HL Deb 05 July 1968 vol 294 cc557-82

11.40 a.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Raglan.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD GRENFELL in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Prohibition of dark smoke from industrial or trade premises]:

LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR moved, after subsection (1), to insert: ()Subsection (1) above shall not apply to any emission of dark smoke arising from—

  1. (a) any plant or equipment used in the manufacture or laying of road materials or road surface dressing or for the heating or planing of roads surfaces; or
  2. (b) the burning in the open of wood, rubbish or other residues on any building or civil engineering construction site, where no other practical means of disposal exists; or
  3. (c) the burning in the open of residues contaminated by explosives."

The noble Lord said: I am a strong supporter of this Bill and I regret having to hold it up for even a few minutes by the necessity of moving one or two somewhat technical Amendments. Those of your Lordships who at one time were Members of another place may recollect how at a certain stage of the Session it became necessary to take the concluding stages of some Private Members' Bills at top speed in order that they should not lose the chance of reaching the Statute Book. I think the noble Lord. Lord Raglan, will agree that something of this kind happened in another place with the Clean Air Bill, and it is not very easy to discuss technical matters under great pressure of time. That is my excuse for raising these issues again. They are, of course, important to a limited number of people and firms. Fortunately, industry generally has come right round to support of the Clean Air movement—a change in view which was largely due to the late Sir Hugh Beaver.

I think I can assure your Lordships that none of my Amendments is designed to obstruct the purposes of the Bill but simply to obtain certainty at this stage as to what its effects will be. Subsection (1) of Clause 1 states that dark smoke must not in future be emitted from any industrial or trade premises. Subsection (3) qualifies that by empowering the Minister by regulations to exempt the emission of dark smoke caused by burning of any prescribed matter, if he thinks fit. If the noble Lord, or the Government, is able to give me the assurance that the matters mentioned in this Amendment of mine will in fact be exempted by regulations, then tint will satisfy me just as well as having the exemptions in the Bill.

I am seeking exemptions, first, for road-making processes. I am not expert in modern road-making processes, but all of us have seen the modern machinery which affects so very greatly the increase in productivity in road-making but which inevitably creates a certain amount of dark smoke. It would be quite wrong to exclude by Act of Parliament the use of modern road-making machinery from this country. I understand that it is held that the ordinary road would not be included in the definition of "industrial or trade premises". That is satisfactory so far as it goes, but you do not make roads only in the open, so to speak; there may be roads on airfields and airfields might be classified as "industrial or trade premises". Moreover, on a large factory site you may need well surfaced roads, and there it may be desirable to use modern road-making machinery, though unquestionably that would be on "industrial or trade premises". What I am seeking is an assurance that by one means or another the use of modern road-making machinery will not be prohibited by this Bill.

The second part of my Amendment refers to the burning in the open of wood, rubbish or other residues on building or civil engineering sites. It appears to me essential that either this Amendment of mine should be adopted or that an exempting regulation should be made. We all know how contractors have to burn a lot of old timber on the site which they are clearing. It would render it ridiculously expensive to have to cart it away somewhere else. That would appear to be, at first sight, at any rate, included in the definition of "industrial or trade premises". My concern is to ensure that in fact that regular practice will not be prohibited by this Bill.

The third part of my Amendment is, I think, self-explanatory. It relates to the burning in the open of residues contaminated by explosives. That, again, is something which has to be done, and I think your Lordships would all agree that it is desirable that there should be no doubt that that action will still be permissible. I move this Amendment to draw attention to those three cases, greatly hoping that the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, or the Government, will be able to give me the assurances I seek.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 10, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Brooke of Cumnor.)


The noble Lord will be the first to agree, I am sure, that the substances mentioned in his Amendment, and other substances as well, are best dealt with by regulation, rather than writing the provision into the Bill—regulations made by the Minister after consultation with those concerned. Although I am the sponsor of the Bill, I can tell your Lordships that I have no authority to give assurances about regulations, but I understand that my noble friend Lord Kennet can give those assurances.


Yes; in a word, that is all right. If the House passes this Bill it is the intention of the Minister to consult with the interests concerned about the kind of regulations which he can make to exempt precisely the kind of processes which the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, has mentioned. I cannot promise that each and every one as defined by him will come under this, but I refer to processes of that kind. May I get it on the record that it appears to me at first glance, from the way the noble Lord has drafted his Amendment, that the manufacture of road materials may give rise to difficulties, because they may very well be manufactured in premises of an ordinary commercial nature and it might be a pity to exempt them. But, of course, the regulations will see to it that modern road-making machinery is not taken off the roads inadvertently. At the the moment it is clear that the burning of site rubbish by contractors, especially timber, will be exempted by the regulations if the Bill goes through, although one cannot say that that will last for all eternity. It may be that site rubbish of a different nature will turn up in future years, the burning of which might really require to be controlled. At the moment, however, I think it is all right. As to explosives, of course the regulations will take care not to impose any danger on anybody by requiring them to burn such materials indoors.


