Clark

May I draw to the Minister's attention paragraphs 5.28 and 5.29 of the Royal Commission's report, which refer to the experiments and small-scale developments in two of the most illustrious universities in the country—Manchester and Salford—which have been so greviously hit by the Government? They are developing a plan of extracting oil from domestic refuse. Will the Minister pay heed to those paragraphs, and not wait for a wider response? Will he encourage those two universities to escalate those experiments to a pilot scheme?

Mr. Waldegrave

I shall look into what the hon. Gentleman says. I cannot respond to him off the cuff now, but I listened with sympathy to what he said.