HL Deb 09 November 1992 vol 540 cc1-2

2.37 p.m.

Viscount Hanworth asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they have taken safely to dispose of chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) refrigerants from government establishments, and whether they plan to use ammonia or other non-CFC refrigerants in future large refrigeration installations.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment (Lord Strathclyde)

My Lords, government departments are taking action to ensure the safe disposal of CFC refrigerants in equipment in their premises in accordance with current legislation, standards and best industrial practice.

Departments are also being encouraged to consider whether CFC-based refrigerant systems need to be retained. We will continue to examine the scope for using alternatives that are acceptable on health and environmental grounds.

Viscount Hanworth

My Lords, I thank the Government for that very encouraging reply. Can the Minister say whether we are pressing other EC countries to follow suit?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, I am delighted that the noble Viscount is encouraged by my first reply. Yes, we are encouraging other EC countries. The noble Lord may know that in Copenhagen this November we are reviewing the Montreal Protocol to try to bring forward the date for phasing out CFCs.

Baroness Nicol

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the accepted replacement for CFCs, which is HCFCs, is now recognised to be just as bad in environmental terms as the CFCs themselves? Can he say why it is that the Government are being so reluctant to look for yet another alternative? Is it because they are being advised solely by the chemical industry and are trying to recover that particular investment?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, the noble Baroness is right in saying that HCFCs may cause damage to the ozone layer. It is damage which is considerably less than that caused by CFCs. Therefore we recognise that it is an important transitional substance. I do not deny what the noble Baroness has said. We recognise the need to control the use of HCFCs. The United Kingdom is pushing for strict controls on their consumption to be included in the reviewed protocol.

Baroness Nicol

My Lords, perhaps I may pursue the matter a little further. Why are the Government refusing to accept the United Nations' suggestion that HCFCs should be phased out by the year 2005 and are insisting on 2020 instead?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, that is something that will be discussed in the run-up to the review of the protocol in Copenhagen. My understanding is that the United Nations is currently suggesting a phase-out of HCFCs by the year 2020. The Community has not yet decided whether a date should be accepted. I am sure that that will be decided before the meeting in Copenhagen.

Back to