HL Deb 22 April 1926 vol 63 cc898-932

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Viscount Gage.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly:

[The EARL of DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.]

Clause 1:

Amendment of 38&30 Vict. C. 55, and 54&55 Viet. c. 76 in, respect of smoke nuisances.

1.—(1) The provisions of the Public Health Act, 1875, relating to smoke nuisances shall be amended as follows:—

  1. (a) For the purposes of Section ninety-one of the Act a chimney (not being the chimney of a private dwelling-house) sending forth smoke in such quantity as to be a nuisance shall be deemed to be a nuisance liable to be dealt with summarily in manner provided by that Act, notwithstanding that the smoke is not black smoke:
  2. (e) Section three hundred and thirty-four of the Act shall have effect as if there were included amongst the processes specified in that section the processes of re-heating, annealing, hardening, forging, converting and carburising iron and other metals, and if the Minister of Health makes a Provisional Order to that effect, any other industrial process specified in the Order:

Provided that the Minister may by Provisional Order at any time after the expiration of five years from the passing of this Act exclude from the application of that section any processes specified in that section as amended by this paragraph so far as smoke nuisances are concerned.

(2) The provisions of the Public Health (London) Act, 1891, relating to smoke nuisances and smoke consumption shall be amended as follows:— (a) For the purposes of Section twenty-four of the Act a chimney (not being the chimney of a private dwelling-house) sending forth smoke in such quantity as to be a nuisance shall be deemed to be a nuisance liable to be dealt with summarily in manner provided by that Act, notwithstanding that the smoke is not black smoke:

(4) Where, in the opinion of any officer duly authorised by a local authority to act in that behalf, a smoke nuisance exists, he shall, as soon as practicable and before giving information to the authority, give notice thereof to the occupier of the premises on which the nuisance exists.

LORD NEWTON moved, in paragraph (a) of subsection (1), after "dwelling-house," to insert "shall include structures and openings of any kind whatsoever, capable of emitting smoke, and any such chimney, structure, or opening as aforesaid emitting or." The noble Lord said: It is just as well to point out that this Bill is drafted not to deal with chimneys but with smoke and smoke from whatever opening it is emitted is equally objectionable. I understand that various prosecutions have broken down because the smoke issued from a grating or opening of some kind, and therefore action has been useless. I may cite as an instance that the offices of the Smoke Abatement Society are exactly opposite to Victoria Station and that at all hours of the day smoke may be seen proceeding from the roof of that station through various apertures. I presume that if an action were brought against the railway company under this Bill as it stands it would be useless. It seems to me that this Amendment is in accord with the object of the Bill and I hope my noble friend will be able to accept it.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 11, after ("dwelling-house") insert ("shall include structures and openings of any kind whatsoever, capable of emitting smoke, and any such chimney, structure, or opening as aforesaid emitting or").—(Lord Newton.)


I hope my noble friend will not accept the Amendment. So far as I read it the result of this Amendment would be that any structure or opening of any kind whatsoever capable of emitting smoke shall be liable as a nuisance. The clause as it now stands says that a chimney sending forth smoke in such quantities as to be a nuisance shall be deemed to be a nuisance liable to be dealt with summarily in manner provided by that Act. This Amendment would go further and would say that any structure capable of emitting smoke could be stopped. How about engines?


They ought to be sopped.


How will the trains go? I sincerely hope the Government will not accept the Amendment.


The Minister is quite prepared to meet the noble Lord on the question of a closer definition of the word "chimney," but he would prefer that the definition should be made the subject of a separate clause and if the noble Lord will be good enough to withdraw his Amendment I will promise that an Amendment shall be put down on the Report Stage to meet his objection.


On the understanding that the noble Viscount accepts the Amendment and is not going to pay any attention to the ridiculous objections of my noble friend behind me I am quite prepared to meet him. I understand that effect will be given to this Amendment on Report?


My noble friend in charge of the Bill has promised to do his utmost to meet my noble friend Lord Newton, but I wonder whether the noble Lord has looked at the drafting of his own Amendment. He proposes to define a chimney by repeating the word "chimney" in the course of the definition so that really he is working in a circle, and I am quite sure that the Amendment will not do as it stands.


I hope that the Government will not give any pledge that they will not consider the "ridiculous arguments" which I have ventured to put forward against the proposal of my noble friend.


We will consider the point and do our best. We cannot accept the Amendment in its present form.


Then I will withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

EARL DE LA WARR moved, in paragraph (e) of subsection (1), after "shall," to insert "continue to," and, after "effect," to insert "for a period of five years from the passing of this Act." The noble Earl said: The object of this Amendment is to provide a time limit for the special exemption contained in the Bill in favour of what is known as the metallurgical industry. The present clause represents, so far as we can gather, an agreement between the Ministry of Health and the Sheffield manufacturers. This agreement apparently proposes to extend the exemption granted under the Public Health Act, 1875. Your Lordships will see, therefore, that the clause as it stands is a directly reactionary clause. The Minister is putting forward a Bill that purports to strengthen the law and to enable public authorities to deal with the smoke nuisance. This clause as it stands actually weakens the law, and even if your Lordships pass my Amendment the state of the law will still be weaker than it is to-day. The Amendment that I propose will leave the five years' extension untouched. All that it proposes to do is to place the onus of proof in the case of further extensions upon the manufacturers instead of upon the Government.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 7, after ("shall") insert ("continue to"), and after ("effect") insert ("for a period of five years from the passing of this Act").—(Earl De La Warr.)


The effect of this Amendment would be that at the end of five years the processes mentioned would automatically come within the scope of the Act, subject to a special Provisional Order by the Minister exempting them, and further, at the end of ten years all exemptions would come to an end. The Government does not look upon this as a reactionary measure. It is simply for the purpose of securing greater elasticity that they reject this Amendment, which would tie the hands of the Minister, because no one can say what the state of the steel trade will be five or ten years hence. They consider that elasticity is essential, having regard to the present state and the prospects of the industry, and accordingly they cannot accept this Amendment.


I should like to point out to the noble Viscount that during the period when Sir Alfred Mond was Minister of Health the spokesman of a deputation of Sheffield manufacturers admitted that within five years it was expected to perfect the smokeless production of steel. Furthermore, even under the existing law a large number of prosecutions have been successfully carried out in Sheffield and they have had no obstructive effects upon the industry. My Amendment proposes merely to bring the law in line with the present conditions in some districts, notably Rotherham, which have had perfectly satisfactory results. I hope that the Government will reconsider the decision not to accept my Amendment and will at any rate endeavour to meet me on Report.


