HL Deb 14 December 1970 vol 313 cc1193-267

4.5 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, if we may now return to Pollution and the Protection of the Environment, I propose to deal solely with Chapter IV of the White Paper, that dealing with pollution of the land, and to concentrate rather more on the protection of the environment than the fight against pollution. First of all, I should like to make a point which I think is well known—I shall make it only briefly—with regard to the actual pollution of the land by modern agricultural methods. I do not think there is any need to reiterate to your Lordships the unwillingness of farmers to do any such thing. Most farmers that I know, if not all of them, would far prefer, if it were possible for them, to farm in the old-fashioned manner, using farmyard manure, hand labour to hoe out the weeds and horses to plough the land.

Instead of that, economic circumstances have forced them into a variety of methods which tend in one way or another to pollute the land. We, as farmers, can now no longer afford to use a horse;, we have to use a tractor, which emits certain fumes into the atmosphere. We can no longer afford to rely solely upon dung to fertilise the land; we have to use artificial fertilisers which disturb the balance of nature. We no longer are able to employ large numbers of men and women to pull out the weeds; we have to use chemical sprays to do so. All these things have been forced upon us by economic circumstances, and to a considerable extent we have been encouraged to use them by actual Government action in subsidies. I am not complaining of that at all; I mention it only to put the matter in perspective. If the public do not want us to use such things—and I do not believe that many of them go so far as that; they want the exercise of sense in their use—or even if they wish us to have restraint in their use, they must realise that the costs of production are liable to go up, and therefore, sooner or later, in one way or another, they will have to pay more for their food.

Similarly, if they wish, as I hope they do and as I, as a member of the public as well as a farmer, wish, to see the countryside kept in good order, with hedges trimmed and not uprooted, hedgerow timber growing, more trees being planted in out-of-the-way corners, and things of that kind, the cost of it must be taken into account. It must be realised that somebody must pay for it. As farmers are, no less than are others, businessmen, and therefore one of their incentives is the profit motive, it is likely that there will not be a great deal of this work done unless there is some price incentive or price recompense to enable it to be done. That does not mean to say that I am against any of the things that the noble Lord, Lord Molson has asked for. I am entirely on his side in this matter, but I think we must be realistic about it and recognise the economic implications.

I should like to move on to a rather wider subject, the countryside itself. I am encouraged to do so particularly by the admirable maiden speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, who also touched on this matter. We must not fall into the error of looking on the fight for the protection of the environment as being a purely negative, defensive action. It is not merely a matter of protecting what we have already. We must realise that what we value so much in the countryside has not just happened: it has come there because of the deliberate, thought-out, skilful action of our forbears. If we are to have an equally beautiful countryside in the years to come it will not be achieved solely by preserving what is here to-day—as it were, putting it into deep freeze and holding it there as a form of museum. It can be achieved only by having it as dynamic at the end of the 20th century and throughout the 21st century as it was in the 18th and 19th centuries. It is that we must aim at in all our fights to preserve our environment.

It must be realised that this means creating continuously a fresh environment which meets the needs of the times. One of the needs of the times is not only the future requirements of a growing population but the insistence by the existing population on more living space. No longer are people prepared to be herded together in the slums of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. They wish for space in the countryside, either to live there, commuting to their places of work, or to visit there for their holidays, for weekends or for picnics. When we are talking of preserving the environment we must realise this and must lay our plans accordingly, so that these people, who have just as much right to the enjoyment of the countryside as those of us who are fortunate enough to live in it most of our lives, are able to come into it without destroying those very beauties that they are coming to look at and to appreciate.

The second aspect of the problem concerns the actual people who live in the countryside. We know that to-day agriculture is employing an ever smaller number of people, and yet an increasing number of people are anxious to live in the rural areas and in the villages. Their children are insistent upon finding work of an interesting kind, and of a type which offers scope for their various talents. If we restrict unduly the advent of new industries into the countryside, although we may think we are preserving the countryside in its pristine beauty, by that very action we shall in fact be condemning it to death, because it can flourish only if it has young and vital people living there, who see their livelihood in that rural area. That can happen only if there are opportunities for employment for them within a radius of 10 or 15 miles, so that they do not have to emigrate to Manchester, Liverpool or a London conurbation in order to find that work.

Therefore, my Lords, when we are discussing the protection of our environment we must realise that this undoubtedly means that there must in certain areas be an increase not only in the people who come to live there but of work opportunities for them. That is the major challenge facing us at the present time. More important even than dealing with the noise, the smoke, the spoliation by quarries and matters of that sort, is the planning of how we can offer these opportunities of employment in the rural areas without destroying the beauties of those areas.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down may I ask him if he knows whether any Government has ever, at any time, given a subsidy to farmers for creating compost in modern ways, mechanically, and for dealing in proper ways with farmyard manure and liquid manure? This compost, properly graded, would make an enormous improvement in our land and cut down the quantity of nitrogen that we are using at the moment.


My Lords, the short answer to the noble Lord is that I believe the Government of India in the days of Sir Albert Howard did just that; but, so far as I know, no Government in this country has ever done so.

4.14 p.m.


My Lords, in the first place I should like to say how grateful I am to my noble friend Lord Molson, for introducing this debate, and perhaps taking just a little pride in the fact that so many noble Lords who have spoken have referred to reclamation as well as to pollution. I have always thought that the two things should go together, and in that respect this debate is a slight reflection of the debate that we had on that subject in March of this year. After all, we never speak of sin without redemption; I think that pollution is a sin and reclamation is redemption; and, like the other two things, they should always go together.

I should like to say a few words about local authority reorganisation, something which we are facing, and would probably have faced if the late Government had remained. We are facing it now, with the new Government, in a modified form; and from what I have seen and heard and read among local authorities it seems to me that we should bear in mind that the collection and disposal of refuse should not be separated. I know that this is already so in London—and perhaps London is an exceptional part of the country in this respect—but if we are to expect the local authorities really to be interested in the reclamation of their refuse and the avoidance of pollution, they must be allowed to have the benefit from what they do. Obviously, small authorities will have to co-operate, because disposal plant is expensive. In any case, I imagine that in the reorganisation the very small ones would disappear. But the essential thing is that if, through careful planning and new scientific methods, they can obtain an advantage to the rates from the clisposal and treatment of their refuse then we should not deny them the opportunity of doing so. If we do, the incentive to collect and reclaim will be removed. In my view, a great deal more mechanisation is necessary in the collection of refuse. Our dustbins and our vehicles for collecting them should all be looked at carefully. Some countries are far ahead of us in this respect.

Then I believe that there could be far greater co-operation between local authorities and the housewife. We saw this during the war. I cannot see why the housewife should not be a willing party to stacking her refuse in different ways—with paper and bottles and wet refuse stacked separately—if she felt that her energy in doing this was recompensed by the action of the local authorities in disposing of these materials in the proper way, instead of throwing them all together in the vehicle when it comes round. I believe that in America the authorities now have some home incinerators which might well dispose of a good deal of wet refuse. In this country we have a thing called a "wastemaster". I have one in my house, but it is not entirely satisfactory. There is a great deal of exploration to be done on this side, and if the amount of refuse collecting could be diminished by further mechanisation in the home I feel that this is a matter that should be explored.

Then we need far more education in our schools in regard to litter and untidiness. We all know that by nature children are untidy, and when I was chairman of a children's court I used to try to make the punishment fit the crime to a certain extent. In that connection, it has occurred to me to wonder whether possibly young delinquents might not be commandeered to help clear up public open spaces after such events as race meetings. They could do this, under the surveillance of the police, as a therapeutic measure. They would soon learn what a burdensome business this work is. In my view, we should do a great deal more to bring this home to our children. There should be heavier fines, and greater supervision by the police of people who leave litter around. I have sat on the bench for a great many years, and I do not suppose I have had before me more than half a dozen cases concerning the leaving of litter. In my view, the enforcement of the anti-litter law should be tightened up.

I was struck by something said by the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder. He said that industrialists should be made to consume some of their own waste products; and here I entirely agree with him. I have never been able to understand why soft drinks bottles, instead of having caps that were sometimes difficult to remove, now have screw caps which are much easier to remove, but, whereas the previous bottles were returnable, the present ones are not. Nobody has been able to explain to me this extraordinary mystery. I should have thought it ought to be made obligatory on the glass bottle manufacturers to take their bottles back, just as is done with milk bottles. Then one night I had a dream. Probably the idea is quite unrealisable but surely there must be quicksands round our shores. As we do not know what to do with old tyres, why should we not feed them to our quicksands until they are absolutely filled with tyres and have been redeemed in that way? Then, of course, there is the shame of buying bulk paper from abroad, when, if we set our minds to it, we could really be self-supplying.

Finally—a small point, but one that I feel strongly about; and noble Lords will know I have asked at least three Questions on this subject while I have been in your Lordships' House: why cannot we prevent some pollution on the roads by insisting on flaps being put on the mudguards of big lorries and big industrial vehicles? I am told that we have sold some of these vehicles to Sweden but they are not allowed to go to Sweden unless they have had these flaps fitted. If that can be done for Sweden, why cannot it be done for us here? The last Government were always sympathetic when I asked my Question, but nothing happened. I hope that this Government will be rather more active in this respect, because it would prevent a good deal of pollution and also, I think, danger on the roads.

In conclusion, I want to turn to a more sombre side of pollution, which has not so far been dealt with but which I feel is just as important as the material side of pollution, if not more important. We have heard a lot about the deep sea and clean rivers. I think that the clean rivers of childhood innocence are now polluted by our permissive society. I do not know whether any of your Lordships happened to hear the one o'clock News, in which the activities of schoolgirls' soliciting on their way home from school were described. I know that there are kind people who call themselves "humanists", and who take the view that by being a humanist one can do without any religious conviction. Unfortunately, having undermined religion or faith, they have left absolutely nothing in its place, and no defence for the younger generation to grow up with. If we simply concentrate on material pollution, and forget what is happening in our permissive society, in the way of drugs, prostitution, abortion, violence, and so on, history will judge our generation as having really betrayed our children and the youngsters who are growing up.

We have to end this sort of pollution, which is so insidious and very much more difficult to combat than dealing with local authorities and refuse, and so on. I would ask your Lordships, when you consider this subject, not just to remember the material side, but to think whether at the present moment we are not leaving our children without defence, with a void, and with very little help; for which at a later stage they may blame us.


My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, may I say that although she connects humanism with lack of morals I, as a humanist, seek to defend them. I would ask the noble Baroness whether she knows that the Portuguese nunneries of the eighteenth century were so notorious that it is believed they caused the earthquake in Lisbon in 1757?


No, my Lords; I would not accuse the humanists of lack of morals at all. What I say is that their morals are individual and have no general foundation. They are like grain sown in sterile soil: they have no firm roots. Every man has a moral standard of his own. This is no help to children who need a general staff to lean on, a general understanding, and a general standard to grow up by.

4.25 p.m.


My Lords, for brevity's sake, in a list of thirty speakers, I propose to make no intelligent reference to the speeches of the fifteen noble Lords to whom I have listened. That includes, of course, not only the noble Baroness who has just sat down, but also three eloquent maidens, and the rugged river god, the noble Lord, Lord Molson, who rises in this House from time to time to defend the cause of what St. Francis of Assisi used to call "Our sister water".

I want to confine myself to one part of the White Paper, Part III, noise, and to traffic noise only. I have tried to find something different from that which other noble Lords have mentioned, and from what is available in the White Paper for all of us to study. I produce as a sample what I hope will be recognised as something that occurs on tens of thousands of miles of our roads, and which I made by working within a furlong of a busy road and studying which were the traffic noises that were the most offensive. I am sure, to my ears at any rate, it is what I call "clatter". I went out to examine what caused the clatter, which is different from the whine and squeal, and everything else that we know on our roads. I counted in a stretch of 300 yards twelve manhole covers and connecting links with the side of the road, most of which were not flush with the road, and some of which had been repaired by obvious amateurs. That is the cause of the most offensive noise on this particular section of road, which I have had an opportunity of listening to for about a year. I am riot pleading a special cause; I put it up as a sample.

If you go along a little further on this very busy road, matters are even worse. There is a very long section whore the road has been taken up and put down by even greater amateurs than the previous lot, and it is worse than any old French pavé. What happens is that the loose loads on the lorries rise into the air, twenty-four heavy barrels and the like, and down they come, "crump". I think that is the worst of the traffic noise that we have. I wonder whether the Government would be prepared to institute a departmental inquiry as to how this could be avoided? We all know what happens. The road is perfectly surfaced by professionals, the highway authority and their contractors; then along come a body of gas men. When they have finished water men arrive, and when they have finished the telephone men arrive, and there are others as well. None of them is co-ordinated. Perhaps it is impossible, but I am asking that the road should be invisibly mended and repaired, so that there are not a ghastly series of jolts and ramps running along the whole road, causing more noise than the size of vehicles or anything else connected with them. That is all I wish to say about road traffic.

I want now to say something about air noise. In my intervention in the first half of this debate, I said all that I want to say about the horrifying scream of low-flying service aircraft, and where it occurs. I want to take the other noise, the noise of the big commercial aircraft revving up and rising from its airfield. That is a kind of noise which is quite different. It does not terrify or horrify, but it fills the sky for several miles around. It is something like thunder, only it does not exactly resemble it. It seems to be heavier; it resounds throughout all one's presence. We know that these noises are unavoidable, but in this connection I want to quote the White Paper, Section 53: Planning authorities should increasingly be aware of the reed to separate noisy industry from places where other people live and work, and the Government will foster the development of good practice in this matter. There is nothing quite so widespread and horrifyingly noisy as an airport.

I should like to ask one question of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, who has been committed by one of his colleagues to answering all our questions at the end of this debate. At the present time, a public inquiry is being held regarding the extension of the runway at Gatwick, which is on the fringe of the New Town of Crawley, where there is a great conurbation. Some 10,000 or more small people have contributed £12,000 of their money to brief counsel at that inquiry, in order that they may expound their views. Such an inquiry is one of the ventilating devices that we have, and very desirable it is.

That inquiry, which unhappily closed last week owing to the death of the inpector, re-opens again to-morrow and witnesses have been briefed to the effect that they muss limit all their comments to one narrow aspect of what is happening. They have been told that the only matter which they may talk about is the extension of the runway by a thousand-odd feet. We all know that there is another site coming before us, where some four runways—not one, as in the case of Gatwick—and many other things can be built at the expense of offending the ears of only some 12,000 people, whereas one runway alone at Gatwick offends the ears of 72,000 people. Furthermore, that other place, which we all know about, is going to do something unique and will take from England's valuable soil not one square inch. The site is all to come from the sea.

