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Nuclear Dumping (Dounreay)

Volume 172: debated on Tuesday 15 May 1990

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3.30 pm

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the decision today by the Secretary of State for Scotland to allow test boring for nuclear dumping at Dounreay."
This disgraceful decision—[Interruption.]

Order. Will hon. Members who are not staying for this Standing Order No. 20 application please leave quietly?

This disgraceful decision is made all the more offensive by the fact that, yet again, important announcements concerning Scotland have not been made to the House of Commons, and yet again the Secretary of State is hiding from Opposition Members. We need a debate to force the Government to defend their decision before Scotland's elected representatives. The real importance of the matter lies in the fact that, once again, the Secretary of State for Scotland has shown his contempt for the clearly expressed wishes of the Scottish people.

In granting planning permission to Nirex, the Government are overriding not only the decision of the elected representatives of Highland region but also the overwhelming vote against Nirex by the people of Caithness in the referendum last November. At that time, despite the attempt to buy votes with the deep pockets of Nirex and the claims that Caithness would be a soft touch for dumping, the people said no to Nirex by a majority of 3:1.

At that time, even Nirex claimed that the views of the people would be taken into account along with other factors when the Secretary of State reached his decision. In fact, today, neither in the brief statement from the Scottish Office nor in the letter to the Nirex lawyers, is there any mention of the views of the people of Caithness. They have been dismissed as irrelevant to the consideration of the planning commission. Given that the only reason Nirex is investigating Caithness is that it claimed public support for its plans, this is a display of breath-taking hypocrisy.

The Secretary of State may claim the fiction that test drilling for nuclear dumping is a separate matter from dumping itself, but nobody in Scotland is likely to be fooled. The Government and Nirex are lining Scotland up to be Europe's No. 1 dumping ground for nuclear waste. As "Spitting Image" once noted, the Tory party seems to envisage an energy exchange between Scotland and England: we give England our oil and gas and England gives us its nuclear waste.

It has not escaped our attention that the Secretary of State for Energy was unwilling to allow the dumping of low-level waste in his constituency. But the Secretary of State for Scotland seems prepared to allow major waste dumping in Scotland.

The Secretary of State may wish to run away from the wrath of Scottish Members, but his party will not be able to avoid the political consequences of his decision today. The campaigns that will be launched against the proposals in Scotland, by the SNP and by Scotland Against Nuclear Dumping, will equal in strength—[Interruption]

Order. May I take it that the hon. Member has finished? I was about to say that, in view of the fact that I had to interrupt him, I will let him have another half minute.

We need a debate so that the arguments deployed by local councils and local people cannot be ignored by the Secretary of State for Scotland. We know the real dangers and problems associated with the deep-level storage of nuclear waste, the inevitable risk in the transportation of that material through Scotland and the potential damage to the core industries of the north of Scotland—fishing, farming and tourism—if the public perception of our clean environment is tarnished.

We need the Secretary of State for Scotland to explain his decisions to the Scottish people, and we should like him to do that from the Treasury Bench.

The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) seeks leave to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he thinks should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the granting of permission for test bore hole drilling at Dounreay."
I have listened with care to what the hon. Member has said, but, as he knows, I have to decide only whether to give it precedence over the business set down for today or for tomorrow. I regret that the matter he has raised does not meet the requirements of the Standing Order, and I therefore cannot submit his application to the House.