I hope that the noble Earl will not press this Amendment. There really is no reason for making a limit of five years. It is quite true that we all hope that in the process of invention methods will be discovered by which, even in these exempted industries, the smoke difficulty will be abated, but there is no reason to suppose that this discovery will come in the course of five years, and this limit appears to be entirely arbitrary. It is not altogether an easy thing to obtain the consent of these industries to this kind of legislation and I am quite certain that the noble Earl will be the first to agree that these things should be done by agreement if possible. The matter has been pressed so far as it could be pressed reasonably, and the noble Earl has revealed no real difficulty, for he knows that, supposing that at the end of five years it is possible to do without these provisions, there is power in the Bill to remove them. Accordingly the matter is not a very important one and I hope that the noble Earl will not press his Amendment.


I beg leave to withdraw this Amendment, and I will not move the consequential Amendments.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD NEWTON moved, in subsection (1) (e), to leave out "industrial" and to insert "similar." The noble Lord said: When the last Smoke Abatement Bill was in preparation the manufacturers of Sheffield, who appear to be able to exercise considerable influence upon the Government, persuaded the Ministry of Health to exempt their processes from the operation of the Bill. There are many people who consider that these people have no more right to be exempted than anybody else, but at ally rate the thing was done. Under the section as it stands any other industry can go to the Minister and claim to be exempted. I confess that I do not at all envy that particular Minister, because it is perfectly obvious that his life will be made a burden to him by the different industries which will come and claim to be exempted. This particular exemption is claimed on behalf of the metallurgical industry and it seems to me that it is only fair and reasonable that it should be confined to that particular industry. It is for that purpose that I propose to introduce the word "similar." and I hope that the Government will see their way to adopt this Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 13, leave out ("industrial") and insert ("similar").—(Lord Newton.)


One objection to this Amendment is that the word "similar" is an indefinite term which might mean either that the metal industry only is to be exempted or that any industry of which a smoky atmosphere is an essential part of the manufacturing process may be included. Accordingly, the Amendment is open to objection from a drafting point of view. If the Bill were interpreted in the sense that only the metal trades could be exempted, certain processes in other trades, such as the pottery trade, would not be able to get exemption, although it is claimed that these manufactures are just as dependent upon a smoky atmosphere as are the metal industries. I might remind the House that, although by omitting the word with which Lord Newton's Amendment is concerned the Minister is given a fairly free hand, any Provisional Order that he may make is subject to confirmation by Parliament, which has always the last word in the matter. I hope the noble Lord will not press his Amendment because the Government cannot accept it in its present form. The word "industrial" is put into the Bill designedly and the word "similar" would not take the place of what they consider to be a word essential to the efficiency of the Bill.


I cannot help thinking that the noble Lord is weakening his own Bill. So far as I know the pottery industry have never made any such claim and here is a deliberate intimation to them to come and be exempted. I cannot think that that is what the Government really intend. I do not think there is much difference between us and I would suggest that if I withdraw my Amendment the noble Lord should consult with his colleagues and see if some word or words cannot be found between now and the Report stage that can be agreed upon.


Before the noble Lord replies may I say that I hope the Government will hesitate to commit themselves at the present moment because I am informed that there is a very strong opposition to this particular Amendment. I have in my hand a communication from the London Waterside and General Manufacturers' Association and they say:— This will place many industries which use coal, not merely for steam-raising purposes but in the ordinary process of manufacture, in an exceedingly serious position. The manufacture of cement is instanced in the memorandum, but no doubt others could be mentioned which would be obliged to provide very costly additional plant if the provisions of the Bill are rigidly enforced. I therefore think that it is right that those who take this view in the present serious condition of industry should have their interests considered before the Government admit that any advantage would be secured by the insertion of this Amendment in the Bill.


I have received a similar notice. It is only an ex parte statement and I am not sufficiently cognisant of the matter to give an opinion upon it, but I wish to emphasise what has been said by Lord Gainford, that in the very parlous condition of industry we should be very careful not to do anything which will further imperil the position of our trade and commerce.


I think it is obvious that Lord Newton is quite right in warning the Government. Evidently they are going to be bombarded from all quarters with claims for exemption from the Bill, which would make the Bill a complete farce and make us all wish that we had kept the law as it stands.


From the remarks made by Lord Gainford and Lord Banbury, the noble Lord will see how difficult it is to introduce phrases of a general nature which would cover all kinds of industry. However, under the pressure exercised by Lord Newton, who has gone thoroughly into the matter, I will consult the Ministry of Health and see if anything can be done to meet the noble Lord.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD NEWTON moved, in subsection (4), to leave out "and before giving information to the authority" and, after "give," to insert "written." The noble Lord said: This clause shows a change of policy, if I am not mistaken, on the part of the Government. In the last Bill, if I remember aright, notice had to be given to the local authority, and that seems to me to be obviously a rational proceeding. An inspector is not the servant of the industrial employers but of the local authority, and it seems to me perfectly clear that his first duty is to report to the local authority, if in his opinion there is a nuisance. After all, inspectors are only human, and it is perfectly obvious that in certain cases, if an inspector goes first to the employer to complain of a nuisance, an attempt may be made on the part of the employer to "square" him, so to speak. That is a thing which obviously ought to be avoided. It seems to me that the clear thing to do is to provide that the local authority should be immediately informed, and that the employers should be informed with the smallest possible delay. I am quite ready to fix upon a period if the Government agree to accept my Amendment, but I do not think the Bill, as it stands at present, is satisfactory.

Amendment moved:— Page 3, line 24, leave out ("and before giving information to the authority"), and after ("give") insert ("written").—(Lord Newton.)


The Government in this matter hold the view that the best way to proceed is by co-operation with the manufacturers, rather than by relying upon purely coercive methods, and that by the method they propose the authorities will be encouraged to act in a friendly manner with the manufacturers, while they will not be precluded from taking severe steps if eventually found to be necessary. I do not quite see how the Amendment will obviate the possibility of what the noble Lord called "squaring" the inspectors, but if the noble Lord desires I can consult with my noble friend on this matter also, with a view to further consideration.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2:

Power to prescribe standards.

2.—(1) Any local authority may, and if so required by the Minister of Health shall, make by-laws prescribing standards for smoke and the periods during which smoke of the standard so prescribed may be emitted, or may be emitted from chimneys of buildings of any specified class.

(2) Where any such by-laws are in force, the emission of smoke which does not conform to the standard, or which otherwise contravenes the by-laws, shall, until the contrary is proved, be presumed to be a nuisance.

(4) The provisions of the Public Health Acts, 1875 to 1925, and of the Public Health (London) Act, 1891, as the case may be, shall apply to the making, confirming and enforcing of any by-laws made under this section.

LORD MONK BRETTON moved to leave out all words in subsection (1) after "by-laws" and the whole of subsection (2), and to insert: regulating the emission of noxious smoke and where such by-laws are in force the emission of noxious smoke for such period as may be prescribed in the by-laws either from buildings generally or from such classes of buildings as may be so prescribed shall, until the contrary is proved, be presumed to be a nuisance. (2) In this section 'noxious smoke' means smoke of such colour, density or content as the by-laws may specify.

