§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The MINISTER of HEALTH (Mr. Neville Chamberlain)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
265 This Bill is one of the minor Measures of the Session, but I think the subject with which it deals is of sufficient importance and interest to the House to justify the somewhat unusual procedure which is taking place now, under which we have agreed to consider a Second Reading passed without Debate as null and void, and to give the House an opportunity of debating in full this afternoon the principles which are involved in the Bill. I do not think there will be any difference of opinion as to the desirability of trying to do something to purify our atmosphere and to exercise a somewhat stricter control than is possible at present over the emission of smoke and other noxious vapours. The House may remember that in 1920 a Departmental Committee was appointed, under the chairmanship of Lord Newton, to consider the present state of the law and to advise what measures should be taken to do something to mitigate the present amount of emission of smoke. That Committee reported in 1921, and, since then, no fewer than four Bills, of which this is the last, have been introduced into Parliament, founded upon the recommendaetions of the Committee.
This Bill embodies most of the provisions that have appeared in previous Bills, with some alterations and some additions. On the whole, the recommendations of the Committee have been followed, though in some respects we have departed from them. I would like to read to the House a few words from the general conclusions of the Committee, because I think they sum up very admirably the position as it appears to the Government. They said:It is also clear that there is no hold or simply remedy which might appeal to the imagination and excite the enthusiasm of the general public.… It appears to us.… that the chief requisite is the enforcement of the provisions of the existing law, strengthened and altered as to its administration in accordance with the recommendations which we have put forward.That is the general idea which underlies the present Bill. It is not a drastic Measure, but it contains provisions for strengthening the law and strengthening the administration, and I think that in practice it will be found that it is upon the administration chiefly that we shall have to depend for the improvement of the conditions of our atmosphere
266 Public opinion has been progressing steadily during the last few years in the direction of a cleaner air. Perhaps the introduction of these Bills has done something to educate it, but I think still more has been done by recent advances in medical knowledge, and, in particular, by the revelation of the healing and vitalising character of sunlight. Even now, however, I doubt whether those who habitually dwell in towns fully realise the extent to which we are deprived of this essential factor by the condition of our atmosphere. It was estimated by Lord Newton's Committee that those who live in the country get 20 per cent. more sunlight than those who live in towns, and it is a matter of common knowledge that the occurrence of smoke fogs in towns is immediately followed by a rise in the death rate from respiratory diseases. The same influences that bring about this obvious and direct injury to human health must always be at work when conditions of perpetual and chronic pollution of the atmosphere prevail. We may not be able to see the result in an increase in the death rate figures, but probably the general average of the health of the people is lowered by the fact that they are deprived of their groper measure of sunlight.
Again, from another point of view the emission of smoke must necessarily mean a waste of fuel. On the evidence given to them the Newton Committee declared that about 2½ million tons of soot escape into the atmosphere every year from domestic fires and another½ million tons from industrial works. That reckoned out in money is a very substantial sum. There was an interesting inquiry in 1918 in Manchester comparing the cost of washing per household in that somewhat dirty town—
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
With the cost of washing in Halifax, and the result of the inquiry was to show that the inhabitants of Manchester, in order to keep themselves as clean as those of Halifax, had to spend every week 7½d. more in the cost of washing. The result was that it was estimated that Manchester was spending something like £300,000 a year more than it ought to have done if it had been as clean as Halifax merely in washing. There are other injuries which we can ascribe 267 to the same cause—damage done to vegetables and crops—and one only has to look round this building to see for oneself what is the effect of acid soot when it is deposited upon the most durable kind of stone. Therefore 1 think one may assume that pollution of the atmosphere in our larger towns is at once costly, wasteful and highly injurious. I do not think anyone could controvert that proposition.
It is only when we come to consider in what way we may alter our legislation in order to diminish this evil that differences of opinion begin to arise, and in fact the present Bill has not escaped criticism. The objections come from two sources. First of all there is the objection of those we may call the smoke consumers, the people who suffer from the effects of smoke, and they say the Bill is not sufficiently drastic and that it will do little to improve matters. On the other hand, there is the objection of the smoke producers, who are represented by a number of my hon. Friends on this side of the House, and who express the fear that its provisions are so drastic as to he likely to cause serious injury to, at any rate, some of the industries of the country. Perhaps I may hope, in the presence of those objections coming from those sources, that I have succeeded in attaining the happy medium. At any rate, that is what I tried to do. I realise as much as anyone that at this time above all others we do not want to do anything that is going to put fresh obstacles in the way of industry. On the other hand, I believe it is possible to do a great deal to improve the regulation of the emission of noxious vapours without doing such injury, and if I have not entirely succeeded in the first draft of the Bill in carrying out my intention I shall he only too happy to hear in Committee such representations as hon. Members may desire to make to me, and I think I can assure them that if those representations are reasonable and a good case is made out for an alteration of any of the provisions of the Bill, I shall not be indisposed to turn a favourable ear to them.
With that preliminary I may perhaps describe what it is that the Bill proposes to do. In the present state of the law, the definition of a smoke nuisance in respect of which a local authority can 268 take proceedings is confined to the emission of black smoke from a chimney. Smoke can be of other kinds than black, and can issue from other apertures than a chimney. I recollect very well, when I was engaged in industry myself, looking with some complacency at the chimneys of the works with which I was connected, which were emitting white smoke, thereby being entirely immune from the attentions of the smoke inspector of the local authority. As a matter of fact that white smoke was far more injurious than black smoke, for it contained poisonous metallic fumes, and it is certainly time that power was given to local authorities to deal with smoke of other colours than black. The first Clause extends the definition to include not only black but white or grey smoke, and to extend the definition of smoke to the emission of gritty particles. It also increases the penalty which may be imposed for the commission of an offence to a sum which will really make it a serious matter to the manufacturer, who has not hitherto been very much frightened by the possibility of having at rare intervals to pay a maximum fine of £ We are extending the power of the local authority to deal with smoke emanating from other apertures than chimneys.
Now come the countervailing methods designed to mitigate any hardship or injury to manufacturers. We allow a temporary exemption from the provisions of the Bill to certain particular processes which, we are advised, cannot at present be carried on satisfactorily without the emission of smoke. I think those processes are pretty well confined to Sheffield. At any rate they have their home there. Under this Clause we have taken power to extend a similar exemption to other industries by Provisional Order, and that will give an opportunity to any industries which can make out a case similar to that of the Sheffield manufacturers to obtain a temporary exemption in the same way. Of course, we have coupled with that power to the Minister, another power, namely, at the end of a period of five years, to terminate the exemption if in his opinion the time has come when it can safely be done, and I think that is a proper provision and one which, although I cannot bind my successors, certainly if I were still holding my present office I should not allow to remain a dead letter. These 269 different processes will not always stand still. What is a standard process to-day may be superseded in the course of a few years by some other process which may not only make it unnecessary to emit smoke, but may absolutely make it advantageous for a manufacturer to consume his smoke. If such a change had taken place it seems to me it would be right and proper that the Minister should have the power to terminate the exemption and bring that new process under the provisions of the Bill, so that not one but all those manufacturers engaged in that particular industry shall come under the control of the local authority.
In the case of smoke other than black smoke—and that, of course, includes the emission of gritty particles—it is provided in Sub-section (3) that it is a defence for the person charged to show that he has used the best practicable means for preventing the nuisance hating regard to the cost and to local conditions and circumstances and I draw particular attention to the fact that in making that defence it is expressly laid down that cost is one of the considerations which is to enter into the case. There are instances in a number of manufactures where it is agreed that it is possible to reduce the emission of smoke and at the same time save money, and yet it may not be practicable for the manufacturer at once to carry out the necessary alterations because the capital cost is greater than he is in a position to provide.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I will come to that point. The employer is able to make a good defence if he can say, "This new process is one which I am adopting, but I cannot adopt it all at once. If you will allow me a reasonable period of time, I shall be able to find the necessary capital to effect the transformation." The last words of the Subsection areThe expression best practical means has reference not only to the provision and efficient maintenance of adequate and proper plant for preventing the creation and emission of smoke, but also to the manner in which such plant is used.4.0. p.m.
That is intended to deal with precisely the point the hon. Member has raised, 270 and it is necessary, therefore, for the employer to show that he gave proper instructions to his employés and has done what he can to see that. they carry them out. Under Clause 2 it is provided that a local authority may make by-laws regulating the emission of noxious smoke. In other words, what the local authorities are expected to do under this Bill, is to set up their own standards of what is noxious smoke, and how long its emission constitutes a nuisance. It has already been done in a number of cases to great satisfaction, but, of course, there is no legal hacking for it at present, and I anticipate the introduction of this Clause will allow local authorities to deal with the conditions of their own industries and their own localities, for which, with their local knowledge, they are fitted. I do not know w[...]ether this is one of Clauses which have excited the apprehension of my hon. Friends, but if that be so, I would remind them that local authorities have a very strong interest in retaining industrial concerns within the area of their rateable value, and that, therefore, while I hope they will do their duty in regulating the emission of noxious smoke, I think it may be assumed that in this matter they will have a reasonable regard to what is practicable and v. bat is proper to ask from those who are carrying on industry within their boundaries.
§ Dr. SALTER
Does the Minister intend to issue model by-laws on the subject, and also standard tests for smoke?
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I will not undertake to issue the standard tests; they may be considered later. Certainly it is the intention to issue model by-laws, and that, I think, is desired by the local authorities themselves, who like to have some sort of standard before them. But that does not mean that every local authority has to have a stereotyped set of by-laws. This would only be a sort of model for them to follow, and it would be modified or altered in each case to suit the local conditions and the local industry. I do not think I need spend any time on Clause 4, which deals with the alkali works, because I believe that to be a non-controversial Clause. The effect of it is that it gives power to extend the list of works which have to be registered under the Alkali Works Regulation Act, and also the list 271 of noxious gases which come under that Act, in order that the legislation may keep pace with and be brought up to date with recent advances. The Act at present is working extremely smoothly, and I have not heard that any objections are likely to be taken to this reasonable extension of it.
I come to a Clause which, I think, may arouse criticism, not so much for what it contains, as for what it leaves out. Clause 5 extends the powers of an urban authority in the making of by-laws requiring the provision in new buildings of such arrangements for heating as are calculated to prevent or reduce the emission of smoke, but it specially exempts private dwelling-houses from the action of the Clause. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] If the hon. Member will allow me, that is what I was coming to. Of course, the criticism at once arises, why exempt private dwellings? I admit at once that it is the private dwellings which are the greatest sinners in the production of smoke. Of course, we could not make this Clause in any case apply to existing dwelling-houses. It is not suggested for a moment that that could be done. What is suggested is that we should give the authorities power to require that new dwelling-houses should not be erected unless they were fitted with arrangements for heating and cooking by means of gas or electricity. I wonder whether hon. Members realise how far matters have got already. We made some inquiries from a number of local authorities, and we found that 75 per cent. of the new houses now being erected were already fitted with gas stoves.