The question to which I hope an answer will be given is this. I want to ask that the new inspector, who will start his functions to-morrow morning at Horley, will be instructed not to muzzle the witnesses. Let them say what they like. Let them compare that extended runway with the second runway which they know is going to be before them later, and with the third airport which is at present outside their discussion. Let these people say what they please. They have contributed their money and have briefed their counsel for four or five weeks, but as the inquiry is expected to last eight weeks those small people will have to produce more money.

I should like to point out that I have not been lobbied in this case; it is I who lobbied the people concerned. In other words, I said that I intended to say what I am saying in this House to-day and I inquired whether it would be of interest to them. Nobody has asked me to pay anything, nobody has asked me for my support, and I merely put the matter up from my own judgment as an example of what should be done. I feel that something is going to be forced on the inhabitants of Gatwick and its neighbourhood, and that when the time comes so much capital will have been invested that everybody will say it is too late to do anything about it.

That is all I have to say with regard to the White Paper, but I want to end up with a small tribute, although I do not know to whom it is due. I, like many others, am a person who is fond of birds. I am told that the first word I uttered in life was to point to a screen and say, "bird". The only artistic sale I ever made was of an illustrated page of birds to the Christmas number of Field in 1926. After that I retired from painting. During a period of convalescence last year I numbered the birds at a spot within 27 miles of London, and was unable to see any sign of what is called the "silent spring". Something must have happened to make the place more habitable for the birds because, with certain exceptions, they are much the same as those I knew in the same area in my youth 60 years ago when I was 10.

More experienced people have numbered the birds in London during almost the same period. I understand that this year 88 species have been counted in two Royal Parks in London, and that by the end of the year the number may exceed 100. We should introduce a sense of proportion when we talk about pesticides and the "silent spring". In those areas where pesticides and weed killers are used, there was no sign of the "silent spring" and we do ourselves harm by exaggerating some of the dangers. We should pay tribute to those who have done something to make the pesticides less pestiferous.

4.36 p.m.


My Lords, in the earlier part of his speech the noble Earl who has just sat down very effectively made a most important point: that many of these problems can be solved only by efficient attention to detail, which they often fail to get. There would be much less pollution in the world if more attention were paid to small details by officials in rather low cadres of the local authority machine. That is a point which was well worth making and rubbing in.

If the noble Earl will permit me, I shall now turn to the more general aspects of the debate, which has to me been most encouraging. I speak as one who has spent a great deal of his life working in the amenities movement, but without a great deal of success. Indeed, the number of false dawns that I have seen over the last thirty or forty years has made me wonder whether the rosy tint which I now see in the sky is partly a result of recent events in the House of Commons and partly a result of this debate in your Lordships' House. The three decisions on Water Bills in the House of Commons, to which the noble Lord, Lord Molson, particularly drew attention, encouraged me very much.

Since the day when the noble Lord, Lord Molson, drew our attention to this subject in your Lordships' House, we have made the Government look again at a decision in connection with the Water Resources Bill, a point which was referred to this afternoon by the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby. It was quite clear that a large majority of your Lordships in all Parties desired to see that the areas of outstanding natural beauty should be kept as free as the National Parks from the destructive effects of erecting large reservoirs in them. While I have much sympathy with the desire of the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, to give us a plentiful supply of fresh water, I noticed that he did not refer to all the alternative ways of saving and getting water which are now open to us, and of which we certainly ought to be availing ourselves.

Incidentally, I was filled with considerable indignation at what the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby, told us about the situation in Yorkshire, where those who were defeated in the House of Commons are proposing to return, immediately they have this new Water Resources Bill on the Statute Book, to effect in a different way exactly the measure which the House of Commons threw out. It seems to me that that is getting somewhere near to contempt of Parliament. I should like to see the matter raised in the House about this "long nose" which has been made at the Vote on that occasion, because I am sure that a hundred or two hundred years ago the Serjeant at Arms would have been put on to people who talked in that sort of way. I hope that the promoters of this scheme will observe that only last Thursday, by a very large majority indeed, your Lordships rejected conduct of that sort, without any question at all.

My Lords, the atmosphere is certainly very much better than it was; and I felt that the Minister's reply, which was very encouraging on almost all aspects of this subject, showing that the Government are well aware of the situation and are in many ways taking steps to deal with it, was a most effective and comprehensive speech. One of the things I particularly liked about it was the handsome way in which he congratulated the late Administration on what they had done on these lines and announced the Government's intention to follow out their programme. Indeed, if one comes to look at it one sees that the very White Paper which we are discussing was produced by the late Administration and that almost all the Committees whose work has been referred to during the course of this debate were set up by them.

Some of these important committees have been at work such a short time that even their first Reports have not yet been received. In a way, this debate has lacked that material which would have enabled us to have had an even better debate to-night. Good though it has been, it could have been better if we had had the Reports of the three or four important Committees which have been mentioned and which were set up by the late Administration. I am sure that this problem can be solved only by co-operation between the political Parties, and it is a very encouraging sign that the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, should have adopted that outlook towards the work which has been done before and should have announced the Government's intention to carry it through. If we were to reduce it to a matter of Party politics, then I am quite sure it would go the way of many other things and that the rosy tinge would fade out of the sky.

While on this theme, I should like to add my own tribute to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, about the Prime Minister's speech to the Countryside Conference at the Guildhall. I agree with the noble Lord: it has not received the attention which it deserved. It made a tremendous effect on that great audience, and it was obviously very sincere, coming from the heart. I have spoken about it on a previous occasion in your Lordships' House, but I hope something will be done to get it broadcast more widely among the people. I agree with what one noble Lord said in the debate last week, that there is a wide strata of the population which is not yet fully awake to what is going on and to the essential need to grapple with this difficult problem.

I think we must congratulate Lord Molson, not only on his very fine, masterly opening to this debate but also on the great work which he has been doing over the years in the amenities movement, in which he has certainly become an outstanding leader. I should like to take this opportunity to express appreciation on behalf of my colleagues in the amenities movement for what he has done for us. I accept, broadly speaking, the priorities which he laid down in his speech. The noble Lord who replied for the Government did not quite do so: he put clean air before clean rivers. I think it is a very close thing, but on the whole I agree with Lord Molson, because we can get back the ground we have lost in relation to clean air more quickly and more easily than we can get our rivers clean. Getting our rivers clean is a very long process. It has taken the best part of a century to get the Thames clean. There are other great rivers in the industrial North and in the Midlands which it will take a very long time to clean; and the sooner we start on it the better.

Clean air is a comparatively recent introduction and, as the noble Lord, Lord Molson, said, it has been one of the great successes. As to the Clean Air Act, I do not wish in any way to undervalue the work which the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, did with the Bill; but, of course, what led up to that Act was an interesting scheme that Manchester carried through several years before the Bill came before Parliament. I remember, at the very end of the last war, a large section of Central Manchester being subjected, under Manchester's own legislative powers, to Clean Air Orders; and I remember how very quickly the effect of those precautions became evident in that city, which had the reputation of being one of the dirtiest cities in the North of England. It was a revelation to see how quickly the reduction of the smoke in the air affected the situation in that great city.

I was a little distressed when we were told that it would be 1972 (I think it was) before the arrangements for getting smokeless fuel would provide all the smokeless fuel required. Surely, with the coal industry in its present position it ought to be possible, by putting some money and a good deal of effort into the task, to get smokeless fuel very much more quickly than we have been getting it in recent months. I hope that the Government will look at this again and will step up the efforts which they are making in this connection.

What I have just said about this experimental scheme in Manchester underlines the importance of what local authorities can do on many aspects of the pollution problem. Very often, large local authorities can initiate new methods of dealing with things which eventually the Government of the country as a whole take up and appply nationally. Manchester's scheme is an example of that. But there are other aspects of pollution, dealing particularly, perhaps, with derelict areas (a subject that has been touched upon from time to time during this debate), in which local authorities are particularly well situated.

What we have heard about mostly in the debate so far has been the cleaning up of the countryside. But, of course, in almost all the big cities, and indeed in many smaller towns, there are areas that are derelict and are nothing less than a scandal so far as the corporations of those towns are concerned. In many cases there are slummy sections which have more or less fallen down; and even, in some places, areas which were bombed during the war and which have not yet been properly dealt with. There are obviously building sites there, but when one inquires one is told that it is a very small site and that it is much cheaper to go out into the country and find a nice large new piece of countryside on which building acitivities can be developed, unfettered by the need to contend with the cramped conditions that exist inside the town. My Lords, that seems to me to be a totally wrong outlook, and it is an outlook that is to a large extent responsible for much of the pollution which we already have. It is the same sort of outlook which says, "We will not move the waste in the coal tips 50 miles to make a foundation for a new road because it will cost more than opening up a new pit, a new eyesore, within a couple of hundred yards of the place where we actually want the material". It may cost a little more in the immediate future, but in the long term it is much less expensive, and to adopt the other outlook is a thoroughly mistaken policy.

I thought that for this reason—that the local authorities should be brought more into this problem—the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, was particularly relevant. He was criticised a little at running his own hobby-horse, but in many ways a more effective local authority set-up would enable the local authorities to take a better line in handling this problem of pollution than they are able to take at present. This is also true of what the noble Lord said about planning. Many of the authorities which have planning committees are altogether too small either to employ first-class planning officers or for the councillors to have the necessary understanding and imagination to deal with the situation. From time to time I have come across decisions in these cases which were obviously given from the point of view of helping the rates rather than in the interests of true planning. It seems to me that until we have larger authorities—not necessarily on the lines of the Redcliffe-Maud Commission proposals; but more effective authorities—we shall be dogged with inefficiency in this way.

In the country districts which have been referred to a good deal the War Department has been one of the worst offenders. It is really astonishing that 25 years after the end of the war large War Office encampments should remain overgrown and in a disgracefully unkempt condition. I was glad that one of the things that the Prime Minister said in his Guildhall speech, to which I referred, was that the Government would take a strong line about getting this sort of thing cleared away. Up and down the country there is an enormous demand for camp sites and caravan pitches. Very often there are demands by people in beautiful areas of the countryside to be allowed to turn their farms into caravan pitches. Surely it would be better to have caravans and campers on some of these War Department sites which have been left derelict for so long.

The last speaker referred to pesticides. On the whole, I thought that the action taken to deal with pesticides was one of the successes. It all boiled up so quickly. No doubt up and down the country thousands of birds were killed as a result of the poisons in the pesticides, but rather more quickly than usual we got on to this and the complaints to a large extent died away. I would not say that it has been 100 per cent. successful, but certainly it has been substantially successful. Incidentally, talking about successes, there was one great one which has not been mentioned in this debate; control over advertising. Less than forty years ago the countryside was scandalously over-advertised; it was difficult to find a country road on which there were not enormous hoardings. Yet the Society for the Control of Advertisements, after strenuous efforts, got its Bill through Parliament and in a short time we had no real reason for worry and grievance. When I go abroad and visit countries where there is no control over advertisements in the countryside, I take off my hat to my friends in that movement who succeeded so well. Everybody has now forgotten that there was ever a struggle about it.

I mention pesticides because recently in The Times there was an article which said that in many of the plastics which are used a great deal for containers and in other ways in connection both with agriculture and domestic life, there are poisons of almost the same virulence as D.D.T. and which are equally long lasting. There are already quite a number of cases of disease and illnesses which have been traced to these plastics. Nothing has been said about this so far in this debate, and very little has been said about it in public. But this is obviously the kind of thing to which the Government ought to turn their attention. It raises the whole question of whether new manufactures of this kind ought not to some extent to be vetted before being put on the market, because it is difficult to get rid of them once they have got going. To test them beforehand in a proper scientific way to discover how—


My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord is aware that for a long time now the Ministry of Agriculture have been operating a voluntary system to do this very thing. Much of the credit that the noble Lord has given to those who reduce the menace which results from the use of these poisons is due to the Ministry of Agriculture scheme, working very quietly but none the less efficiently.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. I was saying that I thought that dealing with pesticides had in fact been one of our successes, even if it were not a 100 per cent. success; and of course the Ministry of Agriculture deserves a great deal of praise. But I also think that the manufacturers fell in quickly with public opinion about this. It is one example of the way in which manufacturers, like the oil companies, have appreciated public opinion and have taken steps to put things right.

The last point that I wish to raise (and it has been discussed a good deal) is how far pollution goes. Lord Redcliffe-Maud said that it was wider than the terms of this Motion and the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, tried to get us on to the pollution of morals. That is a real point, although I think it a little foreign to this debate. We have heard a great deal about pollution by noise—particularly noise from motor cars. I was glad when the noble Lord said that the Government were going to take this matter very seriously, and that he hoped that after a couple of years—particularly in the case of motor cycles, one of the worst offenders—there would be a considerable improvement. He said that one of the real difficulties was enforcing the regulations. That is undoubtedly so. There was a time when there were quite a number of mobile policemen on the roads. They were very effective for a period: both motor drivers and motor cyclists would be stopped and their defective silencers pointed out to them. They would be given a warning that if they were caught again they would be in for trouble. I have often wondered whether, particularly for motor cyclists, a good penalty for the third offence would not be to confiscate the motor cycle or at any rate deprive the young enthusiast of the use of it for a few months. It seems to me that something of the kind might also be used against shipowners who do not keep their ships in a proper state to prevent pollution of the sea waters. We are too ready to try to cope with this situation by means of comparatively small fines.

My Lords, I was asking how far pollution goes. This question of motor cars and motor cyclists comes from the use of the roads; but the road itself can be a pollution. To build a new road through a National Park is a form of pollution; yet in the Lake District at the moment we are threatened with a disastrous new road which is to be carried over the Greta river. It seems to be impossible to get any details of it because the Ministry have shut their mouths firmly, and so far as I know refuse to give any information at all to anybody. An enormous new dual carriage road is to go a few miles to the East of Keswick over the beautiful Greta Valley along the side of Bassenthwaite Water where there is a pleasant country road at present which is delightful for motorists. It is said locally that this is due to a secret compact between the Leyland Motor Company and the Administration; that Leyland will put new works in West Cumberland, where employment conditions are bad, provided that they get a grand new road through the heart of the Lake District—absolutely oblivious to the effect that it would have on the scenery and the countryside. If that is true, I think it is an absolute scandal. I hope it will be possible for somebody to deny that such a compact has ever been made.