The noble Lord said: This is a drafting Amendment in fact, although it may appear rather a long one, and I hope and believe that it is one that the Ministry have considered and will agree to. The clause as it stands almost leaves the impression that the emission of smoke is allowable, and almost essential, in the carrying on of industry. Such an impression would be very unfortunate, because it would make for more smoke and increased litigation, and I venture to suggest that the Amendment which I am moving, which is a re-drafting of the clause, does not convey that impression, and strengthens the Bill. The London County Council does not consider that it is necessary to put a standard in the by-laws. There are regularly cases in the Courts in which black smoke is adjudged a nuisance, without any question of a standard being gone into, and we hope that, as time goes on, it will be possible to have other definitions without a standard of a nuisance.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 23, leave out from by-laws") to end of line 37, and insert the said words.—(Lord Monk Bretton.)


I do not know whether the noble Lord means by the words "buildings generally" to include private houses, and, not being a lawyer, I do not know whether those words would include private houses, but it seems to me that either we ought to have some undertaking, if the Government propose to accept this Amendment, that those words will be left out, or we should be told by some legal authority that they do not include private houses.


I think the point raised by my noble friend is quite a sound one. "Buildings generally," if not limited in any way, would most certainly include private houses. I do not suppose the object of Lord Monk Bretton is to make a new offence, and therefore, if the Amendment is accepted, I think the word "buildings" should not be there. It seems to me that the difficulty might be met by substituting the words "chimneys as defined by the Act."


I think it would be a very good thing if the words did include private houses. It is quite clear from the Report of the Committee presided over by Lord Newton that private houses are the principal offenders in the matter of the smoke nuisance, and therefore, as this is a sort of permissive clause, no harm, I think, would be done, and some good would be done, if "buildings" did include private houses.


We have already excluded private houses. Is it in order, having already passed a clause which excludes private houses, to pass another clause which includes them?


Lord Newton has an Amendment on Clause 4 which really raises the question of whether dwelling houses come within the measure or not.


Those are only new houses.


I have no desire on my Amendment to raise the general question of dwelling houses. I am merely moving it as a drafting Amendment, and I am quite prepared to abide by the decision of the Government as to the way in which the Bill should apply.


The Ministry considered this Amendment as a drafting Amendment, and, as such, they are prepared to accept it. If it is pointed out to them that some of the objections which have been raised by noble Lords do actually exist in law they will see that those objections are met at a later stage of the Bill.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD MONK BRETTON had on the Paper an Amendment to add to subsection (4): Provided that such by-laws made by the London County Council shall, subject to the provisions of the Public Health (London Act, 1891, relating to the default of a sanitary authority be enforced by the metropolitan borough councils.

The noble Lord said: I put this Amendment down merely in the case of Lord Jessel's Amendment—that by-laws shall be enforced by the Metropolitan Borough Councils—which stands before mine upon the Paper, being adopted. I am very glad it has not been adopted, and I do not move.


Lord Jessel, who is not here, asked me to move his Amendment, but I am quite willing to withdraw it in favour of Lord Monk Bretton's if he thinks proper. There does not seem to me to be much difference between the two.


I am bound to point out to your Lordships that we have already passed the Amendment of Lord Jessel, and the noble Lord, Lord Monk Bretton, has announced his intention of not moving his.

Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 3 agreed to.

EARL DE LA WARR moved, after Clause 3 to insert the following new Clause:

Powers respecting new buildings.

". It shall be the duty of a local authority on submitting proposals for the provision of houses for the purposes of the Housing Acts, 1890 to 1924, to satisfy the Minister that suitable arrangements are to be made for heating or cooking as are calculated to prevent or reduce the Omission of smoke."

The noble Earl said: This Amendment might seem at first to cut across the existing Clause 4. That, however, is not the case. It really brings the law with regard to local authorities into line with Clause 4, which deals, only under the Public Health Act, with private enterprise. There can be no reason why the Ministry of Health should not have the power to exercise some supervision in this matter, especially as it refers to houses which are receiving State aid. Several of the largest municipalities, such as Leeds, have already dealt with this matter in the way suggested, with the greatest success.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 35, at end insert the said new clause.—(Earl De La Warr.)


This Amendment and one standing in the name of Lord Newton on Clause 4 are very important ones, and would have far-reaching effects if carried into law. The noble Earl's Amendment is not so strong as the one that follows it. It is concerned with the placing of restrictions on private dwelling-houses, and, up to a point, therefore, the same remarks could be applied to both Amendments. The Minister is opposed on principle both to placing restrictions on the discretion of local authorities and to attempting to interfere with the ordinary domestic habits of the people, unless it can be clearly shown that such action on his part is necessary, and that the object can only be achieved by action on his part.

As a matter of fact very great progress has already been effected without compulsory measures in connection with housing schemes in the substitution of gas in place of coal for cooking. As a result of returns recently obtained from a number of sample local authorities it appears that in 75 per cent. of their houses gas cooking apparatus was provided for, and was, in fact, generally used. In a number of eases all the houses were so provided. Numerous examples also exist where electricity has been installed as the lighting and cooking agent, and experiments with all-electric houses are being tried on a considerable scale by several local authorities. So that the tendency towards the spontaneous adoption of smokeless methods is progressing very favourably. On the other hand, any forcible insistence on the special types of heating and cooking apparatus would probably be greatly resented by the local authorities and by the tenants of the houses, and, in fact, in some eases where gas washing coppers have been installed the tenants have demanded their displacement on account of the increasing cost of using gas. Of course, conditions vary very greatly, but the effect, broadly speaking, in the Minister's opinion would be a restricted effect.

Another point arises—namely, that under the present Housing Acts the Ministry do not undertake detailed scrutiny of the housing proposals of local authorities as they did under previous Acts of Parliament. I might point out as a matter of detail that the Housing Acts, 1890 to 1924, no longer exist and that a Consolidation Act was carried last year in the Housing Act, 1925. I am afraid therefore that the Government cannot accept the Amendment.


