Is the Minister aware that when British Nuclear Fuels offered up West Cumbria as a sacrificial lamb in a quest to find a national facility for disposal of intermediate-level nuclear waste, it had no mandate from the district authorities, no mandate from the county authorities and no mandate for doing so from the industrial development auhorities responsible for creating jobs in West Cumbria? Will the Minister give an assurance that this decision will be taken on the most objective of criteria and will not be influenced by the whims of the monopolist employer and dominator of the West Cumbrian economy—British Nuclear Fuels?
Is my hon. Friend aware that I have a certain amount of sympathy with the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours), and I, can imagine what his constituents must be going through? Will my hon. Friend draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that if the Labour party were in Government arrangements would now be in hand for a low-level shallow facility for the disposal of intermediate and low-level waste? Have we not made some improvement, in that the hon. Gentleman's constituents have an opportunity of consultation and are being consulted at the present time?
There is no doubt that opportunities for full consultation in such an exercise are essential. I give a categorical assurance to my hon. Friend that there will be the fullest and most comprehensive consultation exercise once Nirex has come forward with a proposal for the Government's consideration.
Does the Minister recall the unanimous report of the Select Committee on the subject of nuclear waste, which was chaired by the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi)? It recommended that site—specific research was essential before any site could be properly indentified, let alone used? Does he recall that a great deal of waste is accumulating on the surface of the British Nuclear Fuels site at Sellafield and that the Labour-controlled Copeland borough council has made it clear to British Nuclear Fuels that the continuing proliferation of surface buildings to house intermediate-level waste is unacceptable to the council and the community? How can we ever develop a long-term strategy for the storage of intermediate-level nuclear waste if no research and discussions are allowed to get off the gound?
The hon. Gentleman knows that in no way would it be right or proper for me to pre-empt what Nirex will come forward with. All I can say is that I am certain that the consultation exercise that is under way will be rigorously looked at and that the proposals that come forward will take account of the sort of points raised by the hon. Gentleman.