HC Deb 13 December 1962 vol 669 cc564-6
23. Mr. Fitch

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs if he will take steps Ito amend the Clean Air Act in order to deal with the emission of sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere.

Mr. Corfield

I am entirely in sympathy with the hon. Member's objective. The plain fact is, however, that in spite of continued research here and abroad we still do not know how to prevent the emission of sulphur dioxide. In the present state of knowledge the objective must be to keep down the ground-level concentration of the sulphur dioxide emitted. This is best done by effective use of the existing powers, under the Clean Air Act and Alkali Act, to require factory and other chimneys to be high enough to secure adequate dispersal.

Mr. Fitch

Can the Parliamentary Secretary say whether he has impressed upon the oil industry the necessity of inquiring into the emission of sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere? Has any research work been undertaken at all?

Mr. Corfield

I cannot give the hon. Gentleman details about the research and who has been doing it, but I know that active research has been going on for many years. We are in close touch with it, but my advice is that there has been no significant break-through in this sphere.

Dr. Stross

Can the Parliamentary Secretary say how much it would cost to treat oil so as to remove the sulphur and whether such cost is thought to be prohibitive at the present time? Has he noted that people who ought to know better tend to lay the blame on coal when in fact they should be blaming oil which has more sulphur in it, weight by weight?

Mr. Corfield

That raises other questions. I am not competent to answer the hon. Gentleman's question about costs.

Mr. Fletcher

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that his reply is totally unsatisfactory and that, as is generally known, the lethal consequences of the smog in London last week were due to a combination of sulphur dioxide and smoke? Is not it time that the Government did something to control the emission of sulphur dioxide so as to stop the intolerable conditions which Londoners had to suffer last week?

Mr. Corfield

As I have explained, the results of research do not yet enable us to control the sulphur compounds. But I have assured the House that we are keeping in touch with the latest research and we shall, of course, put into action anything which is indicated as desirable.

26. Mr. Fletcher

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs whether, in view of the effects of smog on life and health in London and elsewhere, he will consult local authorities with a view to expediting the full operation of the Clean Air Act.

Mr. Corfield

My right hon. Friend will continue to urge and encourage local authorities to take the fastest possible action against smoke pollution in the black areas of England and Wales.

Mr. Fletcher

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that some boroughs have indicated that they do not contemplate finishing their smoke control programmes until 1975? Is not it, therefore, desirable that every step should be taken to ensure that smoke control remedies, which alone will prevent such fatalities as occurred last week, should be put into operation as speedily as possible?

Mr. Corfield

I entirely agree with the hon. Member. I assure him that the programme which will be available to the House next week will be considered in great detail, and local authorities which appear to be in any way dilatory will be urged by my right hon. Friend to make more vigorous efforts.

Mr. M. Stewart

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that Fulham sets a shining example in this respect? Will he ask the Permanent Secretary of the Department to make a speech to that effect?

Mr. Renton

Does not the original Answer of my hon. Friend show that, in general, the London boroughs have been somewhat dilatory in exercising their responsibilities under the Clean Air Act? Is not it a fact that the recent smog would have been less serious had the London boroughs been more efficient?

Mr. Corfield

I do not think that that is a fair criticism of the London boroughs. By and large, they are ahead of the rest of the country.

Back to