HC Deb 22 January 1992 vol 202 cc300-1
5. Mr. Ian Taylor

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he has met representatives of the CBI to discuss the Environment Business Forum.

The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Michael Heseltine)

I warmly welcome the Confederation of British Industry's decision to launch the Environment Business Forum. I was pleased to participate in its launch at last November's CBI annual conference. It is in line with the concept of a "Green Club" which I floated in my Shell lecture at the Royal Society of Arts last May.

Mr. Taylor

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the initiatives that he has taken. Will he note that industry is getting its act together environmentally? Banks are increasingly questioning environmental liabilities when making lending assessments, insurance companies are making matters more difficult when assessing insurance risks if the environment is not taken into account and many companies are carrying out green audits. Will my right hon. Friend encourage industry's efforts to ensure that the environment is cleaned up?

Mr. Heseltine

I very much agree with my hon. Friend. That is why I am grateful to John Collins and his advisory committee which presides over examining options for industry and commerce to put to the Government to improve environmental performance. It is having a profound effect on the thinking of British companies.

Mrs. Ann Taylor

Does the Secretary of State agree that too many British inventions involving clean technology have been started in Britain but have been developed and manufactured abroad, to the extent that we now have to import eight times more than we export? Who does the Secretary of State blame for that? Does he blame British industry or does he accept the blame on behalf of the Government, who have done neither British industry nor the environment any favours by their failure to implement strict, clear and the best possible environmental standards?

Mr. Heseltine

No; the blame lies firmly and squarely with the Labour party, whose high-taxation policy starved the enterprise culture of the opportunity to invest. It nationalised large parts of our industrial economy and denied them the opportunity to compete effectively in the world economy.

Mr. Anthony Coombs

Does my right hon. Friend agree that British industry is at the forefront of eco-auditing, to the extent that, under British standard 5750, Britain is the first country to introduce a voluntary system of eco-labeling for companies? Will he recommend to British industry the example of Pilkington, which already carries out eco-auditing on a departmental basis not only for environmental reasons but for reasons of efficiency and higher profit?

Mr. Heseltine

Pilkington is a first-class company, but the significance of the CBI initiative is that it is opening its club to companies that comprehensively observe environmental standards, which is a considerable step forward. My hon. Friend will know that the Government were at the forefront of pressing the Commission to introduce an European eco-labeling scheme. We were delighted that it was agreed at the last Council.

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