HC Deb 06 April 1962 vol 657 cc862-918

Order for Second Reading read.

1.8 p.m.

Mr. Rupert Speir (Hexham)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The simple object of this Bill is to discourage lorries and other road vehicles from belching out dark diesel smoke. In short, I have the same object in mind in sponsoring this Bill as I had when I sponsored the Litter Act and the Noise Abatement Act, namely, in some small way to help to make Britain a cleaner, tidier, more peaceful and pleasant place in which to live. We are all fortunate enough to live in a lovely country, and we ought to make some effort to keep our country lovely.

I realise only too well that in tackling this subject and in trying to introduce some measure of control and to abate diesel fumes I am dealing with a much more difficult subject than that of litter, and, indeed, a much more complex subject than even that of noise. Diesel fumes may well prove my Waterloo.

At any rate. I may have some consolation in the fact that my campaign has had one result, namely, that British Railways have taken to using additives in the fuels used by their diesels at Waterloo Station, and I am told that these additives to the fuel are proving very effective and have removed many complaints.

Permission to introduce the Bill was granted under the Ten Minute Rule as long ago as 6th December. Today is 6th April, and there has been a gap of four months between the discussion of the Bill on its First Reading and its Second Reading. That delay has been deliberate on my part, the object being to give all concerned, and particularly the critics of the Bill, an opportunity to consider its provisions. It is certainly not my desire to introduce a Bill which would be unfair to the road hauliers or would be impracticable or unworkable.

One result of delaying the Second Reading of the Bill is that it takes place at a very appropriate moment, at a time when public and, I hope, official attention is being forcibly directed to the question of lung cancer and its causes. I realise that the medical experts by no means agree on this complex subject, but I think it true to say that air pollution, and especially diesel fumes, may be a contributory factor in the cause of lung cancer—and I put it no higher than that. There is no doubt that smoking is a more important and more immediate cause of lung cancer. I am prepared to accept that that is so. But the effects of tobacco and air pollution are cumulative—and that must be remembered. In addition, there is a very much higher prevalence of lung cancer among town dwellers than among country dwellers, and I think that the difference must have some significance.

In this connection, I must draw the attention of the House to some remarks made recently by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government when he was opening a smokeless fuel exhibition. He said, Air pollution is a serious threat to health. He went on. It is one of the most serious causes of chronic bronchitis, sometimes known as the English disease because it kills 30,000 people a year in this country. That is a terrible figure; it speaks for itself and brings home the urgency of this problem of air pollution and the need to tackle it. I hope and believe that some of the provisions of the Bill will go some way towards eliminating fumes and tackling the problem.

In any event, as I made clear when I obtained leave to introduce the Bill last December, I do not base the desirability for the Bill becoming law on the fact that dark diesel fumes may be injurious to health. I base the need for the Bill on the fact that dark diesel fumes are unnecessary and unpleasant. They are also dangerous to road traffic, because their oily deposits cause skidding on the highway and their black smoke often destroys visibility and encourages drivers to overtake when it is not safe to do so.

In my view, a further step should be taken to avert diesel smoke from road vehicles on the ground that it is undesirable. More and more vehicles are coming on to the roads of Britain every year. I believe that about half a million additional vehicles come on to the roads every year. With the number of diesel vehicles continuing to increase—they have increased by 400 per cent. in the last ten years, with the numbers rising from 88,000 diesels in 1950 to 374,000 diesels in 1960—the problem is becoming ever more important.

I therefore feel justified in asking the House to agree to further legislation. I know that the Minister is on record as taking the view that it would be premature to take any further legislative action; his attitude is that we ought to rely on the stricter enforcement of the existing law. I also realise that only recently my right hon. Friend introduced further regulations to prevent the excess fuel device from being misused, and I am sure that that in itself will prove helpful, but I am equally sure that the Minister has not yet gone far enough in tightening up the general law on this subject. Nor do I think that he has gone far enough in making it possible to bring successful prosecutions against those who infringe the law.

It is not good enough for my right hon. Friend to write to me, as he did in February of last year, saying, A well-maintained or properly driven diesel engine emits no more than a very occasional puff of white smoke. I have very seldom seen an occasional puff of white smoke from a diesel engine.

Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)

Perhaps my right hon. Friend was confusing this with the election of a Pope in the Vatican.

Mr. Speir

That may or may not be the case, but we all know that one has only to go a few miles along any of our main roads in Britain to see lorries passing along with a continual blast of black smoke. I think that the Minister's attitude is rather weak.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. John Hay)

I do not want to intervene too soon in the debate, but the truth is as my right hon. Friend stated in that letter. Provided that the engine is properly maintained—that is the point, provided that it is properly maintained—as, for example, is the engine in a submarine, it should not emit black smoke.

Mr. Speir

All I can say is that I do not think that the Minister has yet demonstrated that he means business and is determined to put a stop to dark diesel smoke. I believe that in this matter public opinion is way ahead of the Minister and that the problem is fast becoming a prime target of public resentment. People want to be able to live and drive on our highways, and the hauliers ought not to be allowed to continue to pour out volumes of poisonous fumes on our highways. The fact that one sees so many smokey vehicles in Britain—so many more than on the Continent, where they have stricter regulations and where they have taken this problem more seriously—demonstrates that if we, too, take the problem more seriously we can go some way towards curing it.

Diesel smoke is unburned fuel. It is like going round with a hole in one's fuel tank. It is absurd that the law should encourage such a ridiculous and dirty habit, and we in Parliament should outlaw the lorry lout in the same way as Parliament acted to outlaw the litter lout.

I emphasise that I accept that not every proposal in the Bill may yet be workable or desirable. Some of the proposals may well be considered premature. It may be thought that, on balance, others would not help to solve the problem. But the Minister will be glad to hear that the main objectives of the Bill are, first, better maintenance of diesel engines and, secondly, easier enforcement of the law. I think that everyone will be in accord with those two objectives. If Parliament wishes, those two objectives can be achieved.

As I have said, it may be premature to say that the addition of special additives to diesel fuel should be made compulsory by force of law, but I wish to point out that the provision in Clause 1 to this effect is only permissive. It is discretionary on the Minister and not compulsory. There are some fairly good additives available on the market. The road hauliers themselves accept that there is far too much variation in the standard of fuel oil in this country. There is a difference in standard between the fuel oil of one manufacturer and that of another, and, indeed, there is a difference in the standard of fuel oil provided by the same manufacturer in different parts of Britain. It is not unreasonable, therefore, to ask the Minister to consider laying down a general standard for diesel engine fuel. I do not think that owners and operators of vehicles should be allowed to continue to use any old muck.

I should say, perhaps, that it was my original intention to provide in Clause 1 for the use of filters or scrubbers on exhausts. It is likely that some day soon useful and workable filters or afterburners will be produced. British firms are making them now, and they are being used in America but not here. Filters are used on stationary diesel engines in mines and other confined places. I am, however, satisfied that it is not yet the time to make the use of filters or scrubbers on moving vehicles compulsory. I have, therefore, scrubbed the scrubbers from the Bill.

On the other hand, I have left in the Bill Clause 6, which provides for the use of vertical exhausts on heavy goods vehicles. I have done this with certain misgivings because I believe that, on balance, and only on balance, especially in urban areas where lorries and buses are often stationary in queues for a long time, it is better for the exhaust fumes to be emitted near ground level rather than sprayed over the heads of passers-by or directed, as they might be, from vertical exhausts into first-floor or ground windows. Nevertheless, I have left Clause 6 in the Bill so that it may be carefully considered in Committee, because I feel that the question of which direction exhaust pipes should point needs far more consideration than it has received hitherto. All too often the exhaust pipe points straight back and is in direct line with the fans of the heaters of following vehicles. The result is that harmful and obnoxious fumes are sucked up into the interior of the following vehicles. The exhaust pipes should have, possibly, fishtails at the end of them or some other downward-pointing device designed to deflect the fumes on to the ground. The idea is worthy of the Minister's consideration.

I emphasise that the objectives of the Bill are better maintenance of diesel engines and easier prosecution of those who infringe the law and of those whose vehicles pour out clouds of dirty, dark smoke. The time has come when the Minister should set a standard, as Clause 1 would permit him to do, to prescribe the density of smoke and visible vapour which may lawfully be emitted from diesel engines. I am sure that the time has come for the Ministry's examiners to be authorised to stop and test vehicles on the road to see whether the exhausts are in a proper condition. This would be possible under Clause 3.

The Motor Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations should be amended and strengthened so that people would not be allowed to use vehicles on the road if they caused annoyance to other road users. That is different from the present formula under which vehicles may be used unless they cause danger or damage to property. That is obviously something which it is difficult for the police to prove.

All these suggestions are no doubt debatable, but what I think is not debatable is the need for further action now on the part of the Government. All the aspects and Clauses of the Bill may not prove acceptable to the House—some would certainly require further consideration in Committee—but I hope that the Bill in general will find favour in the House as it undoubtedly has done in the country.

1.27 p.m.

Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)

I will not detain the House for long, but I should like to say how much I agree with what the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Speir) has said and how much I hope that, in spite of what may appear to be indications that the Government do not support him, the House will insist on the Bill receiving a Second Reading.

We are in process of passing through the House a road safety Bill, and I should have thought that the Minister would welcome with open arms a Bill like the one we are considering which would be an additional help to what he is trying to do in that Bill. No one who has had experience as a motorist or passenger in a car travelling the roads of this country can have failed to be in a vehicle following a lorry emitting dense black smoke. We all know how bad it is in that not only does it pollute the atmosphere but it also adds to the element of risk. No one will travel behind a lorry emitting smoke of that kind for any longer than he has to and frequently a motorist is driving almost blind when he attempts to pass it. Therefore, as a road safety measure, we should do all that we can to ensure that the Bill reaches the Statute Book.

People from overseas find us an astonishing people. We seem to allow litter, fumes and noise without attempting very much to prevent any one of these nuisances. I realise that the hon. Member for Hexham has piloted through the House a Bill dealing with litter. How efficacious it has been, I do not know. That is not the hon. Gentleman's fault. But people must be willing to share with any Act put on the Statute Book the effort to make our streets tidy. As the hon. Gentleman has said, I am sure that he is in advance of the Government in wanting a strengthening of the law to deal with fumes.

We have recently heard a great deal about lung cancer and its possible causes. The medical profession has reached certain conclusions, but there is a general feeling among many doctors, as well as ordinary people, that diesel fumes add their quota to this disease. Certainly diesel fumes add to the pollution of the atmosphere by dense black smoke and therefore increase bronchitis, which is a scourge and which is known to many people as the English disease, as the hon. Member for Hexham said. It is a shocking disease and many thousands the of it. Anything which the House can do to lessen that evil and to increase the health of individuals and to make the atmosphere purer should be done.

Therefore, I hope that the Government will not give a complete negative, or invite hon. Members to vote against the Bill should it come to a Division. The least the Government can do it to allow the Bill to go to a Standing Committee where it can be considered. Even if it does not emerge in its present shape, at any rate something should result from it which will undoubtedly help both the cause which the hon. Member and many others have at heart and that of road safety which the Government themselves are pledged to support.

1.31 p.m.

Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)

I am sure that we all want to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Speir) on his initiative in bringing forward the Bill. He has had a considerable measure of success with other Bills touching on litter and noise, and now he wants to add fumes to his bag. Those are the sort of subjects with which hon. Members should concern themselves on Fridays. I was sorry to read in the Press recently that my hon. Friend may be giving up Parliamentary life at the end of this Parliament. We shall miss his contributions very much.

I agree with his aim of abating the diesel fume nuisance and more than once I have suggested to Ministers that we should add the words, "nuisance or annoyance", which are mentioned in the Bill to the words, "danger, damage and injury" which are contained in the present Motor Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations. If we added those words, it would be easier for the police to prosecute and simpler to apply the Regulations and the law would be strengthened. I have never understood why the Home Secretary has resisted recommending that addition to the law in the Metropolitan Police District, because I have been told by individual policemen that it would help them to have these words added to the Regulations.

I have never believed that diesel fumes are as serious a cause of lung cancer as is cigarette smoke, although they may be a contributory cause. Out of the sixteen waking hours of a normal person, the lungs are exposed to dissipated diesel fumes for only about forty minutes to an hour each day—the amount of time which is spent out and about on the roads. On the other hand, a smoker smoking fifteen cigarettes a day is exposed to an intense concentration of smoke for two to two and half hours a day, in addition to being in the smoke of others. Which is more dangerous? It is obvious that the more dangerous is the intense concentration of smoke for a longer time. I agree that diesel smoke adds to bronchitis, which is rightly called the English disease, although I understand that on the Continent the "English disease" now means unofficial striking. Frankly, I doubt whether we have reached the stage for a precise Bill about diesel fume causation on which there is so much imprecision at the moment.

Clause 1 (1) requires the use of additives to fuel, but I have always been doubtful about the value of additives. My opinion has been reinforced by a letter which I have had from Dr. Fogg, who is known to some hon. Members and who is the Director of the Motor Industry Research Association and who has done a good deal of research into this subject. He is impartially employed by the petrol firms as well as by the motor manufacturers. He says: Furthermore, in spite of the claims made by certain firms selling diesel additives, we do not accept that they will provide a solution, or even substantial mitigation, of the nuisance of diesel smoke. He goes on to say: Removal from the Bill of Clause 1, subsection (1), would not only overcome the objections already mentioned but, in our opinion, would strengthen the Bill's effectiveness by compelling operators to concentrate on the correct solution to the problem of smoke without attempting palliative measures by the use of additives of doubtful effectiveness. In Clause 1 (2) my hon. Friend asks for the prescribing of Regulations prescribing the density of smoke to be emitted, but that would need a smoke meter. I am told that there is not yet an accurate, reliable and simple smoke meter.

Mr. G. A. Pargiter (Southall)

I am sure that the hon. Member will be aware that a smoke meter is in use on the Continent quite regularly and it is regarded as being sufficiently satisfactory for the purposes describe in the Bill.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

I am interested in that information. My information, which may not be comprehensive, is that there is not a meter which is accurate and simple to use. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will tell us what the position is.

Clause 3 refers to Section 67 of the Road Traffic Act, 1960, which covers spot checks of commercial vehicles, that is, spot checks relating to things like brakes, lights and tyres which are fairly simple to check. It would add the prescribed density of smoke to the spot check. We should want an accurate smoke meter for that, too.

Clause 5 suggests that defective vehicles should be taken to a testing station. But we are dealing not with motor cars, for which there are about 10,000 testing stations all over the country, but with heavy diesel lorries. It is my impression that there would be only about ten such testing stations in the country capable of testing the diesel smoke of a lorry.

Clause 6 deals with exhaust pipes in a vertical direction, 7 ft. 6 in. above the ground. I was glad to hear my hon. Friend have doubts about whether that would be an effective way of dealing with the matter, because it would bring diesel smoke to the level of the top windows of a double-decker bus. In those countries where vertical exhaust pipes are used, there are not double-decker but single-decker buses. Those are generally open, and countries with long-distance traffic, but without double-decker buses. On the other hand, my hon. Friend's suggestion about fish-tails and throwing the exhaust downwards is very useful.

My conclusion is that more research is needed before we can legislate in detail along the lines of the Bill. In that connection I was interested in the report of the Vehicle Exhaust Study Group of the Institution of Road Transport Engineers, the engineers responsible for the large vehicle fleets. I hope that I shall not bore the House by quoting two or three conclusions of that group. They say: Exceptionally bad cases of heavy exhaust smoke can be attributed, inter alia, to misuse of the excess-fuel cold-starting device, maladjustment of the maximum fuel setting of the injection pump, poor maintenance or lack of regular attention…. However, the Group considers that the factors which can contribute towards the general emission of an unacceptable density of smoke are numerous indeed, extending as they do beyond the sphere of maintenance and adjustment. It is a disturbing tendency for public denunciations to attribute the emission of smoke from the diesel engine to poor maintenance alone. … If smoke density is related to engine size and gross vehicle weight, then the Group would favour the introduction of regulations stipulating a minimum power output per ton of manufacturer's gross vehicle weight … the Group believes it is expressing a majority view in advocating consideration in terms of an acceptable ratio of engine power to gross vehicle weight rather than in terms of smoke control. Of course, what that means in other words is that smoke should be nipped in the bud at the source by prescribing an acceptable ratio of engine power for manufacturer's gross vehicle weight. In short, smoke very often comes from under-powered vehicles, overloaded vehicles. This is a very prominent reason, and I think that we must in any comprehensive Bill take it into account. I think we should want minimum vehicle performance ratings to be written into the Bill, and that, of course, is a complicated subject which would cover a large number of vehicles, and on which we should need in this House a great deal of advice. In addition, I think I would agree with my hon. Friend that we should want a British Standards Institution definition of diesel fuel, which we have not got. Then again, components of some diesel engines are not up to a satisfactory standard.

All these factors, in my view, add up to the impression that the Bill, however excellent in intention, is premature, and almost impossible of enforcement at the present stage of our knowledge and research. We must have a proper combination of power weight ratios and adequate maintenance and a B.S.I. standard for diesel fuel.

However, I congratulate my hon. Friend on bringing forward this Bill and on initiating this discussion. I am sure that he has clarified the minds of many of us. It has certainly made me clarify my mind. I am sure that what my hon. Friend said will make a useful contribution to the subject, and I hope that it will make the Ministry take one or two of the simpler steps in controlling this undoubted nuisance.

1.42 p.m.

Mr. G. A. Pargiter (Southall)

I am glad to have the opportunity in a few words to welcome this Bill. I will come first to the point mentioned earlier, namely, that there is a Road Traffic Bill already before the House. I would have thought it desirable for the Minister to have a look at this Bill and then to include those things which are practical and possible in the Government's own Bill. This question of diesel fumes is of such magnitude that it really does deserve Government attention and a Government Bill, and I hope the Minister will indicate that he is prepared to look at it from that point of view, for, as the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) has indicated, there are difficulties in implementing some parts of this Bill.

For instance, the proposal here that a vehicle must be taken to a testing station within 48 hours is farcical, because the smoke certainly would be killed in less than 48 hours. What we want to do is to tackle the vehicle as it is at the time when the smoke is being emitted. An obviously satisfactory way of doing that would be to test it on the road and deal with it by means of a smoke meter. It may be that the Continental meters are not entirely satisfactory, but they are in use on the Continent, people are satisfied with their use at the present time—and the manufacturers—and are prepared to be judged by them. Therefore, I do not think that is an insuperable difficulty.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Are these smoke meters easily transportable and able to be used on the road?

Mr. Pargiter

Yes. They are used on the side of the road. There is no special difficulty or problem about that.

Mr. Hay

If the hon. Gentleman has the information, could he give us the name of any of these?

Mr. Pargiter

I will arrange for it to be transmitted. I took it from a technical engineer, who satisfied me that this was the practice and that they had roadside meters which can be easily used for the purpose. I will confirm it with him.

Mr. Speir

There are two or three meters, one of which can be carried in the boot of a car. There are several. I will pass on the information to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Pargiter

Confirmation is coming from the two sides to enforce my case for the meter as a practical proposition, and I ask the Minister and the hon. Gentleman to look carefully at the question of 48 hours, because to give 48 hours' notice to somebody who is responsible for smoke emission is quite useless.

There is another aspect which is not included in the Bill, perhaps because it is a technical one, but it is a most important one and is, I believe, one which is engaging the attention of the Department. One of the biggest problems and causes of smoke emission is not necessarily due to unsatisfactory maintenance but to the use of the excess fuel device. An excess fuel device is necessary for starting purposes. One has to have smoke when starting the engine with a battery-driven starter, or else use a mechanical starter. This device is needed for quick starting and is usually in the cab where the driver can get at it. The driver wants excess fuel for getting up hills, and that is where we get the black smoke. The driver uses the device to give him full power to get up hill. Only part of the additional fuel is burned, and because only part of it is burned there is emission of black smoke. If the engine is working efficiently it burns the fuel and there is no smoke emission. The explanation is quite simple, although it may not be so easy to legislate to put it right.

I have watched diesel engine development from the time when the first Junkers engine was imported into this country, and one can appreciate the very great strides which have been made in that development. There is no doubt that the stage has been reached where there is no need at all for the emission of smoke. One may get it rarely, on the odd occasion, but in general the emission of smoke is quite unnecessary.

That smoke is emitted is not the fault of the manufacturers but the fault of other people in the course of their everyday operation of the engines. Sometimes it is due to bad maintenance, sometimes it is due to a driver's needing to get a little bit of extra power by the use of the excess fuel device.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

And overloading as well.

Mr. Pargiter

I would hesitate to put into a bill of this kind anything about power weight ratio factors, because I am sure that the Minister would find himself in very deep water in consequence.

Dr. Alan Glyn (Clapham)

Is not this the crux of what the hon. Member has been saying, that because the power weight ratio is wrong, a driver, when he draws on excess fuel to get up a steep hill, causes smoke?

Mr. Pargiter

It may be, but the power weight ratios can be corrected, of course.

I would hope that the Minister would put a provision into his Road Traffic Bill saying that a vehicle should carry a plate indicating the gross load which the vehicle is supposed to carry. I may have something to say to the Minister about that on another occasion. It would get over the question, because the weight on the road would have to be what the manufacturer prescribed. It would be an important factor in safety as well, and that is a purpose of the Bill.

Another thing I am concerned about is the vertical exhaust pipe. Diesel fumes are heavier than air. There is no argument about that. There is no question of some of them being heavier or lighter than air. They are heavier than air. Therefore, they should be emitted low down. They must come down, and the higher up they are the wider the area they cover in coming down. What is required is an exhaust pipe so constructed that if the fumes are emitted in the street, which is what causes a lot of the trouble at present, they are kept, as they ought to be, in the middle of the road and low down, as low down as it is possible to get them to the ground, which is the real point of dispersal, since there is no dispersal of them in the air at all.

Apart from the manufacturing point of view, it would not make much difference to the efficiency of the engine and it would not be desirable from the point of view of the dispersal of fumes to get on with the idea of a vertical exhaust pipe. If, however, the experts found it preferable, my objection would be only that on technical grounds it would cause more trouble than it would save. What is needed is to get the fumes right down and to disperse them on the ground as soon as possible.

