§ 10.11 p.m.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
I beg to move,That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the Alkali, &c. Works Order, 1961 (S.I., 1961, No. 2261), dated 23rd November, 1961, a copy of which was laid before this House on 28th November, be annulled.The effect of this Order is to extend the list of offensive and noxious gases which are mentioned in the original Act of 1906, and, of course, also the works from which they are emitted. The gases are listed in the First Schedule to the Order and the works are listed in the Second Schedule.
My purpose in praying against the Order is twofold in the main. First, I want to enable the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government to give me in some detail the reasons for adding these works and noxious gases to the list and to answer some of the questions which I shall put to him. Secondly, I am glad of an opportunity of drawing attention to the work which is done by the Alkali Inspectorate and the watchful care they have over new and dangerous processes.
I am mindful of our discussions during the passage in Committee of the Clean Air Act in 1956 when it was agreed that there should be an appreciable increase in the number of the Inspectorate. This has been achieved. Certainly in my own constituency there are now two resident where we had none. The nearest used to be in Birmingham, quite a distance from Stoke-on-Trent.
Having achieved an increase in number, I should also like to say that my study of the problem leads me to believe that men of this calibre are difficult to recruit. They are very highly skilled, and, indeed, they have to be in order to give the public protection from so many of these new products that appear from time to time and which are so dangerous.
In article 4 of the Order I find that the definition of "Caustic Soda Works" has been extended by adding paragraph (b) which refers to 838black liquor produced in the manufacture of paper…calcined in the recovery of caustic soda.I have looked at the Reports of the Chief Inspector for England and for Scotland in 1960. In the Scottish Report there is mention of the emission of dark smoke and fumes from one factory. First, how is it that the process is covered in Scotland, and has been so covered for some time, but not in England, and that England now has to be covered in the Order? Secondly, how many factories manufacture paper in this way? I gather that it is made from esparto grass, which creates a pretty offensive black smoke as well as a mist. I am not sure whether there is a mist, but certainly black smoke results. Offences are taking place every day in English factories. Perhaps that is why the Order is presented. I should like some details about that.
It is said in the 1960 Report on English factories that until coal is no longer used in firing the crucibles and until some other fuel is found we may not be able to solve this problem of black smoke being emitted. Have any steps been taken to see whether some other fuel is available which could be used satisfactorily?
I notice that at the bottom of the list one of the gases mentioned is carbon-monoxide. This gas, a deadly gas, of course, is emitted in certain iron and carbonisation processes. I should like details of what action has been taken to ensure that this gas is so diffused that it is not dangerous to people living in the vicinity where it is emitted. What sort of stacks are being used? Is the gas being burned or merely dissipated from a high stack?
I should like to refer to the fumes containing sodium, potassium or their compounds. These processes were listed in the 1958 Order with reference to smoke, grit or dust. Now they are listed with reference to fumes. What new features cause them to be mentioned with reference to fumes? Is the problem the salt glazing of earthenware drainpipes from which acid emissions and a salt mist are produced? Mention was made in the 1960 Report to the need for chimneys of a height of at least 120 ft. in order to disperse these emissions so that there is safety for those who live 839 in the vicinity. First, have any chimneys of this height been constructed for this purpose? Secondly, in salt glazing, which is responsible for this chlorine or hydro-chloric acid mist, has no substitute been found for salt to overcome a dangerous nuisance?
I now wish to ask questions about the three metallic substances, uranium, beryllium and selenium. I should have thought that these would have been listed a long time ago. It is common knowledge that they are dangerous. I do not know why so much time has elapsed before the Alkali Inspectorate has taken them under its control. It may be that the Inspectorate has always been in touch with industry informally. It is not a secret matter, for the Inspectorate has claimed that industry has invariably taken its advice throughout these years when the Inspectorate has given advice and that it has watched carefully what has been going on.
I note in the Order that the only type of uranium with which we are dealing is uranium so far as it may be a toxic material and not in its radioactive form. In other words, it is untreated. I presume that we are dealing with the processing of uranium and its refinement and preparation before it is handed over for treatment to make it radioactive. There may be other uses for uranium of which I am not aware.
I see that the Order excludes works which are licensed under the Nuclear Installations (Licensing and Insurance) Act, 1959, and that we exclude also nuclear reactors and operations that involve fission products from nuclear reactors. I accept that we are here treating uranium as a toxic material as if it were lead, which is also a toxic material. Are there not, however, occasions or works or processes where the danger is both from the element of uranium as a toxic material and uranium because it is also at the same time radioactive?
