§ 2.56 p.m.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (LORD SHEPHERD)
My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to move that this Bill be read a second time. As noble Lords are aware, this is very largely the same measure as the Protection of the Environment Bill which was introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, and the noble Baroness, Lady Young, in the last Session, and which we debated at length in this House at the turn of the year. The new Bill has been changed and understandably improved since it was last before this House, but in its essentials it remains the same Bill and I hope and believe that it will be equally welcome to your Lordships in its reappearance. Although our previous debates revealed important differences of emphasis on some points. I am sure that the whole House is united in its desire to make effective provision to control and to 371 regulate pollution, and that there will continue to be general support for the strengthening of the various statutory controls which this Bill will bring about.
Before discussing the Bill itself and the details of the changes we have made to it, I should like to say a few words about the Government's general approach towards the problem of pollution and its control. Pollution is a universal problem. Wherever man is, he produces wastes of one kind or another and his activities disturb and affect the natural environment. But in modern society the volume of production and consumption has grown so great that the potential problem of pollution has grown much larger and more important. There are the highly toxic products and wastes that could cause widespread damage if carelessly released. There are the sheer volumes of rubbish and waste needing to be disposed of properly, and the ever-present nuisance of litter. There is the wide range of pollutants discharged to the drains and rivers and emitted to the atmosphere. There is the problem of noise from a growing variety of sources.
Much has been done to tackle these problems over the years. Compared with fifty, twenty or even ten years ago, our air is generally cleaner; our rivers are less polluted; our industrial effluent and chemical wastes, though very much greater in volume and vastly more complex in character, have been made less dangerous and offensive because they are better controlled and understood. I do not know that we can claim an overall advance in dealing with noise, but even here there have been some successes. We must not be complacent, however. There is still a good deal to be done to achieve satisfactory standards of control and improvement of the environment. The public rightly demands that there should be tighter controls and more positive efforts to improve the environment. We want to see better use made of waste products; we want cleaner rivers, estuaries and beaches, and cleaner air in industrial towns; we want more control over noise.
How are these objectives to be brought about? I think we should recognise at once that legislation is neither the only answer nor even the most important answer. Legislation provides a framework, 372 but within that framework it depends on the efforts of everyone in the community to develop habits and practices that lead to a better environment. All of us are potential and, indeed, actual polluters, and all of us must be ready to pay the price of securing the improvements we collectively want to see. We cannot simply pass stiff laws and leave it to the public authorities to enforce standards. We need a continuing dialogue between Government, the local statutory bodies, industry and commerce, workers and conservation groups about what standards we should aim for in what circumstances and how much we can afford as a community to pay for them. Most important of all, we need to develop a national instinct for cleanliness and quietness, a public awareness that in our day to day lives at home or at work we should avoid doing the irresponsible things which not only offend our senses but which create unnecessary burdens for the community as a whole in cleaning up and remedying the pollution so caused.
My Lords, I have said we must not be complacent and that we must develop a national instinct for cleanliness. If ever those words were true they are true about the litter habit. I sincerely believe that this goes to the heart of the problems of pollution. Our streets, our public transport and our beaches provide evidence of the uncaring attitude of people who are cursed with the throw-away habit. No doubt the guilty people are the first to criticise the industrialist who is equally uncaring about the way he discharges his waste. How are we to bring home to people the need for this basic instinct for cleanliness? It is not, of course, just the casual act of dropping a sweet wrapper or cigarette packet that is the problem.
How often have we seen waste outside shops and restaurants awaiting collection but so inadequately put together that the slightest breath of wind blows bits and pieces of paper and polythene here and there? How often have we complained about the refuse collection service which leaves a trail of debris behind as it trundles up the road? Do we fully appreciate how impossible it is for public authorities to maintain an adequate street-cleaning service when cars and vehicles are parked for days on end on many of our residential streets?
373 What can the individual citizen do about this? First, he can resolve never to drop litter. He might take a broom from time to time and sweep up and remove the rubbish around his parked car. Tobacconists, confectioners and take-away food retailers might themselves consider providing, with the agreement of the local authority, a litter receptacle on or near their premises and themselves put the contents of the receptacle into their own dustbin for collection. The assumption that we will always have enough people willing to take jobs cleaning up the filth we leave behind us where-ever we go is almost terrifying in its stupidity, but without such people we would soon be ankle deep in rubbish. The Bill now before us puts a statutory duty on local authorities to get together to decide what to do about litter abatement. I personally attach much importance to it because it provides the opportunity for the development of a real crusading spirit, county by county, to fight the unremitting battle against a habit which it is within the power of each of us to cure.