I gave a good deal of consideration to this matter, and came to the conclusion that it was not wise to include private dwelling-houses with other new buildings, because I felt that in our present state of knowledge it was too great an interference with private liberty. I would point out that a very large number of these private dwelling-houses are being erected by local authorities. If local authorities choose, they can so fit those buildings that there are no open grates in them. They can provide them only with gas stoves or gas cookers, or electric cookers, as the case may be, and in many eases they do. Only last year I was in Dundee, and I saw there a collection of 272 municipal houses which were centrally heated. It was not merely cooking that was done without the emission of smoke, but the whole heating of the house was done by means of a central system, and I was informed by those who put it in that it was very popular and very successful. I did not have an opportunity of conversing with the people living in the houses and asking their opinion about it, but I dare say they found it very satisfactory. Therefore, to a very large extent the matter is entirely in the hands of the local authorities now. The only question, therefore, is—and I think the House will see it is coming down to something rather small—whether the local authorities should have power to require not only that its own houses should be built in this way, but that everybody else's house should also be built in this way. That, I think, is going too far. Many of us do not desire to have nothing but gas fires in our homes; we like the open fire. We certainly should very much resent it, if we were told that we were not to be allowed to have a free choice in the matter: and if it be open to us to do that, why should other people not have a free choice?
Would it not be possible to make some law by which open fires could be made without smoke and without the tremendous waste there is now?
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I do not know whether that is so; I should hardly have thought it was possible to find a construction which would ensure that no smoke should be emitted from the chimney, whatever kind of fuel was used. I was going on to say that in some districts coal is supplied free to the occupiers. I think it is quite a common thing in mining districts, for instance, for coal to be made a sort of allowance. If by-laws of this kind were to be introduced, the miners would not be able to burn the coal in their own homes any more, but would have to burn gas. We have had it suggested that where gas coppers have been installed in houses by local authorities, they have been objected to by the inhabitants, and have had to be taken out by the local authorities. I do think it is very necessary that we should take care, in trying to cure one 273 evil, we do not produce another one. 1 do not want to do anything which is going to hinder or hamper the erection of houses, and, still more, I do not want to do anything which is going, possibly, to make houses more expensive to live in than they are, because the great difficulty about houses which are being erected to-day is that the sort of people we would like to see occupying them cannot afford them. We must see that we do not put new restrictions on these houses, which would have the effect of making them more expensive to live in, and we must not always think of big towns which happen to have big gas undertakings, and are producing gas and electricity at the lowest possible rates. There are a large number of local authorities served by small plant, and, perhaps, the production of electricity or gas, as the case may be, would compare very unfavourably with the cost of heating the houses by the use of raw coal.
Really, I think the solution of this question lies in two directions. One is in making it as easy and as cheap as possible for people to use gas and electricity. I know from my own experience in Birmingham what an enormous effect the supply of cooking stoves on the easy-purchase system or hire system has had. That is one direction. The other direction is in the production of smokeless fuel. It was one of the recommendations of the Newton Committee that the Government should do something in the nature of a continual research into this matter, and that may be taken up. The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research has a section which is especially devoted to the investigation of fuel, and they have been for some years now proceeding in their investigation, and are making tests for private individuals. Although the problem has not yet been solved, I think I can say that progress has certainly been made. If we can, in the course of a year or so, obtain a smokeless fuel which can be used in the open grate, and which is sufficiently cheap and sufficiently practicable to commend itself to the ordinary man and woman, who is very important in this matter, then, I think, we may be able to amend this Bill by putting in a provision to allow local authorities to exercise control over the burning of raw coal in grates. Until that time comes, I do suggest to this House that it is best to leave this matter to the 274 operation of those various activities which are now going on in the direction we desire, and not do anything which may hamper us, perhaps, rather seriously in another direction.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
Is it not the case that local authorities have power now to deal with smoke from chimneys under the 1875 Act, but that they do not exercise that power?
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
That is so, and that was the point I was coming to next. The House moves so quickly this afternoon, that there is hardly any opportunity to keep up with it. The next two Clauses about which I wish to speak are Clauses 7 and 8, and I, personally, attach a great deal of importance to them, although they may not, perhaps, at first sight look very important. I have already mentioned the view that really the thing to which we have got to turn our attention with the greatest possible concentration is the question of administration, and these two Clauses are the administrative Clauses of the Bill. Clause 7 gives power to the Minister on complaint from a county council that a local authority, not being a county borough, has failed to make by-laws or to carry out their duties under the Act to which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Maidstone (Commander Bellairs) referred, to put the county council in charge, instead of the local authority. That is, to hand over to the county council the power of carrying out the duties of the local authority. That is what we call the power concerning a defaulter authority. The provision in respect to a defaulter authority exists in respect to other matters besides smoke abatement. I do not think it is often put into operation, but the very fact that that power exists is perhaps a stimulus to the more backward local authorities, and I think there is a distinct advantage in putting it in this Bill. I rely still more on Sub-section (2), which says thatThe Minister shall in any case where he considers it expedient to do so cause an inquiry to be held as to the manner in which a local authority have carried out their duties under the said Act with respect to smoke nuisances, and if satisfied from the result of such inquiry that the authority have failed to carry out their duties adequately, he may by Order authorise the 275 county council to carry out those duties either for a definite period or until the Minister otherwise directs.In Clause 8, the Minister has power to require the local authority to furnish him with such information as he may from time to time require as to their proceedings with regard to the abatement of smoke nuisances. If these two Clauses are worked by the Ministry of Health with a real genuine desire to improve the administration of health authorities they will be very effective. We know that in these matters we depend very much upon the nature of the local authority. We often find that some local authorities are active and enterprising, while perhaps other authorities adjacent to them go to sleep and do not move. Here is a power under this Bill to stir them up. They will have to give information as to what they are doing, and if they are not doing what other authorities are doing, or what the Minister thinks they ought to do, he will, in the first instance, call their attention to their defects, and endeavour to secure that they shall carry out their duties, and if they still fail to do so he will fall back upon the provision respecting a defaulter authority, and put in the county council to carry out the duties.
Clause 9 removes from the ambit of the Bill any ship or vessel. This Clause has been criticised in some quarters. The Clause does not take away from the local authorities any powers which they now possess in regard to the emission of smoke by ships in port or harbour; but we are advised that it is impossible to prevent a ship from emitting black smoke at certain times and, further, we cannot distinguish between British and foreign vessels in this matter. If we are to make a provision which is to apply to foreign vessels as well as British vessels, we run a danger of some retaliation against British ships in foreign ports, and as we have more ships than other nations we aways stand to lose by any retaliation of that kind. On the other hand, it would be obviously unfair to British shipping to make a regulation to apply to them which did not also apply to foreign ships. Therefore, on the whole, and at the strong request of the Board of Trade we have decided that this Bill shall not apply to shipping.
276 Clause 10 applies for the first time the provisions of a Bill of this kind to Crown property. A local authority will have power if they consider that a smoke nuisance exists on Crown property in their area, to make a report, but it really means that they can make a complaint to the appropriate Government Department. The Minister will then have to make an inquiry, and if he is satisfied that a nuisance exists he must abate the nuisance and prevent a recurrence thereof. If he does not do that, the remedy lies in Parliament. The Minister must always be responsible to Parliament, and Parliament is the best medium for regulating a proceeding of that kind and seeing that the Minister does not in any way take advantage of his position to escape the responsibility which certainly ought to lie upon a. Government Department, just as it is being laid upon private people and local authorities
This is not a revolutionary Bill. It is an attempt to carry out the recommendations of the Newton Committee, to strengthen the administration of the existing provisions. to strenghten the law where it is found to be weak and, at the same time, to see that. no undue hardship or injury is imposed upon manufacturers in carrying out the provisions of the Bill as enforced by local authorities.
§ Mr. THOMAS SHAW
From this side of the House we shall offer no objection to the Bill, but shall confine ourselves in Committee to trying to strengthen its provisions. We are extremely doubtful about the last Sub-section of Clause 1. We are afraid that the discretion of the Minister in other hands than those of the present Minister of Health may tend to accepting excuses rather than insisting on health-providing facilities for the public. It mist he definitely understood that we reserve to ourselves the right in Committee to try to strengthen the Bill in every way possible, in order not only to give effect to the intentions of the Minister but to carry those intentions further than they appear in the Bill.
It must be evident to anybody who observes conditions in this country that it is badly spoilt by dirt and grit sent into the air from our factory chimneys and from the chimneys of private dwellings. There is an old saying in Lanca- 277 shire which I am afraid still holds good among quite a number of manufacturers that:Where there is plenty of muck, there is plenty of brass.If I may translate that saying, it means that where there is plenty of dirt there is plenty of money. That was the idea that was very prevalent when I was a boy. There are still employers who hold that view, and I think a little touch of it has got into the Amendment on the Order Paper. Surely we have grown out of the days when we were prepared to accept anything in order that money might be made, to refuse to accept scientific discovery, invention and progress, and to continue on old lines, because of the fear that it might cost a trifle more if we adopted new methods. I am convinced that the abolition of the emission of smoke, as far as is humanly possible, would not only be a good thing for the country, hut would be economical to the manufacturer himself.Let us think of some of our cities and towns which suffer the worst. Let me take Sheffield. Anyone who has had the experience of running into Sheffield in the summer time with the windows of the carriage open, will have seen himself and everything he possessed covered with grit. It is impossible to believe that air which is literally saturated with grit can he healthy for the people, and the result has been that Sheffield is known to its people as a dirty picture in a golden frame. The frame is golden, for Sheffield is surrounded by some of the most beautiful country in England. We want to make the picture itself worthy of the frame, and the only way to make Sheffield a picture worthy of its frame is to clear its atmosphere as far as is humanly possible. Because we believe these things, we shall help the Minister as far as we are able not only to realise his ideals in the Bill, but to go a little bit further and to make absolutely certain that cities like Sheffield get a chance.
Lancashire, my own native county, was intended by nature to be one of the most beautiful parts of the world. Around the dirty manufacturing towns of Lancashire there is some of the prettiest scenery in the whole world. I have seen a good slice of the world. There is beautiful country around cities like Manchester and towns like Oldham, 278 Bolton, Preston, which is comparatively clean and wigan which is not at all a dirty town in comparison with most Lancashire manufacturing towns. There is a joke in Oldham that the town council sends its men out in the spring to paint the trees green in order that the inhabitants may know that spring has come. What earthly reason is there for these towns to be so black? Everybody knows the reason. The reason is that coal is thrown into the air instead of being burnt, not only from our factory chimneys but from our domestic chimneys also. Nature is beautiful enough in this country, and I am one of those who welcome every effort made by the Minister of Health in order to give nature a chance, and to prevent man from spoiling her. That is the position we take up. We want to get rid of dirt and grime which make our industrial towns abominations, in the wet and muggy weather especially. The mugginess is due to the smoke and the frightful waste of coal, which causes both mugginess and dirt.
