'After subsection (3) of section 47 of the Clean Air Act 1993 (application to fumes and gases of certain provisions as to grit, dust and smoke) there shall be inserted—
(3A) Without prejudice to the generality of his powers under this section, the Secretary of State shall exercise those powers so as to.ensure that where any fuel derived from waste material is used for the purpose of any industrial process, the emissions from the burning of that fuel are subject to requirements no less stringent than those which would apply under any enactment to the incineration of that material as waste.".'.—[Ms Ruddock.]Brought up, and read the First time.
Motion made, and Question proposed, That the clause be read a Second time.—[Ms Ruddock.]
With this, it will be convenient to discuss also new clause 17—Definition of waste—
'.—For the avoidance of doubt, any waste material shall continue to be deemed to be waste notwithstanding that it is used or intended to be used in an industrial process, and any enactment relating to the storage, handling, transport, disposal and incineration of waste shall be construed accordingly.'.
The new clause deals with the fuel derived from waste material. Its purpose is to try to ensure that emissions from the burning of such fuels, sometimes known as substitute liquid fuel or secondary liquid fuel, are subject to requirements that are no less stringent than those which apply when that material is incinerated as waste.
Hazardous materials, such as paint solvents, have traditionally been disposed of in hazardous waste incinerators. A whole industry has grown up around the incineration process. The disposal of hazardous waste has to be paid for. It is carried out in specially constructed incinerators which are subject to planning controls and to rigorous emission limits. I am not saying that the local population entirely accept hazardous waste incinerators, but I believe that much has been done to dispel the disquiet that arises when an incinerator is constructed.
Cement manufacturers have now been given permission to conduct trials into burning the waste in cement kilns. Secondary liquid fuels are being used as a substitute fuel rather than disposed of as waste. A little while ago, the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-West (Sir A. Grant), who is one of my neighbours, initiated an Adjournment debate on the subject at which I and many other hon. Members were present. The Minister said that because the conditions in the cement kilns were different—that is, they were operating at a much higher temperature—it was not necessary to have the same limits for emissions. That was plainly nonsense. The British Cement Association, represented by Mr. McKenzie, repeated that view to the Select Committee on the Environment when it discussed the subject recently.
What matters to my constituents is what comes out of the kiln in the way of emissions, not what goes on inside the kiln. I gather from what Ministers have said more recently that they have changed their mind on the issue. During this debate, I am anxious to explore the extent to which the Minister has changed his mind and to ascertain how far he is prepared to go towards accepting that secondary liquid fuels should continue to be classified as hazardous waste and treated in exactly the same way as hazardous waste.
There are plenty of economic benefits at stake for cement manufacturers. The new fuel is cheap and companies may even be paid for burning it, but from the point of view of local residents the cement kilns were not constructed for that purpose. They are not subject to a BATNEEC, or best available technology not entailing excessive cost, assessment.
My constituents are concerned that, when fuel is burnt, the cement kilns suffer from frequent stoppages, or what during the Select Committee's inquiry into the matter were called carbon monoxide trips. The problem is that there is little monitoring of emissions during those frequent breakdowns. Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution has not been able to satisfy residents that, when the kilns break down, emissions that could be damaging are not produced because high temperatures are not maintained. There is considerable concern among local residents that less stringent conditions will apply to the emission limit for kilns than would apply to hazardous waste incinerators.
The other thing that concerns residents is that there appears to be no change in status when a kiln becomes what is called a co-incinerator when it begins to burn fuel. Residents are not consulted, and they do not have an opportunity to object. There is no new plan or process, and local people do not have the right to see all of the information and data from the trial because it is said to be commercially confidential. That is giving rise to a great deal of concern, and local people are neither happy nor satisfied with what has been said either by HMIP or by the Minister in Committee.
In Committee, the Minister assured me that fuel would be classified as waste. We are also discussing new clause 17, which states:
'.—For the avoidance of doubt, any waste material shall continue to be deemed to be waste notwithstanding that it is used or intended to be used in an industrial process, and any enactment relating to the storage, handling, transport, disposal and incineration of waste shall be construed accordingly.'.
We are concerned not only with the terminology but with the way in which waste is treated as a result of being classified as waste, and not as fuel.
My hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) conducted an extremely worthwhile inquiry in his role as Chairman of the Select Committee on the Environment. The Committee came up with a number of recommendations, three of which are worth mentioning here. The Committee recommended that the Government formally classify secondary liquid fuel as waste—if necessary by amending the law—thus applying a duty of care to all shipments of secondary liquid fuel to kilns. The Committee also recommended that the Government formally bring the burning of secondary liquid fuel in kilns within the scope of the EU's hazardous waste incineration directive.
