HL Deb 14 December 1970 vol 313 cc1167-86

2.48 p.m.

Debate resumed on the Motion introduced on Wednesday last by Lord Molson: That there be laid before the House Papers relating to The Fight against Pollution (Cmnd. 4373).


My Lords, first I should like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Molson on initiating this debate on the prevention of pollution; and I should also like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Sand-ford on the very helpful, comprehensive statement of Government action which he gave us during that debate. We were slightly handicapped by the darkened conditions of the Chamber, but nevertheless the debate had some illuminating and, I would say, enlightening and valuable speeches, especially the maiden speeches from the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, and the noble Lords, Lord Burntwood and Lord Selsdon, and I should like to add my congratulations to those that others have expressed to them.

My Lords, Lord Molson's first priority in the campaign against pollution was the campaign to prevent the pollution of rivers, first, because he saw this as an enhancement of amenity and recreation, and secondly because he saw this in connection with water supply. We need to double our water supply by the end of the century, and he saw this as the best way of doing it. He saw the more extensive purification of our rivers, which would make the re-use of the water possible by successive water undertakings, as a way to provide the extra supply needed to meet the extra demand.

My noble friend then referred to the hostile feelings about building new reservoirs, as expressed by three Private Bills being rejected either here or in the other place during the past year, as evidence of the general unpopularity of building reservoirs; and therefore the reuse of water would be a better alternative. Let me say immediately that with his characteristic perspicacity my noble friend has hit upon a very good point. The re-use of water can make a most valuable contribution, not only to amenities but also to the extra water supplies that we need; but it is not the whole story and in the few remarks that I want to make, I should like to carry that argument a little further.

Several rivers in this country already conform to the sort of standards to which my noble friend referred; notably, the Thames, the Lea, the Essex rivers, the Great Ouse and the River Severn. All of these have a high enough standard of quality due to the treatment of effluent so that the water undertakers can abstract water from the rivers successively and continue to use it for human consumption. The Thames, to which my noble friend particularly referred, is the prototype, because it has been developed for over 100 years for this purpose and manages to absorb some 240 million gallons a day of effluent, either from the local authorities or from industry. Nevertheless the Metropolitan Water Board intake is still in a good condition so that the Metropolitan Water Board can finally purify the water and make it fit for Londoners to drink. Two-thirds of Londoners' water comes from the Thames. I am glad to say in passing that the damage that the rivers suffered due to the recent strike of industrial workers in the sewage works has now been completely cleared up. The heavy rains of last month have flushed out the rivers and the quality of the water is back to normal standard. I am sorry to say that the fish stocks in the upper part of the river will take some years to recover.

Over the rest of the country, a number of other rivers could be brought up to these standards. We have talked a great deal about the River Trent where there is a great scheme for this purpose; that is to say, by improved purification processes in the sewage works the effluent could be brought up to a high standard so that the water could be used by the water undertakers and then re-used lower down. This can make, and will make, a substantial contribution to water supplies. At the same time, on the theme of my noble friend's Motion, it will enhance amenity, which is something we all want, and will bring the fisheries back to a high standard. In passing, I may say, as we tend rather to concentrate our attention on to the black sheep of the rivers, that in what is a very imperfect world nevertheless this country leads the world in the prevention of pollution in our rivers. That is some modest consolation to us as we focus our minds on the difficult points.

But more than prevention of pollution will be needed. Even to maintain the existing water quality in our rivers over the next thirty years will involve a very formidable programme of new sewage works construction. It is obvious that as water consumption doubles, so will effluent discharge double; and this means that the existing plant of sewage works will have to be doubled over the next thirty years. That alone would be a formidable undertaking; but when you have doubled the volume of effluent you have halved the rate of dilution. Then the Royal Commission standard (which requires a 20/30 standard and an 8:1 dilution) immediately becomes deficient. In some way we must either raise the standard of the effluent substantially or increase the volume of fresh water coming down if we are to maintain even the same standard. Our programme, the wish of us all, is not just to maintain our present position but to improve on it, to raise the quality of our rivers further—and this gives some idea of how far we have to go.