I believe that sometime it will he necessary for the present Minister of Health or some future Minister to tackle the question of our domestic fires. We all know, and I should he one of the first to admit it, that it will be no easy matter for any Minister to tackle that problem, however urgently it needs to be tackled. The Report of the Committee to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred assumes that quite a considerable part of the problem is due to the consumption of coal in domestic grates. We have to recognise that the open fire in this country is an institution and also a sentiment. There is no workingman who does not like to sit by a cheery open fire. Therefore, the open fire as an institution, with sentiment associated with it, is a question with which we shall havedeal whenever the problem is tackled. I do not minimise the problem. We know how sentiment is attached to our open domestic fire. Those Members who like myself, have read Shakespeare, can recall how Falstaff sat in his inn "by a sea coal fire." Charles Lamb refers to the open fire. We can understand how the institution of the open fire has entered into the sentiments and hearts of 279 our people when Lamb speaks of one of his characters lovinga clean hearth, a clear fire, and the rigour of the game.Here is a problem that has to be tackled by some Minister of Health inside the next few years in connection with domestic fires.
There has been a great improvement -during the last few years by reason of the more scientific grates which have been put even into the small cottages that have been erected. We should be prepared to give a reasonable length of time in order to make alterations and improvements and to back the Minister up to the point of tackling the domestic fire, which add so much to the dirt and discomfort of the workers in our big towns.
I do not want to make a long speech on this subject. I could give evidence from page after page of the Report of the Committee to prove the injury that is done by smoke, and the improvement that is likely to accrue if we could abolish it or could cut it down to minimum. These things, however, are perfectly obvious to everyone. I hope the Minister will not place too much reliance 'on the statement made in the Amendment on the Order Paper as to the cost it will involve to the employers. The Minister of Health himself has been in business, and during my life I have had to negotiate for many years with a hardheaded set of employers. I never knew the slightest suggestion that was going to cost a farthing which was not going to ruin the industry; which was not most undesirable. Frankly, I am a little cynical as to the great injury which would be done to the employers. I rather think it is a case of the old-fashioned employer, who objects to any change as much as the Devil is supposed to object to holy water. He does not want to be worried. He is content to let people live in the smoke and grime, though he often takes the opportunity of getting out of it. A proof of that can be found by anyone who visits Manchester on a market day. The employers may have their mills in Oldham or Bolton, but many of them live at St. Anne's-on-Sea. We on these benches want the atmosphere to be as pure for the man who has to live near the factory 280 as for the mail who lives on the seaside, and we shall certainly not offer any objection to the Bill, but in Committee will try to strengthen it to the utmost of our power.
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
I am certain we have listened with great interest to the speech just delivered, but we have not been so much impressed as interested. Some of the views of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite are a little behind the times. Every Bill with a good name is not necessarily a good Bill, and every Bill which has a good object does not always achieve it. There are many people in this world who think that they have only to apply the word democratic to something and that the thing is of necessity good. It is, of course, agreed by all that a great deal of smoke in the atmosphere aggravates all the respiratory diseases, that the elimination of the actinic rays of sunlight are a cause of rickets, and we all know its effect on our laundry bills. We know all about that, but we want to consider to what extent this Bill will bring about an improvement. I have certain doubts in that direction. I would point cut that this Bill definitely extends the law beyond the old black smoke which is dealt with by the existing law—and it is black smoke which causes most or the troubles outlined to us this evening. I am acquainted with the air of Lancashire and I agree with much that has been said about its pestilenc. That is the impression I formed as I travelled through it. But I think a great deal of the trouble in regard to Lancashire is that the people who live there are proud of it and until you can shatter a Lancashire man's pride in his county you will find a little difficulty in your efforts to improve it.
In this Bill we are proposing to make the word "smoke" include ashes, grit and gritty particles. I want to direct the attention of the House to the fact that new methods of coal combustion are now being adopted. There is a method of pulverising coal adopted now which gives a much higher efficiency than any other method. Coal is pulverised until it is practically an impalpable powder like flower. It is blown into the combustion chamber in the same way as oil fuel. The combustion is complete. But all coal contains a certain amount of incom- 281 bustible matter which is not burnt. A certain proportion of it depending on the strength of the air blast, on the design of the combustion chamber and on the height of the chimney, is blown into the air and would come under the description "grit or gritty particles." I am afraid by this Bill you are going to make an offence of one of the most modern methods of fuel combustion. It is not a question of party; it is purely a scientific question, and we have to consider the balance of advantages. It may be that the prohibition of some of the things provided for in the Bill will be an advantage to our health, but nothing like the advantage that is suggested. On the other hand, it may impose a real disability upon some of our industries. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman opposite that it is quite conceivable that some of the things told him by his hardheaded colleagues in Lancashire are true, judging by the distressful case of the cotton industry in the recent years.
After all, if we lower the prosperity of the people of this country we limit our financial capacity to deal with other aspects of public health, such as sanitation and proper water supply, which are just as important as the power to restrict smoke. If you hamper your industry, you may be doing more harm to your public health than the good you will be doing by giving effect to this Bill. In addition to the kind of fuel I have been describing, there is a great deal of fuel to-day burnt under forced blast, a method which greatly assists smokeless combustion. On the other hand, there is a danger of ash and gritty particles being thrown into the air. I am afraid this Bill will make a crime of modern practice, and it is because I am a little nervous in this direction—[A laugh.] —I am not surprised that the Noble Lady the Member for Sutton (Viscountess Astor) laughs, because she is a little lacking in industrial experience and may not appreciate, the point. We are all aware of the importance of good firing. Anyone knows that a boiler furnace which is fired at frequent intervals, in which a good level fire is maintained of uniform brightness, is the kind of fire that gives you efficient combustion, and, to a large extent, smokeless combustion. Unfortunately, there are sometimes bad stokers; but they can be cured. But what 282 cannot be cured is this, There are certain industrial processes which call for intermittent firing, therefore you will get a period, say, half-an-hour or three-quarters of an hour, during which you will get considerable emissions of smoke which we should like to eliminate. It is clear, however, that until our scientific developments are level with our desires, it would be absurd to impose restrictions which might have a very bad effect upon our manufacturing capacity.
Then there are certain metallurgical processes which, in the present state of science, do involve, unfortunately, the production of a. great deal more smoke than we would like to see. I am a little afraid that some of the provisions of this Bill are, apparently, going to extend the existing law to metallurgical processes. If the Bill provided that the Minister of Health should have power to lay down certain standards from time to time, and adjust those standards as scientific development goes on, I should feel much more friendly towards the Bill than I do. Take, for example, the possibility of using the great quantities of inferior coal which are now mined and which are not used at all because of their very large content of incombustible matter. A great deal of stuff is brought up from the mines which is practically useless. The methods of pulverisation may render it economic to burn a great deal of the rubbish, as we call it, in the future. I hope it will come about, because it will have a very beneficient economic effect as far as the coal mining industry is concerned. It will give a real value to something which now has no financial value at all. If we can use this waste material in this way, it is certain that. the proportion of grit and gritty particles that will be produced will be rather higher, but by this Bill you may restrict development on these lines. I have put down the Amendment which stands on the Paper in my name, and in the names of other hon. Members, but after the statement of the Minister of Health as to the attitude he would adopt in Committee, an attitude of sweet reasonableness, I feel it would be a little ungracious to move it, and I do not intend to do so.
I regret very much finding myself in opposition to the Minister of Health for many reasons. In many cases in which I 283 have held opinions different from his, events have proved him to be right and me to be wrong. On this occasion we are dealing with a matter which is fundamentally a technical question and not one of sentiment, and it may be worth while later on that the points I have raised should be carefully considered by the Committee upstairs, because it is of real importance, at a time when many of our industries are suffering, that these matters should be considered with great care. Since I put the Amendment on the Paper I have received a copy of a resolution passed by what the right hon. Gentleman opposite would call a hardheaded body of gentlemen—the administrative committee of the National Union of Manufacturers, which I should like to read. It is as follows:The Administrative Committee of the National Union of Manufacturers, having given careful consideration to the Public Health (Smoke Abatement) Bill now before the House of Commons, are unanimously of the opinion that in the present state of industry it is most undesirable to pass into law a Bill of this nature, which may result in materially increasing the expenses of manufacturers. Moreover, they consider the provisions of the present law, if properly administered, are adequate to prevent any serious abuses in regard to the amount of smoke.I had no knowledge that the National Union of Manufacturers bad taken any action on this subject, but their resolution is substantially on the lines of the Amendment I have put down, and I feel that a great deal might be achieved by a more efficient administration of the present law. We all realise that the domestic chimney is responsible for a great deal, but we equally realise that the great mass of the democracy has no intention of allowing the fireside to be done away with. We must realise that fact, and also that in the case of the ordinary household the cheapest way of warming a room is by an open fire. Other methods of heating are a luxury of the well-to-do. There is no getting away from the fact the open fire is the cheapest way of warming a room. So far as the health of those in the room at the time is concerned, it is the healthiest method because of the efficient natural draught which it produces, and as long as that is the case, we have to realise that any progress in that direction must be slow and on the lines indicated by the Minister of 284 Health. For the reasons I have mentioned, I do not propose to move the Amendment in my name, in the hope that the Amendments which I and others will put awn will receive the right hon. Gentleman's fullest and most sympathetic consideration in Committee.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I am disappointed that the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. H. Williams) has not moved his Amendment, and I am reminded thereby of the story told by the right hon. brother of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health, where a Jew was reported to have recanted when threatened with being burnt as an infidel, and the crowd shouted: "Stand fast, Moses." You and I, Mr. Speaker. know that the Member who moves Amendments but does not press them and does not fight them to a Division does not get much consideration from the Treasury Bench. The hon. Member for Reading has been less time in the House than either you or I, Sir, and perhaps he will allow me to give him that advice. With one exception, my only criticism of this Bill is that it does not go far enough and does not in any way touch the domestic fires and permit the local authorities to introduce by-laws, as they may in their wisdom wish to do, in order to encourage the use of smokeless methods of heating and so on. The only exception I make, on the lines of the attitude of the hon. Member for Reading, is with reference to cement works. I have reason to believe that where cement works can use smokeless methods for firing their boilers, the actual dust thrown up by the machinery itself may come under the provisions of this Bill, and it may be impossible to do away with a certain amount of nuisance from cement works. I think that will have to be examined by the Minister of Health, and I daresay he can give instructions to local authorities to exempt cement works, apart from their bailer smoke, as regards their cement dust.
