The Minister for Industry and the Regions (Jacqui Smith): The Government's Envirowise programme promotes the cost-benefits of improved environmental performance. Companies using the programme are saving more than £220 million each year. Many of them have done so using more environmentally friendly manufacturing processes. Furthermore, £50 million has been allocated under the DTI technology programme to support collaborative research and development projects in waste management and minimisation.
Paul Flynn: Newport has become a major centre of recycling where 750,000 fridges are degassed cleanly and efficiently every year, and 450 end-of-life vehicles are dealt with every hour. The weakness is in finding secondary uses for all the glass, steel and plastics created by the recycling process. When can we organise our plans to ensure that we no longer export plastics to China and, possibly, batteries to France for recycling? We should be working on the secondary uses of recycled materials in order to build an environmentally benign green dawn for British manufacturing.
Well, I know that my hon. Friend is a very able advocate not only for Newport, but in respect of this issue more widely. He has raised the matter with me before at Trade and Industry questions. I recognise the case that he makes for Newport, which has led the way in developing sustainable manufacturing. My hon. Friend identified facilities for capturing CFCs from recycled fridges and for shredding end-of-life vehicles. It is precisely because of the development of such facilities that the UK has sufficient capacity to meet the needs of the end-of-life directive and the waste electrical and electronic equipment directive, which will come into force in the next couple of years. My hon. Friend makes an important point about what subsequently happens to that waste. I reiterate the Government's support
3 Mar 2005 : Column 1084
through the technology programme, which could cover innovative uses of such waste. The Department is also working on the national industrial symbiosis programmea business-led programme that brings together businesses to turn waste into resources. With that sort of Government support and the innovations developed by the industries in my hon. Friend's constituency and elsewhere, we should be able to make important progress in this sphere.
Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury) (Con): Following on from the Minister's point about the end-of-life directive for vehicles, how confident is she that the extra costs involved will not simply result in the dumping of more vehicles in the countryside, as happens extensively in my constituency, rather than in a more environmentally friendly approach to manufacturing, as was the original intent?
Jacqui Smith: It is precisely to avoid such effects that the directive is being put in place. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would welcome the fact that the end-of-life vehicles (producer responsibility) regulations laid before the House in February are due to come into force today. They take into consideration what is known as the "own mark" approach, whereby companies take back the vehicles that they have produced. That restricts the sort of dumping that the hon. Gentleman mentioned and enables the recycling of vehicles to take place. I believe that it will be good for the environment, good for our communities and good for the customers of those vehicles, because they will know where they should be returned to.
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) (Lab): In respect of environmental manufacturing, what is more environmentally friendly in the production of power than nuclear power stations? Some of us believe that the sooner we get on with building another power station at Hinckley, another at Sizewell and another at Hunstanton, the better for all concerned.
Jacqui Smith: I hear my hon. Friend's concerns. He will know that the Government's position, spelled out in the energy White Paper, is to keep that option open. It is also important to invest in the sort of opportunities provided through renewable energyinvestment that would, of course, be cut by the Conservatives if they had the opportunity.
Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): Does the Minister acknowledge the importance of environmentally friendly disposal and recycling such as rubber tyre shredding and re-use? What are the Government doing to support and promote that important sector?
I know that that sort of activity is important, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Paul Flynn) outlined. Important developments in a range of sectors involve recycling and, in some cases, reuse of materials. I identified in my initial answer the considerable investment that the Government are making through the technology programme to examine the whole area of waste minimisation and waste use, particularly encouraging companies to work together
3 Mar 2005 : Column 1085
with scientific establishments to develop the sort of innovative processes that will enable us to achieve business and environmental benefits in the future.
Paddy Tipping: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for meeting representatives from Welbeck colliery just last week and for previously meeting representatives from Ellington colliery. These are the most efficient miners in Europe: they are prepared to work flexibly. The Government are prepared to back their efforts with coal investment aid. What pressure can the Government put on the major coal owner, UK Coal, to give the industry a long-term future in our energy plans?
