Foreign Secretary William Hague has apologised to the people of Ellesmere Port and Neston after failing to inform them about the disposal of Syria’s chemical waste in the town.
It was announced last week that 150 tonnes of industrial-grade chemicals from Syria’s weapons stockpile was to be destroyed by Veolia Environmental Services in Bridges Road.
In a House of Commons question time yesterday, Ellesmere Port and Neston MP Andrew Miller said the lack of information has been “appalling.”
Mr Miller asked the Foreign Secretary why the Government had failed to keep him fully informed about the contract with Veolia regarding the destruction of the chemicals - despite its assurance to Veolia that it would.
He said hundreds of constituents have written to him with concerns about the disposal.
Mr Hague offered his apologies.
He explained the materials to be destroyed at the Veolia facility were not “chemical weapons” but chemicals used to manufacture them, much like other industrial chemicals already processed at the site.
Mr Miller said: “It is simply wrong for the Government to keep a Member of Parliament in the dark about something so important happening in their constituency when local people are bound to have concerns.
“I have already received more than 300 emails from people worried about the situation. I shall expect a full brief from the Government and speedy answers to the questions I tabled yesterday.
“I shall wait until I have read the Government brief before I comment further.”
Mr Miller has tabled written questions to the Foreign Secretary in order to find out precise details of the contract between the Government and Veolia regarding the disposal, an answer is expected on Thursday.
Mr Miller has asked about the nature of the material to be destroyed; whether it is all in solid or liquid phase and whether any ordnance will come to Ellesmere Port.
He inquired what steps the Foreign Secretary is taking to ensure safe transit of the chemicals within the UK and which other sites are being utilised for this purpose.
And finally, he asked whether the process involves any discharge to local water courses and risk of any of the material venting to the atmosphere in a toxic state.
A Veolia company spokesman said in a statement last week that the substances are routinely used in the pharmaceutical industry in the UK and are “similar in nature” to standard industrial materials “safely processed on a regular basis” at Ellesmere Port.
The facility has passed rigorous audit inspections by relevant authorities and the chemicals will be treated in-line with stringent requirements of its strict environmental permit.
The chemicals are heading to the UK after Syrian President Assad agreed to dismantle his regime's weapons stockpile in September.
The disposal process is due to take place at the end of February.