HL Deb 04 February 1974 vol 349 cc595-700

4.39 p.m.

House again in Committee on Clause 66.

BARONESS YOUNG moved Amendment No. 183: Page 72, line 31, at end insert ("and section 33 of that Act shall apply to the exercise of powers under section 28 as applied by this subsection. References to an offence under the Act in those provisions as applied by this subsection, except the reference in section 30(2) to an offence under section 28(5) or 29 of that Act, shall be construed as references to an offence under section 68 of this Act relating to regulations under this section.")

The noble Baroness said: This Amendment corrects an omission. It is desirable, for the protection of persons whose property is subject to any of the measures prescribed in Section 28(1) of the Trade Descriptions Act 1968 (inspection of goods; entry into premises; production of books and documents; seizure of goods or documents, or the opening of containers for vending machines) but who are not subsequently charged with an offence, that the provisions of Section 33 of that Act regarding compensation and disputes should be available. As the Committee will see, Clause 66(5) as drafted provides for the application of Sections 27, 28, 29 and 30 of the Trade Descriptions Act 1968, but not Section 33 which is concerned with compensation and disputes, and this Amendment puts that situation right. I beg to move.

BARONESS YOUNG moved Amendment No. 184:

Page 72, line 45, at end insert— ("(7) In Northern Ireland it shall be the duty of the Ministry of Commerce to enforce the provisions of regulations under this section; and accordingly this section shall have effect in relation to Northern Ireland with the omission of subsection (4), and it is hereby declared that in relation to Northern Ireland the references in subsection (5) to provisions of the said Act of 1968 are references to those provisions as modified by section 40(1)(b) and (c) of that Act.")

The noble Baroness said: Clause 66, which gives the Secretary of State power to regulate the composition of motor fuel, is one of the few in the Bill which apply to Northern Ireland. In Great Britain the local weights and measures authorities are to be enforcement authorities. There are no such bodies in Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Office propose that the regulations should be enforced by the Ministry of Commerce, which has responsibility for weights and measures duties. This Amendment makes such provision. I beg to move.

BARONESS YOUNG moved Amendment No. 185:

Page 72, line 45, at end insert— ("(8) The Secretary of State shall for each financial year pay into the Exchequer of Northern Ireland such sum as the Secretary of State and the Ministry of Commerce for Northern Ireland may agree to be appropriate as representing the expenses incurred by that Ministry in enforcing the provisions of any regulations made under this section in so far as the regulations provide for matters with respect to which the Parliament of Northern Ireland does not have power to make laws.")

The noble Baroness said: This subsection follows Section 40(5) of the Trade Descriptions Act 1968, which provides for annual payment to the Exchequer of Northern Ireland of the costs to the Northern Ireland Government of enforcing the provisions of that Act. Government policy is to provide funds from central Government sources to cover all expenditure incurred by the Government of Northern Ireland in the enforcement of statutory requirements which have been decided at Westminster, on which the Northern Ireland Government have no legislative powers. This Amendment makes such provision. I beg to move.

On Question, Whether Clause 66, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?


I should like to ask one or two questions about this clause, because there are a few points which concern us. The first point is that under subsection (4), the enforcement subsection, a duty falls upon the local weights and measures authorities. It has been put to us by the local authority associations concerned that it would be helpful if the district authorities, or perhaps other local authorities, were given information by the weights and measures authorities about the results of analyses carried out in their areas. I should also like to clarify whether local authorities would have concurrent sampling powers if they desired to exercise them.

Another point which has been raised concerns subsection (2)(b), which states: (2) Regulations under this section— (b) may confer, or authorise the Secretary of State to confer, exemptions from any provision of the regulations. A similar phrase occurs in Clause 67(2)(c). This worries us, because it appears that whereas regulations which confer exemptions will be public and their conditions will therefore be fully known, if the Secretary of State can confer exemptions they will presumably not be public and will not be known. If the noble Baroness is not in a position to answer these questions now I shall entirely understand because I did not give her notice of them, and we could at a later stage put down Amendments which would elicit specific replies. But if she is in a position to answer now it will be very helpful and useful to know. I am sure that she will understand our concern on these points.


I certainly understand the noble Baroness's concern about the points which she has raised. The first point was that district authorities would like to be given information collected by local weights and measures authorities as a result of their sampling. As she quite rightly said, the Bill places on local weights and measures authorities the duty to enforce the regulations, following upon the provisions of the Trade Descriptions Act 1968. I do not know whether it is laid down that these authorities must produce the information, but it certainly seems to be a reasonable requirement that local authorities should have this information. I shall write to the noble Baroness and let her know the answer. The same answer applies in regard to the sampling powers, which again follow the provisions of the Trade Descriptions Act, and I should have thought that what the noble Baroness suggested was a reasonable requirement. I am afraid that I do not have the answer to the question about the Secretary of State conferring exemptions but I will follow her suggestions and let her have the answer.

Clause 66, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 67 [Regulations about sulphur content of oil fuel for furnaces or engines]:

4.47 p.m.

BARONESS YOUNG moved Amendment No. 186: Page 73, line 15, after ("duty") insert ("—(a)").

The noble Baroness said: With this Amendment I should like to speak to Amendment No. 187. Clause 67(3) places upon local authorities the duty of enforcing the provisions of regulations made under the clause with regard to limits imposed on the sulphur content of oil fuels. However, it would not be appropriate for local authorities to exercise this duty in respect of works registered under the Alkali Act, because the duty should fall upon the Alkali Inspectorate. These Amendments effect the necessary change in the provisions of Clause 67(3). I beg to move.


We shall probably be having a longer debate about the position of the Alkali Inspectorate in relation to this Bill. All I can say now is that here again we are putting outside the Bill enterprises which should be kept within it. That is the general philosophy behind our criticism of this Part of the Bill, but I need not waste the time of the Committee in elaborating it on this Amendment.


I beg to move Amendment No. 187.

Amendment moved—

Page 73, line 16, at end insert— ("except in relation to a furnace which is part of a work subject to the Alkali Act; and (b) of the inspectors appointed under that Act to enforce those provisions in relation to such furnaces;").—(Baroness Young.)

On Question, Whether Clause 67, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?


Again, I should like to ask one or two questions on this clause which is confined exclusively to the sulphur content of oil fuel. I am advised that sulphur is by far the most important substance and the only really significant contaminant of which we are aware at the moment. But is it wise to confine to one substance a clause in legislation such as this, when there could be others? I am told that, while these are of far less significance, there are nitrogen oxides and other additives that may have to be considered in the future. It therefore appears to me that it is possibly ill-advised legislation to draft a clause in such a way that it applies exclusively to one substance. I wonder whether further thought has been given to this.

I have before me the consultative letter which was sent out by the Department in August, 1973, and which I must say I found extraordinarily interesting reading. Apparently we owe this clause to our membership of the E.E.C., for the letter says: It is a result of our membership of the E.E.C. that we are virtually certain to be asked to agree to the introduction of a general scheme for fixing limits on the sulphur content of gas oils". It goes on to say that the Bill, which of course is now before us, would provide an opportunity, to ask Parliament to confer appropriate powers upon the Secretary of State though there is no immediate intention to use them". The letter continues: Indeed, having regard to prevailing conditions in this country it seems unlikely that the Government would be prepared to use them except to the extent that conformity to E.E.C. policy may dictate". I must say that that displays a very reluctant attitude, to say the least, and I think it might be helpful to the Committee if the noble Baroness could elaborate a little on this. Either this is something which is worth doing, and therefore we ought to be doing it, or it is something which is not worth doing and therefore why should be be legislating about it? Are we doing this simply in order to keep our partners in the E.E.C. content, or are we doing it because we think it is worth while in any case?


The noble Baroness has asked whether it is not a very unusual proposal to have a clause which quite specifically refers to one substance; and, of course, this particular clause empowers the Secretary of State to make regulations to prescribe the limits on the sulphur content of oil fuels. The noble Baroness asked whether this was being included because of our membership of the E.E.C. It is perfectly true that one reason why it is included is because the Commission of the European Economic Communities are preparing a draft Directive on the sulphur content of gas oil, which is a kind of oil fuel; and, on the assumption that a Directive on these or similar lines will eventually emerge, this clause provides the necessary powers for its implementation in the United Kingdom.

The noble Baroness went on to ask, having read from a letter: are we very reluctant to embark on trying to solve this particular problem? My information is that pollution from sulphur dioxide is not currently a serious problem in the United Kingdom, and ground level concentrations in urban areas are decreasing as domestic smoke control spreads and as the policy of dispersal of exit gases from industrial premises through tall chimneys is increasingly adopted. The fact is that the E.E.C. Commission, during the summer of 1973, were preparing a draft Directive on the sulphur content of gas oil and of diesel oil, and the underlying proposal of the draft Directive is that the percentage should be progressively reduced, first to 0.5 per cent. during the mid-'seventies and ultimately to 0.3 per cent. during the early 'eighties. More recently, the scheme has fallen into abeyance in Brussels as a result of certain oil supply difficulties—the de-sulphurisation process requires energy consumption equivalent to about 2 per cent. of the final product—but it could well be revived, and I imagine will be revived; and it is therefore quite possible that there will be Directives on the sulphur content of heavier oils. This clause is therefore designed to enable us to fulfil any such Directive, and that is the reason why it is included in the Bill.


I should like merely to say that it seems to me peculiar that in Clause 66 the Secretary of State should be given powers to, impose requirements as to the composition and contents of any fuel of a kind used in motor vehicles", whereas in the next clause, where it refers to oil fuel for furnaces and engines, the powers are confined to sulphur. I should have thought it would have been wiser to have a similar provision in respect of these, even if at the present time it is not necessary to use it.


I had hoped that I had explained the particular purpose behind Clause 67, which of course is intended quite specifically to meet the possibility of implementing the E.E.C. Directive. Clause 66 enables the Secretary of State to make regulations on the composition of motor fuel for the purpose of either limiting or reducing atmospheric pollution. This of course applies to our country throughout, and its whole purpose is therefore somewhat different.

Clause 67, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 68 [Prevention of pollution: supplementary provisions]:

On Question, Whether Clause 68 shall stand part of the Bill?


On Clause 68 I have quite a small point. We are dealing with that Part of the Bill which covers regulations about the sulphur content of oil fuel for engines, for instance. Clause 68 deals with prevention of pollution, and subsection (2) states: Regulations under each of the two preceding sections shall, subject to any provision to the contrary in the regulations, apply to fuel used for, and to persons in, the public service of the Crown … I want to ask whether the use of the term, "public service of the Crown", includes the Defence Forces of this country. If not, why not; and ought it not to include them?


My reading of this is that it does refer to the Defence Forces.

Clause 68 agreed to.

Clause 69 [Research and publicity]:

4.58 p.m.

LORD CRAIGTON moved Amendment No. 188: Page 73, line 39, after ("(b)") insert ("after consultation with the Alkali Inspectorate")

The noble Lord said: The short speeches from both Front Benches on Amendment No. 187, moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, really made my short point on this Amendment. The Alkali Inspectorate are going to be an extremely important body in this Bill, as they have been for so many years; but now the local authorities are to be given added responsibilities. On reading this Part of the Bill I felt that one of the main dangers of the provisions giving the local authorities these added responsibilities would be that it would add to the possibility of conflict between the local authority and the Alkali Inspectorate.

Here in Clause 69 the local authority has powers to undertake and pay for research into air pollution, and to give publicity to such information. Surely this is the opportunity for Parliament to make it mandatory that the local authority should get together with the Alkali Inspectorate and discuss something as important as this. I know that officials can be difficult and I believe there will be some conflict between these two very important bodies; but if we write into this Bill, somewhere at least, that they have got to get together, then the officials will get to know each other and progress on Part IV of the Bill will be made more smoothly. That is why I have put this Amendment down, and I beg to move.


I would certainly agree with my noble friend that it is important in the particular field to which we are now coming, and with which his Amendment deals—namely, the publication of information about the problem—that there should be no conflict between the Clean Air Inspectorate, on the one hand, and the public health inspectors of the local authorities on the other, and that they should work happily together in harmony. But I think it important in discussing this to realise that they are operating in different spheres, albeit spheres within the whole field of air pollution.

The Clean Air Inspectorate is responsible for those registered premises using scheduled processes, amounting to something well under 3,000 in number, whereas the local authorities are dealing with 300,000 other industrial processes not registered or using scheduled processes, together with the whole business of domestic smoke control which amounts to five times the quantity of all the other emissions put together. This is a quite clear demarcation line between the authorities. I put it to my noble friend and to the Committee that it is not necessary for the local authorities dealing with non-scheduled processes, non-registered premises, or with domestic smoke control, to have any discussions with the Alkali and Clean Air Inspectorate because that is not their sphere. On the other hand, I can assure my noble friend and the Committee that wherever a local authority wants to publish information about emissions from registered premises and scheduled processes they cannot but consult the Clean Air Alkali Inspectorate because that is the body which has the information and the body to whom the local authority must go. So that in that case the consultation is fully assured; it is taking place now. The whole process cannot go on without consultation. With that information, I hope my noble friend will see that his Amendment is not really necessary in the one case or applicable in the other.


Can the noble Lord tell us something about a point raised on Second Reading? Just how far have the local planning authorities any right to obtain from the Alkali Inspectorate the kind of information they might need in order to reach an intelligent decision on planning applications? My understanding is that the Alkali Inspectorate regard the information they obtain from individual enterprises as being confidential. The local authority has no right to have it. They get it only by grace and with the discretion of the Alkali Inspectorate. Can the noble Lord enlarge on that matter, which is causing great concern in some parts of the country?


I should be glad to do that, but I suggest to the noble Baroness that we do it on Amendment No. 190 to Clause 70, which has been put down by my noble friend Lord Molson and which introduces the question of planning permission, rather than now, when we are discussing a point which deals with the publication of information about emissions that are currently taking place.


I beg the pardon of the Committee; I had temporarily overlooked that very important Amendment. The noble Lord is quite right; the matter I wish to raise is covered by that Amendment.


I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, for his answer. I do not ask him to make any promises, but to look again at the point I have raised to see whether, even though the words are not essential, they would make for more good will in an area which is important. I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

BARONESS WHITE moved Amendment No. 188A: Page 73, line 39, leave out ("within its area")

The noble Baroness said: I seek to move this Amendment in the full knowledge that the words in the Bill are copied from Section 25 of the Clean Air Act 1956. In that Act also reference is made to publication of information within the area of a local authority. But if you publish something you publish it, and surely it is available for anyone whether they are inside or outside the area. This seems to me a fatuous form of words. I see no reason just to copy it in subsequent legislation because it happens to have been included in earlier legislation. I am also well aware that the Working Party under the chairmanship of Admiral Sharp mentioned the need for local information. One can understand what is meant there, but to say it ought to be published locally does not seem to me to make sense. Therefore, it would be a good idea to leave these words out of the Bill.


I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady White. The intention, as she realises, in the use of these words in the Clean Air Act and in this Bill is broadly that local authorities are sticking to their last, and will deal with affairs in their own area, including the publication of information relating to their own area, in their own area. But once information is published it is available nationally and anyone can re-publish it. So what is the point of restricting a local authority, as this phrase does, to publication only in its own area? I think there is something to be said for confining it. Obviously the collection of information must be confined to a local authority's own area. So I think that the phrase is valid from that point of view. I agree about the absurdity of limiting publication to its own area, but I should like to look at it again.


The noble Lord cannot get away with that. If he reads the Bill it will be perfectly plain that the limiting term, "within its area "does not apply to the information but to the publication. He must agree that that is nonsense, so why take it away to look at it again? Anyone who reads this clause and who has the slightest intelligence can appreciate that these are conditioning words. Whereas they might be applicable to the information, they are not applicable to publication. In the clause as drafted they apply to publication. We are all agreed that it is a nonsense so why does not the noble Lord accept it and save the time of the Committee. Otherwise we shall have to go to a Division.


Let us do that, certainly.

5.9 p.m.

LORD CRAIGTON moved Amendment No. 189: Page 74, line 11, at end insert ("which consent shall not be unreasonably withheld.")

The noble Lord said: Maybe I shall be successful with this Amendment. Subsection (4) reads: … no information relating to a trade secret is disclosed, except with the consent in writing of a person authorised to disclose it. There will be times when it is quite right for a firm to say, "No" to a request for the disclosure of information. But, as the Bill is drafted, a local authority has no power to insist upon such disclosure, even when they know or believe that a firm is being unnecessarily or unreasonably obstructive in saying, "No". Would this provision about not unreasonably withholding information strike a fairer balance?


Here again I take the point which the noble Lord is snaking. I do not think that his Amendment would be easy to operate. I do not think it would strike quite the right balance. But I should like to take this away and look at it. I think the noble Lord would agree that it is more complicated and needs more reflection. Then we can see in what form we could introduce an Amendment to meet the point.


I am not sure how we can best raise the whole question of confidentiality of information under this Part of the Bill but this may be as good a place as any, although in supporting my next Amendment I wish to speak on this matter. I am sure that any of your Lordships who have examined this Bill with close attention will appreciate that Part IV is by far the weakest section of the entire Bill. The Government have made very genuine efforts in Parts I and II to improve matters and to make real progress, but when one looks at Part IV of the Bill, and at the various restrictions which are either introduced or maintained concerning emissions to the atmosphere, and any disclosure of these emissions which may be noxious to the public, then one cannot fail to be seriously concerned.

The whole basis of Part IV is in contradiction of the philosophy which we understood the Government to be espousing, which was the philosophy contained in the now famous Second Report of the Royal Commission on Industrial Pollution. The relevant paragraphs of the Second Report of the Royal Commission on Pollution, which admittedly referred primarily to the pollution of water, were the terms of reference of the Working Party of the Clean Air Council set up by the Government to examine this whole question of information about industrial emissions to the atmosphere. Right at the beginning of its report the Working Party of the Clean Air Council quotes verbatim and in extenso the section of the Royal Commission's Report referring to the confidentiality of information about industrial wastes. In other words, the public was fully entitled to suppose that the Government intended to adopt towards emissions to the atmosphere the same attitude on confidentiality as they have at least attempted to adopt in Part II of the Bill concerning effluent to water.

The difference in the way in which they tackle the two areas is, however, almost past belief. I am fully aware that measuring emissions to the atmosphere is a much more difficult and often far more costly matter than monitoring effluent to water. That I entirely appreciate. One might expect, therefore, that somewhat less rigid conditions as to the technicalities of monitoring in this Part of the Bill would not be unreasonable. But it is the attitude that has been adopted by whoever drafted this subsection which leaves those of us who are devoted to the cause of conservation and the purity of our atmosphere, so far as it can be obtained, very unhappy indeed. We are so much disturbed that one hardly knows where to start. But if I may start, so to speak, at the beginning, under Part II there is a definite obligation upon the regional water authorities to examine and satisfy themselves as to the condition of the waters under their authority and as to the contents thereof. They have a definite duty so to do. It does not appear to be the duty of anybody to know what is in the atmosphere.

It is the duty of the Alkali Inspectorate to see what emissions emerge from certain registered works. But under this Clause 69 which we are now discussing, a local authority may, if it wishes, undertake or contribute towards the cost of investigating or researching into the relevant problems of air pollution. It is under no duty so to do. It can if it wants to, but it does not have to. It is not the job of anybody else so far as I can understand. If it has decided to take such action, and if it has decided that it wishes to do so, though it does not have to, it may issue notices under the following section and it may measure and record emissions, or make arrangements for them to be measured or recorded. Again, it does not have to. So we are in a very different situation from that which pertains to water.

We are also—and we shall be coming to this matter a little later on—not going to have under "emissions to the atmosphere" the kind of register which was appropriate for effluent under Part II. This matter was raised on Second Reading by my noble friend Lord Kennet. In return he received a letter from the noble Baroness, Lady Young, in which she endeavoured to explain why it would be inappropriate to have a register for emissions to the atmosphere although there is one for water. She points out that there are no fixed standards for levels of emission to the atmosphere, and consequently that there would be no registers which could be made available for public scrutiny. She says: In the sphere of atmospheric emission control is not exercised by consents to stated levels of emission. I understand that, because the alkali inspectorate gives guidance rather than anything which is as fixed and specific and precise as the consents which might be given under Part II, but I am sure your Lordships will appreciate that in this general context, the disclosure of such emission as we have becomes of particular importance, and that is really the kernel of the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Craigton.

