HL Deb 18 July 1956 vol 198 cc1204-6

3.3 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to ask the second Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will state what plans they have for stimulating action on the Clean Air Act at a time of redundancy in the engineering industry and with the object of getting as much work done as possible before the winter; whether credit restrictions will be relaxed in favour of firms undertaking such development; and what information the industries concerned have supplied to Her Majesty's Government, on the lines contemplated at the recent meeting between the Prime Minister and the Federation of British Industries, about their plans for expansion in 1957.]


My Lords, the provisions of the Clean Air Act, 1956, will come into operation on such dates as may be appointed by my right honourable friends the Minister of Housing and Local Government and the Secretary of State for Scotland. It is their present intention that the provisions relating to the establishment of smoke control areas should become operative before the end of this year, and that the other provisions of the Act, which mainly affect industry, should come into operation early in 1958. This accords with the recommendation of the Committee on Air Pollution, and with the statements made in Parliament during the passage of the Bill. The interval is, of course, designed to allow time for any improvements or alterations to plant that may be necessary to enable industry to comply with the Act. The main stimulus for such improvements is provided by the requirements of the Act itself.

Noble Lords will be aware of the close connection between clean air and fuel efficiency and that the list of fuel-saving equipment to qualify for the investment allowance under the Finance (No. 2) Bill includes a number of items of special value from the clear air point of view. Her Majesty's Government cannot undertake to vary its present monetary policy, but I am sure that the importance in the national interest both of fuel economy and of measures to reduce air pollution is recognised. With regard to the last part of the Question, I understand that the Board of Trade are at present conducting a sample inquiry about the plans of industry for capital expenditure in 1957, but it is too early to assess the results of this inquiry.


My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Earl for his answer to my Question, but I do not find in it much assurance that there is going to be a real drive put behind the production of these necessary appliances before the approach of winter is upon us and the fogs start to strike at us in November and December. Bearing in mind that upwards of four thousand people were killed by smog in four clays in December, 1952 (many of them, of course, were old people, bin the rate of deaths among children under one year of age was doubled during the same period), will not the noble Earl agree that it is a matter of the utmost urgency to provide such credit facilities and priorities as are necessary to enable the most rapid possible production of these appliances before the coming winter?


In reply to the noble Viscount, let me tell him that this is the first I have heard that there is any likelihood whatever of insufficient appliances being available when my right honourable friends decide, in conjunction with the local authority, that any particular area should become a clean air area.

The Lord Ismay—Took the Oath.