With regard to the domestic hearth, the Interim Report of Lord Newton's Committee, which I think is for our purpose perhaps the most valuable, gave evidence showing that at least 50 per cent. of the total smoke nuisance is due to the open domestic hearth, and this matter is being funked 285 by the Minister. The Government are afraid to tackle it. I do not suggest that they should give a time limit for the abolition of the open grate—that would bring about a revolt in the legions—but they could carry out the recommendations of the Government Committee along certain very practical lines. For example, why should it not be made legal for local authorities to differentiate the rates on new houses where smokeless methods are introduced? There are available, of course, gas, electricity, and smokeless fuel itself. I was very astonished to receive a reply from the Minister of Health, whom I interpellated on this question a little time ago, to the effect that certain Departments were still experimenting on actual smokeless fuels, but I believe I am right in saying that there are several smokeless fuels suitable for burning in existing grates, and others suitable for burning in special grates, that are not more expensive. The hon. Member for Reading said that the cheapest method of warming a room was by burning coal in an open fire, but I believe it is even cheaper to put in the cheap forms of grates and use smokeless fuel, and the only disadvantage is that you do not see the flames which we are used to seeing, but there is a more steady glow instead, to which, I suppose, we shall get used in time, and the generations coming after us will love their smokeless fires as much as we love our smoky fires. I must say that the open fire has the advantage that it does not matter much if you knock your pipe ash into it or burn up incriminating documents, which, of course, you cannot do by a gas fire.
It would he possible, I believe, to give a great deal of encouragement towards the building of houses with smokeless methods of heating, and I am very surprised indeed that the Government have not tackled this matter. The least they could have done, I should have thought, was to allow the local authorities, in their discretion, to give some encouragement to smokeless houses. The right hon. Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) used an expression that did not surprise me. I knew it was coming. He spoke of Lancashire and used an expression which is also used in Yorkshire, namely, "Where there's muck there's brass." I daresay that is true up to a point, and we got an echo of it in the speech of the hon. Member for Reading. There may be 286 brass, there may be money, there may be wealth, but the whole medical faculty are united in pointing to the evil effects on the health of the people of the shutting out of sunlight from our cities, and the terrible wear and tear on the unfortunate housewives, who have to try to keep themselves and their houses and their children clean when this unconsumed coal is being deposited in the atmosphere the whole time.
There may be "brass" where there is "muck," there may be money where there is dirt, but it means lack of health, sickening children, housewives whose lives are made a burden, and an immense material loss. In fact, this continuance of the use of raw coal is not only wasteful, it is the using up of wealth that we shall appreciate in the years to come, when we know how to deal with coal scientifically. The loss of health and happiness and the general inefficiency and muddle caused by our present methods are distinctly checking the progression of human kind. Then we get this Bill from the Minister of Health. I believe that by far the greatest cause of all this dirt and inefficiency and muddle is the domestic fire, and no attempt whatsoever has been made to tackle it. I hope we shall, at any rate, do something in Committee to remove this great blot on an otherwise excellent Bill, which I shall support.
§ Sir ALFRED MOND
I want to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health in occupying a position which I might well have occupied myself, for I remember very well that this Bill was one of the Measures which my Department was considering when I was still in office, but I am glad that he has found the opportunity, denied to me, of bringing it before the House of Commons. It is said, on the other hand. that it will ruin every other industry and, on the other, that it does not go far enough to do anything in particular. To that I can only say that I think on the whole the Bill goes as far as it can usefully go in a very imperfect world. It is scarcely sufficiently realised that if the existing legislation against black smoke were only enforced more vigorously, the terrible pall of darkness which we see hanging over our industrial country would enormously diminish, and the only thing that one fears about any 287 new legislation on the subject is that unless more energy is shown in its enforcement, hardly any practical result will accrue. I am personally not terrified about the results of legislation of this kind being a serious threat to industry. As a matter of fact, I think the result, as a rule, has been the other way. I have been for many years now connected with factories burning some thing like a thousand tons of coal, with practically no smoke at all, and I remember the days when we used to see the black smoke of the chimneys as a sort of landmark when we came home from hunting. That improvement was not brought about merely to make life more pleasant or to preserve the amenities, but to save an enormous waste of fuel.
The methods to-day of dealing with the firing of boilers by mechanical and other means of reducing smoke are so well known that it is almost incredible to me, as I go about the country, still to see chimney stacks belching forth clouds of black smoke, wasting endless money, and polluting the atmosphere. You can see in this very town volumes of black smoke coming from large electric light stations and ruining all the surrounding districts. The trouble with the existing legislation really is that the definition "black smoke" is so meticulously argued and it is so narrowly defined that it practically became inoperative, and if a Bill of this character gives greater elasticity and does not confine us to one shade of colour, which does not exist in nature at all but only exists on paper, local authorities will not be discouraged from taking any action. I am very glad that my right hon. Friend has found it possible to introduce this Bill, and I hope it will pass through the House without too much meticulous opposition, so that we can get it on the Statute Book. There are no doubt points that want safeguarding, some points of difficulty. The hon. Member for Reading (Mr. H. Williams), who spoke with great expert knowledge, pointed some of them out, but I would point out that solutions are very often found only when problems become acute, and very often it is merely the necessity of finding some solution which causes it to be adopted. There are to-day methods of smoke consumption which are adopted in other countries where they 288 do not allow people to poison the atmosphere by pouring their fumes into the air, and these methods, which work in America, in Canada, and, I believe, in Germany, ought to be made to work here. This offensive smoke is not really a necessity, and if this Bill has one fault it is that it safeguards a little too much, and is a little too much in favour of what I would call the reactionary manufacturer.
I am a little disappointed that my right hon. Friend has not, gone any further in regard to the domestic aspect of this problem. I must point out that the right hon. Gentleman seemed to assume that there are only two forms of smokeless fuel in this country, one gas and the other electricity. Far be it from me to say anything against either of those extremely important methods of modern heating, but Britain produces something like 5,000,000 tons of anthracite, which is the best smokeless fuel in the world, and there is no reason to wait for somebody to invent a superior smokeless fuel when you produce in this country an unlimited amount of smokeless fuel already. The right hon. Gentleman has, I believe, been in New York, which has been made a smokeless city simply because no soft coal is allowed to be burnt there, and hard coal is the only coal consumed. It is, therefore, quite unreasonable to argue that you cannot do anything at all because you cannot compel people to do without an open fire. In South Wales everybody burns anthracite in an open fire, and it is about the only fuel that you can burn there. Hon. Members might have found that out at Wembley. I do not wish to compel the Minister of Health to promote the Welsh anthracite industry, nor to compel local authorities in putting up any new houses to put in coal burning grates which give no smoke. But why should not the Minister of Health, at any rate, allow an option? It is not merely a question of workmen's cottages. We are dealing with the whole range of houses, including large blocks of flats that are going up in London every day, and creating just as much smoke as great chimneys. There are instances where such buildings pollute the atmosphere as much as factory chimneys. Unless you deal with this on 289 broad lines, you are not going to get any of the results we wish to obtain.
It is scarcely conceivable to me that if you allow local authorities to exercise some control over the fire and heating introduced into new private houses, it will be used in such a tyrannical or foolish way as to cause the trouble that is feared. After all, the local authorities are elected just as we are. All the arguments I have heard advanced about the "hearth and home" and the "sacred open grate" contain a sentiment that applies just as much to municipal and local elections as to Parliamentary ones. I do think that power ought to be given in the direction in which I have suggested. Unless you do it now in this Bill, you will never get it done. We cannot deal with this kind of legislaton except at rare intervals, as we know from experience. The whole development is in the direction of greater use of by-products, domestic coke and anthracite; and all forms of heat and fuel more and more do away with the idea of the present wasteful burning of coal in the domestic establishments. I urge my right hon. Friend to put a permissive Amendment in the Bill, which, after all, does not commit the Government to putting the responsibility on the local authorities, but does allow a large part of the building of this country to go up with a due regard to the consumption of smoke in the domestic fire. It is not suggested that the total abolition of smoke is the aim of this Bill, but we might, at any rate, see that such fires are more smokeless than they are at present. The right hon. Gentleman, I know, is a man of great courage and not easily moved by opposition. Therefore, I urge on him to take the unique opportunity, that might not occur again for long years to come, of accepting an Amendment on the Committee stage that will enable us to move along the lines of smoke abatement.
§ Mr. J. BAKER
I am in favour of smoke abatement and purifying the atmosphere, but I am a little concerned about paragraph (e) of Clause 1. This is legislation by reference, and I have not had time yet to make the necessary reference. Also, I did not hear the Minister's speech, as I was called out of the Chamber when he rose. If this paragraph (e) is adding this list of trades to a list that might be penalised under this 290 Bill or a previous Act, then I suggest that you cannot make pig iron without blowing into the atmosphere clouds of steam and smoke, poisonous fumes and grit. You cannot make Bessemer steel without blowing into the atmosphere particles of steel dust and gas. You cannot puddle iron without having some means of cooling your heat. The ironmasters of this Country have spent some £20,000 in research work to get rid of manual labour in connection with the puddling of iron and to get a substitute that will not pollute the atmosphere to the same extent as coal. They have not succeeded. Therefore I hope that these trades are not going to be added as industries that are to be penalised. If they are, I am afraid I shall have to vote against the Bill, although I am very much in favour of doing all that we can to try to purify our atmosphere.
§ Captain WATERHOUSE
I think it is is impossible to over-emphasise the importance of the subject that we arc discussing to-day. Of all things that are ruining the life of our towns, I believe that smoke and the accompanying degradation are by far the most important and the most difficult to deal with. This Bill is a real step forward but it is not a very large step, and I do hope that the Minister really means what he said when he promised to consider in Committee suitable Amendments. In another place there have been Amendments, but they were entirely legal and drafting Amendments which did not make the least difference to the Bill in principle. I hope the Minister will consider whether he cannot meet us on some points of principle. When it is suggested that other smokes than black smoke should be included, we are only doing what was done in Leiester just 58 years ago by the Leicester Improvement Act of 1868, under which all smoke was included. Similar steps were taken by Bradford, Leeds, and Nottingham years ago. Unless the Minister can see his way to extend the compulsory powers in this Bill, I do not think we shall look back on the year 1926 as one of great progress in this direction. The Bill does increase the penalties, and that is all to the good, and I believe that the provisions of the Bill give adequate safeguards to industries that might be affected.
