EU attacks Meacher over fridge recycling

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A Government attempt to blame the European Commission for delays in recycling old fridges backfired last night when Brussels said Michael Meacher, the Environment minister, was responsible for "mishandling" the issue.

Tories and Liberal Democrats have accused ministers of botching the introduction of new EU rules on recycling fridges. Mr Meacher fended off attacks in the Commons last week by claiming his department had been "badly let down" by Brussels.

Mr Meacher said delays in providing the right facilities to remove harmful CFC gas were because the European Commission failed to let London know if the rules applied to the removal of CFCs from insulation foam as well as coolant gases in fridge motors.

But the EU's environment commissioner, Margot Wallstrom, reacted angrily. She said yesterday: "These accusations against the Commission in connection with the UK's late implementation of EU-wide rules on removal of CFCs from refrigerators are entirely unfounded. From the outset, the UK has been fully involved in the process of establishing what this agreement implies in practical terms."

She said Britain had been involved in talks in October 2000 when the details of extracting CFCs from insulating foam were discussed.

One EU insider said Mr Meacher was trying to blame Brussels bureaucrats, "but in reality his department has messed up. He's trying to blame the Commission for his own mistakes."