The proposals in this Bill should be seen in the context I have described. They will help to enable the public authorities concerned to bring about the improvements needed with the co-operation of industry, voluntary bodies and the public. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, will forgive me if I say that it is not a revolutionary Bill. It takes its place in the long and respectable history of public health legislation which has been developing since the 19th century to deal with these problems. It is for this reason that we have renamed the measure as the Control of Pollution Bill. It seems to us that this more accurately (and, might I perhaps say, more modestly) describes the scope and contents of the Bill. In the main it represents a development of existing legislation in the waste disposal, water pollution, noise and air pollution fields.
My Lords, I turn now to the Bill itself. As I have explained to the House, this is very largely the same measure as the Protection of the Environment Bill, and I shall not, therefore, describe at length the provisions which remain as before. I should, however, like to draw attention to some of the points on which we have changed and, I hope, improved the Bill. These have been described in 374 detail in the memorandum which I have made available to a number of your Lordships and which I hope will be of assistance in comparing the two measures. Further copies of this memorandum have been placed in the Library.
The memorandum has given reference to our earlier debates where appropriate, and I think it will be immediately apparent that on many points our changes are designed to meet the very valid points or difficulties that were brought to light by several noble Lords in our previous debate. The House will not be surprised to learn that we have incorporated many of the points urged forcefully by my noble friends Lady White, Lord Garnsworthy and Lord Stow Hill who played such a large part in the Committee stage from the opposite Bench; but I should also Like to take this opportunity of thanking the many other noble Lords whose contributions and suggestions have been reflected in some of the changes we have made, including the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, the noble Lord, Lord Henley, the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, the Earl of Courtown. Viscount Amory and Lord Molson, to mention just a few. Of course we recognise that on many of these points the noble Baroness, Lady Young, had herself undertaken to consider amendments to her Bill, and may I say—as one who was more of a spectator than an activist while sitting on the Benches opposite—how much I admired her grasp of a big and detailed Bill. If necessary, perhaps she will come to our own aid in Committee. I venture to hope that she will be glad to support the changes that are now in the Bill.
Part I of the Bill attracted the greatest number of Amendments on our first consideration, and it is here that we have made the most changes. The essential framework remains the same however. We still propose that the new waste disposal authorities should be given the responsibility of ensuring that all wastes in their areas are satisfactorily disposed of. To this end Clause 2 required them to survey the wastes arising in their areas and to make a comprehensive waste disposal plan. Clause 3 and the following clauses give them powers to license operations in their areas, while Clause 16 deals with the regulations on the more toxic and 375 dangerous wastes. Clauses 11 to 14 concern the powers and duties of collection and disposal authorities to collect and dispose of waste themselves.
The most important change of emphasis which we have made in Part I is, however, to give more prominence to the recycling and the reclamation of waste. There is a growing public concern about this question in which many factors combine. There is the growing awareness that none of the world's resources is infinite and that it behoves us all to take care to conserve and re-utilise scarce materials wherever possible. At the national level there is a possibility that greater use of waste materials can reduce our need for imports of raw materials and assist the balance of payments. There is the need to avoid pollution and to cope with the problem of litter.
Underlying all these aspects I venture to suggest that there is a moral concern in society that we should not be the producers of ever-growing volumes of useless waste and that recovery and re-utilisation of waste is a more worthwhile objective than conspicuous consumption and planned obsolescence.
Against this background we have therefore written into Clause 2 of the Bill a requirement for the waste disposal authorities to give consideration to the possibilities for reclamation of waste materials in preparing their waste disposal plans, and what provisions should be included in the plan for that purpose. This will mean that the waste disposal authorities will give reclamation possibilities a thorough examination in preparing their plans, and will be able to take steps to promote recovery schemes in appropriate cases, where this is viable. It is necessary to make this proviso, because of course we must keep a sense of proportion here. It is easy to devise schemes that would recover small amounts of waste at great public expense which may not be sensible. What we want is to encourage the more practical schemes which could be made worthwhile and workable, given an extra input of effort and imagination.