291 One point of the Bill frankly I do not like. The Minister has got a most awfully soft place in his heart for county councils. These county councils are absolutely above reproach. If anything goes wrong anywhere, refer it to the county council. We have seen this transfer of powers under the Rating and Valuation Bill, and we are expecting a similar transfer when the Poor Law is reformed. My experience of county councils is not such a happy one. They are guaranteed to spend money but not to do much else. I should also like to ask why shipping is excluded from the Bill? In New York they have a very definite law on this point:No person shall cause, suffer, or allow dense smoke to be discharged from any building, vessel, stationary or locomotive engine or motor vehicle, place or premises within the City of New York, or upon the waters adjacent thereto, within the jurisdiction of said city.I do not think it has ruined the shipping of New York, and I do not think it would ruin that of this country, but. I do not want to stress this point. People who live in ports may enjoy sea breezes, and no doubt soot and dirt do not matter so much. It is the great industrial cities that we have got to think of. I expect it will be said that His Majesty's Services are quite distinct from any ordinary service or from ordinary undertakings, and that. therefore Clause 10 is a perfectly natural Clause to put in this Bill. But I believe I am right in saying that His Majesty's chauffeur would come under the criminal law and be fined if he transgressed the law. Why should not State factories come under the law. Why should the Minister make provisions to protect his colleagues from the action of a law that he considers necessary in the public interest? State undertakings should be an example to others, and it is cowardly to take this protection.
The most important thing of all is with regard to dwelling houses. Lord Newton's Committee said that at least 50 per cent. of the smoke and grime came from the fires of dwelling houses. In Birmingham. I believe, something like 54 tons of smoke and grit is deposited each year. That makes one realise, that if it is true to say that no less than 27 tons of this comes from dwelling houses, the problem ought to be tackled. I remember once looking down on a Yorkshire valley on a 292 day like this, when it was quite clear and bright. About a quarter-past four everyone thought it was tea time, and by half-past four you could not see a single house. There was a blue haze that came entirely from domestic smoke. There is a very considerable difference between the high chimney of the factory and the chimney of a dwelling house, and also between the action of the wind on smoke that comes from these chimneys. If you have smoke being belched from 150 chimneys in a narrow street, how can you expect to get self-respect and clean, healthy families and healthy children in these districts?
The Minister has told us that there is a difference of 7½d. a week as between Manchester and Harrogate in the cost of washing alone. That is a considerable item, but the Minister must also consider the woman herself who has to be scrubbing from Monday morning until Saturday night just because the right hon. Gentleman is afraid of the unpopularity which might attach to bringing in a stronger Measure. Unless this Government do so, no Government in England ever will do it, because I believe that this Government more than any other have at heart the well-being of the people. One of the factors most important for health is sunlight, and according to Lord Newton's Committee, in the ordinary industrial towns—not the worst—20 per cent. of our very scanty supply of sunshine is screened from us, and never reaches. The people living in these towns. The Minister, I think, needs no convincing about the necessity of dealing with this problem, but apparently he does need convincing about the possibilities of dealing with it. I believe that somewhere not far from Birmingham there is a village called Northfield, and I am told in that village there are no fireplaces. They have a system of general central heating, and so far from it having been expensive, they actually saved £30 per house in the construction. That is something which the right hon. Gentleman and the officials of his Department ought to consider very carefully. The Staveley Ironworks have supplied hot water to a large portion of Staveley, and in many other private undertakings one finds the same sort of effort being made. If it can be done economically by private firms, surely it 293 can be done as a saving and as the provision of a real asset, by municipal authorities, The Minister says it can be done. I think he should put in a Regulation that it must be done, not only in municipal schemes, but in all large schemes.
Some arrangement should be made for a central supply of hot water, just as we now have a central supply of cold water. It is absurd to say that you cannot do these things because they restrict liberty. At present we are hemmed in with restrictions. We can only build a house of a certain size; we can only have rooms of a certain height; we must have a bathroom, whether we like bathing or nat, and I do not see why we should not be compelled to have a gas stove whether we like gas stoves or not. I urgently ask the Minister to consider whether, at a later stage in the progress of this Bill, he could not introduce a Regulation making it compulsory on any person building a house in an area where there is a service of gas, to put in the necessary pipe lines. I do not think it is asking too much, and I am sure the country as a whole would benefit from it. In a matter such as this, the Government must lead, and not follow. As long as the Government only follow they are never going to make any progress at all, because the people of this country are inherently conservative—and thank goodness for it. I hope when the Minister gets into Committee he will give effect to the promise which he made earlier in the Debate and will make this Bill into a far-reaching and a vital Measure to improve the amenities of life for the people of this country.
§ Dr. SALTER
I rise to give a general support to the Bill, but, as I think the Minister will assume, I do so with no great degree of enthusiasm. We, on this side, regret the numerous omissions from the Bill, and the numerous loopholes and opportunities for evasion which it provides. I hope the Minister's promise that he would favourably consider Amendments in Committee does not refer merely to Amendments which will have the effect of weakening the Bill, but that he will give equal consideration to Amendments aimed at strengthening the Bill. We on this side feel that the Bill will make some tiny improvements, yet we also feel that it leaves untouched the large problem of 294 smoke abolition. We recognise that it is a small advance, and I suppose we ought to be grateful for small mercies in these times. I need not refer to the menace to the health, the lives and the happiness of the people which the smoke problem creates in this country, particularly in our great industrial centres.
The two biggest scourges of working-class life to-day are chronic rheumatism and chronic bronchitis. These two groups of diseases cause a greater loss of working time than almost. all other diseases put together. Tuberculosis is fast receding into the background as one, of the great disabling influences in working-class life, but chronic bronchitis and chronic rheumatism remain. Chronic rheumatism is at length being tackled and encouragement is being given by the right hon. Gentleman's Department to efforts for its prevention. The great discovery that most forms of chronic rheumatism take their origin in dental sepsis, has led to the greatly increased dental attention now being given under the National Insurance Act, and in other ways, with a view to the prevention of chronic rheumatism. But absolutely nothing is being done for the Prevention of chronic bronchitis. The disabling effect of this group of diseases and the loss of working time which results from it, grow worse every year according to the figures of the right hon. Gentleman's own Department. Great groups of respiratory diseases have been clearly traced to the influence of dirt, dust and soot in the atmosphere, and however small an advance this Bill may mean, one is bound to welcome it, if only for that reason. We hope that a a result of it these terrible diseases to which I have referred will be to some extent mitigated. It is admitted that the greater part of the smoke evil is due to the domestic chimney, and I join with others who have spoken in appealing to the right hon. Gentleman to accept in Committee an Amendment to Clause 5 which will give effect to the recommendations of the Departmental Committee. The right hon. Gentleman, in his opening remarks, said this Bill followed the recommendation of that Committee. One of their recommendations is as follow:That the central housing authority"—that being the right hon. Gentleman's own Department— 295should decline to sanction any housing schemes submitted by a local authority or a public utility society unless specific provision is made in the plan for the adoption of smokeless methods of supplying the required heat as suggested in the interim Report.When the provisions of the Bill were being considered in another place the right hon. Gentleman's Department accepted an Amendment by which private dwelling-houses were included and the word "cooking" was added, and the Clause in question was made to read:It shall be the duty of local authorities submitting proposals for the provision of houses for the purposes of the Housing Act, 1920 to 1924, to satisfy the Minister that such suitable arrangements are to be made for heating and cooking, as are calculated to prevent or reduce the emission of smoke.On this side we should like to see that Clause which a previous Conservative Government adopted, while the right hon. Gentleman s Department accepted an Amendment in such terms on the previous Bill. It is said that such a provision is not practicable, but that was not the view of the Departmental Committee, and the right hon. Gentleman himself said that he had seen a scheme for the provision of working-class houses at Dundee, where a form of central heating had been adopted, and that it was entirely satisfactory. That particular scheme consisted of maisonettes and the Committee reports that a similar system is practicable and is, indeed, already in operation with regard to bungalows and isolated houses. They refer to the Austin Motor Company's village at Northfield, which the last speaker mentioned, and their summary of the position is as follows:The dwellings are smokeless, are popular with the tenants, are economical of fuel, and are well ventilated.The Ministry of Health are extremely keen on compelling local authorities in London to put up block tenements rather than bungalows. This Committee also report that as far as tenement houses are concerned, the system is perfectly practicable. They give an illustration from a set of 60 tenement houses built by the Liverpool Corporation in 1913. There they say the central system proved economical, thoroughly satisfactory, and that the tenants were very pleased with it. Apparently schemes are already in 296 operation in this country which relate to bungalows and isolated houses, to maisonettes and to block tenements. I would also refer the right hon. Gentleman to the extremely important report issued by the medical officer of health for Salford some time ago, in which he emphasised the necessity of experimenting with different types of grates. He showed that by these special grates you could effect a saving in relation to heating purposes and radiation, get a greater percentage of heating value from the fuel and also arrange for a completely smokeless chimney. The Departmental Committee also pointed out that grates of different kinds were now available which, if they did not lead to the complete abolition of smoke, would reduce it by one-third or even in some cases by 50 per cent.
Many years ago the London County Council issued a report called "The Smoke Nuisance in London." It is dated June, 1904, and in that report is described an experiment which was made in the building now occupied by the Ministry of Health. The report deals with tests which were carried out by His Majesty's Office of Works showing that when certain types of grates were installed in different rooms in the building, many of them were found to be practically smokeless, they gave greater economy in fuel, and greater heating power and were thoroughly suitable. Those tests undertaken under the auspices of the County Council and the Smoke Abatement Society have shown that it was a perfectly practicable thing to do a good deal of what has been suggested, and if not to abolish, at any rate to diminish seriously, the radius of the smoke nuisance. I would suggest to the Minister that he should accept an Amendment in Committee which would have the effect of strengthening Clause 5, and doing away with the exemption to new houses at present being built or about to be erected.
There are other points which we on this side of the House would like to see altered in the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the exemption of ships. He gave his reasons why they should be exempted. Those of us who live on Thames-side and in the neighbourhood of the docks are subjected to very considerable annoyance, not for short periods, but for four, five and six hours at a time 297 while the vessels in the docks are getting up steam. It is not fair or just that the people who live in these areas, and who are drenched daily with the smoke for hours at a stretch, should have no legal remedy whatever. Then there are the tug boats in the Thames. I myself have been covered with soot on more than one occasion by the emission of smoke, yet I am given to understand by people who are thoroughly familiar with the mechanism and machinery of the tug boat that this is an entirely preventable thing, and ought to be prevented.
Reference has also been made to locomotives. Those who live in the scattered areas of towns, or a city like London, are subjected to very considerable annoyance and prejudice by reason of the smoke from locomotives. I understand that in New York steam locomotives are not allowed to go beyond a certain radius, that while inside that area they have to pull up dead, and that electric power must he used inside that particular area. I am not suggesting anything of the sort for this country at the present time, though I ask the serious attention of our railroad people to what may become a possibility of the near future. At any rate, something further should be done with regard to the black smoke issuing in quantities in the various ways that have been mentioned, and I trust the Minister will see his way to strengthen the provisions of this Bill in the directions that, have been indicated; that he will be prepared to consider Amendments which will have the effect of making the Bill better from our point of view.