The Committee proposed that the adaptation of kilns for the burning of SLF would constitute a substantial change under part I of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, thus ensuring that a change could not happen without informing the local population or without going through a proper planning process.
The Committee also recommended that trials should be limited in duration. Trials have, been taking place at Barrington near my constituency for several years. Trials should not be used as a way of bypassing legislation. A trial should take place over a limited period; it should not be allowed to continue until it becomes a commercial process.
The Minister has discretionary powers to treat cement kilns or co-incinerators in exactly the same way as incinerators. I hope that he will tell us tonight that he will apply that power rigorously. In Committee, I sought to remove the Minister's discretion and to ensure that the same conditions applied, but he rejected my proposal. It would be of enormous assurance to the House, and to my constituents, if the Minister would accept the new clause. That would mean that he will apply rigorously the same conditions to co-incinerators as are applied to incinerators, and that is what we are seeking.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for allowing me the chance to draw to the attention of the House the important issue of the burning of secondary liquid fuel. In Ketton in my constituency, Castle Cement has been conducting trials of the burning of secondary liquid fuel.
There is a lot of confusion about the issue, and the House should be aware that the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mrs. Campbell) has come to the issue rather late. [Interruption.] If I am wrong, she is welcome to inform me, but those of us who have been following the trials in our constituencies for a number of years have felt that it is only recently that the hon. Lady has got to grips with the issue. I suggest that she has not yet got to grips with the facts.
The purpose of the process is to recycle a fuel that has many constituent parts which are put into cement kilns according to a strictly regulated formula and specification. One cannot predict the mix of products that go into incinerators, which therefore must cope with great extremes and strange combinations of waste. Waste is put together according to a specification, and then fed into the cement kilns.
The regime under which the cement companies must now work came about as a result of pressure put on my right hon. Friend the Minister by my hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) and me. The regime was much enhanced a few months ago in co-operation with HMIP, which has been punctilious to the extreme in following this issue.
Monitoring has been taking place throughout the trials. The specification of the fuel has been monitored, as has the environment in and around the cement kilns before, during and after the trials. To suggest that those who live near a cement kiln that is burning secondary liquid fuel are in greater danger than those who live around an ordinary incinerator is wrong.
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that satisfactory monitoring has not taken place when there has been an interruption of production? Has there not been public concern in the hon. Member's constituency—and other areas—that monitoring is not taking place during interruptions and the start-ups following them?
The hon. Lady's intervention identifies exactly where she and her colleagues are mistaken. The temperature in a cement kiln remains very high for many hours—even when it has been switched off—and the trips last only for seconds. The fuel is destroyed in the kiln, which reverts to coal burning within a matter of moments. The concern that the hon. Lady is levelling against the process is misplaced.
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that it is important that local residents are reassured that monitoring will continue during a breakdown, even if that breakdown lasts for only a few seconds? What is important to residents is not the high temperatures in the cement kilns, but what comes out of the kilns. If monitoring is not done during a breakdown, it is impossible for local residents to know whether what is coming out of a kiln is damaging.
I repeat that the heat retained in the cement kiln is such that, even though there has been a slight breakdown, the fuel is destroyed and rendered inert. The hon. Lady should be aware that the regime involves constant monitoring. As a result of the improvements that my right hon. Friend the Minister and HMIP have put in place, my constituents' concerns have been allayed and they are happy to accept HMIP's explanation. About 700 constituents came to an initial public meeting. All of them have learnt what has been put in place to deal with their concerns.
The hon. Lady may well shake her head, but I know what my constituents think. HMIP and many other experts have addressed them directly. I must advise her that her concern is misplaced. HMIP and the Minister deserve great credit for what they have done to improve the monitoring regime for cement kilns.
I support the new clauses, particularly new clause 17.
The speech of the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan) suggested a certain measure of complacency. The Select Committee on the Environment was lobbied very hard by the various interest groups concerned about the burning of secondary liquid fuels and the House wants to be clear exactly who is involved.
There are the traditional companies that have built incinerators at considerable expense and are burning a great deal of waste material to the highest standards. To make the incinerators work as efficiently as possible, they are keen to get waste solvents, which improve the combustion process. They are obviously extremely worried that they might lose the solvents to the cement industry. Those companies—especially Shanks McEwan and Cleanaway—are concerned that they might lose some of the best fuel for their incinerators. The traditional companies thus have a clear and substantial financial interest.
