Sunday, July 18, 2004

Mr Morally strikes again

Remember the egregious Elliot Morley? He is the environment minister who wants "…this country to end its 'dump and forget' culture"?

Interestingly, my computer spell-checker insists on renaming him "Mr Morally", so it is rather apposite that his "moral" message is that the public and industry alike needs "to understand that we cannot continue to dump hazardous waste in holes in the ground. Individual firms would have to reduce and recycle their waste rather than rely on landfill if they were to keep their bills down".

Enter Bedfordshire engineer, Ross Donovan, who had spent seven years of his life and hundreds of thousands of pounds perfecting an ingenious way of using surplus cardboard as fuel to provide cheap heating for tens of thousands of businesses. It would use the vast quantities of cardboard which are disposed of in landfill sites each year, thus helping Mr Morally meet his objective of reducing the amount of waste dumped in holes in the ground.

At every stage, Donovan consulted the Environment Agency to ensure that his system complied with EC law, so had every expectation that the final design would be approved. So did he get the full, unreserved support from Mr Morally? Did he hell.

As Christopher Booker describes in his Telegraph notebook today, Morally’s officials misread EC law and insisted that, since cardboard was waste, any device which used it was a "waste incinerator" to which such stringent (EU) rules applied that it became uneconomic. And Morally simply rubber-stamped his officials’ decision which consigned Mr Donovan’s invention to the scrapheap. His backers pulled out, his company went into liquidation and he is unemployed.

As Booker reports, it now emerges that Mr Morally and his officials were wrong. They had overlooked a fundamental change in the interpretation of EC law which could have made Mr Donovan's "waste into energy" system perfectly viable, and potentially a huge commercial success.

There should never have been any obstacle to the system being manufactured, and there is scarcely an industrial estate in the country to which it would not be a godsend.

Booker concludes his story with the observation that Mr Donovan was married last Monday, to a woman who stood by him as his promising scheme turned into a horrendous personal nightmare." The finest wedding present Mr Morley could give the couple", he adds, "would be to admit that he was wrong, and to make every effort to ensure that Mr Donovan's invention goes into production - to the benefit of countless businesses, and Britain as a whole".

Fat chance.

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