What does the Inspectorate do in these conditions? I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us of the care and watchfulness of the Inspectorate over the installations which are here exempted, because such care has been taken and there have been innumerable inspections. It must, however, be the 840 bounden duty of the Inspectorate to inspect if the metal is both toxic in the normal sense and dangerous because of radioactivity. It is a problem in the main of simple, straightforward chemical engineering, but there is the other complication that there may be times when the material is also radioactive.
Beryllium has been used to a great extent and is still greatly used for many purposes. I do not know them all, but we know that it is used in crystalline form for transistors and used in fluorescent lighting. It certainly was used as containers for the slugs of radioactive uranium. But beryllium is a very light material which allows radioactivity to pass through it easily.
I noted in the Press that I.C.I. is closing down, near Birmingham, a £1½ million beryllium installation, which suggests to me that we may have overproduced or that other materials have been found which are more suitable than beryllium for some of the purposes. It is, however, an extremely toxic material in its fume form. It is about 250 times as toxic as the trioxide of arsenic. That being the case, the very greatest care has to be taken.
I do not think that we have had any deaths in this country, but that is partly because we were able to gain an advantage by virtue of what happened in the United States. There, the first cases of poisoning were reported in 1943 and 400 cases of lung disease were described in 1949. Not only was sickness and death found in the factories, but a number of people were affected who lived in the neighbourhood of the factories amongst the ordinary population outside. Therefore, I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary—and it is a rather strange question to ask—how is it and why is it we have been able to escape damage, as we certainly have done? What methods of filtration are in use, and how is it that anything contained in the fumes is filtered out and taken away so that the public is not affected?
Selenium is a substance listed here, and it also is very toxic, affecting particularly the lungs and trachea. It is as toxic as cadmium which, for some strange reason, is not listed this year. I would have thought it would have been. It may be that the Parliamentary Secretary, if this would not be out of order, 841 could give us some assurance that cadmium, which caused quite a number of deaths in this country until recently when we discovered its danger, will be listed and brought under the full care of the Alkali Inspectorate. I ask what are the preventive methods in use against selenium. How are these surplus compounds disposed of? If they are pumped into a stream they poison cattle which drink the water downstream. If they are burned they give off gas which is extremely offensive because of its garlic-like stench.
I have asked a number of questions, perhaps too many, but I would say lastly that I am not asking them because I have not the highest respect for the Alkali Inspectorate, but because I think it is a good thing that we should have as much assurance as possible. I should like to hear from the Parliamentary Secretary that the Alkali Inspectorate will be increased in number and not allowed ever to fall in numbers, and that acceptance will be given to the fact that they have to have very rare qualifications and that they are, therefore, difficult to recruit, and that, therefore, their salary scales and conditions of work will be such that we shall always get at least the protection we have had up to now.
§ 10.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerald Nabarro (Kidderminster)
I rise to welcome an Order which expands the provisions of Section 27 of the Alkali, &c. Works Regulation Act, 1906, and Section 17 of the Clean Air Act, 1956. Of course, this is evidence, contained in this Order, of the progressive thought which the Ministry of Housing and Local Government shows in watching new developments which may give rise in the industrial sphere to the emission of noxious fumes and asphyxiatory gases from a variety of processes in industry.
We had some lengthy discussion of these matters during the passage of the Clean Air Bill in 1956, and on that occasion a good deal of apprehension was expressed as to the adequacy of the Alkali Inspectorate to deal with these very difficult chemical and associated processes, having regard to the very thinness of the Inspectorate on the ground at that time. I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary, there 842 fore, a number of questions about the strength and efficacy of the Alkali Inspectorate today and its competence numerically and otherwise to deal with the very substantial number of additional establishments which will fall within its ambit of responsibility if this Order is passed by the House.
Would the Parliamentary Secretary tell us how many establishments prior to the laying of this Order came within Section 27 of the 1906 Act and Section 17 of the Clean Air Act and how many additional establishments there will be brought within the jurisdiction of the Alkali Inspectorate as a result of this Order, if it is approved by the Hausa tonight? That is my first question to him. The second question arising from that is, what expansion of the Alkali Inspectorate has taken place in the last five years since questions were asked of the Minister or his predecessor in 1956, and what further expansion of the Alkali Inspectorate is now envisaged as a result of the substantial increase in the number of establishments to be controlled if this Order is approved?