I welcome the Bill, though it is a difficult Measure. It will be difficult to prescribe all that is required to ensure that the position of all concerned is fully safeguarded. We have to look not only at the person who may be committing an annoyance. The law must be sufficiently foolproof to ensure that he really is committing an annoyance and the Bill must be in such form as to ensure that justice is not only done but is seen to be done. This would require wider Clauses and fuller explanations than are to be found in the Bill and that is why I suggest that it should be taken over by the Minister and included in his own Measure so that his own experts can examine the problem. If the House decides that something ought to be done about this and if the Minister took over matters in that way, I think that the hon. Member for Hexham would be satisfied.

1.51 p.m.

Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Speir) on introducing yet another Private Member's Bill of the utmost merit. I seem to have done this on at least two previous occasions. My hon. Friend has an almost uncanny talent for selecting matters which are particularly appropriate to private Member's legislation and also getting some result from them. I am very much encouraged by this, because I cannot help feeling that if he has chosen this Bill we shall actually have some progress before we have finished with it. To go further would be more optimistic, but it could happen that we could make progress with the collaboration and good will of the Minister of Transport, and that would be a remarkable achievement for my hon. Friend to bring off.

The right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) has now left the Chamber. I very much agreed with some of the things he said. One of the first aspects of this problem is road safety. We are all familiar with the oil deposits on the surface of the road which we increasingly see nowadays. I find it in ordinary legal practice, but I am sure that everybody finds it in different ways, that these oil patches are playing an increasing part in accidents and collisions. It used to be the case that oil deposits on the road were so rare that if a motorist skidded on them he was inclined to say that it was an inevitable accident and that he was not guilty of negligence. Now, with the spread of diesel vehicles, these have become so much a hazard to be expected that one can almost argue that a motorist ought so to drive that when he is overtaking another vehicle he should examine the road surface ahead of him to see whether he would be going over patches of oil.

These oil deposits come from diesel vehicles. I am not an expert and I do not know how they come, whether it is from fumes or from drippings. It must be something to do with the maintenance of diesel vehicles. The right hon. Member for Colne Valley mentioned another point which is within the experience of all of us. We find ourselves behind a vehicle which is emitting dark diesel smoke and we stay there for a few minutes and then decide to make a serious attempt to overtake somehow at the first possible opportunity. Everybody who drives a private motor car on the road is fairly frequently faced with this temptation to overtake prematurely because he is being choked by these diesel fumes and, what is more, cannot see very well through them. They are, therefore, a real source of danger.

The Bill is aimed inevitably at the visible fumes. I cannot quite agree with the hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Pargiter), who says that they should not be emitted at a high level because they are heavier than air. I would say that the weight of the fumes is primarily influenced by their temperature. When they come out of the exhaust at very high temperature, quite irrespective of their composition, they are a great deal lighter than the surrounding air and go up for quite a long time before they come down.

What is more, they are ejected from the exhaust at considerable speed and the momentum also carries them up. There is a good deal to be said in the case of a heavy vehicle for having a vertical exhaust terminating about seven feet from the ground, because the gases are then ejected at considerable speed upwards and their lightness, due to heat, carries them a good way up and they gradually settle down at different speeds. At the hon. Member knows, the emission is not a single gas. It is a mixture.

Mr. T. H. H. Skeet (Willesden, East)

Carbon monoxide, one of the gases concerned, is lighter than air and would rise.

Mr. Bell

My hon. Friend is quite right about carbon monoxide but I was dealing with visible gases and so, I believe, was the hon. Member for Southall when he made that statement. It is true that one tends to overlook the fact that diesel vehicles emit carbon monoxide just as petrol vehicles do, though not quite so much.

Mr. Pargiter

It is accepted that carbon monoxide emission from diesel engines is very slight and to nothing like the lethal extent of the emission from motor cars. Therefore, carbon monoxide is not a material factor either way.

Mr. Bell

I had said that the proportion was smaller than it is from the petrol engine, but here the standard of maintenance is highly relevant and a badly maintained diesel engine emits a good deal of carbon monoxide.

But we are dealing with visible gases each of which has its own specific gravity. If these gases start their downward motion at a high point, perhaps 20 feet, there is separation, particularly if there is atmospheric turbulence, as there usually is. If they are emitted downward—and my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) advocates the fishtail for downward emission—then in certain atmospheric conditions there will be a really formidable concentration of these fumes at low level. In a busy street in ertain conditions one could have a really dangerous concentration of fumes in the bottom six feet of air, and for that reason I am much attracted by the suggestion of my hon. Friend he Member for Hexham that these vehicles should have an upward pointing exhaust. At the very least, this is a proposal put forward by my hon. Friend which is worth careful consideration.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

What goes up must come down.

Mr. Bell

My hon. Friend has given expression to one sentiment with which I can entirely agree. I do not always agree with him, but I was pointing out that it goes up quite a long way first and comes down at a different speed, whereas it by no means follows that what goes down must go up. It tends to stay down. In some temperature distributions that can lead to a very obnoxious concentration at head level in the street. The Ministry of Transport has been stalling on this for years. My hon. Friend makes slightly deprecatory noises.

Mr. Hay

I can make them more than slightly deprecatory: I can make them downright deprecatory, if my hon. Friend likes.

Mr. Bell

That is very much in keeping, because I think that the Ministry of Transport has been making downright deprecatory noises about this whole campaign for years. I have been interested in the question of diesel engine fumes for nearly ten years. On looking back in HANSARD, I can see Questions by myself, my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham and others on both sides of the House about diesel fumes, and we have had some fairly dusty answers. To be impartial, we had some quite dusty answers when the party opposite was in office.

It has been said that if the engine is properly maintained there is not this trouble. A well-maintained diesel does not emit troublesome smoke—but that is not quite true. A perfectly maintained diesel engine does not emit smoke; one that is brand new from the makers or one maintained at a standard of perfection, which, I fear, no commercial vehicle is maintained at, and probably no private motor car either, for that matter. But as soon as a diesel engine falls below perfection we begin to get visible fumes coming from it, and, when the engine is in distress, having once departed from perfection, and is going up hill, a lot of visible fumes come from it.

The proof of this is in the practice. Exeryone knows that along roads where there is heavy diesel traffic one can find a film of oil on the windows and everywhere else. In the countryside anybody who is so unwise as to pick blackberries from the hedges along the main roads and puts them into a pot and boils them knows that the oil can be skimmed off the top. It is not a good idea to make blackberry jelly from arterial road blackberries. All this is the responsibility of my hon. Friend. It is no good his saying that it is not. His colleagues and predecessors have been saying for years that blackberries are clean along the main roads and that it is only the driver who does not maintain his vehicle properly who is responsible for the visible fumes. It is common experience that the average commercial vehicle on the road emits black fumes when it goes uphill, and often at other times.

Some of this can be done, as the hon. Member for Southall said, to the improper use of the excess fuel device. I would remind him that last July the Ministry of Transport, in one of its lucid moments, introduced new regulations to make it an offence for the excess fuel device to be capable of being operated from the driver's cab. Therefore, my hon. Friend must not take it that all my strictures are to be taken too seriously or absolutely interpreted. The Ministry has done that, and we cannot now have a driver switch on the excess fuel device in order to take a heavy load up a hill unless he stops at the bottom and gets out to do it. To that extent that can help. But we are still getting black fumes. Therefore, it is clear that the standard of maintenance ought to have the serious attention of the legislature.

I think that is fairly generally realised, but then we get the approach of my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) and others who say, "That is quite true, but the meters are not yet adequate. The testing stations are too far apart. Legislation of this kind would be premature." Is that so? I am very much attracted by the technique of getting the legislation first and the facilities afterwards, upon the principle that if we do not do it that way there is no particular incentive for the facilities to be provided.

In California, where they take all these things very seriously, they have passed legislation and suspended its operation until the California Motor Vehicle Board has provided at least two mechanisms for filtering the exhausts of motor vehicles. It is, on the face of it, compulsory for every motor vehicle in California to have an exhaust purifier, but the law will not come into operation until at least two exhaust purifiers have been approved by the control board. One of the difficulties has been to stimulate competitive development of exhaust purifiers. Messrs. Joseph Lucas of Birmingham in this country have developed one and submitted it to the California Motor Vehicle Control Board. If the Board approves it and if an American competitor gets one approved, then immediately the law will come into force. I do not suppose that Messrs. Joseph Lucas would have put priority into research upon that if they had not had the California legislation as a target for their endeavours.

I would say to my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham that it is a matter of the right way to go about it. If we want to get this, the best way is to pass legislation, suspend its operation and wait for the research departments of private companies to try to get in first. Of course it is a very rich prize. If Messrs. Joseph Lucas were successful in capturing the market in California for exhaust purifiers, it would not be for just California but the whole of the United States, because no motor car manufacturer in the United States would produce a car which could not be sold in California. So the prize is a glittering one. It has been brought into existence by passing this legislation, which some people might call premature.

My hon. Friend has naturally concentrated on the visible fumes. I want to say a word about the other fumes, because I think there is a health aspect to this. I cannot put forward any proof that vehicle fumes are a contributory cause of respiratory cancer, but one knows with absolute certainty from the figures that city and town dwellers have a higher susceptibility to lung cancer than country dwellers, whether or not they smoke cigarettes. Therefore, there is something in the town air—it must be the air—which predisposes to lung cancer on a large scale. It seems to me to be reasonable to assume that that is because of some of the impurities in the town air.

The impurities in town air are primarily the products of combustion, either from chimneys or the exhausts of motor vehicles. It has always seemed crazy to me that we should pollute in this massive way the air that we breathe every minute of the day. My hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham has suggested that we are exposed to these vehicle fumes only for an hour or so every day, but that is not true. To some degree we are exposed to pollution from vehicle fumes for every minute of every hour we spend in a city, except in places like this Chamber, which happens to be air-conditioned, and where the air is filtered and purified.

Mr. Speir

My hon. Friend should look at the filters.

Mr. Bell

My hon. Friend has made a point that I had not thought of. He has inspected the filters. I am sure that they would tell the story.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

There is not a very intense concentration of fumes in the air in London, and in any case they are not only diesel fumes but petrol fumes, and fumes from coal smoke and all kinds of other smoke, emitted from coking ovens and electricity power stations. They all add up, I dare say, and become a factor to consider, but diesel fumes by themselves are only one of many ingredients.

Mr. Bell

My point is that these different components do add up to constitute what we know to be a major factor in the cause of town ailments., such as cancer and bronchitis

Dr. Alan Glyn

Does not my hon. Friend agree that the carcinogenic elements are the hydrocarbons, which are emitted far more easily from the ordinary domestic fire than from the diesel engine?

Mr. Bell

The carcinogenoic hydrocarbons are emitted from almost any kind of combustion; it is merely a question of degree. My point is that all these things add up to constitute what we know from the clearest statistical evidence, to be a danger to the health of those who live in towns and are exposed to them through the day.

I am not expressing a view which is new to me today. I have pressed this argument in this House for about eight or nine years. I have said that the time will come when we will not tolerate this fantastic concentration of internal combustion engined vehicles in our towns. I do not care whether the fumes are from diesel or petrol engines; to have them pouring out cubic yards of noxious gases, in their thousands and hundreds of thousands, all through the day, and to set ourselves to live in this contaminated air, is sheer folly. I hope that we will start by clamping down on diesel engines and then gradually and progressively squeeze out all internal combustion engines from our town and cities.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Back to the horse and cart.

