HC Deb 26 July 1989 vol 157 cc1007-8
2. Mr. Hind

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his estimate of the reduction of chlorofluorocarbons use which will be achieved in the United Kingdom by the end of the year.

The Minister for Environment and Countryside (Mr. David Trippier)

I expect that by the end of this year the consumption of chlorofluorocarbons in this country will have been cut by at least 50 per cent. This is required by the Montreal protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer, but only by 1999. We will therefore be 10 years ahead of our international commitments in this area.

Mr. Hind

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his well-deserved promotion, and we welcome him as our green Minister. His answer will be welcomed throughout the country, but he will be aware of the concern of the public generally about the need to accelerate the process of dealing with CFCs. What does he intend to do about that, and how will he deal with the little-known problem of halons?

Mr. Trippier

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his compliment. On the substantive point, we should like to move faster. The United Kingdom and the whole of the European Community are calling for cuts in CFCs of at least 85 per cent. as soon as possible, with the elimination of CFCs by the end of the century. Timing has to take account of the speed with which industry can move away from CFCs. Halons must also be phased out eventually, but as yet there are no acceptable substitutes. In the meantime, the emphasis should be on CFCs, although it is important to keep halons under careful scrutiny, particularly in the light of the welcome steps by the fire prevention industry to curb unnecessary and wasteful use of these substances.

Ms. Walley

Does the Minister agree that although there has been some progress, it has not been as a direct result of Government action? Will he agree that there must now be Government intervention to deal with the rest of the CFCs, and that a reduction of 90 per cent. in 12 to 18 months would be a realistic objective? Is he aware that the Heating and Ventilating Contractors Association is concerned about the general level of uptake of refrigeration in recycling services, and will he give the House some idea of what provision there will be in the green Bill to deal with that? Finally, what advice has the Minister to offer the new Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, who will have to make a big contribution to ensuring that industry has Government support to deal with this great problem?

Mr. Trippier

It was less than generous of the hon. Lady to suggest that the Government had not taken a number of initiatives in this area. It was British scientists with the British Antarctic survey, sponsored by the Government, who first obtained conclusive evidence of the depletion of ozone in the stratosphere. In 1985, the Government were the first to sign the Vienna convention for the protection of the ozone layer, which was then ratified in 1987. It was this Government's initiative to host the saving of the ozone layer conference in London in March, which was so successful. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I are determined that the United Kingdom Government should remain in the lead on these initiatives—a fact which is recognised in the international community, even if it is not acknowledged by the small-minded and ungrateful Labour party.

Dr. Michael Clark

Will my hon. Friend join me in praising the chemical industry for finding alternative propellants to CFCs and will he consider legislating in favour of those CFC replacements for aerosols and refrigerators?

Mr. Trippier

I cannot respond as positively as my hon. Friend would like in relation to legislation, but I am happy to take this opportunity to praise British industry for the way in which it has responded to the initiatives taken by the Government and within Europe. The British Aerosol Manufacturers Association has promised that at least 90 per cent. of aerosols will be CFC-free by the end of this year. The polyurethane foam manufacturers expect a 60 per cent. cut in CFC use by the end of 1993. Extruded polystyrene used as food packaging and in building installation should be free of CFCs by the end of the year. That is a good record on which we should compliment British industry and encourage it to do even more.