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Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire): A firm in my constituency--Biwaters--offers an example of how competitiveness can be improved by getting rid of various forms of pollution. That firm was under much pressure because of the pollution that it was causing in the area. When it expanded, it agreed to provisions to ensure that the pollution did not continue. The result was that growth brought more employment to the area, wealth and opportunities were created, and pollution was reduced. So there is no trade-off between pollution and cost.

Mrs. Gorman: The hon. Gentleman's example merely shows that our current system is working. The firm in his constituency was able to expand and ended up improving its methods to deal with waste. The previous Government used the polluter pays principle to improve the disposal of industrial waste, and it has worked well.

I wish that Labour Members would not always rubbish our country and the improvements that have taken place. I do not know how many of them have been on parliamentary trips to inspect other parts of the world, but anyone who has been to Mexico will know that the air

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there is not breathable and makes one pass out for the first few days. This country's air has been improved out of all recognition, without European directives. We have some of the best air in the world.

We keep on hearing about pollution from motor cars, but new cars produce almost no exhaust particulates. They do produce carbon dioxide, but the total amount of that gas produced by all forms of transport amounts to only 1 per cent. of all the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Incidentally, only 0.5 per cent. of that total is produced by cars. If we took every car and lorry off the road tomorrow, the difference in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would be infinitesimal.

The Bill will allow the Government to intensify policies that, eventually, will render our car industry almost non-existent. The industry cannot keep up with the demands that the Government place on it. Safety requirements mean that cars have to be bigger and heavier, and thus consume more petrol, whereas the requirement to reduce carbon dioxide output serves little purpose, as it is not a serious problem.

The Bill will not prevent the large environmental disasters that, regrettably, occur from time to time. Such disasters include accidents at nuclear power plants which, although very regrettable, are rare, given the number of such plants around the world. Nor will the Bill prevent what happened when vessels such as the Torrey Canyon or the Exxon Valdez ran aground, or the pollution that afflicted the Welsh coast. Such incidents are due to human error, which cannot be eliminated by a measure such as this. The powers that the Bill will give the Government will not stop those regrettable, but unfortunate incidents.

I want to pay special attention to the question of landfill sites, which is of particular importance in my constituency. That matter has been mentioned several times already, and is a feature of the Bill. Landfill sites are unpleasant places, but their lifespan is to be reduced and no more will be introduced. Three cheers for that, although the process of phasing out landfill sites is not the result of Labour Government legislation, but has been taking place for some time. However, the alternatives are completely unrealistic. I urge the Government to consider the need to incinerate more of our domestic waste, thus producing energy. Domestic waste can be regarded as a form of biomass, and incinerating it will remove several other pollutants that are in too great abundance.

I seriously object to the fact that, although the Bill will lead to more regulation and add to the costs of industry, it will not make much difference to the environment. The Government have shown that they will slip out of obligations when it suits them, and the smoking pollution to which I referred earlier is one example of their duplicity. Nor will they deal sensibly with the problem of traffic congestion, a matter over which they have hoodwinked the public. The Government are torn between appeasing the motorist and keeping the green lobby happy.

How can congestion be cured without increasing the number of roads and bypasses, and without increasing funding? It is bizarre to suppose that new European regulations, which allow giant European lorries and more heavy goods vehicles on our roads, will help matters. Many of my constituents live up country lanes, along

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which relatively small lorries used to bring waste to be dumped. Now, the waste comes in enormous vehicles that destroy the hedgerows. Vibrations from those vehicles cause serious problems to building foundations. Any legislation that allows agencies to produce more madcap schemes is thoroughly bad. I hope that, in Committee, we shall hear some sensible, practical examples of how the effect of legislation can be the opposite of what was intended.

I am uneasy about the reality of improving the environment. Making people pay for the pollution that they produce is admirable, and has produced enormous benefits and great improvements in the way in which industry deals with its waste. The previous Government supported that approach, and that is the way we should go. We should not introduce legislation that bends to the fashionable environmentalist lobbies, whose views are often based on nonsensical and bizarre interpretations of science which will not produce the results that they intend.

7.58 pm

Dr. Doug Naysmith (Bristol, North-West): Unlike the hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman), I support the Bill, which I believe offers the possibility of a big step forward in the way that we manage pollution prevention and control in this country and elsewhere in Europe, as similar legislation is being introduced throughout the European Union.

If one reads the background to the Bill and the discussions that have been held elsewhere on its provisions, it is clear that there have been substantial changes since it began its progress on 26 November last year. There is no doubt, either, that the wide consultations that have been held since July 1997, when the first consultation paper on implementing the European directive was issued, have also helped.

Of course, in most respects the Bill is concerned with a series of fairly dry, technical matters involving an abundance of off-putting acronyms and jargon. Even so, it is widely considered that the fairly substantial changes that have been made have improved the Bill.

I have a real interest in pollution control matters as my constituency contains a substantial concentration of industries that are potential polluters. It includes representatives of power generation, metal processing, mineral industries, the chemical industry, waste disposal and numerous other industries. The Severnside area also acts as an economic generator for the whole of the greater Bristol region, and underpins many of the jobs in that area. It is therefore vital that any new legislation strikes the right balance between protecting the health of the local people and the environment, without imposing unnecessary burdens on industry which could lead to it becoming uncompetitive.

The Bill strikes that balance. The decision not to introduce new legislation to run alongside existing legislation was wise. I know that people to whom I have spoken who are concerned with industry on Severnside would much prefer a one-stop-shop approach instead of having to deal with a number of different agencies. The existing overlap of permissions will also be aided by the new requirements to deal with whole installations rather than individual processes on a single site.

I have also discussed the proposed new legislation with the health and environmental services department of Bristol city council, which favours the integrated

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approach that is being adopted. In particular, the council is pleased with the possibility of organising processes to achieve the aim of sustainable development. The directive on integrated pollution prevention and control presents a huge opportunity to break the cycle of industrial land contamination. Requirements to avoid pollution risks, and to return sites to a satisfactory state when an installation closes permanently, must be included in the IPPC permits. That would not only ensure that the polluter pays for any remedial work, but that there was an incentive to manage processes so that contamination was avoided.

In a sense, the consumption of raw materials and energy is at the heart of sustainable development, and the way in which different business sectors respond to that pressure will be the key to future success. The Bill's proposals may help to influence the culture of industrial investment in the UK, which is traditionally short term in comparison with the longer-term view of some competitor nations. Encouragement of better energy efficiency will be a new responsibility for local authorities in this context and may not be easy to enforce. Measuring emissions may be child's play by comparison, but if sensible agreements can be reached, the effort will be worth while.

The EU directive and the Bill also emphasise noise prevention and reduction in an industrial setting, and that, too, marks an advance in treating noise pollution in a manner similar to that employed for other emissions for control purposes. I understand that there is currently some sort of turf war between local authorities and the Environment Agency about who should have the last word, but once that has been resolved, nothing but good can come.

I welcome the unifying and simplifying aspects of the Bill, and I understand that the Confederation of British Industry, local authorities and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health do too. That is an unusual combination, but it provides some measure of the broad support for the Bill.


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