In theory it might be possible to achieve the whole of the improvement by greatly improved sewage treatment works, by what is called tertiary treatment; but the cost would be astronomical. Each additional process that is put on sewage treatment is proportionately more expensive in geometrical progression, but in addition pumping back would have to be taken into account in order to carry the effluent back in order to swell the volume of the river higher up. Let us take London as the most immediate example. In theory, it would be possible to purify the whole of the effluent from the Greater London Council to a high enough standard by tertiary treatment and to pump it back to somewhere on the River Thames, at about Windsor, or above the Metropolitan Water Board intakes in order to increase the volume of the river and to increase the supply for Londoners and continue to give them supplies of good fresh water. But the size of the tertiary treatment works required, the machinery of pumping back over this enormous distance of mains, would be likely to run into hundreds of millions of pounds. And a similar financial problem would exist in many other important rivers in this country if we tried to maintain the quality of the water in the rivers and on the other hand to give the extra supply required by the process of simply improving effluent treatment.

Therefore the conclusion must be that to improve the quality of our rivers and to increase our potable supplies we must have an increased supply of fresh, clean water as well as improved sewage treatment processes. This will mean inevitably, in most river basins, more large river regulating reservoirs to conserve some of the surplus water at present running down the river and out in flood in the winter period and out to sea. This must be stored in reservoirs so that it can then be released during the summer period when the rivers are very dry in order to maintain the natural flow of the river so that there is enough for the various water undertakings to abstract and use for their various purposes and, at the same time, so that there is enough clean water in the river to dilute the heavy effluents which keep on increasing in volume and come into the river. Thus do water supply and improved quality in our rivers go hand in hand.

In a few river basins it will be possible—and the notable examples are the Thames and the Great Ouse—because of the geological strata to use not reservoirs but a different system. This is the controlled ground water system where a number of wells are sunk into the water-bearing geological strata and the water is then pumped out during a dry year direct into the head of the nearest tributary in order to boost the natural flow of the river. The underground aquefer is then recharged by the natural percolation of rainfall in the following winter. To that extent, the winter floods are reduced. This is a most attractive scheme; and in fact we are using the underground aquefer as a reservoir in reverse; but without using any agricultural land.

May I add, in parenthesis, that the Thames scheme which has already started is the first scheme of its kind in the world and perhaps underlines the fact that it is not all that simple: the hydrological and geological problems involved are very complex. I repeat the point that in most river basins geology will dictate that reservoirs are really the only practical way of getting increased supplies of water to meet the needs of quality and quantity in a dry year. We can bring in the estuarial barrage like that on the Morecambe and the Wash; but they will take some time to develop and probably will not come in until the 1980s. I hope that we shall see them both.

A dry year, my Lords—I must say a word on that in my concluding remarks—will mean a shortage of water in this country. It seems hard to say that at a time when we are so conscious of being short of something else that matters very much. The fact is that our meteorological records show that about every twenty years we get a really dry year. Rainfall varies considerable in this country; sometimes it is as much as 10 inches below average. The records show that in 192–22 we had a very dry year; in 1943–44 we had a very dry year—in other words, about every twenty years we get a very dry year. But it is 26 or 27 years since we had the last one, so that it must be odds-on that we are going to have another dry year pretty soon. When that happens, my Lords, we are going to be short of water in many parts of the country. The water undertakings will not be able to draw enough water from the rivers or from the wells to meet the current demand.

London would be short by something like 50 million to 60 million gallons of water a day, if we had a drought similar to that in 1943–44 and with present-day demands. In fact, we could meet London's needs by cutting down the flow over Teddington Weir which discharges fresh water from the upper river down into the estuary. That would help the Londoners. We could perhaps cut by a third to keep them going, but that would substantially reduce the flow of fresh clean water which flushes out the rather dirty estuary—and one would not like to say just what the smell would be like outside the Palace of Westminster in the middle of a hot dry summer.