In connection with Clause 4, I have an Amendment on the Paper dealing with this particular question. As that Amendment appears to depend entirely upon that just moved by my noble friend opposite, I do not think it would be of any use to put it before your Lordships until the fate of this one is decided. Everybody who knows anything of this question knows perfectly well that we suffer as much from what is called domestic smoke as from industrial smoke, if not more so, and the Committee over which I presided and to which reference has been made in the course of the debate was especially requested by the Ministry of Health to inquire into the question of what should be done regarding new houses. It will be found that in our Report we expressed the following opinion:— …we desire to emphasise the fact that the present housing situation affords a unique opportunity for constructive reform with regard to the heating, cooking, and hot-water supply arrangements in domestic dwellings. Reformers in the past"— amongst whom I shall not include noble friend Lord Banbury— have always been confronted with established facts. It was urged, and not without point, that it was impracticable to attempt smoke abatement by altering existing appliances installed in houses constructed on old-fashioned lines. But the position has changed, and, having regard to the serious damage caused by domestic smoke and at the same time to the great improvements which have been introduced into modern systems of heating, we wish strongly to urge on those who are engaged in the preparation of new housing schemes, the great importance of providing, as far as practicable, smokeless arrangements for warming rooms, supplying hot water and for cooking. Amongst our recommendations the following will be found:— That the central housing authority should decline to sanction any housing scheme submitted by a local authority or public utility society, unless specific provision is made in the plans for the adoption of smokeless methods for supplying the required heat, as suggested in the body of this Report. Those who are acquainted with inquiries of this kind and the requests made by Departments, and so forth, will perhaps not be surprised to hear that not the smallest attention was paid by the Ministry of Health to our recommendations; in fact, the Ministry deliberately disregarded them. When the Bill came before your Lordships the year before last I moved this Amendment, and to my agreeable surprise—and it is the best thing I know of the late Labour Government—the Amendment was accepted by the Labour Government. In the present Bill private dwelling houses are exempted.

I need hardly point out what everybody knows—that there are new housing estates being put up all over the country, and it seems to me to be a crime that when you are spending public money on such places they should be allowed to defile the atmosphere with the old-fashioned method which recommends itself to my noble friend Lord Banbury. I would appeal to my noble friend Lord Harris as to what his feelings will be if in the new mining villages which are to be established in Kent these old-fashioned practices are sanctioned.


I am not within twenty-five miles of them.


Smoke will reach for more than twenty-five miles and my noble friend will suffer. The worst part of the question is that people who live a distance away suffer almost as much from smoke as those living in the vicinity. There is an overwhelming case for this Amendment. It is really incredible that these old-fashioned methods should continue to be sanctioned and I hope to find one supporter in my noble friend Lord Balfour of Burleigh. I submit that the acceptance of this principle by Government shows that at all events it is considered practicable by the Department concerned. I attach importance to this Amendment. I think it is much the most important that can be put into the Bill and if my noble friend goes to a Division I shall support him.


In supporting this Amendment I may say that I think it has been made abundantly clear by Lord Newton's Committee that the domestic grate is one of the principal offenders in the matter of smoke pollution: in fact, about half the blame for the damage done is put on the domestic fire. I think the Amendment is very moderate in not seeking to bring in all domestic grates but simply those in new houses.


Lord Newton has said that one reason why your Lordships should accept this Amendment is that it has already been adopted by a Government—the Labour Government. I hope my noble friend is not going over to the other side of the House.


It is not a political question.


It is not a political question, but it is an Amendment which the Labour Government adopted and which my noble friend thinks should be carried out simply and solely because the Labour Government adopted it. I am sorry that the Labour Government acceded to the request of my noble friend regarding an extravagant notion of the sort which a Labour Government would undoubtedly adopt but which I hope all more sensible people would reject. Let us see what would be the effect of this Amendment if it was accepted. We are building a large number of houses in various urban districts. One of the great disadvantages of these houses is that the working classes say, and I think truly, that they cannot pay the economic rent demanded for them. It is proposed to make it still more difficult for them to live in those houses because they are to do their cooking and heating either by gas or electricity.

I happen to have, in my small house in London, both gas fires and electric heaters and I know they are very expensive. I know also that when I put on an electric heater on a very cold day the main fuse always goes and the heater becomes useless. I must admit that the company are very quick in coming to put it right; but what will happen to the unfortunate artisan who has to do all his heating and cooking by gas, supplied not by one of the big London companies but by a small company in an urban district in which the supply may be both bad and expensive, or by electricity? If in the latter ease the fuse happens to go he will have no heat and no means of cooking. I had hoped that the Government Department concerned would pay no attention to the suggestions of my noble friend's Committee, and it was one of the best things I have heard of a Department for a very long time when my noble friend said that such was the case.


I confess that, like most of your Lordships, I have great sympathy with the general attitude of my noble friend Lord Newton in respect of this Bill. The smoke nuisance is a very great one, and I am glad that Parliament in the last year or two has seriously undertaken the business of trying to abate it. Having said so much, I want to utter a word of caution to my noble friend and to the noble Earl opposite regarding these Amendments. I frankly admit that as this Bill was drawn and introduced into your Lordships' House the design was not to deal with private houses. The design was to to deal with factories and other such quasi-public buildings and to leave domestic buildings alone. It is perfectly true, as my noble friend Lord Banbury has said, that if the Amendment we are actually considering—of course, the Amendment of my noble friend behind me was also included—was inserted it would complicate the already difficult housing problem, because further expensive conditions would be added to the business providing houses for the people.

Of course, it would be—I do not like to use such a word as reactionary, but in one sense it would be reactionary, because the whole tendency of modern housing legislation is to remove limitations and all artificial restrictions upon the free exercise of the wishes of the locality, guided by public opinion, to have what the people like and what they would wish to inhabit. To insert restrictive provisions of this kind would undoubtedly—I do not want to put this argument too high—pro tanto make the solution of the housing problem a little more difficult. The Government are anxious not to complicate the housing question with new by-laws, or what correspond to by-laws, in respect of heating and cooking apparatus.

The difficulty does not end there. I think if we enacted what the noble Earl wishes us to enact we should find a very great difficulty in enforcing it. If you were to prohibit smoke altogether that possibly might be enforceable, but the words copied from a former Bill, difficult though not impossible to enforce in the case of a factory, would be very difficult indeed, if not impossible, to enforce in the case of a private house. I refer to the words "to prevent or reduce the emission of smoke." Your Lordships can conceive the sort of difficulty that would arise if we attempted to enforce such a provision. There would be the difficulty of whether a particular kind of grate did sufficiently reduce the emission of smoke. The Government inspectors or the local authorities' inspectors, whose business it would be, would be calling on every house in a thickly populated neighbourhood in order to see whether each particular grate and each particular kitchen range came within the actual limit of reduction which it was sought by the by-law to enforce. I think it would be extremely difficult and almost impossible to enforce such a provision. I want my noble friend to realise, because this is the real strength of the very diffident argument that I am addressing to him, that you would have to enforce it in the teeth of public opinion.


It is optional.


Optional no doubt for the local authority to put into force, but not optional so far as the individual householder is concerned. If the provision were adopted in the teeth of public opinion how could it be enforced? I do not suppose that there is anything our countrymen value more highly than the open fire. I am quite sure my noble friend himself values the open fire.


I only have one.


