HC Deb 03 August 1965 vol 717 cc1323-5

5.40 p.m.

Mr. Robert Edwards (Bilston)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to give further powers to local authorities to take action against the pollution of the air. The genesis of this Motion had its origin in my constituency about five years ago when the Minister of Housing and Local Government, against the wishes of the local authority, granted permission to a large industrial undertaking to extend its production. As a consequence, the air in a vast area of my constituency has been polluted and hundreds of good people have an unremitting struggle to keep dust, filth and smoke out of their homes. Their lives are becoming a nightmare. When the wind is in a certain direction, the local school has to close its windows and the children have to be brought in from the playground. We have lost control of our environment, and when man loses control of his environment he becomes a slave. It is time that we gave local authorities power to prevent a situation like this from developing in other parts of the country.

Far be it from me in this short speech to denigrate the value of the Clean Air Act, but in the 2,000 smokeless areas throughout the country hundreds of tons of coal are sold against the very principles for which the Clean Air Act was passed. Hundreds of tons of bitumous coal are being sold in smokeless areas and, although local authorities have power to prosecute householders, they have no power to act against coal merchants.

Apart from the areas covered by smokeless zones, great industrial centres are having to face an increasing problem of air pollution. Local authorities do not have adequate power to deal with the problem. We take great pains to guarantee that our water supplies are clean and pure and we must make the same efforts to see that the air we breathe, air which we consume much more continuously to live than we consume drinking water, is pure and clean.

The pollution of our air is committed by man and man cannot easily remove himself from the areas which he pollutes. He has to work, live, sleep and play often enough in the areas where his industrial activities pollute the atmosphere. At least we ought to be able in this century to get rid of sources of air pollution and prevent new sources from arising. We ought to be able to amend our legislation in such a way that we can reduce this hazard which puts hundreds of people into hospital beds, which makes the lives of hundreds of thousands of people a misery from bronchitis and other chest diseases, and which sends many citizens to a premature grave.

For that and many other reasons which hon. Members will know from their own experience, I hope that the House will give me permission to bring in a modest Bill to amend existing legislation so as to give local authorities more power to guarantee the health of the people whom they represent.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Robert Edwards, Mr. Frank Allaun, Mr. Ioan L. Evans, Mr. Owen, Mr. Rhodes, Mr. A. Henderson, and Mr. Bradley.