These things can be done, my Lords, but at the expense of amenity, even here; and in other places there would have to be straight rationing of water. I think that if that happened the British people would be very critical and would say, "Why could not someone have acted in advance? Why did not the Government do something about it?" The answer is that it takes about ten years from the conception to birth to produce water from a major water conservation scheme. Both this and also the previous Government have been striving over the last ten years to solve the problem. They have supported by every possible means measures which would produce the extra water which is required. But it is the fact that a number of these schemes which have been put forward have been so heavily and, I regret to say, so effectively opposed by many influential conservationists that it has involved years of delay; and undoubtedly this will be a significantly contributing factor in the creation of a drought, if we experience a dry year.

My Lords, I have dealt with this argument in some detail, and I hope that in so doing I have put over the point that the quality of water in the rivers, which every conservationist wants, is dependent on quantity, and that we shall be able to maintain and improve good quality water in our rivers only if we have increased quantity as well. I hope that from this very important debate, which my noble friend Lord Molson so valuably introduced, the message may go out that increased quantities of water would be one of the most valuable factors in improving the quality of the rivers, which is what we all want.


My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, sits down at the end of his extremely interesting speech, would he tell us, in considering distances and heights of pumping back, whether pumping back has been considered in the Paddington level of the Grand Union Canal which at one end runs direct into London and at the other into the upper reaches of the Thames? Would not that involve very little pumping up and no distance of additional waterway at all?


My Lords, the logistics of what I mentioned in theory, tertiary treatment for the G.L.C. effluent plus the pumping back, have not been examined in detail. I think that it would give the G.L.C. a fit if they were asked to look at the figures; but it is perhaps a point that they might look at in future.

3.5 p.m.


My Lords, although the White Paper before your Lordships covers the whole range of pollution, and last Wednesday we learned that everything from local government to birth control is relevant to it, I propose to limit myself to Part VI, "Pollution of the Sea and Beaches". In doing so, I should declare an interest, in that I am a director of a shipping company and of Britain's largest independent tanker company. May I add my congratulations to those of the noble Lords who have spoken before me to the three noble Lords who chose this subject for their maiden speeches? All three made valuable contributions to this debate.

Shipping is an industry which has been engaged for many years in the fight against pollution, not only because oil is a valuable cargo but also because the shipowner is no different from anyone else in his abhorrence of dirty beaches and his desire for clean seas. Your Lordships are aware that pollution of the sea pays no heed to national boundaries and cannot be cured by Her Majesty's Government alone. This is a world-wide issue and must be tackled on a world-wide basis. Your Lordships will therefore excuse me if my remarks are addressed not solely to any local, or even national, difficulties, but to the broader canvas of the world at large.

It is, of course, true that pollution at sea takes many forms, and most of it originates ashore. The seas appear so vast that far too many people look on them as the world's dustbin. Unfortunately, unlike most dustbins ashore, the sea is never cleared except by the action of the elements; the elements do gradually break down nearly all pollutants, with the possible exception of plastic which is as notorious at sea as it is ashore. Shipping has a clear duty to reduce to a minimum its own contribution to the damage caused by industrial civilisation. It may be helpful to your Lordships if I try to take stock briefly of all that has been done in recent years, and identify the problems that are still outstanding.

Until recently the major source of oil pollution at sea was the operational discharge of tank washings to which there appeared to be no satisfactory alternative. Now, thanks to the initiative of leading tanker owners, there is the load-on-top system which means that this particular form of pollution need no longer occur around the United Kingdom coasts. May I here thank the noble Lord, Lord Molson, for his generous reference to the work done in this respect by the British shipping and oil industries? They led the world in this matter. The Oil in Navigable Waters Bill, which will soon come before your Lordships' House, gives legal sanction to a scheme whose voluntary adoption by the shipping industry, it is estimated, has avoided the discharge of 2 million tons of pollutant oil per annum. In addition steps have been taken against accidental pollution; in the last few years there have been introduced more than forty internationally recommended traffic separation schemes which have reduced the likelihood of pollution in congested waters.