It is not an insignificant list, for example, in the Second Schedule. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Dr. Stross) has briefly named all the processes concerned, but they are very difficult and technical processes and will occupy a great deal of attention on the part of the Alkali Inspectorate. I would not like the Parliamentary Secretary to reply in a sense that the existing Inspectorate will be capable and competent, having regard to the small numbers within the Inspectorate, to control this large addition to the number of establishments.
My third question to the Parliamentary Secretary is in connection with beryllium. As far as I am aware, beryllium has been made only at the Imperial Chemical Industries metals division at Witton, Birmingham. That plant is to be closed. As far as I am aware, there is no other plant in the country making beryllium and, presumably, if that plant is to be shut down the process is regarded as obsolescent. As beryllium made an important contribution to nuclear and other process and manufactures, I should like my hon. Friend to say what processes are to take the place 843 of beryllium in I.C.I. or elsewhere and why they are not listed in this Order as replacement processes.
My fourth question is a curious one and is in connection with the listing in the First Schedule of carbon monoxide. The emission of carbon monoxide from static works establishments is relatively tiny compared with the huge volume of carbon monoxide put into the atmosphere through the exhausts of vehicles, What is the Parliamentary Secretary endeavouring to cover here by the words "carbon monoxide"? Do they cover diesel powered units in factories, for example, which are equivalent to a diesel engine in a heavy commercial vehicle? If it is that kind of plant in a factory emitting carbon monoxide that he is seeking to bring within the ambit of the powers of the Alkali Inspectorate, why is it not possible for the Government to extend it to cover the major nuisance, which is the emission of the same carbon monoxide in huge volumes from the exhausts of diesel oil powered commercial vehicles on our roads?
My hon. Friend is attacking here the tiny nuisance in the emission of carbon monoxide from fixed, static plants in factories and neglecting to observe or cover under this Act or elsewhere the major nuisance of the emission of these fumes in large quantities, often in confined places, which, particularly in hot weather, cause such a grave nuisance to urban communities and in built-up areas.
With these questions, I should like to thank the Minister of Housing and Local Government for keeping a very watchful eye on an essential part of the clean air legislation, for continuously bringing up to date the processes that are responsible for singularly noxious fumes in industry, and for observing meticulously those recent processes which may give rise to the greatest inconvenience and nuisance in the vicinity of works emitting noxious fumes by bringing them within the ambit of the 1906 Act and Section 6 of the Clean Air Act, 1956.
§ 10.40 p.m.
§ Mr. R. E. Winterbottom (Sheffield, Brightside)
There are one or two questions that I want to ask in connection with the Order, and they are principally questions that relate to the City of 844 Sheffield, which has been very conspicuous in all discussions concerning clean air. There are one or two questions that I should like to ask because of the interest that I took in the subject at the time that we dealt with the Clean Air Act.
I should like to know whether or not the Clean Air Council is still in being, whether or not it has examined the matters contained in the Order and whether or not it has functioned in its purposes as provided for in the Act and made recommendations to the Minister. As originally conceived, the Council was one of the things of great value that came out of the Act, and I should not like to think that it had fallen into desuetude.
With regard to the First Schedule and the question of carbon monoxide, I agree with all that the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) has said, but that has not completely eliminated the carbon monoxide emitted in soot by factories. By reason of their location, certain factories can become rather dangerous to industrial conurbations. In my constituency a new factory has been erected to make gas from oil, and as a result of the process 10 tons of carbon monoxide per day are emitted into the atmosphere. I grant that the prevailing winds take most of the effluent away from the industrial conurbation. During the planning it was decided to build a chimney higher than the 120 ft. suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross)—in fact, to 180 ft.—but that has not completely destroyed the effect of that type of effluent.
I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to bring to the notice of the Clean Air Council and the Minister the need to keep a close scrutiny over establishments of this kind where gas is made from oil and emissions of this kind occur, especially where it is not possible to carry out washing of the effluent to limit the amount of carbon monoxide emitted. The Minister should ensure that such factories are not built close to industrial conurbations.
