Noxious Brake and the burning questions over red diesel

BELLE MONT, our Sutton reporter, on the latest bit of cant and crass hypocrisy from that borough’s most senior FibDem

Clueless as well as pointless: Tom Brake

Having achieved the dubious accolade of being the answer to a Pointless question, MP Tom Brake seems determined to demonstrate that he is utterly clueless, too.

Brake, the Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton and Wallington, was a chief advocate of siting a polluting waste incinerator on Beddington Lane, on the borough boundary with Croydon, in a £1billion deal for operators Viridor. This is the same Viridor which operates a charity which doled out £275,000 to a church in Brake’s own constituency, and where Brake has often held meetings for his party.

At Westminster last month, Brake tabled an Early Day Motion on air pollution.

It specifically called on Government to end subsidies for “red diesel”. This is the red-dyed, diesel which benefits from a lower rate of VAT, intended as another subsidy for farmers as it is the fuel used mainly in agricultural machinery.

Brake continues his unstinting support for the polluting incinerator in his constituency

Brake’s motion read: “That this House notes the Government’s plans to tackle Britain’s air pollution crisis and improve air quality…further notes that reduced duty red diesel for certain uses costs HM Treasury £2.4billion annually; believes that subsidising red diesel also inhibits the Government’s plans to support the take-up of cleaner technologies and tackle air pollution effectively…”

This all looks a bit like grandstanding from Brake, who has begun to tag himself as a “Green Liberal Democrat”. Because there’s more than a whiff of a bad smell here, and it’s not just from something burning, because here’s the thing.

The incinerator that is nearing completion on Beddington Lane, in Brake’s own constituency, will burn 2,000 tons of polluting red diesel every year. The red diesel is used to help keep the furnace temperatures high enough to incinerate all that rubbish that Brake has lobbied for, tirelessly, for years to have trucked through Croydon and Sutton, with all the negative consequences for air pollution in the area, even before Viridor burns a single bag of rubbish and its residual particulates get pushed out into the atmosphere.

How the Sutton Guardian reported the toxic air in Brake’s constituency

Most Saturdays, the noxious Brake meets and greets his constituents on the high street in Wallington, close to an air quality monitor. Brake appears oblivious to the fact that this air quality monitor is already registering some of the highest pollution levels of any outer  London borough.

Nick Mattey, the Beddington ward councillor who left the Liberal Democrats in disgust over their hypocrisy with the incinerator, told Inside Croydon, “The London Borough of Sutton produces around  30,000 tons of waste per year. The excessively large incinerator at Beddington Lane is being built to handle 305,000 tons of rubbish every year for the next quarter century. That’s 10 times the size required to deal with Sutton’s waste for 25 years.

“That also means that the incinerator which Brake still supports so enthusiastically will also be burning 10 times as much polluting red diesel as it might require if it only dealt with rubbish from Sutton.

The Mayor of London has declared the capital’s air quality to be a ‘public health crisis’, with more than 9,000 Londoners a year dying prematurely due to long-term exposure to toxic air, though neither Sadiq Khan nor his predecessor, Boris Johnson, did anything to block the Beddington incinerator being built, to contribute to worsening levels of air pollution for decades to come.

Tom Brake: clueless as well as Pointless

“And if Brake is so keen on  cutting the use of red diesel and reducing air pollution, why has he supported the Viridor incinerator?”

Brake never bothers to answer such questions. So gutless as well as pointless and clueless.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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1 Response to Noxious Brake and the burning questions over red diesel

  1. Lewis White says:

    Time will tell if the Beddington Incinerator increases early death, and health problems for those unfortunate people who live in the shadow of the effluent stream of this new incinerator. By the way, that means half a million people or more in SW London.

    Sadly, it is Inside Croydon readers or their children or grandchildren, or their neighbours, who are among the unwitting guinea pigs in the incineration experiment.

    It is very sad that the BBC and national press has been so very lazy over the last decade when it comes to exposing the facts about incineration and its effect on air pollution in London.
    London Government itself surely must have realised years ago that to burn huge volumes of waste and release the arising emissions into the air stream over the capital can’t be good for air quality, or those who breathe it. If they did, they are guilty of sitting on their hands, or worse. If they didn’t, they were either very naive, or stupid.

    More than that , when the anti Incineration campaign tried very hard to interest the national media in the Beddington project, no-one at senior level in the newspapers had the savvy to sense that here was a real story, affecting real people and the health of Londoners and future Londoners.

    Laziness, or a conspiracy of media silence?

    Looks like every mainstream political party has been complicit in silence, and successive governments have kept the populace in the dark, when it comes to the state’s failure to commission scientific studies –and to not acknowledge those that already exist. So good on Sasha Khan and the Green Party — and Inside Croydon– for exposing the scandal, which seems to be running on and on and on and ……

    Also, thanks to Nick Mattey, for his comment that the municipal waste of Sutton is a tiny 10% of the waste that will be burned at Beddington Lane. So, where is all the rest of the waste — a whopping 90%– really coming from? And would it have been recycled, had the incineration option been unavailable?

    It’s all very like the diesel scandal. Most ordinary people knew for decades that diesel is smelly and dirty, yet, good for drivers’ ‘miles per gallon’. Only a few years ago, we were encouraged to buy diesel cars for the latter reason. Now, pity the seller of a new or used diesel car !

    I once was very impressed when Lewisham Council set up the SELCHP incinerator in the 1980’s , as it reduced 6 or so lorry loads of landfill waste to 1 of ash.

    Like many, I really didn’t think at all about air quality implications, but later on started to do so.
    A regular morning pall of burnt plastic odour over Deptford might still be a regular SE London feature. It certainly made me think.

    I would love to believe that the noxious chemical compounds that are created in the incinerator process all go up to a never-never land in the sky, where they are rendered harmless to humans, birds, insects and every living creature, and that they won’t descend on to London to be breathed in by tower block dwellers.

    Or that, like a draught of smoke drawn elegantly from a pre or even post-war Craven A cigarette, Beddington’s emissions will be a health-encouraging tonic to the lungs.

    But can’t.

    We can’t live for ever, and I wouldn’t want to, but like many, I really want to breathe clean air when on planet Earth.

    Burning red diesel,to keep the furnaces glowing nicely, doesn’t sound too good either.

    The thing that really rankles is that I can’t help feeling that waste minimisation via wise product design and 100% recyclable product packaging, plus even better recycling, composting, and maybe even some incineration, to deal with the residues, but sited away from urban areas, are the solution to our waste mountain.

    It remains to be seen how serous the local councils will be about waste reduction, once the cheap ‘n easy burning alternative comes on stream.

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