Much work has been done, and continues to be done, to reduce the damage in those cases where, despite all precautions, an accident does occur to a loaded tanker. The salvage operations in connection with the "Pacific Glory" are a recent example of what can be done when salvor, shipowner and cargo-owner are all determined to avoid pollution and are fortunate enough not to be hampered by forces outside their control. In the rare instances where an accident leads to a serious spill, there is available the fruits of the oil industry's finest research into the best means of containing and minimising actual damage. Finally, progress has been made with the legal problem of liability for the cost of pollution damage and the cost of minimising pollution damage. In the three short years since the "Torrey Canyon" incident one international Convention on the subject has been adopted, and another one to supplement it is already in draft form. These schemes have received the backing of the shipping and oil industries, which have also tried to bridge the gap until the Conventions come into effect by the use of voluntary funds. In short, my Lords, vast improvements have been made in the last three years on all fronts as a result of voluntary action by industry and by a recognition by nations that the problem is essentially an international one which can only be resolved internationally.

Here I should like to pay tribute to Her Majesty's Government. Both the last Administration and this have resisted the temptation to "go it alone" and have demonstrated that the international approach is the one which works. The member Governments of the Intergovernmental Maritime Consultative Organisation—IMCO—are eager to adopt any new measures that will reduce polluton. In co-operation with shipowners' organisations they can test the practical soundness of any proposals, and those which receive their endorsement will normally be readily accepted by both Governments and shipowners. As a result, what IMCO agrees is often widely introduced, even before the appropriate convention has come into force.

I do not want to suggest that all the problems of pollution at sea have been solved. They have not. It may be of interest to your Lordships to know some of the problems that seem to us still to exist and what is being done about them. Some of them are technical, some of them are legal and some of them are human. It is unlikely that pollution will ever be totally eliminated, but most will be achieved if the overall problem is broken down into its separate elements and these are then tackled, one by one, with all that can be mastered in the way of painstaking research, imagination and drive.

First, let me put before your Lordships some of the problems emphasised by the collision between the "Pacific Glory" and the "Allegro", neither of which, incidentally, was a British ship, and one of which was not even destined for this country. The results of the Liberian inquiry are not yet available. However, the collision seems to have occurred in conditions of clear visibility between two ships well equipped with navigational aids. It therefore looks probable that human failing was involved. There may be lessons to be learned here about standards of training and qualifications. I believe that British seafarers are second to none, but the people of this country, understandably, expect equally high standards of all the ships that pass our coasts. There are, I know, considerable difficulties in setting realistic international standards for qualifications when internationally there is such a wide variation in basic education and training. However, it seems to me that this is one of the problems that responsible bodies will probably wish to examine again in the light of this incident.

In addition, we in individual shipping companies shall be considering whether there is anything more we can do to help those on our ships maintain the high standards of vigilance which are so essential. In the "Pacific Glory" case, one of the ships was en route for Holland and had to come to this country to pick up a pilot. Shipowners are considering whether anything can usefully be done to see that the pilot goes to the ship rather than the ship to the pilot. The ship did in fact cross two recommended traffic zones by her voyage into Brixham and out again to get her pilot.

The problem of oil pollution is, of course, world-wide. For example, the risk of it in the Malacca Straits would be lessened if a traffic separation scheme could be introduced there. Understandably, much of the initiative in these Eastern waters lies with the Japanese Government, but we trust that Her Majesty's Government will support them at every stage and continue to stress the urgency of action in these particularly critical waters.

A further problem relates to salvage. The traditional salvage contract, with its time-hallowed principle of "No cure, no pay", encourages the salvor to give absolute priority to saving the ship and cargo. In the case of an incident involving a loaded tanker, it can be even more important that the salvor should use every effort to minimise pollution. The value of oil may be only about £10 a ton, but the potential damage which it could do on the coast could cost several times that figure. It is greatly to the credit of all concerned with the salvage of the "Pacific Glory" that legal niceties did not prevent a splendid joint effort at avoiding pollution. Further thought is being given to see whether anything more can be done to ensure that in every instance salvors give due weight to this vital part of their difficult task.

I have spoken chiefly of problems connected with the risk of oil pollution. While other forms of pollution originating from ships are of relatively minor importance, it is good to know that they are likely to be discussed in 1973 at an IMCO conference on marine pollution. The use of the sea as a dumping ground for chemical and other industrial waste and unwanted war material may make economic sense, but, if not properly controlled, can cause difficulties and even dangers. British shipowners would willingly comply with any international convention on this subject which applied equally to their competitors.

