Waste Incineration Facilities — [Sir Roger Gale in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:45 am on 11th February 2020.

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Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes Chair, Women and Equalities Committee, Chair, Women and Equalities Committee 9:45 am, 11th February 2020

It is critical that we redouble efforts to ensure that anything that can be reused and recycled is extracted from the waste stream, whether metal or plastic. At Barton Stacey Primary School, the children have embraced the message we heard a few weeks ago in another room in Parliament, when a giant Womble urged us to repair, re-use, recycle and reduce. We have to keep striving to reduce the amount of material going into the waste stream.

Two weeks ago, I raised the issue of an incineration tax. I do not recall whether the Minister responded to that point, but I fear she did not, so perhaps she can today. Before I came to this place, I was a borough councillor in Test Valley. I always said I represented the ward with the most landfill sites—existing, former and proposed. Landfill is subject to a tax, and it is absolutely right that the next step up the waste hierarchy should be similarly taxed. The Budget statement of October 2018 included a reference to the consideration of an incineration tax. The time for consideration has passed.

Turning to emissions—I recognise that I only have a minute left—we all recognise that the EU relatively recently tightened regulations governing permitted levels of emissions from incinerators, but is the Minister content that being within permitted levels is good enough? Where is the aspiration and ambition? Surely, at a time when we are seeking to improve air quality, we should be looking to reduce the levels of emissions that are allowed. I have lost count of the number of times over the last three and a half years that we have been told that leaving the EU will provide us with opportunities. Surely, this is one area in which we can go further and faster than would otherwise have been allowed. We must do more and not slip back into the lazy argument that development will be allowed only within current regulations.

When it comes to monitoring emissions, the Environment Agency technique has been to sample test. The new BAT—best available techniques—measurements appear to require continuous monitoring. Certainly, should the abomination in my constituency go ahead, local people will demand continuous monitoring of key pollutants and an assurance that the EA will hold companies’ feet to the fire—apologies for the pun—to ensure that they abide by those standards.

The World Health Organisation indicates that there is no such thing as a safe level of particulate matter in our air, and that is echoed on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs website. The particulate plume from the proposed incinerator in my constituency would cover the primary schools of Barton Stacey, Longparish, Wherwell and Stockbridge, and many other primary schools in the constituencies of my hon. Friends the Members for Winchester (Steve Brine) and for North West Hampshire (Kit Malthouse).

We have declared a climate emergency. We have bold ambitions, through the Environment Bill, to make radical strides forward in creating a cleaner and greener environment for ourselves, our children and generations to come. We cannot do that if we keep pumping pollutants into our atmosphere. I urge the Minister, who I believe genuinely cares about these issues, to ensure that she has as tight a grip as possible on our future waste strategy so we simply do not keep doing that.