HC Deb 23 November 1959 vol 614 cc29-30
45. Mr. Darling

asked the Minister of Health, as representing the Minister for Science, whether he will discuss with the Medical Research Council the urgent need for a study of the effects on health of sulphur and other gases emitted from oil-fired boilers and furnaces and from exhausts of mobile and stationary oil engines.

Mr. Walker-Smith

The Medical Research Council is already investigating the effects on health of atmospheric pollution from sulphur compounds and other gases produced by the combustion of various fuels, including oil. Although these are potentially harmful, experiments have not so far demonstrated any ill-effects from exposure to any level of concentration in the atmosphere to which human beings are, in practice, exposed.

Mr. Darling

May I first ask if the firm in which the Question has appeared means that the Minister of Health cannot now talk to the Medical Research Council except through the medium of the Minister for Science? If that is so, does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that it is a rather retrogressive step?

Referring to the effect of oil fumes on health, is the Minister satisfied that the inquiry which is taking place is covering the whole ground; and how soon does he think it will be before we have some information from that inquiry, as this is a matter which has a good deal to do with such things as clean air orders and smoke abatement?

Mr. Walker-Smith

With regard to the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, the studies are comprehensive and widespread, but, of course, it is always possible to refer further matters to the Medical Research Council, as and when they come up. Information should flow from these studies, and as researches provide information it should be communicated to the public.

As to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, the difference is that in the last Parliament I answered these Questions on behalf of my noble Friend the Lord President of the Council. I now answer them on behalf of my noble Friend the Minister for Science. Happily, however, my noble Friend is the same person.