§ 8. Mr. Hinchliffe
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make it his policy to retain the existing district structure of Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution.
§ Mr. Ridley
No Sir. We are currently reorganising the field force of Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution on an integrated basis to produce a much more effective deployment of resources. A three-region structure is being developed covering the north, south-west and south-east. This approach was adopted to ensure large enough management units to secure an adequate mix of skills to match the varying types of processes subject to control by the inspectorate.
§ Mr. Hinchliffe
Is the Secretary of State aware of the concern that exists among local authorities and industrialists lest the Government's proposals for restructuring the inspectorate result in a loss of continuity at local level, with knowledge that has been built up locally over many years being lost? Will the Government further consider these local elements?
§ Mr. Ridley
No, Sir. I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. The new streamlined organisation that we are proposing will greatly facilitate the integration of control of pollution to the three elements—air, water and land —which of course was the point of the integration, which is why the solution that we propose is a good one. The hon. Gentleman may be referring to the fact that one of the five deputy chief inspectors left to take up a post in the private sector. But, then, so did Mr. Robert Kilroy-Silk. Another of the chief inspectors resigned after changing his mind about some of the detailed aspects of the reorganisation proposals. That is exactly what the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) did.
§ Mr. Knapman
Relating to pollution and possibly to underused land, can my right hon. Friend confirm that the port of Sharpness in my constituency has a prosperous future, with three new factories being built? Can he also confirm that it is not suitable as a site for a toxic waste dump, despite rumours to the contrary?
§ Mr. Ridley
I can confirm that there are no sites taking hazardous waste in the Sharpness area or indeed anywhere in my hon. Friend's constituency and that there are no plans for any such hazardous waste sites there. If any hazardous waste site were to be proposed near the Sharpness canal or any other area in the lower reaches of the Severn, there would be severe water pollution problems, and that would be strictly against the provisions of the Control of Pollution Act 1974. In addition, the necessary consents would, of course, be required.
§ Ms. Walley
Does the Secretary of State agree that Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution is in a complete mess? It is still unable to recruit staff. Is he aware that Dr. Martin Biggs, who heads the local authority unit in Birmingham, is still working from his front room at home because after eight months it has not been possible to find an office for him? How can the Secretary of State justify the departure from the organisation of HMIP at district level, which used the local knowledge of local authorities? On this very day of all days, when supposedly such urgent discussions are taking place at Downing street, why will he not come to the House and tell us that he will take effective action to ensure that the country has the integrated pollution control system that it needs.
§ Mr. Ridley
I have come to the House, abandoning the important discussions to which the hon. Lady referred. I am disappointed that I have had to come to the House to 946 deal with such a piffling point. The hon. Lady is wrong. Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution is in very good health. The organisation has had to be changed. It is being improved. I think that it would help the cause of protecting the environment if the hon. Lady were to stop trying to make quick, cheap points of the sort that she has just tried to make.