Sewage is another problem. At a time when cities of hundreds of thousands of people are discharging their sewage into the sea, sewage from ships may not seem to be of major significance. However, if Governments think some form of legislation desirable, then it is obviously right and proper that the subject should be studied internationally. In an international forum, proper account can be taken of the economic and practical consequences of various measures for existing and future ships, and the solution finally adopted is more likely to be one which is internationally acceptable.

I hope that I have shown your Lordships that while much has been achieved by Governments and industry, we are not complacent. There are problems still to be tackled but they are being tackled with thoroughness and determination, and I am confident that when next your Lordships discuss this subject there will have been further progress towards our ideal of clean seas.

3.17 p.m.


My Lords, in a debate of this scope, with so many taking part—rthirty-four speakers, which shows the responsibility to which your Lordships view this subject—and with the unfair advantage of having the Report of Hansard before us, I will resist the strong temptation to follow previous speakers, except in so far as I want to underscore points I want to make on the theme of my intervention, which is no less than wealth from waste.

On previous occasions I have described pollution as a crime compounded of avarice and ignorance: avarice, because of the reckless use of resources and the destruction of amenities and environment for the sake of quick profits; and ignorance, because people do not bother to find out and anticipate what the effect of their shortsighted industrial activities is likely to be. Ignorance is no longer any excuse, because we have all been alerted—and I think this debate has shown how much we appreciate it—to the hazards not only to our local amenities and to our own personal convenience but also to the entire biosphere, on which the survival of mankind and of all our fellow lodgers as well depends.

To-day I want to stress another aspect—what pollution represents in sheer incompetence and the squandering of wealth. "Where there's muck, there's brass": that was the cynical slogan of 19th century laissez-faire in industry, which justified the grime, the slag heaps and the tips as signs of prosperity. What we now properly call the quality of life was ignored; and so were the social costs, the tabs of which we are now picking up, as my noble friend Lord Kennet pointed out last week. Those were disregarded in the interest of competitive prices—to keep our place in the world market, if you like to put it at its highest value—or of dividends. "Where there's muck, there's brass", was as cynical as the boast in Wyoming, "We cut out the steak and throw away the steer." Our country was disfigured by the wealth that we were supposed to be creating.

I once made a documentary film which featured eight miners, each of whom had spent 50 years in the pits howking coal: 400 years among them at the coal face, and of that 360 years had gone up the chimneys in smoke. When coal was cheap (except in terms of human lives and human suffering) we could afford the inefficiency of combustion, or the inefficient combustion, which blackened our cities and industrial centres with soot. I have always thought that it was ironical that only the threat of atomic energy—which so many people regard as much more dangerous than anything else that we are confronting—made our conventional fuel systems efficient; so much so that the cross-over point at which nuclear energy would become cheaper than conventional fuels has not yet, so far as I know, been achieved.

Aneurin Bevan once described Britain as "A lump of coal entirely surrounded by fish." Coal was indeed our greatest national resource, and because we regarded it as cheap and expendable as a fuel we threw away our greatest source of wealth: coal, with ail its abundant riches of chemicals, with which this country is geologically endowed. We allowed the discovery of Perkins of the aniline dyes, the aromatics and the pharmaceuticals of our native coal, to become the foundations of the vast German dyestuffs and drug industries.

Waste is discarded wealth, whichever way we look at it. It is simply failure to recognise what it is and how valuable is what we are throwing away. For example, one of the rare and useful metals, eminently useful to-day—indeed, it is the basis of the modern transistor industry—is germanium. We have been pushing that up the chimney stacks for a century as flue dust; and it is now recoverable at, I think, about £250 to £280 a kilo from flue dust. Let us consider another example, much more spectacular. The atom bomb, which was first exploded in Alamogordo Desert and which ultimately destroyed Hiroshima, was produced from the waste tips of Katanga, in the Congo. There, when radium was the produce they were after, the uranium was thrown away as the tailings; but when the bomb became a possibility that waste was shipped secretly to the United States and was the basis of the programme.

