Public Accounts Committee MPs turn fire on Defra over King’s Lynn incinerator failure

South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon

South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon - Credit: Nick Butcher

A Government department has come under fire for its role in the King's Lynn incinerator 'train wreck', as MPs questioned why it had agreed a deal with Norfolk County Council amid major concerns about the project timetable.

In a heated Public Accounts Committee hearing, the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs' top official was questioned about the recent revelations it had warned Norfolk that it had underestimated the amount of time getting a green light for the Saddlebow project would take.

The council has axed the project amid planning delays, and has been left with a £30 million compensation bill.

Richard Bacon, a member of the committee and a Norfolk MP, told Bronwyn Hill, permanent secretary of the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs, that she could have withheld her signature from the funding agreement.

But during a near 40 minutes of questioning Ms Hill told MPs that Norfolk County Council had gone into the project 'with their eyes open'.

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'We were very clear with Norfolk, this was their decision. They were at risk as a council. I regret that money has been wasted and we have not got a result from it, but they were aware of the very significant local opposition, led by local MPs and others to that project.' Committee chair Margaret Hodge later criticised the Department for pulling credits, worth about £169 million over the lifetime of the project, claiming it was unprecedented at the time the contract was signed and Norfolk could not have expected it.

Should Defra have stepped in to stop the incinerator contract?

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