Mr. Bell

No. The development of the electric battery vehicle is obviously the right line of progress. I am amazed that it has not been pursued farther. It would be pursued, if we passed legislation prematurely and suspended its operation. We would then have an astonishing development in electrically-propelled vehicles. That is all we need to do.

What folly it was to abolish trolley buses and replace them with diesel buses at this stage of civilisation.

Mr. John Wells (Maidstone)

I would remind my hon. Friend that in my constituency the trolley bus is on the advance and is by no means being replaced. We have a municipal undertaking which makes a profit on its transport.

Mr. Bell

I am glad that I gave way to my hon. Friend. That is the kind of interruption I like. It makes sound common sense.

I apologise for riding that hobby horse again, in the middle of the debate, but it is only by constantly hearing these things said that people become used to them. The idea becomes implanted in their minds. Perhaps in thirty or forty years' time people will wonder however their predecessors put up for so long with the folly of internal combustion fumes in their cities, with all the damage that they did to their health, and to that of their children. I warmly congratulate my hon. Friend upon the step that he has taken.

2.14 p.m.

Mr. John Parker (Dagenham)

I do not often find myself in agreement with the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell), but on this occasion I generally agree with his views. I remember driving my first motor car, in about 1930. In those days most of the trouble on the roads, from the point of view of amenity, was caused by the old Foden steam wagons, which belched out enormous clouds of smoke and dropped their hot ashes on the roads. A shower of sparks was frequently to be seen behind them at night. At first, I regarded them as rather an interesting survival of the past, until, when I was following one one day, a spark descended upon my trousers and burnt a large hole in them.

That problem was partly overcome by the competition of the petrol driven vehicle, but it was also solved because there was a public demand that something should be done to put right what was felt to be a nuisance. The Ministry of Transport tightened up the enforcement of its regulations, so that even the surviving wagons had to take great care to stop being a nuisance to the public. There is a very strong feeling among the people that diesel fumes are a nuisance, and that the House should deal with the problem in some way or other. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will recommend that the Bill should be given a Second Reading and that the Government will then take over its ideas and incorporate the necessary Amendments into their road safety Bill, as has been suggested.

The public feel that something should be done, first, from the amenity point of view, because they object to the clouds of black smoke and the obnoxious smells coming from diesel-driven vehicles. Secondly there is the safety factor to be considered. In order to get out of range of the nuisance a car driver must overtake the diesel-driven vehicle. It often becomes tempting to do so at the bottom of a hill, and the car driver does not always look carefully to see what is coming the other way. This problem is therefore very important from a public safety point of view.

Thirdly, there is the health factor. We have asked the Government to deal with the question of excessive smoking. For the public feel that even if the contribution to ill health made by diesel fumes is not as great as from excessive smoking, it is none the less a danger to health and therefore should be dealt with. When the Parliamentary Secretary replies, I hope that he will welcome the Bill and indicate that the Government will take some action to deal with these problems.

2.19 p.m.

Mr. T. H. H. Skeet (Willesden, East)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Speir) on introducing a Bill which will be useful. I hope that we shall not have to wait for ten years before its terms are implemented. Much legislation dealing with this matter is already on the Statute Book. The Report of the Committee on Air Pollution dealt with the question of motor vehicle exhausts in paragraphs 64 to 67. It said, in paragraph 67: The present law on the subject is explicit, and in our view adequate. That was in 1954, and much has happened since then. More legislation has accumulated. The Bill offers certain advantages. One difficulty has been to prove damage or danger. It is thus necessary to obtain evidence which is suitable for the courts. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary can bear hearing the statement that he made in the House on 25th July, 1960. He then said: The difficulty in bringing prosecutions is that the assessment of what constitutes an offence is largely a matter of individual judgment. As my hon. Friend said, in many of these cases it is difficult to secure the sort of evidence that will fully satisfy a court. To aid enforcement, what we need is a simple portable smoke-measuring instrument which will enable us to draw up a more exact Regulation and to make enforcement easier.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th July, 1960; Vol. 627, c. 1255.] I am quite certain that in due course my hon. Friend will endorse what he then said, partly because he will want to be consistent and partly because I think that that is exactly the position today.

The other day the Home Secretary was asked about the number of prosecutions in this country. We have now a large number of ordinary motor vehicles and diesel engines. Provisional figures show that during 1961 there were 1,672 prosecutions under Regulation 79 of the Motor Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations, 1955, but the rather interesting postscript is that it is not known how many prosecutions were successful. We are, therefore, confronted with the rather ridiculous situation that more people are recommending additions to the law and yet we are doubtful how effective it is. There has been quite a number of additions since 1954, and we find that the number of prosecutions is very small and no one has the remotest idea of how many have been effective.

I am glad that in Clause 5 of the Bill a point is brought out which was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) regarding nuisance or annoyance caused by the emission of smoke. If one is travelling to the West Country and passes vehicles which are belching black smoke, one has direct evidence that there is smoke which is causing serious annoyance and nuisance. It is a matter of personal judgment and a prosecution may be brought. I am glad that this has been included. My hon. Friend has been pioneering this from a very early stage and it is a good thing that something should evolve in permanent legislative form.

Reference has been made to other forms of testing and one hon. Member referred to Continental experiments with meters. I wonder whether the Parliamentary Secretary has in mind the Hart-ridge B.P. Smokemeter which is currently in use in Belgium. This could be installed in a number of testing stations in the country and a test could be carried out in a matter of minutes. My hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) referred to the California experiment in Los Angeles which I think is rather a special case. Regulations were passed several years ago but have not been implemented because none of the devices, such as after-burn or a channel to return gases to the manifold, has been approved by the authorities. Whether Lucas will have discovered a successful device is another matter. But in so many of these questions it is a case of proof and I hope that, as a result of the matter having been brought before the House today, the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to say something about whether any of these new devices are satisfactory.

I am particularly concerned about the prospect of diesel and other fumes causing pollution leading to cancer. We have had the recent scare about smoking and many people would say that that is a contributing cause. In a Written Answer in 1960 the Minister of Health produced this rather convincing evidence: … a study on London Transport employees, in collaboration with the Chief Medical Officer of London Transport, which provided no evidence of significantly greater mortality from lung cancer among men working in diesel bus garages. Analyses of the air in bus garages and busy streets have shown that motor exhaust fumes are only one of many pollutants and that their content of benzpyrene, a known cancer producing agent, is very small in relation to the total amount in the atmosphere from all sources. Even in congested spaces such as vehicular tunnels, pollution from exhaust fumes has been found to be no greater than the pollution of an urban atmosphere by coal smoke on many winter evenings."—[OFFICIAL REPORT,14th November, 1960; Vol. 630. c. 5–6] Many people still feel that we should look into this matter more carefully. How many people would have thought ten or fifteen years ago that there was a danger of lung cancer from smoking cigarettes? Yet today we learn that one cigarette manufacturer is taking cigarette vending machines off the streets. I have a feeling that there is a direct link between many of the contemporary pollutants and lung cancer, and I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to deal with the point raised by the Minister of Health to which I have referred and to say whether this Answer given at the time on behalf of the Government is still his view, or has he had second thoughts about the matter?

I wish to congratulate my hon. Friend on producing this useful Bill. As there is at present another Bill under consideration, I think that these provisions will become law either in this form or will be incorporated in the other Measure. We must remember that from the back of a vehicle may come all sorts of gases. I do not now refer to those which are visible. I am more concerned with those which are invisible. The visible ones may appear relatively dreadful and may obscure the vision of drivers, but perhaps the more dangerous gases are those which we cannot see. I am also concerned with what comes out of the stacks of power stations and from coal fires. It is interesting to refer to the Report of the D.S.I.R. on atmospheric pollution of 31st March, 1958. The amount of sulphur dioxide discharged into the atmosphere in Great Britain in 1955 to 1958 is quite staggering. Taking the figures for coal and coke together, the amount of sulphur dioxide totalled 4,906,000 tons and that for oil 515,000 tons.

We know that the sulphur content of coal is from under 1 per cent. to about 3.6 per cent. and we are also aware that because of the price advantage power stations are using cheaper low-grade coal with a higher sulphur content. All this adds to the general pollution of the atmosphere. I do not wish to enlarge upon this point because I appreciate that it is outside the scope of the Bill. It is a pity, however, that my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham is not proposing to seek reelection at the next General Election. Had he been again returned as a Member he might have had an opportunity to introduce further legislation.

There is a lot that remains to be done. I am convinced that cancer is created by an assembly of pollutants in the atmosphere. It is true, as was indicated by my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham, that smoke from cigarettes is introduced directly into the lungs. But when we walk through the streets and there is a rather stale atmosphere due to the absence of breeze we have the additional impact of these gases emitted from vehicles. When walking home after a late night sitting we have the impact of fumes from fires. The cumulative effect of these fumes leads to bad health in the United Kingdom. Therefore, quite apart from this piece of legislation which we hope will soon be on the Statute Book, I trust that further legislation will be introduced.

2.29 p.m.

Mr. Ronald Russell (Wembley, South)

Like the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker), I welcome this Bill, although I cannot do so in the scientific and technical language used by so many of my hon. Friends. Their language is in contradiction to the language used in the Bill, which is simple, clear and concise. I am not criticising my hon. Friends on that score, but I welcome a Bill which is so simple and easy to read and I wish that some Government Measures could be drafted with the same clarity.

My hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) told us that the maintenance of diesel engines had to be perfect to avoid dark smoke. I imagine that there are very few diesel engines on the streets which can be described as perfectly maintained, even a few hours after their last maintenance.

There is another point that has not been mentioned. There is not only the question of maintenance, and that of going uphill, but that of acceleration which sometimes produces fumes. I wonder how much London buses contribute to diesel fumes, particularly dark smoke, when they accelerate? I imagine that London buses are better maintained than almost any other diesel vehicle on the road, because they receive regular maintenance, but nevertheless I think that this point about buses emitting smoke when accelerating ought to be looked at.

Another engine which has not been mentioned, but which is being introduced in increasing numbers, is the railway engine. There are a growing number of diesel locomotives on the main line railways. I hope that this is only a transitory phase before we move to electric engines, because diesel engines have another disadvantage, and I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Speir) will agree with this. They make an enormous amount of noise. In fact, the noise they make is almost worse than the fumes they emit, but nevertheless in urban areas they contribute to some of our difficulties over diesel fumes, particularly when one gets diesel shunting engines as well as diesel engines pulling expresses.

My hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) tells me that vehicle manufacturers are willing to fix a plate to the side of vehicles stating the maximum load which the vehicle should carry in relation to the power of the engine. This would be of great advantage in enabling the police to detect whether overloading was the cause of the emission of black smoke, and not lack of maintenance. I hope that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will consider this point.

I do not want to become involved in a medical argument, but my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn) said that fumes from ordinary coal fires were more dangerous than those from diesel engines. I will not dispute that, except to say that there are now far more diesel engines and far fewer coal fires in our cities than there were a few years ago. I therefore think that the contribution of the diesel engine is greater in relation to the coal fire than it used to be.

