HC Deb 30 November 1994 vol 250 cc1186-8
3. Mr. Wigley

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps he proposes to take in order to increase the safeguards to the environment from the leaching of radioactive substances from landfill dumps into which radioactive waste is deposited.

The Minister for the Environment and Countryside (Mr. Robert Atkins)

I am satisfied that disposals of radioactive waste to landfill sites are properly regulated and that the public and the environment are fully protected.

Mr. Wigley

Is the Minister aware of the considerable dismay and concern that has arisen, following publication of the Government's consultation document on radioactive waste, about the possibility that waste currently going to Drigg could be redirected to landfill sites? Is he aware that from one such site in my constituency, Cilgwyn, water could leach through into the waterways in the neighbouring valleys and on to agricultural land, which would be wholly unacceptable from every viewpoint? Will he ensure that when considering the outcome of the consultation document, that dimension is taken fully into account?

Mr. Atkins

I understand why the hon. Gentleman raises the matter. No specific sites have been mentioned and no decisions have been made. It is a consultation paper. He will be aware, as will other hon. Members who take an interest in these matters, that the consultation is being undertaken because of pressure at Drigg in Cumbria on the low-level waste disposal. At many sites in the country such disposal of low-level nuclear waste has been made over the years, under all sorts of Governments. It would not be my intention to make the situation any more difficult. I emphasise again that we have not talked about any specific sites; at this stage, it is only consultation.

Mr. Allason

Does my hon. Friend recognise that there will be widespread acceptance and a widespread welcome for the consultation document, especially because of the kind of speculation that we have experienced in the past? Is he aware of, and would he like to comment on, the disgraceful and damaging speculation that has been indulged in, especially by the Liberal Democrats in the south-west in relation to Torbay? Of all the sites for landfill for radioactive waste, that must arguably be the most unlikely in the country, yet that has not prevented local Liberal Democrats from making absurd political capital or from trying to frighten the local population and visitors to Torbay.

Mr. Atkins

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I speak with authority because Liberal Democrats in my constituency suggested that a site on the boundary of the constituency would be reopened for nuclear waste. That was an absolute fabrication and complete nonsense, and they frightened many people unnecessarily. My hon. Friend is entirely right to suggest that certain people not a million miles away from the Liberal Democrat Benches here should think carefully before making statements that are untrue and misleading.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

I recognise the constraints placed on Ministers in the case of the Nirex deep repository application in the county of Cumbria, but will the Minister take an interest in Nirex's practice of bribing local organisations to win approval, thereby trying to avoid real resistance from the people of the county of Cumbria to its proposals?

Mr. Atkins

I know that the hon. Gentleman, like me, takes an interest in these matters for constituency reasons, so I shall look most carefully at anything that he says. However, I have no evidence of anything happening along the lines that he suggests. If he has evidence to present to me, I should like to see it.