I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, and the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, for the trouble they have taken about this matter. It is clear from what has been said on behalf of the Government that the Government are anxious to make regulations to meet these points in general, though I appreciate that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, cannot at this moment tie himself to specific words. However, what he has said is quite satisfactory to me, and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 agreed to.

11.50 a.m.

LORD TAYLOR OF MANSFIELD moved, after Clause 2, to insert the following new clause:

Acid smuts

".—(1) With a view to the prevention of the emission of acid smuts the Minister may by regulations prescribe the minimum temperature at which any emission of the products of combustion may be made from the chimneys of furnaces to which section 2 of this Act applies and different temperatures may be prescribed under this subsection for different cases and according to different circumstances.

(2) If on any day the products of combustion are emitted at a temperature below the relevant minimum temperature prescribed under subsection (1) of this section from a chimney serving a furnace to which section 2 of this Act applies the occupier of the building in which the furnace is situated shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceding £100.

(3) In proceedings for an offence under subsection (2) of this section it shall be a defence to prove that the best practicable means had been used to prevent the emission being made at a temperature below the relevant minimum temperature prescribed under subsection (1) above."

The noble Lord said: I would join the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, as a supporter of this Bill. The purpose of my Amendments is not to impede progress, and certainly not to wreck the Bill. But I am of the opinion that if they were to be accepted they would make it a better Bill than it is now. On reading the debate on the Second Reading of the Bill I came to the conclusion —and I think this is right—that it is the desire of noble Lords on both sides of this House, and among the general population, that we should do all we can to minimise the pollution of the atmosphere. That is the purpose of the Bill, and that is the main reason why I give it my support 100 per cent.

On an occasion of this kind, I think this ought to be said, too. During the last decade a good deal has been done towards this desirable end, and the purpose of my new clause is to make an additional contribution towards cleaner air by dealing with acid smuts, or, as the Ministry of Health prefer to call it, soot—a term that is better understood by the general population than "acid smuts". However, whatever term we use, whether it is "acid smuts" or "soot", there is unanimity on the point that it is dangerous to health and to property. People who are expert in this field are of the opinion that acid smuts are more dangerous, both to health and to property, than either grit or dust.

Admirable as this Bill is, there are no safeguards, so far as I can see, against acid smuts. The information at try disposal, and I admit that it is somewhat technical, is that acid smuts can be prevented. They are not something that we should continue to tolerate and I am informed by the experts that they can be prevented by making sure that the flue gases leave the chimney at minimum temperatures. The purpose in putting forward this new clause is simply to permit the Ministry of Health to prescribe by regulation the minimum temperatures; and this, I am advised, will depend largely upon the fuel that is being burned, and, when the fuel used is oil, the sulphur content.

May I now pose a question? What are these acid smuts; what really is soot? I am advised that it is an agglomeration of carbon particles and acid liquid, and that this liquid is deposited as a film on the inner surface of the chimney. The soot particles stick to it and build up into loose layers; these eventually break off and are picked up by the gas stream and carried into the atmosphere. That is the technical explanation of expert evidence that has been submitted as to the composition of acid smuts. One thing we do know, and on which we do not need expert evidence to advise us, is that these smuts can be quite big. They are also corrosive, and can be highly dangerous. I will give only two examples: it has been know, for instance, for babies in their prams to have their cheeks burned by falling smuts. Secondly, there are recorded cases of damage to washing hanging on clothes lines, while the cellulose on cars has also been damaged by acid smuts. It is obvious, too, that falling smuts can also be damaging to the fabric of buildings, and this problem has now assumed such serious proportions that even Shell-Mex have referred to it in a booklet which they have published, entitled Chimneys for Oil-Fired Plant.

It may be that my noble friend in charge of the Bill will take the view that this clause is not the best way of dealing with this kind of atmospheric polution. If so, I should like to hear, either from my noble friend Lord Raglan or from my noble friend Lord Kennet, representing the Government, about methods of dealing with this serious form of atmospheric pollution if those put forward in this clause are not the best way of dealing with the problem. I should welcome the observations of either of my two noble friends on this most serious problem. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 2, insert the said new clause. (Lord Taylor of Mansfield.)


I support the Bill but I should like to oppose the insertion of this new clause, and I will give my reasons as briefly as possible. Clause 1 deals with the problem of dark smoke and Clause 2 with the problem of the emission of grit, dust and fumes from furnaces. As the noble Lord has said, this new clause seeks to deal with the question of acid smuts or soot. My contention is that it would be wrong at this late stage of the Bill to give the Minister power to make regulations prescribing the minimum temperature at which any emission of the products of combustion may be made from the chimneys of furnaces In the first place there has been inadequate time for all concerned properly to consider the provisions proposed in this new clause. Secondly, this deals with a complex problem which calls for a long-term solution, and which at the moment, has not yet been properly resolved.