Take another example of the wealth that we throw away in waste. Fleming, Florey and Chain discovered penicillin. For this the penicillium mould had to be grown and had to be fed. In the early days at Oxford they grew this mould in milk bottles and bedpans, fed on nutrient shipped through the blitz from a brewery in the East End of London, when they could get it. Florey and his colleague Heatley, from Oxford, went to the United States to try to persuade the big corporations there to undertake the mass production, which, with our rather greater preoccupation in this country in 1940–41, we could not do.

At the Fermentation Laboratories of the United States Department of Agriculture, at Peiora, Illinois, they discussed how that mould, or the moulds, could be grown in bulk. Coghill, the head of the laboratory, asked whether cornsteep liquor could serve as a nutrient on which to grow the moulds to produce the drug which we all know is so important. Well, it could. Cornsteep liquor was the waste product from converting maize, or Indian corn, into starch in the distilling industry. It was a very rich substance and of great embarrassment to the manufacturers and the distillers, because even in those unregenerate days it was so rich in nutrient that they could not even put it into the sewers and had to treat it expensively as an effluent. It became the basis of the deep-culture penicillin, which, incidentally, gave the United States a very big technological advantage.

We are all deeply concerned about thermal pollution—as, indeed, has been clear from all the international discussions on the subject in which I have taken part; about the hot water which goes in from the cooling plants of nuclear or conventional power stations on the coast. If we sited our generation stations properly, if we looked at the potential of the seas, or indeed, coming from my part of the world, of the lochs, we could, in my sober opinion, develop a substantial fish farming industry along the coast of this country, using what we are now treating as pollution. This would be desirable both from the financial aspect and also from the point of view of feeding.

As the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, said in his admirable maiden speech, we have the example of Dounreay, which, as he pointed out, has had built into it all the safeguards which we have recognised in terms of nuclear or potential nuclear pollution—which does not happen in these cases, at least from the peaceful usage. As the noble Viscount pointed out, there has been a failure of planning, not in terms of the nuclear station, but in the way in which we just failed to think before we acted. In fact, as he pointed out, there was the development of the station with all these safeguards, with all the treatment of nuclear effluent; and all we get is a superabundance of human effluent through non-foresight in terms of the people who were brought into Thurso.

My noble friend Lord Kennet stressed the need for recycling. I do not want to be cynical, but recycling by afterthought seems to me to be almost sinful. I have been approached by interests in the United States as an adviser on their antipollution. I do not want to sound terribly ungrateful or unduly cynical, but in point of fact all they are asking is that they should be paid to take out the pollution that they put in. Therefore all you are doing is diversifying your interests, as they say nowadays in industry, so that the industry which in this case creates the pollution will further down the river make money out of taking it out.

I agree with what was said at the beginning of this debate, that not only must the producers be made responsible for the disposal of the pollutants—the chimney dust, the sewage and the effluent—but they should be made responsible for their obsolete products. This is a radical suggestion—I do not know whether it has been made in your Lordships' House so far—but I would certainly recommend for your Lordships' consideration the fact that if the manufacturers of products, whether they be tyres, motor cars or non-returnable plastic containers, were made responsible for disposing of what they create, they would very soon begin to think in anticipation of ways in which they could deal with these products without burdening themselves with them.

What we are lacking in the whole of this matter, I insist, is the imagination. or indeed, if you like, the scruples which would compel—and I mean compel not in the statutory way—great industries in this country, or in any other country, to anticipate what are going to be the natures of their products, before they create them, grab the advantages, and then try to find ways of disposing of the effluent which they should have foreseen.

I would point out to your Lordships that in these arguments, which are rather frustrating arguments, so far as I am concerned, one finds that when one reproaches industries, or approaches them to deal with effluents, whether in terms of chimney or sewage, they always say: "But you cannot impose these obligations on us, because if you do you are putting us at a disadvantage compared to our foreign competitors". I have looked, and no doubt some of your Lordships have looked, at some of these processes, Many are licensed by industries in this country to competitors abroad. Take the example of the nuclear industry, where international standards have been imposed from the start. If international standards could be imposed as part of the cost which the consumer himself would have to accept as the limitation of getting what he never knew he wanted, then we could have, on an international basis, a situation in which products would not retrospectively have to be regarded as pollutants.