The cement companies clearly believe that, if they can use the fuel, they can dramatically reduce their costs. They suggested to the Select Committee that they might be able to reduce their fuel costs by as much as 35 per cent. They did not totally convince me because they were very coy about how much that would mean on the price of a bag of cement. My inquiries suggest that marketing seems to have more influence on the price of a bag of cement than does the possibility of using such fuels. I understand the problem that they face, however. They do not want to find that they have competition from Europe, where it might be possible to use such fuel and, therefore, to produce cement more cheaply. Two big commercial interests are involved.
There are also the people who live close to cement kilns, for whom I have every sympathy. I am afraid that the cement industry has not had a particularly good record. On many occasions, kilns have broken down and people suffer because of the dust particles that are emitted, so I have a great deal of sympathy for them.
Finally, all people who are concerned about the environment must judge whether, if the fuel is not available to the companies that use it in their incinerators, some of the material that is being incinerated might well have to go to landfill sites, which might be far less satisfactory than getting rid of it in incinerators.
There is also the question of emissions from cement kilns. It was difficult for the Select Committee to get an accurate picture. It certainly seemed that nothing like enough monitoring was done during breakdowns, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mrs. Campbell) explained. It appears that, for safety reasons in the plant, trips take place when gas reaches a certain level in the kiln. There is considerable doubt about the effectiveness of combustion at that point.
The hon. Member for Rutland and Melton implied that the kilns stay very hot for a long time, which is true, but they must stay at the highest temperatures to guarantee that no dioxins are emitted, so some questions remain.
We must also remember that, at the moment, these are only experiments. It is easy to get a specification for the fuel when doing an experiment and using relatively small quantities, but it is quite another matter in large-scale production to ensure that the wastes are in just the right quantities to guarantee that the material reaches the same standard. That is another important area for concern.
The Select Committee wanted the Minister to say that the fuel would be treated as a waste and that, when burnt in cement kilns, exactly the same standards would apply as if it were being burnt in incinerators. That seemed a fair proposal. It would also have meant that, when the material was transported by road, it would have to be treated according to the highest standards—as a waste—rather than the lower ones required for a fuel.
I hope that the Minister for the Environment and Countryside can clear up the doubt about how long the material will be treated as waste. He seems to be saying that the Government are happy to classify it as waste to start with, but that as soon as it is to be used as a fuel they will change the classification. It would be to the satisfaction of a large number of people who live close to the kilns if the Government were to make it clear beyond all doubt that the material is to be treated as waste throughout its use in the kilns and that it is to be treated in exactly the same way as it would be if it was burnt in an incinerator.
I know that it is a corny phrase, but that would give us a level playing field. It would be fair to all involved—the big incinerator companies, the cement companies and the people who live close to the plant. It would also be the best way forward for an environmental policy.
I hope that the Minister will either accept new clause 17 or make it clear beyond all doubt that the material is seen as a waste rather than a fuel.
Hon. Members who start by saying that they will make a short speech invariably speak at length, so I will not do that, but just get on with it.
I have made many representations to my right hon. Friend the Minister on this subject. He was delighted to see me on the train from Preston on Monday and knew exactly what I wanted to talk to him about. Castle Cement in my constituency is burning a substitute fuel, called cemfuel, in its kiln. While I am extremely pleased to have the kiln in my constituency, as it employs a lot of people, if the economics of it had to be weighed against the health of my constituents, I would always go for the latter. It would be ridiculous to do otherwise. That is why I have made representations on the subject to my right hon. Friend.
It would be great if we could reduce the amount of waste that is produced. Incineration is probably one of the most environmentally friendly ways of getting rid of it—it is preferable to landfill or dumping—but it has to be done in the right way.
There is no doubt that when Castle Cement started to burn cemfuel in Clitheroe, it made several mistakes. It did not consult people in the area properly. They were not given the right amount of information. Because of that lack of knowledge, the public were immediately concerned. They did not know what was being done and their questions were not answered properly. They also got very suspicious when they discovered that Castle Cement was being paid to burn the fuel, as opposed to paying for it in the traditional manner. They had many concerns, therefore.
Some residents living around the cement kiln formed the Residents Against Toxic Substances action group.
Yes, RATS. The group has held two public meetings on the issue in my constituency and both were well attended, which shows the amount of concern felt by members of the public who live around the kiln.
Several people have complained that they have felt ill since the burning of the substitute fuel, cemfuel, began. I am not an expert or a doctor, and although the doctor in the area has been consulted about whether there has been an increase in asthma or other such complaints since the burning of cemfuel started, it is difficult to get any precise answers one way or the other. I am certain that, as doubt exists, some people are so concerned that illness can be caused by the stress of worrying about the burning of the substitute fuel. That problem, too, must be addressed.