To stress this last point, I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to paragraph 4 of the 1967 Report of the Working Party on Grit and Dust emissions, which reads as follows: The intermittent and somewhat sporadic emission of acid soot is a separate issue from the emission of grit and dust as understood in this Report and the standards that we propose. The acid soot arises from the condensation in chimneys and flues. For the very noxious emission of acid soot to be eliminated it is essential that the temperature of the surfaces in the flues and chimneys should be kept above the acid dewpoint. To achieve this with any certainty with modern oil-firing equipment, it is necessary that the exit flues and chimneys should be properly insulated and that the plant should be operated in such a way that condensation will be prevented. It is doubtful if a satisfactory code of practice for the construction of exit flues and chimneys has yet been established and we recommend that the Ministry of Housing and Local Government should have discussions with the boilermakers and those who construct chimneys to this end. Eventually it may he desirable to have a British Standard. I would like to emphasise a few words of this paragraph. They say: For the very noxious emission of acid soot to be eliminated it is essential that the temperature of the surfaces in the flues and chimneys should be kept above the acid dewpoint. But local conditions within the flues and chimneys may bring the temperature of the surfaces below the acid dewpoint while the emission temperature may be above any practical specified minimum. These local conditions may arise, I am informed, from air infiltration downstream of the combustion zone or from the presence of "inversion" conditions at the chimney terminal.

At this point, I should like to quote a few words, which I think are very relevant, from the 1967 Report of the Warren Spring Laboratory on "The Investigation of Atmospheric Pollution from 1958 to 1966". Referring to "acid soot from oil-fired boilers" it says: While there still seems to be ample scope for improved operation in many oil-fired boilers, it is only fair to report that since the formation of the advisory service on acid soot"— that advisory service was set up in 1961— not one complaint has had to be referred to the Panel". The quotation ends: This says much for the technical services of the oil companies. I think it is also fair to point out that the provisions of subsection (1) of this new clause would involve industry in both capital cost and regular maintenance expenditure, due to the necessity of temperature measurement. This cost will be high in the worst cases, on account of the inaccessibility of the sensitive element for measuring temperature. And worse still, with regard to the provisions of this clause, the occupier of the building in which the furnace is situated can be fined up to £100 for failing to meet the specified emission temperature, although he may not have emitted any acid smuts whatsoever. I would conclude by reiterating the words of the Working Party on Grit and Dust Emissions, where they said: It is doubtful if a satisfactory code of practice for the construction of exit flues and chimneys has yet been established. That is why I feel that the insertion of the noble Lord's clause would be to some extent very premature. For all the reasons I have given I wish to oppose this new clause.


As can be seen from the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, this is a very complicated matter—far more complicated, it seems to me, than can be legislated about at the present time. I think that my noble friend Lord Kennet has some information on the question from the Government advisers, and perhaps I had better leave it to him to explain it to your Lordships.

12.6 p.m.


I agree with both my noble friend Lord Taylor of Mansfield and the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, about this matter. It is a problem about which something ought to be done, but I fear that the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, is right in the reasons he advanced for thinking that this is not the way to do it. I need not go fully into the technicalities: the Committee have had quite a lot of chemistry already. The discharge of acid smuts depends not on the temperature of the gases but on the temperature of the inner wall of the chimney, and it is easy to see that this will vary according to the time of year. On a very cold winter's day it is going to be lower, even if the gases are as hot as the noble Lord would like them to be, than on a hot summer's day. What could one do about that? Moreover, the new clause would require factories to install temperature pyrometers, which cost from £400 to £500, and it is necessary to employ a man to climb up a high chimney and look after it; and that is a very onerous and expensive business.

All that being so, it seems to me that the best way to go about the matter would be to concentrate on the essential, which is that acid smuts are a nuisance, and when they are emitted something ought to be done about it. There is an existing legal sanction which would enable society as a whole to do something about it when this nuisance appears. It is that if acid soot causes a nuisance—and, obviously, in the examples given by my noble friend that is a nuisance: the baby's face being burned is quite a serious matter—the local authority, or indeed a private citizen, can take action under the nuisance provisions of the Public Health Act, as applied by Section 16 of the Clean Air Act. It is there already. In the definition section of that Act "smoke" is defined to include "soot", and acid soot therefore is smoke, so far as this goes, under the law. If the magistrates find that a nuisance exists, they can require the defendant to abate the nuisance and execute any works necessary for that purpose or for the purpose of preventing its recurrence.

Where the local authority think that summary proceedings are not enough, they may bring proceedings for the abatement of the nuisance in the High Court. And in case anybody should think that this is the kind of thing which, although it looks very good on paper, never gets done, I should inform the Committee that it was recently done successfully by a local council in a case involving not acid smut but an unpleasant smell which had been persisting over a large area for a long time. In that case the court went so far as to grant a writ of sequestration which, if it had been necessary to enforce it—which it was not—would have enabled the personal assets of the directors of the defendant company to be impounded and used to secure the abatement of the nuisance. I hope, for the reasons I have given—namely, that the nuisance can already be coped with under existing legislation—my noble friend will agree that we do not need to have a temperature pyrometer on the top of every high chimney in the country.