3.31 p.m.


My Lords, I speak to you as a member of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park Planning Committee, which last May passed a resolution asking that the Farndale Reservoir scheme should be deferred until various possible alternatives had been thoroughly investigated. Within two hours of passing our resolution we heard that the scheme had been totally rejected by a Select Committee of the other place. I mention this to-day because I understand that as soon as the Water Resources Bill, which your Lordships passed last week, becomes law it is the intention of the River Authority to apply to the Minister for an order to confirm the Farndale Reservoir scheme. One of the alternative sources of water which we asked should be thoroughly investigated first was the underground reserves of water in that area. One of the great advantages of underground reserves of water is that they are very much cheaper to develop than a conventional reservoir. We heard the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, telling us about the fine work that has been carried out by the Thames Conservancy, on their pilot scheme in the Lambourn Valley. I will quote the last sentence of an article in Water and Water Engineering of August, 1970, describing this scheme: A preliminary estimate of cost indicates that this substantial increase in stream flow can be achieved at about one-third to one-quarter of the cost of conventional surface reservoirs and without the loss of any significant acreage of farmland. That is something which appeals to all our hearts. In our area, the North Yorkshire Moors area, there is estimated to be a very considerable quantity of underground water. The Institute of Geological Sciences, at the request of the River Authority, produced a report, Hydrogeological Report No. 4, and gave the theoretical figures for the underground reserves in that area. For the Rye catchment area the figure was 97.7 million gallons per day, and for the Derwent area, North of Kirkham, it was 60.1 million. In addition to that there is the possible reserve in the Ouse Basin.

No doubt it will be said that to explore these underground reserves would take a great deal of time. On this point I would ask your Lordships to note that the report I have mentioned was completed in March, 1965—nearly six years ago. Not a single borehole has yet been sunk to find out whether these reserves exist. A little preliminary work has been carried out by the River Authority during the six years, but there is still time for these reserves to be investigated, because part of the Farndale Scheme—and an excellent part of it—was to construct sluice gates at the mouth of the River Derwent where it flows into the Ouse.

The idea was that in a time of extreme drought, such as happens only once in every fifty years, the whole of the flow of the River Derwent could be abstracted at this point. I am quoting from a River Authority report, dated August 29, 1970. If this work were undertaken it could provide an additional 34 million gallons of water per day, and according to the Minister in another place (and I am quoting from Hansard, Volume 797 (No. 76), column 1237) the needs of the whole region in 1980 will be 45 million gallons per day. So the 34 million gallons per day which could be made available from these sluice gates would go a long way towards meeting the needs of the area in 1980. This surely would give sufficient time for the underground reserves to be tested.

A further alternative source is the projected Otterstone Reservoir, in Northumberland. It is not part of my job to advocate one reservoir site at the expense of another. If this scheme comes off (your Lordships may know that it is a very big scheme, for a river-regulating reservoir on the Tyne) it will produce about 225 million gallons per day. In the Northumbrian region they would have more water than they would need from 1980 until the turn of the century. I understand that they have offered York- shire 20 million gallons per day from this source. Is it not fair to ask that all these alternative sources should be fully investigated before a decision is taken to flood a valley, bearing in mind also that if the underground reserves are successful some £5 million of your and my money will be saved?

3.37 p.m.


My Lords, it is not my purpose in the course of my speech to follow the words of the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby, although I am in entire agreement with him on his views on water resources. It is, however, my first task—and a very pleasant one—to thank the noble Lord, Lord Molson, for giving me this opportunity of taking part in this debate. May I further congratulate him on making it a two-day debate, thus exploiting the inconvenience of last week. We have had a very pleasant chance to look at the first day's debate in Hansard, to re-examine the arguments set out in those first speeches and especially to enjoy for the second time three distinguished maiden speeches which the whole House enjoyed to a great extent.