That is why I wrote to the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) to ask whether the Select Committee would investigate the burning of secondary fuels in cement kilns. I am delighted to say that he agreed, and my only reservation is that there was only one sitting on the subject, although I am sure that, because of all the representations that were made and all the people who wanted their voices to be heard, there could have been three or four.
Nevertheless, a good report resulted. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister has read it, so I shall not read out any of its recommendations now. I have already said that I accept its main thrust, and I hope that HMIP will take it on board when it makes its recommendations, which I hope it will do soon.
My right hon. Friend also knows that I have another problem connected with the cement kiln.
Does my hon. Friend accept that perhaps the greatest reassurance that his constituents could have is the fact that all the evidence submitted to the Select Committee inquiry suggested that there was no significant difference between what came out of the cement kiln when it was burning secondary liquid fuel and when it was burning conventional fuel? Would my hon. Friend's constituents be further reassured if the constituent components of that secondary liquid fuel could be further redefined? Surely what goes in at the beginning determines what comes out at the end.
I understand that, because of commercial confidentiality, the composition of the fuel is not made known to the wider public. I know that HMIP will examine the matter. If it was known what constituted the secondary liquid fuel—in this case, cemfuel—I am sure that people would be delighted to know. That would reassure them, so I hope the investigation will be made.
No, my speech is coming to an end. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will have the opportunity to make his own speech.
The plume grounding in Clitheroe is a problem, but it would exist even if cemfuel were not burnt. It must be addressed as a separate issue. Coal, for example, is a dirty fuel, and if the plume were grounding early that, too, would cause its own distinct problems.
May I, through my right hon. Friend, express my thanks to HMIP for the way in which it has treated my constituents' representations? Every time I have asked the inspectorate to come to my constituency, its staff have done so. They have been present at two of the public meetings, and met separately the residents who formed the pressure group. I am grateful for the time that they have given, and I appreciate the pressure to which they are subjected when the residents continually ask questions. I hope that the response is coming through.
A precedent is being established here. People are worried, and ask who is to say what other wastes will go into cement kilns in future if nothing is said about the present problem. We want to be certain that we get it absolutely right this time, so I hope that HMIP will take on board the Select Committee report and the representations that have been made to it by my constituents and by me. I hope that the inspectorate will soon make its own recommendations and that they will reassure not only me but the people who live in Clitheroe.
I am grateful to my hon. Friends the Members for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan) and for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans), especially the latter, because he is my next-door neighbour and the other hon. Member for Ribble. There is a danger that, with the constant mention of rats at the Dispatch Box, I may begin to get a bit of a complex—but I know that this time RATS is an organisation that has addressed itself both to my hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley and to me.
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton about Opposition Members. My hon. Friends have been concerned about the issue for a considerable time and have pressed me and come to see me. I have also been to visit the kiln in my hon. Friend's constituency, so I am fully aware of what has been going on.
I want to reassure the House that it can be confident that part I of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 is well able to control pollution from the burning of secondary liquid fuel—SLF—in cement kilns. The Environment Select Committee, of which the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) is Chairman, produced a good, albeit briefly investigated, report on the subject, which I mentioned in Committee and on which I congratulated the hon. Gentleman and other members of the Select Committee. I said that we would act on the recommendations of the report and consider carefully the implications of what it suggested.
Several points have been raised in the debate. Although the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mrs. Campbell) has been told certain facts many times, she continues to reiterate her charges in the face of the reassurances that I offer on behalf of HMIP. Monitoring continues during upsets. The hon. Lady says that it does not, but it does.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley rightly raised the question of health. The Department of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food are now seeking views on questions related to health and to agriculture—the latter must involve food, I suppose—and HMIP and the Government will take into account anything that might be said there.
The hon. Member for Denton and Reddish asked about the definition of waste. It is the view of the Government and of HMIP that SLF is a waste, so the duty of care requirements in the Environmental Protection Act 1990 wil apply to it. As I said, all the Select Committee's recommendations will be carefully considered.
I repeat briefly that the existing legislation allows HMIP to regulate and monitor the SLF trials closely. That is being carried out to HMIP's usual high standards. I am grateful to both my hon. Friends for putting on the record their thanks to the inspectorate not only for its work on the evaluation of the trials but for the way in which it has assisted my hon. Friends' constituents. All the results of the trials will be placed on HMIP's public registers, and I know that the House in general will accept that that body is carrying out its regulatory responsibilities in a highly professional way.