The solution of the problem of getting to the West Coast of Cumberland is easy now. The new M.6 has been extended to Carlisle and is used by heavy traffic. A new spur road, using existing roads to a large extent, and North altogether of the Lake District, North of Skidaw, across to the West Coast of Cumberland could be constructed; possibly at a rather heavier cost than the proposal at Bassenthwaite. But think of it, my Lords! Here again, it is a question of being, "penny wise—pound foolish". It is a matter not only of importance locally to the people in those parts, who I know feel very aggrieved about it, but also to the country as a whole; and I am quite sure that there will be a first-class row when the details of the scheme are eventually published, as they will have to be.

One of the great difficulties is the secrecy which is maintained until the very last moment. It is understandable that the Ministry do not want people to be conducting underhand financial deals with the idea of getting heavy compensation and that sort of thing. But that is a very small matter compared with the importance of ensuring that those who are really concerned about these things should have at any rate the general line on this sort of proposal so that they may discuss and decide about it and not have to work in the dark. This is a kind of pollution which is perhaps a little peripheral to the general line of this debate, but I am sure that your Lordships will agree that it is a matter of first-class importance. I hope that the Government will be able to give us some reassurance on this important point.

5.3 p.m.


My Lords, we are drawing near to the end of Conservation Year 1970 and to the end of a long, though interesting, debate; so it may well be that your Lordships may think that there is nothing much more to be said. Last week I was approached in the Lobbies and asked by a noble Lord why I was proposing to speak on pollution. The noble Lord said, "Surely you have no pollution troubles in the North of Scotland". This is the sort of misconception from which remoter areas suffer. If one were to say that the local authorities and our nationalised industries are among the worst polluters in the country I think that probably it would be a fair remark. Certainly it would be applicable to the North of Scotland.

Taking this into consideration, I am pleased to give the Opposition credit for having set up river boards in England and purification boards in parts of Scotland. But, my Lords, I fear that they were so orientated to the South—like the noble Lord I met in the Lobby—that they did not realise that there was any need for a board North of Nairn. They set up a Highland Development Board which has been trying to encourage the siting of aluminium works, oil refineries and other industries on our best agricultural ground. If, as is suggested by Mrs. Holmes—of "Jack Holmes Report" fame—the Moray Firth area is to be a development area, then there will be industrial effluent. In a brilliant speech some months ago, my noble friend Lord Glasgow dealt with the development of the Clyde area. His speech could well have applied also to the Moray Firth area. The local authorities, dazzled by industrial development, are in many cases blind to other problems and are prepared to allow filth to pour into our firths; and as our purification boards stop at Nairn, there is no one to check them. As the chairman of one county health committee said to me, "It will cost my burgh far too much to put its drainage right if we have a purification board".

Earlier in the debate in the excellent maiden speech by the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, we heard about the sewage problems created by the Dounreay de. velopment. A year or two ago, and nearer Inverness, a large firm wished to set up maltings. The county council, as the health authority, told them that they would have to put in proper drainage facilities, so what did they do? The firm went to the burgh council which allowed them to put their effluent into the burgh sewer, the contents of which now pour untreated into the Firth six miles further upstream.

I do not want to attack the burgh, for I appreciate the burden which would fall upon their rates, but they are shortly to be permitted to instal a new sewer pipe which will cost nearly half a million pounds and which will merely help to increase the amount of muck, produced by over 32,000 people, to be poured crude into the Firth. It really is essential that there should be some body other than local authorities to prevent this sort of thing from happening.

Still further up the Firth a new sewer was to be installed to take the drainage of the expanding village of Muir-of-Ord. At the village there is a distillery and other minor industries. Fortunately, there was a "wicked Tory landlord" through whose ground the sewer had to pass. He happened to be me. I said, "No purification works, no sewer! You are not going through here without a purification works." I am pleased to say that the sewer and its purification works are now working satisfactorily; but I am convinced that it should not have been left to a landlord to take this action. There should have been a public body who could clamp down on the local authority.

Another small example is provided by what happened in a small village in the West. A new school was built in Glenelg and a septic tank was required. But for many years the village drainage had been bad and was getting worse, so here again I intervened and said that the septic tank should be big enough to take the village drainage as well as the school drainage. But I was told, "Oh dear, this would involve two different funds: one is education and other is health, and the Glenelg village scheme is well down the list of priorities". However, here again I am pleased to say that common sense prevailed, although it should have been a purification board and not a landlord who had to take a firm line.

I am sure that your Lordships will agree that all the country, including the North of Scotland, must be controlled by purification boards. I hope that the Minister may be able to assure us about that, regardless of opposition from local authorities—and they will possibly object—or even from his own officials in St. Andrew's House. I hope we may be assured that the whole country will be dealt with by proper pollution-control authorities. It is far easier to keep matters right than to put right conditions that have gone wrong.

My Lords, we have a small but significant problem right at the doorstep of this ancient building; it relates to horse manure. Apparently the Parks Departments find it cheaper to use fertiliser from a bag and therefore many of the stables in the city are unable to use straw for bedding and have to use shavings. They then have to pay to have this valuable commodity taken away by the scavenging departments. If we were not so departmentally minded, and if the cost of scavenging and soil destruction were balanced against the extra cost to the parks I wonder whether artificial fertiliser would prove more economic than the use of horse manure?

May I refer to another excellent maiden speech from my noble friend Lord Selsdon whom I should like to congratulate? He spoke of the need to use D.D.T. in Sweden and America against weevils and caterpillars. Surely, by poisoning these creatures with D.D.T. the predators of the weevils and caterpillars also were poisoned and therefore a potential menace may have been created. Some time ago, in about 1958—it was the last dry summer that we had in the North—we had a plague of diamond-back moths which were destroying our brassicas. All our kale, turnips and swedes were being attacked. The farm manager said to me, "We must spray the kale." I told him that we must not be in too much of a hurry to do that as we might well destroy the predators. So we put out 500 pheasant poults. The baby pheasants had the whale of a time and thrived abundantly. The pest was reduced to insignificant proportions and I had one of the best crops of kale I have ever had. Perhaps I ought to declare an interest. I am connected with game farming, but I am not trying to advertise pheasant poults.

As several noble Lords and the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, have said, education is the key. A tip which I gave to our own education authority was to go and look at our school playgrounds either at midday or at closing time. The amount of rubbish lying around soon shows which schools are teaching the children to look after the country. Though we require pollution boards as watch dogs, we should also as far as possible use Nature to look after Nature.

5.11 p.m.


My Lords, trying to find something new to say about pollution, I looked in the dictionary to sec the meaning of the word, and was rather disappointed to see that it meant only to "defile". What the dictionary does not say is that pollution can also kill. It seems to me rather unrealistic to have a debate about pollution without also having a debate about over-population because, especially as regards these tiny islands, the two matters are inter-related. The only speaker who has mentioned the question of population in this debate is the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, who I thought made a very pertinent speech.

Over-population is a subject which has always interested me, but I do not intend to go into it now. But one thing we must remember: the higher the standard of living the more pollution is caused, not necessarily through drainage but through ravaging the earth. A hundred thousand people in Asia living in primitive conditions (though not all of them do) do not pollute the earth's surface so much as 10,000 people in England, and probably 5,000 people in America: because the manner in which the West ravages the earth is phenomenal.

The time may come when people will be limited to one car—and a small car at that. I am not going to dwell on this subject, because I wish to speak on two pollutions which I abhor—pollution to the eyes and pollution to the ears. I agree that pollution to the nose is offensive, but while one can at least hold a handkerchief to one's nose, one cannot go around perpetually blindfolded or wearing ear plugs. Fortunately, on this island, with our windy climate, though we do get nasty smells from traffic and other contrivances, pollution to our noses is not so serious as we might suppose from the smells.

As we all know it is road traffic that is the worst offender in regard to noise—though those who live near an airport probably do not agree with me. The noble Lord, Lord Walston, has said that road traffic causes not only the pollution of noise but also the desecration of our countryside. I think he also made the point that, though we want everybody to share the beauty of the countryside, the difficulty is that their very numbers destroy what they go to see. This is a problem that will have to be solved somehow, but how it can be solved I will leave to better organisers than myself.

I was extremely pleased to hear my noble friend Lord Sandford say that industry, presumably with the support of the Government, were making strides in the development of an electric engine for cars and buses. I really think that soon in our major cities the Government must give a lead to public transport in changing over to electric engines. At the present time, this would be inconvenient to some extent, because a bus would have to charge its batteries at the end of every run, probably every hour; but I am sure that in a comparatively short time a battery will be invented which does not need this.

I have long thought that we shall probably have to debar private cars from the centre of our cities, apart from the cars of doctors and other people who must have them. But I think that the electric engine offers a great opportunity to help the transport problem. I remember my father telling me a long time ago that he had a steam car, the Stanley Steamer. He was very impressed by it, because it went extremely fast. He told me that it could do over 100 m.p.h. If we can develop steam cars especially for long journeys, it will be a great help in combating the problems of noise and pollution by fumes. We also have the gas turbine engine, which could be developed.

Before I leave the subject of noise, it is extraordinary that, while we have legislation to protect us from noise, it does not appear to be enforced. If we take pneumatic drills, they are infringing the law the whole time. If a pneumatic drill is started up under your window, the noise exceeds the number of decibels allowed, so far as I can gather from the legislation; but nothing has ever been done about that. I should have thought it not impossible to have an electric drill which would be less of a nuisance than the pneumatic drill.

I should also like to say a word about supersonic aircraft. I spend my autumns in the West of Scotland. This autumn the Concorde flew over my house two or three times, and I heard the supersonic boom. On the first occasion I was out on the hill, and the boom was no worse than a mild clap of thunder. As for the wild animals, the deer only raised then heads for a second: the sheep took no notice; nor did the birds. It has surprised me to read in the Press that when the Concorde was doing its tests down the West Coast a great point was made of dogs getting hysteria and people being nervous. Quite honestly, that is a lot of nonsense. I cannot help thinking that some of our competitors, who are no doubt hoping that we shall not have the Concorde, are putting this propaganda around. As I say, I have heard the boom and it is very mild: and, in any case, the Concorde will be supersonic over the sea a hundred miles from the land.

I should like to refer now to the question of the pollution of water and land. Great strides have been made in water purification, and I think water resources authorities, local authorities, industry and all others connected with this are to be congratulated. But there is one point about which I am not at all happy, and that is in regard to the surface run-off in intensively farmed areas near rivers. This does not apply in wild country. For instance, in Scotland we always pour our used sheep dip into the ground, but this would be a terrible thing to do in a highly farmed area. In Scotland it does not matter, because there may not be another house for twelve miles, and there is such a volume of water that it makes no difference.

I have in mind the matter of silage effluent in heavily farmed areas. I should like to see farmers in heavily farmed arable areas compelled to drain their silage effluent into tanks. The local authority would either collect the silage effluent to deposit it into the drainage system—they do this with private septic tanks—or the farmer (and he would probably require a small grant) should be made to take the drain-off from his silage tank to the nearest sewage farm. Quite apart from silage effluent, buildings anywhere near a river in a highly farmed area should not be allowed to drain off any poisonous substance into the surface drainage. It should all be made to go into the nearest drainage system.

Several noble Lords have spoken about the surplus of manure—and this applies very much to factory farming. This is a great problem, but in these days, when we have flights to the moon, it should not be beyond the bounds of organisation to arrange to have this surplus manure transported to the many areas in England where natural manure would be a great boon. If some system could be devised—I suppose by grant again, although I do not like grants—for cheap transport to the areas where it is needed, it would be a good thing for the soil generally. In the Midlands of England now there are large areas where the fibre in the soil is completely broken down and they cannot continue to grow arable crops at an economic yield. We can only get the soil back to a proper condition either by a long period of grass and grazing or by the introduction of natural manure.

There is one point in the White Paper that I am pleased to see, and it is that industry is conducting research into the manufacture of artificial fertiliser which will be used totally by the crop. Up to date, any artificial fertiliser has been soluble, and when it rains—and there must be rain and moisture in the soil to make the fertiliser work on the crop—much of the fertiliser, particularly in a high rainfall area, drains off into underground water, or into a stream, and eventually into the nation's water. That, of course, is undesirable. If we can get a fertiliser that will not dissolve in water and can be completely absorbed into the crop, it will be a great stride forward in the fertiliser manufacture.

May I say a word or two on pesticides? I was surprised to hear the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, say that he thought that damage done by pesticides is highly exaggerated. I agree that the position is better now, owing to the banning of aldrin, dealdrin and some injurious seed dressings; but I have farmed all my life, and I can remember that in the County of Kent some twenty years ago the morning bird song would wake me up. It certainly does not wake me up now; in fact, I have to use an entirely different means. At my place in East Kent we used to have what was called a toad walk. It was once recorded on the B.B.C. We had thousands of toads that came to the lake to breed, and you could hear them all night. Well, I have not seen a toad for years. I can assure the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, that this is due entirely to pesticides.

Dragon flies have gone, as have kingfishers, and we have hardly any butterflies. The trouble is that the fruit-growing farmers spray the fruit trees and kill the insects that eat the fruit; then the song birds and other birds have no food because there are no insects; and then the farmers want to kill the song birds. Pesticides, as your Lordships know, completely upset the balance of nature. The plague of wood pigeons that we have had in the last few years has been due chiefly, I think, to injurious seed dressings which cause the birds of prey to kill birds which were infected by this dressing, and by eating the contaminated flesh they would then be killed themselves.

I am not yet happy regarding pesticides, and I should like to see—although I think there would be an uproar from farmers—all pesticides subject to statutory control. I understand from the White Paper that pesticides not used for agriculture are to be subject to such controls. That is excellent. I should like to see pesticides for agriculture also subject to this control, because I am not at all happy with the position. Pesticide salesmen are persuasive; and you cannot blame the farmer for using pesticides, because he has high labour costs and he cannot afford to employ the labour that he used to employ. In some cases he has high rents. He has to produce cheap food and is subject the whole time to exhortations to produce more and more. Therefore, you cannot blame the farmer.

I should like to say a few words about sea pollution because I used to have something to do with shipping when I was a member of a shipping company. I also have some knowledge of navigation on the sea. I should like to see all tankers over a certain size, on entering the confined waters of the British Isles, the English Channel—and I would go so far as to say even the Irish Sea—compelled by maritime law to reduce speed to, say, 10 knots, and perhaps less. A tanker of 150,000 tons, travelling at 18 or 20 knots, takes about five miles to stop. It is a tremendous hazard in these enclosed waters. I think the noble Lard, Lord Geddes, referred to pilots. I should like to see pilots go out to tankers which are far off our shores, well before they enter the English Channel, because it is absolutely iniquitous that we should have the seas round our Islands polluted just by carelessness. And it is only by carelessness, because modern ships have every navigational aid to-day. I am of the opinion that the seamen of some nations have become very careless owing to navigational aids. I remember the case of a ship belonging to the company I was in, lying at anchor outside Lisbon. The visability was not bad; it was during the daytime and there was a slight fog, but an American ship came slap into her. It is fantastic how that can happen with radar; it is complete carelessness.

