HC Deb 09 December 1992 vol 215 cc835-6
8. Mr. Anthony Coombs:

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects the United Kingdom to ratify the Basel convention.

Mr. Maclean

Ratification of the Basel convention is dependent, first, on adoption of the European Community waste shipments regulation by the Council of Ministers and, secondly, on the Council's decision on the timing of ratification.

Mr. Coombs

Although my hon. Friend rightly says that this is a matter mainly of European competence, does he agree that early ratification is particularly important because the Basel convention confirms the self-sufficiency principle, which means that developed countries should not transport their hazardous waste unnecessarily? That convention gives developed countries the opportunity to receive waste from developing countries that do not have the recycling facilities necessary for hazardous waste.

Mr. Maclean

My hon. Friend is right. Ratification is a matter for the EC and we shall want to see that achieved as early as possible.

We are committed to the self-sufficiency principle and I pay tribute to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for successfully negotiating that when he took over the presidency of the European Council. We shall now develop our own national plans to ensure that developed countries that are large enough to deal with their own waste do not transport it here.

Mr. Denham

Is the Minister aware that millions of people in this country are still deeply concerned about our continuing role as the toxic waste-bin of Europe? Does the Minister accept that, despite all the fine words about the Luxembourg agreement and the Basel convention, no unequivocal statement has ever been made by any Minister to the effect that the Government will use those powers to ban the import of toxic waste from developed countries? No committed timetable has ever been set for achieving such a ban. Will the Minister make that unequivocal commitment and present that timetable this afternoon?

Mr. Maclean

I fear that the hon. Gentleman is very muddled. First, he should look to see which countries are the toxic waste-bins—it is certainly not this one. We have just negotiated a regulation in the EC which will, for the first time, give this country the power to turn off the tap of waste coming from developed countries for disposal here. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the convention, he will see that it does permit developing countries, that do not have the facilities to deal with their waste safely to send it to developed countries where it can be treated properly. That is a sensible part of the convention.

Mr. Rowe

Is it not the height of irony that the Labour party makes such a song and dance about importing toxic waste for treatment from developing countries that do not have the technology to deal with it safely, when it spends most of the rest of the time posing as the party most concerned about environmental damage being done around the world?

Mr. Maclean

My hon. Friend makes a good point. All developed countries agreed that it was morally right that they should not instantly cut off the ability of poor developing countries to have their waste properly treated in developed countries. We shall certainly not take waste from other developed countries that can deal with it themselves. Waste for final disposal should be dealt with in developed countries. That is what we have negotiated and we are implementing national plans to ensure that it is put into place when the directive is ratified.