Mr. O'Brien: It is enormously important that the coal industry should have a long-term future, not least because the profitable colliery of Dawmill is in my constituency. We want to ensure that pits like Welbeck continue. Obviously, at Ellington, there were issues to do with geology and flooding. We engaged in discussions with UK Coal and sought further drainage at Ellington. UK Coal was unwilling to undertake such work. It is a privatised industry and that is a decision that it is entitled to take. We are continuing to work to keep open Welbeck. We are looking at applications for funding and we believe that once we have studied the details of the proposals from UK Coal, it is highly likely that we will continue to provide some funding.
is it not important to halt the decline in the mining industry? I am thinking particularly about pit closures[Interruption.] I am talking about today and the future of energy supplies. The Government may not want to be concerned about the future of energy supplies, but we are. As the Minister has admitted that gas supplies might be tight in the coming winter or the one after that, is it not important that we consider how we might help the coal industry through clean coal technology, rather than just bury our heads in the sand?
It is almost as if I could not imagine a Conservative spokesman having the brass neck to stand up in the House of Commons and suggest that the actions of this Government, who have put so much into supporting the coal industry, could in any way be compared with the destruction of the coal industry under the Conservative Government. It is beyond belief that any Conservative Front-Bench spokesman could
3 Mar 2005 : Column 1086
have the brass neck to do that. We have put substantial amounts of coal aid£57 million worthinto the coal industry.
Mr. O'Brien: No, it is not just words; taxpayers' money is supporting the coal industry to ensure that our coal industry has a long-term future. We are also providing to the cleaner coal technologies project further fundingsome £4 millionin support of new technology, and we are in the process of developing a further carbon abatement technology strategy, which we hope will be announced later this year. The Government are making significant investments, unlike the destruction that the Tories wrought.
Mr. Martin O'Neill (Ochil) (Lab): While agreeing with my hon. Friend that there is often more rejoicing in Heaven when one sinner repents, what we have just heard stretches the imagination a bit far. Does he recognise that it is all very well to talk about successive technologies, but we have coal-fired power stations capable of being switched on in far shorter periods than virtually any other technology? It is in that way that the gap can be filled. If we are to be committed to coal, we must recognise that it will nevertheless be dirty and that there will be a need for balancing technologies, such as those provided by nuclear.
Mr. O'Brien: Certainly we have to ensure that any new carbon abatement technology for fossil fuel power generationwe hope to publish that strategy shortlywill need to consider the need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. A key way of doing that in the long term is by developing sequestration and carbon capture. The research into that, both in the private sector and with Government support, is something that the coal industry can look to for the long term. Of course, we want to see diversity in our energy supplies and in the coming decades that will include not only coal, but nuclear power.
Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend the Minister recall that on this day, 3 March, 20 years ago, the miners' strike ended? At that time, we had 170 pits, a clean coal technology plant in the offing in the south Yorkshire coalfield, and the coal industry was publicly owned. By 1997, when the Tories were kicked out, all those had gone and only 17 pits remained. If we want to sustain the tiny remains of our coalfield, we need to get rid of the major producer, UK Coal, because it is interested only in the development of its 49,000 acres of land. It is a property company in disguise, and we should do what we did with railintervene and put someone else in charge. Then we could save the remaining pits and introduce the new clean coal technology that the Tories got rid of. Then we would be doing something right.
My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the past and the way in which the Conservatives destroyed the coal industry. When I was first selected to stand for Parliament, my constituency had four pits: it now has one, and we want to maintain it.
3 Mar 2005 : Column 1087
As for UK Coal, it has taken advantage of the support offered by investment aid and is also investing £150 million between 2004 and 2006 to access reserves and maintain employment in viable mines. I have met recently with the bosses of UK Coal and made it clear that we are looking to them to ensure that we have a long-term coal industry in this country and to keep the investment flowing.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|