Before I end I should like to go back to the beginning of my speech and say that if we cannot control our overpopulation, I doubt whether we shall be able in the end to control our pollution. Over-population is rather like the wages and prices spiral. Over-population and pollution tend to rise together. One point in the White Paper worried me: I think it said that in thirty years the effluent in this country will be doubled. How are we going to increase the volume of water in rivers? Presumably we cannot double it. I think my noble friend Lord Ingleby made a good point with regard to the pumping up of underground water; that is a very pertinent point. But the question will arise one day, "Will there be enough underground water?" I only hope that by that period desalination will have made such long strides that we may be able to pump desalinated water from the sea to increase the flow of our rivers. But it will be a very expensive process.

I am sure that if the population grows as it is growing now—although there is a slight slackening off in the birth rate—it will be beyond even our ingeniuty in thirty years' time to cope with pollution. If that happens Nature will redress the balance, but she will take a terrible toll in human misery. I hope that will not happen, but I fear that it might. I should like to congratulate the Government although perhaps I ought to congratulate the last Government—on the White Paper. I believe this White Paper was produced under the auspices of the last Government, so I should like to congratulate both Governments. They are obviously alive to the dangers of pollution, and the White Paper has my full support.

5.37 p.m.


My Lords, I have to begin with an apology, which is more than a formality, on two counts. First, I am in somewhat of a state of shock because I have just arrived at your Lordships' House in a taxi, to be told that I was the next speaker. Secondly, up to about half an hour ago I was giving a lecture on the Irish Revolution when the electric lights went out. I was engaged in part of my normal working day, and the adjournment of your Lordships' debate until this afternoon made it difficult for me to hear the speakers on the list, from my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford to the noble Viscount who has just sat down. I apologise most sincerely to the House for not being able to attend until this late hour. I hope your Lordships will make the low, tidal, murmuring, policing noises of dissent if I say anything which other noble Lords have said before me, and said rather better; and in that event I will sit down.

I want to say a few words about motor cars in connection with this White Paper. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, (and it is nice to see him entering the Chamber at this moment) in addition to making an excellent speech, wrote the first White Paper I have ever read which can be congratulated for its prose. Nevertheless, it seems to me that he took a rather despairing, if eloquently expressed, line about motor cars. All through the White Paper there seemed the clear implication that we were no longer free men in respect of these products; that motor cars must necessarily increase in volume with the increase in population, and there was nothing much that could be done about it. He said, as he said earlier in a speech last year, there was no evidence that carbon monoxide in our streets has any adverse effects on health or environment. But surely, my Lords, we cannot separate carbon monoxide from general pollution connected with motor cars. The whole to-do of motor cars—their servicing, manufacture and so forth—is a very important industry and a major polluter. In the "Torrey Canyon" disaster, an archetypal event in pollution history, the vessel was carrying gasolene at the time.

The second problem is the creation of costs. We learn that, as car, motor-cycle and lorry engines become more powerful, other things being equal more power means more noise. It is good to hear that the Ministry of Transport are discussing with the motor manufacturing industry a phased and precise programme of noise reduction. But it seems inescapable that, as cars increase, even if they have quieter engines, their noise also will increase. There are certain advantages in having larger engines in private motor cars so far as noise is concerned. I notice that in America, of the many evil by-products of a totally "automoted" civilisation, noise, curiously enough, was not one of the worst, because of the large engines and automatic gears. If there were incentives to make even more cars, and lorries especially, automatic as to gearing, there might be a possibility of noise reduction there.

As many noble Lords said on Wednesday, more eloquently than I can, we cannot have an attack or fight on pollution which is separate from a fight for civilised life or a life with quality in it. Our life, whether we live in the country or in town, is essentially urban; it depends on urban services and urban communications. It cannot be denied that motor cars have caused more disruption, more breakdown, in urban unity than anything else this century, not excluding aerial attack. The environmental breakdown of cities must be closely linked to the rise in the idea of unlimited, unrestricted personal mobility which goes with a car.

I hope that my noble friends are keeping an eye on America and that we have spies, as it were, in Los Angeles and other places where efforts are being made to tackle an already disastrous situation. We may be able to learn from some of their methods, and may yet avoid falling into some of their mistakes. If we do, it seems to me that we desperately need other cult objects than motor cars. The Arts are beginning to wake up to this. Noble Lords may have seen Godard's film, Weekend, which contained in the early places some good satire about a motor-car civilisation; and I understand that Jacques Tati, of Monsieur Hulot fame, is now making a film about a man who buys a car costing £15,000 and takes three weeks to get from Holland to Paris in it.

One of the main concerns of all people interested in environment is what can be done about planning for the future. In this respect motor cars are especially problematical, because they require very expensive and permanent plant. It seems to me that one can tolerate our present congestion, even our present traffic jams and noise, smog, fumes and what-have-you, because it is possible to feel that sooner or later we shall all wake up to our madness. But what is hard to tolerate is the idea of many millions of pounds being spent on very expensive plant which is suitable to no other means of transport.

I believe that people in Government serious underestimate the degree to which, while motor cars are popular cult objects, their "fall-out"—the implications of unlimited personal mobility—is beginning to get through to the public at large. Anyone who lives in London knows from talking to others, including strangers—people in taxis, people in buses—that most people are pretty fed up in this connection and would welcome a degree of limitation over their personal mobility in the interests of a better urban environment. Whenever we allocate funds to build another motorway we ought to ask ourselves what we shall be doing with this in the year 2000, when we hope to be able to provide other forms of transport.

The fifth disadvantage of motor cars is that they lock up a great deal of capital. It is very instructive to take a notebook and pencil, walk down any London street during the heavy parking times and work out how much money is being locked up in parking meters and not being made to work. I feel that, while we owe much to the motor-car industry for the wealth it has generated for us up to now, and the mobility and freedom it has given us, in fact this static capital is beginning now to become more expensive than it is worth. The idea of unlimited personal mobility, uncontrolled personal mobility, also makes it impossible for public transport services to compete in any serious way with private transport. My only suggestion in this respect is that the Government should see that British Rail run one small section of their services—say, the London to Birmingham route, or the London to Edinburgh route—in the most prestigious and glamorous way imaginable, so that people could see that it is possible to travel in great comfort and style and enjoyment. It would be worth subsidising one line as a possibility for the future in this respect.

Finally, it cannot be denied that motor cars kill and maim. We have to congratulate the last Government upon their policies on speed limits in this country, and I hope there are no indications that my noble friends will think about "upping" those limits. The tendency of people—I am sure we are all guilty in this respect is to travel about 10 miles an hour faster than the speed limit permits. If, therefore, there is a limit of 70 m.p.h., a great number of people will drive at 80 m.p.h.; if there is a speed limit of 80 m.p.h., many people will drive at 90 m.p.h. There is cause for congratulation in that, with a large increase in the motor-car owning population, the deaths have recently held steady. Nevertheless, in my view just under 7,000 deaths a year—many of them of young people—is an unacceptable level. This cannot be denied. The last figures available (and we shall be getting some new statistics soon, I understand) show that 88,500 people were seriously injured, hospitalised, in 1968. In that light the cost of the motor car on the public services is absolutely staggering.

What to do about this problem, my Lords? It seems to me that in a debate of this kind it would not be useful for me to speak at length about various modes of research being undertaken into alternative forms of auto-transport. Also, I do not want your Lordships to think I am living in Cloud Cuckoo-land. I accept entirely that for a very long time some form of auto-transport will be a necessary condition of our culture: our culture will demand it. But I want simply to bring to your Lordships' attention, and especially the attention of my noble friends, a quotation from an article in the current issue of Crossbow by David Braine. He says: Our motor car population has doubled in the last 10 years to 10 million vehicles, and is likely to double again by 1980. No effective national policy, either short- or long-term, has been developed for the motor vehicle. My Lords, could not put it better than that, and I should like to leave my noble friends with that thought.

5.50 p.m.


My Lords, in the course of an extremely informative and eloquent speech on Wednesday, the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, said that the Government proposed to keep to the target which had been set by the last Government for the clearance of derelict land, and hoped that the greater part of this land will be cleared within ten years. I should like, if I may, to comment briefly on the implications of that most important statement.

As your Lordships may know, I come from the county of Lancashire which is perhaps notorious—or infamous, I am not sure which—for the fact that it has inside it about one-sixth of all the derelict land in England. That is more than any other county. Furthermore, the Government define derelict land as "land which is so damaged by industrial or other development that it is incapable of beneficial use without treatment." This is a restrictive definition, and I think that by applying it the amount of derelict land in Lancashire has in fact been considerably underestimated. The proportion is in fact very high indeed, and it is unevenly distributed. There are areas in Lancashire where as much as 25 per cent. of the total area is classified by the Government as derelict, and on any reasonable definition of the word "dereliction" one could easily raise the percentage to something as high as 33 or even 40 per cent. This means that not only is the area blighted by the evident squalor of the land itself, but it nearly always means that the district in question is poverty stricken because it has lost the industries whose departure has in fact resulted in the dereliction.

There were 400 active collieries in Lancashire in 1911; there are less than a dozen to-day. In the last decade more than 1,100 textile mills have been closed. Their departure leads to dereliction and to poverty; to the decline of all the facilities in a district—the schools, the houses, the roads and, most particularly in the case of collieries, it has a most dreadful effect on the sewers and the drains, which tend to get broken because of the subsidence consequent upon the end of the collieries themselves.

The problem which confronts a district such as those between Manchester and Wigan, is disheartening to an almost unbelievable degree. If one takes the particular case, let us say, of Tyldesley, one finds that the probable cost of reclaiming the land is of the order of £400,000 or £500,000; and this is an area in which a penny rate produces something less than £2,000. Furthermore, it is in an area which, if it had any resources at all, would undoubtedly want to spend them on improving the houses, the roads, the sewers and all the other amenities which the whole district totally lacks.

For this reason I want to press the point on the Government that I do not believe that the present policy which is adopted for financing clearance will in fact succeed in the end in doing what is so evidently necessary. Most of these areas have lost the land because it has been abandoned after it had been used for hundreds of years. It is no longer possible to say, as noble Lords have said once or twice during the debate, that the people who produce pollution should clear it up—that the consumer should clear it up. There are no such people as either polluters or consumers of the mills and collieries which produced the dereliction fifty or a hundred years ago. It is quite inconceivable that funds can be provided on an adequate scale by the communities themselves, and therefore I think it is absolutely essential that some other and quite special financial arrangement should be made if this ambition, which we all tremendously welcome, on the part of the Government is in fact to be achieved.

My Lords, since Lancashire started its very ambitious programme of land clearance about 14 years ago, 700 acres of derelict land have been reclaimed, and in a single year—1969—more than 1.000 acres of land were added to the total of dereliction. So that in one year considerably more than the whole achievement of 14 years was undone. This is the problem with which Lancashire is confronted; this is the problem which can be solved only by very active Government help on a scale which so far cannot even be imagined.

My Lords, the remarkable thing is that when the Government give funds for a community to spend on the clearance of derelict land they give it as part of their ordinary block grant out of which the community itself has to pay for, let us say, building projects for education, for health and welfare, for the police and all improvements under Parts I and II of the Housing Act. Anything which is left over has to be spent on locally determined schemes, which include all such other local government services as, for example, furniture for the schools, the fire service, the library service, industrial development and all reclamation work.

A community which is in any event deprived of all its amenities, which is deprived of almost all its industry, which has no resources at all, cannot, out of a grant provided to cover all these things, earmark a reasonable amount for the reclamation of the land which has been destroyed over the centuries. I believe it will be essential that the same kind of financial provision is made for the clearance of land as is made for housing provision, for example; that is a separate item for which the Government make a specific contribution and which the Government take on board as a major responsibility which they have to discharge themselves.

The position of a great deal of Lancashire is really extraordinarily depressing, and one might almost go so far as to say that it is desperate. I have said that at this very moment in time land is becoming derelict much faster than it is being cleared, and I do not see how any increase which the Government or anyone is contemplating at this time will do anything significant to redress the balance. I would ask the noble Lord the Leader of the House, who is to reply to the debate, whether it is possible that in the circumstances special steps can be taken to make certain that Lancashire ceases to lose more ground than it can reclaim.

Many observations have been made about the problems of clearance of colliery tips. As one noble Lord said, a great deal of the material from tips has been taken away to be used for foundations of roads. This is an admirable enterprise, but it has sometimes resulted in the creation of even more squalor than there was before, because the contractor who was obliged to remove the spoil was given no incentives at all to do so in a tidy and reasonably æsthetic way and he has left a scar in a tip which had begun gradually to mould itself into the landscape and made it look even worse than it was before.

In a dreadful way almost all the dice are loaded against these people. Not only do they have these tips which sometimes have to be moved, but when they do so they discover that they are on fire, and the problem of taking out the burning spoil creates an enormous cloud of stenchy smoke, leaves a scar on all the property around and is almost unendurable to people for miles around. Even when this has been done problems of drainage remain and all the civil engineering of a district has to be done over again.

I should like to refer to one or two of the difficulties with which we are confronted. Your Lordships know how the textile trade has collapsed and how a great deal of rationalisation has been done in the last few years. One finds that textile firms, after closing down a mill in Lancashire, find themselves under tremendous pressure to move to Cumberland in order to get a grant from the Central Investment Funds.

The system of providing industrial incentives for people to move into the black areas has created an ever-growing amount of dereliction in the central part of Lancashire, where more and more mills are derelict because the firms that own them cannot afford to re-equip them owing to the Government's desire for them to move out of Lancashire. Many old mills are lying derelict or are about to become derelict. One large industrial firm (I will not mention its name) owned a mill in the centre of a large Lancashire town, and when they decided to rebuild it they did so in such a way as to provide a little market square, with trees and so on, as an amenity for the town. This cost the shareholders about a quarter of a million pounds, for which they got no conceivable return on their capital; it was a gesture which the firm wanted to make, but I do not suppose it was tremedously popular with many of the shareholders.

Other large factories not very far from New Mills, which is near Manchester, have had to be abandoned because of the rationalisation of the dyeing and finishing trde. I think four big factories have been abandoned and inevitably they will collapse into a state of ruin before long. The firm itself cannot afford to do anything, and the only people who can extract any grant at all in aid of reclamation are, of course, the local authorities.