There seems to be a great deal of carelessness and indifference which is contributing to this diesel fume menace on our roads. It is not wilful neglect. It is not deliberate intention. It is just the indifference of drivers who will not bother to maintain their vehicles and the indifference of owners who will not take the trouble to see that the vehicles are maintained. I hope, therefore, that the Bill, or something like it, will aid the Government in enforcing the law, or at least enable them to do their utmost to make sure that unnecessary diesel fumes are not emitted, if not to the danger of health—and I will not argue it from this point of view—at least from the point of view of danger to the public, both drivers and passengers.

I hope that the Bill will get a Second Reading. I hope also that my hon. Friend will take this matter seriously, and that the Government will do something to stop this menace from diesel fumes.

2.34 p.m.

Dr. Alan Glyn (Clapham)

I am sure that we are all worried about the diesel fumes in the atmosphere, but I think that it is right to divide the problem into two spheres. First, there is the danger to health—what I call the medical attitude—and secondly, and much more important, there is the danger to road users, which has been mentioned.

One has to consider how one can check the various vehicles. One has to find some efficient method of checking them, and then one needs a foolproof system whereby offenders can be successfully prosecuted. I think that this is an important side of it, because it is no use having a large number of prosecutions if they are not successful. I hope that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will give us not only the figures of the number of people prosecuted but also the number who were successfully prosecuted.

There is no doubt that unpleasant fumes are emitted by a large number of vehicles on the roads not only in cities but in the country. Nevertheless, I think that it would be wrong if it went out from this House that it was a serious greater danger to the health of our people. I do not wish to minimise the danger, but I should like the House to keep a sense of proportion about it. We are overshadowed at the moment by this question of lung cancer and I think that it would be wrong to link this danger with the cigarette danger, which is so serious to the public.

Experiments have been carried out, and I understand that for a long time it was thought that the well-adjusted diesel engine was more dangerous than the improperly adjusted one, but I understand that these experiments were carried out with the wrong formula. They were carried out by taking the unadulterated diesel fumes and doing tests on animals. They were not done by taking ordinary diesel fumes one or two feet from the point of emission. In fact, the tests were taken at 50 parts per million, whereas I believe that it is 0.1 per million. That inadequate data tended to give the wrong impression of the danger which resulted from diesel fumes.

When these experiments were carried out, they completely ignored the black fumes which are emitted from the engines of diesel cars. I understand that the most offensive one is the polycyclic hydrocarbon, and that these are the fumes that cause cancer in animals, and therefore we must consider them. But if one looks at the figures one finds that poorly adjusted engines produce amounts comparable with ordinary petrol engines. In other words, there is not a great deal between the toxicity of fumes produced from a diesel engine and those produced from a petrol engine. Further, there is even less difference between the well maintained diesel engine and the badly maintained petrol engine. Those are the things which I think we should try to get into perspective.

I agreed with my hon. Friend the Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell) who said that the number of diesel engines was increasing and that the number of coal fires was decreasing, but I think that again one has to get this into perspective. The amount of fumes emitted either by power stations or by homes is so enormous in comparison with that emitted by diesel engines that we can probably ignore that aspect completely. I agree that it is a danger, but it is a small one, and even if we were to make all zones smokeless the difference would be very small.

It may well be, as my hon. Friend said, that other factors in the fumes will be proved to be carcinogenic. I think that most hon. Members agree that a rough and ready definition of carcinogenic material is something which is an irritant. Of course, there are degrees of irritants, and I do not think that this is regarded as a particularly noxious one. I say this because I think that there is a tendency in the public mind to be alarmed by this factor. I believe that the present medical evidence indicates that the alarm is, perhaps, exaggerated.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Will my hon. Friend agree that taking in cigarette smoke from fifteen cigarettes a day is far more harmful than absorbing diesel fumes in, for instance, the London area?

Dr. Glyn

I agree. I do not smoke, but I do object to diesel fumes. However, I think that people generally will say, "Here is an extra factor added to the danger from cigarette smoking." I do not believe that diesel fumes are as dangerous as some people may imagine.

A lot of experiments have been done in the Blackwall Tunnel. I was somewhat worried to learn from the results that the toxicity of the air there was very much greater than was regarded as safe, in fact five times what was regarded as safe. This high level of toxicity, however, arises only, so I understand, during the peak periods in the morning and at night or on Bank Holidays when the Tunnel is in use almost continuously. I imagine that the difficult problem of extraction from the tunnel would make it almost impossible to reduce the level very much.

I suggest that we should keep the matter in perspective. From a medical standpoint, we should not give the impression that diesel fumes are a very grave cancer danger. I do not minimise the inconvenience to the public. There is no question about that. Anyone who travels by road is continually annoyed by these very unpleasant fumes. Hon. Members have referred already to the power-weight ratio in diesel-engine vehicles. Although one hon. Gentleman opposite did not accept this, I think that the driver of a vehicle which is carrying its maximum load or more than its maximum load will, by a natural human tendency, use every device to make it easier to get up a hill, whether or not it is an offence to do what he does. That is not so important to him at the time; he will take his chance and hope that nobody catches him.

Mr. W. R. Williams (Manchester, Openshaw)

I quite understand what the hon. Gentleman says about the casual incident of following a tractor or lorry uphill- It is a casual occurrence. One goes through the fumes and passes by. What would the hon. Gentleman's reaction be in one of the long roads we find in the large conurbations such as the Oldham Road in Manchester, which is several miles long, with habitations on both sides? There is a constant stream of diesel traffic in both directions all day. Would be regard that as infinitesimal also?

Dr. Glyn

I have tried to divide the question into two parts. The inconvenience from noxious fumes is almost intolerable. I was coming to that. On the medical side, however, I think that we should take a different view about the level of toxicity. To put it simply in this way, if three out of seven households had a coal fire going in that road, I should imagine that the level would be about the same. The hon. Gentleman has a point in what he says, and my hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Skeet) had much the same thing in mind, I think. We inhale the vehicle fumes direct, whereas a great deal of what is emitted from a fire goes up the chimney.

Leaving aside the medical aspect, it is important that we should consider the matter very carefully from the point of view of convenience to the public and danger to road users. I was impressed by the suggestion that a chimney 7 ft. high would be a great help, although I suppose that, if one did not get one's trousers covered by the dirt from diesel smoke, it would descend on to one's head or one's hat. However, that would, I suppose, be slightly less unpleasant.

I hope that we shall press the Bill unless the Minister can give us certain assurances. The first concerns the standard of annoyance or danger. There is a great difference between a danger and an annoyance. People do not wish to be constantly subjected to the inconvenience of black smoke thrown on to them, with no redress at all. My hon. Friend should, I suggest, consider the question of annoyance very carefully.

Mr. Skeet

I raised that point on the question of proof. To prove damage in the courts is very difficult. Proof of annoyance is a question of opinion.

Dr. Glyn

I quite accept that, and I fully support my hon. Friend in what he said. It is, as I have said, essential that prosecutions, if brought, should have a good chance of success. There could be a substantial increase in the number if it were necessary only to prove annoyance. This is a point which should be examined.

There is also the suggestion that a portable smoke box or fume testing device should be developed. The whole point of the exercise is to catch on the spot the man who is making noxious smoke, make a test with calibrated automatic apparatus, and tell him at once that he has offended and is liable to prosecution, not wait forty-eight hours, as one hon. Member opposite suggested, so that the driver can put his engine right. Offenders must be caught quickly. It is important not only to have an accurate and ready means of testing but to have a system whereby offenders may be prosecuted not only for causing danger but for causing inconvenience or annoyance.

Such measures as those, together with the possible extension of the ten-year testing system to engines, could make it possible for people to ensure that they have efficient engines which do not emit offensive smoke and that offenders who do are caught easily and dealt with.

The public are, to say the least, thoroughly bored by this added nuisance of diesel fumes which they are compelled to suffer. I suggest to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary that he should consider very carefully, if he will not accept the Bill as it is, what parts he can extract from it and use. We have already discussed in the debate those provisions which appear likely to be most useful. Could he extract those and incorporate them in some other Measure? We are told that some matters covered by the Bill are already covered by Acts of Parliament. If my hon. Friend could take from the Bill the new and useful points which appear in it, perhaps he could work on those and adopt them.

I hope that it will not be thought outside the House that diesel fumes are a really serious source of danger in causing cancer, but, at the same time, I think that the House has expressed its clear opinion that close attention should be given to the constant annoyance to which people are subjected and that something should be done about it. I certainly should not like it to be thought that the annoyance we are discussing constitutes a menace equivalent to the danger of cigarette smoking. There is a small carcinogenic element but that small element is not a real danger to the health of the public in general.

2.48 p.m.

Mr. John Wells (Maidstone)

I shall not follow my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn) in the medical matters with which he has dealt, though I know that the House is grateful to him for his expert opinion on the subject. I shall put before hon. Members some of my own experience from a different point of view.

During and soon after the last war, I had the privilege of serving as an officer in several of Her Majesty's submarines. In an intervention, my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary stated that a properly maintained engine such as a submarine engine did not emit dirty diesel fumes such as those to which we are accustomed on our highways. Since my hon. Friend's intervention, I have been able to take advice from one who was my superior officer for a time during the last war. The advice which I received exactly confirmed my own very humble opinion, which is simply this. A properly tuned marine diesel engine such as we had in the submarine service can be adjusted constantly in each cylinder while it is running. Therefore, in marine engineering there is perfect adjustment constantly.

During the last war, the British submarine service, and indeed the German submarine service, redeveloped a previous technique of what was called snorkling—emitting their diesel fumes above the surface and running when dived on their diesel engines. This was an old process which was brought back to life again during the last war. It was essential for the safety of those in the submarine that they emitted as little fume as possible. The letter from my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport to which my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Speir) referred is absolutely right. A perfectly maintained diesel engine emits no smoke, except the occasional white puff. This fact must be emphasised.

I apologise to the House for proceeding with my own career, but having left Her Majesty's service I took employment in due course with one of the leading firms of diesel engineers in this country. Indeed, I will declare an interest to the extent that I am still a director of one of the smaller firms manufacturing diesel engines, but I hasten to add marine diesel engines and therefore in no way under the scope of the Bill.

Mr. Speir

No puff, please.

Mr. Wells

I did not mention the name of the firm. The point I want to put over is that it was dinned in on me as a junior employee of this firm that even a fairly cheap mass-produced diesel engine when it is running properly never emits black smoke. There are two causes of smoking engines. One is worn piston rings, and then there is blue smoke. That is general knowledge to all of us who run a motor car of any sort. The other matter is black smoke.

Here my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham raised two important points. It is for this reason that I welcome the Bill. He said, first, that any engine emitting black smoke was in the nature of a hole in one's fuel tank. Any employer of a lorry driver—any lorry owner; any bus owner—whose vehicle is emitting black smoke is dispensing pennies down the road. Indeed, at today's value of money it may be sixpences which he is dispensing down the road.

For this reason, it is in the interests of every proprietor of a diesel vehicle to see that his maintenance is of such an order that his vehicles do not emit smoke. It is extraordinary that it should appear at first sight to be necessary to legislate to force a tough section of our business community to run their businesses properly, because that is exactly what it amounts to. Bus and haulage operators are shrewd business people. It is extraordinary that we in the House have to instruct them in the first principles of running their affairs.