I have no quarrel with the Second Schedule. In fact, only one point arises out of the Order. Under Section 17 (2) of the Clean Air Act special permission could be given by the Minister for towns and cities which proved that they had 845 made provision to have complete or partial control of their area. Sheffield was granted partial control over its atmosphere. There were certain restrictions at the time, certain matters being left in the hands of the Alkali Inspectorate. My question is about the application of this Order to the Order made to deal with the special conditions of Sheffield and how much of it will be controlled by the municipal abatement authorities, covering not only Sheffield but other districts in the vicinity. How much of the control will remain with the clean air committee centralised in Sheffield?
I do not say that because we want a clear line of demarcation between the duties of the authorities in Sheffield and those of the Alkali Inspectorate. I do not want to suggest that there is any confusion between the two. Since the special dispensation given to Sheffield, the arrangements between the Sheffield authorities and the Inspectorate have been first-class. With the co-operation of the Fuel and Power Group in Sheffield University, they have been making a worth-while contribution to the cause of clean air in Sheffield. However, I do want to know how Sheffield's authority stands with this Order.
When we began discussing clean air legislation, when the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) introduced his Private Member's Clean Air Bill, the Inspectorate numbered seven. The intention of the Clean Air Act was to increase that number to 13. How many are now employed? It was appreciated when we passed the Act, especially when we dealt with Section 17 (2), that the Inspectorate was grossly under-staffed to do the jab we had placed on its shoulders. Are there now sufficient qualified alkali inspectors to do the work?
§ 10.43 p.m.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
The abject of the Order is to extend the classes of fumes which are included in the list of noxious or offensive gases—that is done in the First Schedule—and, in the Second Schedule, to include the types of works which are mentioned in the Schedule of the Alkali &c. Works Regulation Act, 1906, and therefore subject to inspection. That may be the intention of the Order, but its effect 846 will depend on the Inspectorate in charge of these matters, that is, the Alkali Inspectorate, which is responsible to the Minister of Housing and Local Government.
I see from the Estimates that for the coming year the Alkali Inspectorate is to consist of a chief and two deputy chiefs, twelve district and ten other inspectors—although at the moment there are only seven inspectors. From the Second Schedule of the Order one finds that the uranium works which are included are those which are not works licensed under the Nuclear Installations (Licensing and Insurance) Act, 1959. But those latter works, which are also uranium works but not included for this purpose, are inspected in their turn by another inspectorate, the Inspectors of Nuclear Installations. This is a body somewhat more formidable than the Alkali Inspectorate and, again according to the Estimates, consists of a chief and two assistant, five principal, fourteen senior and twelve other inspectors, all the latter twelve being a innovation for the coming year. So we have, on the one hand, a total manpower of 25 alkali inspectors, including chiefs, and on the other, 44 inspectors of nuclear installations.
The point is that the inspectors of nuclear installations are to go into uranium works for the purpose of seeing whether they are dangerous or not, while, from a different point of view, the alkali inspectors are to go in for the purpose of ascertaining whether they are dangerous because they emit noxious substances within, I understand, the meaning and intention of the clear air legislation. The result appears to be that one set of uranium works—those concerned with nuclear installations—are to be inspected for one purpose by one set of inspectors while they will be inspected for another purpose by the other set of inspectors.
What is to happen if uranium works "do the dirty" on the Government, and those which are being inspected for one kind of danger proceed to cause the other danger? What if there are noxious and offensive gases emanating from uranium works being inspected by inspectors of nuclear installations or there are atomic emissions of some sort from those being inspected by the alkali inspectors? What 847 appears to be a somewhat frivolous question is a very real one. We do not want, by some distinction between departments and inspectors, to avoid danger in one place and encourage it in another.
I would have thought it doubtful that we should want two sets of inspectors for uranium works. I see that their functions are slightly different, but these are very highly qualified men. There appears to be considerable difficulty, certainly in recruiting alkali inspectors, whose shortage for the past few years has been notorious. They are excellent when we get them, but there are not enough of them. As far as I can see, inspectors of nuclear installations may be in the same position. I notice that the junior grades are all to be new. I do not know how the figure of a dozen was arrived at, but a dozen are to be new in the coming year.
All this indicates that an addition was necessary and that the number previously working was quite insufficient for the job. Perhaps the Joint Parliamentary Secretary can tell us why it is that there are two separate sets of inspectors, how it is that, in both cases, their numbers have been short, and what he proposes to do to deal with the divergence of functions and the possibilities of works going "naughty" in emitting the wrong sort of danger which I have indicated. If the Government did the wrong thing under the nuclear installations legislation, why do they continue to do the wrong thing under the Clean Air Act? Here I should point out that the divergence in the penalties under the two Acts seems to be rather odd, especially as both deal with uranium works.
