HC Deb 19 November 1986 vol 105 cc552-3
5. Mr. Lord

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received on the problem of acid rain; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Ridley

A substantial number of representations have been received. I announced on 11 September the Government's decision in principle to authorise the fitting of flue gas desulphurisation equipment to three major existing power stations and to require the use of low acid technology in new power stations.

Mr. Lord

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer and congratulate him on the progress that is already being made. Does he agree that it is now absolutely essential to harness all aspects of modern technology, not just to increase our prosperity, but to ensure that we leave the world around us a better place for future generations?

Mr. Ridley

I am grateful to my hon. Friend and agree with him. We are undertaking massive research into how best to clean up power station emissions. I understand that the CEGB will be putting out to competition the design as well as the pricing for building the equipment for desulphurisation. That in itself will bring many new minds to the difficult task of finding the best way to deal with these problems.

Mr. Allan Roberts

Does the Secretary of State accept that the 26 per cent. reduction, or thereabouts, of sulphur emissions in this country has been achieved as a result of the Government's economic and industrial policies, which have closed down British industry, and not because of their environmental policies? Fitting desulphurisation equipment to three power stations is totally inadequate. It would be no effort for the Government, and would cost hardly any public expenditure, to join the 30 per cent. club, given that the Government have already reduced emissions by 26 per cent. by closing down industry. After these Government measures have been introduced, we shall still be the major emitter of sulphur in western Europe. We must do much more by reducing emissions by 60 per cent. and by retro-fitting all our fossil fuel power stations, thereby creating jobs and developing British technology.

Mr. Ridley

I cannot accept that at all. Between 1970 and 1997 the United Kingdom's output of sulphur dioxide is likely to have fallen by about half. That is a splendid record and I defy any nation to equal it, especially when I tell the hon. Gentleman that our output of sulphur dioxide per head is about a quarter of that of East Germany and about one third of that of Canada. The United States emits 50 per cent. more than us. We have nothing to be ashamed of. The hon. Gentleman must stop knocking the country. He might try talking it up one day.

Mr. Kenneth Carlisle

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is almost incomprehensible that the Government have not joined the 30 per cent. club? We have gone a long way towards achieving that reduction—we will achieve it by the 1990s—and, by joining the 30 per cent. club, we would show our commitment to reducing this type of pollution in Europe.

Mr. Ridley

We shall certainly achieve a reduction of 30 per cent. The difficult point is from what date to what date the reduction has to be made. We might do better than some countries who join the 30 per cent. club, but, as with all clubs, I do not think that the rules should be fixed before we join.

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