I would ask the Government to imagine the possibility—probably the noble Lord cannot give a firm answer to-night, but I would ask the Government to consider it—that firms who own large, old factories which have been rundown and have to be abandoned could be paid some sort of reclamation grant comparable to that which the local authority might get, on the understanding that if and when the land is subsequently sold and redeveloped the money advanced to the firm will be treated as a loan and repaid. If this were done, it would do something to bring private industry on the side of reclamation instead of leaving it where it is, unable to help, and helplessly watching devastation where once were flourishing factories providing the lifeblood of almost the whole of the northern part of England.

I should like to talk briefly about a subject not mentioned previously this afternoon, the enormous devastation—for it is little less than that—caused over many years by the great Corporations of Liverpool and Manchester and their waterworks. It is not too much to say that the devastation of the West part of the Pennines, in East Lancashire, spreading from the Peak to the National Park part in the Lake District, an area of a quarter of a million acres, some 350 square miles, has been almost totally devastated and destroyed by the deliberate policy of these organisations, which have taken away any form of human life, destroyed farms and allowed walls to collapse so that the water which is collected can be supplied to their customers without any form of purification or filtration whatsoever.

I repeat that the total area involved is almost as large as the Lake District. It is almost unknown, almost uninhabited. It is at the moment used solely as a catchment area for water, and it is at the moment submerged under the smoke which comes up from the chimneys of Lancashire, if ever Lancashire does become clear again, this area is potentially one of the most beautiful and one of the most important areas for recreation to be found anywhere in England. Recreation, we are told, is one of the growing industries of the community. Recreation is a subject to which many of your Lordships have referred, and it is important to realise that we have a potential in some of these areas which has been forgotten. I am quite sure that for a relatively modest expenditure we could create an environment as attractive as the Lakes and at least as accessible to the conurbations of Lancashire and Yorkshire.

It is quite dreadful that over a period of so many years we should have allowed this potentially exciting and useful area to remain derelict in order to avoid the cost of filtering water to be supplied to Lancashire and Yorkshire. It will cost perhaps £50 million or £100 million to cope with the whole problem of re-afforesting it and making it accessible, but once done it would provide an amenity of enormous value.

So I should like briefly to say once again that much as I welcome the promise of the Government that they hope to see the end of the worst of the dereliction within ten years, I doubt very much whether the financial policies so far enunciated will achieve this. I do not believe that it is reasonable that districts which have lost their industry and lost all that makes life worth living should themselves be asked to make any significant contribution to the clearing up of the land from which the wealth of England has come for many long years. It will have to be a responsibility shouldered entirely by the Government. I feel that more could be done to involve the ordinary shareholders of great companies in the clearing up of Lancashire than is done, and much more could be done to overcome the damage, which was caused by the building and abandoning of factories and coal mines and the pocking of Lancashire with disused tin shafts. We should furthermore reclaim a huge area of some of the most beautiful parts of the Pennines, devastated to provide the North-West with water.

These are some of the problems to which I wanted to draw your Lordships' attention. The area is so depressing. I would beg any of your Lordships who could spare the time to wander slowly through the part of Lancashire between Manchester, Oldham and Wigan and look at it. Try to imagine how anybody living there can face the problem of renewing it and making it fit for habitation.

6.10 p.m.


My Lords, I was greatly interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, said about East Lancashire and the Western slopes of the Pennines, and I am only sorry that my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford was not here to listen, because in his speech I thought he was prepared to add to areas of this sort and tell us that we would have to do so in the interests of ensuring that the water supply matched demand in the future. I hope that what he said will prove not to be true.

As it is late on the second day of this debate, and coming towards the end of a long list of speakers, I shall be brief and not croak on like the plague of toads about which the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, spoke. I hope that my noble friend Lord Molson is gratified at the interest shown in this debate, and I am sure I am right in saying that the interest in this House, which is very widespread, reflects the interest outside in the country. It is a very important subject. I was glad to hear the noble Lord put great emphasis on our water policy, for commercial and industrial uses, and for recreation, too. It is worth remembering that this House has played a notable part over recent years in pressing for a comprehensive water policy, and it is only too sad that progress has been so slow and that we still act, as it were, from hand to mouth.

I was particularly delighted to hear my noble friend Lord Sandford's poetic opening paragraphs, and his references to fresh air and clean water, to field and to forests, the war against din and clatter and the choir of the Benedicite. They were well-chosen words and appropriate to the subject; and I thought, how welcome this civilising influence will be in some sections of his Department where it is badly needed! His speech, too, reflected the spirit of the recent Guildhall Conference and the Council of Europe's Declaration of Management of the Natural Environment, whereby, among other things, Governments are urged to safeguard immediately unspoiled lakeshore and coastline and to ensure free access to them. That is something which is most important to this country. It is important to Scotland, and even more important to England where pressures on unspoiled and unpolluted country are so much greater.

I went home last weekend a happy man, thinking that the Department of the Environment would surely try to practise what they preached, and that in future we should see fewer acts of vandalism than we have known over recent years. But no. On reaching home, I was given a message through official channels that the noble Lord's Department intend, on December 18, the day after Parliament rises, to publish draft Orders for major roadworks, to which the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, has already referred, through a part of the Lake District National Park. I was given this message because it is known that I am interested in the area in several ways. It is true that they are planning for this road to run along the shores of an unspoiled lake, Bassenthwaite, where one of the carriageways for several miles will be so close to the water that there is no chance of having a continuous footpath. Hence the public will be denied the access which, with the recent pulling up of the railway line, has become possible for the first time in 100 years. That does not accord with the poetic opening of my noble friend's speech.

My interest here is as President of the local tourist board, and with many I deplore the introduction of din and clatter against which the noble Lord said that he was making war. Instead of din and clatter, here there should be peace and quiet; and whatever economic arguments there may be for this road (and surely they can be few) I would say that the tourist industry, which is the largest industry in the country and the quickest growing one, has never been consulted.

No one is against an improved East/West road through the Northern parts of the Lake District, linking West Cumberland with the M.6. There are no insurmountable difficulties in widening the present road, and thereby effecting great improvement. When the population of West Cumberland is not large, and never will be so very large in the foreseeable future, why is it necessary to have a road on the scale of the Great North Road where it runs through Yorkshire or Nottinghamshire (and I measured this the other day), and with an alignment to allow speeds of up to 60 m.p.h. along the lake side? That is much worse pollution of the lake than merely tipping garbage and Elsan effluent into the water.

As the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, said, there is a story circulating locally that there was a bargain struck between the former Prime Minister and Leyland Motors, and that the company insisted that a road should be built on a scale to take the biggest ever vehicles. I do not put this forward as a Party point, because if it is true, and if the present Government have accepted it, they must share the responsibility. But if you ask any Minister or any senior county councillors or their officials about this, none will admit or deny. They look embarrassed and avoid giving a straight answer. I submit that we must get to the bottom of this story, whether it is true or not true.

All too few quiet places are left in this country, and this particular place which the Government propose to pollute is the quiet place where Tennyson was staying when he wrote in Morte d'Arthur: And on a sudden, lo! the level lake …". What would he see if he came there and the noble Lord's plans are carried through?

My few final sentences are going to refer to the Department of the Environment's methods. First, there is strong local criticism that preparations for a scheme of this sort should be conducted in near secrecy, and that the same secrecy should be imposed on a county council which would like to play fair but has not been allowed to. Secondly, the publishing of draft Orders for works like this which are not just of local or county importance but of national interest, should not happen on the day after Parliament rises and only a week before Christmas, which is nothing less than a trick in order to avoid attention being attracted to them. Thirdly, rather than to publish one Section 7 Order for the whole length of the lake where the road runs along it, so that it can be considered as a whole, which many people in the country would think right, it is not right, as they propose, to break up their Orders into small pieces, presumably to fragment the opposition. Lastly, where it can be deemed that this is to be only a road widening and not a new construction, even though there is a second carriageway involved, it must be noted that they are proceeding not by the usual Section 7 Orders, but by some other way, so that the only form of formal objection will be that of the owner concerned taking exception to a compulsory purchase order.

Here I must declare a second interest, because I think I am the sole owner of this narrow strip about three times as wide as this Chamber, where the hills come closest to the water and where the plan requires only a compulsory purchase order. In trade union jargon, it appears that I have been what is called "victimised".

No doubt I shall be pilloried as time goes on as a "titled reactionary". Whatever else people may say about me, I am not a political funk; and if I do what I think right, and maybe attract a deal of ill-informed criticism, I hope that it will not reflect too badly on your Lordships' House.

My Lords, I have spoken in sadness and in anger. I am going to say nothing more to-night, except that the country expects better of a Government which has set up a Department of the Environment than to do things like this.

6.19 p.m.


My Lords, I should like first of all to join with others in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Molson, who has initiated this most interesting debate. I would also especially congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, on the speech he has just made to this House. I hope that it will be fully reported in the newspapers. I apologise for introducing at the present time yet another subject into this somewhat diffuse debate, but I promise your Lordships that I shall be quite brief, and that there are good reasons for my brevity which will emerge in my concluding sentences.

I am absolutely amazed that in a two-day debate on pollution and its effects on the environment, hardly a word has been said on the smoking of cigarettes. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, is, so far as I know, the only one who briefly alluded to it; and so far as I can see there is no mention of it in the Command Paper. In relation to the mighty ocean and the global atmosphere, a little cigarette smoke can have only a trifling influence, but in relation to the intimate climate—indeed, the internal climate of the lungs and the bronchial tubes themselves—the inhalation of cigarette smoke is, I suggest to your Lordships, the most concentrated pollution to which an ordinary person is ever exposed. We all deplore the foul exhausts of ill-adjusted diesel engines, but as a doctor I am unable to tell you of any disease which is notably due to the exhaust fumes of diesel engines, or of any thousands of deaths which take place as a result of these fumes getting into our atmosphere. But the most conservative estimates tell us now that at least 50,000 premature deaths per year, in this country of ours alone, are due to the effect of the smoking of cigarettes.

I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that the tobacco manufacturers last year spent, I think, £18 million on promoting their wares—or pushing their drugs, if you prefer a more direct statement. This Government have expressed their intention, which I commend, of working closely with captains of industry. I would therefore call your Lordships' attention to the fact that the present President of the C.B.I. is also the Chairman of the Imperial Tobacco Company. Therefore this Government should have ample opportunity to obtain every possible help in trying to get the tobacco manufacturers to end what I can only call their evil propaganda. The noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, referred to pollution as a compound of avarice and ignorance. I am afraid that I cannot accuse the cigarette manufacturers of ignorance.

I will not detain your Lordships any longer, except to say that I was President of the Royal College of Physicians when we issued our Report, Smoking and Health, in 1962. The College is about to issue its second Report on this subject, and I entreat Her Majesty's Government to let both Houses have an ample opportunity of discussing it as soon as is reasonably possible after its publication.

6.24 p.m.


My Lords, we have had a far-reaching debate over a large number of subjects, and one is tempted to pick up the numbers of points that have been made. At this late hour I will succumb to the temptation of picking up only one point before getting on to my main subject. The noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, raised the whole problem of moral pollution as well as that of national pollution. I was fascinated and interested by her argument, although I did not entirely agree with it. However, moral and physical pollution are to a certain extent the same thing. The misuse of natural resources is a moral and ethical issue, and the punishment that we get from misusing them is a breaking of natural laws. Possibly many would say, including many theologians, that it is a breaking of God's laws as well, and that in this particular case the two are the same thing.

Although the noble Baroness did not give us much hope as to what we could do on the moral side—except that she seemed to be rather nostalgic about a return to the past—I believe that a lot is being done at the moment to improve our approach both to the things she was specifically talking about, and to the whole problem of how we use our surroundings responsibly. I think that we can find an ethical system which both humanists and Christians can use constructively for this purpose. We should be very proud that in this country more work is being done on this particular kind of problem than anywhere else in the world. The Farmington Trust, working on the whole concept of moral education at Oxford, is the first of its kind in the world, and it is producing the kind of material for teachers and schools which is exactly the type that various noble Lords speaking in this debate have asked for. They have asked for more education. I think that we can have more education on a moral basis, and we should be very grateful to the people who are working on this particular subject.

That brings me to my main subject, which I pick up, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, and the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, from a remark made by my noble friend Lord Thurso in his admirable speech. May I digress here just for a second to explain to your Lordships that he could not be here for the second day. He has already written to the noble Lord, Lord Molson, and some other noble Lords. As many of you know, communication with the North of Scotland is extremely difficult at the moment, and my noble friend has found it impossible to get down following the change of programme in your Lordships' House. He said that pollution is made by people. The noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, picked up this thought. There is a population problem, and if we do not examine it we are not really doing our duty in the examination of pollution.

The growth rate of the world's population, whichever estimates one takes (and I know that the experts diverge widely on this subject), is such that it cannot be supported at this kind of rate for very long in human history, for the simple reason that the earth is finite. I fear that those who look to the moon or to the planets for our salvation are probably merely crying for the moon. Over-population of course has its real problems, such as shortage of food. But what we are really beginning to wake up to now is the fact that the first problem to be desperately felt by the rest of the world is pollution, the piling up of waste products; and particularly, as was said by the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene, from the civilised and developed countries rather than from the underdeveloped countries.

There are two ways in which we must face this problem, and neither of them can be neglected. The first is that population must be controlled, and the second is that resources must be conserved. We must conserve resources, not only in order that there shall be more resources for the population, but also in order that there shall be less pollution and less waste. In considering the first point about population control, we must see that this country, even though we do not suffer from over-population to the degree that some countries do, takes a lead. There are several reasons for this. First, it is up to the developed countries to set a good example in this way, because there is an understandable suspicion, on the part of the underdeveloped countries, when the developed and powerful countries say to them, "You must keep your manpower down"—manpower which, very often, they see as their main wealth—whereas the developed countries do very little about it themselves. Therefore, we must set a good example.

The second reason this country must take a lead is that we can do it, and sometimes they cannot. In India, if you do not have sons you are quite likely to starve. As someone put it, the sons of an Indian family are their social insurance stamps. We have a social insurance system in this country; we do not need to breed in order to support our old age and in order to survive. To a certain extent the underdeveloped countries cannot exercise population control in the same way that we can. Thirdly, I believe that, because of problems such as overpopulation which are coming in the world, it is very desirable that this country should be as nearly self-supporting as it can possibly be. I am a free trader and I believe that one should rely on free trade. But I also believe that one should be prepared for any emergency and that this country and Western Europe should be able to be self-supporting.

