HC Deb 11 March 2004 vol 418 cc1639-40
3. Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire) (Lab)

If she will visit Staveley in Derbyshire to meet local residents to discuss environmental concerns arising from the escape of chlorine at Rhodia Eco Services on 3 November 2003. [160279]

The Minister for Rural Affairs and Local Environmental Quality (Alun Michael)

I was concerned to discover that the investigation into the escape of chlorine at Rhodia by the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency has not yet been completed, although the incident occurred on 3 November and my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Derbyshire (Mr. Barnes) met inspectors on site on 7 November. I have today asked the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency to complete their investigations urgently and to meet me next week.

Mr. Barnes

It would be fruitful if I, as the local Member of Parliament, could be involved in next week's meeting, and I hope that that can be arranged. There were similar incidents in 1998 at SARP in Killamarsh in my constituency, where there were escapes of acid gas. At that time, the then Minister for the Environment, my right hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West and Royton (Mr. Meacher), visited councillors and residents, which greatly helped to resolve the situation. Could the same thing happen at Staveley in connection with this COMAH—control of major accident hazards—incident? The town council is holding a public meeting about the matter on 2 April at 7 pm in the Speedwell rooms. That would be a useful occasion for a visit by a Minister, including a visit to the site.

Alun Michael

I have read my hon. Friend's account of events at Rhodia in Hansard, and I understand his concern about the history of the event, although I cannot make a promise about specific dates. I am told that the investigation is complex and technical, which is why it is taking some time, but that it is being pursued as a matter of urgency. I should be very happy to invite him to attend the meeting to which I have referred.

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