I can see my noble friend, when he makes up those speeches which he afterwards delivers in this House, standing with his back to the open fire, as many of your Lordships do, and I am quite sure that he enjoys it. Is that a thing which is to be confined to members of your Lordships' House? It belongs to men of all classes from the highest to the lowest. It is the practice of our people to have open fires in their houses, and to say that a Bill may be put into operation under which the open fire would be put an end to (no doubt for a good reason) would, I am quite certain, be very much resented and resented in a manner which would make it exceedingly difficult to enforce the Bill. If you had all the people who are living in new houses against you I think you would find that it would be extremely difficult and unpleasant.

I did think that my noble friend intended to pass this Bill. I did think that in pressing the Government, to introduce it he was anxious that it should be made law. That being so, I would counsel him not to urge the Government to put in provisions that are certain to retard its progress. When this Bill is through your Lordships' House it has great difficulties to encounter and, depend upon it, to put in a provision like this, which will involve friction with a large body of public opinion, is just the way to make people, who are perhaps not very zealous to press the Bill forward, abandon their support of it in the subsequent stages. I advise my noble friend not to press the matter further.

So far as private houses are concerned, the real solution of this problem is the perfection of smokeless fuel. That would be an easy solution and would work very well, without friction and difficulty. As your Lordships are aware, the Government are equally intent upon that particular topic, but it belongs to another great controversy—namely, the profitable use; of coal. It is in that direction that the solution really is to be found. If my noble friend is not the least convinced by any of my arguments—I know he is a difficult man to convince—no doubt he will press the Amendment, but I will ask him not to press it at this stage. I will ask him to be so kind as to think over what. I have said and whether it would not be to the interest of the Bill not to put in this Amendment. If he is not then convinced and produces the Amendment again at the next stage of the Bill, I frankly admit that I shall have to consider very carefully whether we shall not be obliged to concede the point to him. I do not want to do it, because I think it will raise a difficulty to the passage of the Bill, and I would ask him to think whether there is not something in the argument that I have addressed to him.


I must confess that the arguments that have been put up against this Amendment have left me profoundly unconvinced. We were first told that it was contrary to the design of the Bill to deal with the matters contained in my Amendment. All I can say is, if that be so the design of the Bill was extremely bad, because it neglected the most important part of the problem. Then we were told that this Amendment might wreck the chances of the Bill in another place. But this is a Government Bill and the Government have behind them an enormous majority. Furthermore, the Prime Minister stated the other day that he was prepared to give time in another place for the passage of this Bill. I really think, therefore, that that argument holds very little weight. I was for a moment almost carried away by the democratic fervour of the noble Marquess in defence of the open hearth of the working man and had it not been that. I looked again at the Amendment and saw that it referred only to heating and cooking that argument might have produced more effect upon me than it did.

The main point in the opposition to this Amendment, urged both by the noble Marquess the Leader of the House and his ardent supporter behind him, Lord Banbury of Southam, was on the ground of expense, but any of your Lordships who have had anything to do with building houses, at any rate in urban areas where there is gas, will realise that there is no weight in the argument, because it is really cheaper to erect a house where there is provision for gas crooking. The argument of the noble Viscount, Lord Gage, really finally convinced me that this Amendment was not only desirable but practical, because he said himself that over 75 per cent. of the authorities in the country were actually availing themselves of the powers contained in my Amendment. Therefore, it will be compulsory only on the most recalcitrant authorities and the most reactionary authorities. The noble Marquess the Leader of the House said that it was most important that this should remain optional as the poor ratepayer and the poor tenant was going to be compelled by the local authority to put a gas cooker in his house if this Amendment was passed. But we must remember that the local authorities are elected by the ratepayers and the tenants of the houses and it is perfectly possible for them to put into office a local authority that will not adopt the power contained in the Amendment. On these grounds I beg to press the Amendment that stands in my name.


I venture to think that the noble Earl who has just spoken greatly underrates the objection to this clause. He says that a contentious clause of this sort will not matter when it gets to the other place, but, as my noble friend the Marquess of Salisbury pointed out, it would be a very serious matter and might imperil the passage of the Bill altogether. My noble friend on the opposite Benches does not realise that even if there, be a large Government majority in the other place a Bill containing contentious clauses has not much chance of passing unless there is a good deal of time given to it. I am inclined to think that a Bill of this sort would not pass the House of Commons in the present congestion of business unless it was practically a non-contentious Bill. There is one other point to which I think sufficient attention has not been given, and that is the question of those innumerable houses in little villages and country-districts where neither gas nor electricity is available at all.


It only says as far as practicable.


I do not see anything about as far as practicable. There is not a word about that in the clause which has been moved by the noble Earl opposite, and I am not sure that there is any similar provision in Lord Newton's Amendment.


In our Report.


We are not dealing with the Report. We are dealing with the provisions of this Bill. What venture respectfully to point out is that if either the Amendment of the noble Earl opposite or the Amendment of Lord Newton is carried every house built in a remote country district where there is no gas available and no electricity accessible would have to comply with some provision by which coal should be rendered smokeless in a manner that would be exceedingly difficult and expensive.


If the noble Lord looks at the Amendment he will find the words "suitable arrangements." Those words were specially inserted to include cases where it was obviously impossible to provide gas or electricity.


With great respect, if that is the object the wording is extremely ill calculated to carry it out. I cannot imagine worse words for the purpose of exempting these unfortunate country cottages from the necessity of having to get gas or electricity from twenty miles or more away, or of having to make provision at great expense to burn coal so as to emit no smoke. Therefore I do hope that the House will not listen to this Amendment, which I think is exceedingly unfair to owners of small houses and gravely calculated to interfere with those housing schemes which are so essential for the benefit of the population both in country and town.


I admit I am not affected by the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Danesfort, but I should like to say a word as regards what has been said by the noble Marquess the Leader of the House. If this Bill in its general clauses is satisfactory I do not attach much weight to the argument brought forward as regards the attitude of the House of Commons. It is for your Lordships on a point of this kind to express your views. If a dissimilar view should be accepted in the House of Commons it can be dealt with there. The second point raised by the noble Lord is really a point of drafting and nothing else. I have looked carefully into the clause which was accepted the last time this matter was brought forward in this House by representatives of the Labour Government and it appears to me not to be subject to the suggestion which the noble Lord. Lord Danesfort, has made. I think the word "suitable" is quite sufficiently elastic. I do not know whether the noble Lord has the words of the Amendment before him. The Amendment reads:— …to satisfy the Minister that suitable arrangements are to be made for heating or cooking as are calculated to prevent or reduce the emission of smoke. It is obvious that it would not be a suitable arrangement to put in a gas cooker where it is impossible to get gas because there is no gas supply in the district.

There was one argument of the noble Marquess the Leader of the House which certainly did affect me and that was the question of cost. I think it would be a pity to put in anything which would involve additional cost because at the present time it is difficult, as we know, to obtain an economic rent. But why does he say there will be additional cost? I have not got statistics here, but my view is that there would be no additional cost incurred by putting in gas apparatus. I am not so sure about electricity because that is generally more expensive, but I rather doubt if putting in gas apparatus in a district where gas is supplied in the ordinary way by some public company would add to the cost. Such experience as I have had points in the other direction. I admit it is

difficult to lay down any general principle, but I could not accept without further inquiry the suggestion that this would be putting additional expense on houses erected for occupation by the working classes.