Fourthly, when we are talking about the quality of life, we must think of the idea of an optimum population. No one knows what is an optimum population for this country, but many people have made guesses. Most of the guesses, from experts on biology and the social sciences, are that we are well over the optimum population at the moment. Whatever the answer may be, we must strive towards it. We must begin to have a population policy, which we have never had before, and perhaps we should begin by aiming to hold our population at its present level. It may be that we shall have to reduce it, but that would be a start.

How we are to achieve this is a complicated matter and not one for this debate, but I hope it is something which at some time we might consider in your Lordships' House. All I want to say about the matter is that I am sure that any incentives to keep the population down must be in the form of incentives for those who do not have children, rather than disincentives for those who do. I cannot think of anything more immoral than some of the proposals of people who feel as strongly as I do on population control and who would achieve it by reducing family allowances. It is one thing to try to discourage children, but it is another to starve the very families who should be supporting the children who will be the coming generation. Compulsion of any kind is abhorrent to us and it is the last resort. But we must realise, as the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, said, that compulsion may have to be resorted to in the end. But if we are going to avoid it, as we must all want to do, we ought to take steps quickly.


My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves that point, can he tell the House what he means by "compulsion"? Who would compel whom to do what?


My Lords, I can see a situation in, say, a hundred years' time when the population of the world is such that compulsory sterilisation ought to be applied in a large number of countries. It would be the absolutely ultimate resort but it might have to come, particularly after a given number of children. The world cannot go on expanding in population. Does that answer the noble Lord?


Yes, my Lords. I only wondered whether the noble Lord saw the police immobilising and sedating those to whom this procedure was to be applied—or what?


My Lords, in a state of emergency most kinds of social and physical engineering are feasible, however regrettable. We must not think that 1984 cannot happen merely because it is repulsive to us that it should happen. It can happen.

Conservation in resources and thrift are the other side of the coin. It has often been a complaint—a complaint which I have not shared—that in the modern Welfare State private thrift is no longer a popular virtue and is no longer something to be encouraged. But I think it is becoming clear that public thrift is the new virtue: that we must be thrifty with our resources and that we can do this only through social measures. Pollution is at the moment a popular subject: hence the number of speakers in this debate; hence the number of books which appear week by week and month by month on this subject; hence the new magazines on it. It is right that it should be so, because pollution is a grave danger to us.

But Governments are always tempted to deal with symptoms, and pollution is a symptom of deeper ills and wrongs. So I hope very much that the present Government, who have some claim to think of themselves as a radical Government—admittedly, a radical Government of the Right after something like 23 years of totally non-radical Governments—might turn their mind towards thinking about the population problem and policies to meet it, because although we are beginning to have policies for pollution, we basically need a policy for population.

6.36 p.m.


My Lords, I feel a little guilty about adding my name to the list of speakers at the last moment and taking up more time in an already long debate, but I originally meant to speak on the timely Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Molson, and withdrew my name because the list was so long. However, as your Lordships are taking two days for the debate—luckily, I think, because your Lordships are so knowledgeable and deeply concerned about the subject—I feel less diffident than before, especially since the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, whose views on motor cars coincide with mine.

We seem to be catching up on old problems such as smoke, and I should like to endorse the praise of the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, for the Alkali Inspectorate, and also for the Department of the then Ministry of Housing, now the Department of the Environment, which is concerned with smoke control. I believe not only that we have the most comprehensive smoke control legislation in the world—we are miles ahead of other countries and they come to us all the time for advice—but that in the Alkali Inspectorate we have the most effective means of applying that legislation. I speak from some familiarity with the subject, because I had the privilege of being in charge of what is now the Clean Air Act 1968 when it passed through your Lordships' House.

While smoke pollution is a very old problem, we are getting on top of it only because we were prompted to do so by a disaster—the great smog of 1952. Up till then people were more or less prepared to tolerate the fumes and the filth. It is amazing what people are prepared to tolerate if they are led to believe that it is inevitable, but the Clean Air Acts have proved that we did not have to tolerate smoke. The implementation of that legislation has meant inconvenience and expense for many people in industry and in households, but I am sure your Lordships all agree that it has been well worth it.

Because I have already spoken to your Lordships on several occasions about the matter, may return once again to plead with the Government and with your Lordships that we should tackle with some brave new thinking the pollution caused by the motor vehicle? Though doing so will cause inconvenience and some expense, I believe that the expense will be greater if we do nothing. I am not referring to the matter of vehicle smoke, to which the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, referred at some length, because on the whole that is not a very big problem in this climate. I want to refer to the whole problem mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie.

The motor vehicle is a wonderfully useful machine. It is so useful that it is multiplying, and in its multiplication it is destroying our towns, our buildings and our countryside at a great pace, in spite of the fact that we are trying to adapt ourselves as best we can. The motor vehicle is so voracious of space and quietude that we cannot move fast enough to accommodate ourselves to it. I believe that we shall never be able to move fast enough, and that the condition of Los Angeles is an awful warning of how one of the most useful tools which modern technology has devised can so dominate our existence that the fact that it is a tool has almost been forgotten.

This has not been the case with electricity. We never forget that electricity is a means to an end; that, while it is invaluable, yet it is a dutiful servant. It seems that the motor vehicle is not looked upon as a means to an end, but as an end in itself. The noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, called it a cult object. So it has become transformed from the dutiful servant that it should be into a tyrannical master. From an aid to living it has become a mode of living for which our towns are gutted, our streets and frontages destroyed, harmless and beautiful buildings shaken to their foundations, barriers created between communities and noise and vibration scattered insensitively around the land. I do not foresee (I might say almost unfortunately) our traffic pollution creating a disaster parallel to the smog of 1952 and galvanising us into action. The effects are steady and cumulative and are happening all around us all the time. It seems to me that we shall have to come to a conscious and deliberate choice: either we shall have to choose the Los Angeles solution—and the population being the size that it is, I doubt whether we have room for that solution—or we shall have to say (and I think this is the answer) that the time has come when we must take charge of the motor vehicle rather than allow it to take charge of us.

Now there are some signs—and they are small signs—that this is beginning to happen. The Command Paper says that the trend towards increasing noise has already been halted. The next stage, provided that we are prepared to pay for it, is that we can reduce the noise—and vibration, too. As the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, mentioned, the Government's decision on the size of lorries is imminent. These monster lorries have an effect on the roads like travelling battering rams, and I hope that the Government, in their wisdom, will prevent their use. It will cost money to do so—or rather we shall not have the economies which these very large vehicles can provide—but I think, nevertheless, that preventing their use will be worth it. The Government will have to decide whether to subsidise the construction of more highways within towns. I hope that they will hesitate, for more than the reasons of huge capital cost and dubious return on the money, and will reflect not only upon the immediate damage to the environment but on the inevitable result, which will be a generation of yet more traffic which will require yet more accommodation, and so on. It is a vicious circle.

Finally, my Lords, I should like to follow on the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, and hope that the expedient of circumnavigating our towns by tipping the traffic out into the countryside will not continue to be resorted to without consideration being given to the effect which these roads are having upon the countryside. The motorways have given us some wonderful panoramic views of the country, but this amenity has been achieved only at the price of inflicting dirt, smell, severance and, above all, noise on everything around. There is belief in some places that nobody lives in the countryside, but they do; and, as the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, said, many townspeople go there for some peace and quiet. It has become increasingly difficult to find any; and in my little county of Monmouth, which is traversed by many big new roads, it is becoming almost impossible to find a place which is away from the roar of traffic. The engineers take the easiest routes, of course, which are along the valleys, and because these new routes are embanked and have no hedges to act as baffles the noise is thrown across and out for miles around. The result is that previously peaceful villages and hamlets are now noisier than many parts of London and other cities.

The noise comes not only from the engines but from the road surface itself. I know that the Government are aware of this. The Road Research Laboratory tried out a new profile of concrete surface on a road near where I live designed to reduce the road noise, and it is unfortunate that this piece of road which they produced is by far the noisest on the whole stretch. However, it was a try; and I ask the Government to keep on trying, and with urgency. I and other noble Lords have been greatly encouraged by the declaration of the Secretary of State with regard to noise from road vehicles, and I hope that he will press on. My Lords, it will cost money and it will be inconvenient for some, but we do not have to tolerate great noise from road vehicles any more than we have to tolerate smoke, and money spent on noise control, like that on smoke control, will for most people be money well spent.

6.47 p.m.


My Lords, I have only two excuses for adding myself to the end of this debate: one is that I have something to say, and the other is that I promise to speak for only three minutes, and if your Lordships find me speaking for any longer I hope you will make suitably rude noises which will make me resume my seat. I want to hang what I have to say on a remark made by my noble friend Lord Ritchie-Calder, who said he thought that manufacturers should be made liable to some extent for the final dealing with their products. In the past, my Lords, products dealt with themselves. I do not want to start a new catch-word; especially I do not want to use such a catchword as that horrible, semi-scientific word "biodegradable." I prefer the real old English word "eatable". The fact of the matter is that in the past, in Nature, things were got rid of because they were eaten. There was always something which ate anything. In fact, in the ultimate, my Lords, you and I are eatable. That is what will happen to us, and all we have to see is that it does not happen too soon.

But the fact of the matter is that we are now using things which are not all that eatable. We make so many things of metal, and there are few things which will eat metal. Metal is remarkably poisonous to life, and apart from the slow process of rust—and some modern metals are almost rust-proof—there is nothing which gets rid of metal. And there are many modern plastics in the same field. If only, instead of using these permanent materials, we could use what one might call semi-permanent materials, as we ourselves are made of, which could be decently eaten by something in the end, a great many of our problems would be over. Let me give a couple of examples. In the field of detergents we had a good deal of trouble until recent years for the simple reason that the detergents were not biodegradable; in other words, there was nothing which would eat them. But a modern detergent is made biodegradable, and as a result it is decently eaten; it vanishes off the face of the earth and troubles us no more—and the same can be done with a great many other things.

Take oil. We are at the moment using mineral oils; and few things eat mineral oils. If we use vegetable oils, a great many creatures will eat them. If vegetable oil were spread over the seas innumerable small creatures would proceed to eat it, all the fish would eat those creatures and we should end up with a profitable fish industry instead of a serious case of pollution. This will ultimately happen. We shall run out of mineral oils some day; I only wish that we could make it happen sooner. There are a number of other things. Metals are going to run out at some time. We are going into plastics, such as glass fibre, and, very soon, carbon fibre, which is even stronger than metal; and it does not seem beyond possibility to invent some form of resin which, when combined with carbon fibre, will be edible. My Lords, that is all that I wish to say. Let us make our products edible and we shall be rid of them without much trouble.

6.52 p.m.


My Lords, I find myself in the somewhat embarrassing position that in my six weeks in your Lordships' House exactly half of my speeches have been made in support of the noble Lord, Lord Molson—who I hope will be rejoining us in the near future—and to-night I am putting up my percentage from 50 per cent. to 66⅔ per cent. I cannot guarantee to continue such a high rate of support. But I think that I can say with some degree of confidence that it is unlikely that I shall find myself on a different side from the noble Lord when he raises matters of conservation policy; although I am bound to say that I shall be in very strong opposition if he makes many interventions on industrial relations of the kind he made this afternoon. But I am immensely grateful to the noble Lord for the help and constructive criticism that he gave when I had the statutory responsibility for most of the matters that we have been discussing during these two days.

As a newcomer to your Lordships' House, I hope I may be allowed to say how stimulating I have found the many contributions to which we have listened. It seems to me that pollution is a subject which this House might like to take as a recurring theme of debate and that the linked problems of pollution and population policy to which the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, and my noble friend Lady Summerskill drew attention could be best dealt with in a House as rich in experience as this debate has shown your Lordships to be. If that is so, we shall certainly be greatly helped by the three noble Lords who delighted us with their maiden speeches. Seeing the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, in his place, may I say what a relief it is to see what "Selsdon man" really looks like!

The noble Lord, Lord Molson, and my noble friend Lord Chorley and I have scarcely got our breaths back from discovering that the environment has become a fashionable thing to be in favour of. Twenty years ago we were all of us regarded as slightly eccentric when we constantly made speeches about clean air and clean water. Since then, with varying degrees of suddenness, all the political Parties, most of the local authorities, and most of the industrialists have embraced the environment. It is indeed becoming almost embarrassing, and I am indebted to the Journal of the Royal Institute of British Architects for the leading article in their August number, when they commented: 'The New Environmentalism is being co-opted by big business and big government. It's hard to know which is worse; assimilation by the establishment, or the outright hostility shown by such as Mrs. Samuel Neill, of Mississippi, who at last month's continental congress of the Daughters of the American Revolution made the remarkable comment that subversive elements plan to make American children live in an environment that is good for them'. My own interest in pollution stemmed from the fact that I represented an industrial area. The grass was sooty, the sheep were grimy, the rain came down as diluted sulphuric acid which was dangerous to health and damaging to property, and the once beautiful Irwell ran brown and stinking. My noble friend Lord Burntwood, who made a most impressive maiden speech, claimed that the Tame was now the dirtiest river in the country. Twenty-five years ago that could have been said of the Irwell, most of which I have represented at one time or another, but I happily yield pride of place to the Tame as the dirtiest river in the country. In the case of the Irwell, we have made progress: new sewage plants, the linking of factories to the sewers, pressure from the river authority and the local councils, and action by local enthusiasts like the Lumb Valley Anglers have had their effect. The Fifth Annual Report of the Mersey and Weaver River Authority is an encouraging one. They say: It is a pleasure to report that the reputation of this river which was nationally, if not internationally, known for its grossly polluted condition is now unjustified. It is still bad, but it is much better than it was, and I am happy to assure your Lordships that in at least one tributary of the Irwell there is now excellent trout fishing.

Not for one moment am I suggesting that we can afford to be complacent; but I do believe that we are in real danger of losing our sense of proportion. And if we lose our sense of proportion we shall be discouraging those who are working to improve the situation and we shall not help the cause of conservation. Yet day after day people and newspapers with short memories tell us that pollution is getting worse. That is true in only a limited sense. Generally speaking, we have made in this country great progress and are far ahead of other industrial countries.

Speaking for myself, I am proud of what we have done in this country. For over 100 years from the first alkali inspector, Dr. Angus Smith, down to Mr. Ireland, the Chief Alkali Inspector to-day, the whole world has studied and profited from the progress we have made, technically, administratively and by legislation. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Raglan for the well-deserved tribute that he paid to the alkali inspectors.