I see the difficulties surrounding this particular problem, but I am very pleased that we have had the opportunity of ventilating its seriousness. In view of what my noble friend Lord Kennet has said, that this will continue to be looked at and the problem will not be shelved and put on one side, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdraw.

Clause 3 [Requirement to fit arrestment plans to new furnaces]

12.9 p.m.

LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR moved, in subsection (1)(b), to leave out "100" and insert "250". The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 3, and perhaps your Lordships would be good enough to consider at the same time Amendments 4, 5 and 6, which are all related to it. Once again my Amendments may seem to be seeking to drive a big wedge into the Bill, but I think I can avoid troubling your Lordships with great technicalities on a Friday morning by explaining that these Amendments are designed to raise one single point, the application of the Bill to a certain type of furnace. Perhaps I may say, in passing, that it is striking and I think commendable how rapidly we have pressed forward in this sphere of dust and grit arrestment. If I remember rightly, the Beaver Committee which reported in 1954, recommended that arrestment plant should be compulsorily attached to furnaces with a permitted fuel consumption of more than 10 tons per hour. In fact, we legislated in 1956 to fix that at one ton per hour, and it is now proposed in this Bill to bring it right down to 100 lb. per hour—a tremendous change and improvement, for which many people will be grateful.

But if the Bill goes through unamended, and if no regulations are made by the Minister, and if local authorities do not exercise their power to grant exemptions, this will virtually put out of use large mobile furnaces. There are not a great number of these, but they are a proper technological development. Often it is not reasonably practical to fit dust or grit arresters to mobile furnaces. Therefore, what is to happen? Will the Minister give a general exemption by regulation, as he has power to do in the Bill, to solve this problem? I think that is the only way in which it could be solved, because though the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, may point out that there is also provision here for local authorities to grant exemption certificates, that is not of much value with a mobile furnace, which may have to be moved frequently from the area of one local authority to another; and it makes life extremely difficult if the owner of the furnace, when he wishes to move it into a new local authority area, has to apply for a new certificate of exemption and has to wait, possibly, up to four weeks before he gets it.

I therefore feel that your Lordships will agree that this is something which should be settled in a national rather than a local way. I greatly hope that either the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, or the Government, will be able to give an assurance that it is intended to make ministerial regulations which will deal satisfactorily with the problem of these large mobile furnaces, to which it would be extremely difficult to fit grit or dust arresters. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 33, leave out ("100") and insert ("250").—(Lord Brooke of Cumnor.)


Perhaps your Lordships would not mind if I "nip in" before the sponsor of the Bill. I believe that we can deal with this point quite shortly. Now that it is clear that the noble Lord is dealing with large mobile furnaces, the simplest thing would be for me to say that we will consider it and perhaps I can say something about it on the next stage round. This is a new point to me. If the noble Lord would be good enough to withdraw his Amendment now, I will try to make a statement on Report which I hope will satisfy him. If he puts his Amendments down again on Report he can maintain them should my statement not satisfy him.


I do not know whether I can help here. I want first of all to say that I hope the noble Lord will not press his Amendment, because if he does it will wreck quite a lot of the agreement which has already been reached. The figure of 100 lb. an hour is a big drop, I agree, from the one ton an hour, but the Working Party on Chimney Heights in 1961 recommended that the control of chimney heights should operate from this level, and the Working Party on Grit and Dust, set up in 1964, at the request of the Clean Air Council, also related their inquiries to furnaces using that amount of coal. But the important thing is, that all these figures have been agreed to by the C.B.I. and we do not want to undo the good work that we have achieved here.

I think that I can give the noble Lord some assurance or some hint of safety about mobile furnaces, because the Minister may, under Clause 4(1), exempt these mobile furnaces, of which the noble Lord says there are not a great number. They could no doubt be described as a "class" and appropriately defined, and in due course the Minister can consider what exemptions he will be making under Clause 4, and he will consult with the interested parties. I do not know whether that will satisfy the noble Lord for the present.


I am grateful to both noble Lords who have spoken. I feel sure that a solution to this problem can be found by the use of Clause 4(1); and what the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, has said encourages me to think that it will be the Government's desire to find a solution. Accordingly, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.

Clause 6 [Height of chimneys]:

12.18 p.m.

LORD TAYLOR OF MANSFIELD moved, in subsection (1), after "increased" to insert: or which has been converted to use a different fuel".

The noble Lord said: I think it would be for the convenience of the Committee if we took Amendments Nos. 7 and 8, together. I beg to move the first Amendment standing in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Blyton on the Marshalled List. The main purpose of Clause 6 of this Bill is, as I understand it, to make certain that the chimney height is sufficient to ensure that pollutants, especially sulphur dioxide, are disposed of. In these days anyone building a new chimney or adding to the capacity of a furnace served by an existing chimney requires the approval of the local authority as to the height of the chimney. In its present form, the clause would not prevent the use of a furnace the capacity of which has not been increased and is served by the existing chimney but converted to use a different fuel. As I understand it, this could be done without the approval of the local authority.

