HC Deb 22 July 2004 vol 424 cc472-3
5. Mr. Ben Chapman (Wirral, South) (Lab)

If she will make a statement on illegal dumping in the Dee estuary. [185746]

The Minister for the Environment and Agri-environment (Mr. Elliot Morley)

Responsibility for controlling the deposit of materials within the Dee estuary is split between the Department in English territorial waters and the National Assembly in the waters adjacent to Wales.

I am not aware of any illegal disposal of materials anywhere within the Dee estuary prior to devolution, nor of any subsequently within the English sector of the estuary. In 2001, there was a prosecution for the illegal dumping of dredgings in the Welsh sector.

Mr. Chapman

Is my hon. Friend aware that, to the best of my knowledge, two companies were fined for illegally dumping tens of thousands of tonnes of sand in Mostyn deep? Is he equally aware that the effects on that vastly important and ecologically fragile site are incalculable? Does he make any connection between that and the current application to dredge, and what proposals does he have for preventing its happening in future?

Mr. Morley

I assure my hon. Friend that we in this Department take our environmental duties very seriously and that we work in close conjunction with the Welsh Assembly. The prosecutions were brought by DEFRA lawyers, and DEFRA technical staff have been giving advice on dredging in the Mostyn area and on the disposal of dredgings. As my hon. Friend says, it is a very sensitive environmental site, and it has to be protected with proper regulation. Of course, we will have no hesitation in taking appropriate action if people break the rules.

Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South) (Con)

Does the Minister agree that illegal dumping in the Dee estuary would be reduced if the legal disposal of waste was encouraged and made easier for the public? That means more resources. Under the circumstances, is he aware that the Gershon review, which was adopted by the Treasury only last week, announced a £300 million cut in waste services. What impact will that have on dumping on the Dee estuary? Is not that simply code for sacking dustmen and closing tips? Where will a third of a billion pounds of cuts in waste services fall?

Mr. Morley

That appears a bit bizarre given that the Conservative party made a big thing about rooting out waste and becoming more efficient in spending money. The Gershon inquiry is examining ways in which to achieve the same and even better service delivery by reducing cost. Gershon pointed out that there are considerable potential savings, for example, in procurement, in the regional approach to waste management. The Conservative party appears to want to waste money rather than use it efficiently to improve service delivery, which is our commitment.

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