Permanent burning of SLF in cement kilns will not be authorised if there is a net adverse environmental effect. New clause 17 would amend the definition of waste to provide that
waste material shall continue to be deemed to be waste notwithstanding that it is used or intended to be used in an industrial process".
Will the Minister be a little more specific about the precise meaning of "net adverse environmental effect"? Is the situation when secondary liquid fuel is burnt in cement kilns being compared with the situation when the same fuel is burnt in hazardous waste incinerators, or is the Minister instead drawing a comparison between secondary liquid fuel in cement kilns and the solid waste—coal and other fuels—that is also burnt in cement kilns? I am not clear which of the options is being used as a comparison.
I have made it clear on this occasion and on previous occasions, and I shall continue to do so, that HMIP operates trials to standards that would suggest that if something were not at least as, good as what we have now, the trials would be stopped. That is the meaning of the phrase "net adverse environmental effect". If the hon. Lady cannot understand that, there is not much point in pursuing the explanation. I have made it crystal clear many times, and she persists in deliberately misunderstanding. or ignoring what I say. I cannot spell it out any more clearly. Before we are much older we shall be entitled to conclude that the hon. Lady is being mischievous and does not really care about the issue.
HMIP is a renowned international organisation operating to the highest possible standards, regardless of anything other than environmental criteria. For anyone on either side of the House, or outside the House, to suggest that it is not doing the job properly is mischievous, and I will not have it.
Before the Minister gets too excited about this matter, and while he might be right to praise HMIP, will he explain whether it will consider whether some of the components of that secondary fuel could be better used by being recycled as solvents, which could continue to be used by companies that use solvents, rather than bought to bring fuel up to the standard necessary for it to be burnt in kilns?
The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point. The economic background is what provoked the cement companies to look into this matter. Equally, however, the fuel's make-up, how and whether it should be used, and all the other issues, including the fair question the hon. Gentleman asked, must be considered. HMIP will look independently at a wide range of environmental improvements that could follow if it decides that SLF is acceptable or, if not, what should replace it. All those issues will be taken into consideration, which is why the Select Committee report was so important.
Surely all the issues that have been raised on both sides of the House tonight could be addressed if either HMIP or the Minister's Department were to designate the change from burning coal in cement kilns to burning SLF as a "substantial change". That would trigger a full environmental impact assessment of all the issues and the concerns of people who live around the kilns would be addressed because it would all be on the public register. Why does not the Minister take that road and resolve many of the problems that have been presented to him tonight?
There is no great difference across the Floor of the House about the appreciation of the importance of this issue. That is why I said that the Select Committee—an all-party Committee—has done wise work in examining this issue. However, the point which I get slightly aerated about is the implication that HMIP is not doing its job properly.
I do not suggest that the hon. Gentleman said that, but it has been implied. If I am being obtuse, I may have misunderstood that to be the case. In any case, HMIP carries out its task to the best of its ability, which is a pretty high ability. As a non-scientific person in this regard, I am content to take its advice, as I must as the Minister responsible.
All the considerations that have been discussed across the Floor of the House in this brief debate tonight, with the considerations discussed in Committee, will be considered carefully as a result of what HMIP may decide to do. As the hon. Member for Cambridge knows, and as I have said on other occasions, we do not think that new clause 17 is the way to proceed. In the circumstances, I hope that she will consider withdrawing it.
I am grateful to the Minister for the considered way in which he has replied to the debate, although his remarks contained some implied criticism of some of my hon. Friends. When an hon. Member begins to raise an issue in the House, it often means that it is the first occasion on which that hon. Member, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mrs. Campbell), has had to do so and it does not mean that she has not been interested in the issue for some time, as the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan) suggested at the opening of his remarks.
The hon. Member for Rutland and Melton may have an advantage over my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge. After all, he owns Harcourt Consultants, which trades as an oil broker and adviser on energy matters. I did not hear the hon. Gentleman declare an interest when he began his speech, but those interests might relate to the secondary liquid fuels that we are discussing.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that clarification. He will know, as I know, of connections between secondary liquid fuels, the oil industry and energy matters and I thought that it was reasonable to ask him to clarify that for the House. We all have access to the Register of Members' Interests, and the matter is important. The hon. Gentleman made some unpleasant remarks about my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge and it is reasonable that we should redress the balance—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman deserved that.
On the new clause and the Minister's questions to us, what I take most seriously is my understanding that the Minister has an open mind on these matters. That is absolutely essential. The Opposition believe that some of the materials that go into secondary liquid fuels should be more properly recycled. We heard him say that economics drove companies to burn what we consider to be a noxious material.
In the circumstances and in the light of the Minister's remarks tonight—the Opposition will follow through those remarks in due course—I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.