What is the position? When a Bill on this subject was introduced in the House of Commons during the period of office of the Labour Government it included a clause of this kind. I admit that the Bill was only carried as far as the Second Reading and that there was no opportunity for discussion of detail, but it was accepted. I did not hear at the time any special objection, nor any such objection as that raised in your Lordships' House to-day, and as far as your Lordships' House is concerned it was never in the power of the Labour Government to impose any special provision against the wish of your Lordships in that way. I do not think it was desired to do it, but it would not have been possible. It was admitted by the Labour Government as a proper Amendment and had its place in the Bill when it left your Lordships' House. There is nothing new in this matter and nothing that appears to me to be very startling, but if we are to have an effective Bill as regards this smoke nuisance, which after all is the basis of the proposals made by the noble Lord. Lord Newton, why should not this provision be made in regard to new houses? We are here referring only to new houses and not to those already constructed. This is not an alteration in present mechanism, and it is only in the case of new houses that this protection will be given. The protection of the Bill is for the benefit of the general public and the public health in each district. I hope that the noble Earl will go to a Division, in which we shall certainly support him.

On Question, Whether the said new clause shall be there inserted?—

Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 8; Not-Contents, 40.

De La Warr, E. [Teller.] Hemphill, L. Olivier, L.
Muir Mackenzie, L. Parmoor, L.
Arnold, L. Newton, L. [Teller.] Thomson, L
Cave, V. (L. Chancellor.) Bertie of Thame, V. Gage, L. (V. Gage.) [Teller.]
Hutchinson, V. [E. Donoughmore.) Gainford, L.
Salisbury, M. (L. Privy Seal.) Howard of Glossop, L.
Inchcape, V. Jessel, L.
Sutherland, D. Knaresborough, L.
Askwith, L. Kylsant, L.
Lincolnshire, M. (L. Great Chamberlain.) Avebury, L Lawrence, L.
Banbury of Southam, L. Marshall of Chipstead, L.
Bledisloe, L. Merrivale, L.
Airlie, E. Carson, L. Monk Bretton, L.
Benuchamp, E. Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.) Muskerry, L.
Clarendon, E. Shandon, L.
Eldon, E. Clwyd, L. Stanmore, L.
Hardwicke, E. Danesfort, L. Suffield, L.
Lucan, E. [Teller.] Daryngton, L. Swaythling, L.
Onslow, E. Desborough, L. Wharton, L.

Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Clause, 4 agreed to.

Clause 5:

Combination of local authorities for purposes of Act.

5. Two or more local authorities may combine to carry our their duties under Section ninety-two of the Public Health Act, 1875, in respect of smoke nuisances, and for that purpose may concur in appointing a joint committee to which the provisions of Section fifty-seven of The Local Government Act, 1894, shall apply.

EARL DE LA WARR moved, after "may," to insert "or if so required by the Minister of Health shall." The noble Earl said: This Amendment is intended to give the Minister power to ensure where necessary that two or more adjacent local authorities shall combine to deal with the smoke nuisance. In industrial and other areas many-instances occur of towns merging, and it sometimes happens that one town takes adequate steps to deal with the smoke nuisance and the smoke of another town that is next to it pollutes its air. We consider, therefore, that the Minister ought to have power to ensure that the law shall be uniformly enforced.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 1, after ("may"), insert ("or if so required by the Minister of Health shall").—(Earl De La Warr.)


The Minister cannot accept this Amendment, principally for the reason that it has very little effect. There is no legal method by which the Government could compel two local authorities to combine except by defaulting them and placing their functions in the hands of the county council, as they have already power to do. Accordingly the Government take the view that this Amendment is redundant, so far as it has any power at all, and they do not see their way to accept it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clauses 6 and 7 agreed to.

Clause 8:

Saving as to steam vessels.

8.—(1) Nothing in this Act shall apply to any ship or vessel, or affect the enactments in force at the commencement of this Act with respect to smoke nuisance and smoke consumption in any ship or vessel.

(2) For the purposes of this section "vessel" means any boat or other description of vessel used in navigation.

EARL DE LA WARR moved, after the first "vessel," to insert "other than such ships or vessels as come within the provisions of Section one hundred and ten of the Public Health Act, 1875, and Section twenty-three (3) of the Public Health (London) Act, 1891." The noble Earl said: Clause 8 is somewhat similar to Clause 1, subsection (e), in so far as it actually weakens the existing law. This Amendment proposes to maintain the status quo with regard to vessels. As the clause stands shipping will have total exemption. There is no necessity for this at all, and every single large port authority in the country has strongly protested against the proposal. At present Section 110 of the Public Health Act, 1875, gives complete protection from prosecution to all ships belonging to the Crown or to any foreign Government. In the case of London no ships, even under weigh, are exempt if plying between London and the Nore, and with these exceptions all moored vessels in dock or harbour are treated just as though they were houses. This is essential, otherwise a small donkey engine on a quay siding might not be allowed to emit smoke, while a steamer lying only a hundred yards from the quay would be allowed to pour black smoke into the air. The Amendment proposed ensures that naval vessels and vessels belonging to a foreign Government shall be exempt, and that ships at present liable for a nuisance under the Public Health Act shall continue to be liable. I appeal to the noble Viscount—the Government does not seem to be very anxious to meet us—to meet us on this point at least by maintaining the status quo.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 37, after ("vessel") insert ("other than such ships or vessels as come within the provisions of Section one hundred and ten of the Public Health Act, 1875, and Section twenty-three (3) of the Public Health (London) Act, 1891").—(Earl De La Warr.)


I most sincerely trust that there will be no alteration in Clause 8 of the Bill. If there were—if what the noble Earl proposes were introduced—practically all movements of shipping in all the waterways of the country would be stopped. A statement has been made by the noble Earl that all the large port authorities throughout the country are in favour of his Amendment—in fact, it has been stated that every single port authority is against shipping people in this matter. I do not know on what grounds this statement is based.

As a matter of fact, the Newcastle Corporation recently readily agreed to cut out shipping from a clause dealing with smoke abatement in a Private Bill which they have introduced this Session. I have also received information from Newcastle that the Tyne Improvement Commission is not against shipping people in this matter, and that the statement to which I have referred is made without authority. Nor does there seem to be any evidence that Newcastle is peculiar in accepting the present requirements, as against shipping, as absolutely safeguarding their interests. The shipping industry attaches the greatest possible importance to the maintenance of this clause, the insertion of which is the result of long negotiations with the Government Departments concerned, and a definite undertaking has been given by the Government that the clause will remain. I hope your Lordships will readily agree to pass this clause without Amendment.


