HC Deb 15 December 1971 vol 828 cc438-9
11. Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what further steps he intends to take to encourage the implementation of the Clean Air Act on a nationwide basis.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

My right hon. Friend is urging all local authorities to resume smoke control energetically, particularly in the so called black areas. Now that all restrictions have been removed, it is up to them to get into top gear and stay there; for our part, we will give them all possible help and encouragement.

Mr. McNair-Wilson

While thanking my hon. Friend for that answer, may I ask him whether it is not left in terms of exhortation rather than in terms of something more compulsory? Is he aware that three-quarters of premises in the North are in black areas which are without smoke control zones and that Wales has hardly been touched by them? Can my hon. Friend use greater force on local authorities to make them take action?

Mr. Griffiths

There are powers under Section 8 of the Clean Air Act to compel local authorities. But this is a big stick which I hope that local authorities will not make it necessary for my right hon. Friend to use. Local authorities now have a chance to provide cleaner air for their local populations. I hope that they will take advantage of that chance.

Mr. Marks

When does the hon. Gentleman intend to introduce legislation increasing the penalties for offences against the Clean Air Act, especially by foreign ships, since they are of considerable detriment to the success of the Act in areas which have approved it?

Mr. Griffiths

My right hon. Friend is considering the whole range of penalties for pollution offences. I am sure that he will have in mind the problem to which the hon. Gentleman has referred.

Mr. Laurance Reed

What is the objection to setting a deadline to this problem? I find that targets in respect of measures of this kind are an important motivation, especially for local authorities.

Mr. Griffiths

Now that the shortage of solid smokeless fuel has been overcome, there is no reason why the job should not be effectively complete throughout the country by the early 1980s.

Mr. Blenkinsop

While we welcome any action to speed up the programme, does not the hon. Gentleman agree that it is very important to try to get these schemes worked in with major area house improvement schemes?

Mr. Griffiths

Yes, and this is very much my right hon. Friend's policy in that he is trying to manage the development of urban policy as a whole in such a fashion that all aspects of pollution control, land use planning and transport are seen as a co-ordinated whole.