How on earth do the Government and their advisers manage to leave carbon monoxide out? I should have thought this the most obvious thing to put in. I can reassure the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro). It is not the Ministry of Housing and Local Government but the Ministry of Transport which is causing total stoppage of traffic in London and is, therefore, dealing with any questions of emission of dangerous fumes from motor vehicles. More seriously, however,—carbon monoxide is something which might well happen and does happen in many industrial processes and should certainly have been considered to be amongst noxious gases.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I have often missed the hon. Gentleman's point, but when I have risen to interrupt him he has invariably refused to give way and I am going to do the same tonight. If he will treat me a bit better, I will treat him a bit better.
I turn from that to the Second Schedule. Here we are dealing with uranium, beryllium and selenium. Uranium and beryllium, at any rate, are closely connected with nuclear reactors. I am quoting from The Three Banks Review and from an article written in it by the Chairman of the Central Electricity Generating Board and, I think, of the Atomic Energy Authority, too—no, I beg the pardon of the House, I see that that is not so. I refer to Sir Christopher Hinton, who, at any rate, is a well-known authority on these matters. He says:Present reactor practice takes both the uranium and the magnesium alloyto a certain heat and containing it in cans of beryllium or stainless steel. Then he goes on to point out that there are difficulties about the use of beryllium and stainless steel as canning materials, and the result is that both have been tried and, as the hon. Member for Kidderminster pointed out, the manufacture of beryllium in the only place where one knows it to have been manufactured has recently been discontinued.
Where we are dealing with beryllium and uranium, is it possible to draw a clear line between cases where its manufacture may result in the noxious fumes of the kind we are dealing with tonight and cases where the material or its handling may result in perils which are called nuclear perils—or radiation perils if hon. Members prefer? One of the main uses of these two materials at any rate, and certainly the one most publicly known, is in connection with nuclear installations, and it seems very odd that they should be dealt with by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, and managed as it were under this Order.
I am glad to see that the Parliamentary Secretary for Science is sitting next to the Parliamentary Secretary to the 849 Ministry of Housing and Local Government. I should like to know what steps are taken to consult the Ministry for Science before decisions are made as to the type of inspectorate and the type of danger which is involved in installations of this kind. Has there been full consultation, and what was said? It would be interesting to know. Did they and do they cordially support the rather remarkable division which I have just indicated?
Lastly, I turn to selenium. I come to it in a spirit of inquiry. I once had to deal with it for many many long days in a piece of litigation. I have never forgotten it. Its peculiarity appeared to be that its conductivity of electric current varied with its exposure to light. For that reason it had a use in the making of photo-electric cells. But it had another peculiarity, that it was about the most unstable element one could possibly find. I should like very much to know what happens in the manufacture of selenium and what it is used for. Is it entirely for photo-electric cells, and is it really the case that in the process of decomposition—like some Government or another—it emits a number of noxious fumes? I shall be interested to learn a little more about the material.
I have a feeling that this Order may well be justifiable. It is somewhat unintelligible in its language and even more unintelligible when one tries to find out what it is about. I think that my hon. Friends and myself have been perfectly right to pray for its annulment, not in the expectation that it would be annulled, but in order to elicit the real purpose of the Order; whether it is the right instrument for the purpose and whether the public are being properly protected both against the dirty air, in the sense of air containing noxious fumes, and against dirty air in the sense of air which may contain some dangerous radiation. I hope that I do not sound too suspicious in what I am saying, but I think we owe a duty to the public to raise these things.
§ 10.55 p.m.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Geoffrey Rippon)
I perfectly well understand that hon. Members on both sides of the House 850 welcome this Order but at the same time are naturally anxious to discuss its effect. I think everyone who has participated in this debate is fully conscious of the importance of the subject.