The object of this Amendment is to require the approval of the local authority when a conversion to a different kind of fuel takes place. In the case of oil, for instance, I am informed that the amount of sulphur dioxide emitted from the chimney will be considerably increased as compared with the use of coal. Neither the 1956 Act—that is the Clean Air Act—nor this Bill defines what is considered to be a sufficient chimney height to ensure adequate dispersion of pollutants. It may well be that the reason for that omission, both in the 1960 Clean Air Act and in the Bill which is before the Committee to-day, is because much must depend upon the circumstances in each case.

I would remind your Lordships of the steps that have been taken by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government in giving advice to local authorities on this particular point. Only last year—and I believe that the noble Lord. Lord Merrivale, quoted from this particular document—the Ministry of Housing and Local Government issued a Memorandum to local authorities to act as a guide on this matter. I will mention only two matters contained in the Memorandum. First, the chimney must be of a height appropriate to the maximum rate of sulphur dioxide that can be expected to be emitted from the chimney. Secondly, the same Memorandum provides for an addition—this is the advice given to local authorities—of 10 per cent. to be made to the height of the chimney where oil with a sulphur content of more than 2 per cent. is used.

The Memorandum, by way of comparison, has this to say on the sulphur content of oil as compared with coal—the percentage figures, I understand, of the coal and oil industries (and they have made their analyses on this particular point) substantially agree with the analysis of the Memorandum. The sulphur content of British coal is 1.6 per cent., of which one-tenth is retained in the ash and is not discharged into the atmosphere; and the average sulphur content of fuel oil used in boiler plant is 3 per cent. If the guide to the local authorities by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government is followed, the chimney height serving an oil-fired furnace should be about 20 per cent. greater than that of a chimney serving a coal-fired furnace of equal capacity. To allow a furnace to be converted to another fuel and thus emit more sulphur dioxide would be contrary, in my humble submission, to the purpose of this clause.


I wonder whether my noble friend would permit me to interrupt? He originally quoted the Ministry of Housing guide as saying that you should add 10 per cent. if it was going to be oil burned in the chimney, and a moment ago that figure seemed to have changed to 20 per cent. I may not have been listening as closely as I should have done, but I think perhaps 10 per cent. is the right figure.


That may be. It may be that I made a slip in respect of the height of the chimneys for the burning of fuel oil. I was saying that to allow a furnace to be converted to another fuel and thus emit more sulphur dioxide—and I think my noble friend will agree on the sulphur dioxide content between coal and oil—


Sulphur content.


Yes, sulphur content—would be contrary to the purpose of this clause. In this event, the height of the chimney—and this is really what I am putting forward in my argument—in these changed circumstances, when it is possible to change from one fuel to another, should have the approval of the local authority. For that reason, I beg to move this Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 34, after ("increased") insert the said words.—(Lord Taylor of Mansfield.)

12.27 p.m.


As my noble friend Lord Taylor of Mansfield knows, I have met representatives of the National Coal Board and had quite a lengthy discussion with them about this Amendment, and I have also had long conversations with my advisers. I have come to the conclusion that although at first sight there is a plausible case to be made out for the words in the Amendment, they are not necessary. If we put them in those who change from one fuel to another would be involved in a lot of trouble and ex- pense with very little advantage in the way of cleaner air. As my noble friend said, it is sulphur dioxide—or rather sulphur trioxide, which is associated with sulphur dioxide in small quantities and forms sulphuric acid—with which we are concerned. It is true that on average an oil-fired furnace gives off more sulphur dioxide than an equivalent coal-fired furnace. But that is not necessarily true, because some coals have a very high sulphur content and some oils have a very low sulphur content. However, on average it is true to say that the oil-fired furnace would give off more sulphur dioxide than an equivalent coal-fired one.

Under Ministry recommendations a chimney height for a coal-fired boiler of, say, 100 ft. would, if the boiler were converted to oil, need a chimney height of 105 ft. This is under the Ministry recommendations in their pamphlet upon chimney heights. Now to this calculated height would be added another 10 per cent. because the burning of oil requires less air than its equivalent in coal, and so one must compensate for a lower velocity of smoke emission and consequently less of what is called "plume lift", which I think is a self-explanatory phrase. This would make the recommended height of the chimney of the converted furnace 115 ft. instead of 100 ft. That would be, of course, as the Ministry leaflet says, the approximate height commonly desirable in normal circumstances.

There is nothing of what one might call "Holy Writ" about it. Under subsection (5) of this clause, the local authority can, and probably will, approve the chimney height subject to certain conditions, and if someone is considered by the local authority to have breached the conditions of approval as a result of converting to a different fuel, and extra fumes are deemed to be creating a nuisance or are thought to be prejudicial to health, then the breach of conditions can be invoked against the owner or user of the furnace. However, I am advised that in the case of someone with a chimney which has never had its height approved, whether under this Bill or under the 1956 Act, the increase in emission caused by a change of fuel is not significant enough to warrant an increase in height.