The general position is far less satisfactory and far less foolproof than in Part II. Therefore it seems to me that one must look even more critically at the arrangements in Part IV, and at this whole question of confidentiality. Here the Government do not seem to have accepted the philosophy of the Ashby Commission. I have with me a note which I received from the noble Lord, Lord Ashby, who had hoped to take part in this stage of our debates. He tells me that unfortunately he has duties in Cambridge which prevent him from being here; but he says: I do hope you manage to get through an Amendment which will put the air pollution registers on as good a footing as the water pollution ones. That is a direct quote from the letter which I have received from the noble Lord. I am afraid that there is no such Amendment down on the Marshalled List, but it means that we should at this stage support all the more strongly the proposition of the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, that at the very least consent to the publication of information shall not be unreasonably withheld.

I have had a great deal of correspondence, from scientists particularly as well as from others, about this section of the Bill. They are plainly very much disturbed about it. They say that it is carrying on the tradition which they feel has subsisted for too long in this country of allowing the polluter to be the only person with sufficient information to convict himself. As we go through this section of the Bill I think that that comment will become all the more justified. There is very considerable concern throughout this section of the Bill to protect industry; there is far less concern to protect the public or the environment.

Even such provisions as are included in the Bill are not in themselves really steps forward, as I have already stated in referring to an earlier Amendment. The first part of Clause 69 which we are now discussing is in fact taken from the Clean Air Act 1956, so there is nothing new about it. Some people apparently have been taken in by this. For example, the New Scientist in an article on December 13 obviously thought that these provisions for local authorities to undertake investigations and being permitted, within limits, to publish them, was a step forward—but of course this is nothing new. We should not allow there to be any illusions as to that,

I should like to make some further observations—I might perhaps be going a little wide if I did so on this Amendment—when we come to the Question that Clause 69 stand part. I hope I have said sufficient to make it plain that it is most necessary that we should have in the Bill at least the Amendment which has been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Craigton.


I would support the principle behind this Amendment standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Craigton, but I believe it will have to go further. If you are going to provide that consent shall not be "unreasonably withheld", you have also to provide as to who shall decide whether or not it is being unreasonably withheld. I do not know whether my noble friend has it in mind that this should be done by the law courts, by the Secretary of State or by other means; but the principle behind the Amendment is obviously right.


I do not think that anyone can read the Second Report of the Royal Commission on Pollution without being very much impressed by what they desire to see introduced; in other words, a different attitude on the part of both the Government and industry towards the disclosure of what is passed as effluent into rivers or into the air. I have been looking at the Report again and it is quite true that most of the examples given (and the line of reasoning) apply chiefly to effluent which is passed into rivers. But there are a number of paragraphs which indicate that, while it is recognised that it is difficult to ensure the same amount of information being disclosed on what is passed out into the air as on what effluent is passed into rivers, they wish to see the same kind of policy adopted. Paragraph 10 summarises it in this way: We therefore urge the Government Departments involved in the control of pollution, particularly the Department of the Environment, to consult with the Confederation of British Industry, to devise measures which will increase the availability of flow and information on the production of and disposal of industrial effluent and wastes.". As no Amendment has been put down dealing with this matter, such as the noble Lord, Lord Ashby, hoped would be accepted, and as I think it would be extraordinarily difficult to draft such an Amendment and because I recognise that consultation with the Confederation of British Industry would be desirable, I should be glad if my noble friend would undertake that between now and the Report Stage the Government will approach the Confederation of British Industry to see whether it would not be possible to ensure a greater availability of information in the case of discharges into the air.


May I first answer the quite specific point put by my noble friend Lord Bledisloe. It is certainly the Government's intention that any change considered would be one which involved the Secretary of State as the arbiter or umpire in these matters, thus removing the feeling which causes doubt, if not suspicion, in the minds of the Committee that the industrialist is to too great an extent acting as his own judge. That would be the intention.

I welcome the intention of the noble Baroness to probe and, where she thinks proper, to seek to alter the general attitude of the Government in this particular part of the Bill—which is, after all, the object of a Committee stage. But I should have thought that the intention behind this part of the Bill, from Clause 69 onwards, is to build up the equivalent in each local area by each local authority of the kind of register we were considering in Part II of the Bill. I do not think one can take the comparison between air and water too far. After all, any effluent which goes into the air, whether from domestic or factory chimneys, is a pollutant of some sort. It is a question of deciding what is reasonable in all the circumstances, and the notices provided for in Clause 70 are designed precisely to enable the local authority to build up such a register. The exceptions are those we shall come to on Clause 71, regarding the trade secret, and the Secretary of State will be the arbiter on such matters. I think we shall have a number of opportunities while dealing with the next twenty or so Amendments to discuss this question of attitude, and I hope I shall be able to show the flexibility I have already shown in accepting one Amendment and agreeing to consider a second.


I am grateful to my flexible noble friend for what he has said, and I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady White, for her support of this Amendment. I merely wanted something to which the local authority could draw the attention of the industrialist who might otherwise think that he could get away with something. It is even better now that my noble friend says the Secretary of State might be the deciding factor, because we all know that if the powers are there they will be very seldom used. I am grateful to my noble friend and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.27 p.m.

BARONESS WHITE moved Amendment No. 189A:

Page 74, line 18, leave out subsection (6).

The noble Baroness said: I beg to move this Amendment, which is to leave out subsection (6). This refers to the subsection of the Clean Air Act 1956 which deals with disclosure of information. It brings in here a phrase to which many of us take exception: not only "trade secrets" but also— … information relating to any manufacturing process …". If the Government are in earnest about doing away with unnecessary confidentiality, surely they ought not to include in this Bill the words: … an offence to disclose information relating to any manufacturing process …". I said on Second Reading that even the phrase "trade secret" worried me because I could find no definition of it, but at least it is a more or less understandable term. However, "any manufacturing process" is surely far too wide a phrase if the Government believe that we are suffering from too much, rather than too little, confidentiality. As one of my advisers with considerable knowledge of industry wrote to me: A trade secret usually means that it is secret from the public but not from other companies. It was quite plainly the opinion of the Ashby Royal Commission that if a company could not keep its secrets, that was its lookout. Nevertheless, I am not taking too strong an issue on trade secrets, but I take a strong issue on including reference to "any manufacturing process". Such a reference is not included in Part II of the Bill. I know that we cannot draw too close an analogy between water and atmosphere, but what is the point of having this legislation, which was referred to in glowing terms as being largely drawn from the results of the work of the Royal Commission, if we pay no attention to their advice? I feel that we ought not to accept this provision, which again is derived from another Act which has been in force now for nearly 20 years. These are attitudes which are no longer appropriate. In any case, I am much concerned about disclosure and the way in which it is being dealt with in different parts of this Bill and in other legislation.

We ought to have a much more concentrated effort to have one intelligible attitude of mind towards disclosure. I had sent to me just before Christmas copies of articles which appeared in the Yorkshire Post—not normally an anti-Government paper—of December 21 last. Admittedly they were not dealing with the Bill now before this Committee, but were dealing with a Bill that will shortly reach us from another place, on health and safety at work. That Bill also includes disclosure clauses and penalties. Apparently in a draft of the Bill there was a proposition that anyone who disclosed a trade secret when he was trying to inform the public as to emissions to the atmosphere could make himself liable not only to an unlimited fine, but to no less than two years' imprisonment. So far as I can see (I do not pretend that I have had time to go through every word of the Health and Safety at Work Bill but I have looked at the disclosure clauses), possibly under the influence of the Yorkshire Post, which was extremely indignant about this print, this provision has been dropped.

But it leaves one with an unpleasant feeling that in this Bill we are proposing to legislate with an attitude of mind that is not appropriate to the present day. Admittedly the form of my Amendment—which, needless to say, I shall not press at this stage—is a wide one in the sense of taking out the entire subsection. I have sought to do so because I wanted to make reference to the relationship with an Act of 1956. At a later stage I may simply move to leave out "any manufacturing process" because I feel strongly about those words. One ought not in this day and age to include a phrase of that sort. I am unhappy about the different ways in which disclosure is approached in various enactments, and I do not think that has been dealt with satisfactorily in this Bill. I would ask the noble Lord in particular to explain in what possible way the Government feel justified in including the words "any manufacturing process". I beg to move.

5.35 p.m.


I would not quarrel with the statement by the noble Baroness that the phrase "any manufacturing process" is a very wide one. On the other hand, I do not think that we should ignore confidentiality, especially in industrial processes. In industrial processes there are trade secrets of more than one kind. Usually most companies in a particular industry know the theory of how something is made; but there is an entirely different confidentiality which is related to the know-how of plant-operating temperatures, pressures and timings. This can be absolutely vital to the operation of a plant. Several years ago, when I was overseas on business, I met a consultant who was well known to me and who worked for a highly reputable firm of technical consultants. We spent an evening together, and he told me that his firm was engaged to advise on the building and operating of a plant in that particular overseas country. As I knew his past history well I asked him from where he obtained his experience to give such advice. He told me that it was as a result of a job which his company had had from a local authority when they had considered effluent and emissions. The local authority had employed a consultant because they had nobody who understood the problem on the staff.

This man was perfectly respectable, and so was his firm, but the fact remained he had gained a lot of experience in this country in various factories operated by private companies and he was now disclosing information or experience to a competitor or an overseas country. It is not easy to stop this. Before a consultant is engaged several of them are usually considered to find out their experience. Naturally one would be engaged who had experience in the appropriate field. You cannot blame the consultant because, when he is employed on a job, he cannot deliberately forget a certain part of his experience. This is one of the ways in which information gets around, and although I would agree with what the noble Baroness, Lady White, said, you usually find the company in an industry knows the theory of how you make a product, but the question of know-how is very much a trade secret. I do not think we want to exclude the danger that information can be lost to competitors in this country. This is part of a company's assets and also forms part of a national asset, and we do not want to do anything which is going to encourage their loss from this country.


Is the noble Earl aware that under this clause we are dealing with local authorities and not with consultants or private persons? As I understand it, it is the local authorities which are precluded.


I appreciate that. On the other hand, what does a local authority do when it wants to go into the question of examining and finding out about an emission or effluent if it has nobody on its staff who is technically capable of doing the job? If this does not come within the purview of the Alkali Inspectorate, who are they going to employ? Presumably if it comes within the Inspectorate's purview they will look into the matter. It seems to me that the local authority has to look around in order to get people with sufficient experience; but I cannot imagine who else they can go to but a consultant. The particular example I mentioned was that of a local authority which had been faced with this problem. They did what many local authorities would do, they employed a consultant.


The purpose of having in the Bill this subsection which the Amendment of the noble Baroness would remove is not so much to add anything to the law, as to declare the law to be what it is at this particular point in the Bill. So the law as it stands is, as the noble Baroness says, as in Clause 26 of the Clean Air Act. I thought at first she was probing our intention, but if it is her desire to remove the phrase, any manufacturing process", that would have to be done by an Amendment to the Clean Air Act.

If I could take the more general point, I think that the protection this affords to an industrialist is needed here. A local authority sends one of its officers, or causes some other person, to take measurements about emissions, and the publication of that information is governed by the various clauses in the Bill we are dealing with. The industrialist, if he wants to have that information withheld, will have to show that that information is itself the subject of a trade secret, and the arbiter in the case of an appeal is the Secretary of State. I think the Committee is happy about that. But as my noble friend said, in the course of finding this out—conducting these measurements, inspecting meters and so on—it may well be that that local authority officer will discover or gradually acquire information about some other aspect of the manufacturing process which is quite incidental to the job he is doing which it is indeed important should be kept secret from competitors. This information comes to him not directly through the execution of his duties in pursuance of this particular piece of legislation.

I think the Committee would agree that it would not be right that he should be able to disclose that sort of information which comes to him, as it were, by a side wind, and that if he does so he should be guilty of an offence. On my reading of it, to take the phrase— any manufacturing process out of the Clean Air Act, where it is now, would prejudice the industrialist and the secrecy of his processes rather seriously and gain us nothing in the information which very properly needs to be made public. I hope that the noble Baroness will not press the Amendment now and will reflect on those points before the next stage.


I have already indicated that I do not intend to press this particular Amendment, which is symptomatic of my whole attitude, as I do not think the Government have been doing an honest job on this part of the Bill; that is why one wants to move various Amendments to try to improve and strengthen it. However, at this point I do not seek to press the Amendment and I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.43 p.m.

THE EARL OF COURTOWN moved Amendment No. 189C: Page 74, line 24, leave out ("trade or business") and insert ("industry or trade")

The noble Earl said: This is quite a small point. It seeks to substitute the words "industry or trade" for the words "trade or business". The point is that a definition of "trade and business" is not included in Section 74 of the Bill while there is a definition of "industrial or trade premises". The Amendment attempts to achieve consistency in this part of the Bill and at the same time help to ensure that there is no overriding requirement to consult persons carrying on a business which is unlikely to produce atmospheric pollution. I beg to move.


I am glad to be able to offer an explanation here. In the definition we want a limiting phrase—industry—because "industry" generates emissions into the atmosphere and "business", in the sense of commerce, does not. Here I think we want the more embracing of the two terms so as to include many people who may have an interest in this particular field. It will include "industry"—or it has included "industry" in any rulings or interpretations in the courts. One wants to go rather wider than "industry" which, I think the Committee would agree, is the more limiting of the two terms.


May I ask the noble Lord whether in that case there should not be a definition of "business" in the Bill?


I think not for that very reason. We want a term here which is broad and wide so that consultation can be broad and wide; this is not a point where we want a precise definition. I am sure it will lead to sensible discussions in each particular area and will certainly include industrialists with whose activities this Part of the Bill particularly deals, but I think the Committee will agree that provision should be made for the local authorities' consultations to go wider than that.


I must say that I find it very odd that the word "industry" is not regarded as wide but in view of the noble Lord's remarks I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

BARONESS WHITE had given Notice of her intention to move Amendment No. 189B:

Page 74, line 36, leave out subsection (9).

The noble Baroness said: After further study of the Clean Air Act 1956 I think I now understand the reason for this particular phraseology, so I do not propose to move this Amendment.

On Question, Whether Clause 69, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?


I do not think we should let this clause pass without some discussion—which has only been touched on in the last Amendment by the noble Earl, Lord Courtown—of the way in which it is proposed that local authorities should exercise their powers. I am looking particularly at subsection (7) which seems to some of us to be unduly restrictive. As we all know, the Government did not accept in its entirety the proposals of the Sharp Committee that there should be what I think they called Indemat Committees in various areas, which could be consulted about the activities of the local authority in this particular field.

Indeed, the proposal of the Government is, as we see from subsections (7) and (8) of this clause, that: a local authority … shall from time to time consult such persons carrying on any trade or business I would be happy to include "industry"— in the authority's area or such organisations appearing to the authority to be representative of those persons.… We take it that "those persons" refers to persons carrying on … trade or business". If we are correct in this then there is no provision at all for consultation with other persons who might well have an interest in this matter. I am thinking of civic societies, for example, conservation societies, amenity societies of one sort or another. There may well be other groups of people such as those with a special concern for health, and also academic people who might have some part to play.

This is all the more surprising because Appendix I of the Sharp Committee Report indicates the composition of the informal industrial air pollution local liaison committees which already exist. They list 16 in England and another 4 in Wales, and the composition, it is true, varies rather surprisingly from one location to another. They all include some representatives of local authorities as one would expect. Some of them include what I suppose one would call assessors or observers from Government Departments. The Government Departments may be the Department of the Environment, the Department of Health and Social Security, the Department of Trade and Industry or the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. All those make their appearance on one committee or another. But apart from those, many of them include the residents associations; some of them include factory inspectors, mines inspectors, and so forth. One includes the editor of the local evening newspaper, and also two local Members of Parliament (which was highly democratic); only one so far as I can see, and that is in Bristol (this was a direct result of the Avonmouth trouble), includes direct university participation.

I cannot see what objection there can be under this clause to making it possible to have a more widely based consultative Committee than appears to me to be proposed. I should therefore very much like to have the Minister's comments on this. I had contemplated putting down an Amendment. However, I thought it would be fairer to the Minister to indicate to him the lines along which we were thinking. In any case he would only take the Amendment away and look at it again. It is just as well, perhaps, to give him some advance notice of what we have in mind so that we can learn from him just why the Government seem to have adopted this pretty narrow base of consultation rather than the wider, and, I should have thought, far more desirable one.


Before my noble friend replies, may I say that I support the noble Baroness. This is a point about which we are all concerned. I hope he will give a good answer.


Perhaps I ought to have gone further in answering my noble friend Lord Courtown when I defended the use of the word "business" as being intended to go wider than, although including, industrialists. The intention is to give to the local authorities some guidance by circular about the setting up of these local liaison committees. This is the form in which the Government think it would be more appropriate to give effect to the Sharp Committee's recommendations. I am not myself certain at the moment just when that circular will be ready. The circular would give the Committee further asurances, which the noble Baroness wants to draw from me, about the width of these biennial consultations. Perhaps I could get in touch with her and tell her anything further I can about the way in which this is going to operate, and about the width of discussion and consultation which will go on under this clause.


I must say I do not like the words, appearing to the authority to be representative of". Would the noble Lord look at that point when he looks at the whole question?




I would much prefer it if the Government would bring forward their own Amendment, because they have the benefit of Parliamentary draftsmen. I am sure that the noble Lord will appreciate that, as drafted, this clause is unclear as to exactly what is intended. I have a number of questions about it. I feel this is a matter which it is really incumbent upon the Government to look at, and upon which to produce their own Amendment.

Clause 69, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 70 [Notices requiring information about air pollution]:

5.55 p.m.

LORD MOLSON moved Amendment No. 190: Page 74, line 42, after ("premises") insert ("or applicant for planning permission").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move this Amendment. This clause is described as requiring, "Notices requiring information about air pollution." But as drafted it says that: A local authority may by notice require the owner or occupier of any premises in its area to furnish … information …". The purpose of my Amendment is to provide the local planning authority with information, which at present it is not easy to obtain, but which is extremely relevant, before it is decided to give planning permission.

Quite obviously, it is a very relevant consideration whether some new development is going to result in an emission which will be a nuisance to the locality. At the present time there seems to me to be little power for a local planning authority to obtain this kind of information. Generally, all that is required of an applicant at an inquiry is that he should show that he has been in touch with the Alkali Inspectorate. There is no guarantee that what he has indicated will be the amount of the emission will necessarily be observed. In one case the Chief Alkali Inspector wrote: We do not accept that the estimates submitted by the Company at the Public Inquiry are binding in any way. They were given in all good faith as typical of what emissions were expected in order to meet our targets on which the figures were based …".

It is one of the complications that we are going to see after this Bill has come into operation that, as I think my noble friend has said, in the case of the 3,000 registered establishments under the Alkali Act there will continue to be an Alkali Inspectorate who report to the Secretary of State. In every other case the inspection of air will depend on the local authority. It is of the utmost importance that the information should be available before planning permission is given. We ought to try to ensure that this Bill prevents pollution of the air from taking place, and does not merely result in steps being taken after the pollution has occurred. I beg to move.

5.58 p.m.


I agree, and I think the whole Committee would agree, this this is a matter which certainly needs to be dealt with, and dealt with fairly. I would confirm that the local planning authorities have all the necessary powers that they need to obtain from planning applicants whose premises are likely to emit anything into the atmosphere, whether from a registered premises using a scheduled process or from any other premises, all the information they need in order to decide upon the planning application. They have these powers now. The model application form contains a reference to the matter. The Alkali Inspectorate can, and do, assist with advice in either getting information, or assessing it when they have got it. Furthermore, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has it in mind to issue further guidance to the local planning authorities about the exercise of this power which they have already got.