I should like to make a few remarks about the attitude of the Public Control Committee of the London County Council towards this clause, and in regard to the Amendment of the noble Earl. It is, of course, common knowledge that the question of smoke in the Port of London is a very vital matter of public health. The Committee have been at pains to take observations as to the nuisance, and no doubt there is a considerable nuisance. The river in London is a very large area. It is almost as great as one of the largest London boroughs and we all know what fog on the water means. The Public Control Committee of the London County Council know what has been done in the matter of reducing fog on the railways. We also know that it has been done in the friendliest of ways and that the local inspectors have been on good terms with the railway companies, and that great good has resulted therefrom.

The noble Viscount in charge of the Bill, on the Second Reading stage, said there were technical objections, and he also called our attention to the fact that there were objections on the ground of foreign ships. So far as the London County Council is concerned we recognise the great importance of the statement of the noble Viscount in this matter. He did not tell us all about his technical objections, but, of course, we understand that England is a vulnerable country from the point of view of reprisals, because she has more ships on the waters than anybody else, and it will not do to follow what has been done abroad, where foreign countries have had to make Regulations anent the letting out of oil from ships, because of the destruction of fish and so forth. Every country has got a right to make laws within its ports, but we quite appreciate the statement of the Government with regard to this matter, and we are not pressing an Amendment in such terms as Lord De La Warr has suggested.

I find it difficult, however, with Lord De La Warr's Amendment on the Paper, not to call attention to this, that if the noble Earl had left out from his Amendment the Public Health Act, 1875, and had limited himself to the Public Health (London) Act, 1891, it would have had the effect of putting the penalties of this measure not upon the Port of London as a whole but upon those ships plying between Teddington and the Nore. I do not know whether the Government would still be willing to consider that it might be very much in the interests of London that the noble Earl's Amendment, or something like it, should be inserted in this Bill, leaving out the reference to the Public Health Act, which includes all the shipping of London. I would ask the noble Viscount whether, before the Report stage, he can give the matter some attention.


I am afraid that I cannot, on behalf of the Ministry of Health, allow this Amendment to pass. In answer to what has been said by Lord Monk Bretton, however, I will place the matter before my right hon. friend—although I do not think there is much hope of what Lord Monk Bretton suggested being adopted—and see what he can do about it. I see that in the proceedings in 1924, when the noble Earl, Lord De la Warr, was in charge of the Bill, the shipping clause was pressed for, and he accepted it—under protest I admit, but he did not attempt to divide against it, so I imagine he must admit that there was something to be said for it.


I may remind the noble Viscount that we were a minority Government.


Anyway, I might refer to some of the practical, as opposed to the tactical, arguments in favour of the retention of the clause. It is really a Board of Trade matter entirely, and they are advised that it is not possible to prevent the emission of smoke from the funnels of a steamer while the vessel is getting up steam and in certain other circumstances, and that no effectual means for enabling the furnaces of a steamship to consume their own smoke have yet been devised. But these are very technical matters, and I will not try to elaborate them, except to inform your Lordships that the technical committees of the Board of Trade have given the matter very serious consideration, and have arrived at that conclusion.

In regard to foreign ships, Lord Monk Bretton repeated what I had said on a previous stage of this Bill. There can be no discrimination against British as opposed to foreign ships. I imagine that that will meet with general approval. The possibility of counter-measures on the part of foreign Governments that might hamper our shipping in foreign ports has, anyhow, got to be considered. I can say no more about that, because it is obviously a matter of some delicacy. But the Board of Trade are strongly of opinion that steamships should be excluded from the scope of this Bill, and therefore I do not hold out much hope of any Amendment being admitted, but in response to what has been said I will place the matter before my right hon. friend.


I have very great pleasure in supporting what has been said by the noble Viscount opposite (Lord Inchcape). I would like to remind the Government that when a similar Bill was before this House the Labour Government were in control, and I moved an Amendment entirely exempting shipping from the ambit of the Bill, and the noble Earl, who is to-day moving this Amendment, actually promised me across the floor of the House that if I did not put my Amendment to the vote he would accept it in principle. He comes down to-day with an Amendment that does not accept the matter at all in principle, but goes back on the whole position. As the noble Viscount opposite has already explained, it would be absolutely to the detriment of all shipping using our great ports if this Amendment were inserted. We may come to a time when steamers are few and far between, except in the smaller trades. It has not come yet, but still the noble Earl, I think, may be content to look forward to that time when there will be no more trouble with smoke from steamers.


In view of the undertaking of the Government to consider this question on Report I will withdraw my Amendment. With reference to my attitude in connection with the Bill in 1924 I would remind the noble Lord, Lord Kylsant, that it was only under protest, as a minority Government, that we took the action that we did. I find that I said on that occasion: All our sympathies are with Lord Newton. Unfortunately the only chance that this Bill has of going through is if it is an agreed measure. It was purely as a result of blackmail, if I may say so, from a very powerful interest that we had to give in. We were not in the position that the present Government are in.


I do not want the noble Earl to be under a misapprehension. My noble friend did not say that he would hold out even a modicum of hope that the noble Earl's Amendment would be considered between now and the Report stage. What he was referring to was the suggestion made by Lord Monk Bretton. But my noble friend in charge of the Bill was very cautious even in respect of that, and he did not hold out any hope for Lord Monk Bretton. I am afraid we cannot go any further than that.


I noticed the caution.


We might just as well be honest about this Amendment. It is obvious to me, as far as I can gather, that the shipping people have got no case whatsoever, but they have come to the Government, no doubt led by the noble Viscount opposite, Lord Inchcape, and have given their orders to the Government, and they have been accepted. On the last occasion that we discussed this matter the noble Lord in charge of the Bill confessed that he was ashamed at having to defend what was in it, but obviously he had no choice in the matter, and that appears to be the case now. I repeat, I do not think the shipping people have got any case at all, but, in view of what has happened this afternoon, I do not think there is any use dividing the House on the subject. I would advise my noble friend to withdraw his Amendment, and wait upon the extremely improbable event of the Government modifying the Bill.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 8 agreed to.

Clause 9:

Application to Crown.

9. If it appears to a local authority that a smoke nuisance exists on any premises within their district occupied for the public service of the Crown, they shall report the circumstances to the appropriate Government Department, and, if the Minister responsible for that Department is satisfied after due inquiry that such a nuisance exists, he shall cause such steps to be taken as may be necessary to abate the nuisance and to prevent a recurrence thereof.

LORD NEWTON moved to leave out Clause 9 and to insert the following new Clause: Notwithstanding the common law or any provision in any local or public Act all Government Departments, public bodies and local authorities possessing works from the chimneys of which smoke is emitted shall be subject to this Act.

