Thank you, Sir Roger. I congratulate Mrs Hodgson on securing this important debate. Her parting shot was that her constituents do not want an ecological eyesore as their new landmark, and my constituents feel exactly the same way about the proposals to build a giant incinerator between the villages of Longparish and Barton Stacey. Only two weeks have passed since we last debated this subject, and it is right that we should do so again, because the Minister did not have time to respond. It is imperative that she should have the opportunity to give a fuller answer than she had time to do last time.
I regret to have to rehearse the issue we face in Romsey and Southampton North, where American conglomerate Wheelabrator seeks to build a massive, industrial-scale incinerator the size of Battersea power station in the Hampshire countryside. Billed by the applicants as a green waste-to-energy scheme, locally there are serious doubts that a proposal such as this can ever be green. So enormous is the development that it is to be determined by the Secretary of State—it is classified as a nationally significant infrastructure project—rather than by the local waste and minerals authority, Hampshire County Council or the local borough council, Test Valley Borough Council. I commend both those councils for being resolute in their opposition to it.
I will not rehearse the many good planning reasons why the scheme should be refused, but there are serious questions about whether it will ever generate the amount of power required to achieve the level of a national infrastructure project. On its website, Wheelabrator proudly proclaims that the scheme will have an energy generating capacity of up to 65 MW, but in public consultations with residents, the company has acknowledged that that is entirely dependent upon the calorific value of the feedstock. We know we have to get better at removing plastics from the waste stream, and those plastics have some of the highest calorific values when burned. I commend the steps the Government have taken so far, but much more can and must be done.
I visited a packaging manufacturer in my constituency with the Minister’s predecessor, Dr Coffey—we look terribly attractive wearing blue hairnets. The company’s managing director kept making the point that they wanted to use high-quality recycled plastics in their packaging, but it was too difficult to get hold of them. They used a percentage of recycled, but it was easier and cheaper to get fresh plastics than to extract plastics from the waste stream. They wanted Government action to ensure that the plastics that we all know are in the waste stream can be redirected into businesses such as theirs.