I hope I may take the Committee with me in suggesting that this particular place in this Bill, dealing with notices which are required for service on industrialists in order to build up the register of what they are actually emitting to the atmosphere at the moment, is not the right place to build in something about the future. No applicant for planning permission could ask the question: What are you emitting into the atmosphere at this moment? That is a question which the planning authorities can ask, ought to ask, and are to be encouraged to ask with greater thoroughness and more searchingly than before; and I can confirm that the Alkali Inspectorate are there to help them in the discharge of that function. I put it to the Committee that it is for the planning authorities to do that. They can do it; they are doing it, and they ought to go on doing it even more thoroughly. But it is not, I would suggest, appropriate to add it at this particular point because this clause is dealing with a rather different matter. I hope that my noble friend will agree with me on that.


Could the noble Lord indicate to what extent local authorities are in effect bound by the provisions of Clause 71? I appreciate the point the noble Lord has made about the place in the Bill, and so forth. Nevertheless, as a matter of principle, if a person applying for planning permission takes the attitude which is suggested to him in Clause 71, is it then only the Secretary of State to whom his intentions are to be divulged; and how, then, is the planning authority to make up its mind?


The planning authority does not come into this particular clause or subsection; in fact, that was the burden of my argument. This is a notice served by the local authority on the owner-occupier of premises requiring him to say, by means of return or in any other way, what he is in fact emitting as pollutants into the air. The only escape and exemption from that is something we are coming on to deal with in the next two Amendments. I agree that the question of what new promises, for which planning application is being made, are going to emit, is highly relevant, not to the building up of this register but as a matter which the planning authority must take into account.


I am aware of the procedural difficulty on this matter, but the noble Lord was trying to reassure the Committee that we need not worry about planning applications. Quite apart from whether or not it should come into this particular Part of the Bill, he was making the general point of principle that one need not worry about planning applications because the local authorities already have powers to obtain all the necessary information, and that it was in the mind of the Department to issue further guidance to strengthen them in their resolve to find out all they need to find out. I am asking whether there is a "let-out" clause for that procedure comparable to the let-out clause in Clause 71 for the register?


I see the point the noble Baroness is getting at: Can they, in answer to the request from the planning authority, claim that a trade secret makes it unnecessary for them to divulge that information? I would prefer to take further counsel and to write to the noble Baroness specifically on that point. I am sure there must be a let-out clause, but whether or not this Bill operates in this way, I am not so sure; I rather doubt it.


I shall be happy to have yet another addition to my file of correspondence with the noble Lord.


I am grateful to my noble friend for what he has said. In particular I greatly value the undertaking he has given that the Alkali Inspectorate will be helpful to local planning authorities. It has not been the experience of the Council for the Protection of Rural England in all cases. In August, 1972, when there was an application for planning permission for a fluorspar plant at Blackdene, in Durham, the C.P.R.E. asked the Alkali Inspectorate what emissions, if any, might be anticipated from a plant of that kind, and what levels the Inspectorate would require the applicant to adhere to. The Deputy Chief Alkali Inspector replied that the plant's processes would fall within the compass of the Inspectorate, but he declined to give any details of anticipated emissions. At the inquiry itself the Inspector was asked to invite the attendance of the Alkali Inspectorate so that questions might be asked about the emissions. However, the Inspector said that he had no authority to require the attendance for examination of any witnesses.

In view of what my noble friend has said about the Alkali Inspectorate's cooperating in this matter when planning authorities are considering the granting of permission for development, I hope we can be assured that this miasma of confidentiality will not be used to prevent the information of the Alkali Inspectorate from being available to a local planning authority. Having said that, I may follow up this discussion by writing to my noble friend after consulting the C.P.R.E. about the matter. But in view of what he has said, and the satisfactory assurance he has given on what is the intention of the Government in the future, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.7 p.m.

BARONESS WHITE moved Amendment No. 191A: Page 75, line 6, leave out from ("section") to end of line 10 and insert ("who does not have the required information readily available may apply to the Secretary of State for an exemption on the ground that to collect or obtain it would involve undue expenditure, and the Secretary of State may grant an exemption covering all or part of the required information.").

The noble Baroness said: I beg to move Amendment No. 191A. The reason why I move it is surely self-evident. Subsection (3) of Clause 70, as drafted, states: A person on whom a notice is served … shall not be obliged to supply any information which is not immediately available, and which cannot be readily collected or obtained by him without incurring undue expenditure for the purpose. But under the clause as drafted he is surely made an absolute judge in his own cause. It is for him to say whether or not the information is available. The local authority has no means of proving whether or not the information is available. It does not know whether the person has been monitoring. He may have been monitoring and may have decided that the results are such that he would rather keep them to himself. Then he can say: "I am very sorry. The information is not available." If that happens, who is to prove whether he is telling the truth? If someone in the local authority suspects this, he may not be in a position to prove it, or he may be strongly deterred by the various punitive measures which can be taken for disclosure. Supposing he has found out in a visit to the factory on some other business that in point of fact information is available. Is he going to be allowed to disclose this?

The other point is this. Who is to decide whether the expenditure is "undue expenditure"? Again, is the man to be judge in his own cause? Is he just to say: "Either I do not know what I am doing or, if I do know, I am not under any obligation to pass the information on to the local authority, because I can always plead that to give complete information would cost me too much"? Who is to decide whether or not, again, he is putting forward a fair case? I can find no provision here for anyone to examine critically the plea put up by this person and say whether or not he is justified. Therefore, it seems to me that at least on the question of "undue expenditure" he ought to put the case to the Department, or to the Secretary of State, and prove that it really would cost too much to supply what the local authority has asked to be done. Again, this kind of drafting of this Bill simply enhances the very serious suspicions that are held all over the country—in local authorities, in academic circles, and in the amenity societies—that the Government are not serious about this Part of this Bill. It is for these reasons that I beg to move this Amendment.


I rise to support the noble Baroness, Lady White. When first reading this Bill I wrote against that paragraph the words, "What happens then?" Had the noble Baroness not tabled an Amendment, I had intended to do so. I am sure it would not have been in order but I had intended to table an Amendment to the next clause, Clause 71(1), which allows appeal to the Secretary of State, so that if there was any doubt about it the appeal should be to the Secretary of State. I have taken no action in the matter, and I am quite satisfied with what the noble Baroness has suggested, so I hope that my noble friend will be able to give a satisfactory answer.


While I see the point of the remarks made by the noble Baroness, and of the Amendment, it seems to me the danger is that local authorities will ask in every case for information. They will not worry whether or not it is costly to obtain, and then the Secretary of State will be inundated with appeals. That again would involve skilled staff in assessing the whole thing. It is really a matter of the local authority and the local factory people and works people getting together, and I quite see the point made by the noble Baroness; that if a person says it is going to be too expensive, who is going to judge?


Is that not the precise point of this Amendment?


I should like to support this Amendment. The question has been asked whether undue expenditure would be incurred. If one looks at subsection (8) one sees that it is an offence to fail to comply with this demand. Therefore it seems to me to follow that the unfortunate people who would be required to decide whether any expenditure incurred was in fact undue expenditure would be the magistrates. How in the world are the magistrates to decide whether the cost of collecting the necessary information would be due or undue? I suggest that it is imposing an impossible burden upon the magistrates, and the cure for this suggested by the noble Baroness, making it a matter of appeal to the Secretary of State, is obviously good sense and is the way to get out of the difficulty.


I will persevere in an attempt to allay and assuage suspicions and to confirm the strong intentions of the Government. I do that in this particular case by agreeing with the noble Baroness that the clause as drafted is indeed too generous. The intention of my right honourable friend is to put matters right by amending Clause 71, as I indicated to my noble friend in his Amendment No. 189, by introducing this as a further subject for appeal so that the Secretary of State should be empowered in this matter, rather than by introducing this as a subject for exemption, as the present Amendment would do. If the noble Baroness would be content to agree with me that the clause as drafted is indeed too generous, and that we need the Secretary of State to enter into this as an arbiter—and here I agree very much with my noble friend Lord Courtown—I hope the Committee will accept the assurance from me that we shall introduce a Government Amendment, but to Clause 71 rather than to Clause 70.


I accept that an Amendment to Clause 71 would perhaps be a tidier way of doing it, although frankly I dislike the appearance of this subsection altogether. It is too generous and I wish that some form of words could be found for it in any case, although the actual mechanism of an appeal to the Secretary of State might come more neatly into Clause 71.

Following what the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, has said, it would plainly be discourteous to press this Amendment to a Division, although I would point out that it has been supported from all quarters of the Committee. Nevertheless, I ask the noble Lord to ensure that we may see the proposed Government Amendment in reasonable time so that we may be able to make a fair judgment as to whether it meets our views or whether we should table an Amendment for the Report stage. I appreciate that it is not easy for the Department; but, after all, this is a Government Bill and when they agree with us that there is something which needs amending it would help us a great deal if we could see it in good time. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.16 p.m.

BARONESS WHITE moved Amendment No. 191B: Page 75, line 14, leave out ("is being") and insert ("might be").

The noble Baroness said: This is yet another scrap of evidence which reinforces our suspicions about this Part of the Bill. It says that in any work subject to the Alkali Act the local authority may not require information except of a kind which is being supplied to the alkali inspector. The alkali inspector might not be interested in that particular work; he might be getting towards the end of his career and possibly not be as active as he had been previously, and therefore he might not have asked for that kind of information or might not be currently asking for it. Yet, as I read this, the local authority would be completely stymied if it wanted particular information and it so happened that the local alkali inspector had not asked for it. I am sure this cannot be the intention of the Government, yet it is the way in which subsection (4) is phrased. So it seems to me that it would be entirely proper for the local authority to ask for information (which it is entitled to do otherwise) if it were in the power of the alkali inspector to require it, even if in point of fact he had not done so. I beg to move.


The first thing I should like to say is that all the inspectors in the Clean Air Inspectorate are consumed with zeal in the prosecution of their important duties, but as my noble friend Lord Craigton said at the beginning of this part of the debate we have two separate jurisdictions: on the one hand, the Alkali Inspectorate, responsible for the registered premises, and on the other hand the local authorities, with their much wider responsibility for getting on for 300,000 different premises, to say nothing of domestic smoke. It is important that there should not be conflict, or potential conflict, between the two. Furthermore, the Clean Air and Alkali Inspectorate have power to ask for any amount of information, and to introduce the words, "might be" here would enable the local authority to ask for almost anything under the sun, but to ask for it from premises over which they exercise no other jurisdiction beyond that of a right to information for the purposes of making their publication under Clause 69(1) comprehensive throughout their area.

What will happen in practice is that if the local authority can show good reason to the Alkali Inspectorate that for the purposes of the publication of information (which is what these clauses are about) they need from the owner of registered premises information for which the Inspectorate are not asking, then the Inspectorate call ask for it. This is the way in which matters will develop, and I think the Committee will agree that it is a way which will ensure that there is no undesirable overlap between these two jurisdictions. If there is information which, for the purposes of the discharge of their function, the Alkali Inspectorate do not require but the local authority want for the purpose of exercising their powers under this Bill, they can ask the Inspectorate to apply for it and get it that way. That would be better than the local authority going in and asking the owner of the registered premises for information which the Alkali Inspectorate had not asked for.


May I ask the noble Lord where in the Bill is the obligation laid on the Inspectorate to obtain the information at the request of the local authority? While I am on my feet, may I say that the Association of Municipal Corporations feel that this subsection of the clause is far from clear. They certainly would like clarification not only in the sense that my noble friend has been seeking to obtain it; but there seems to be a point at which it might be reasonable to ask that another look be taken at this subsection to see whether it can be set out in clearer terms to cover the point I have raised.


I do not think there is any need to provide in the Bill for what I have just said, any more than there is need to provide for what I said in answer to my noble friend at the beginning of the debate on these three clauses. The local authority must consult with the Clean Air and Alkali Inspectorate in respect of registered premises in its area in order even to make a start under Clause 69(1). There are two separate jurisdictions here only one of which rests in the local authority, that is publication. From this Members of the Committee can see that, on a whole number of points in respect of registered premises, there has to be co-operation and consultation between the local authority public health inspectors and the Clean Air and Alkali Inspectorate. I do not think anything would be gained by trying to spell it out in legislation.


The difficulty is that not all local authorities are by any means satisfied with the co-operation they receive from the Alkali Inspectorate as of now. I do not want to be misunderstood. It would be inappropriate to go into full details, but let us take the Avonmouth situation, where there was more than one local authority concerned. Under this subsection as drafted, if the Alkali Inspectorate did not consider that certain information was necessary, the local authority would be in a position of deadlock. Again there is no sort of appeal. In an ideal world everything would be perfectly straightforward because they would work hand in glove, but the world is not always ideal and the more serious the situation the more difficult the position could be.

I must admit that I am not at all happy about the answer given by the noble Lord on this point. I can quite see that theoretically the local authority might ask for a fantastic amount of information which the Alkali Inspectorate did not think was required, and I can perfectly understand that they should be under some obligation to consult with the Alkali Inspectorate. Nevertheless, we have two authorities and while one is responsible in one direction the other is responsible in another. It does seem to me that if it is proper for the information in question to be obtained under the Alkali Act then the local authority should have a perfect right to ask for it. After all, this can occur. I do not know what happens if you have an obstructive alkali inspector, for one reason or another, and the local authority is at a dead end. What does it do then?


If the noble Baroness would send me the example she has in mind which her Amendment, or something like it, would be certain to overcome, we can have a look at it. But, if the relationships are as bad as she says, or have been so in particular cases, between the alkali inspector on the one hand and the local authority public health inspector on the other, then it will need much more than this Amendment to put matters right, because the whole basis of the operation of this part of the Bill is that there is close day-to-day co-operation between the two sets of inspectors, as I am sure there must be. I do not see how one can rely on anything other than that. Certainly this particular Amendment would not put it right. If the noble Baroness would send me specific information, we can take a look at it and see what might be done.


The alkali inspector is, surely, responsible to the Chief Alkali Inspector, who is responsible to the Secretary of State. Therefore, if any particular alkali inspector is not being co-operative surely the simple way of dealing with the matter is to write to the Secretary of State?


That is the kind of remedy that I should have thought appropriate, and when problems have occurred it has probably been followed. That is why I should like to look at the specific instance. I am doubtful whether we could bring this about by any legislative device.


I do not think we can carry this any further at this point of time, so I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 70 shall stand part of the Bill?


There are one or two points I should like to raise on the clause which have not been covered by the Amendments put down. In particular, in regard to subsection (8), can we know what the reason is for not having any provision for indictment? The only provision here is summary conviction, with a fine not exceeding £400. In certain circumstances it might be worth while for a very large enterprise just to pay the £400. It seems to me that one should at least make provision for indictment. This includes giving false information, among other things.

The other aspect of this clause which concerns us to some extent is what seems to us a rather generous interpretation of the time factor. Subsection (5) allows six weeks. There might he a situation—I mentioned the Avonmouth case a few minutes ago—in which six weeks was a long time for obtaining information. I should like to know whether the Government are entirely satisfied that they need allow as long as that. Again there is provision that the local authority may agree to some longer period so that this is by no means an absolute limitation. One can foresee circumstances in which six weeks might be too long for an authority to obtain the information it requires. I wonder whether the noble Lord could perhaps comment on that.


I should like to write to the noble Baroness about the indictment point, which I cannot answer here and now. If we were dealing with control of a seriously polluting emission I would agree that six weeks might well be too long. But what we are dealing with here is not control but notices leading to the building up of information about emissions, and I should have thought that in those circumstances it was a reasonable time.

Clause 70 agreed to.

Clause 71 [Appeals against notices]:

BARONESS WHITE moved Amendment No. 191C: Page 76, line 4, leave out ("giving") and insert ("disclosure to the public").

The noble Baroness said: I beg to move Amendment No. 191C. I wish to know what is the real position envisaged in the first part of this clause. When we were dealing with effluents in water in Part II of the Bill there was a provision whereby someone concerned could appeal to the Secretary of State and indicate that it would be against his personal interest, and possibly against the public interest, if certain information were published. But here the clause seems to go very much further, because it says that the giving of information should be excused on the ground that it might be contrary to the public interest, or would prejudice some private interest. This is an entirely different position. This is not publishing it; it is supplying it to the local authorities.

I cannot see how a local authority can carry out its obligations to the public if even no officer of the local authority is to be permitted to obtain this information. I can understand that there may be limitations upon publication, even though I do not have a great deal of sympathy with them. However, we are not disputing that in principle. Am I correct in supposing that this would allow an enterprise not to give any information at all to the local authority concerned?

6.32 p.m.


I should like to support the Amendment, and I hope that if it is accepted the Government will also be able to accept the succeeding Amendments to this clause standing in my noble friend's name. In support of what she said, I should like to put the following points. Clause 71 provides for an appellate procedure to the Secretary of State. If one looks at subsection (3), one finds language that seems to imply that the respondent, which would be the local authority, is to be entitled to appear in answer to the appeal, and, I suppose, to address the Secretary of State or such representative as he may appoint for that purpose. I refer to the words in subsection (3): The Secretary of State may … make regulations as to appeals under this section,"— and then the important words are, and the circumstances in which all or any part of the appellant's case is to be withheld from the respondent. I suppose that envisages a situation in which the local authority, by its representatives, is present at some appointment before the Secretary of State, or somebody he deputes to hear the appeal. Then the appellant, who has received the notice and appeals against it, wishes to refuse to allow the respondent council to know what the grounds of the appeal are, and the respondent council is left in the position of having to answer the appeal without having any idea as to the grounds of the appeal. All that the respondent council will know is that the appellant must be trying to satisfy the Secretary of State of the matters set out in subsection (1); namely: the giving of all or part of the information required by the notice—

  1. (a) would be contrary to the public interest; or
  2. (b) would prejudice to an unreasonable degree some private interest"—
I do not know whose; probably people apart from the appellant as well as the appellant himself— by disclosing information about a manufacturing process or trade secret, or that the information would be prejudicial in either of those ways if disclosed to the public. By those words the appellant is given a very wide field indeed. He can raise a number of contentions within the scope of those words in an effort to try to induce the Secretary of State to direct the local authority to withdraw or modify the notice, or take such steps as may be specified by the Secretary of State to ensure that prejudicial information is not disclosed to the public. If it is envisaged that the local authority is to be the respondent—and, I suppose, to have the rights which normally, by the law of this country, we allow to a respondent; namely, the right to be heard, the right to oppose the appeal—it seems to me that we are reaching a very odd situation if the respondent is not to know what he is to oppose. The respondent is apparently to have no idea, if the Secretary of State makes regulations in a particular form, what ground, among those specifified in subsection (1), is chosen by the appellant in order to support his appeal, so that the respondent council goes there in a state of considerable embarrassment and some frustration. I would submit that that is undesirable, and that my noble friend's Amendments—the first of which, being one of a pattern with those others, is designed to limit closely the grounds which the appellant may assert, and to limit the powers of the Secretary of State on the hearing of the appeal—conduce to something far more workable.

The argument goes beyond that. It is desirable, I am sure the whole Committee agrees, that Clause 70 should work, and that when this information is asked for by a notice it should be forthcoming unless there are very solid grounds why it should not be forthcoming. I ask your Lordships to picture the situation of a local authority that has been represented at an appeal before the Secretary of State when the appeal has failed. Of course if the appeal succeeds, and the local authority is directed to withdraw the notice, cadit questio, one need not bother any more. But suppose either that the appeal fails, or that the Secretary of State directs that the notice is to be modified: in what situation then is the local authority to find itself when it is considering whether it should take steps which would initiate a prosecution under Clause 70(8)?

I do not know whether the local authority would be the prosecuting authority, or whether they would put information before the police and the police would be the prosecuting authority. Whichever is the prosecuting authority would have to face the situation that, under Clause 70(8), it has to be established against the accused recipient of the notice that he has without reasonable cause failed to comply with the requirements of a notice served on him. If the local authority, and the police authority, are in the position of not having known what the grounds of the appeal were, not having known what material was produced in support of whatever were the grounds chosen, how can they decide one way or another whether it would be appropriate in a given case to initiate proceedings leading up to a prosecution?