To-day—and I think that the House should remember this—other countries send their representatives to Britain in order to learn about clean air and clean rivers; and they come because our efforts have been so comparatively successful. There are fish in the Thames; the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, has reminded us that birds are seen in London to-day that we have not seen for years; there are more plants which are growing to-day in areas which were previously given over to privet and laurel and possibly rhubarb. It is good to know that before the recent setback the number of "black authorities" in the country had dropped to 23 out of a total of 1,200. Although it is not good enough, it is good to know that 41 per cent. of the mileage of our rivers is classified as clean. I think that the real point is that, while not exaggerating in our assessment of pollution, we cannot afford to be complacent. Our success must spur us on to further efforts because there are still too many dirty rivers, too many dirty estuaries, too many dirty beaches, still too many black areas. In addition—this is one of the things that worries me most—new and more dangerous pollutants are being developed, and I suspect that one of our greatest problems is going to be that of keeping our legislation in phase with technological changes.

I confess that I found Lord Sandford's characteristically courteous and informative speech not wholly encouraging. It was an interesting exposition of the Labour Government's achievements, for which we on this side of the House are most grateful; and it was an equally interesting catalogue of the present Government's inactivity in the same fields. I cannot recall a single practical proposal that the noble Lord discussed which the Labour Government had not already announced and had not been included in Mr. Crosland's White Paper. In every other respect the noble Lord could say only what the Government were considering; what they were discussing; and what he hoped they would lay before Parliament in the near, but imprecise, future. There was indeed not much evidence of the dynamic, purposeful Government which we were led to expect in June.

The survey of the rivers is a case in point. I attached a great deal of importance to this and, as was said by the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford (to whose work with the Thames Conservancy and the River Boards Association I pay quite unqualified tribute), it is cheaper to get water out of the rivers than to build reservoirs. Although these ways and means of clearing up pollution are expensive there is always the other side to the account.

I was glad to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, had to say, but we are not, I must add, living from hand to mouth in quite the way that he suggested so far as water policy is concerned. I think that all of us should compliment the Water Resources Board on the way it has started planning the water supplies of the nation so that we can avoid the kind of thing which has been properly objected to by your Lordships' House from time to time.

Regarding the survey of the rivers, my noble friend Lord Kennet and I had expected that it would be produced much earlier than the present Government seem to be content with. We are now told that there will not be any publication before the end of 1971, but it is difficult to believe that the Government could not, at any rate, tell us the broad gist of the very detailed survey which has taken place.

I think that the Jeger Report is another example. I invited Mrs. Jeger to be the chairman and the Marchioness of Anglesey to be deputy-chairman of the Working Party to consider and report on the public health, amenity and economic aspects of the various methods of sewage disposal. That is an urgent problem. I wanted to find out the seriousness of the health risks, particularly on the beaches. I wanted to know how much we should have to spend to stop sewage going into our rivers, and I was of course very conscious of the amenity aspects.

Perhaps your Lordships will forgive me if I digress for a moment to remind you of what happened when Queen Victoria went to visit Cambridge at the time when crude sewage used to be put into the Cam. She was shown round by the Master of Trinity, Dr. Whewell, who was, I think, Vice-Chancellor at the time. She asked him what the pieces of paper were that were floating on the river. Never at a loss for words he said, "Those, your Majesty, are notices saying that swimming is prohibited".

I asked the Working Party to report quickly, and in a very short time they produced what I think is a most valuable document. Now the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, tells us, to use his own words, that the Secretary of State is "in broad sympathy" with the Working Party's "objectives". I do not know whether the noble Lord draws a distinction between "objectives" and "recommendations", but it sounds a little halfhearted and a little dilatory. I hope that the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, who will follow me, will announce before very long what are the conclusions of the Government on this most important report. I hope that the noble Earl will tell us what is the time-table to which the Government are working. I should like him also to tell us just a little more about penalties, because I thought the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, was not perhaps as forthcoming on this subject as he might have been.

My Lords, to-day the penalties for pollution really are ludicrously inadequate. Although the noble Lord said that the Government hope to proceed by co-operation—a very legitimate way of proceeding—I think they would find that co-operation would come a great deal more readily if the penalties were made more realistic than they are at present. When, too, my Lords, can we expect the report of the Central Advisory Water Committee which I reconstituted in order to advise on the structure of the water industry? When is it going to be ready? Will it be taken into account in deciding what is the attitude of Her Majesty's Government to the Report of Mrs. Jeger and her colleagues?


My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Lord, I think I did say that the Report of the Central Advisory Committee is hoped for by the end of January.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord. That, of course, was a hope and not a firm assurance. I noticed that with all these reports the noble Lord, who is a very obliging noble Lord, kept saying how much he hoped that something would be done. I for my part was hoping that perhaps we could have something rather more positive, and know quite definitely that the C.A.W.C. was going to report in January and that the Government would take that into account in any announcement that they make about the Jeger Report, because there really does seem to me to be a lack of drive or sense of urgency in dealing with this problem.

Pending an announcement from the Government we can only express our gratitude, I think, to Mrs. Jeger and her colleagues; to the Thames Conservancy; to the river authorities and their staffs; to the Greater London Council and the local authorities; to the research workers; and to the voluntary bodies like the River Thames Society, the Pure Rivers Society, the Anglers Co-operative Association and all those other voluntary organisations which as the noble Lord, Lord Hayter, said, are a very British phenomenon. They have alerted public opinion and taken effective action, and I think they deserve some more positive reaction from the Government than we had from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary last week.

My noble friend Lord Chorley very rightly reminded us that the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, had referred to the reform of local government. I sat at Lord Redcliffe-Maud's feet when I was an undergraduate and I treat his views with the greatest respect. I am sure that he is right when he says that local government reform is urgent if the fight against pollution is to be effective. I am equally sure he is right when he says that we have to get rid of the wholly artificial planning distinction between town and country. I believe that the 1968 Planning Act was a good Act—it is true that I am a little biased in its favour—but it needs local government reform to make it even better; and I hope that the noble Earl will be able to tell us what is the Government's time-table for local government reform.

My Lords, if I may turn for a moment to the sea, here I confess that I find little cause for satisfaction. A number of noble Lords have drawn attention to the pollution of the sea. I think that perhaps this is the most effective way of highlighting the need for international action in respect of the environment in general. It was the noble Lord, Lord Molson, who first told us that pollution knows no national frontiers, and other noble Lords have echoed that point of view. It is one with which I wholeheartedly agree. I also agree very much with what the noble Lord, Lord Hayter, had to say, for in this highly competitive world it is difficult to impose on our industrialists financial burdens which American, Japanese and German industrialists do not have to bear. So I am glad that there is this awakening of international interest in pollution and that bodies like the Council of Europe, O.E.C.D., and even NATO, are discussing it. I attach enormous importance to the conference which is to take place in Stockholm in 1972, under the auspices of the United Nations. I believe that the United Nations have been particularly fortunate in persuading Mr. Maurice Strong to undertake the organisation of that conference.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, for what he said about the machinery for dealing with oil pollution. We set it up after the "Torrey Canyon" incident. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, is no longer with us, because he played a most valuable part during that period in helping to slop people from taking too catastrophic a view of what had happened. We are assured by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State that the machinery we set up is working well and that the lessons we learned at the time of the "Torrey Canyon" were put to good use in the case of the "Pacific Glory". Before I leave the question of the sea, perhaps I ought to say how pleased we all are to learn from the last report of the Natural Environmental Research Council that the Council have set up a new component body, the Institute for Marine Environmental Research, which is housed, I think, at Plymouth.

I should like to turn briefly to the question of the air. I agree entirely with what the Chief Alkali Inspector said in his last report. He said that conditions had improved beyond recognition in the past ten years, but added that there could be an even greater improvement if the money were available. I hope that your Lordships and Her Majesty's Government will remember what I said earlier, that although the costs are great, there are countervailing economies on the other side of the balance sheet.

The noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, and the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, raised the question of noise and nuisance from cars. I was glad to learn last week from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary that further regulations about noise from traffic are coming shortly. I hope that they will not be long delayed. And I hope that the regulations which came into force in April are being vigorously operated. I also want to support very strongly indeed the plea of the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, and of my noble friend Lord Raglan that the Government should not give in on this question of 44-ton lorries. In my view, it is unthinkable that lorries of this size should be allowed to drive through towns like Chichester and York and other great treasures of this country.

Your Lordships will be glad to know that I am almost on my last point but I want to say something further about noise from aircraft, particularly in respect of supersonic booms, because I did not find the reply of the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, very reassuring. I hope that the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, will tell us that the Labour Government's pledge in the White Paper, that these flights overland would not be allowed, will be the policy of the new Government as well. I know that the noble Earl is the last person to be swayed by any vulgar consideration of electoral popularity, but I can assure him that if the Government follow the policy laid down in the White Paper it will probably be the most popular thing his Government will do. I have had representations from the Bermondsey and Rotherhithe Society and from the River Thames Society about the proposal to have a landing ground for VTOL and STOL aircraft in the Surrey Docks. Those who have written to me are concerned not only about noise but also about pollution, which apparently is greater from this type of aircraft. I should like to know from the noble Earl whether the Government are considering this aspect of the problem and I shall be grateful for any encouragement I can give to those who have written to me.

Finally, my Lords, this is probably the last time that I shall address your Lordships' House before Christmas. We have spent many hours discussing the unseasonable subject of water, and in wishing your Lordships a happy Christmas, perhaps I may end by quoting from that prolific and apparently immortal poet, Anon, who wrote in the last century: Pure water is the best of gifts that man to man can bring, But who am I that I should have the best of anything? Let princes revel at the pump, let peers with ponds make free. Whisky or wine, or even beer, are good enough for me.

7.17 p.m.


My Lords, I should like straight away to thank my noble friend Lord Molson for making this debate possible. I think that there is no one in your Lordships' House better fitted to introduce a debate of this kind than my noble friend, and for one particular reason. The Government warmly welcome all that the voluntary societies up and down the country are doing to preserve and conserve our countryside. There is a particularly British élan behind this voluntary work, it seems to me, and it is particularly good that many of those organisations should have come together in the Committee for Environmental Conservation, of which my noble friend is Chairman. It is indeed a real national asset that there is so much co-operation on a voluntary basis and a continuing, if sometimes raucous, dialogue between the voluntary societies, industry and the Government to secure the control of pollution and the wise use of our environment.

Having said that by way of congratulating my noble friend, I should like to follow the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale—who, if I may say so, made a particularly delightful speech—in thanking the three noble Lords who made notable maiden speeches in the first day's debate last week. I was particularly glad to hear what the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, had to say. I remember his father and, like the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, I had the honour of working in the room in which "Archie" Sinclair worked, when he was Secretary of State for Air at the time of the Battle of Britain. The noble Viscount is a notable reinforcement to the Liberal ranks. I was glad, too, to hear the noble Lord, Lord Burntwood. When he went under the alias of Julian Snow, he was a colleague of mine in the Council of Europe. He is a notable reinforcement to the Labour Benches—though I do not think they need much more reinforcement. I was particularly pleased to hear my noble friend Lord Selsdon, not least because he is a notable reinforcement to our own Benches.

My Lords, listening to those speeches, and to the 34 or so other speeches that we have heard in this two-day debate, one reflection has run through my mind: that while on occasions we in your Lordships' House perhaps "scratch each other's backs" a little too much, on this particular linked area of conservation and preservation, pollution and the environment, your Lordships' House has a particular contribution to make. It has done so in the past, and I am sure will continue to do so over the years to come. This is a subject to which your Lordships, both by your experience and, indeed, by the way we conduct our debates, are particularly fitted; and I hope that we shall continue to dwell on this whole area.

Pollution is no new problem for us all. It has existed as long as mankind. In Adam's day the wastes were small in volume and natural in character, and the world was able to absorb them quite easily. But as man has multiplied—and in our lifetime his powers of multiplication have indeed been formidable—as he has crowded into cities, and as his technologies have advanced, so the problems of pollution have multiplied. I emphasise this by way of starting my speech. One often hears people speak of pollution these days as if this were some novelty which had just burst upon an astonished world. It is true that "pollution" and "environment" have become catchwords in these days. My hope is that this fashionable preoccupation is not a mere passing phase. There is a danger that the environment may become a bandwagon on which every organisation in our modern society, responsible or irresponsible, gimmicky or just sheer cranky, may try to jump. I know that the deep, informed concern which has been expressed in this long discussion will persist here when this particular bandwagon has been overtaken by another one.

It is my belief, of course, that we have to hold with steady energy to the antipollution course on which we as a country are set. I stress this because I believe it to be of real importance that there should be some real continuity in our treatment of pollution matters. It must not be allowed to become a fad of the moment or a preoccupation of any particular Party. Continuity is also important, I believe, because pollution has roots so deep in the fabric of our society, exists as it does because of actions far back in the roots of our society and because, too, it will take many years to cure.

Having said that, I, like the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, feel that we should not forget the other side of the national pollution coin. Things are much better than they might have been in this country, because for over a century our fellow countrymen have devoted a great deal of effort to pollution control. We have, as noble Lords in all parts of your Lordships' House have remarked, a long and honourable national tradition in this field stretching back to the Alkali Act 1863. We should remember, too, that the rivers of the industrial North, much though they may leave to be desired so far as purity is concerned, are on the whole a great deal better than they were in the 1880s, because of the persistent efforts of local authorities, river boards, and now of the new river authorities. But, that said, I recognise, and the Government recognise, as many noble Lords have recognised in this discussion, that we still have a long way to go. We must remember that in England alone there are more acres of derelict land than there were acres in the whole county of Middlesex.

If I may say so, I was deeply impressed by what the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, in an exceedingly well informed speech, had to say on this aspect. He was, of course, asking for a departure from the financial policy in this respect at present being pursued by this Government, and the policy that was pursued by the last Government. But I think his words merit careful examination, and I can inform him that they will receive that examination. But to try fully to answer the noble Lord would need a great deal of time, and I hope he does not expect me to do so in winding up a very long debate.


My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Earl, I am most grateful for what he has said. I do not expect a detailed reply, but if he would like me to provide more detail than I was able to in my speech, I shall be happy to do so.


That will alarm the noble Earl.


I should of course be delighted; but not at this particular moment.

So far as our rivers are concerned, we know that their condition leaves a great deal to be desired. Nor can we yet be smug about smog and smoke. It is true that since 1952 when some thousands of people died as the direct or indirect result of the great London smog, a great improvement has been won in our capital city. Birds of all sorts are coming back to London. Flowers are blossoming, as we have been told; and even the Foreign Office is losing some of its grime. But, my Lords, we have not yet attained that Wordsworthian ideal, where: Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie… All bright and glittering in the smokeless air. Nevertheless, we are making progress. We know the temporary setbacks. Of course, I am not intent upon making a Party political speech this evening, and I will not go into that story. But these are not merely inherited areas of pollution. They are also all the new creations of our century—modern industrial processes; new products like pesticides and plastics; the mobile pollutants; the noisy and smelly pollutants, like the motor car, on which my noble friend Lord Gowrie gave us an interesting and informed discourse, and the aeroplane. All these pose great problems for us.

