HC Deb 24 March 1988 vol 130 cc186-8W
Mr. Patnick

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the outcome of the Environment Council on 21 March.

Mr. Moynihan

My hon. Friend the Minister for Environment, Countryside and Water represented the United Kingdom at this meeting.

The Council adopted a resolution on the close of the European Year of the Environment which emphasised the need for continued efforts on environmental information and awareness. Notwithstanding disappointment that some important proposals had not yet been adopted, there was general agreement that the year had stimulated many and varied environmental achievements.

The Council reached agreement on a directive to control discharge of chloroform to the aquatic environment, in particular those from significant industrial sources. In connection with this agreement and at the United Kingdom's request, the Commission undertook to bring to the Council at an early date proposals for drawing up a list of the most dangerous substances for future priority consideration. A proposal for a directive to co-ordinate controls over discharges of chromium to the aquatic environment was also discussed. Due to divergences of opinion among member states the Council failed to agree draft guidelines put forward by the presidency for further work on harmonising national programmes for reducing pollution caused by waste from the titanium oxide industry.

A general welcome was given to the Commission's recently published proposals for ratification and implementation of the Montreal protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer. It was hoped that the proposed regulation on Communitywide measures could be adopted in June.

Discussion of the large combustion plants directive focussed on the emission standards proposed for new combustion plant and, in particular, the size threshold above which such standards would apply. It was necessary for my hon. Friend to stress that the German presidency's "compromise" proposals were unrealistic and represented a step backwards from those recently presented by the Danish presidency. Although my hon. Friend was ready to discuss the new plant standards and the requirements for reductions from existing plants, the presidency decided not to discuss anything further. Thus it was not possible to make progress at the Council, although my hon. Friend and I look forward to more constructive discussions with the presidency in the near future.

The Council had an initial discussion of the Commission's recent proposal for standards for emissions from small cars, as required by directive 88/76/EEC (the "Luxembourg Package"). My hon. Friend made a statement welcoming a proposal to establish a European standard for replacement silencers for motor cycles.

Further discussion of a proposal to establish a five-year Communitywide programme of projects illustrating how actions in the environment field might contribute to employment led to an undertaking by the Commission to consider alternative methods of financing such a programme.