Suppose the appeal fails. It may well be that the appellant has produced quite formidable arguments and material in support of the grounds of appeal allowed him in Clause 71, but has not quite come up to the limit required in order successfully to establish his appeal. He may have had a reasonable case, but a case which, in the judgment of the Secretary of State, was not quite strong enough, with the result that the Secretary of State dismissed the appeal. When the local authority is considering whether or not to institute a prosecution under Clause 70, it will not have any information as to what the true situation is in this respect. Had the appellant sufficient grounds, if urged in a magistrates' court, in support of the contention that he had a reasonable case for not supplying the material? Had he grounds sufficient for that, even though they were not sufficient to produce the result that the Secretary of State directed the notice to be withdrawn? They will not know, and one reason, in particular, why I submit to your Lordships that my noble friend's Amendments to Clause 71 ought to be agreed to is that the provision as to prosecution in Clause 70 may otherwise not be workable.

It may be that, whenever there is an appeal which fails before the Secretary of State, local authorities will have to say to themselves, "I know that the appellant must have had some reasons which were not sufficient to satisfy the Secretary of State, but we, in ignorance of them, cannot say whether it will be possible for us to show beyond reasonable doubt that the recipient of the notice did not have reasonable cause for not complying with it." For those reasons, I hope that the Committee will accept my noble friend's Amendment and the succeeding Amendments which are down in her name.

If I may summarise them, I submit, first, that it is undesirable in principle that a recipient should not know an appellant's case; secondly, if a respondent is not to know an appellant's case the result, in practice, over a period of years may be—and probably will be—that in case after case local authorities simply will not know whether they ought or ought not to take steps to initiate a prosecution under subsection (8) of Clause 70, and that is a result which I am quite sure the whole Committee would deplore. The scheme should be workable. I hope that the Minister will feel that there is force in those contentions and will give further thought to them.


Am I right in thinking that the noble Baroness was speaking to Amendments Nos. 192A and 192B at the same time as No. 191C?


I did not mention the fact, but our general disquiet covers those other two Amendments as well.

6.43 p.m.


Then I agree that it would be helpful if we kept them all in mind. The Sharp Report recommended that there should be two courses open to an industrialist with a trade secret at risk, and we are responding to that recommendation. The two courses are either to disclose the information to the local authority but not to the public, or not to disclose it at all. I think the Committee will agree that the latter course is necessary as a safeguard against occasions when disclosure of the information to local authority officials and elected members could endanger a trade secret, perhaps because—to give a rather stark example—a councillor was a business rival of the owner of the premises in question. It might also be necessary if the local authority could not provide sufficient security against accidental or illegal disclosure of commercially valuable information or of information prejudicial to the public interest, particularly as the Press normally attend committee meetings—something which we have been urging them to do for other reasons.

Since the authority would not be able to publish the information this safeguard would not hinder them unduly, provided they were assured that the reason for withholding information was genuine. This assurance can be provided by the Secretary of State, who must be convinced that the public interest or a real trade secret is at risk before allowing an appeal. He then also decides where the risk lies and how confidential the information must remain and directs the local authority accordingly to withdraw or modify the notice, if the authority are not to receive all the information or are simply to take steps not to disclose it to the public. The Committee will see that we are giving effect to the Sharp Report, and I hope your Lordships will agree that it is necessary to distinguish between giving information to disclose to the public at large, and giving information which stops with local authority officials.

In answer to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill, I confirm that under Clause 71(3) the Secretary of State will make tightly drawn regulations, although we do not think that many appeals will succeed under this provision. But I hope the Committee will agree that if a local authority were given all the information for purposes of the kind which the noble and learned Lord rehearsed, the secret would have come out and the whole object of the appeal procedure would be lost. In answer to the noble and learned Lord's second point, I should have thought that if a local authority were dealing with an industry in their area where there had been an appeal under paragraph (a) of Clause 71(1) involving a trade secret, and they felt they were not in possession of all the necessary information, the common-sense course would be to consult the Secretary of State before initiating any proceedings. I do not see how it is possible to make any other provision which does not undermine the need—I agree, in a limited number of cases—to provide protection for an industrialist who satisfies the Secretary of State that he has a trade secret which is of such a character and of such importance that its nature should not be disclosed, even to a local authority. Our main objective is to make the distinction which the Sharp Report sought to make; namely, between the confidentiality of something which can be disclosed to a local authority—


I am sorry to interrupt, and I am grateful for what the Minister has said. But the difficulty is that if those regulations are made and a local authority go to the Secretary of State and, in effect, ask, "What were the grounds of the appeal? We want to decide whether or not to institute a prosecution", he will have to say to them, "I am sorry, but I cannot tell you." Therefore the local authority will not know where they stand and will be unable, in a large number of cases, to bring a prosecution.

With regard to the noble Lord's contention—and I apologise for interrupting at length—that if regulations of that sort were not made the whole point of withholding information would be lost, I should have thought there were other courses open. After all, it can be provided that information which is disclosed for a certain purpose, such as an appeal, must not be disclosed to anybody else under pain of penalty. I think there are provisions of that sort in this very Bill.


That is a point which would certainly be considered, but I do not think it arises directly from the noble Baroness's Amendment, and I do not think she referred to it in her remarks. I have already undertaken to write to her on one point, and I will certainly undertake to consider the noble and learned Lord's point about other ways of dealing with this matter. If he has any other suggestions, I will of course consider them. But I hope the noble Baroness will feel, having heard why this clause is so drawn—namely, because it is primarily intended to give effect to the Sharp Report's recommendation that there should be provision for some information to be disclosed to a local authority but not to the public, and for other information not to be disclosed at all—that it is not necessary to press her Amendment.


The noble Lord has made it very clear that the Government take a different view of local authorities from that which they took of water authorities, although water authorities include quite a number of local authority members. I dislike this way of proceeding, but I can see that the Government are unlikely to give way on the points we have made, so at this stage I do not propose to press Amendment No. 191C. I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.50 p.m.

BARONESS WHITE moved Amendment No. 192: Page 76, line 7, leave out paragraph (b) and insert— ("(b) would be unreasonably damaging to the interests of the person aforesaid").

The noble Baroness said: This Amendment is on a somewhat different point but it is one that we have touched upon before; namely, this phrase "a manufacturing process or trade secret". I have here sought to substitute the phrase which is used in Part II of the Bill; namely, that it would be unreasonably damaging to the interests of the person aforesaid". What worries us about this attitude is that all the time it is the private interest which is being put first, and there is no provision anywhere in the Bill for the Secretary of State, on being appealed to, to say that the public interest would be better served. He can say that the public interest would be damaged if the information were disclosed, but nowhere in the Bill has he the power to say that, although a private interest might to some extent be damaged, nevertheless the public interest should supervene. Because, as I understand it, even in the circumstances of an appeal he would be bound to take cognisance of the actual wording of the Act; and it is of course a question of the interpretation of "unreasonable". What is "an unreasonable degree", to which a private interest must be prejudiced?

The Secretary of State might have doubts in his mind as to whether or not it would be unreasonable for the private person or the company, but nowhere can he say, "The public interest would be better served if the local authority" for example, "knew what was really going on". He does not have this recourse; he has to take account of whether or not the private interest would be damaged. I admit that possibly the Amendment as it stands does not entirely meet that point, but we can if necessary put down a somewhat different Amendment on Report stage. But I should like some comment from the noble Lord as to this point, which again has been put to me by a number of people: why should it always be the private interest which is to be regarded, rather than the public interest? That is the nub of this series of Amendments. I beg to move.


I cannot agree that the Bill is so drafted as to put private interests first. I do not think that that is what is happening here. I should like to put it to the Committee that what is happening is that, where somebody has a private interest to which he thinks regard should be paid and which should be regarded as confidential, an opportunity is given to put that interest to the test against the public interest, in this particular case, to publish information about the pollution of the air.


With respect, to receive information, not to publish it.


To receive information with a view to publishing it. Where a conflict is alleged, the Secretary of State is established as the arbiter between the two, and I would have thought that this was the only practicable way of doing it. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State has all sorts of other interests in protecting the environment, and he is the right person to be the judge of an issue such as this. I have agreed earlier on with members of the Committee that at one or two points this Part of the Bill has been drawn with too great a generosity and too great a regard for the private interest over and against the public interest but what we are concerned with here is not to give the private interest any particularly favourable treatment but to bring the private interest to the test. That is what this particular clause does, and I think it does it in the only fair and practicable way in which it can be done.


I did not expect the noble Lord would give me any other answer. Perhaps this is partly because we have a different philosophy in this matter. Again, I am always unwilling to take up the time of the Committee, and I do not believe we should get very much further if I pressed the Amendment. I therefore beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 71 agreed to.

Clause 72 [Regulations about research and publicity]:

THE EARL OF COURTOWN moved Amendment No. 192C: Page 76, line 22, after ("shall") insert ("subject to section 92(5) of this Act").

The noble Earl said: The regulations made under Clause 72(2) of the Bill will greatly affect local authorities and also industrial interests, and it is therefore only right that they should be consulted before the regulations are introduced. This Amendment simply ensures that such consultation will take place. Clause 92(5) refers to regulations made under Clause 71(3) of this Bill but not to this subsection, and I suggest that it should. I beg to move.


I would agree with my noble friend that it would be consistent with other provisions for consultation on the drawing up of regulations for this particular set of regulations to be subject to the same statutory requirement to consult. In order to keep the parity between the two sides of the Committee, having given one Amendment to the noble Baroness I take pleasure in accepting this one from my noble friend.

BARONESS WHITE moved Amendment No. 193:

Page 76, line 39, leave out paragraph (e).

The noble Baroness said: This paragraph caused me almost more shock, I think, than any other paragraph in this Bill—which is saying a good deal. If noble Lords will look first at the preceding paragraph, paragraph (d), they will see that if a local authority wishes to enter into an arrangement with the owners or occupiers of premises under which they will record and measure emissions, on behalf of the local authorities", it is given a power to do so. This, I think, is entirely satisfactory, because plainly there will be circumstances in which it would be quite unreasonable for the local authority to attempt to collect such information itself. But paragraph (e) says in terms that if the owner or occupier does not wish the local authority to come on to his premises he has a right—an absolute right, so it seems—to tell the local authority to keep out, and to say, "We are not having you on our premises. If you want any records or measurements of emissions, we shall take them; you will have to take our word for it that they are complete and accurate, and you will have no check that they are so." This seems to me an absolutely intolerable situation.

This would presumably not apply to registered premises, because the Alkali Inspectorate, I believe, would have a right of entry; but under this clause as drafted no one would have a right of entry, as I understand it. The owner or occupier of premises could just say, "We do not want you inside, thank you". They might perhaps have some reason in the circumstances envisaged in Clause 71; but unless the regulations are to say so, it will not be the Secretary of State who decides whether they have such reasons, and I can find in the Bill nobody else to crosscheck on the information being provided—alkali inspectors or anybody else. If the local authority does not carry out the inspections or cross-checking, who else is to do it? As it stands, this seems to me an extraordinarily unsatisfactory provision. I can find nothing else in the Bill. There may be something. If there is, no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, will direct our attention to it. This is yet another example of how the Bill at any rate appears all along to be favouring the private rather than the public interest. If that is not what it means to do, I suggest it should be drafted somewhat differently.


The main point I would make in answer to that is that for control purposes the main powers of entry are in Clause 80 and there are other rights under Clause 69. But the noble Baroness is quite right to draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that this part of the clause with which she is concerned is drawn too widely. We will look at it again to try to make sure that it ties in more closely with the two clauses that I have mentioned.


One has to think about who the local authorities will send round plants. I have had experience of local authority people coming into a plant. Unless they are properly trained they are completely at a loss and could run into considerable danger, particularly where radioactive material is concerned. Clearly they cannot be allowed to wander freely throughout a plant. If leaving out this paragraph means that the local authority can employ consultants to come in and look round the plant, I do not see why they should. It does not say that the person has to be an employee of the local authority, or even that he has to be an alkali inspector. I should have thought there are Crown premises round which it might be a doubtful practice to let anybody go. While I am not saying that I do not feel that the subsection is too widely drawn, as the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, has said, I wanted to make those points.


I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, at least agrees with us that we were right to be highly suspicious. Again I should be greatly obliged if, between now and the Report stage, his Department would put down an Amendment. After all, this is a Government Bill and they should have looked at this kind of thing in the drafting. When we are working on a fairly tight timetable it makes it difficult for us if we do not see Amendments of this kind reasonably early on. But I am indeed happy to learn that this is a point on which the Government think that the Bill needs improvement. I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7.5 p.m.

LORD MOLSON moved Amendment No. 194:

Page 77, line 16, leave out subsection (4).

The noble Lord said: It seems to me quite extraordinary that when the Secretary of State is given power to make regulations giving guidance about how the local authorities are to exercise their powers under this Bill he should be instructed to have regard to the practice of inspectors under the Alkali Act. The inspectors are an old and venerable body who have just presented their 109th annual report. In the course of 109 years they have not only built up a long chain of case law as to how they administer their duties, but also they have established a great prestige and a long tradition of bureaucratic loyalty. Their very distinguished service over this period of time has ensured that they enjoy great prestige. But it seems to me most extraordinary that the Inspectorate, which is largely responsible for advising the Secretary of State for the Environment, should have so high a prestige that in a Bill now before Parliament the Secretary of State is instructed, when drafting his regulations in future, to have regard to the practice of the inspectors under that Act.

I have not the slightest doubt that any Secretary of State would, naturally, have regard to the accumulated experience of an Inspectorate which enjoys great public esteem and has experience extending over 109 years. But it does not mean because they have this experience that the Secretary of State should be instructed by Parliament that in future he should not go any further than the established practice of the Inspectorate. I hope therefore that the Government will agree that this is both unnecessary and also disrespectful to the Secretary of State, and that my Amendment will be accepted.

I am not sure that I entirely understand the scope of this subsection. It says with regard to regulations under this section which relate to notices under section 70 of this Act; and … which apply to a work subject to the Alkali Act. If we turn back to Clause 70 we find it deals with the new responsibilities of the local authorities, but in subsection (4) it says: If the notice relates to a works subject to the Alkali Act, the person on whom the notice is served shall not be obliged to supply any information which … is not of a kind which is being supplied to the inspector for the purposes of that Act.

I should have thought it possible to interpret the subsection which I am moving to delete as referring only to the work subject to the Alkali Act as defined in Clause 70(4). One would suppose that in drafting it would say that it refers to subsection (4) of the previous clause; although indeed one would hardly think that necessary because if that interpretation is right it seems to me that under the Alkali Act Clause 70(4) already protects the work from any questions which are not questions already being asked by alkali inspectors. Therefore, I am inclined to think that the subsection which I am moving to delete covers all the information which can be called for under Clause 70. If that is so, then it is a very serious matter indeed. We are now legislating in order to introduce a new inspectorate for ensuring the purity of our air, and it would obviously be even more serious if the powers given to local authorities under this Bill are to be limited to those which are at present exercised by the alkali inspectors. I beg to move.


Here again the Government are being extraordinarily tender to the Alkali Inspectorate. So far as I can judge, this is a sort of "belt and braces" protection for their precious trousers. As the noble Lord, Lord Molson, has already pointed out, the local authority is limited as to the kind of information which it can require by notice under Clause 70(4). Why therefore do we have to say it all over again in this clause? I had proposed, in the next three Amendments, a rather more elaborate way of dealing with the position, but I shall be more than happy to accept the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Molson, to delete the subsection entirely. It would then be quite unnecessary for me to move my three Amendments. As a method of dealing with the position I think that the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Molson, is simpler, more comprehensive and to be preferred. I therefore warmly support it.


I agree that it is not necessary in legislation to bind my right honourable friend to have regard in drawing up these regulations to the kind of things which he will in practice have regard to, in view of the experience, and so on, of the Alkali Inspectorate. I should like to consider what my noble friend has said, and anything else that the noble Baroness may care to say in respect of her three particular Amendments, with a view to accepting the intention behind my noble friend's Amendment and to delete this particular provision from the Bill. I do not know whether the noble Baroness wants to say anything more specific on her particular Amendments?


I do not want to press my Amendments if the noble Lord will simply accept the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Molson. If the Government have second thoughts it is always open to them to put down Amendments at a later stage. From the general tenor of the noble Lord's remarks, I am quite sure that he has great sumpathy with the noble Lord's Amendment. It would make life much simpler for us all and would save time to-night if the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, would simply accept the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Molson, leaving us all free, if need be, to return to the matter at a later stage. I have no wish to discuss my Amendments if the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Molson, can be accepted.


I very much appreciate the friendly tone in which my noble friend has replied. I do not think it is necessary to take the matter back to ask the Parliamentary draftsmen to do anything about it. It is quite a simple provision, and I hope that as he has been so friendly he will be even more cordial and handsome about it and will accept my Amendment.

Clause 72, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 73 [Provision by local authorities of information for Secretary of State]:

7.15 p.m.

LORD CRAIGTON moved Amendment No. 195: Page 77, line 28, after ("pollution") insert ("including pollution from aircraft").

The noble Lord said: I put down this Amendment because I felt that we all would like the Department of the Environment to have some status, some say, in aircraft movements and policy. We have been unable to discuss the worst pollution of all, and that is aircraft noise. But fallout from aircraft is, I hope to show, also a serious pollutant. If I am right, then the Department of the Environment should have some say in the routeing of aircraft in and out of aerodromes to ensure that the flight paths vary within the limits of safety and that the pollutants—and there are pollutants, as I will show—are shared as widely as possible, and also of course to have some say in the diminution of pollution itself.

I know that in the last 15 years the Clean Air Act has extended the hours of sunlight and has removed some of the more important air pollutants, particularly sulphur gases. Unhappily, as I have said, there are now indications of this new serious source of pollution from aircraft. Concern about this is widespread, and in the course of my investigations, pollution from aircraft, which I have discussed with a great many people, has been given a variety of descriptions. Many people refer to it as "unburnt fuel in art aerosol-like state"; others as "droplets of kerosene"; people concerned with horticulture have given it the description of "a greasy film over everything". Then a lady living in Datchet, which is right in the incoming path of aircraft into London Airport, said that when sunbathing on her roof she was covered by a fine red dust. I did not feel that it was right that I should go and see this for myself, so the lady in Datchet was kind enough to give me a sample of this fine dust which I have here in my hand, and I will gladly give it to the noble Baroness later on so that she may see exactly what it is. It is a dark red dust which my friend in Datchet said came from the black smoke from landing aircraft. With such varied descriptions one must ask oneself whether these unpleasant phenomena do come from aircraft flying overhead or whether they come from passing heavy articulated diesel engine trucks, nearby chimneys and agricultural processes. There are no heavy trucks and no agricultural processes to speak of in Datchet, and I myself have experienced this nuisance—though more in droplets—in a country area far removed from the usual sources of pollution but where at some times planes fly overhead in a steady procession hour after hour.

So far as I can ascertain, the only close scientific investigation of aircraft pollution was undertaken in about 1970 by Warren Springs Laboratory, mostly in the immediate vicinity of London Airport. The purpose of that investigation was to ascertain whether Heathrow itself was a source of pollution. The decision come to was, yes, there was some pollution from aircraft but it was not as bad as the pollution from motor cars on the nearby roads. But that was just around Heathrow Airport. No serious attempt was made then, or has been made since, to test for pollution elsewhere. All the evidence shows that it has now become highly desirable so to test for pollution, and perhaps as a matter of urgency.

It appears that the pollution from aircraft may spread far wider than just around the airport—to homes, to market gardens, and to other rural enterprises. The people living and working there have to endure the noise but they need not necessarily have to endure the fall-out as well. We do not yet know the extent of it, but it seems quite certain that there is fall-out under three headings. First, there is pollution from emissions from the engines themselves—that is the dark smoke that can be seen overhead. Then, in descending order of quantity, there are oxide of nitrogen, particulates, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons. They are being spewed out all the time.