However, my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham used the phrase, "a hole in one's fuel tank". In whose interests is it that black smoke should be emitted? The owners do not want it. Who, then, does want it? I am sorry that more trade union members are not present on the benches opposite today, because I say bluntly and straightforwardly to any representatives of the Transport and General Workers' Union that the fault can be laid fairly and squarely at the door of a great many long distance and other heavy lorry operators who quite deliberately open up the excess fuel devices of their engines.

It has been said by other hon. Members dealing with the technicality of this matter that the Minister now has power to deal with the opening up of the excess fuel device. Manufacturers of engines try to seal up the excess fuel device so that the rack on the engine cannot be opened further than it was originally set. The fact remains that lorry drivers are under the mistaken impression—I emphasise this point—that if they have an excess of fuel to air they will get up a hill better. That is a fallacy, because the perfect tuning of a diesel engine depends on the precise admixture of the right amount of fuel in the right volume of air.

Anybody who goes monkeying about with the pump on his engine is spoiling his engine and the performance of his vehicle. The people who do this are doing it in ignorance and folly. Therefore, I hope that any drivers who may hear of these words of mine will take note of what I am telling them now and what the technical training schools of every diesel manufacturer in the country tell them when they go in for instruction—"Leave your pump alone. The firm that supplied the engine set it right in the first place".

Hon. Members have mentioned the various smoke testing devices. In particular, the great international firm of Hartridge and its products have been mentioned. This country is still seriously short of adequate and satisfactory methods of testing the emission of smoke. We know that steps are being taken and the time may come when there are adequate testing devices, but I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham will not take it in bad part when I tell him that the kind of legislation he favours seems to go in for measuring very unmeasurable commodities, such as noise and black smoke. We all appreciate the vast amount of work my hon. Friend has done in the House for many years in cleaning up and improving our small island and maintaining our amenities. The fact remains that this problem is quite un-measurable today. For this reason I do not like Clause 1 (2).

I deplore the idea of additives. A number of hon. Members have said that the invisible fumes are just as obnoxious and as injurious to health as are the visible black fumes, but if one puts additives into the fuel one only hides the harm that is done. I suggest that any legislation introducing any sort of statutory requirement—and, admittedly, my hon. Friend said that it would be optional—for the use of additives is nothing short of an oil companies' benefit, because it is the oil companies which supply these additives—at a considerable cost.

I take up the complaint about the variations in the quality of diesel fuel that is supplied in different parts of the country. My hon. Friend the Member for Hexham said that there should be some degree of standardisation, and although I should not like to see a Bill go forward that is an oil companies' benefit, I should certainly like to see a Bill to chase up the oil companies and force them to provide a standard quality of fuel for the country as a whole. I suggest that my hon. Friend's Clause is well intentioned, but misconceived in detail, and I hope that in Committee he will bring in a new Clause with a view to getting a better standard of fuel oil.

In his wide and wise speech, my hon. Friend said that he had originally been attracted to the idea of filters or scrubbers. Hon. Members who remember a mischievious youth will recall the habit of small boys of stuffing potatoes up car exhaust pipes, with the inevitable consequence that the vehicle does not run. To a lesser degree the effect of filters and scrubbers is the same. The efficiency of the engine is vastly reduced.

My hon. Friend said that these devices are widely used on stationary engines in mines, and other places, and that is precisely where they must be used. In those circumstances those engines would be very dangerous without scrubbers. The engines are invariably so over-powered for their purpose that a few odd horse power lost is neither here nor there. In today's heavy vehicle market, however, conditions are highly competitive. The British industry is doing extremely well; not only the great firms, but the smaller bus and vehicle manufacturing firms within the nationalised sector. They have a very high quality product which is held in high regard. I would deplore legislation that impeded their technical progress.

I am much attracted by the suggestion of the compulsory fitting of a fish tail or a deflector. I have a deflector on my own private vehicle's exhaust. It is a sensible act of good neighbourliness because it avoids sending back the fumes to the following vehicle. At the same time, a device like that does not spoil the performance of one's engine. I am therefore very glad that my hon. Friend has dropped the other idea, and I hope that it will not be reintroduced into the Bill at a later date.

Clause 6 concerns the use of the chimney type of exhaust pipe. I am glad that from a technical point of view my hon. Friend has had certain misgivings about that, and I hope that the Committee will examine the Clause extremely closely in that regard. At first sight, the chimney type of exhaust is very attractive for the heavier type of vehicle which may have its engine coming on a variable load—because it is the variable load that may cause the emission of black smoke from a slightly imperfectly tuned engine. Vehicles on a variable load are the great offenders, although they probably have a higher degree of maintenance than any others except, perhaps, the London Transport vehicles, which are preeminent in the quality of their maintenance.

The chimney-type exhaust is an interesting possibility, but I hope that the Ministry's technical advisers will seek the advice of the vehicle manufacturers in this respect before the Bill goes to a Standing Committee. The heavy goods vehicle manufacturers are making a real contribution to the national prosperity, just as much as the light goods vehicle manufacturers.

My hon. Friend the Member for Clap-ham (Dr. Alan Glyn) dealt to some extent with medical experiments, and I will not venture to follow him closely. He indicated that experiments had been carried out on a number of animals, injecting into the atmosphere they breathed a certain percentage of diesel fumes, this percentage being quite different from that normally in the atmosphere. I do not want to stray from the main purpose of the Bill, but I deplore any experiments on animals, ostensibly for the public good, which are conducted in such a way that the conditions to which they are subjected are not completely in line with the human problem.

There is widespread disquiet in the country about experiments on animals, largely founded on ignorance. But if experiments are to be carried out for the public good they must be done absolutely fairly—"on all fours" seems a silly phrase in this context—and in similar circumstances to the human problem. Otherwise the experimenters are causing great cruelty for little gain, and I hope that the experiments that are done will always be related to the actual problem.

Dr. Alan Glyn

The point was that, according to the original information available to us, the experiments were done using undiluted gases. I am not in a position to say whether that was the intention of the experiments, but I agree wholeheartedly with my hon. Friend that a great deal of the experimental work may be carried out with insufficient supervision by those responsible and by the Home Office.

Mr. Wells

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his help. He mentioned the experiment in Blackwall Tunnel. I and my family have been connected with various businesses in the vicinity of Blackwall Tunnel for many centuries and we are a notably long-lived family. I have spent many hours stuck there in traffic jams and I do not seem any the worse for it yet. So I hope, before we get too excited about the effects on health of these fumes, that we will have a much closer look at the problem.

Clause 5 deals with annoyances, which is the crux of the matter. This is annoyance from fumes not only to the motoring public but to the people whose homes are alongside the main roads, and I hope that something more will be done before too long to tighten up the existing regulations.

My hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Skeet) referred to a Written Answer given on 4th April to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty), and it seems that the Home Secretary gave a most ridiculous answer in this connection. No doubt he was trying to be helpful by supplying some figures before this debate took place, and I am sure that he was right in seeking to put down the answer to the best of his ability as soon as he could. At the same time, it would have been more than helpful had he written to the hon, and learned Member for Surrey, East saying, "Perhaps we might postpone the Question for a few days while I attempt to find out about the matter." Simply to be told that there had been 1,672 prosecutions, although we do not know how many were successful, was quite unhelpful and really amounts to a disgrace. We are getting too many answers of this sort at present. When we ask for statistics we get half a statistic and are told that the rest is not available. When an hon. Member genuinely seeks information—and nearly all statistical Questions are designed for that purpose; I do not refer to Members who put down Questions for some ulterior reason—it is ridiculous to put him off with that sort of stuff. I suggest that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary should convey this thought to other members of the Government, and that perhaps a little private correspondence with Members, a little matter of asking them to be patient and for Ministers to give the proper statistics as soon as they are available, would be very welcome.

Under previous legislation relating to noise and other nuisances and annoyances it has been very difficult for an ordinary rural or suburban policeman to stop a vehicle. He may see it making smoke, he may realise that it has a rattling exhaust pipe or some other nuisance, but it is almost impossible for him to halt it and to register the necessary complaint. I believe that Clause 5 is extremely attractive in its underlying thinking, but I fear that in its practical application it will be weak, just as the answer which appeared in the OFFICIAL REPORT two days ago was weak.

I therefore say to my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham that I, for one, am extremely grateful to him for having produced such a thoughtful Bill. It adds to his personal fine record in improving the nation's amenities. But when his Bill reaches the Committee stage, I hope he will bear with us if it is considered very closely; and if by chance it fails to reach a Committee stage I hope that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will do all he can to extract the best out of the Bill and incorporate it in other legislation so that we may have the benefit of the great work of my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham.

3.12 p.m.

Mr. Marcus Lipton (Brixton)

The hon. Member for Maidstone (Mr. J. Wells) has by now pretty well told the House the whole story of his life.

Mr. J. Wells

Oh, no.

Mr. Lipton

He has taken us along the highways into the Blackwall Tunnel; dealt with experiments on animals; given advice to the oil industry; torn the Bill to pieces, and finished up by expressing good will to the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Speir) who brought the Bill before the House and who has performed a public duty in doing so.

It may be that it is wasteful to allow vehicles to emit black smoke. But they do, in fact, emit black smoke. It does not matter how efficient may be the boss, sitting in his office in the centre of London or in the Blackwall Tunnel, or wherever it may be; we know from our experience on the roads that apparently heavy lorry drivers spend a lot of time attending to the pumps on their motor vehicles trying to ginger them up and get a better performance. But we should not forget the hours spent at weekends by private car owners trying to go one better than the handbook advises and ignoring the instructions of the car manufacturers.

We have got to legislate so far as we can against incompetence, ill-will or Whatever one likes to call it, and that is why a Bill of this nature is necessary. The present situation is undoubtedly unsatisfactory and must be dealt with. In spite of what the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Dudley Williams) has said about the Bill, I think we should give the poor thing a chance and see whether in Committee this sickly infant—if that is how the hon. Member for Exeter regards the Bill—can be nurtured into a state of reasonable health, as a result of which the public will benefit from such legislation as will ensue.

The hon. Member for Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn), to whose medical knowledge we all defer—he is the only doctor in the House at the moment—made what seemed to me to be a rather sweeping generalisation when he said that there was not much evidence that the emission of these fumes was harmful to health. How does he know that? Has he any information on the subject? To what extent is there hard scientific information available which enables him to say that the emission of these fumes does not matter very much? What enables him to say that there is no evidence that diesel fumes produce cancer or other diseases?

I saw some figures the other day which alarmed me. They showed the incidence of lung cancer in various parts of the country, including London, large provincial towns and rural areas. These are official figures produced by the Minister of Health in response to a Parliamentary Question. These figures reveal a very significant fact—that the deaths per thousand from lung cancer were twice as high in London as in the rural areas. That is a scientific fact. The question into which inquiry ought to be made is, why do twice as many people the in London from lung cancer as in other parts of the country? I have taken some part in drawing attention to the menace of cigarette smoking as a cause of lung cancer, a campaign on which I began some years ago.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir. William Anstruther-Gray)

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but this is a Diesel Fumes Bill and not a cigarette smoking Bill.

