HC Deb 20 May 2004 vol 421 cc1085-6
7. Paddy Tipping (Sherwood) (Lab)

If she will make a statement on how she intends to implement the large combustion plant directive. [174408]

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

We have yet to make a final decision on the mode of implementation of the revised large combustion plant directive. We will make an announcement as soon as possible.

Paddy Tipping

Will the Minister confirm and publish the Mott MacDonald study commissioned by his Department, and will he confirm that his noble and ministerial Friend Lord Whitty visited one of the midlands pits only a few days ago? In the light of both those events, is it not true that if a national plan approach were taken half the coal collieries in this country would close within the next five to six years?

Mr. Morley

It is true that if the national plan approach were implemented in is currently discussed format, it would have an impact on the coal sector. There are no two ways about that. Similarly, if the alternative approach on emission limits were put in place, that would also have an impact on manufacturing. It is a complicated issue, as my hon. Friend knows. We want to put as much information as possible in the public domain. Our objective is to meet desirable environmental standards, but to do so with the minimal impact on the relevant sectors. That is what we are currently trying to do.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) (Con)

As the Minister rightly says, this is a complicated issue. He would accept that existing plants are in danger of breaking all the Government's emission targets. When will the Government make an announcement to confirm that existing plants will be included as part of the national plan, and what will be the costs to the industry of meeting the regulatory impact goals?

Mr. Morley

On the latter point, some figures have been made available on the costs of the regulatory impact, but we need to be aware that there are also health benefits to wider society from lower emissions. That reduces costs on the NHS, for example, so there are positives and negatives to the approach. I repeat that we want implementation to produce environmental gain with the minimum impact on the sectors concerned. That could mean some delay as we assess the various models and talk to the different sectors about implementation. I believe that it is better to have some delay in order to get it right and minimise the impact.

Mr. Bill O'Brien (Normanton) (Lab)

I join my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Paddy Tipping) in appealing to the Minister to have regard to the impact of the national plan on the electricity generating industry and the coal industry. I accept that the aluminium industry, with its single unit, has to be taken into account. Will the Minister impress on the European Commission the need for some variation in the application of the plan, which is what the French are doing in their submission to the EEC by seeking to variate in order to protect their businesses and industries?

Mr. Morley

I can assure my hon. Friend that we examining the French proposals, but he will be aware that there are complexities surrounding legal interpretation. I repeat my general point. In respect of the Commission, there should be elements of flexibility in the regulations that are designed to bring about the desirable environmental outcomes. We want those outcomes to be achieved in a way that recognises the impacts on industry and does not have a disproportionate effect. We want the outcomes, but with the minimal effect in respect of the economic impact.

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