Then there is the type of pollution I referred to as unburnt fuel or droplets of kerosene. This is the dumping of fuel from drainage tanks of airborne aircraft. This can happen, I understand, at any height up to 9,000 feet, and the amount clumped is usually between one and two pints. This sounds little, but multiplied by the number of aircraft take-offs and the number of engines per aircraft it means that one is talking about millions of gallons a year discharged on to the ground below. I understand that the drainage tanks can be changed so as to circulate the fuel back into the main tank. The saving of fuel might well be less than the cost of the alteration unless, as may well be the case, the cumulative effect of this pollution of the countryside is shown to make the change of the fuel tanks worth while.

Finally, there is the smell: that unmistakable odour which those beneath the aircraft know so well. There is no imagination here, because the plotting of the complaints received by the Department of Trade and Industry, the British Airports Authority and the local health bodies has shown that the main body of complaints about smell comes directly from under the aircraft flight-paths.

I hope the Minister will agree with me that the aggrieved citizen should have the right to complain about any or all of the smell, of fuel dumped on the land and of fall-out from the exhausts, and that the Bill should include the power to provide an answer. I beg to move.


We are not here dealing with the control of aircraft with a view to reducing pollution or noise: that is for other legislation. All we are concerned with in this clause is the provision of information by local authorities for the Secretary of State. Briefly, my answer to my noble friend is that his Amendment is unnecessary because the powers to deal with these matters are already available. Many local authorities, including the majority of urban authorities, already operate monitoring equipment which will pick up pollution from aircraft, if it exists, together with all other forms of air pollution. The results are collated and published by the Warren Springs Laboratory, which was mentioned by my noble friend. But this clause and the powers of monitoring include any pollution of the air which is caused by aircraft as much as by any other source; and three areas—Birmingham County Borough Council, Hillingdon London Borough Council and Staines Urban District Council—have already used their powers under section 25 of the Clean Air Act 1956 to monitor pollution from aircraft. In addition, the National Gas Turbine Establishment continues to ensure that smoke from aircraft will be decreased as much as possible. So the powers to do what my noble friend wants to see done are already in the hands of the local authorities and are being used.

The fact of the matter is that almost 90 per cent. of air pollution comes from domestic and industrial sources—by far the greater part from domestic fires. There is also 10 per cent. from vehicles, and only 0.1 per cent. from aircraft. We have to bear those figures in mind in order to keep this matter in perspective. I am sure that my noble friend Lady Young will be interested in the "red dust", but I hope that I have been able to assure my noble friend that the addition he seeks to put into the Bill here is not necessary because, as regards pollution from aircraft, the powers are already available to local authorities to enable them to deal with it.


May I say that it is quite clear my noble friend does not live in the vicinity of London Airport.


I assure my noble friend that I live under one the landing paths.


In that case, I apologise to him; and in view of the assurance he gives me that local authorities already have the powers to monitor pollution, perhaps those of us who are worried about this aspect should apply to the local authorities. Would my noble friend tell me whether we can report such a matter to the Department of the Environment?


Perhaps I might just reiterate what I said. The results of the monitoring which is operated by local authorities go to Warren Springs, which is a D.T.I. laboratory. I have mentioned three authorities who have exercised the powers available to them under the Clean Air Act, for which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is responsible.


I am grateful to my noble friend, and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 73 agreed to.

7.28 p.m.

LORD STOW HILL moved Amendment No. 196: After Clause 73, insert the following new clause

Power to local authorities to combine for purposes of Act

"Without prejudice to any powers of combination conferred on local authorities by any other enactment, any two or more local authorities may by agreement combine for the purposes of any of their functions under this Part of this Act."

The noble Lord said: I beg to move this Amendment, the object of which is to enable local authorities to combine for the purpose of discharging their functions under Part IV of the Act. If one looks at Clause 74, one finds that for the purpose of these functions the local authorities are the district councils. The object of the Amendment is simply to enable them to pool their resources for the performing of the functions placed upon them. A particular argument, which I think is probably relevant in this context, is that frequently a discharge into the atmosphere takes place in the area of one local authority but the deleterious result of that discharge does not become manifest or effective until it reaches the area of some other local authority. If the two authorities could combine, there would be a great saving of expense and resources, and the particular emission could be dealt with more effectively when the combined resources were brought to bear to deal with it.

That is the short case. It is appreciated that a possible alternative—which indeed is envisaged in the next Amendment on the Marshalled List—would be to bring in, along with the local authorities described in Clause 74, the councils of county councils. This Amendment does not actually provide for that, but it is respectfully submitted that so far as it goes it is useful and would lead to the result that the purposes of Clause 4 could be more effectively achieved when the local authorities that one is talking about—the district councils—could combine to take a joint part in the work of dealing with any particular emission. I beg to move.


I agree with the intention behind this Amendment and accept straight away that there may well be circumstances where authorities will be able to discharge these functions more effectively if they combine. I invite the Committee to resist the Amendment because in enacting the Local Government Bill a year or two ago we went into the way in which different local authorities might co-operate together. I hope the Committee will agree that we provided there a whole range of possibilities which would include straight combinations, but also a number of other possibilities which would apply in this case and provide greater flexibility than the noble Lord's Amendment.

Perhaps I may remind the Committee that we made arrangements for one authority to discharge functions as an agent of another authority. We made provision for two authorities to combine, as the Amendment suggests. We made other arrangements whereby one authority could borrow or share the staff of another, and so on. I should like to assure the noble and learned Lord that the purposes of his Amendment are fully met by the provisions in the Local Government Act and, because that provides a range of other possibilities and alternatives, it would be better to rely on that rather than on the terms of his Amendment.


I am grateful to the Minister. What had been done in framing this Amendment was to borrow the model of Section 272 of the Public Health Act 1936. But I gather from what the Minister says that that has been overtaken by the 1972 legislation. As he tells me that he is satisfied that the combination provisions contained in that Act would enable all these functions to be jointly discharged by local authorities, clearly this Amendment becomes unnecessary. I am most grateful for what he said and I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 74 [Interpretation of Part IV]:

LORD STOW HILL moved Amendment No. 196A: Page 78, line 12, at end insert ("for the purposes of subsections (1), (4) and (5) of section 69 and section 73 of this Act, includes the council of a county and the Greater London Council and").

The noble and learned Lord said: This is an Amendment which is, roughly speaking, designed to achieve a similar objective to that which was envisaged in the last Amendment, but it takes a rather different form. In this case the Amendment seeks to bring in together with the local authorities the council of a county and, in the case of London, the Greater London Council, for certain specific functions. They are set out in the Amendment; namely, those put upon local authorities by Clauses 69 and 73 of this Bill. Both of those clauses impose upon local authorities the duty of, in effect, researching into and monitoring data with regard to emissions into the atmosphere, and, in one case, furnishing the results to the Secretary of State.

The case for this proposal is as follows. To begin with, one of the arguments I used in support of the last Amendment is relevant to this; namely, that an emission in the area of one authority may manifest its results in the area of another. Both areas may be within the area of a county council, with the result that in a situation of that sort the county council, I submit, could deal much more effectively than the two separate local authorities. But there are other and additional arguments in support of the proposal contained in this Amendment. As I have said, the duty in this case constitutes, in effect, research, monitoring, ascertaining and checking the meaning of data relating to given emissions. That must occasion a lot of expense and must require expensive equipment. In the first place, the instrumentation, the actual machinery used, may be very expensive and complex. In the second place, the utilisation of the results of that instrumentation may render it desirable that the results should be ascertained and investigated by specialised scientific staff. Those considerations point to the desirability of a larger authority being brought to the task which is imposed on the local authorities at the moment by Clauses 69 and 73.

There are a number of subordinate arguments and I will take one as an example: if tests—known as particulate counts—which are extremely valuable and necessary in this context, are undertaken, they should be undertaken by combined laboratory services which can be brought into being and operated by the larger authorities, but which are rather outside the scope and resources competence of the local authorities. At the moment, I believe it is the policy that these particulate counts should be utilised only in exceptional circumstances. The meaning of the expression, "particulate count", is apparently that the number of particles of a given pollutant substance in a given volume of atmosphere are counted. That is a test which can be very usefully employed for the purpose of sample tests and also for longer term quality monitoring.

There are other considerations which arise—for example, when planning applications are referred to the Secretary of State. Background information on atmospheric pollution is often vitally important for the purpose of deciding such an application, and there must be an effective system brought into being and maintained for building up a large volume of information on the atmospheric pollution questions that would be required to be answered in a situation when planning applications are so referred. The collection of that data on a systematic basis is a long process. It involves method and organisation and, necessarily, will occasionally require a considerable amount of expense. The short-term case for the proposals that I make in the Amendment are that, that being the task, and its successful accomplishment being as important as it obviously is, the appropriate authorities in many cases will be not the district councils but the county councils or the Greater London Council. They will have at their disposal a far wider range of resources in terms of both material and personnel, and for those general reasons I beg to move this Amendment.

7.39 p.m.


The noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill, argues his case with his customary persuasiveness. I would not attempt to rebut any of it except to suggest that we must not talk about the counties as higher and the districts as lower authorities: we are dealing with two different authorities.


I hope that I did not do that; if I did, I certainly withdraw it.


The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, will surely agree that one has a much wider area than the other.


I would confirm once again that if in a particular case the circumstances set out by the noble Lord were to apply, then the districts concerned could agree to combine. They could agree together to invite a particular county council to act as their agent and do all the things which the noble Lord said a county council might be better fitted to do than a district or even a combination of districts. Once again, all the arrangements which the noble Lord rightly said might well apply in a particular case of districts combining and a county council acting as their agent in respect of some of these functions can be done within the frame work provided in the Local Government Act. I hope the Committee will agree that it is better to rely on that rather than making specific provision in this Bill.


Can the noble Lord give us some assurance that even if we do not attempt to amend this Bill and rely on the provisions for agency in the Local Government Act, nevertheless the Department will look seriously at this? There are circumstances—London is the most obvious case in point but it applies to the big industrial conurbations in other places—where it would be far more intelligent to use the services of the larger authority (not the higher authority) to perform these functions. From the information that we have, particularly in the London position, it appears to me that there are certain functions which will not be adequately carried out unless they are carried out over a much wider area than any single London borough commands. The same would be true within the metropolitan counties. We are genuinely concerned about this, because the whole policy of monitoring emissions to the atmosphere is likely to be far less good than it could be unless the Department gives guidance in fairly strong terms on these matters.

I do not know what my noble and learned friend feels about pressing this Amendment, but before we decide what we want to do with it I think we should hear rather more from the Government as to how far they have considered this matter. I have little doubt that they have received representations at some time or another on this problem. We are all agreed that monitoring emissions to the atmosphere is much more complicated and expensive than monitoring effluents in rivers—in general terms at any rate—and the kind of equipment that is required is more sophisticated and much more expensive in most instances. Also, trained staff is likely to be very scarce. So from every point of view, in the built up and highly industrialised areas there is a great deal to be said for this to be done on a much wider basis than borough or district councils. I should like an indication from the Government that they are going to take this seriously.


Certainly, but I think the main point is that the district councils are going to take it seriously, and I should have thought that on top of all the considerations which the noble Baroness referred to there are the economic ones. No authority is going to spend money doing things on its own which it can do more economically and more effectively in combination with others. I should like to confirm, in response to what the noble Baroness was saying, that I was answering the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill, with a hypothetical case, but the fact is that district councils are already co-operating in the discharge of their clean air functions. The London Boroughs Association is another organisation ready to hand for the London boroughts and is serving in this capacity. The G.L.C. is also acting as the agent of some of the London boroughs in respect of other functions. This is something which is already happening.


I cannot see what possible disadvantage there would be in including the words as set out in the Amendment. I hope that the Government will look at this again. The object of the Amendment is to make it possible for a county other than London to combine with the Greater London Council. Frankly, I think the attitude of the Government on this is not understandable. It seems to me that they are over-sensitive about matters like this. I think the Amendment has considerable merit and as my noble friend has indicated, there is a feeling in the Greater London Council that there ought to be provision of the nature for which the Amendment provides.


The principle for which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill, was arguing was entirely acceptable to the Government; namely, that there should be scope for district councils to combine together and for county councils to act as their agent. I accepted the force of his argument, but I went on to say that provision for all this to be done is in Section 101 of the Local Government Bill, but the noble and learned Lord did not make that point. The Amendment would provide duplication in legislation and this, I think the Committee will agree, could lead to confusion and not to the clear and precisely defined chain of responsibilities which is maintained under the various co-operative schemes provided for in the Local Government Bill.


I am very grateful to the Minister. I would ask permission of the Committee to withdraw the Amendment on this occasion with the proviso that I should like to reflect carefully on what the Minister has said in case, on thinking it over, we thought it desirable to return to the matter on Report stage. As he pointed out, under Clause 74 the county councils are specifically excluded and I propose a new jurisdiction, which is a current jurisdiction, as he has said. But I do not wish to prolong the matter at this moment. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 74 agreed to.

Clauses 75 to 79 agreed to.

Clause 80 [Rights of entry and inspection, etc.]:

7.48 p.m.

BARONESS YOUNG moved Amendment No. 197: Page 81, line 6, after ("by") insert ("virtue of").

The noble Baroness said: Before moving this Amendment I should say that I did of course go back to read very carefully all that was said on a previous occasion on a somewhat similar Amendment to Clause 23. I would assure the Committee that the circumstances in each case are different. The Amendment is to attach the power of entry to functions which are conferred not by the Act itself but by the regulations which will be made under the Act. Unless these words are included this would not be clear. It is to clarify this point that they are suggested. I beg to move.


I thought we had agreed to drop all references to "virtue" in this Act, but I accept the assurance given by the noble Baroness that "virtue" is required in this particular case. I see her point; it is not a direct authority, but an indirect authority. Therefore perhaps we ought not to object too strongly.

Clause 80, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 81 agreed to.

Clause 82 [Power of authorities to obtain information]:

7.50 p.m.

BARONESS YOUNG moved Amendment No. 198: Page 83, line 3, after ("furnish") insert ("to").

The noble Baroness said: I beg to move this Amendment. It is a drafting Amendment. I regret to say that a word was left out.


This is indeed only a drafting Amendment. This is what happens, is it not, when you use an odd verb like, "furnish," when what you really mean is "supply" or "provide"? I notice that in Clause 70 we have a mixture of terms. In subsection (1) we have,"… local authorities may by notice require the owner … to furnish … information …". Then when you get to Clause 70(3) there are these words: "A person … shall not be obliged to supply any information …". Then in subsection (8), we are back to the furnishing of information. Why does not the draftsman decide which is the applicable verb with which to describe the supply of information, and keep to it throughout? If you swap about and use different verbs, you lose prepositions on the way; and then you have to have drafting Amendments.


I have certainly taken note of the points that the noble Lord has just made. I take it from what he has said that he is not very happy about the verb "furnish", but that he agrees that the Amendment, given that that particular word is in this clause, should stand to make it clear. Perhaps I may read carefully what he has said, and consider whether or not we should do anything further about it.

On Question, Whether Clause 82, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?


On this clause, I should like to make a similar comment to those that other noble Lords, and I myself, have made with respect to other aspects of it. Is it really necessary to draw Clause 82(1) in the very wide terms in which it is drawn? Noble Lords will see that: a relevant authority may serve on any person a notice requiring him to furnish the authority … any information so specified which the authority reasonably considers that it needs for the purposes of any function conferred on the authority by this Act. If anybody does not furnish that information without having a reasonable excuse for not so doing, then he is guilty of a criminal offence, and is liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding £400. I seek to submit that it is not desirable to draw the ambit of criminal offences as widely and imprecisely as that. It is left to the authority to form a view, which I agree must be a reasonable view, as to what information it requires for the purpose of any function imposed upon it throughout this long Act. It has to form a reasonable view; it cannot be a whimsivcal or capricious view, it has to be reasonable. But what a sensible person thinks is reasonable is very, very wide in scope. Here is a local authority given power, subject to the threat of criminal remedy, to hold any subject of Her Majesty under the obligation of furnishing, as I have said, this wide range of information for the purpose of any of the functions of the authority. I have not put down an Amendment for that, but I respectfully submit that this is a point which should be watched.

I hope that the noble Baroness will say that she will take this back and consider, between now and the Report stage, as to whether this is not an occasion when the terms of the Bill are really unnecessarily widely drawn, bearing in mind, if she will, that we are here dealing with a potential criminal offence. We are, I should have thought, always most careful in framing our legislation to draw the ambits of the scope of criminal conduct clearly and as narrowly as is reasonably possible. In this case I submit that principle has not been complied with. I ask the noble Baroness to say that she will consider it further with her advisers before the Report stage.


I will certainly study very carefully what the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, has said on this matter. It may be helpful to the Committee if I explain the reasoning behind the clause. He has made the criticism that it has been drawn very widely and that this might well be interpreted as giving local authorities power to do quite extensive numbers of things. My understanding of it is that authorities may require information in connection with many of their functions in the Bill; but if they cannot point to a relevant function the powers in the clause are not available. The kind of detailed information which they want to collect is, for instance, information about trade and industrial waste on premises in order to prepare a waste disposal plan, as in Clause 2; water authorities might require information about effluents and discharges; local authorities might require information relating to noise in Part III of the Bill; the relevant authority might also require information for enforcement purposes—for example, about the ownership of premises or vessels; and information required for the purposes of Part IV would be obtainable under the more detailed provisions of Clause 7. I should add that Clause 82(2) enables the Secretary of State to restrict the categories of information for which local authorities can ask. I think probably this is the point which will meet the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill. As I have said, I will certainly read carefully what he has said, but I hope that I have said enough to reassure him on the point.


I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for what she has said. May I make just this one comment? If the Secretary of State can, by regulations, limit the type of information for which the local authority may ask, why on earth cannot this House and another place, Parliament as a whole, do precisely the same thing that the Secretary of State is now being empowered to do? If it is possible to limit by regulation the type of information which the local authority may require, why on earth cannot the limitation be spelt out in the terms of the Statute?


My understanding of this is that the provisions, which would be made by regulation, would be very detailed indeed. I should have thought they would not be suitable for inclusion in the Statute. That is why they would be provided in this particular way.


I hope the noble Baroness will pay serious attention to what my noble and learned friend Lord Stow Hill has been saying because as the Bill is worded at the present time it does give local authorities very wide powers. It is always nice to be granted wide powers because it means one does not have to come back later and ask for anything else, and one does not have to specify in advance the powers needed. This is the kind of thing which any person wanting to draft a Bill likes to include in this general way because it makes life so much easier later. But easier for whom? Easier for the authority. The authority, we like to think, is some very high person or group of people; but in fact the authority may be an office boy, some relatively junior person, who thinks it is necessary or useful to have a certain kind of information—perhaps he wants to know the colour of a door of a house, or something like that. So this information is asked for.

This is the type of request which I should have thought we should not encourage, and therefore we ought to pay careful attention to the plea of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill, that the matter be considered carefully. The noble Baroness should take the clause back carefully to see whether the powers cannot be more precisely specified. We all suffer nowadays from generality in legislation—generality which is put in because the thinking is not precise enough in the first place. What my noble and learned friend Lord Stow Hill is asking for is that the thinking be made precise at the present time. I should have thought that the noble Baroness would be acting on behalf of the community if she were to pay close attention to this point and see whether it is not possible to put a more precise definition on the powers.

Clause 82, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 83 [Prohibition of disclosure of information]:

On Question, Whether Clause 83 shall stand part of the Bill?

8.2 p.m.


I take a contrary view about Clause 83. In various Parts of the Bill we have been discussing there are provisions about the disclosure of information, and I find it difficult to accept that one should put in a general clause, Clause 83, which will frighten anybody even possibly from carrying out his public duty in case he might be caught by the vague and unspecific provisions of that clause. After all, we have been arguing throughout our discussions that what we are trying to do is to provide more information to the public, and we are trying to carry out the general philosophy of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution. While certain safeguards are necessary, which in the previous Parts of the Bill are almost all by reference to the Secretary of State, who shall arbitrate as to whether or not secrecy is desirable, yet here the Government seem to find it incumbent upon themselves to put in exactly the kind of clause which will make people hesitate as to whether they should do anything, and decide it would be more prudent in their own interests not to do anything. It seems to me that provisions are already made in the Bill against disclosure of information; it is prohibited in the different Parts of the Bill. But now you are putting in a very general provision. It seems to me to be against public policy to do this and to be against what I understood to be the spirit of the Government in introducing this legislation.