Noise pollution comes in many forms, but the primary need is to identify the source, and secondly, to discern the degree of nuisance and discomfort caused. That was the main problem which be-devilled the attempt made in 1960 to provide some new legislation in the Noise Abatement Act of that year. That Statute merely enacted that noise or vibration should be a statutory nuisance, and it was declared thus under the terms of Part III of the Public Health Act of 1936 which, in the course of its administration, has proved to be a notoriously difficult area due to the fact that there are no precise definitions.

Formerly it was the fact that noise could be measured only by skilled technicians, under laboratory or semi-laboratory conditions, using rather bulky equipment. Happily, in 1970 the scene has changed entirely. A pocket-sized personal noise meter is on the market for the relatively small sum of £10. This instrument represents a little bit of the "white heat" of technology which has been produced by private enterprise. It can be used to measure noise levels in a factory, a street, on a runway, in a hospital or, for that matter, in a dance hall. The amount of instruction needed to make an operator effective is a matter of minutes. This means that at long, long last it is now possible in Statute law to lay down specific levels of noise for traffic or aircraft or factories or, for that matter, dance bands, and expect that they can be enforced by law through the police and the public health inspectors.

Recent legislation enacted in the Public Health (Recurring Nuisances) Act 1969 has given powers to local authorities to serve notice prohibiting the recurrence of a nuisance, but the law on noise still has enormous gaps in it. For instance, there is no noise level limit for aircraft. The whole area of noise in Statute law has a flimsy structure and the Statutes have been drawn together into one volume by the Noise Abatement Society. It is extraordinarily interesting to note that relatively little Statute law has been possible to enact because of this central fact: the difficulty of discerning the level of noise, which has now been overcome. Therefore, paragraph 46 of the White Paper, which specifically refers to the noise problem, and sets out in bold type the broad intentions of the Government, is very welcome. I would add that of course the White Paper itself has been appropriated in general terms by the present Administration.

To turn from the question of the noble Lord, Lord Molson, on aircraft noise, which was very happily answered by my noble friend Lord Sandford in the first day of this debate, I wish to refer to a further subject now which is a concern of all of us. That is the noise caused by vehicles and road transport generally. The Civic Trust was recently consulted by the Minister of Transport about the motor manufacturers' request for a further increase in maximum permitted weights and dimensions of road goods vehicles. It is, of course, the suggestion of the manufacturers to increase the maximum permitted size to 44 tons. The Civic Trust, in consultation with over 230 amenity societies, has drawn together an excellent memorandum containing classified extracts from amenity societies' evidence, and this has been presented to the Minister for his examination. Unless an immediate remedy is found, all efforts to preserve many historic buildings will be entirely lost because an environment will become virtually uninhabitable due to these enormous new vehicles which are proposed.

The Trust recommended that no decision should be taken on the proposal to allow an increase in size or weight of lorries until a thorough investigation has been made of the likely effect of such changes upon the environment; and it is suggested that urgent measures should be taken to exclude heavy lorries from towns and conservation areas as well as from shopping centres. The Minister is urged to take steps, therefore, to establish the necessary interchange points where the very large vehicles on motorways can offload their goods into vans for more convenient delivery in towns. The whole question of road vehicles and their size has been reviewed twice in the last ten years, and I feel certain that, as a result of this debate, the Minister will take note of the particular needs to review the situation before a decision is taken.

I do not wish to add anything further to the Civic Trust's observations on that particular aspect of road transport so far as pollution is concerned. But, in closing, I should like to make two special recommendations to the noble Lord, Lord Sandford. First, would he seek from the Ministry's files a copy of the Report on the British Transport System, prepared by the Director-General of Ordnance Survey in 1956, and, having blown the dust from its cover, compare that Report with the Beeching Report of some years later?—because in the Director-General's original survey, which was in a sense much wider in its scope and application, there are a number of points, which I will not go into to-day, which have not been covered. The second matter to which I should like to draw the noble Lord's attention is the question of aircraft noise. First, I would thank him for his reply to the noble Lord, Lord Molson, on the question of Concorde; and secondly, may I ask him whether he can make any further statement to-day?