HC Deb 25 July 1990 vol 177 cc446-7
2. Mr. Carrington

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps the Government are taking to encourage uniform standards in the labelling of environmentally friendly goods.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory)

A national advisory group has been appointed to help develop a workable scheme for awarding environmental labels to products so as to inform consumer choice. We hope that that will be part of a European Communitywide scheme which will facilitate trade.

Mr. Carrington

I am grateful for that answer. Most people, given a choice, would want to purchase environmentally friendly goods. Will my hon. Friend ensure that goods are clearly labelled in future so that consumers can readily identify which of them are environmentally friendly?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

Yes, we are aware that there are several less than satisfactory labelling schemes. The Department of Trade and Industry is looking into whether they should be banned under the Trade Descriptions Act 1968. One of the advantages of having our own authoritative scheme is that it will clear the market of the less than satisfactory alternatives.

Mr. Simon Hughes

Will the Minister discuss with Ministers in the Department of Energy environmental labelling of power stations? Will he consider putting the same information in very big writing on power stations as he would like on other goods—that is, the environmental disadvantages and the cost of nuclear power—so that everyone can see what the real choices in energy consumption are and, in the light of today's Select Committee report, what a waste of money nuclear power is?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

All methods of generating electricity show a balance of environmental advantages and disadvantages. As the hon. Gentleman knows, nuclear power produces no gaseous emissions and is therefore benign from the point of view of global warming. It may also have disadvantages, but the information is freely available and nuclear power does not require a separate labelling system.

Mr. Squire

Given that few products are wholly benign, and as my hon. Friend is looking at a cradle-to-grave concept, is he looking into a series of gradations in labelling so that consumers can have an idea of comparative benefit, rather than a system of absolute benefits or absolute disadvantages?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

It is open to the advisory committee to come up with a number of alternatives such as my hon. Friend suggests, but I believe that simplicity is a virtue. We want to guide the consumer with a scheme that is readily understood, and that might work against making labels too complex.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

Which soap powder is used in the Minister's household, and why is it environmentally friendly?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

No doubt the advisory committee will be labelling soap powders, but which soap powders are used in the House of Commons is not my responsibility.