I can quite understand that this is just the kind of provision that a Department would like to put into the Bill to gather up any possible odd cases they feel they might not have provided for in their earlier drafting. But I believe it would be detrimental to the public interest to include yet another clause in this Bill saying, "Thou shalt not." I repeat: we provided for this at various stages in the different Parts of the Bill with the specific provisions that are made. I do not think that one should now have a general clause tacked on in Part V to enable one to prosecute the odd person who might not fall absolutely within the provisions of Parts I to IV of the Bill. I dislike this clause intensely.


I am sorry to hear that the noble Baroness, Lady White, feels that this is an unsatisfactory clause and in any way goes against the spirit of the Bill. One of the provisions which have run right through the Bill, to which she referred, is the publication of a great deal of information which has never been published hitherto. The fact is that under this Bill officers of public authorities will have wide powers to require information from industrialists about pollution, and to enter premises in connection with these various pollution-regulating functions.

This particular clause is designed to protect genuine trade secrets and confidential commercial information about manufacturing processes. It is not intended to inhibit the publication of any information about pollution. If one looks at Clause 83(2) one will see that it explicitly says that any information disclosed in the performance of an officer's duty or (ii) in pursuance of Section 69(1)(b)"— which provides powers for publication of information about air pollution, or with the consent of the person concerned, or in accordance with regulations made by the Secretary of State, shall not be penalised. What we have tried to do here is to strike the balance between getting a great deal of information publicly available for the first time and, at the same time, the intention to safeguard a genuine secret. It is for that reason that this provision was put in. But I would assure the Committee that we have provided for disclosure of information in a way that has not been provided for before.


Will not the noble Baroness agree that in this clause she is bringing in by the back door something which has not been included in Part II of the Bill? There is no reference, I think I am correct in saying, in Part II of the Bill to this phrase to which I have objected already: "any manufacturing process". "Any manufacturing process" is referred to in Part IV; it is not referred to in Part II. Yet it is brought in, as I say, by the back door at the end of this Bill as a phrase which was not included in the substantive clause in Part II. It is now brought in in a way which, as I understand it, would cover Part II. I find this completely reprehensible. If one is trying in Part II to carry out the recommendations of the Environmental Committee on Industrial Pollution, and in so doing one does not use this obnoxious phrase, but then when one gets to the end of the Bill this clause is so drafted that that phrase is brought in, when it would not otherwise apply, I repeat that I find this absolutely reprehensible.

If the Government mean this in Part II, they should have the guts to put it in in Part II, because when one reaches the end of a Bill such as this, these odd parts, one is not so particular about reading right through. One looks at the section of the Bill that concerns one especially. Those concerned with water pollution would naturally concentrate on reading Part II. People would not expect to find this trap in Part V; and yet that is what it is. This is why I am so vehement about it. I think it is dishonest. I think that if the Government really want to put this into Part II they should do so and have it debated in Part II in its proper context—we would certainly vote passionately against it if it were put into Part II. It may be that this Bill has been drafted by various hands and the people who drafted Part II may not have been fully aware of what was going to happen under Part V. But this goes completely against the declared intentions of the Government and I take the strongest possible exception to it. I do not propose at this moment to move to delete this clause because I think it is only fair, as I did not give notice, that the noble Baroness should have a chance to look at it again. If you are putting in clauses in each Part of the Bill to deal with disclosure, then I do not think you ought to have this kind of clause tacked on at the end of the Bill.


May I try once again on this point. There are four different Parts of this Bill. Clause 4(8) requires an open register for disposal licences; Clause 34, which I think is the reference to Part II to which Lady White is referring, requires an open register of discharge conditions and of samples of effluent; and Clause 56(7) requires an open register of noise levels in noise abatement zones. I think it is unfair to suggest that there is somehow something wrong by including this clause at the end; that we are in any way going back on what we have said. We stand by these provisions that we have made and, as I have tried to indicate, this is striking the balance on the point of a trade secret. I should of course have said originally that we have already agreed at an earlier stage to look at the point about "manufacturing process" and whether or not this should be deleted, so this would remove those words from the clause later on. But it would leave, of course, the question of a trade secret. I would assure the Committee that there is no intention to do anything to slide something in at a late stage. It is really a matter of holding the balance.


Is there not a Parliamentary device of saying in the various clauses to which Clause 83 applies: "subject to what is provided in section 83"? Then people are in that way put on their guard and look forward in the Bill to Clause 83 to see whether it affects the particular clause at which they are looking at the time. That is a possible answer to this problem.


There is a logical difference between Part II and Part IV in that when there is a liquid effluent in Part II the samples can normally be taken at the outflow of the works, whereas when one is dealing with pollution of the atmosphere one must go into the works. Therefore I should expect to see the practices allowed in Part IV to be different from those in Part II. It seems to me that this covers the additional point that if people are going through processes in the works and have to go into the works and right through the process in order to get the proper information, they are covered, whether they are dealing with pollution of the air or pollution of water.


I am not quite sure of the propriety of my intervention, but the noble Earl has just said that one would have to go into the works to ascertain whether the actual atmosphere had been polluted or not. That is entirely incorrect. It would be perfectly possible to measure pollution from the outflow, shall we say, at the top of a tall chimney, to ascertain whether a certain quantity of, for instance, sulphur dioxide were being emitted. It is not necessary to go into the works in order to do this; it is something that can be done automatically. However, I am going to argue that point on a later Amendment standing in my name.

Clause 83 agreed to.

Clauses 84 to 87 agreed to.

8.12 p.m.

LORD AIREDALE moved Amendment No. 199: After Clause 87 insert the following new clause:

Duty to have regard to needs of agriculture

". In the exercise of their functions under this Act it shall be the duty of the Secretary of State and all authorities to which this Act applies to have due regard to the needs of agriculture and forestry and to the economic and social interests of rural areas."

The noble Lord said: On behalf of my noble friend Lord Henley I beg to move Amendment No. 199. The wording of this proposed new clause follows very closely indeed the wording of Section 37 of the Countryside Act 1968. When new works are proposed, such as for instance the provision of a dump for waste disposal or a new sewage works, the tendency is that the townspeople, on whose behalf largely the work is to be done, are in large numbers strongly in favour of it; but the country people, who will have to live with this new arrival, possibly almost on their doorsteps, will be very much less enthusiastic. They will also say to themselves, "Our voices ranged against the enthusiasm of the townspeople are not going to make much impact".

It is with some crumb of comfort for the country people that this proposed new clause is suggested, providing as it does that the authorities concerned in cases of this kind shall: have due regard to the needs of agriculture and forestry"— which largely provide the livelihood of the country people—and have regard to the economic and social interests of rural areas.

I believe that there is always at the back of the minds of country dwellers a fear that the local townspeople will always be able to outvote them and to do things which are perhaps in the best interests of the townspeople but not in the best interests of the people living in the country. It is on behalf of the country dwellers that I beg leave to insert this new clause into the Bill. I beg to move.


I have listened carefully to what the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, has said in speaking on behalf of his noble friend and I am glad to have a further explanation of the reasons he wanted to table this Amendment. Clearly it is desirable that everyone should have due regard to the needs of agriculture and forestry and to the economic and social interests of rural areas. This is in a sense, as he rightly said, rather similar to a kind of declaratory statement on these points about the environment. In all these problems, which are recognised to be difficult problems, we have to see how far we can control or regulate a particular form of pollution. It will depend to a great extent on the technical and economic factors of the case and will almost always involve striking a balance between the needs of industry or agriculture or forestry, or indeed whatever activity is in question.

We can only give the assurance, which I have done at various stages of these Committee proceedings, that we believe that the new local authorities and regional water authorities, who will be largely responsible for many of the provisions of this Bill, will be strong and important democratic bodies. In the case of the new local authorities I should have thought and hoped that one of the principal benefits that will accrue from the Local Government Act would be authorities that unified and brought together representatives of both town and country into one organisation, so that they would have the opportunity to debate in a proper setting the different needs of their area. Also, of course, during the passage of the Water Bill there was considerable discussion about the composition of the regional water authorities, and the Government revised their original plan and gave local authority members a majority—albeit a majority of one, but nevertheless a majority—on these bodies. We believe that they must be expected to behave responsibly and to consider the different needs of each area.

I can only say that although I think it is very important and I fully appreciate the arguments used by the noble Lord, it could well be that in our towns and cities authorities will face in a very acute form the dilemma of a vigorous anti-pollution campaign which could possibly imperil jobs. There is some evidence of this in other places. So I think the argument is not entirely on the side of concern for the rural authorities; I think one could have concern for both. But what I hope I have indicated to the noble Lord is that we believe that in this Bill we are giving powers to responsible authorities who will be used to dealing with planning applications and considering and weighing in the balance of their deliberations all the various points which will arise in their particular areas.


For the reasons given by the noble Baroness, Lady Young. I do not feel that we could support this new clause as it stands. She is quite right in saying that one can have positions of very genuine difficulty in industrial areas as well as in rural areas, and so far as the Bill is concerned, in the regulatory and negative sense agriculture is very well treated indeed, because anything that can go by the name of "good agricultural practice" as applied by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, lets one out.

I think the Bill is defective on the more positive side, in relation to which, as I suggested in one of our earlier debates, other countries make some financial contribution to the farmers in the way of providing expensive plant which a farmer might not feel justified in providing for himself, but which can make a great difference to the impact of certain agricultural processes on the countryside and on the amenities thereof. France is a case in point. I am trying to collect further information about this; I have not yet succeeded in doing so. I should have thought that in the context of this Bill possibly some more imaginative policy of that kind would go some distance to meet the kind of sentiment expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Airedale. For the reasons I have given, I do not feel one can distinguish in the sense proposed by this clause between the agricultural and the industrial areas. I should be very much interested if at some later stage the Government could indicate that they are having some constructive and imaginative thoughts on ways in which they can reconcile agricultural interests with environmental and amenity interests.


I am grateful to both noble Baronesses who have taken part in what has proved to be an interesting discussion. I was not instructed to go to the stake for this Amendment, so I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 88 agreed to.

Schedule 2 [Alteration of penalties]:


I beg to move Amendment No. 200, which simply corrects a drafting error.

Amendment moved— Page 97, line 43, leave out ("section 20") and insert ("section 24").—(Baroness Young.)

Schedule 2, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 89 [Power to prohibit or restrict the importation and use etc. of injurious substances]:

BARONESS WHITE moved Amendment No. 201: Page 87, line 18, at end insert ("or land").

The noble Baroness said: This Amendment seeks to include land with the other elements of air and water, because it seems to me that there will be conditions in which land also may be polluted. We are thinking particularly of pesticides and such substances, the effects of which can be very long-lasting. We feel that if we are legislating in this comprehensive way it is surely desirable at least to give the Secretary of State power to make regulations, if he so wishes, to make certain that substances of a kind which might have very long-term damaging effects are not used. This was the reason for putting down this Amendment. I cannot see any objection to it. If it is not necessary, the Secretary of State of course is not required to make the regulations. But it seems to me that one ought at least to include all the principal elements. I beg to move.


I was very interested to know what example the noble Baroness, Lady White, would give when she moved the Amendment. When we looked at this particular part of the Bill the kind of example we had in mind was the curious foaming effect of a particular form of hard detergent. I entirely agree with her that we should put in the words "or land", and I am happy to accept the Amendment.

8.24 p.m.

THE EARL OF COURTOWN moved Amendment No. 201A: Page 87, line 21, leave out from ("consult") to end of line 21 and insert ("such persons or such organisations appearing to him to be representative of those persons").

The noble Earl said: I beg to move Amendment No. 201A. This deals with the people whom the Secretary of State has to consult before he makes any regulations in connection with this clause. At present he is required, to consult persons appearing to him to represent persons whose activities are likely to be prohibited or restricted .. I suggest that he may want to consult persons including a company or organisation. This Amendment would give him greater scope and would bring the consultation into line with that provided for in other parts of the Bill. With the Amendment, the subsection would read: … to consult such persons or such organisations appearing to him to be representative of those persons whose activities are likely to be prohibited or restricted by the proposed regulations". I beg to move.


I think it might be helpful to the noble Earl, Lord Courtown, if I explained why the clause is drafted in the way it is. The clause is concerned with an emergency situation which might arise where a substance was threatening serious pollution damage, and it is so drafted because it is impossible to predict before an emergency arises who might be the appropriate persons to consult. They may be represented by a professional or trade body, or there may be no such organisation and it may be necessary to consult representative individuals. The present wording covers both situations, because the expression "a person" in any Act includes a body corporate. That is provided for by Section 2(1) of the Interpretation Act 1889. On the other hand, if the noble Earl feels merely, as I think he was suggesting, that this Amendment could do no harm, we believe there could be a situation in which it might cause some difficulty. For example, if some unusual organisation turned up which was neither a person nor a body corporate, then if it was missed out in this consultative process the regulations might have to be withdrawn. The fact is that it would be the intention of the Secretary of State to consult all the appropriate organisations, where they exist, as well as the individuals, and I hope that with that assurance the noble Earl will withdraw his Amendment.


I quite see that there are many different circumstances in which this might apply. In some cases it might be most appropriate to consult with an organisation first, as representatives of the people in that particular industry or trade, but with the assurance by the Government that the regulations would cover this, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

THE EARL OF COURTOWN moved Amendment No. 201B: Page 87, line 33, leave out ("fourteen") and insert ("twenty-eight").

The noble Earl said: I beg to move Amendment No. 201B. This is related to the same subsection. I suggest that 14 days is not sufficient time to allow persons to make representations in writing to the Secretary of State about prohibiting or restricting the import or use of specific materials. The persons concerned will often be small firms who may have their activities restricted, or even terminated, by the regulations. Indeed, they have useful information about the materials in question. This Amendment provides for the extension of the period to 28 days, which seems to be the minimum necessary to allow proper representations to be made. Almost certainly the top management of the company will be mainly involved, and anything less than 28 days would seem to make things extremely difficult. I would point out that in an earlier debate on Clause 29(1)(c) I moved an Amendment to reduce to 25 days a period of six weeks during which time a person might make representations against an application for a consent to discharge. This was resisted by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, on the basis that six weeks was a reasonable time to enable representations to be made. I hope the noble Baroness will agree that in this case 14 days is really too short a time, and that in asking for 28 days I am being moderate. I beg to move.


I hope that I can again give the noble Earl an assurance on this point. The kind of situation we are talking about in this clause is an emergency situation, or a situation in which there is some nuisance from pollution, and it may be necessary for the Secretary of State to act very quickly. That is the reason the period of 14 days has been written in as the period for objection. If the noble Earl looks at it he will see that it is a period of "not less than 14 days", because we do not imagine that we ought to allow longer than this as the period for objection. Clearly, it would not be our intention to rush through regulations if there were not sufficient cause, but if there were some kind of immediate danger or threat then it would be necessary to do something very quickly. I hope that I have said enough to meet the general point, and that the noble Earl will understand the necessity for this particular wording.


So long as it is accepted that the proposed period of 14 days will be regarded as one that would be applied only if there were a real emergency, and that in any more normal circumstances at least 28 days should be allowed, I shall be pleased to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 89, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 90 [Disposal of waste etc. by Atomic Energy Authority]:

On Question, Whether Clause 90 shall stand part of the Bill?

8.31 p.m.


I venture to offer a criticism with regard to this clause on rather the same lines as the criticism I directed against Clause 82; namely, the wide terms in which it is drawn. Periodically throughout this Bill the language has been much too wide. Your Lordships may remember at an earlier stage that some noble Lords were very concerned at what appeared in Clause 4(7); that is, "the doing of any other thing whatsoever …". I submit that this is another case in which the language is unjustifiably wide. Clause 90(b) enables the Atomic Energy Authority, to do anything which appears to the Authority to be appropriate for the purpose of exercising the powers conferred on the Authority by the preceding paragraph. The preceding paragraph, paragraph (a), requires that the Atomic Energy Authority shall engage, in such activities relating to the treatment or disposal of waste and other matter as the Secretary of State may from time to time specify by notice given to the Authority; Those are wide terms of reference in themselves; the Secretary of State may tell them what to do. In addition to any other powers which the Atomic Energy Authority derives from other legislation—and they are pretty extensive—now one finds in Clause 90(b) that the Authority is empowered to do anything (I underline the "anything") which appears to the Authority to be appropriate for the purpose of dealing with waste.

Surely language like that is very difficult to justify. It is much too wide. Why do not the Government seek to spell out in the terms of this Bill the powers which the Authority actually may exercise? Under this general power, is the Authority to be able to say to itself: "We have a right, if we think it appropriate, to enter other people's land. We have the right to enter on other people's land and expel the owner from that land"? They might think it appropriate to do that to deal with waste, I do not know. So long as those who form the decisions form them bona fide and without any malice, or anything of the sort, I should have thought it is a decision which is not challengeable by the courts. If they quite unnecessarily enter into somebody else's land for the purpose of disposing of waste with quite inadequate grounds for so doing, so long as they act bona fide they do not commit a trespass and the owners, at least, could not sue them. All they have to do is think it appropriate. The decision as to whether the action is appropriate is not left to the courts; it is left to the Atomic Energy Authority and its officials. Those officials may do their level best, but they may form a completely unreasonable judgment in a given case as to what is, and what is not, appropriate for the purpose of enabling them to discharge their powers under this clause.

That really is bad drafting. I do not criticise Parliamentary Counsel, but I submit that this is entirely wrong in principle. I know that it takes time, but Parliament should spell out what the authority is to be enabled to do when dealing, for example, with the property of the private citizen. It should not be given a blanket power of this sort. I ask the noble Baroness to say that between now and the Report stage she will give further consideration to this to see whether the citizen cannot be informed, even if in fairly broad terms, what it is that the Authority is now being empowered to do for the purpose of carrying out these functions.


As I always do, I have listened with great care to the points made by the noble Lord. It may be helpful to the Committee if I explain the purpose of this clause. It is to give the Secretary of State power to ask the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority to undertake work in relation to the treatment and disposal of wastes. In the past, the Toxic and Hazardous Materials Group at Harwell has developed, under Department of Trade and Industry sponsorship, into an advisory and consultancy service on problems of waste disposal, and particularly relating to hazardous industrial wastes. This service is now being widely used by local authorities and private organisations, in many cases on a fee paying basis. I think that the important point is that it clearly fulfils a current need which can only grow with the proposed responsibilities for local authorities. The service will concentrate particularly on the problems of hazardous or toxic wastes mainly arising from industry. These are new fields for local authorities, and the Harwell service is particularly well placed to advise on the more sophisticated skills that will be needed both in surveying wastes arising from the industrial sector and in analysing particular disposal problems, preparing plans, developing new disposal techniques and storing information.

The clause is primarily intended to permit the development of the Hazardous Materials Service at Harwell, but it is drawn widely enough to enable other United Kingdom Atomic Energy Establishments to participate if it is considered appropriate. It may be helpful to the Committee to know that the Hazardous Materials Service, as currently developed, consists of three integral parts. There is a disposal service, which provides a consultancy service, and undertakes appropriate longer-term research and development without immediate commercial returns; the industrial waste enforcement bureau, which provides an advisory service to subscribers and others, based on a monthly information bulletin, and the supporting data bank on many aspects of toxic materials and waste disposal; also a chemical emergencies service, which is a long-stop support for the Chemical Industries Association's scheme to provide advice and assistance for the emergency services in the event of freight accidents involving dangerous chemicals, including wastes.

I have explained this at some length because these are serious problems in the disposal field, and it is enormously helpful to the Government, but quite particularly to local authorities, to have the benefit of the advice which such an establishment as that at Harwell can give. The clause is included to enable this advice to continue to be given. I will look at the points the noble Lord has raised, to see whether or not we have so drafted the clause that there could possibly be some doubt as to what they ought to be doing, and whether or not they have too much power. I have explained this at length to assure the Committee that we believe the intention to be one that would meet with the support of everybody interested in promoting scientific research into particularly the disposal of toxic wastes.


