HL Deb 25 July 1968 vol 295 cc1247-9

3.16 p.m.


My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen, to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Clean Air Bill, has consented to place Her interest so far as it is concerned on behalf of the Crown, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a Third time.

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Moyle for moving Amendments to the Bill on my behalf at Report stage. The Amendments have made Clause 6 much better and more practical. One Amendment was due to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, to whom I am also most grateful for his searching scrutiny of the Bill. I know that when the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, was Minister he took particular interest in clean air policy and the work of the Alkali Inspectorate. That fact is remembered with pleasure by that dtpartment, which is not very much in the public eye but whose quiet work has made, and continues to make, such a difference to the air around us.

There is only one further thing I wish to say. This Bill, in regard to grit. dust and chimney regulations will cover much smaller industrial furnaces than those to which the law has previously applied, and this has been achieved by the ready co-operation of the G.B.I. and is a very useful advance. I think though, it is worth while repeating something which I said on Second Reading, that nowadays most smoke pollution comes not from industry but from the domestic chimney. In fact four-fifths comes from the domestic chimney, and it is this situation which the Bill will do much to remedy. I think I have satisfied your Lordships, under the prompting of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, that smokeless fuel is available in ample quantities for smoke controlled areas to be extended considerably without shortage or hardship, and this should bring about a noticeable difference in polluted areas. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a. —(Lord Raglan.)


My Lords, the whole House will agree that this is a useful little measure, and will join me in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, who has so ably sponsored it in this House. I know the local authorities will also think it a useful measure when they get the improved powers in it, and so will the Alkali Inspectors as regards the central Government powers. It provides, of course, only for cleaner air, and containing the pollution of the atmosphere is certainly an important thing. I say "containing" because, as everybody knows, it is not getting worse. We are holding the line there, even on the most difficult substance, which is SO2 and on the easier ones, like simple old smoke from chimneys, we are making rapid progress.

But it becomes clearer and clearer that we ought to consider the pollution of our environment as a whole. It is not only the air we breathe; it is the rivers and lakes from which we get our drinking water, and in which we like to sail and swim. It is the beaches on which we like to run and lie. It is the sea around us from which we get much of our food, and it is the soil from which we get the rest. It is the food itself, which we increasingly spray with this or that if it is vegetable, and to which we increasingly give this or that to eat if it is animal. And to return to air itself, there is the mischief of noise, and noise is no more than a form of air pollution.

The fact of the matter is that the seas, the rivers, the earth and the air, and all that therein is, need each year more and more protection from the unintended effects of human industry. In all our bones, and especially the bones of young people, there is radiostrontium; the emblem of the age of pollution. If a manufacturer of petrol puts lead in it to stop pinking, that lead turns up at the South Pole. If a farmer puts D.D.T. on his crops that D.D.T. turns up in the livers of the hawks that eat the mice that eat the crops. If the master of a ship runs her on the rocks, that used to mean one ship sunk with her cargo, and the rest was a problem for Lloyds. Now, if the cargo happens to be oil, it may mean an entire coastline fouled, thousands working on the bitter task of cleaning up, a tourist industry threatened. If somebody administers drugs to farm animals to keep them fit, it may be that those who eat those animals in the end will no longer respond to those drugs when their health depends on it. If someone invents a very quick way of cutting up wood by using a petrol engine, it may mean that forests are polluted by noise, so that they are still economiclly worth while, but no longer a source of recreation and peace for harried people—unless of course one were to make a law that band saws must have silencers, in which case they would not cut so much wood, and would not be so much better than an old push-me pull-you.

If industry finds a very good new way of making something, the only disadvantage of which is that it produces a large quantity of poison, or even of non-poisonous muck, which has to be got rid of down a pipe, there is a difficult decision before us; who ought to pay for getting rid of it? Should it be the firm concerned, in its own factory? Should it be the sewerage authority who accept it at the other end of the sewer? Should it be the river authority, who accept the purified sewage effluent from the sewage authority? Or should it be the water undertaking who have to turn what they find in the river into drinking water for people's taps?

From kitchen taps to space itself, where dead satellites keep on orbiting, this is a growing problem right across the board. Nothing is made without dirt. As more and more people come into the world, so they make more and more. And there is more and more dirt. Fortunately, there is also more and more ingenuity about getting rid of it. All these problems can be dealt with and, in this country, all are being. But I think this will not be the last proposal for controlling the pollution of this or that which the British Parliament will have to consider.

On Question, Bill read 3a, with the Amendments, and passed, and returned to the Commons.