I can assure the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Winterbottom) that the Clean Air Council still functions. It is very active. In Sheffield the powers and duties under any Order made under Section 17 (2) of the Clean Air Act will not be affected. I appreciated, and I am sure that the Alkali Inspectorate will appreciate, the remarks of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) about its members. They are highly skilled people. Their job calls for great knowledge of technical matters. I feel by no means comfortable standing here as an expert witness on some of these matters with which they deal so easily. As the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) said, in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), they now number twenty-five. That is not a great many for the job they do, but in the nature of things the skills they employ make it difficult to recruit people of the right calibre.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster said that this Order marks a stage in our efforts to secure clean air. It is an example of progressive thought in our Ministry. I hope that "progressive" is not a dirty ward to many hon. Members present. We have indeed come a very long way since the first Chief Alkali Inspector began his report in 1872 with the wards:In former years when I reported on the escape of muriatic acid from alkali works, being rather weary of the monotony as well as the narrowness of the subject I commenced inquiries into other gasesJust how much has happened since then is illustrated by Stoke-on-Trent. There in 1938 there were 2,000 coal-fired bottle kilns. When the 1958 Alkali Order became operative there were 295 and today there are about 100. The number will be further reduced. The final disappearance of the bottle kiln will see the end of this nuisance of the smoke problem in the pottery industry. That is why we are able to make further progress.
The medical officer of the Local Government Board in 1878, talking 851 about Stoke-on-Trent vomiting black smoke from chimneys, said:Certainly it is not conducive to mental exhilaration and, inasmuch as it fouls the skin and clothing and sometimes compels householders to close the windows of their houses to keep it out, must be on these accounts alone unfavourable to public health, especially among children and classes of persons not much given to ablution.We have come some way in Stoke-on-Trent since those days.
§ Dr. Stross
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for pointing out how much has been done in Stoke-on-Trent. Is he aware that the atmosphere has been now so much improved there that I think it is a little better than that of Kensington?
§ Mr. Rippon
I hope that the paint-work of the Civic Trust project is still as bright as when I last saw it.
As the House knows, where a works is listed as registrable under the Alkali &c. Works Regulation Act, 1906, the best practicable means must be used to prevent it from emitting the noxious and offensive gases listed in the Act or now, under Section 17 of the Clean Air Act, 1956, smoke grit and dust.
Section 4 of the Public Health (Smoke Abatement) Act, 1926, as extended by Section 17 of the 1956 Act gives the Minister of Housing and Local Government power to make Orders extending the list of registrable works and the list of noxious or offensive gases in the Alkali Act. Before making such an order my right hon. Friend must consult the local authorities and the other responsible interests concerned, and he must hold a public inquiry. It is perhaps of interest to know that in this case there were no objections to the Draft Order and that when we held the public inquiry it lasted only sixteen minutes. That may satisfy the House that the Order is welcome to the local authority associations, trade associations and other interested parties.
The Order does three things. First, as the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central pointed out, it adds beryllium works, selenium works, and certain uranium works to the list of works registrable, and the fumes containing beryllium, selenium or uranium or their compounds to the list of noxious or offensive gases.
852 I agree with what the hon. Member said about the toxic nature of these gases. Beryllium is 250 times as toxic as arsenic, selenium is five times as toxic and uranium is twice as toxic. Beryllium and selenium are rare and costly materials. The hon. Member talked about overproduction. I am told that fabricated beryllium costs about £300,000 a ton. It is not surprising, therefore, that there are not many producers, but even after I.C.I. have dropped out of the business, it may be of comfort to the hon. and learned Member for Kettering to know, there will still be some works left in this country which will be covered by this Order.
§ Mr. Rippon
It is a very light metal, and I understand that it is principally used for alloying with copper. It is used for containers for uranium slugs. It is used in small aircraft parts and in matters of that kind.
Selenium, as the hon. and learned Member pointed out, is used principally in the electrical industry. Most of the uranium processes involve hazards which are primarily radioactive and, therefore, they are controllable under the Atomic Energy Authority Act, 1954, and the Nuclear Installations (Licensing and Insurance) Act, 1959, and they will be controllable under the Radioactive Substances Act, 1960. There are, however, a handful of works with which this Order deals which are processing uranium and in which the hazard is primarily toxic. This Order brings them formally under the Alkali Act.
§ Mr. Winterbottom
May I probe this a little deeper? If these ores are used in an electric are furnace under 30 tons, how is it that they do not come under the Sheffield Order, for the Order specifically gives power in respect of an electric are furnace under 30 tons?
§ Mr. Rippon
I am afraid that I cannot debate what is in the Sheffield Order under Section 17 (2) of the Clean Air Act, 1956. All I can say about this Order is that it does not affect whatever powers Sheffield may have succeeded in securing under that statutory provision.