I, like many other Members in the House, welcome this Bill as a fulfilment of the pledge of the Government, but confess I am greatly disappointed with certain omissions. Hon. Members know far better than I do, but the Coal Commission's Report says that about 2,500,000 tons of potential fuel in the form of smoke escapes into the air from domestic fires, and 5,000,000 tons from industrial establishments. Leaving out that part which is producing most of the smoke—
I do not say go in for total prohibition, but when you are abating, abate as much as you can. The Minister used the argument that you ought not to interfere with individual liberty. There is nobody in the world who interferes with individual liberty more than the Minister of Health, and the interference of the Ministry of Health has saved the lives of thousands of children in this country. Hence it is a very poor argument, this argument of interference, to come from the Minister of Health. I think it must have come from another section of the Government—some other person pushing him. It may be that the voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hand pushing the right hon. Gentleman is the hand of Esau. One wonders, indeed, whose voice it was, because the right hon. Gentleman to-day did not seem to be speaking either with a full heart or a convinced head. I do hope that he will in Committee allow as to deal with this matter. As the hon. Member opposite has said, we did not think that people in the other House would accept the Principle of this Bill. Some of us never expected to see that. But in 1924, when a similar Bill was being considered in the House of Lords, an Amendment was accepted by Lord Onslow which included dwelling houses. We ask for some sort of freedom in dealing with this matter. As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, most of the people on this side of the House want the Bill, and certainly all on the other side.
There is another thing about which 1 should like to say a little, and that is the waste of the domestic hearth. We cannot afford to do it. There is nobody on earth who enjoys a bright fire more than I do. I should be very sad if I had to do away with it, but there arc now gas fires, and for the sake of the women of the country who are amongst the soot and the dirt and the work, one would be willing to make sacrifices. Not only is it the small domestic fires, but there are the other buildings, the clubs, the hotels and the rest of them. Yet there is opposition to remedial measures on the score of interference with individual liberty! It has been shown in one or other of the Reports which have been quoted that Manchester spends £290,000 a year on unnecessary household washing due to smoke pollution, and if Manchester spends that, what must 299 London spend? What, also, must it cost every household in the country? But apart from the cost, I do not think that any man who endeavours to appreciate what all this means to women, living in this endless state of confusion, would do other than wish to see some remedy applied.
I have had very many letters on the subject, letters even from people who looked forward to some little release from continual work they have now from the time of getting up to the time of going to bed. I do hope, therefore, that the Minister of Health, for the sake of the women, will brave what opposition he has got to face. I do not know where it comes from, because, after all, the Members who put up that opposition have gone out of the House. They used the arguments which the Minister of Health knows so well and has heard for years, that this is going to be a great calamity for industry. It really will be a tremendous disappointment to many of us who have worked in this cause if we do not make some progress in this matter.
There is another point about which I want to speak. We do not get as much sunlight as they do in America and Canada, and these countries might be able, therefore, to afford to shut out the sun. It seems to me, however, that if there is one country in the world which cannot afford to shut out the sun, it is the British Isles. From that point of view, we ought to do all we can to reduce domestic smoke. I can tell the Minister of Health that in our housing at Plymouth we have put in gas cookers and fireplaces which are up to date and made in a modern way, so that very little smoke escapes. All these things are perfectly possible and perfectly reasonable. I do hope that the Minister will listen to his own supporters, and not be put off by those few people who say that this will be a shock to industry. I have sat in this House for seven years, and I have never known the time when anything which meant a little more cost to industry was not going to cripple that particular industry. After all, if that be the case, if some of these things are so bad for industry, why not deal with the domestic side of the smoke nuisance, and leave the industrial side alone? I speak for 300 thousands of women in the country. You ought not to put into a Bill of this kind that the thing is permissive only; you ought to encourage all the new houses to have smokeless heating and cooking. The right hon. Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond), with his great knowledge of New York, told us that they are only allowed to burn a comparatively small quantity of some kind of coal.
So I do hope very much that the right hon. Gentleman will let us have our way in Committee, and not disappoint many of those of us who are his most ardent admirers; that really he will look at the matter snore favourably as becomes so strong a Government.
§ Mr. SPENCER
There is one question in this connection to which I wish to draw the attention of the Minister, and which, I think, demands far more attention than has been given to it. I refer to the coke ovens in the colliery districts. Anyone who has lived in close proximity to any colliery company must know perfectly well that there is a radius of half a mile or a mile where the effect of these ovens is apparent. The bad effect is not in the form of dense smoke, but of gas. I am certain that these ovens ought to have more attention from the local authority, whose hands should be strengthened, so that the nuisance may be minimised as far as possible.
The second point applies to pit heaps. I know nothing more devastating than a burning pit heap. The question has been referred to the local authorities, but the local authorities have very little power to abate a nuisance of that character. You have probably a little community living round a colliery where there is a great pit-head. You will see it every night in winter time blazing away smoke and gas, disseminating it right throughout the village, and there is little or no power to put an end to it. It is not, I know, an easy thing. I know there are difficulties. I think the Minister ought to give sufficient power to local authorities to make colliery companies abate the nuisance as far as possible. I admit there is difficulty, because when there is spontaneous combustion the whole heap gets on fire, and it is not an easy thing to put 301 it out, but by the use of sand and other things they can to some extent abate the nuisance.
§ Lieut.-Colonel ANGUS McDONNELL
I rise to say I hope the Minister will give earnest consideration, as he said he would, to the difficulties facing certain industries. Though I do not often find myself in agreement with the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy), I do want to support his contention with regard to the cement industry, in so far as it concerns the gas which issues from the kilns used in the burning and calcining of minerals in the manufacture of cement. In my own Division, about a third of the population live on the manufacture of cement, and it seems to me that, as the Bill stands, a county council might put obstacles in the way of the manufacture of cement. Therefore, I ask the Minister to give earnest consideration in the Committee stage to the question of the smoke issuing from kilns used in the calcining of minerals in the manufacture of cement.
§ Lieut.-Commander ASTBURY
The Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) remarked a few moments ago that all the manufacturers had left the House. I happen to be a very humble manufacturer, and I should like to point out to the Minister of Health the very great issue which this Bill raises for many manufacturers, especially small manufacturers. It is a Bill for the abatement of the smoke nuisance. I have listened to every speech made this afternoon, but I have not heard a single one which showed us how the smoke emitted from a manufacturer's chimneys can be abated. For years past patent appliances have appeare claiming to be smoke-consuming and smoke-abating, but there has never yet been a patent on the market in this country which would enable a factory to consume or abate its smoke. There are many ways in which a slight abatement can he made. A manufacturer may have a chimney which is not high enough or wide enough to give sufficient draught to the boilers, and by remedying that defect he may abate the smoke to some extent; and cases where the boiler power of a factory is too low, and more smoke is made in that way, could also be dealt with; but as regards the general run of 302 cases, I say there is not an appliance on the market by which smoke can be very greatly abated.
We are all in agreement with what has been said about the value, from a medical standpoint, of a smokeless atmosphere; but the real point is whether it is practicable to get any greater abatement of the smoke nuisance. Every factory works on its own system.A cotton mill, for example, is run practically from one beam engine, which has only a small load on it throughout the whole of the day, and it is very easy in a case like that to ensure that very little black smoke is emitted. In contrast with that, there is the case of a print works, where there may be 100 to 150 small engines. Perhaps 50 of those engines may be running for an hour and then all of a sudden all the 100 or 150 engines will be brought into use, causing the steam to run down to the boiler. The furnaces have to be coaled to get steam up again, and in a ease like that I would defy anyone—and I am speaking from practical experience—to avoid emitting black smoke while restoring the head of steam in the boiler. Under the present law a factory has been allowed to emit black smoke for a period not exceeding two minutes; and it has been held that where an observer could see through the smoke it was to be regarded as light smoke and the manufacturer could not be summoned. Under this Bill, however, light smoke is to be taken into consideration. Who is to be the judge of whether the amount of light smoke emitted from a chimney is a detriment to health? As far as I can see, the judges will have to be sanitary inspectors. Is it fair to place in the hands of a sanitary inspector a power which may have the consequence of closing down a factory?
The point I am coming to as regards smaller manufacturers is this. They started their works years ago, they have no room to expand. Undoubtedly they are emitting more smoke than they ought to, hut when they cannot expand their boiler power and cannot extend their chimneys then, if these Regulations are to be carried out, there is only one thing to be done—the place has got to be closed down. If no reservation is to be made to meet these hard cases it means that smaller works, and in some cases larger 303 works—I do not want to exaggerate—will be closing down, throwing a great many men out of employment.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
Did I understand the hon. and gallant Gentleman to say that a sanitary inspector would have the power to decide whether black smoke was emitted?
§ Lieut.-Commander ASTBURY
Perhaps I did not put it clearly, but I was asking who would be the authority. [An HON. MEMBER: "I hope every policeman."] Up to the present time the only man with authority—subject, of course, to the council—to say whether smoke is black or not is the sanitary inspector, and I thought that system was to apply under this Bill. Clause 2 of the Bill states:Noxious smoke' means smoke of such colour, density and content as the by-laws may specify.How on earth can one draw up a by-law on those lines? I think it will be found impossible; and in the end it will come to its being left to the sanitary inspector. I shall be very glad if the Minister will say whether or not the sanitary inspector will have the power of saying whether or not a certain chimney is emitting black smoke.
I did not get up for the purpose of opposing the Bill, because I think we are all in favour of securing the best conditions possible, but I am very much afraid that if some alteration is not made, this Bill will have the effect of closing down certain works. Not so very far from my own constituency there are works I know' of which are underboilered and with chimneys not high enough, and if the provisions of this Bill arc to be carried out without reservation, I can say, without the slightest fear or hesitation or exaggeration, that those works will have no option but to close down. I hope when the Bill comes into Committee means will be devised of dealing with those cases over which the people concerned have no control.
Mr. TREVELYAN THOMSON
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has drawn a very doleful picture of what may happen under this Bill. Surely he has forgotten that it rests with the local 304 authority to take action, and all the factors which he has mentioned will be well known to the local authority.
§ Lieut.-Commander ASTBURY
I quite understand that, but the man who reports the facts to the local authority is the sanitary inspector, and they take his advice.
The local authority have the onus thrown upon them of weighing the evidence submitted, and they are not the deciding factor. They are only the prosecutors, they can only send the case to the Court; and it is the experience of most local authorities that, as a rule, a Court does not forget to consider the interest of the manufacturers in a particular district. Therefore, there is the double protection of the local authority, which knows the needs of the district, and of the Court, which in the past has not been found to act in an arbitrary manner against manufacturers. I would ask the Minister to note the almost universal opinion in favour of making the provisions of the Bill more drastic when it gets into Committee, particularly Clause 5. When the Minister was defending Clause 5, he seemed to speak as though it was not merely a permissive power which the local authority was to have. Surely there is no reason why the local authority should not have a permissive power to deal with smoke prevention in new buildings, including private dwellings. I do not want to recount the tremendous injury done to the health of the community by the emission of smoke from private dwellings, and it would be a thousand pities, now that we have this Bill for which local authorities have been clamouring for many years, not to give them permissive power to deal with private dwellings constructed in the future.