The noble Lord said: This clause, if I am not using an unparliamentary expression, seems to be one of an almost impudent character. Here is a Bill which is brought in for the purpose of abating smoke, and one would suppose that the first thing to be done would be for the Government to set a good example. But here it is deliberately proposed that Government establishments should be practically exempted. It is true that there is a provision that the Minister whose Department is causing the offence is to be the judge of his own case, but what is the value of that?

On this particular point I am going to quote my noble friend Lord Salisbury in support of my Amendment two years ago, and, in spite of what he said just now, I always follow what he says with great attention, and always endeavour to agree with him. When this matter came up then I moved this identical Amendment, and it was not accepted by the Labour Government, whereupon my noble friend Lord Salisbury observed:— The Government must realise that a reply that this cannot, be done will not Satisfy your Lordships. It is clear that it must be done. You cannot exempt a Government establishment. I am not going into the constitutional question, for we are much too pressed for time to go into that, but I would assure the noble Earl that the Government will do well to be provided at any rate with words on the next stage of the Bill. I am certain that neither this House nor another place would endure to have Government establishments exempt. That, really expresses the sense of my Amendment almost better than I can do it myself.

How can one propose in cold blood an exemption of this character? So far as I can gather, such Government establishments as Woolwich, and so on, will be permitted to emit smoke ad libitum and will be subject to no penalties unless the Minister in charge of the Department concerned can be convinced that a nuisance is being committed, which is not by any means an easy thing to do. I ask your Lordships to imagine the prospect. Noble Lords opposite who represent the Labour Party intend when they conic into office again to nationalise all industry, and if this section is allowed to stand there is no industrial establishment in the country which it would be possible to proceed against in time to come. I have been told, but I absolutely refuse to believe it and I hope my noble friend the Lord Chancellor will convince me regarding it, that you cannot bring an action against a Government Department. Do you mean to tell me that if a Post Office van, for instance, ran over me I could not bring an action against the Post Office? I absolutely refuse to believe it. It seems to me incredible that if a Government Department is creating a nuisance the local authority is not in a position to bring an action against it. I rely upon what fell from my noble friend Lord Salisbury two years ago. I look to him to support this Amendment and trust I shall not be disappointed.

Amendment moved— Page 6, leave out Clause 9 and insert the said new clause.—(Lord Newton.)


I do not think it would be possible to accept this Amendment. The effect of the Bill is that if trouble is caused by smoke the person who is responsible for causing the nuisance is liable to prosecution. I do not think the House will contemplate the case of the Minister for War in respect of some building at Woolwich, or the First Lord in respect of a building at Chatham, being liable to prosecution at the instance of the local authority, or somebody else, because it is thought that an undue amount of smoke has been emitted. In answer to the appeal of my noble friend Lard Newton, I know of no case in which such proceedings can be brought against the Crown in respect of any offence created by Parliament or at common law.

That is no doubt why the Amendment proposed by my noble friend refers to the common law and provides that the Act shall operate "notwithstanding the common law."

We all know what happens. Where a Government Department offends it does not get off at all scot free. It is open to criticism in either House of Parliament and that is perhaps the most effective preventive one could possibly have. To some extent the Bill goes further than most provisions of this kind. In most cases the Crown and Government Departments are wholly exempt from action or prosecution; but this Bill goes beyond that. It provides in terms that where a Government Department is guilty of causing a nuisance the local authority shall report the circumstances to the responsible Minister, and if he is satisfied after due inquiry that such a nuisance exists, he shall cause steps to be taken to amend the nuisance and to prevent a recurrence of it. Therefore if such a report is made by a local authority—it is called a report, but it is really a complaint—to the Minister he must, under the Statute, hold an inquiry, and if he finds there is a nuisance he must put an end to it and prevent a recurrence of it. If he fails in either duty, if he either refuses to hold an inquiry or to take remedial steps, he will at once be called to account in Parliament. That, I think, is the most effective, indeed the only effective, check that can be put upon a Minister of the Crown. I hope the Amendment will not be accepted.


I must confess that I have considerable sympathy with the noble Lord who moved this Amendment. The noble and learned Viscount directed his remarks to the question of Government Departments and so far as they are concerned I think I am prepared to agree entirely with him. But the noble Lord's Amendment goes a great deal further than that and deals with local authorities. The Lord Chancellor did not touch upon that subject and I am not quite sure what is the exact position of the law in regard to the local authorities; but I think it will be within the experience of your Lordships that these local authorities are often very bad offenders in this matter, and that in big smoky areas it is impossible to tell how much is due to the public authority and how much to private works. Those of your Lordships who motor about the country a good deal would probably find that if there was any smoke at all in a rural district it was due to some institution belonging to the local authority.


It may save the noble Earl further trouble if I say that I forgot to mention that local authorities are already subject to the Bill.


If the local authorities are already entirely subject to the Bill it is unnecessary for me to pursue the matter further.


I am bound to admit that I agree with what the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor has said. The exemption in Clause 9 does not refer to the exemption of local authorities. It is only in respect to premises occupied "for the public service of the Crown." Then there is a new power introduced that the local authorities shall report these circumstances in order that the Minister responsible shall abate the nuisance. The words are:— …. he shall cause such steps to be taken as may be necessary to abate the nuisance and to prevent a recurrence thereof. I should like the whole principle carried out as stated by the noble Marquess the Leader of the House when he was in the easy position of criticising the Government. It is always easy to criticise. Apart from that, I think the Lord Chancellor is right. You cannot change our whole legal system and make Governmental bodies liable for nuisance. That is not in our common law at all; but the provision introduced is the largest effective step which I can see can be taken in that direction. Therefore, I agree with the view stated by the Lord Chancellor on matters of law and I think that Clause 9 is a very useful step in the right direction of making Ministers responsible.


I have nothing to add to what my noble friend the Lord Chancellor has said with much greater authority and much more effect than I could say it. But I should like to point out to my noble friend who appealed to me, that the clause in the Bill is a tremendous advance upon the form submitted by the late Government, which drew from me a certain criticism to which he called your Lordships' attention. It being impossible to prosecute the Crown, the most that can be done is to lay a statutory obligation upon the Minister responsible to carry out the same remedy as would be compulsory upon a private individual. That is sought to be clone in the clause, and I hope I shall be acquitted by my noble friend of any inconsistency.


I hope my noble friend Lord Newton will take this into consideration—that the clause in this Bill, which was not in the Bill of 1924, as I understand it—


Hear, hear!


—introduces for the first time, so far as is commonly known—so far as I know at any rate—a provision with regard to a Minister of the Crown, imposing upon him the responsibility for preventing a nuisance. I think there is very good reason for supposing that if he deliberately fails to discharge that responsibility the remedy against him would be an indictment for a misdemeanour, which is a far severer penalty than any provided by the Bill.


In view of the assurance I have received, I beg to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 9 agreed to.

Remaining clause agreed to.

House adjourned at ten minutes past six o'clock.