As the hon. and learned Member for Kettering pointed out, the Second 853 Schedule provides that the Order excludes uranium works which are licensed under the Nuclear Installations (Licensing and Insurance) Act, 1959, as well as other nuclear reactors and operations involving fission products from nuclear reactors where any hazards are essentially of a radioactive nature. Both he and the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central asked what the position was in respect of factories where both processes were involved: first, processes where the hazards were fundamentally of a radioactive nature and, secondly, processes where the hazards were fundamentally of a toxic nature. I understand that in this case administrative arrangements have been made which will ensure that any requirements imposed under the Alkali Act are consistent with the requirements imposed under other Statutes to safeguard against radioactive risks.
It would be quite wrong to think that nothing has been done about any of these matters before the Order will come into force. In the absence of Statutory powers, the Alkali Inspectorate has on my right hon. Friend's instructions kept in close touch with the industries concerned with these three products. Managements are always willing to cooperate, and very satisfactory standards have been achieved. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central asked why we in this country had not had the damaging effects which have been noticed elsewhere. As a result of these informal arrangements, we have managed to achieve a very high degree of efficiency. Any emissions are filtered very thoroughly. The protection is absolute—99.9 per cent. plus. The fact that the Inspectorate's advice has been invariably accepted and the fact that these informal arrangements work satisfactorily is no reason why the informal arrangements should not be replaced by the proper Statutory methods. That is the reason for the Order.
The second thing the Order does is to add carbon monoxide and sodium and potassium fumes to the noxious or offensive gases the emission of which from registrable works comes under the provisions of the Alkali Act. What happened was this. The 1958 Order brought under the Alkali Act a large number of new processes because they 854 emitted smoke, grit and dust. As a result of the expertise of our Inspectorate going round and doing this job, it has been found that besides emitting smoke, grit and dust some of these processes emit gases which are noxious or offensive but are not formally so listed in the Act. The mischief against which the Order is directed is the emission of carbon monoxide which is evolved during certain iron and carbonisation processes, sodium and potassium compounds evolved during the salt glazing of earthenware—so far as I know, no alternative process can be employed in regard to salt glazing—and sodium compounds evolved in certain aluminium processes. Here again, and with the ready co-operation of the industry, the Inspectorate has been taking steps to ensure that the emission of these gases is properly controlled. Here again, the Order is merely putting into formal Statutory form what is already being done.
The third thing the Order does is to extend the definition of caustic soda works so as to bring under the Alkali Act a process used by paper mills producing pulp from esparto grass which involves the emission of dark smoke and fumes. I understand that about twenty-five works are affected. I am told that these emissions are more of a nuisance than a danger to public health, so there have not been the same informal arrangements in this case.
I was asked why Scotland had got in first. I thought that it looked as if Scotland was quicker off the mark, but in fact Scotland was slower. The English 1958 Order came out first, and this process was omitted from it. The Scottish Order was later and, therefore, more up to date in this respect. It is only this one matter which is covered in Scotland at the moment, but I understand that it is intended in due course to bring the other matters covered by the present Order under the Alkali Act in Scotland.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster asked a specific question about the I.C.I. works. I am informed by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary for Science—the hon. and learned Member for Kettering will be glad to hear that we are in very close contact about these matters—that the Atomic Energy Authority had hoped to 855 use beryllium containers for fuel elements in the advanced gas-cooled reactor now being developed at Windscale, but it found that some of the beryllium problems are insoluble. The Authority decided to use stainless steel instead. Hence, it is negotiating with I.C.I. and another firm to close down the beryllium works, on payment of adequate compensation, which seems reasonable and proper. As I said, there are still other beryllium works which will be covered by this Order.
§ Mr. Nabarro
Would my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary apply himself to a major question that I asked? The Government have put into this Order carbon monoxide, thereby seeking to control the emission of noxious carbon monoxide produced from static plants such as auto-diesel sets employed in factories. Why are the Government neglecting the major nuisance, notably in urban areas, of the huge emission of carbon monoxide from diesel oil-powered vehicles?
§ Mr. Rippon
Let us hope we can debate it on another Order one of these days. I appreciate that I may not have covered all the technical matters which have been put before me. I hope the hon. Gentleman will withdraw his Motion in the hope that our next Order will be even better.
§ Dr. Stross
In view of the reply which we have received, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.