Clause 10 is an improvement, but it does not go far enough. I do not think the Minister convinced the House that the various Government Departments ought to be treated differently from manufacturers. If the Office of Works, or any other Department, are guilty of emitting black smoke, their officials should be as much amenable to the ordinary law of the land as any private factory. To exempt them is to put them into a privileged position which is very unfair. I hope the Minister will consider Clause 5 and Clause 10 to see 305 whether he cannot amend them in the Committee in the direction of an advance. Generally speaking, this Bill is an improvement on the legislation which has preceded it, and no doubt it will receive the support of the whole Horse, but it could be strengthened, and I am sure the Minister, with his own local experience and his personal knowledge of the evils of the smoke nuisance, will feel that he will be well advised to secure more drastic powers.
§ Mr. A. V. ALEXANDER
I should like to say a word or two on behalf of the City of Sheffield. The hon. and gallant Member for West Salford (Lieut.-Commander Astburv) seemed to think it would be very difficult to work the Bill. I cannot see anything in this Bill which will make it more difficult to work than the Act which it seeks to amend. While we complain very bitterly about the nuisance caused to the public by the emission of smoke, there can be no doubt that in places like Sheffield a great improvement has been effected even under the existing enactments by the officials of the local authorities. I agree with my right hon. Friend that the condition of things in Sheffield in this respect is still very bad, although there is no doubt some improvement has already been effected. We are, however, very anxious that this improvement should go on. From the same point of view the county councils are very much concerned about Clause I, Sub-section (1), paragraph (e), which deals with the processes of reheating, annealing, hardening, forging, converting and carburising iron and other metals. I suppose the Minister has probably been very much impressed by the deputation of Sheffield manufacturers which waited upon him in regard to this particular point. The same argument also applies to other centres of the iron and steel trade who are asking for immediate drastic powers to deal with these particular trades. After four or five years of depression, there is a feeling in the mind of the corporation that there is some danger, if this Clause goes through, that the question of dealing effectively with the very bad nuisances arising from these processes will be shelved for a considerable period, and I hope some attention will be given to this particular point.
306 Another administrative point I wish to raise is in Clause I, Sub-section (3) which deals with the defence which may he set up by those found to be committing a nuisance and I think some words should be introduced which will not exempt employers altogether because they have a. negligent employé. In the general form in which this Clause is drawn it seems to me that it would be a good defence for the employer to say, "I left a stoker in charge and gave him instructions." The working of the Clause is very general in its character. I think the Ministry of Health, more than any other Department has devised such excellent forms of words for dealing with milk regulations and things of that kind, clearly showing what is the liability of the employers and a negligent employé, that it ought to be possible to devise a proper form of words which would secure the effectiveness of this Measure when prosecutions or any legal proceedings take place. I agree with what has been said about those manufacturers who have to instal a large number of boilers before they can get the necessary power they require. I think the Minister will recollect what was said on the Second Reading of the Electricity Bill, and I hope he will have some regard to what is being said in Committee on the Electricity Bill. Up to the present time there has been a very conservative attitude adopted by manufacturers towards the introduction of electrical powers into their mills and works. But for the attitude in the past of those representing power companies and electrical undertakings, it would now have been possible for many of these mills and factories to have obtained electrical power and they would have had an electrical supply at a very cheap rate.
§ Lieut.-Commander ASTBURY
I only wish we had au electrical cable going past my works because I am sure I should find it more economical to run my machines by electricity.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
That statement has been made freely by those who are interested in the Electricity Bill, and I hope the hon. Member for West Salford, instead of hindering the Electricity Bill, will help the Minister to pass it into law by getting his associates in Lancashire to make a larger use of electrical power.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of HEALTH (Sir Kingsley Wood)
I wish to reply to some of the questions which have been put by hon. Members and to make one or two observations on the points which have been raised. I think the House will agree that most of the points which have been raised can be more properly dealt with in Committee. Speaking generally with regard to the principle of the Bill, most of the new methods of administration proposed have received practically a, unanimous endorsement by the House and my right lion. Friend the Minister of Health and myself are very grateful for the reception which this Measure has received. I will say a few words with regard to trade and industry as well as the position with regard to dwelling-houses.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Salford (Lieut.-Commander Astbury) seemed to be somewhat concerned as to the position of industry, and I think he has considerably misapprehended the actual position both under the law as it stands at present, and as it will be under this Bill if it is carried into law. The hon. and gallant Member raised the question as to the power of local authorities who had to judge whether a nuisance was committed and matters of that kind. If he consults the Public Health Act of 1875, he will find that in order to commit an offence, not only must the chimney send forth black smoke, but it must be sent forth in such quantity as to be a nuisance. The tribunal to settle whether a nuisance has been committed or not is not the sanitary inspector or the local authority, but the competent Court, and all that the sanitary inspector or other officer has to do is to report to the local authority whether or not he thinks there is a primâ facie case, and the local authority has to decide whether they think the evidence is sufficient, and then the whole matter has to be decided by the Court. The manufacturer can put his point of view as well, and then the Court decides whether a case has been made out.
That position is quite unaffected by this Bill except that there is a Clause which says that the local authorities may set up a standard. One advantage in 308 making that proposal is that each local authority will have regard to the circumstances which may arise locally, and particularly the peculiar local conditions. When the local authority has set up that standard, the onus of proof is shifted, and if there is an offence against that particular standard then the manufacturer is driven to prove that what he has done was not a nuisance as defined under this Bill. I do not think the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down had the advantage of hearing what my right hon. Friend said as to what was the exact meaning of Clause I, Sub-section (1) which deals with certain processes set out in the Clause. It is perfectly true that that exception was largely made on the representation of people from Sheffield, who undoubtedly would be very adversely affected, and it is with a view of meeting that difficulty and to enable them to carry on their businesses successfully at the present time that this provision has been inserted. If the hon. Member for the Hillsborough Division of Sheffield (Mr. Alexander) wishes this Clause to be altered or strengthened. I hope he will make his suggestions during the Committee Stage when they can be dealt with.
The question has been raised with re. Bard to the position of the cement industry and other industries. The House will observe that the Minister of Health is given power by means of a provisional order to include any other industrial processes. Therefore, it is open to other industries to come forward and ask for a provisional order. Of course they will have to show that their industry ought not to be subjected to the ordinary law if this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament. If they come forward there will be an inquiry, and if it is determined that they should be exempted then my right hon. Friend will have to make an order to that effect, and that would have to be confirmed by this House, and we could decide whether a particular trade or business should be so exempted. A case has been put forward this afternoon on behalf of various trades and industries and the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. H. Williams) has brought forward the ease of the biscuit industry. If the hon. Member looks at Clause. I, Subsection (3),hewill observe the 309 defence which is available in a case in which legal proceedings are instituted. It says:It shall be a defence for the person charged to show that he has used the best practical means for preventing the nuisance.Two other conditions are set forth which are considered a very fair and reasonable defence in such circumstances. It says: " Having regard to the cost and to local conditions and circumstances." I think my lion. Friend the Member for Reading mentioned a process ;n which a particular manufacture' had to spend a very large sum of money, but the defence which he set up would be a good defence under the proposals of this Bill, and therefore it very largely meets the case which the hon. Gentleman has in view. The second defence is a very wide one, and has regard to the cost and to local conditions and circumstances. Therefore, I do not think there need be any anxiety so far as that is concerned. Of course, it should be stated that these defences are only open in regard to smoke other than black smoke. As I explained a few minutes ago, the position as regards black smoke is unaffected by the provisions of this Bill, except in so far as I have mentioned. I think the House will generally agree that the extension of this Bill to soot, ash, and gritty particles is a wise step, because people are affected by matters of that kind as much as they are by smoke itself. That follows out the recommendations of the Departmental Committee. The only other observation I desire to make is in reference to the chief criticism which has been advanced against this Bill, and that is that we have not made provision to deal with domestic smoke, and have exempted from the Measure private dwellings. Perhaps I may recall to the House the circumstances in which the last Bill dealing with smoke abatement was brought forward. It was a somewhat similar Bill to this one, but not quite so good and not quite so strong. It was introduced by the Labour party when they were in office. It was introduced in another place, and an attempt was made there to include private dwelling houses, but the opposition was so strong on that occasion that the member of the Labour Government who was then in charge had to agree, in order to get a 310 Second Reading for his Bill, that private dwelling houses should be omitted from the Measure. I give that as an illustration of the difficulty and opposition that may well arise.
I myself look upon this problem with very serious concern, but I think I may say that a very large number of people in this country would greatly resent an attempt on the part of the Legislature at this time, particularly in connection with a special class of house, to insist that the open fire should be taken away from them. If one looks at the recommendatons of the Departmental Committee, one finds it suggested that the central housing authority should decline to sanction any housing scheme put forward by a local authority or public utility society unless specific provision is made in the plans for the adoption of smokeless appliances for supplying the required heat. If that recommendation were carried into effect, it would mean, so far as municipal and State-assisted houses are concerned, practically the prohibition of the open fire. I believe that, whether hon. Members like it or not, that would be very much resented by a large number of people in this country.
I do not mind confessing that I am one of those who like the open fire. I have heard a good many enthusiasts this afternoon, but I venture to think that, if they abandoned the open fire in their own homes, if a large number of people in this country were anxious to prove their contention by simply putting an end to the open fire so far as their own homes are concerned, that would at any rate be a beginning. I have very vivid recollections of the fires in this House, and I have never known Members of this House send a petition to you, Mr. Speaker, or to anyone else, that anthracite and nothing else should be burned in the fires in this building. I think a very large number of people prefer the existing arrangements which have prevailed in this country for so long.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
That would be an argument against wearing clothes. In the first place, when clothes were proposed, people often found them uncomfortable, and did not like them. In Central Africa people object to wearing clothes now.
