Conservative MPs pressed for an urgent debate on the highly critical report into the fridge mountain fiasco, published this week by the Labour-dominated commons select committee on the environment, food and rural affairs.
It accused senior officials of bungling, ignorance and keeping ministers in the dark over the implications of a new European directive on the disposal of old refridgerators - and it singled out environment minister Michael Meacher for particular criticism.
Mr Cook, ignoring the calls, said there were now four sites at which fridges could be disposed of. Another three should be completed next month and a further three before the end of the year. 'We expect the fridge mountain to begin to melt - if that is the right term - in October', he added.
Mr Mackay said people wanted action and explanations. Bracknell Forest BC faced a 'financial and logistical nightmare' because it had to deal with 1,000 fridges a month without any help or support from Mr Meacher, despite promises. The minister therefore needed to come to the dispatch box and make a statement.
Mr Cook replied that if Mr Mackay wanted action he could not object to the action to provide 10 new sites for the treatment and disposal of fridges. The government had to respond to every select committee report, and when its response to the Defra select committee report was available, committee members and other MPs could pursue it.
Mr Cook said he was sure that Mr Meacher would be 'willing to take part in that debate and looks forward to it with enthusiasm'.
Hansard 20 June 2002: Column 422-436