Despite the changes which have already taken place in the conversion from coal to oil during the past decade, the ground level concentrations of sulphur dioxide in our towns has shown a steady downward trend, and with the provisions of the 1956 Act taking effect, and now this Bill, there is every reason to suppose that these concentrations will continue to go down. I hope I have said enough to persuade my noble friend that his Amendment is not necessary.


I have listened to the discussion on the question of acid smuts, and as to whether the products of the consumption of oil contain more sulphur than the products of the consumption of coal. I feel that this is an area in which the Clean Air Council could help more than the forces of law. I feel that the Council should make its reports public. My big disappointment, as one who was interested in the clear air agitation in another place, was the fact that the Bill prevented the Clean Air Council from making its reports public. If they had been made public, this would have led to the development of clean air consciousness amongst industrialists and the community at large. Could the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, say why the decision was taken to prevent the publication of these reports, since I feel that this is a vital matter? I should like to suggest to the Minister that it would be a good thing if a change were made so that these reports could be made public. This would help the people involved in dealing with the problems which were raised by my noble friend Lord Taylor of Mansfield.


We may possibly now be straying a little away from the original Amendment, but in answer to the noble Lord who has just spoken may I say that I was not responsible for the 1956 Act and the setting up of the Clean Air Council. It is true that I presided over the first meeting, but I cannot remember any decision having been taken or resolution having been passed preventing or prohibiting publication.


It is in the 1956 Act.


I have not had time to read it, but Section 23 of the 1956 Act, which deals with the Clean Air Council, does not appear at first sight to contain any pro- hibition on the publication of its proceedings or of reports made to it. However, this is a matter for the Government.


May I ask the noble Lord who is speaking for the Government to deal with this point? So far as I know these reports are not published.


I think I might say—


Might I finish my speech? I was going to refer to one other matter, and perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, may be able to explain it to me. The Amendment deals with furnaces which have been converted to use a different fuel. I am not sure whether an installation of an entirely new furnace is covered by the clause as it stands, or indeed by the clause as it would stand if the Amendment were made. I do not press for an answer on this point, but it is important to ensure that we get the wording right and that it is not discovered afterwards in the courts that there is some flaw.

I should also be grateful to know whether subsection (1) makes it sufficiently clear that fresh approval will have to be obtained every time the capacity of the furnace is increased. I am not certain from my reading of the subsection whether that is so. It strikes me that in relation to this Amendment and the clause, whether amended or unamended, it is desirable to establish certainty on both those points before the Bill reaches the Statute Book.


In answer to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, Clause 6 in fact applies to new furnaces, and every time the capacity of the furnace is increased the chimney height has to be approved. I can give him that categoric assurance.


I appreciate that if the capacity is increased approval has to be given. I am grateful to the noble Lord for his further assurance that this is repetitive and that a further increase would require a fresh approval. I was not certain of that from my reading of the clause. I am still not certain whether, if you tear out an old furnace and install a completely new one, where there is no question of conversion, the clause is going to bite. This is not a matter I would press further at this stage.


The noble Lord has raised a valid point, which I will consider.


At a certain stage it appeared that our discussion was going so wide that it was not only getting into the area of "Clause stand part", but even into the area of "clean air legislation at all stand part". Without wishing to prolong this unacceptable widening, I should like to say that as Chairman of the Clean Air Council I will look at the idea that its reports might be published, but I doubt whether much more can be done in the way of enlightening and sensitising public opinion to this matter than is done by the admirable activities of the National Association of Clean Air, the voluntary body in the field.


I am grateful to my noble friend for that reply.


I am grateful for what the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, had to say. It appears that there is some conflict of opinion on this matter between experts. For that reason, I am glad that we have had an opportunity to ventilate this matter and to have an interesting discussion. I understood my noble friend Lord Raglan to say that the average content of sulphur in coal varied from coalfield to coalfield. The figure which I quoted in my remarks was that the average content of sulphur in British coal was 1.6 per cent.—in some it might be more, and in others less. In view of what my noble friend has said, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 6 agreed to.

Clause 7 agreed to.

Clause 8 [Power of appropriate Minister to require creation of smoke control areas]:

12.50 p.m.

LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR moved to add to subsection(1): Provided that the Minister shall first have satisfied himself that there are, or are likely to be, adequate supplies of authorised fuels available in the area at reasonable prices.

The noble Lord said: I am moving this Amendment in the hope that I may have a satisfactory assurance from the Government. I know from past experience how important it is that in pressing forward with smoke control areas one is not at risk of creating a shortage of smokeless fuel in the area where the use of smokeless fuel is about to be made compulsory. It appears to me exceptionally important to produce the maximum of good will in the cases referred to in Clause 8, because those are cases where, in the view of the Minister, the local authority has not gone far enough. There will, therefore, be inbuilt—


Would the noble Lord forgive me for interrupting? Surely, he is now referring to the question of domestic fuels, whereas this Bill deals with furnaces. I do not think he would expect the Government to undertake to supply smokeless fuel for furnaces, would he? I rise only to get the point fully explained.


