HC Deb 15 November 1965 vol 720 cc683-4
50. Mr. John Hall

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what evidence he has of danger to health from the tipping of untreated sewage from cesspools on to lands adjoining residential property.

he Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. James MacColl)

There is no specific evidence that the spreading of cesspool contents over land is a significant danger to health; but it is certainly undesirable, especially where there are houses nearby.

Mr. Hall

Is the Joint Parliamentary Secretary aware that in certain rural areas, notably in my own, it is the custom to spread untreated sewage on to fields which very often are in close proximity to residential areas and that in certain parts of my constituency there have been outbreaks of dysentery in places of this kind which the local population attribute to this custom? Can he convince the people that there is no danger to health from spreading untreated sewage in this way?

Mr. MacColl

I do not think there is any danger to health, but my right hon. Friend would not hide the fact that he regards it as an undesirable practice.

Dr. Bennett

If the official view is that the tipping of untreated sewage is not a danger and is not to be deprecated, does not that amount to saying that cesspools are in fact unnecessary?

Mr. MacColI

I did not say that the practice was not to be deprecated. In fact I said that my right hon. Friend did deprecate it. I said that there was no convincing evidence that it was a danger to health.

Sir R. Thompson

Would the Joint Parliamentary Secretary look at this matter again? Does he realise that a few years ago the discharge of untreated sewage into the sea caused a major scandal and gave rise to grave doubts as to whether this really was a safe practice? Might not the same considerations apply when it is spread over land?

Mr. MacColI

The discharge of untreated sewage into the sea has not been found to be a danger to health. It has been found to be a very unpleasant practice which as far as possible should be avoided.