In short, my Lords—and I should like to make clear that the Government recognise this—there is a great national job to be done in this field. We have, of course, important assets. We have as the noble Lord, Lord Hayter, and other noble Lords have reminded us, a tradition, and a valuable one, of co-operation between Government and industry in the regulation of pollution. We are fortunate, too, as I think this discussion has shown, that our objectives are shared by all the main political Parties, even though there may be differences over tactics and methods. Which Government does these things better is, of course, a matter of choice.

I should like to join in congratulating the last Government on some of the initiatives that they have taken, and in particular to congratulate the noble Lords, Lord Greenwood and Lord Kennet, upon the notable part they have played over the last few years. On the other hand, I should like to point out that "conservative" and "conservation" have the same etymological derivation; and, that being so, I can assure my noble friend Lord Molson quite categorically that we are going to place just as much emphasis on preservation, on conservation and on anti-pollution as the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, and his noble friend and friends have done.

The noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, twitted us gently and pleasantly, but there was a concealed sting in his tail about the Jeger Report and such-like matters. But I think my noble friend Lord Sandford gave the facts, and all I would say is that in listening to the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, from his impartial perch upon the Cross-Benches, I did not get the impression when he referred to the speeches of my right honourable friend Mr. Peter Walker and my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, that he thought the present Government were showing less concern for these matters than the last Government.

Be that as it may, our problem is not to agree on what in an ideal world we should like to see done, but to make sure that we get our priorities right in the real world in which we live. We must remember here the great time lag, the time scale, involved in these matters. The three to five years needed for a major engineering scheme, like a sewage works; the ten years which my noble friend Lord Molson reminded us may well be required for a water project—


My Lords, with great respect, would not the noble Lord agree that quite recently "the quality of Mersey" was "not strained"?


My Lords, I am getting there. I know that the noble Lord has been treasuring that particular little "nugget" which he has now kindly contributed to us.

In any event, we are not short of good advice in these matters. We have the Royal Commission; we have the Central Unit now firmly embedded in the Department of the Environment, the Research Councils, the universities, and a host of volunteers and voluntary organisations. We have the experience of the United States, as my noble friend Lord Gowrie has reminded us. I think it is marvellous luck that we live in the same world as the United States because, as Professor Galbraith recently reminded us, they often show us where not to go. We do not lack knowledge and advice. I believe that we require a continuity of purpose and vision in this field.

One area which we all agree, by any standards, we have to place high on our social priorities is the cleansing of our rivers—the area on which my noble friend Lord Molson placed so much emphasis at the start of our debate. Our rivers —even Lord Nugent of Guildford's Thames—are not as clean as was once the case. Your Lordships will doubtless recall that King Henry II (I think it was) kept a polar bear in the Tower of London. He used to let it out on a rope for aquatic excursions in the Thames to fish for salmon. Even with all the improvements brought about by my noble friend Lord Nugent, and his predecessors, that polar bear would to-day be rather lean and hungry.

It is perfectly clear that in this field of the cleanliness of our rivers and waters we have to run fast if we are going to stand still. We know that our demand for water supply will double by the end of this century, and my noble friend Lord Nugent, speaking from all his knowledge of this, has emphasised this matter. We know that the volume of effluent discharged into the rivers will increase therefore by a comparable amount, and we know that the volume of water available for dilution in the rivers will tend to decrease. We can reasonably fear that in the next decade or so we shall be faced with new chemicals which will cause us new headaches.

We are all aware of the importance of clean rivers in their dual function as a source of water supply and for the discharge of effluent. All of us should be fully aware of their importance for sport, amenity and recreation. We are foolish if we do not remember but neglect the interests of the 3 million anglers in this country; of the 700,000 boaters; the 75,000 water skiers; 45,000 oarsmen; 35,000 canoeists and 6,000 skin divers. If we are going to see that the rivers perform these essential triple functions of water supply, discharge of effluent and recreation, then we need bags of money.

Take, for example, the Edinburgh sewerage scheme now under consideration. That will cost, I believe, £14 million. The Tyneside Sewerage Board's estimate for their scheme, also under consideration, is, I believe, £30 million. Inevitably a decision to spend money in cleansing the environment involves a decision not to spend it on something else. Therefore we must be certain to get our decisions as right as we can; and this means a careful choice between priorities. It also means that we should get our structure at the centre as good as we can. That is one reason why our first priority was given to reshaping our decision-making and administrative machinery to make it as good as we can. This is not a Party point, because a good deal was in the pipeline in June in this respect. I am quite certain that the firm, integrated structure of the new Department of the Environment is a great improvement on that loose, confederal pyramid in which the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, and the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, found themselves, at least temporarily, interred.

On the question of structure, the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, asked me a question or two about local government. I agree that this is extremely important in this particular area. There is not a great deal that I can say at this particular time. I can remind noble Lords who do not know this that Her Majesty's Government propose to publish in the new year a White Paper giving their views on local government reform. I cannot anticipate what that White Paper will say, but I can assure all noble Lords, including, in his absence, the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, that the Government do not propose to retain the "present crazy eighty-year-old framework", to use the noble Lord's words—


My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves that point, may I ask whether there is any significance in the fact that it is a White Paper and not a Green Paper? Have the present Government dropped the idea of Green Papers as consultative documents?


My Lords, I think the last, Government published at a similar time last year a White Paper on local government reform. There is no particular significance; we are following, perhaps, a good example set by the last Government in this respect. Green Papers also can serve a useful purpose in certain other areas.

At this late hour it would be wrong for me to go over the ground which has been so ably traversed by my noble friend Lord Sandford, but I should like to deal with some of the matters brought up by noble Lords in the debate. I cannot cover all the ground; I cannot cover, for example, some of the matters, interesting as they are, which are not really germane to the White Paper—for example, the question of cigarette pollution, whose importance I do not underestimate, and on which we are presently awaiting an important further report from the Royal College of Physicians. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Platt, that this Government very much recognise the deep significance of that report. if he or other noble Lords wish to find time for its debate in your Lordships' House, of course time can easily be found through the usual channels.


My Lords, I am very grateful and I thank the noble Earl.


Nor, my Lords, will it be right in this debate to go too far into the question of moral pollution, important though that is, raised by my noble friend Lady Emmet. If my noble friend Lord Inglewood would forgive me—for he made a very forceful and challenging speech which we are used to hearing from him—it would also be wrong for me to go too far into the subject of the A.66 and that lovely lake, Bassenthwaite, at this time, not least because I did not have any warning that he was going to raise this important subject; but I will see that his remarks are brought to the attention of my right honourable friend forthwith, although I suspect that the newspapers may well convey them.


Thank you.


The noble Lord, Lord Hayter, rightly said that we have as a starting point sound, scientific knowledge founded upon research. We need this. We need it, for example, to appraise the real magnitude to the stability of the earth's climate, posed by supersonic aircraft flying in the stratosphere. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, who raised that point will be aware that the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution was asked by the previous Government to look into this specific question. I understand that they will be publishing their conclusions in their First Report very shortly.

Scientific and technological research are likewise needed into the problems of eutrophication of lakes and streams, raised by the noble Lord, Lord Burntwood, in a very interesting speech, and echoed by the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, who reminded us that even the tiniest river might no longer be safe by the time it has wound its way to the sea.

This problem is being taken seriously and there are at present about 35 research workers in half-a-dozen experienced teams examining the practical issues involved and a further dozen or so investigators in the universities studying the more fundamental aspects of this problem.

The noble Lord, Lord Hayter, also pointed out that it was not much good trying to control pollution unless it was known how much pollution was going on; unless one was able to quantify it. The Government entirely share the noble Lord's view. As the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, stressed, such monitoring must use the best scientific methods and be on a sound quantitative basis. All I can say is that here again the Government entirely agree.

The noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, in a charming as well as a notable speech, and I think the noble Lord, Lord Burton, rightly emphasised how essential it was that pollution control was looked upon as inseparable from good planning. Whatever restraint we may impose upon our philoprogenitive instincts, in response to the siren song against procreation of the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, we must all perforce recognise that population problems within this crowded island, and the problem of population location, are bound to increase over the coming decades. It must certainly be part of the business of planning to try to see that the countryside of Britain—" that masterpiece of produced beauty", as Henry James termed it—is used as wisely as possible.

In this context I should like for just a second to dwell upon the serious problem of the location of reservoirs, which the noble Lord, Lord Molson, emphasised in his speech. Of course, I would agree with the noble Lord that we need a national strategy for water and one, moreover, that is interwoven with and takes account of other national strategies: for example, strategies for farming, a stategy for forestry, a strategy for outdoor recreation, a strategy for wildlife conservation. But it is certainly my understanding that it is precisely this strategy which the Water Resources Board is endeavouring to develop and which the Department of the Environment will seek to relate to these other national strategies. There must be some balance here. There is the great problem of the quantity of water, emphasised by my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford, and that has to be balanced against the equally important amenity considerations. Sometimes individual judgments here are agonisingly difficult; we should not underestimate their difficulty.

Having said that, I should like merely to emphasise that the Water Resources Board is not solely interested in reservoirs. The Board is at present nearing the end of a detailed feasibility study of the proposed Morecambe Bay barrage and it has already published its studies of The Wash and the Solway. It is also playing a leading part in the study of the River Trent, on which the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, spoke so poetically. Again, we are fully alive to the importance of using underground aquifers, about which my noble friend Lord Ingleby spoke. All these factors will be taken into account in the development of our national water strategy.

I believe that recycling or the re-use of what we now call waste is also one of the roots of this matter. Nobody would disagree in principle, I think, with my noble friend Lady Emmet of Amberley or the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, in their hope that recycling of waste is a growth industry. Considerable advances are now being made. I will not go into details—probably the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, is fully aware of them—but if either he or my noble friend Lady Emmet require details, I will gladly write to them.

May I turn very briefly in conclusion to the international scene. Our national effort, I believe, is but one element in what must increasingly be a world campaign. Many pollutants know no frontiers. In much of this matter, one nation's out-tray may be another nation's in-tray. We have, of course, heard the allegations that sulphur dioxide going up the chimneys in Britain may be coming down in acid rain over Scandinavia. In any event, we know that the climate of the earth and the equilibrium of the oceans can be materially affected by what mankind discharges into the air or puts into the sea. Some of these may not be pressing problems at the present time, but if we are to stop them from becoming so we shall need real international collaboration, because in these matters no island is really an island, and, if I may say so in that context, I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, that the question of marine pollution pre-eminently lends itself to international collaboration.

In any event, the Government favour and intend to continue to contribute to international work which can lead to solid practical results in organisations like the O.E.C.D. and the United Nations Specialised Agencies. We also attach particular importance to the World Conference on the Human Environment, which the United Nations is convening in 1972 in Stockholm. We are playing our full part in preparing for this Conference. Our officials in the Departments concerned are in close touch with the Secretary-General and his staff and have had talks with them within the past three weeks, both in New York and in Geneva. We expect to receive shortly, and to respond to, the Secretary-General's proposals for the agenda of this Conference, and shall be playing our full part in the Preparatory Committee meeting in Geneva in February.


My Lords, before the noble Earl leaves that subject, may I ask whether he is able to say anything about the suggestion of the Secretary-General of the Conference that all countries should have a national committee to prepare for it, to which I alluded in my speech at the beginning of the debate?


No, my Lords, I cannot immediately answer. I remember the noble Lord's remarks about Mr. Christian Herter. I must apologise to the noble Lord: I am not in a position to comment on that point, but I will write to him, if I may, about it.

Finally, my Lords, may I turn to the economics of pollution and the associated national or international problems to which a number of noble Lords have referred? This is not an easy field in which to be dogmatic. The problems do not lie only in the methods of calculation of gross national product and the rest of it. It is often comparatively easy to say in one plant or in one industry how much is going to be spent in the control of pollution. It may be far less easy to estimate the cost to society of that part of pollution which is not being controlled, and less easy to estimate the cost of additional measures to remove that part of pollution which is not being controlled. In any event, we are anxious to pursue the study of these questions both nationally and on an international basis, where we hope that the work of the 0.E.C.D. may be of special value. A certain amount of work has been done in this field internationally, but, as yet, not much nationally. In any event, we do not intend to let this question hold up progress with practical solutions in this country. It is an area which we believe needs and deserves further study.

Much the same can be said about the so-called "question of international standards", the advantages of which have been mentioned by some noble Lords and the disadvantages by others. This, again, is a difficult and complex matter. It is quite clear that rules are needed for matters such as oil tanker operations and for certain consumer products which are traded internationally, but beyond this we find that conflicting points of view are expressed, not only in your Lordships' House but also in international discussions. Here I would say once again that the Government will play an active part in the elucidation of these problems, keeping in mind the characteristics of our position as a small, highly industrialised island. But I should again emphasise that we shall not allow international discussion to hold up progress on the domestic front.

The aims of the international agencies at work in this field are high and praiseworthy, and let us hope that they can at least go a long way towards achieving them. But while we "do our thing" abroad—and we shall do it—we must recognise that our credibility will in the end depend upon how far we have been able to put our own polluted house in order, to clean out our own Augean stables. It is our task to manage our own land, and we are answerable to our own people. If I may say this in conclusion to my noble friend Lord Molson, it is my sincere belief that the debate which he initiated some days ago will assist us in discharging those not inconsiderable responsibilities.

8.52 p.m.


My Lords, I think we can reckon that this has been a particularly successful debate in your Lordships' House. It is not only that the number of those who have spoken is unusually large, but the quality of the speeches has been particularly high. Also, without exception, I think the speeches have been extremely balanced in their content. We are particularly glad to know, from the three maiden Speeches, that we have recruits to your Lordships' deliberations who will be a great help to us in the future.

My Lords, I hung this debate on Command Paper 4373, which was the work of the last Government, and I sought to find out what the present Government were going to do in the way of continuing with that policy and carrying it even further. I am glad that we have had from both the Ministers who have spoken a complete assurance that in, I think, every respect they intend to follow the lines which were laid down by the previous Administration. Indeed, they emphasised the continuity to such an extent that the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, almost seemed to complain that they were following so slavishly the good example which he and his colleagues had set. However, the noble Earl the Leader of the House—and I take it as evidence of the importance which the Government attach to this matter that the Leader of the House should himself have wound up this debate—gave an explicit promise that however closely they might follow the general lines laid down in the White Paper, they would not only be as energetic as the last Government but would carry the policy even further. In view of this assurance I ask permission to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.