We are now passing on to smoke control areas. This refers to domestic chimneys, and in a smoke control area it is laid down that only an authorised fuel may be burned through a chimney. In general, the local authorities have been declaring one area after another a smoke control area, and they have been careful to seek to ensure that in such areas sufficient smokeless fuel was likely to be on sale at a reasonable price. Otherwise, they would obviously have a row with their ratepayers and inhabitants. Clause 8 relates to the case where the Minister takes the view that a local authority has been laggard; that it should have taken smoke control action but has not. Therefore there is, by definition, a certain difference of opinion at the outset between the Minister and the local authority, and it appears to me extremely important that in such a case the Minister shall satisfy himself before he takes steps to require the local authority to constitute an area a smoke control area, that there is likely to be an adequate supply of smokeless fuel available in the area at a reasonable price.

I feel that now, after all these years when the availability of smokeless fuels has vastly improved, there should be no difficulty and that the Government will be able to give me a satisfactory assurance. But it appeared to me that it was essential to raise this point, because it might seriously jeopardise the success of the policy of getting all black areas converted to smoke control areas if it were found that in one of the areas which was being compulsorily made a smoke control area there was a shortage of smokeless fuel. That might cause the whole policy to be resented, which is the opposite of what we want. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 8, line 24, at end insert the said proviso. —(Lord Brooke of Cumnor.)


I should like to support this Amendment, because it has much point in it. I hope that my noble friend who is speaking for the Government will help us on this matter, because it is a vexatious one, not only in relation to the local authority but also in relation to the people who are asked to prescribe a smokeless zone.

Secondly, we are constantly hearing rumours, in my neighbourhood particularly, that solid fuel may cease to be provided, so that people who are burning solid fuel as a method of central heating may be found with the equipment but with no solid fuel. I have never found out whether this is part of the propaganda to switch us over to oil, electricity or gas, but I should like my noble friend to tell us precisely—if he cannot do it now, perhaps he would do it at a later stage—whether there is any support for these rumours, or whether we can sit back and enjoy the benefits of solid fuel, both in the grate and for central heating, without the fear that the National Coal Board may cease to function in this field and that we shall be taken over by electricity, gas or any other interest which is not affiliated to the National Coal Board.


This is where the Minister—and I know that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, in particular, with his administrative experience will appreciate this—will exercise common prudence, and it is, of course, not necessary to write into the Bill that he should do so. So I think this is a probing Amendment. Once a smoke control area has been set up and people know what is expected of them and how to do it, then keeping smoke free is a matter of habit; but it is in setting up the area that the local authority need advice and help from the Ministry, and in that early stage one of the considerations must obviously be to see that there is enough smokeless fuel available in the area and at a reasonable price. I do not think any Minister can foresee or guarantee that there are likely to be adequate supplies at some future date, any more than he can guarantee fuel prices over a period of several years ahead. These smoke control areas sometimes take long periods to come into operation. Several county boroughs have smoke control programmes extending over a period of twenty years, and that is a very long time for a Minister to look ahead.

An unpredictable factor, also, is technological change. It may be that, solid smokeless fuels will not be necessary in certain areas, because the National Coal Board has been experimenting with stoves which burn bituminous coal smokelessly, and they are conducting tests on those stoves in Derbyshire this winter. We do not know what will come of that. It may be that the question of the supply of solid smokeless fuel in those areas will not arise. But it is a very important point that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, has raised, and therefore I have come here armed with a note about fuel policy and clean air dated May 15, 1968, from the Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Power, to the Clean Air Council. With the permission of your Lordships, I should like to read it even at the risk of being a little long, because what it says is extremely interesting. It says: Potential availability of solid smokeless fuels in total currently exceeds demand. The outlook for future supplies of gas coke, however, has changed since 1965 as a result of the discovery of natural gas in the North Sea. Once conversion to the direct use of natural gas has taken place there will no longer be any room in the system for coal gas, which cannot he successfully mixed with natural gas. Production of gas coke will therefore decline and cease altogether in the early 1970's. Gas coke is however only one kind of solid smokeless fuel, so this does not mean that there will be shortages of solid smokeless fuel in general. Current estimates from producers indicate that prospective availability for the domestic market in 1972 from plants already built will be nearly 8 million tons and they have assured the Ministry that supplies could be increased above that level if the demand justifies it. The trends in consumption noted in paragraph 6 —which I have not read— have not been reproduced to the same extent in all Regions. Thus the demand for solid smokeless fuels may, for some time at least, continue to rise in some parts of the country while it declines in others. While the total supplies of solid smokeless fuel should therefore be sufficient to meet demand, there may be local difficulties, especially over the provision of fuel suitable for burning on improves open grates. In particular, the end of gas coke production may present problems in some areas where smoke control orders were made before 1963 in the expectation that supplies would continue. This shows the difficulty of forecasting. Given the general trends outlined above, however, the likely extent of the difficulties should not he exaggerated, as supplies of other solid smokeless fuels can be made available to those who need them. The position will, however, continue to be kept under close review during the next few years. Consumers may in the next few years have the right to buy more expensive varieties of reactive fuels"— they are smokeless fuels— when their first preference might have been the cheaper gas coke. But with the recently agreed increase in coke prices the price difference between gas cokes and reactive fuels has narrowed appreciably. The increases in gas coke prices will in themselves cause difficulties for many consumers, but they should help to transfer demand to other fuels. That sounds very hard to me, but that is what it says. It is difficult to forecast the longer term trends in the prices of other solid smokeless fuels and the relationship between them. The suppliers of these fuels will, however, have a strong incentive to keep their prices as low as possible in the face of continuing competition from gas, electricity and oil". Then, the last paragraph: Bearing in mind the availability of gas, electricity and oil as well as the outlook for solid smokeless fuel referred to in paragraph 9 above, local authorities contemplating making new smoke control orders can feel confident that there will be sufficient smokeless fuels in total, and that householders will have a broad field of choice. If they are concerned about the availability of specific qualities of solid smokeless fuels they should keep in close touch with the local representatives of the Solid Smokeless Fuels Federation". I am not concealing the fact that there may be local difficulties from time to time, but the nature and the seriousness of what they may be in years to come cannot be foreseen by the Minister, and I think the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, will appreciate that. I may add that in the last resort the Minister can use Section 11, subsection (7), of the 1956 Act, in which he has power to suspend or relax operation of the order.


