HC Deb 10 May 1968 vol 764 cc804-8

1.15 p.m.

The Deputy Chairman

The next Amendment is No. 8, and with it we can discuss the new Clause 2, "Exemptions from requirement to fit arrestment plant".

Mr. Maxwell

I beg to move Amendment No. 8, in page 2, line 30, leave out 'this section' and insert: 'section (Exemptions from requirement to fit arrestment plant)'. What I wanted to do here is to provide a right of appeal to the Minister. Clause 3(4) provides that the local authority may, where it sees fit, exempt an individual furnace and the requirement on the owner of the furnace to have a grit and dust arrester.

I now think that it would be better to provide that the furnace owner may apply for exemption, and that if the local authority does not grant him one he may, if he wishes, appeal to the Minister. To this end the Amendment proposes reference to the new Clause, subsection (1) of which simply reincorporates the provisions of Clause 3(3). That is merely drafting and construction.

Mr. Costain

I am rather surprised by this Amendment, because it seems to me to be rather against the use of coal as a fuel. I had expected that hon. Members who represent coal constituencies would have been here today to support my opposition to the Bill, but they are obviously licking their wounds received from other occasions.

I feel that the Amendment, which, really, is extending the provisions of the principal Act, makes them over-rigid. It seems to me that if it is accepted it will make it easier for oil companies to sell their fuel because they will not be under the necessity to install arrester plants. I think that, if the Amendment is accepted here, then when the Bill goes to another place a noble Lord whose name is not unknown in the coal industry may spot this point, and then we may find that the Bill will come back to us with Lords Amendments, because I think that there is today more enthusiasm for the use of coal than is evident from the attendance in the Committee today.

I do not see the necessity for the introduction of these extra provisions. I do not think that the hon. Member has made his case at all clear. Perhaps the Minister, who is acting as the hon. Member's long stop, may like to give the Committee some assurance that the Bill is not being designed to discourage the use of solid fuel. This Government have committed some follies, but I cannot believe they will commit the folly of introducing, by means of a Private Member's Bill, legislation which will make it more expensive and less convenient for industry to use coal. I will gladly give way to the Minister if he has any explanation to make.

Mr. MacColl

I give a clear assurance that that is not the object of the Bill. The object is to deal with clean air, which we all want. It is desirable, in view of the changing techniques of fuel and the utility and effectiveness of fuel and the kind of damage which may be caused by smoke, to have an appeals machinery so that the Minister can keep an even standard over the country.

Mr. Costain

I expected a little more explanation than that. A little bird told me—when I said that to my granddaughter the other day, she said, "Who told the little bird?"—that the Minister has consulted industry and given some assurance that this point will be met by sending out a memorandum. I expected that the reply would be that this could be covered, not by regulation but by a memorandum. May we have an assurance from the Minister that the memorandum will be sent at the same time as the enacting of this Measure?

Mr. Maxwell

I am sure that the hon. Member's fears will prove unfounded. A right of appeal was asked for by the Confederation of British Industry to safeguard the industry from local authority severity.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Costain

I beg to move Amendment No. 9, in page 2, line 33, leave out '100' and insert '250'.

The Deputy Chairman

With this Amendment we can discuss Amendments Nos. 10, 16 and 17.

Mr. Costain

This Amendment, again, is a follow-on from a previous one. Those who have studied the Committee stage of the principal Act will realise that at that time we were talking about boilers of 10 tons an hour capacity. Now the pendulum has swung completely and, instead of 10 tons an hour, we have come to 100 lb. an hour. Many industrial users take the view that we have gone too far.

This Amendment is quite moderate. It would exempt certain small furnaces. In particular, I am concerned about greenhouse furnaces. My hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Mr. John Wells) made this point on Second Reading. He is sorry that other engagements prevent his being present to support me. We have the horticulturist in mind. He is having trouble in selling his products against foreign competition. Whatever view we take of going into the Common Market, all agree that if we do go in the person who will have most trouble will be the greenhouse owner. I hope that I may have the assurance of the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Maxwell), backed by his long-stop, that this Amendment will be accepted.

Mr. Maxwell

I must ask the Committee to resist this Amendment. The figure of 100 lb. per hour was chosen because that is the level at which the emission of grit and dust begins to be significant. The working party on chimney heights, in 1961–62, recommended that control of chimney heights should operate from this level and the working party on grit and dust, which was set up in 1964 at the request of the Clean Air Council, related its inquiries to furnaces burning from 100 lb. an hour of solid fuel or its equivalent.

The experience of local authorities has been that the cumulative effect of smaller emitters of grit and dust, many of which burn at rates between 100 and 250 lb. per hour, causes more nuisance than large emitters. The time has come in the public interest to control these emissions. Technological advances made since the 1956 Act was passed enable them to be so controlled.

It is not only the fuel itself that causes emission of grit and dust. In many cases fuel is used to heat materials, such as sand, which themselves give rise to grit and dust emission in the course of heating. The Bill includes wide powers of exemption to enable both local authorities and the Minister to take into consideration exceptional cases and to treat them appropriately. I cannot admit that under the circumstances there is any case for setting our sights lower and weakening the Bill by making a general exemption for smaller furnaces, which need to be controlled in the public interest as much as the larger ones.

I made some personal inquiries among horticulturists and I cannot agree with the fear of the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain).—I therefore ask him to withdraw the Amendment.

Mr. Costain

It is not because the Minister said that it was getting near lunch time that I want to speed up this matter, but because there are many other important Bills coming forward. I am not altogether satisfied with the explanation, but I do not see very strong support for me in the Committee. If I decided to press this matter to a Division, I do not think that it would be very effective. So, with reluctance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments made: No. 12, in page 2, line 37, leave out 'dust and fumes' and insert 'and dust'.

No. 13, in page 3, leave out lines 5 to 15.

No. 15, in line 17, leave out from 'above' to end of line 20.—[Mr. Maxwell.]

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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