§ Mr. Matthew Taylor
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will obtain for his departmental library a copy of the 28 June edition of the "Construction Journal" article concerning Mundic aggregates; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Chope
I understand that the hon. Member is referring to the journal "New Builder", which my Department receives regularly.
The article suggests that unsatisfactory aggregates for concrete made from mine waste, are still in use in the west country. The effect of "Mundic" in aggregates impairs durability of concrete used in construction. As such the matter is of concern to the Government as well as to householders and others affected by the problem. The Government have overall responsibility for the health and safety aspects of new construction under building regulations as well as those interests arising out of their purchasing role.
The mechanism of "Mundic" in aggregates is little understood and, as the article makes clear, there is confusion within the construction industry. The first priority is to obtain a better understanding of the factors that indicate a risk of the effect and work on this is being carried out by the Building Research Establishment within the Department's research programme on aggregates. We shall then examine the extent to which the existing British standard (BS 882(1983): Aggregates from natural sources for concrete) may need amendment to be able to function as an effective check on unsuitable aggregates.
The results of this research are being made available to the responsible BSI technical committee. However, a European standard for aggregates that, in due course, will take the place of the British standard is currently under development within CEN—the European Standards Organisation. United Kingdom interests within CEN are represented by BSI. The Department will support action by BSI to ensure that the European standards and the accompanying methods of testing provide the United Kingdom construction industry with an effective means of ensuring that the Mundic problem does not recur.