HC Deb 04 June 1996 vol 278 cc391-2
7. Mr. Bennett:

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list the international environmental agreements to which the UK is a party, and the extent to which the UK has met its obligation under those agreements. [29778]

Mr. Clappison

My Department has a very good record of complying with international agreements.

Mr. Bennett

I wonder whether the Minister will place in the Library a list of all the financial commitments that we have made under the Montreal protocol, the Rio agreement and others, the dates when we made the payments and the dates when we should be making the payments. Does he appreciate that many people in developing countries feel that we are using environmental agreements as an old form of colonialism to impose our views on them? Will he ensure that we do all that we can to transfer technology from developed countries to underdeveloped countries to ensure that they can meet high environmental standards?

Mr. Clappison

We provide full and appropriate information about the activities that we undertake. The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that the Government have honoured their commitments under both the agreements that he mentioned. On the Rio commitments, we recently produced our proposals for biodiversity, which, as the hon. Gentleman knows, include help towards conservation in developing countries—a very important contribution to help them to meet their commitments. I think that about £130 million is the sum in the global environment facility fund. Also, on the climate convention and carbon dioxide emissions, we have more than exceeded our promises. We have also complied with our agreements on the Montreal protocol. When the Government enter into international commitments, they keep them.

Mr. Harry Greenway

Has my hon. Friend seen the international reports stating that the ozone layer is recovering—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) can sunbathe again if he likes. Is that recovery not due to this Government's excellent environmental policies, which lead the world?

Mr. Clappison

The ozone layer has benefited from our commitment to the Montreal protocol, as well as a number of other international indicators.

Mrs. Ewing

Obviously, the Minister has recognised that the disposal of any form of waste is a matter for international concern. Has he read the recent report on the disposal of nuclear waste at Dounreay in the north of Scotland? It shows that, some 30 years ago, there was a disposal of about 1,400 tonnes of fissile material, including caesium and uranium. Does that breach any international agreement? Will the hon. Gentleman give a commitment to hold a public inquiry into the situation and will he ensure that the House is kept fully informed of developments?

Mr. Clappison

The hon. Lady will be aware that waste licensing is covered by a very strict regime—and the type of waste to which she referred comes under an especially strict regime. If she will let me have the details, I shall look into the matter.

Mr. Dobson

Will the Minister confirm that the Government now intend to comply fully with the European urban waste water treatment directive? Will he also confirm that the Government will not repeat their previous efforts, which were turned down in the courts, to re-define the boundaries of the Humber and Severn estuaries, leaving half-treated sewage floating past Bristol and Hull?

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that the Government's lawyers, when giving evidence in court, said that the Government had taken that action to save money so that things would be easier for the already fat cat bosses of Yorkshire Water and Wessex Water?

Mr. Clappison

We have just heard a contribution to hot air. The public want a continued improvement in the quality of our bathing waters and rivers. They want clean water. Under any objective scientific test, standards are improving and British people have a higher quality of water than ever before.