§ Sir K. WOOD
When the hon. and gallant Member brings that view forward, I will give my answer, but I venture to say that far more would be done in the first place by education than by any attempt to prohibit a certain section of the community from using open fires. After all, I believe there are something like 20,000,000 coal fires already in private houses in this country, and I would only say to hon. Members who are enthusiasts, and for whom I have a high regard, that I think they are putting a very great task on even this Government in asking them to begin prohibition in a matter of this kind, and not to endeavour to use what I think is the best means of getting people to adopt a new system, namely, encouragement and education. I do not think that anyone will ever really succeed in doing away with the domestic fire in this country until we obtain a really reliable smokeless fuel, and I think that that is the direction in which the Government should move, as they are moving at the present moment. The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research has already made very many inquiries, and a considerable sum of money has already been expended with that object and in that endeavour. In 1926, something like £76,000 was spent in that connection, and in other matters as well, and in the forthcoming year that sum is to be increased to £96,000.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I think it can be said that at any rate certain favourable results are in sight. I do not say they have been discovered, but there is no doubt that the researches that have already been made are promising. There is also another aspect of the matter. If you are going to impose some kind of new heating arrangement—either gas, electricity or some special kind of grate—for use in housing schemes, it must inevitably, in my judgment, lead to an increase in the cost of housing. If you are going to add still further to the cost of State-assisted houses in this country, that means that you are going to add to the rents, which are already too high, in my judgment, in very many cases, and I do not believe that people in this country would be prepared to pay an increased rent on that account. I am only expressing my own personal 312 views in this connection. I need hardly say that my right hon. Friend will gladly consider in Committee any Amendments which may be put down by hon. Members with a view to improving the Bill in this particular. It is only right, however, to point out to the House what this really means, and how attempts which have been made previously in this connection have had to be abandoned. I think I have dealt with the most important of the points that have been raised this after-noon. A large number of other points have been raised which are really Committee points—
§ Sir K. WOOD
There, I think, the hon. Member might have done credit to this Bill by saying that this is the first time an attempt has been made to deal with the position—
§ Sir K. WOOD
—of Government Departments. This Clause says that, if a nuisance is being committed within any premises occupied for the purpose of the service of the Crown, the Minister who is responsible for that particular Department shall be answerable to Parliament if he does not abate the nuisance when it has been brought to his notice. What is the alternative? The alternative is that any Minister of the Crown should, I suppose for the first time in the history of this country, be liable, at the suit, say, of a local authority, to be brought before a police court, or, on the other hand, that the local authority should, under another provision of the Public Health Act, 1875, have the right to enter the particular premises belonging to a Government Department, and sue for remedies in connection with that. I do not think that any Member-of the House would consider that to be a proper way of dealing with offences which may be committed by Government Departments. For the first time a definite duty is laid upon the Minister responsible for the Department concerned, and it says that if he is satisfied after due inquiry that an express duty has been laid upon him, he shall cause such steps as may be necessary to be taken to abate the nuisance. The other alternative is that which I have mentioned.
§ Mr. A. V. ALEXANDER
What is the remedy if, after communication has been made to the Minister, no change takes place?
§ Sir K. WOOD
As my hon. Friend knows perfectly well, it will be open to him to bring the matter forward here on the ground that the Minister is not carrying out his duty, either on the Vote for his salary or by question and answer in this House. I think my hon. Friend would admit that that should be sufficient, but, at any rate, I think it would be a more proper method than, say, issuing a summons against my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer if such a thing happened at the Treasury, and hauling him before the local police court to answer a summons for a nuisance in one of the chimneys of the Treasury. I do not think that most Members of the House would desire to see him put in that position. [HoN. MEMBERS: "Oh! yes, we do!"] I think the proper remedy is to make him responsible in this House.
I think it can be claimed that this Measure, which has been attacked on the one hand for not going far enough, and on the other hand for going too far, is a moderate and sufficient Measure, recognising the difficulty and complexity of the problem. It will do something, at any rate—I think a good deal—to achieve the object which every Member in the House has in view, and I want to emphasise, as my right hon. Friend emphasised it, that really a good deal of the progress that we all desire can in the first place be effected by good administration of the Measure itself, and, secondly, I think a great deal can be done, as I have already indicated, by research and scientific methods on the part of the employers and manufacturers of this country, and on the part of the local authorities by giving good technical advice to manufacturers on the difficulties with which they are confronted. I think one of the best features of the administration of the law at the present time has been the co-operation in many ways between manufacturer and local authority with a view to abating particular nuisances. II believe a great deal more can be achieved by education, both of the public and of the manufacturers, and it is because I believe that many of the provisions in this Bill will help very 314 largely in that direction that I desire particularly to commend it to the House, and hope they will now give it a Second Reading.
§ Major BIRCHALL
As one of the Members for the City of Leeds, one takes an almost paternal interest in the subject of smoke abatement. Very few cities in the country have suffered more in the past in this respect than the City of Leeds, and when we have an opportunity of welcoming what. I regard as a social reform such as this Measure, one hardly likes to give a silent vote upon it. The condition of the City of Leeds, which I will not describe at length, may be summed up in this way. In one part of the city there is a deposit per month of seven tons of smoke per square mile. In another part of the same city, there is a deposit, in the same period, of 53 tons per square mile. The part which has upon it the deposit of 53 tons of soot is the poorer part of the city, and what it means is that the children who live—and many of them die—the children who are supposed to live in that poorer part of the city have exactly eight times the handicap of the children who live in the other part of the same city. It is eight times as difficult for them to live, it is eight times as difficult to educate them, and, in addition, they have all the other drawbacks and hindrances which are almost inseparable from their lives.
The smoke evil, however, is a remediable evil, which 1 believe could be very largely removed by means of the present Bill. The only objections we have heard to it—and they are objections which we who represent industrial cities must weigh very carefully—are based on the additional cost to industry. If it were conclusively proved that those costs would be excessive, and would further handicap our already trembling industries, I, for one, should be doubtful how to vote; but I am convinced that the advantages of a Bill like this will far outweigh any possible cost to manufacturers. I believe hat the costs of the public services in connection with health, housing and education will all be reduced, and that, therefore, although there may he some additional cost to manufacturers in installing different machinery, there will be, as a set-off to that, lower costs for the public services, from which they will undoubtedly benefit. Therefore, I say that on purely 315 financial grounds there is a great deal to be said in favour of this Measure, even from the point of view of the manufacturers themselves.
Much can be done even without the Bill; much can be done when the Bill is passed outside its scope. We have already experimented in Leeds with instructional classes for stokers, which have been well attended and from which much good has resulted. We are at present experimenting on the question of domestic fires. The Parliamentary Secretary has just spoken in favour of keeping the home fires burning. I am in favour of keeping the home fires burning, but I am not sure that we shall not soon be sufficiently educated to regard an electric fire as quite as enjoyable as a fire which sends a large proportion of its beat and smoke and coal up the chimney. I can assure my hon. Friend—no doubt he knows it already—that we are building houses now without the ordinary coal fire, and they seem to be quite as comfortable as those which are provided with the ordinary expensive coal fire. Therefore, I desire most heartily to support the Bill. I believe it really will be a social reform, and, beyond that, I believe it will do a great deal to lessen the handicap of those who are already sufficiently handicapped in life's race.
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE
I should just like to raise one point, because it seems to me that the question of the domestic fire does need to be put on a different plane. Although I strongly sympathise with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North-East Leeds (Major Birchall) in other respects, I dispute absolutely the idea, which the Ministry seems to have accepted, that the ideal to work towards is to have a closed fireplace and closed systems of heating. There is no question, in the first place, that we do know that the open fireplace is far more comfortable, and sanitation has also learned quite recently, by bitter experience of closed fires in constant use abroad and across the Atlantic, that the open fireplace is infinitely healthier. In the first place, it provides ventilation, and, in the second place, it is adaptable to individual needs as nothing else is. The individual who wants heat can get it by crouch- 316 ing over the fire, while the individual who wants coolness can get away from the fire and near a window that may be a bit open.
The open fireplace to be used in the future must be one that burns its own smoke, and, from that point of view, I should like to know whether it would not be possible to insert in this Bin in Committee some provision allowing local authorities to make by-laws under which grates put into new houses shall be such as consume far more of their smoke than the ordinary grate does at the present moment. The arrangement required is a sloping back which conserves the heat and consumes the smoke, and if local authorities were allowed to provide these ranges in new houses, it would, practically speaking, not increase the cost at all, while it would get over the difficulty which the Government apparently find in dealing with domestic smoke. Domestic smoke, after all, is the bugbear of the whole matter. It is the chief cause of the smoke, and it is being left out of this Bill. It is the chief cause of that melancholy condition of 53 tons per square mile on the constituency of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North-East Leeds—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] It is the chief reason for it. No blame attaches to anyone, but that is the chief reason, and it is a pity of we cannot take some step towards meeting it. In the hope that I may be able to get some such provision inserted in Committee, I wish otherwise to support the Bill.
§ Mr. PALIN
I sympathise with previous speakers in their demand that the law should be efficiently administered, and I desire to support the Minister this afternoon in attempting to deal with this terrible evil in industrial centres. It is all very well to talk about the domestic fire, but I live in a manufacturing district where the atmosphere is so thick that we can tell when the manufacturer changes the type of coal by the taste of it, where we have on our doorsteps every morning d[...]posits, not only of soot, but of solid coal which has been forced out of the chimney tops, no matter how high they are, by forced draught, and which has done no good at all because it has never been properly burned. In the desire to get more steam with inefficient plant, a large proportion 317 of the coal is forced out of the chimney top and deposited on our doorsteps, having done no good either to the manufacturer or to anyone else. It is perfectly true that a great deal may be done by administration.
I would refer to three cities in this country, all practically identical in size, though I will not say in importance, because I might have someone on my track at once. You have Nottingham, Bradford and Newcastle each with about 300,000 inhabitants. You have one city where the manufacturers never had a very great say on the magisterial bench —that is Nottingham—where there is practically no smoke nuisance, though there are the same number of chimneys practically as Bradford. You find a pure atmosphere in one place and a bad one in the other because in one place it has been £ s. d. for the persons who sat on the bench and administered the by-laws while at Nottingham we had every policeman a smoke inspector and at Bradford we only had one smoke inspector. The local authority for many years would not appoint anyone else who could possibly say an offence had been committed. It. is absurd. Any policeman would have enough common sense to say whether a chimney had been smoking, or that the smoke had been thick enough to cause a nuisance.
You will never get the law properly administered unless you have people on the spot, because all the chimneys do not smoke at the same time, and you cannot place a man on top of a hill to say a chimney has been smoking. We want the law strengthened, and if this Bill is passed and is stringently administered it will be a boon and a blessing. It will no doubt put money into the pockets of manufacturers who are more conservative than any Conservative that has ever been thought about in this House. To say that their boilers could not possibly he made so that they did not emit black smoke is unthinkable. The country is not going to he ruined by legislation of this kind, because legislation of this kind recognises that lives stand before money. I trust the Minister will press the Bill, and is going to see that the local authorities administer it as it was intended to be administered. There may he some particular process of manufacture which can prevent the emission of black smoke, 318 but I have never come across one yet. You have dealt with the manufacture who turns the soot out in tons. You can leave the domestic fires out of account for the moment. We will soon deal with the domestic fires. You have to deal with this terrible thing which is suffocating the young life of our great cities.
§ Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.