HC Deb 22 May 1989 vol 153 cc378-9W
Mr. Wigley

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he has issued any guidelines to local authorities in England which border onto the Irish sea concerning the reduction of pollution levels in that sea.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

No. The control of most land-based discharges of pollutants entering the sea is the primary responsibility of water authorities in England and Wales.

Mr. McCrindle

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he has any plans to ban all dumping at sea of raw sewage and dangerous chemical wastes; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Howard

The disposal of waste at sea from ships, other than operational discharges, is licensed by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to take place only where he is satisfied that disposal will not put at risk the marine environment. Similar responsibilities are exercised by the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

In the case of industrial waste, following the second North sea conference in London in November 1987, hosted by my right hon. Friend. the Secretary of State for the Environment, the Government's guidance note on implementation of the declaration announced a review of all outstanding licences. Ths review is being carried out jointly by the Fisheries Departments and Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution to examine whether there are practicable disposal options for the waste on land. So far, 20 approvals for dumping of liquid industrial waste have been reviewed in detail and either withdrawn or the company has indicated a firm intention to terminate. In the case of the remaining 10 approvals, further discussions are now under way into the practicability of disposal on land without causing harm.

In the case of sewage, licences are granted only for the dumping of sewage sludge, and only in cases where, having considered land-based alternatives, it has been assessed as representing the best practicable environmental option. In line with the ministerial declaration of the second North sea conference, the United Kingdom is implementing restrictions on the loads of persistent toxic substances in sludge to ensure that their total quantities do not exceed the levels discharged in 1987.

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