I am much obliged to the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, for what he has said, and I think your Lordships generally will have been greatly interested to hear that valuable note from the Parliamentary Secretary. It is such a change between ten years ago, when the availability of smokeless fuel was a considerable problem, and these days, when at any rate at present the supply is exceeding the demand. It will, of course, be strange for a great many people when gas coke disappears from the market, but that is due to the coming of North Sea gas, and we have to make widespread adjustments in our fuel policies and in our fuel burning over the years to come.

The noble Lord has satisfied me that the problem to which my Amendment directs attention, though it may from time to time exist, should not be an insuperable one, and I have great hopes that future Ministers, when they are thinking of implementing Clause 8, will have the good sense to do in advance what my Amendment would require them to do. Accordingly, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 8 agreed to.

Clause 9 [Acquisition and sale of un-authorised fuel in a smoke control area]:

12.55 p.m.

LORD TAYLOR OF MANSFIELD moved, in subsection (1)(c), after "delivery" to insert "by him or on his behalf". The noble Lord said: The only thing I want to say in moving this Amendment is that under the present wording of this clause a seller of coal might be held to be committing an offence if the person he sold the coal to delivered it to a house or other building in a smoke control area. I submit that this sort of thing could happen where packaged coal is sold over a shop counter, or when the purchaser collects coal himself from a colliery or a depot. How can the seller possibly prevent the purchaser from delivering that coal into a smoke control area? Yet, with the present wording of this part of the clause, the seller could be guilty of an offence.

I understand that the Ministry of Housing and Local Government have given assurances that the present wording is aimed only at delivery by the seller, but it is by no means certain that the courts would interpret the words in that way. My Amendment would remove all doubt and would confine the offence to anyone who sells by retail and delivers the coal himself in a smoke control area. For that reason, I move this Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 9, line 30, after ("delivery") insert ("by him or on his behalf").—(Lord Taylor of Mansfield.)


Paragraph (c) of subsection (1) of Clause 9 is not intended to make it an offence for a retailer to sell coal on his premises to a purchaser to take away with him, even though the purchaser may live in a smoke control area. A retail sale is not a sale for delivery if the purchaser takes the goods with him. The clause, being a penal one, would be strictly construed by the courts, and it is not thought that there is any danger, as the clause is drawn at the moment, that a retailer selling coal over the counter would run the risk of conviction. But if your Lordships think there is some doubt or that the intention should be more apparent then I am advised that the addition of the words proposed will not change the construction of the clause in other respects, and I am happy to accept the Amendment.


I am greatly obliged to my noble friend for giving me the satisfaction that, out of my three Amendments, I have got one home.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 9, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?


I want to say a brief word on Clause 9. It appears to me that the penalties with regard to the selling of unsuitable fuels are insufficient. I do not want to do anything at this particular point, but I think the matter needs attending to at some time or other. Some years ago I made a short study of smoke control in Pittsburgh, which, as your Lordships know, was the most famous city in the world for smoke and is now pretty clean so far as the city itself is concerned. There they are much more stringent in their control. All their fuel purveyors are licensed, and any person who sells soft coal within the City of Pittsburgh gets his licence withdrawn, which is a much more salutary way of dealing with it, perhaps, than a £20 fine. I hope that at some stage we may consider more severe penalties on people who sell unsuitable fuels.

Clause 9, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 10 agreed to.

Clause 11 [Relation of Clean Air Acts to, and amendment of, Alkali Act]:


This is a drafting Amendment. Clause 8 becomes Clause 10 here because two additional clauses were put in on Committee stage in another place. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 11, line 17, leave out ("8") and insert ("10")—(Lord Raglan.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 11, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clauses and Schedules agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported, with Amendments.

[The Sitting was suspended at 1 p.m. and resumed at 1.30 p.m.]