Mr. Lipton

Many of us have maintained, recently with even more scientific weight than before, that cigarette smoking is a cause of lung cancer, but we are still not yet in a position to deny that diesel fumes may also be a cause of lung cancer. Why is it that in London twice as many people the from lung cancer, per thousand of the population, as in the rural areas? I am not saying—it would be a bold man who said—that people in London smoke twice as much as people anywhere else. I do not know. The suspicious feature is that it looks as though there is something polluting the air in our large cities which is conducive or gives rise to a larger number of deaths from lung cancer. We do not know what it is.

Dr. Alan Glyn

The hon. Gentleman quoted something which I said. I was trying to put this into perspective. I said that there was no question but that there were carcinogenic substances in diesel fumes and in petrol, and that recent experiments have shown this. I said that it has also been proved that they were present in coal fires and that the amount emitted by diesel vehicles is very small. I said that because great alarm has been caused by people putting this on the same basis as cigarette smoking. I wanted to put it in perspective.

Mr. Lipton

I am obliged to the hon. Member. The point which I am trying to make is that there is some factor operating in large towns which does not operate in rural areas and which doubles the number of deaths from lung cancer. I have a suspicion that the air pollution in our large towns contributes to this very unsatisfactory state of affairs.

What are the main causes of pollution in large towns like London? We are doing our best with smokeless zones to reduce the menace of coal fires, but the extent to which the air in London and large towns is polluted by diesel engines and petrol engines generally is inevitably very much greater than it is in the country. There is some reason to believe that the two facts which I have mentioned are not disconnected. That is as far as I am prepared to go. Much more research must be carried out before we can be sure.

It looks suspiciously as though the pollution of the atmosphere by fumes from diesel engines, petrol engines and coal fires helps to double the death rate from lung cancer in large towns. That is why, in spite of its faults and blemishes and the technical advice that we have had from the hon. Member for Maidstone, we should give the Bill a chance. It may make a small contribution to reducing the death rate from lung cancer, about which many of us are worried. If it makes only a small contribution to that end, and giving due weight to the technical difficulties and obstacles which may be raised by the experts about enforcement and the gadgets which would be necessary in enforcing it, I think that the Bill should go to Committee and that it should have a kind word from the Government, which I hope will be forthcoming when the Parliamentary Secretary replies.

3.22 p.m.

Mr. A. E. Cooper (Ilford, South)

My hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Speir) has a penchant for promoting Bills which ultimately prove to be for the great good of the community. Few hon. Members have had as much good fortune in the Ballot as my hon. Friend. On my behalf and, I know, on behalf of my constituents, I sincerely congratulate him on the Bills he has promoted which will stand to his everlasting credit no matter how many years he serves in the House of Commons.

I cannot say the same for the non. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton). He has a facility for telling the House that everything is either black or white. Although I believe he is somewhat older than I am, I assure him that life is not quite like that. To suggest that coal fires, diesel fumes and cigarette smoking are probably the three causes of lung cancer is to ignore all the facts of air pollution. Fumes emitted from factories, sewage and effluent, which are typical of big communities, also play a part in this. I wish that the hon. Gentleman would try to remember that there are other things in life which may contribute to some of the dreadful diseases from which we suffer.

I should like to make one reference to the Liberal Party. I note that again, when we are debating, as we have been all day, matters of great public importance, not one member of the Liberal Party has been in the House. Perhaps they are rushing round the country blowing their own trumpets or searching the highways and by-ways for a policy. Whatever is the reason or whatever they are doing, they certainly are not here, which is where they should be, looking after the interests of the public.

The Bill deals with a serious problem from two points of view, the nuisance hazard and the health hazard. It has a great deal to commend it from the nuisance point of view, and Clause 5 is especially important. Reference has been made to the nuisance which lorries cause when they interfere with the amenities of houses on either side of a road. We should not forget the tremendous cost which those lorries Impose on housewives for cleaning curtains and so on and generally keeping their houses clean. The citizens of this country ought not to be faced with that sort of thing.

However, I am not sure that my hon. Friend is on such a good wicket when he deals with the health hazard. In several places in the Bill he refers to visible vapour, but we all know that although we can see the black smoke and regard that as the nuisance—and it is a nuisance—it is not the black smoke alone but the exhaust fumes which we have to get rid of. Much more research into this matter is needed. By getting rid of the black smoke we might get rid of the nuisance hazard, but we should still have to deal with the health hazard.

I do not understand the technical thinking behind Clause 6. The exhaust from vehicles of this type is a heavy product and, once emitted, tends to fall to the ground instantly. From the health point of view it would be better for the emissions to take place six or nine inches from the ground rather than seven or eight feet in the air where the dissemination must be far greater and much less easy to get rid of. We should remember that smog, with which we are afflicted from time to time, is primarily caused by emissions of this type being in the air. If they were nearer the ground, the health and nuisance hazards would be greatly reduced.

Nevertheless, having offered those few criticisms, I believe that the principle behind the Bill is sound. The idea promoted in Clause 5 is something to which we should give serious attention and I hope that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to respond favourably.

3.28 p.m.

Mr. W. R. Williams (Manchester, Openshaw)

When I came to the House this morning, I did not think that I should have to take part in two or three debates on subjects of which I had very little personal knowledge or experience. I have listened to this debate with considerable interest, as I am always interested in Bills introduced by the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Speir). I have had the privilege on more than one occasion of being the Chairman of the Standing Committee which has dealt with some of his successful Bills. The House is indebted to him for his persistent efforts to remove the causes of noise and smells and other things which detract from the amenities of life.

In passing, I have one comment to make about his Bills. They were very good and they were passed into law. But my observation has been that very little effort has been made to see that their provisions have been observed. Take, just as an example of what I am saying, the Litter Act. That was an excellent Measure, but when I go about the villages and towns and conurbations which I have to visit from time to time, the first thing which strikes me is that, while we place the people under an obligation to keep our streets clean, we provide very few receptacles to make it easy for them to observe the law. There is a danger now and again of our multiplying the laws without making it easy for the people to keep the laws which we pass in this House. Therefore, when new laws are proposed, I always consider very carefully first whether they are necessary, and secondly whether we make it easy for our people to observe and keep them.

On this Bill I want to say only one or two things because we are all awaiting the comments of the Parliamentary Secretary—and, perhaps, of the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Dudley Williams) if he is fortunate enough to catch Mr. Deputy-Speaker's eye. This is the first thing I would say. I think that we are all agreed that there is a problem here. There is a problem of the nuisance hazard of smoke emission, and there is no doubt that there is a question of health hazard. I am not going to say that I agree all the way with some of the things which have been said on either of those points today, but I think that it would be quite unreal completely to ignore the fact that there are some hazards both on the health side and on the safety and nuisance side.

It may be that the Parliamentary Secretary will say that there is a good deal in the existing law, if it were observed, which would make some of the provisions of this Bill unnecessary, or that we may be duplicating legislation for the sake of duplicating it. If that is so, I think that there is an obligation on Ministers, not only on the Minister of Transport but on the Minister of Health and the Home Secretary, to see that some more positive steps are taken to ensure that the existing law is carried out effectively.

If I understood the Parliamentary Secretary correctly, he referred to a letter sent from the Minister to some of our friends on this subject. Three points were made in that letter. The first was that diesel engines, if they are in a high state of efficiency, emit only white smoke. That is the first point. I travel about a good deal. I have never seen white smoke. That is the point which we have to face, that the bulk of the smoke which we see emanating from those lorries and so on is very dirty, dark, objectionable, obnoxious smoke and fumes. Therefore, it is not much use the Minister telling the House that if things are perfect then we shall get only white smoke, which would be completely harmless, as I understand it. In so far as this Bill draws attention to a fact which must be within the experience of many of us, that there is a great deal of inefficiency of maintenance, something has got to be done about it.

Some reference was made by the hon. Member for Maidstone (Mr. J. Wells) to Members of this House who are members of trade unions. I thought he was very critical of them. I happen to be an ex-trade union member, as he knows. He will give me credit for having been here throughout this debate. I also keep my eyes open, and I find out that the big firms which have these vehicles are looking after their maintenance in a very fine way. London Transport does, and some of the corporations of which I have personal knowledge are looking after their vehicles very well. If I had to express a view it would be that it is not these big concerns, nor the longdistance, all-night lorry drivers, who are badly at fault, but some of the inferior firms, the smaller firms, who are not paying any attention to the running of their vehicles, who run them day in, day out, and have not time or opportunity to maintain them as they ought to do. In so far as the hon. Member was referring to those people I am entirely with him.

It seems to me, therefore, that on this score there is responsibility on employers to ensure that their maintenance is sound, as there is responsibility on drivers to ensure that they do not use practices which are conducive to an aggravation of a situation which is bad in itself. We are not complaining of the white puffs to which the Minister refers but of the other kind about which the public and most hon. Members feel that something must be done. We feel that there must be better maintenance and that we as a House must insist on it and on greater observance of the law.

As I said in an intervention when the hon. Member for Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn) was speaking—and the point was also made by the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper)—I am very disturbed about the experience of people who live near main roads where there is daily traffic in large numbers. There is no question that the fumes which penetrate houses affect the furniture as well as people's health. This point especially needs looking into.

Manchester Corporation is spending a terrific amount of money in trying to establish a smokeless zone. I do not see much fun in spending that large amount of money to secure a smokeless zone in Manchester if we then allow practically every vehicle in creation to come in and out of Manchester emitting as much and perhaps more smoke between them than would be emitted by the new fuel used in a smokeless zone. As to health considerations, it may be that the hon. Member for Clapham is quite right in saying that the effect of a small dose of these fumes is not fatal and may not be very harmful, but it would be taking a risk to say that if these fumes are taken in large doses, as many people are compelled to take them in London and the big cities, it will not seriously affect the health of our people.

I had many other things to say, but in fairness to other hon. Members and to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport I will only add that there is a prima facie case that the House, in one way or another, should be giving attention to this subject. I do not believe that the Bill, as I read it, is the best vehicle for that purpose, but I believe in giving every dog a chance to show whether it is good enough for a race and I should be inclined on balance to support the hon. Member for Hexham and having the Bill discussed in Committee. It may be that expert opinion will cancel out a large number of the suggestions and proposals made in the seven main Clauses. I believe that that will be so, but we do not know. The only thing we know is that some parts of the Bill deal specifically, directly and intimately with problems which are exercising the minds of our people in connection with health, safety and amenities.

In so far as the Bill does that, and this is an opportunity for the House to re-establish some of things which have been said before and to draw attention to ways and means of improving matters, I should be prepared to support sending the Bill to Committee. What happens to it then will be the responsibility of those who discuss it there, and when it comes back for Report the House will see whether there are aspects of the Bill which commend themselves as requiring legislation.

3.40 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. John Hay)

My hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Speir) has received congratulations from both sides of the House, quite rightly, on his initiative in once again bringing before the House a Measure dealing with one of the social problems of modern times. There have been a number of useful and constructive speeches from both sides of the House, except, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper) pointed out, from the Liberal benches. The Liberal Members have been conspicuous by their absence whenever matters of this kind have been under discussion.

Mr. Cooper

I would point out that one of the Members of the Liberal Party is a sponsor of this Bill.

