HL Deb 24 February 1876 vol 227 cc790-1

presented a Petition from a meeting of Lancashire and Cheshire Associations for controlling the escape of noxious vapours and fluids, and others, praying for amendment of the law respecting Noxious Vapours. The noble Lord said, that in 1863 an Act was passed dealing with noxious vapours evolved in certain manufacturing processes; it was limited in its operation, however, to those chemical works from which there was a large escape of muriatic gas. After that statute was passed the manufacture of chemicals had become a vast industry, and the number of alkali works in certain localities was largely increased. The consequence was that the Act of 1863 had proved insufficient to prevent the evils that it was intended to meet. In consequence, an Amendment Act was passed in 1874, by which the restrictions of the Act of 1863 were extended to other products. This Act, like the former, had, owing to the increase in the number of chemical works, proved insufficient to meet the evils which had since grown up. In the district with which he was himself connected alkali works had greatly increased in number of late years, there being 20 now for one that there was formerly; and an escape of 5 per cent being allowed by law, the whole escape was something very serious, and the consequences to property highly destructive. A meeting composed of persons deeply interested in the industry of Lancashire had consequently been hold to consider the subject, and to deliberate on the best course to be adopted. Having represented Lancashire for many years in the other House, he knew what the difficulty was of legislating efficiently on the subject, and that difficulty was recognized at the meeting to which he referred. The Petitioners themselves were for the most part persons interested in the prosperity of manufactures, and consequently had no wish to interfere with these industries; but they felt that science could find a remedy for a state of things which was injuring health and destroying vegetation over large districts—there would therefore be no opposition to further legislation, provided it did not unduly restrict the operations of the different branches of manufacture and industry. At the present moment, however, such legislation had become an absolute necessity. No one could go through the country without being made uncomfortably aware of the presence of those noxious vapours. He had never seen worse destruction than they had caused on the estate of a friend of his in Cheshire. The trees upon it were like a forest of masts even in midsummer; and while formerly there were oaks upon it worth £100 a-piece, it would now be difficult to find one worth as many shillings; and from being in possession of one of the finest spots in the country, he was now seriously thinking of withdrawing from it altogether. The persons by whom the Petition was signed, which he now begged to present, certainly had ground for feeling aggrieved by the manner in which they had been treated. He wished to urge on the Government that they should either appoint a Royal Commission for taking the subject off their hands, or else take it into their own hands and allow science and legislation to apply the appropriate remedy.


expressed his opinion that an exhaustive examination of the subject would be a national benefit, and gave Notice that he should move for the appointment of a Royal Commission for dealing with the subject.


said, that his noble Friend (Lord Winmarleigh) had understated rather than overstated the case. He knew the property to which his noble Friend had made particular reference, and could testify that it was in a deplorable state. He could assure their Lordships that the Government felt the importance of the subject. It was already under the notice of the President of the Local Government Board, and if a remedy for the evil could be found no one would be more willing to adopt it than the Government; but, having regard to the number of measures already in hand, he could not promise the production of any Bill to deal with it at a very early period.

Petition read, and ordered to lie on the Table.

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