What the noble Lord is concerned with is the width of power which is given when it is a blanket provision empowering an authority to do whatever it thinks appropriate. If the power was to do what it considers necessary, some people would say that it is much too wide a blanket power to give; but if it is not even confined to what is necessary and is a blanket provision empowering the authority to do what it thinks appropriate, that surely seems far too wide a blanket power to confer.


I am obliged to the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, for what he has said and I entirely agree with him. May I thank the noble Baroness for her answer, but respectfully put to her that although it was most interesting and informative it did not deal with the point that I raised. Does she think, for example, that Atomic Energy Authority officials could invade some private property, tell the owner to clear out and stay out for a month, without notice and without paying any compensation? Does she think that that would be within the scope of the language? My complaint is that the language is too wide. Obviously, the Authority must have powers—I do not complain in the least of that—but, so far as is practicable, the powers should be spelled out in the Bill that we are now considering, and not be left in this generic form which leaves the ordinary private citizen in a state of almost total ignorance as to what he may have to put up with in a given set of circumstances.


I have already indicated to the Committee that I will certainly look carefully at this point. I should have thought that circumstances such as the noble and learned Lord foresaw were exceedingly unlikely to arise, because we are talking here about a research establishment. But as I said, I will look at the point.

Clause 90 agreed to.

Clause 91 [Adaptation of enactments to metric units]:

8.42 p.m.

BARONESS YOUNG moved Amendment No. 202: Page 88, line 34, leave out from ("1906") to ("or") in line 35.

The noble Baroness said: This Amendment deletes as unnecessary the reference to the Alkali, &c., Works Regulation (Scotland) Act 1951. That Act enables the Secretary of State for Scotland by order to extend or amend the list of noxious or offensive gases in Section 27 and the list of registrable works in Schedule 1 to the Alkali &c., Works Regulation Act 1906. Reference to the 1951 Act was made in Clause 91 (1) in order to bring it within the scope of the powers of the clause for the metrication of instruments made under it. The effect of such instruments, however, was simply to extend or amend the substantive lists (of both gases and works) in the 1906 Act itself and these provisions already fall within the terms of the clause. I beg to move.


I believe that, strictly speaking, I am precluded by the Addison Rules from discussing this Amendment, because I am Deputy Chairman of the Metrication Board. Nevertheless I shall be greatly obliged if the noble Baroness will confirm that because this subsection covers the Act of 1906 it is not necessary to worry ourselves about the Scottish Act of 1951.


The point of this Amendment is that the 1951 Act is already covered.

Clause 91, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 92 [Orders and regulations]:

8.43 p.m.

LORD WINTERBOTTOM moved Amendment No. 202A: After Clause 91 insert the following new Clause:

Prescription of rational standards as to noise levels and air and water quality

For the purposes of minimising noise and the pollution of air and water the Secretary of State shall from time to time prescribe national standards and objectives pertaining to acceptable noise levels and to air and water quality.

The noble Lord said: Subsection (2) of Clause 91 states: Any amendments made in pursuance of the preceeding subsection shall be such as to preserve the effect of the provisions mentioned in that subsection except to such extent as in the opinion of the Secretary of State is necessary to obtain amounts expressed in convenient and suitable terms. The words, "amounts expressed in convenient and suitable terms mean nothing if those amounts are not enforced. It is irrelevant to say that the quantity of sulphur dioxide being emitted from a chimney shall be X grammes per 100 cubic feet of gas, or whatever unit is decided upon, if the quantity emitted is not enforced, and you cannot enforce any definition of what is a noxious quantity unless there is power to measure it. We have therefore put down this Amendment which asks that, … the Secretary of State shall from time to time prescribe national standards and objectives pertaining to acceptable noise levels and to air and water quality. This is the sort of point which my noble friend Lady White mentioned earlier, when she was talking about honesty in legislation. It is no good legislating if you do not define the quantities of pollution which are unacceptable. For this reason, we are asking that the Secretary of State shall prescribe national standards.

It may be argued that it is impractical to suggest that there shall be not more than a certain amount of chlorine, of cyanide or of sulphur dioxide, and that the oxygen level shall be at a certain point. I consider that such standards are enforceable and I speak from a certain amount of personal study of work done in Canada for the purpose of controlling pollution in the Great Lakes, which is a very major problem. Having defined your standards, it is quite possible to monitor them. You have to start with a sensor, and sensors can measure either the statements of the President of the United States or the level of oxygen in the Great Lakes of North America. Having monitored the effluents by sensors, you can automatically record the levels on tapes, and can even devise machinery—which I myself have seen—which will automatically warn the police by radio emissions when pollution reaches a certain stage. If this mass of material which we have been discussing is to mean anything, the Secretary of State must define levels of pollution and must find means of enforcing them. We shall not need masses of inspectors. We can have some very simple machines consisting of sensors, recorders and automatic alarms which will tell us whether pollution is taking place, and steps can immediately be taken to stop it. That is the reason for the Amendment. I beg to move.


I should like to support my noble friends in asking for the insertion of this new clause, because I feel that many people will say that certain standards cannot be easily attained and that many of them cannot be quantified. It had been my intention to put down a somewhat similar clause on much broader lines, to take account of the preservation of things which cannot be easily quantified, such as historic, cultural and aesthetic objects, to which no less weight should be given than is given to more commercial and economic considerations.

Under the chairmanship of Professor John Butterfield, Vice-Chancellor of Nottingham University, the environmental studies group have considered the clause in great detail. They would have liked to have a much broader clause dealing with the parameters which the Secretary of State must eventually have in coming to some conclusion regarding the possibilities of preservation. They would emphasise, as indeed many other institutions have, that parameters should be given or should be attained to which one could attach some importance in coming to judgments which are non-commercial and non-economic.

As the Bill has progressed I have been very impressed by the fact that many of these matters have been covered in one way or another, and I compliment the Government on that. But as this is a Bill which is destined to set the pattern of our understanding and control of the environment, it will do nothing but good, I suggest, to insert this new clause which has been presented by my noble friends. In giving this support, I think it is relevant to acknowledge at this point, towards the end of this debate, the achievements which industry have already made in repairing the damage which they may have clone to the countryside. This week I was very impressed by the statement of Lord Aberconway as chairman of English China Clays Limited. He stated—and I quote: Our activities in conservation and landscaping have been rewarded this year by the winning of two commended awards presented by The Times in conjunction with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors". This simple statement illustrates to me two important aspects of the spirit which already exists in this country in support of this Bill. It typifies the concern of industry to introduce remedial measures, and also the wide-ranging interests of responsible bodies such as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. I have been impressed by their realistic approach to conservation as they are, your Lordships may remember, the acknowledged authorities throughout the world as pioneers in the development of standards of measurements.

During the past decade, members of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors have been giving very deep consideration, not only to factors such as my noble friend has presented to your Lordships but also to those not easily quantifiable aspects, like aesthetic values, which ought to be protected in the interests of the community. These pioneers in this area of environmental studies are confident that they or some similar body will be able to reach some basis of measurement; and many of them, particularly Mr. Geoffrey Hanscomb of the Royal Institution, have given me, anyway, sufficient evidence to illustrate that this seemingly impossible task can be achieved. So although this may be an oblique kind of support to my noble friends, I appeal to the Government to allow this clause to be inserted into the Bill because it will, I think, help to encourage people in their thinking in this broader and very important field of environmental control.


I am not at all clear what this new clause means, because it refers to pertaining to acceptable noise levels and to air and water quality". It does not say "at the point of emission". Presumably it does not mean the standard of water we drink or the standard of air we breathe: presumably it refers to the standard at the point at which it comes out of the factory. When we come to noise, of course, it is not the noise that comes out of the factory, or the point of the noise, that matters: it is where the noise hits the member of the general public that seems to me to matter. The same applies to air and water quality. I cannot see that this new clause could be right. In any case, if it does refer to the emission of the gas or air or liquid which comes out, surely this has to be adjusted to the environment. Clearly, the effluent that you put into a small stream must be of a far higher quality than the effluent which you put into the sea. In fact, it is for this reason that many factories are situated on estuaries and on the shore close to the sea, so that they can deal with this matter. It seems to me that standards should be developed on specific aspects, such as emissions from motor vehicles and so on, but that to try to develop (if I have interpreted this clause correctly) standards for effluents and emissions irrespective of the part of the country they are made seems to me an impossible dream at this stage.


If I may reply briefly to the noble Earl, I think that what he is saying is rational. We are not saying in this Amendment that the Secretary of State shall immediately lay down standards but that he should consider the problem and from time to time prescribe national standards. What the noble Earl has said is in fact correct. If we emit X tons per day of sulphur dioxide from the top of a chimney or smoke stack, where is the damage going to fall? In point of fact, in the case I am thinking of it falls in Scandinavia. It is emitted in appalling quantities in the North of England and falls as sulphuric acid in Scandinavia. In terms of good neighbourliness, it may be considered by the Secretary of State from time to time that this is undesirable. Obviously, when the Secretary of State defines national standards and objectives he will take scientific advice. Secretaries of State do take advice. Nevertheless, I think legislation is useless unless we are going to define degrees of pollution, find ways of monitoring them and then enforce the legislation. Pollution can be measured only where it is discharged into a stream, where it comes out of a smoke stack or where it comes out of a place of work. You have to monitor it at the point of emission. What happens thereafter is a question for the Secretary of State aided by his or her scientific advisers.


May I rise again to support my noble friend? I do not want to treat your Lordships to a scientific discourse, but I should like to assure the Committee that my noble friend is absolutely right. The monitoring devices that we now have are so simple and so reliable that it would seem to me sensible to insert this clause in order to achieve what we are all after; namely, to prevent trouble rather than dispel it after it has taken place. It really matters not where the effluent is to go. Surely it is sensible to have standards at the source, whether it be gas or whether it be water. The monitoring systems that we now have, as my noble friend has pointed out, are very reliable and not expensive, and I think they would give the answer which the Secretary of State must have if he is going to make any attempt at a judgment in any case.

8.59 p.m.


I think those who are interested in problems of the environment probably divide themselves into two groups. There are those environmentalists who very much support the view put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, that there should be these national standards laid down. I think this is a viewpoint which has been adopted by other countries in the world, but he will not be surprised when I say to him that it has not been the view in this country that we should achieve an improved environment by laying down nationally these standards for various aspects of the control of environmental pollution. I think the reason for this is that the scientific criteria of the standards alter from time to time as our knowledge becomes more complete. Circumstances change and they vary across the country. It is very much the empirical approach that is adopted to problems of this kind.

The argument about which is the right way to deal with these matters has run like a thread through all our discussions. I was re-reading what the noble Lord, Lord Ashby, said on Second Reading. I should have thought that as the Chairman of Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution he was a man with a great deal of experience in these matters. The noble Lord made the point that this Bill does not lay down these hard and fast standards, and he thinks that is a good thing because by discussion we can achieve a continual raising of standards. And after all, that is what we all want to achieve. It is better standards in waste disposal, water pollution, noise and smoke emissions that the Bill lays down. We wish to improve the environment in these respects. We believe the better way to do it is by traditional methods of consultation. Of course the question of measurement arose particularly in respect of the clauses dealing with noise, where we need to measure noise in the noise abatement zones and to keep a record to monitor what these standards are. We believe that this Amendment would not guarantee any improvement in the environment, and if one lays down national standards they can easily become minimum standards whereas by not having a quite specific standard laid down one encourages people to improve.

Having said that, I should say that the Government are always concerned to ensure that acceptable standards are set by relevant local authorities and, in particular, that they are aware of the latest medical and technical information to enable them to carry out their environmental duties satisfactorily. Where appropriate, advisory standards are promulgated and technical help is always available from central Government to local authorities to enable them to tackle particular problems and to secure improvements in standards. I regard that as a very proper way for Government to give advice and to collect information. I cannot accept that legislation would be useless unless we had these national standards, and I think the whole history of the improvement of our environment indicates that the ways of the past have been effective.


We expected that the noble Baroness would reply in those terms. As she properly said, we have had this thread of discussion throughout our deliberations, whether or not we should continue the philosophy of the best practicable means (I was surprised that the noble Baroness did not use that phrase) or adopt the transAtlantic system particularly of setting standards. I am fully aware, as I think I said on Second Reading, that there are disadvantages in using the American or Canadian ways of dealing with this problem. But what I think my noble friend is trying to do in this proposed new clause is to get the best of both worlds. It would leave the Secretary of State free to alter these proposed standards from time to time, and also the objectives. It is not only standards which are suggested. It might be a long while before the Secretary of State felt disposed to prescribe a national standard, but there is nothing to stop his prescribing an objective which is provided for in the new clause. If one relics exclusively on the best practicable means, it seems to me that very often one does not set a sufficiently stimulating objective for those concerned. For example, I am told that in the case of air quality the World Health Organisation has already advocated a doctrine of national standards and quality. I do not know how far consideration has been given to that by the Government.

What makes it necessary to look again at our additional philosophy in this matter has been stressed eloquently by both my noble friends who have spoken; namely, the great advance made in recent years in the techniques of assessing effluent and emissions of various kinds. Some years ago it would have been fairly unreasonable to make the suggestion contained in this new clause. Nowadays, so I am advised by my scientific friends, it would be regarded as far more reasonable than hitherto, and we might obtain the very best practice if we combined something of both methods, the best practicable means method, the essay on which we are awaiting with impatient interest (it was promised by Mr. Ireland, the Chief Alkali Inspector, in his annual report) and the possible setting out, if not of standards in the first instance, at least of objectives. I do not believe it beyond the wit of man to devise such things, and I should be sorry if the Government rejected this idea out of hand.


When I spoke originally I indicated that this is a fundamental issue of principle and therefore I think it would be wrong for me to pretend to the Committee that this is the kind of Amendment that we could consider. It was not because I was unaware of that that I did not use the term "best practicable means". It applies to all four Parts of this Bill, and we believe that it has been a very effective method of raising standards. The noble Baroness Lady White, and the noble Lords, Lord Energlyn and Lord Winterbottom, referred to the new technical methods of measurement. All these could be used. They are not precluded from the "best practical means" system of working. One could use all these modern techniques in order to get the best results. But at the end of the day one is driven back to the "best practicable means", because if the industrialists said, "You set this standard and as a result I am going out of business and 5,000 people in this town will be unemployed", a good many people would hesitate. So the standard which might well apply somewhere else could not be applied as a national standard and then it would fall into disrepute. The system of the empirical approach enables one to weigh all these arguments and to judge at the end of the day what is achievable. That is surely what we want to get. This is an important matter of principle and it is only right that the Government's case should be stated fully. That is why I have done this.


The noble Baroness who has spoken has accepted the seriousness of what we are proposing and the points I have made. I understand that the 1956 Clean Air Act was in many ways an imperfect Act, but it was enforced; and it is because an imperfect Act enforced is a great deal better than a perfect Act not enforced, that I am arguing the case. I know the benefits that the imperfect Act of 1956 has granted to this country because it has been enforced, and I want to see that the same powers of enforcement, which can only he based on measurement, are included in the present Bill. For this reason I cannot accept the noble Baroness's explanation.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

Clause 92 [Orders and Regulations]:

9.13 p.m.

THE EARL OF COURTOWN moved Amendment No. 202B: Page 89, line 28, leave out from ("notice") to end of line 30 and insert ("specifying—

  1. (i) a period of not less than 28 days, beginning with the date on which the notice is first published, within which objections to the proposed regulations may be made, and
  2. (ii) the person to whom such objections may be made").

The noble Earl said: I beg to move Amendment No. 202B which seeks to secure a minimum period of 28 days for a person to object to the proposed regulations which have been made under Clause 23(5). As the regulations made restrict or even prohibit the carrying on of activities in the particular area, it seems right that persons affected should be allowed adequate time to collect and collate information by which they are to decide whether or not they should object. There is a wide variety of periods mentioned in the Bill in rather similar circumstances and I suggest that there should be inserted the period of 28 days which is mentioned here. If a shorter period is fixed, there is always the possibility of objections being made before they have been properly considered. I beg to move.


In the clause as drafted, it is left entirely to the Secretary of State to specify an objection period in the notice, with no required minimum number of days. We think that where such a significant matter as this is under consideration the objection period will normally be longer than 28 days and certainly it is not unreasonable to specify a minimum period of 28 days. For that reason, I am glad to accept the Amendment.

BARONESS YOUNG moved Amendment No. 203: Page 89, line 35, after ("held") insert ("in pursuance of section 85 of this Act").

The noble Baroness said: I beg to move Amendment No. 203. Clause 92(3) requires the Secretary of State to advertise any proposed regulations under Clause 23(5), which designates an area within which specified activities may be prohibited or regulated because they are more likely to result in water pollution, to consider any objections before making the regulations and to hold a local inquiry into unsolved objections by prescribed people with a particular concern in the matter. This Amendment ensures that the general procedural powers to hold local inquiries, which are explained in Clause 85, are applied to this particular kind of inquiry. I beg to move.

THE EARL OF COURTOWN moved Amendment No. 203A: Page 90, line 2, leave out from ("vehicles") to ("and") in line 3 and insert ("furnaces and railway locomotive engines and of fuels used therein")

The noble Earl said: I beg to move this Amendment. In Clauses 66 and 67 the Secretary of State is empowered to make regulations regarding motor vehicles, furnaces and railway locomotive engines, and the fuels used therein. In Clause 92 as the Bill stands at present, the Secretary of State is required to consult … manufacturers, producers and users of motor vehicles … but not of furnaces and railway locomotive engines.

This Amendment would remedy this omission and, if it is accepted, the words will read: … to consult such persons, including persons representative of manufacturers, producers and users of motor vehicles, furnaces and railway locomotive engines and of fuels used therein, and persons conversant with the problems of air pollution, as he thinks appropriate.


As the noble Earl, Lord Courtown, has quite rightly said, in another part of the Bill the Secretary of State is empowered to consult various persons. In this particular Part it has not been easy to identify the manufacturers and users of furnaces and railway engines. There is no obvious parallel, for instance, with the A.A. and the R.A.C.; but in considering this matter we wish to consult the Petroleum Industry Advisory Committee and the C.B.I. before making regulations under Clause 67; and to those might well be added the railway engine and furnace manufacturers' associations, together with the British Railways Board, as users. I shall be happy to consider this Amendment and to see which would be the best form of words to use.


I am grateful to my noble friend for that assurance, and, in view of what has been said, I beg leave to withdraw this Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

9.19 p.m.

THE EARL OF COURTOWN moved Amendment No. 203B: Page 90, line 6, leave out ("section 71(3)") and insert (" sections 71(3) and 72(2)")

The noble Earl said: I beg to move this Amendment, which is a link with an Amendment I moved earlier, and which was accepted by the Government. Regulations under 72(2) will also greatly affect local authorities and industrial interests, as well as those under 71(3). This Amendment ensures that consultation will take place and it is linked with the Amendment in Clause 72. I beg to move.


I had understood that the noble Lord had spoken to this Amendment and that we had dealt with it.

9.20 p.m.

BARONESS YOUNG moved Amendment No. 204: Page 90, line 7, after ("authorities") insert ("within the meaning of Part IV of this Act")

The noble Baroness said: I beg to move Amendment No. 204. Clause 92(5) makes it the duty of the Secretary of State to consult representative local authority and industrial interests before making any regulations under Clause 71(3) concerning appeals against notices requiring information about air pollution. Because county councils have no clear air functions, there is no necessity to involve them in this statutory consultation. The Amendment restricts the ambit of statutory consultation to district and London borough councils.

As I hope I have made clear, this is because county councils and the G.L.C. do not have statutory functions in the clean air field and they and their repretative associations therefore are not in the same position as district councils and London borough councils. It is intended that there should be statutory consultation with them and, if the Secretary of State feels it desirable to bring representatives of the council or G.L.C. into the consultations required by the subsection, he may do so. This Amendment is moved in order to get our guidelines right regarding powers of local authorities.


We can see the point of this Amendment. This is constitutionally correct. But I assume from what the noble Baroness has said that the Secretary of State will pay careful attention to the situation which could arise, as we discussed earlier, where the county or G.L.C. might be engaged as agents, particularly under the clean air provisions, and it would therefore be sensible for such bodies to be consulted. I should have thought that the clause might have been left without tidying it up, but I quite understand that a purist in these matters might have felt it necessary to make the Amendment.


