HC Deb 21 February 1990 vol 167 cc928-9
20. Mr. Steinberg

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received on proposals for new waste incinerator plants under consideration.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

My right hon. Friend has received a number of representations from hon. Members, local planning authorities and members of the public concerning proposals for waste incinerators in north-east England.

Mr. Steinberg

Incineration of waste is a useful means of disposal, especially in terms of combined heat and power, but environmental regulations must be carefully considered. Does the hon. Gentleman agree on the need for a national and regional strategy on the incineration of waste?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

I can go part way to help the hon. Gentleman. We have agreed to set up a linked public inquiry system to consider at least two outstanding applications for the construction of incinerators in the north-east. That will help the inspector and the public to gain a regional dimension. The inquiry will also be able to consider safety and technical competence.

Mr. Holt

Does my hon. Friend accept that we do not want regional indicators? This matter is far too important for that. We should have a national debate and national policy. Does my hon. Friend agree that to hive off this matter for adjudication by an inspector, rather than for the Government to come forward with proper proposals, is to shirk one's responsibility?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

My hon. Friend will agree that, as this country produces 2 million tonnes of hazardous waste a year, we must find ways of disposing of it or treating it safely. I think that my hon. Friend's question strayed outside planning matters. I repeat that, for the part of the world that he represents, we shall take a regional view through a linked public inquiry.