HC Deb 31 March 1971 vol 814 cc1476-9
12. Mr. David Clark

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the First Report of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution.

Mr. Peter Walker

I strongly welcome this Report and I look forward to the future contribution the Commission can make to the development of our policy. I particularly welcome their intention to study the pollution of estuaries and inshore seas. I cannot forecast a date for their next report. My right hon. Friends and I are losing no time in studying their recommendations and in preparing to take the action that is needed.

Mr. Clark

I thank the right hon. Gentleman and I associate myself with his welcome to the Report. Is he aware, however, that there is a feeling in some quarters that the Commissioners have perhaps dealt with what I call certain "trendy" aspects of policy and have not paid enough attention to the historical industrial dereliction problems?

Mr. Walker

Over all, I thought it was a good Report and fairly objective and that perhaps it did not pursue some of the more fashionable lines which the Royal Commission might have been tempted to do. In my talks with Sir Eric Ashby and others, I found that they are fully aware of the problems of the clearance of derelict land.

Sir R. Thompson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that more and more people are becoming seriously alarmed at the decay in their environment and that anything he can do to speed up implementation even of parts of this Report will be very welcome to the country at large?

Mr. Walker

Already in terms of certain planning matters relating to water, air and noise pollution we have taken quite a few measures.

Sir G. de Freitas

Since the Report is so widely accepted as being enormously important, will the right hon. Gentleman do all he can to get a debate in the House on it?

Mr. Walker

I should be happy to have a debate, but that is not a question for me.

27. Mr. Fox

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether, in the light of the First Report of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, he will initiate further research into the effects of pollution from road vehicles; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Peter Walker

I agree that further research is needed and plan to ensure that it is carried out. I am arranging for up-to-date measurements of lead concentrations to be obtained and will publish the results.

Mr. Fox

Would my right hon. Friend bear in mind that any increase of costs on the consumer or user would be quite intolerable and so unacceptable?

Mr. Walker

We have to make a proper estimate of the dangers which may or may not exist and that is why I am seeking the most up-to-date information, and I will make an assessment on that.

Mr. Atkinson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his predecessor promised the House that he would look into the possibility of appointing engineers to the Royal Commission, other than the Chairman who was already there and who is a chemical engineer? Will he now promise to do that? Secondly, will he ask the Royal Commission to look into the dangers of pollution posed by the introduction into this country of the Wankel rotary engine and ask the Commission to give priority to a study of this engine, because it is believed by many leading engineers in this country and elsewhere that the Wankel rotary engine has a greater effect on pollution than the orthodox, traditional engine now used in this country?

Mr. Walker

I take note of the hon. Member's suggestion and I will certainly convey it to the Chairman, but this is the sort of work which is in the hands of the Commission and is not directed by me. However, I will bring the hon. Member's remarks to the attention of the Commission.

28. Mr. Fox

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps he proposes to take, in the light of the First Report of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, further to reduce traffic noise.

Mr. Peyton

I have already published proposals to reduce as from 1st October, 1973, the maximum permitted noise levels for most types of new vehicles.

Mr. Fox

In thanking my hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask him whether he will bear in mind that the previous Government announced steps in this direction, and that to get the desirable results we need enforcement?

Mr. Peyton

Yes, I entirely accept what my hon. Friend said, and we shall look for enforcement by realistic regulations. There has been some disappointment in this field in the past. I certainly do not intend to relax the pressure.

Mr. Kaufman

On the subject of traffic noise, would the Minister take power to provide financial compensation—for example, to my constituents in New Bank Street, Longsight, whose homes are being made almost uninhabitable by noise from freight liner traffic passing by, and who need to double-glaze their homes to rid themselves of this intolerable noise?

Mr. Peyton

No, I could not promise compensation of the kind the hon. Member suggests. That is not to say that I am not well aware of this nuisance. I am certain that long-term plans have to be made to disperse heavy traffic out of heavily populated centres.

Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

Will my hon. Friend not agree that enforcement is for the police and that they need a hand-held noise meter? Will my hon. Friend tell me what steps are being taken by his Department to produce such a meter?

Mr. Peyton

There are quite a number of successful prosecutions every year—about 12,000. I should like my hon. Friend to put down a Question on this subject and I will certainly conduct further researches into it, but my present prospects of producing a satisfactory hand-held noise meter are, I am bound to say, slightly remote.