I am able to give the assurance that we will meet that point. I hope that I have made it clear that the Secretary of State, where it was thought desirable to consult, either on an agency basis or for other reasons, would do so.

Clause 92, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 93 [Interpretation etc.—general]:

BARONESS YOUNG moved Amendment No. 205:

Page 90, line 18, at end insert— (" "owner", except in relation to Scotland, means the person for the time being receiving the rack-rent of the premises in connection with which the word is used, whether on his own account or as agent or trustee for another person, or who would so receive the rack-rent if the premises were let at a rack-rent;")

The noble Baroness said: This Amendment brings into the interpretation clause a definition of "owner", as many aspects of enforcement of the Bill might hinge upon issues of ownership. This definition is based on the similar definition in the Public Health Act 1936 as employed in many other Acts since. There are in fact rather more references in the Bill to "occupiers" rather than "owners" including all the places where "owners" are mentioned, and in addition throughout Part I, and at Clauses 43 and 51(1). There is no similar definition of "occupier" because whereas there are many possible definitions of owner there is no such problem with the occupier: only one person will be entitled actually to occupy and use the land. I beg to move.

BARONESS YOUNG moved Amendment No. 206: Page 90, line 20, leave out ("and").

The noble Baroness said: I beg to move Amendment No. 206 and I should also like to speak to Amendment No. 207. These Amendments have the effect of transposing a definition of "vessel" from Clause 48 to Clause 93 so as to apply it to the whole Bill instead of just to Part II. I beg to move.


I should just like to say that I am delighted we have now found the lost hovercraft.


I beg to move Amendment No. 207:

Amendment moved— Page 90, line 22, at end insert ("; and vessel" includes a hovercraft within the meaning of the Hovercraft Act 1968").—(Baroness Young.)

Clause 93 as amended, agreed to.

Clause 94 [General application to Scotland]:

BARONESS YOUNG moved Amendment No. 208:

Page 91, line 28, at end insert— ("(8) In this Act "owner" means the person for the time being entitled to receive or who would, if the same were let, be entitled to receive, the rents of the premises in connection with which the word is used and includes a trustee, factor, tutor or curator, and, in the case of public or municipal property, includes the persons to whom the management thereof is entrusted.")

The noble Baroness said: This is in fact a Scottish Amendment and it is proposed here to insert the definition of "owner". For Scotland, the definition is derived from a similar definition in the Fire Precautions Act 1971 and goes back to the Public Health (Scotland) Act 1897. I beg to move.


In the absence of any Scottish friends on my side of the House, could the noble Baroness please explain what the term "tutor" means in this connection?


I had a terrible feeling that I was going to be asked to define all these terms. It came to me just before I moved this Amendment. I think I shall have to end up with an extensive correspondence with the noble Baroness, Lady White, she representing Wales and myself representing England, on how we deal with these Celtic terms.

Clause 94, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 95 and 96 agreed to.

Schedule 3 [Minor and consequential amendments of enactments]:

BARONESS YOUNG moved Amendment No. 209:

Page 101, line 14, at end insert— (". In section 17(1) of that Act (which sets out the general duties of river purification authorities), at the end there shall be inserted the words "and by the Protection of the Environment Act 1974".")

The noble Baroness said: Section 17(1) of the 1951 Act makes it the duty of river purification authorities to promote the cleanliness of rivers and other waters and to conserve the water resources of their areas and to exercise for these purposes the functions conferred on them by that Act. This Amendment is necessary because many of the functions previously exercised by river purification authorities under the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) (Scotland) Act 1951, notably those relating to consents will now be exercised under the powers in this Bill. This Amendment links the existing general duty to those new functions. I beg to move.

BARONESS YOUNG moved Amendment No. 210: Page 102, line 28, leave out ("section 27") and insert ("sections 27 to 33").

The noble Baroness said: Section 10(1) of the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) (Scotland) Act 1965 is concerned with samples of effluent taken in compliance with the conditions imposed under existing Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) (Scotland) Acts. The present substitution of conditions imposed under Clause 27 of this Bill is too narrow since Clauses Nos. 27 to 33 refer to consents for discharges and the proposed Amendment widens the reference to cover conditions under all the new consent provisions of this Bill.

9.30 p.m.

LORD GARNSWORTHY moved Amendment No. 210A: Page 102, line 36, after ("25th") insert ("or 26th").

The noble Lord said: This is a very modest Amendment and, since it is modest, reasonable. I hope that it will commend itself to the Minister. I think I can say, and I think it ought to be said, that we on this side recently showed ourselves to be in a very conciliatory mood; indeed, I would say a very accommodating mood. I should think that the reasonableness and modesty of this Amendment are such that it will be accepted as an indication that the spirit of conciliation is still with us. I should hate to have to press this Amendment to a Division because it seems to me so sensible as to not require over-much commendation.

Paragraph 16 of Schedule 3 amends Section 18(1) of the Civic Amenities Act 1967 which requires local authorities to provide places where certain refuse can be deposited at all reasonable times. The effect of the Amendment is to include among these reasonable times at least one period of time on the Saturday or the following day of each week, except the week in which the Saturday is December 25, Christmas Day, or New Year's Day. It seems to me that Boxing Day is not an easy day to persuade people to come out to work. It is regarded by a great number of people as just as much a holiday as Christmas Day itself, or New Year's Day. In fact, I think some people would attach more importance to Boxing Day than to New Year's Day. I am informed by those who are in the business of running local government that it is extremely difficult to persuade people that they ought to come out for work of this nature on Boxing Day. Without speaking further on this matter, I will content myself at this stage with the hope still prevailing that the Amendment will be accepted.


I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, will feel that I have been reasonable throughout this Bill in trying to meet all the Amendments that we have had. I was quite intrigued when I saw this Amendment down on the Marshalled List to know just what lay behind it. As the noble Lord has said, the Civic Amenities Act 1967 requires local authorities to provide places where residents may deposit refuse, other than trade deposits, free of charge at all reasonable times. The amendment of Section 18 of the Act which is contained in the Bill as drafted refers to the Saturday, or the following day of each week, but goes on to exclude a week in which the Saturday is December 25 or January 1. Authorities would therefore not be required to open the site on either Christmas Day or Boxing Day when they fell on a Saturday and Sunday respectively. The Amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, would go further and would relieve authorities from any statutory duty to open the site on the Sunday after Boxing Day, when Boxing Day was on a Saturday.

This is an Amendment that I should like to consider, and if the noble Lord feels I ought not just to say, "I will consider it", but that I will accept it, I should like to go on and say that we are prepared to accept the Amendment in principle and to make a further exclusion in the case of the day after New Year's Day when the latter falls on a Saturday. We propose to put down an Amendment, or, having consulted Parliamentary Counsel, to include a regulation-making power if it is felt the whole matter is rather too detailed for the Bill. I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord will feel I have met his point.


I had a feeling that we were both speaking from the same brief when the noble Baroness was preparing the way to say that she would not only accept the principle of the Amendment but introduce an Amendment which would go a little further. It would indeed be stupid of me, not to say churlish, to refuse to consider what she has said, and I will withdraw the Amendment. May I say that of course we have found the noble Baroness extremely conciliatory. She is one of the most courteous of Ministers to speak from the other side, and it is always a pleasure to treat with her in Committee. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 3, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 4 [Repeals]:

9.36 p.m.

BARONESS WHITE moved Amendment No. 210E: Page 104, in column 3, line 28, leave out from ("Act") to end of line 31.

The noble Baroness said: I beg to move Amendment No. 210E, and should like to discuss with it No. 210F. No. 210B will not be required if the other Amendments are accepted. Earlier in our discussions it was pointed out, I think by the noble Lord, Lord Molson, that in order to have a satisfactory Bill we ought to subsume into it certain other legislation. He was concerned with the Poisonous Wastes Act, as I recall, but I pointed out that we were being left with vestigial remnants of the two Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) Acts of 1951 and 1961 and that it seemed very unsatisfactory not to bring them within the four corners of this Bill. As we have also pointed out, in the Explanatory Memorandum, although we appreciate that it has no legal significance, it was very clearly indicated that this had been the intention of the Government. If I may point out some of the absurdities that would remain if we did not carry these Amendments, we have, for example, in the 1951 Act, Section 11, one definition of "stream", whereas in Clause 48 of the Bill before us, we have another definition of "stream". That seems to me very unsatisfactory.

If one looks at the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) Act 1961, and examines the extent of repeal in the third column on page 105, one sees that all that one is left with of that Act is Section 10, dealing with samples of effluent—which, after all, is very much germane to the Bill which is before us; Section 12, which is a peculiarly obnoxious section in its own right—but if we are going to have it at all it should not be left skulking in this Bill but should be brought into the main legislation; and Section 15, sub-section (1) of which says that the Act may be cited as the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) Act 1961, and subsection (3) of which informs us that the Act shall not extend to Scotland or Northern Ireland. It seems to me that we could dispense with all of this. So I hope very much that, in the light of our really most generous and chivalrous co-operation over the new clause, the noble Baroness will see fit to accept these Amendments.


The noble Baroness, Lady White, is quite right in saying that we had a long discussion in Part I of this Bill over the Amendment which I think was proposed by my noble friend Lord Amory on the question of consolidating the Deposit of Poisonous Wastes Act and the Civic Amenities Act. I indicated in that debate that we would of course consider this whole question of consolidation. I am therefore glad to say that I will do the same in this particular case, which I think the noble Baroness raised earlier, when we said we would discuss it when we came to the matter in the Bill.


Am I to take it to mean that the noble Baroness in fact accepts my Amendment?


I did not say that I accepted the Amendment. As I said to my noble friend Lord Amory, we see the point of it and we will certainly look at it.


With great respect, that is not good enough. We were conciliatory over the earlier new clause but there is in the Explanatory Memorandum of the Bill—for which, after all, the Government are responsible, even though it does not have the force of law—a quite specific reference to these two Acts which is not included in the other legislation to which the noble Baroness has referred; but so far as these two Acts are concerned it is made perfectly plain that the Government had an intention, although presumably they did not have time to carry it out. Perhaps I may refresh the memory or the noble Baroness in this regard. "Replacing" is the word used. It says: … replacing the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) Acts 1951 to 1961 (and the corresponding Scottish Acts)". I did not presume to go so far as Scotland and I have not been able to consult my Scottish friends on this matter, but when the Government says, in the Explanatory Memorandum, that it is their intention to replace these two Acts I cannot understand why the noble Baroness is not in a position to accept this Amendment.

The other legislation to which, as I recall, the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, and the noble Lord, Lord Molson, referred, was not specifically referred to in the Explanatory Memorandum and therefore so far as they are concerned I can fully understand that the noble Baroness would wish to take advice. There may be other problems connected with those two Statutes but in this connection it is perfectly plain that the Government intended to do exactly what I am asking them to do. Therefore I really cannot understand why the noble Baroness cannot accept this Amendment. If she were to find that there were particular difficulties over parts of it, then it would be up to the Government to table further Amendments at a later stage. I dare say there are parts of these Acts which ought to be included in this Bill, but that is for the Government to do: it is not the duty of the Opposition. So I really must insist. These Amendments to which I am speaking are carrying out the declared intention of the Government. I hope the noble Baroness will appreciate the points I am making.


As I understand it, the noble Baroness, Lady White, is speaking to Amendments 210E, 210F and 210B. Is that so?


As I explained, if the first two Amendments are carried, then 210B is of no consequence.


May I support my noble friend Lady White and urge the noble Baroness, Lady Young, to accept the logic of this Amendment. It would remove a lot of tiresome and irritating elements from the Bill.


I am not quite clear about this, but if Amendment 210B is carried then that takes out one section but leaves a substantial part of the Act. As I understand it, Clauses 10 and 12 are complementary to each other and surely one cannot be omitted without the other?


If the noble Earl will read the first two Amendments he will see that both Acts would be entirely repealed and therefore it is for the Government to decide which parts, if any, of those two Acts are really essential for the Bill as it now stands. There will not be any Clause 12 to deal with if the first two Amendments are carried.


I appreciate that. As we were speaking to all three Amendments, if the first two had not been carried the third would have stood.


I certainly did not mean any discourtesy to the noble Baroness, Lady White, when I said that I would be glad to consider these Amendments. I felt we had agreed, when we discussed similar provisions in Part I, that by this I meant we would take them away and hope to bring back Amendments of our own to meet the case. As she feels very strongly about this, I will accept the Amendments, and we shall have to look at them and see what the whole question of consolidation looks like on Report.


I beg to move Amendment 210F.

Amendment moved. Page 105, in column 3, line 12, leave out from ("Act") to end of line 13.—(Baroness White.)


In view of the fact that Amendment 210F has been agreed to, Amendment No. 210B cannot be moved.

BARONESS YOUNG moved Amendment No. 211:

Page 105, in column 3, leave out lines 15 to 17.

The noble Baroness said: I beg to move Amendment No. 211. This repeal is of the provisions of the Public Health Act, 1961. The provisions in question relate to Section 55 of the Public Health Act, 1936, which continues in force, but the provisions of the Public Health Act, 1961, are not wanted. This was originally included in the list of repeals when we had in mind to include provisions relating to the way in which buildings should be constructed so as to provide access for refuse collection et cetera, but subsequently it was decided that it would be better to deal with this in the reformulation of the building regulations to be undertaken under the aegis of the recently published Health and Safety at Work Bill. I beg to move.

On Question, Whether Schedule 4, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?


Anent Schedule 4, briefly, having not spoken much on the Bill, and certainly having no intention to delay the work of both the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and my own noble friend Lady White, who has worked manfully and long on this Bill, may I put in a caveat. Schedule 4 mentions the repeal of paragraph 6 of Schedule 1 to the Radioactive Substances Act, 1960, a Bill upon which I worked in another place. To keep myself in order, I thought this was the appropriate place to make a one-minute comment. I have gone through this very important Bill. We have in Part IV provisions relating to pollution of the atmosphere, and hardly an important point being made about the possibilities in the future of pollution of the atmosphere by radioactivity. To-day's report from the other place on the possibility of buying new reactors is of fundamental importance so far as the health and the future of this country is concerned. I think it is important here to let the Government know that when the opportunity comes we shall have to work very hard indeed to see that the maximum of safety is offered to the public in regard to any new types of reactors for atomic energy that may be introduced, because of their fundamental importance to generations as yet unborn.

Schedule 4, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 97 [Short-title, commencement and extent.]:

9.49 p.m.

BARONESS WHITE Moved Amendment No. 212A: Page 92, line 5, leave out ("Protection of the Environment") and insert ("Control of Environmental Pollution")

The noble Baroness said: I beg to move Amendment No. 212A. Your Lordships may have noticed that we thought we might have found a more felicitous way of expressing our views in the Amendment which now admittedly appears as a starred Amendment on the Marshalled List, and which was simply to alter the order of the words. I was by no means the only Member of your Lordships' House who at Second Reading pointed out that to call this Bill the "Protection of the Environment" Bill was really a misuse of words. It is a far narrower Bill than that. I do not mean to say that it is not a good Bill in many respects, but it is, I think, really deceivingly pretentious to suggest that it is a Bill for the protection of the environment.

I am strengthened in this not only by what was said by a number of noble Lords but by correspondence I have received, particularly from scientists in various parts of the country, who have commented on various aspects of the Bill and, almost without exception, have said that the Title is far too wide for a Bill of this kind. If it were subject to the Trade Descriptions Act, I should have thought that the promoters might even conceivably be prosecuted, because it cannot be called a Bill, in general terms, for the protection of the environment because there are so many aspects of the environment that are not dealt with.

The honest Title of the Bill, as we suggest, is Control of Environmental Pollution; and that describes exactly what the Bill does. The Bill is directed exclusively to this question of control of pollution in the various elements. It does not go any wider. I am not objecting to that: it is a perfectly respectable Bill. But why call it something else? It seems to be a bit of gimmickry, or really rather contemptible window-dressing to call a Bill, which cannot possibly meet the description of Protection of the Environment Bill, by such terms. It seemed to us the sensible thing to put down an Amendment which would give an accurate description of what the Bill is about and would not mislead people who have not had an opportunity of following all our debates. It would be much more honest and dignified a Title for a Bill of this nature. It is difficult for a Government who have come forward with a rather grandiose nomenclature like this to withdraw it. They may well feel it is a loss of face. But does that really matter? I can assure the noble Baroness that she and her colleagues will stand far higher in our estimation, not lower, if they accept the Amendment.


It was interesting to hear the noble Baroness refer to the Trade Descriptions Act because that Act was known as the Consumer Protection Bill until the Short Title was changed in this House to "Trade Descriptions Bill". On that occasion we got rid of the word "protection", and this evening the noble Baroness is again trying to get rid of it in a Short Title. I wish her well.


I am always anxious to stand somewhat higher in the estimation of the noble Baroness, Lady White. I am not sure that I am going to succeed in doing so on this Amendment. I re-read what she said at Second Reading, and what other noble Lords have said, but I felt on balance that the Bill had received a general welcome from all parts of the House. Whatever I may have thought on this particular point that was made at Second Reading, I feel that all my arguments have been reinforced after we have worked extremely hard on eight full Committee days on this Bill. To say that it is rather narrow in its terms, that its Title is mere window-dressing, and that it is doing nothing for the environment, makes me wonder what we have been doing through all these Amendments if we were not dealing with matters designed to protect the environment.

I started to make a list of all the matters we have raised, but at this late hour I am not sure that the Committee will want me to read them all out. We have gone into a tremendous amount of detail—which I hasten to say I have welcomed—and I think it has been very valuable that this House has been able to give all the time and attention it has done to this matter.

The Bill contains a wide-ranging set of measures designed to secure improved waste disposal, better control of water and air pollution, the abatement of noise and the regulation of potentially harmful substances. These are matters which affect everyone. One may regard the expression "the quality of life" as a very overworked one, but it is a concept which we recognise and we hope that this Bill will go some way towards improving it for everyone. I can see no reason for altering the Title of the Bill, which is descriptive of what it does, and I hope that all of us who have worked so hard—and I can certainly address these words to everybody here, because we have worked very hard over these Committee days—will see that this Bill really lives up to its name.


I am disappointed. I cannot see why the noble Baroness should shy away from the word "pollution," which is what we have been discussing. It is all the aspects of pollution and nothing else that we have been discussing, but if I were to outline the other things which we should have to discuss if we were really to protect our environment we should be here for a very long time. I should hate to deprive the noble Baroness of the opportunity of moving Amendment No. 213, which I would do if we had another Division and did not have 30 people here, so at this stage I do not propose to press this Amendment.

I was extremely interested in the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Airedale. I had not appreciated the reason why the Trade Descriptions Act came out with a more honest title, and I am sorry that we cannot repeat the performance. The Government would really improve their standing if they accepted an Amend-of this kind. I am not joking now. It is absolutely true that a considerable number of people who have no political interest have written to me asking, "Why in the world is this Bill called by this Title?" It is a point which has struck them. The moment they started to read the Bill they asked, "Why in the world is it called this?" An honest description would be the Control of Environmental Pollution Bill, which is a perfectly reputable Title. I shall not press this Amendment to-night, because that would be rather foolish and we should have to come back on another day in order to take Amendment No. 213. I have some sense of the ludicrous and I do not propose to do that. But the noble Baroness and her advisers should know what we believe. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

BARONESS YOUNG moved Amendment No. 213: Page 92, line 13, leave out ("and 90") and insert ("90 and 92(4)").

The noble Baroness said: I am very glad that the noble Baroness, Lady White, has allowed me to move this Amendment, and may I take this opportunity of thanking her for her co-operation in seeing us through this Committee stage. This Amendment extends Clause 92(4) to Northern Ireland. Clause 92(4) governs the consultations which are to take place before regulations are made under Clause 66, which deals with the composition of motor fuel, and since Clause 66 applies to Northern Ireland Clause 92(4) needs to do so as well. I beg to move.

Clause 97, as amended, agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with amendments.