Mr. Hay

That I had overlooked, but that is nothing new. I had better deal with the substance of the debate, tempted as I am to enter into some of these other channels. We very much welcome the interest which my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham has shown in the contribution that diesel fumes and smoke make to the general atmospheric pollution. As hon. Members have said from their own experience, and as we all know, it has become extremely unpleasant to pedestrians and to cyclists and it can be a source of danger to motorists. Any effort that we can make to reduce the nuisance is to be welcomed.

Similarly every opportunity that we get to give publicity to the facts and draw attention to the nuisance is again to be welcomed.

Before I deal with the provisions of the Bill, I should like to say a little about what has already been done to combat this question of fumes, and what remains to be done. I do not think that one can come to a conclusion about the Bill and whether it should go to Committee before one knows what is the background.

Hon. Members have referred to the effect of diesel fumes on health. My hon. Friend the Member for Hexham, in moving the Bill, specifically referred to this as one reason for his bringing it forward. I think that the whole House was struck by the contribution from my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn) who from his medical knowledge and experience quite rightly, if I may say this as a layman, pointed out to the House that it is very easy to over-emphasise the effect upon health of diesel fumes.

A very wide programme of research into air pollution has been and is still being carried out by the Medical Research Council. It has extensively investigated pollution from motor vehicle exhausts in such places as diesel bus garages and the Blackwall Tunnel and it is ourrently investigating the pollution problem in the open city streets. These researches are an indication of the concern which the medical profession feels on this subject.

If I may take up a point mentioned by the hon. Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. W. R. Williams), the information that I have as a result of the researches of the Medical Research Council is that these investigations have not shown any specific threat from diesel fumes alone in the concentration in which they are found in our streets. Diesel engines, as hon. Members have said, emit mainly water vapour and carbon dioxide, but mixed with them is a certain amount of hydrocarbons and carbon particles, the proportion depending on how well maintained the engine is.

The emission of such potential cancer causing substances as 3:4 benzpyrene are small even in the worst of conditions. Already these results have begun to draw attention to what may be a real problem. As all other forms of air pollution decrease through the spreading of smokeless zones in the country so the contribution that vehicle exhausts make to the atmospheric pollution will rise as a proportion of the whole pollution, even if the total contribution can be held down. It is the petrol engine exhausts which are likely then to be the main hazards. Petrol engine exhausts contain large quantities of carbon monoxide as well as certain hydrocarbons, lead and oxides of nitrogen.

We are watching the results of research work in the United States on petrol exhausts. The problem is far more acute there, particularly in the Los Angeles Air Pollution Control District, than it is in this country. My hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) mentioned this in the course of his speech. If it proves possible to implement the California law on exhaust emission we shall study the results with great interest

Secondly, in reviewing what has been done, I want to say a word on what has taken place in reducing diesel smoke. Extensive tests have been carried out by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, and these have proved that a well maintained and properly driven diesel-engined vehicle does not normally emit any more than the slight puff of smoke which has been referred to in the debate. Tests have also been made by the Department of a number of fuel additives—substances added to diesel fuel—and of various filter devices which are supposed to be effective in reducing or removing dark smoke.

All these tests have proved abortive. It seems clear that neither the fuel additives nor the filter devices are as fruitful a field for the reduction of dark smoke as is the much more mundane but useful method of ensuring the proper maintenance and adjustment of the engine.

I now turn to the question of the existing law. It is contained in the Motor Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations, 1955, which have been amended in this respect on two occasions—once in 1957 and again last year. The existing law does two things—first, it requires that all vehicles should be so constructed as not to emit avoidable smoke and, secondly, it forbids the use of vehicles making smoke which is likely to cause danger, damage or injury to anyone on the road. I ask hon. Members to bear those three things in mind—damage, danger or injury.

This law has recently been strengthened by the new Regulation to which my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South referred, which, as from 1st January last, forbids the misuse by the driver of a diesel-engined vehicle of the excess fuel device, which, in certain circumstances, can provide extra power at the cost of black smoke. The Regulation also requires the control for the device, on new vehicles, as from 1st January to be such that it cannot be operated when the vehicle is moving. Older vehicles have to be modified in this respect by 1st July next.

Since this is not yet fully in force I cannot tell what the result may be, but we think that it will have some effect in reducing the outpouring of black smoke on hills. It has the great advantage that it will allow for much easier enforcement, since either the device, if used, will still be operating when the vehicle is stopped, or it will be found in a position where it can be operated from the cab. Both these things will be offences.

I want to say a few words about the enforcement of the existing law. The police and the technical officers of my Department have both devoted a great deal of attention to the problem. In the course of the debate figures have been quoted of the number of prosecutions. My information is that in 1960–61 there were 1,875 prosecutions. I am afraid that I cannot tell the House how many were successful and how many failed, or what the further results are —certainly not in the time available to me today.

Mr. J. Wells

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving those figures, but they do not agree with the figures given by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary only the day before yesterday. How has my hon. Friend found 200 more accidents than the Home Secretary found?

Mr. Hay

I did not think that we were talking about accidents. I thought that we were talking about prosecutions.

Mr. Wells

I was talking about prosecutions. I am sorry, my reference to accidents was a slip of the tongue.

Mr. Hay

All I can say is that I have been given these figures. I will investigate the question to see if I have got them wrong, but I think that that is unlikely. I was going on to say that under Sections 133 and 184 of the Road Traffic Act, 1960, inspecting officers of my right hon. Friend's Department have the power to stop the use of buses and goods vehicles unless and until they are repaired to the satisfaction of the examiner. These powers are widely used. But in spite of all that has been done we know that far too many diesel-engined vehicles make dark smoke, and any means of reducing it will be welcome.

In spite of what has been and is being done, there is absolutely no ground for complacency. Much thought has been given to what further action could effectively be taken. Basically the problem is one of enforcement and, as I will demonstrate before sitting down, our legal powers are reasonably adequate to deal with the problem. What is difficult is to ensure that the enforcement of those powers is much better than it can be in present circumstances.

There are a number of ideas which we have been following up. We are trying to find a procedure for measuring at the roadside the amount of smoke emitted. We are trying to find a method which will give really satisfactory evidence of the degree of smoke emission. As I said during the Adjournment debate in 1960—it has been quoted today—what we want is some kind of device which can be on the roadside pointing at the vehicle emitting dark smoke, and which would give a reading in a permanent form which might be used in evidence.

On the face of it, this may sound a simple thing, but it is not. A number of devices have been under examination. The Warren Spring Laboratory of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and the Motor Industry Research Association have joined in this kind of investigation and are continuing with their examinations. Recently they have been looking at two existing meters, the Hartridge B.P. and the Bosch which are being manufactured in this country by the Dunedin Engineering Company. Neither has proved wholly satisfactory for our purposes. If we can find a suitable procedure, the density limit which is referred to in Clause 1 (2) of the Bill will replace the present more general Construction and Use Regulations under Section 64 of the Road Traffic Act, 1960. If that is not likely to be possible in the near future, nuisance and annoyance can be added to the existing criteria of vehicle smoke emission which I would remind the House are damage, injury and danger.

At one time the police took the view that to make such a change would hinder rather than help the enforcement of the law. Now they have come round to a point of view where they are more in favour of it. So if the current work on emission does not suggest that we shall be able to fix a definite smoke limit in the near future, we will undertake the necessary statutory consultations with a view to supplementing the existing Regulations by adding nuisance and annoyance to the present criteria. Already we have the powers to do this by Statutory Instrument made under Section 64 of the Road Traffic Act, 1960. At the same time the enforcement staff of my Department are giving what attention they can to the subject. As a result of recent discussions with the National Society for Clean Air ways of strengthening this work and using propaganda to draw the attention of operators to the matter are under consideration.

I should like particularly to mention that we are making arrangements for simultaneous checks to be made throughout the country on the same day, as part of our drive against vehicles with smoky exhausts. Checks will be made on stretches of road which carry a lot of heavy traffic and where there is a suitable hill which is known to cause vehicles to emit smoke. At least one checkpoint in most counties will be arranged. Where the local police are willing to bring prosecutions for excessive smoke emissions, their assistance will be sought. In areas where they are unwilling to bring prosecutions we shall have to take other action such as issuing a notice of prohibition of use of a vehicle to carry goods, or send a letter to the owner of the vehicle and follow that up with visits by our vehicle examiners. We have in mind to repeat the whole of this check on two further occasions at about monthly intervals.

Mr. W. R. Williams

Will those checks be carried out in built-up areas as well as in open country?

Mr. Hay

I am not going to tell the hon. Gentleman, for this reason—we do not want to disclose too openly exactly where these checks will take place.

Mr. W. R. Williams

I am not asking that.

Mr. Hay

I realise that, but perhaps the hon. Gentleman will understand my problem. I have announced that we are to have these checks, and that they will be pretty widespread throughout the country. I am not going to be more specific than that, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will understand why. As I have said, we have wide powers stemming from Section 64 of the Road Traffic Act to deal with this problem. The Bill does not give us very much more than we have now.

Clause 1 would give the Minister power to prescribe densities of smoke and visible vapour, and to prescribe that additives must be used in all diesel engines. Already under Section 64 we have powers wide enough to do these things.

Clause 2 would apply to the offence of emitting smoke above the specified density the maximum penalties which are at present applied to breaches of the Construction and Use Regulations. In the Road Traffic Bill at present before the House, the distinction in fines is being wiped out. We are having a flat maximum penalty of £50 for each offence, and we should not therefore want to introduce a penalty for one offence alone which was out of line with all the rest under that particular section. So, for that reason, I should not welcome Clause 2.

Clause 3, however, would be a welcome addition to the Minister's power. It would mean that if and when reliable roadside measurement was possible those diesel-engined vehicles which were not already subject to special provisions about inspection by vehicle examiners—and these are mainly taxis and buses, used, for example, by contractors and not as public service vehicles—could be tested at the roadside. I suggest to my hon. Friend that, in any event, whatever happens to this Bill, he should propose an Amendment to the Road Traffic Bill with the effect of Clause 3, and we should be happy to incorporate it in that Bill.

Clause 4 simply duplicates what would be the position under Section 68 of the Road Traffic Act, if and when it is proved possible to set specific minimum figures for smoke density, and I do not think that we should pass duplicating legislation.

Much as I admire the idea behind Clause 5, unfortunately it will not work, for reasons which have been mentioned by hon. Members. The vehicle testing scheme is not designed to deal with these large lorries and buses with diesel engines.

Clause 6 has already come under heavy fire from a number of hon. Members who do not think that there is much point in having a vertical exhaust if all that happens is that the smoke and perhaps the sludge which collects in the exhaust pipe is spread out over the heads of passers-by and into windows rather than directed downwards on to the ground.

In all the circumstances, while I welcome my hon. Friend's initiative, I hope that perhaps he will consider that it is not much use proceeding further with this Bill in the light of the assurances and undertakings that I have given. I therefore invite him to suggest to the House that perhaps the Bill might be withdrawn. We have not wasted our time today, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend and to the House for the full and frank discussion that we have had of this difficult social problem.

Mr. Speir

I do not wish to detain the House, but if, with the leave of the House, I might speak again, I thank hon. Members and the Minister for the care that they have given to this Bill. I realise that it has certain weaknesses and imperfections. It is like the curate's egg, good in parts. As I understand it, the Government will accept the good parts.

Therefore, on that assurance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Bill.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Bill withdrawn.