A wide range of possibilities may need to be considered in this context. The local authorities may themselves undertake separate collection or separation of 376 particular wastes for recovery; or they may wish to make arrangements with other persons or firms to encourage recycling schemes. Clause 13 has been enlarged slightly to make clear that this is possible. Pursuing a different possibility, they may sometimes wish to incinerate wastes and to make use of the heat for district heating or electricity generation. I do not wish to exaggerate the technical possibilities here, but we believe that the authorities ought at least to have the statutory powers to carry out such schemes where they may be viable, and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State hopes to be able to bring in Amendments in another place to achieve this.
A critical question in this whole area is to find suitable outlets and markets for waste materials. Industry has a vital part to play here in developing new technologies and making effective use of waste materials. The Government are playing their part in sponsoring research into the new methods at Warren Springs and elsewhere; but we must look to industry to make the most of the opportunities for use of waste materials, which are of course looking much more attractive at present in the light of higher world prices for many raw materials.
We should not neglect the part which can be played by voluntary efforts in recovery and salvage of wastes. We all know of the useful work that is done by a whole range of voluntary bodies in collecting waste paper or other materials locally, earning a small amount of money for their charity, and contributing usefully to the recovery of waste. Some of us remember the larger scale salvage drives of the war years as a very worthwhile effort. I think we should consider seriously whether, with a little more encouragement and perhaps assistance by local authorities and industry in finding outlets, we might make more effective use of this pool of voluntary enthusiasm.
In the view of the Government there is a need to consider all these problems and possibilities in the recycling field more comprehensively than has been done previously. We have therefore been reviewing urgently the suggestion referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, in our previous debates on this subject that we might establish a national 377 advisory body bringing together industrial, local authority and environmental interests to consider and develop proposals on waste management with particular attention to reclamation. Such a body would be able to undertake thorough economic and technical studies of the problems and possibilities in recovering various different types of waste, and to make reasoned recommendations on the development of policy. We are looking favourably at the idea, and my right honourable friend hopes to make an announcement before too long.
I have dwelt at some length on this topic of reclamation of waste, because I think it is the most important change in Part I. I will therefore pass quickly over the other changes we have made here, which include, first, a number of small changes to the disposal plan and the licensing procedures; secondly, the restriction of the power to direct wastes to toxic or special wastes only; thirdly, a recasting and extension of Clause 19 to make clearer the street cleansing duties and enabling local authorities to clean up any place in the open air to which the public has access; and, fourthly, changes in Clause 20 to make the counties in England and Wales and the regions in Scotland the co-ordinating bodies for the plan to deal with litter.
My Lords, before leaving Part I, I should like to say a word about consolidation. The House will recall that in our previous debates the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, and my noble friend Lady White proposed a number of Amendments designed to incorporate and consolidate into this Bill the few remaining sections of the Deposit of Poisonous Waste Act and the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) Acts 1951 and 1961. This was widely supported on all sides of the House as a useful bit of tidying-up, and I myself—in, I think, a mischievous intervention—supported the idea.
As soon as I took over responsibility for this Bill I asked for this question to be looked at immediately. I find, however, that the position is a little more complex than I had supposed at the time. Obviously, given a little more time, it would be possible to incorporate some of the provisions in question, although they would not fit very neatly into the framework of this Bill. However, we do not have all the time in the world, and 378 I am sure the whole House will agree with me that we should make every effort to see this Bill on the Statute Book in this Session, rather than hold it up on the fairly technical question of consolidation.
My Lords, I think we should recognise that the provisions which have been mentioned in the debate in this House (the Deposit of Poisonous Waste Act and the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) Acts) are only the tip of a large iceberg of public health legislation stretching back over the years. For some time past, consolidation of the whole corpus of public health enactments has been in the Law Commission's programme. The Law Commission are now, in fact, engaged in preparing a scheme which divides the public health enactments into groups which could each form the subject of a Bill. I think, therefore, that we should now reasonably leave this substantial enterprise to be treated as a whole in the manner which the Law Commission will propose.
Part II of the Bill, as your Lordships will remember, deals with controls over water pollution. It extends the existing system of controls so as to cover fully discharges to virtually all water, whether inland, tidal or coastal. Measures are proposed to enable effective preventive action to be taken to avoid pollution. Other provisions are designed to make more information available to the public about what is being put into our rivers and tidal waters. Like Part I, Part II has undergone some revision since it was last considered by your Lordships' House, to take account of the many views then expressed. My noble friend Lady White will be pleased to see that in Clause 37 we have made provision for terminating certain outdated agreements relating to discharges to public sewers, to which she drew attention.
On a completely different subject, we have not been able to accept arguments that agricultural and other interests should be compensated if they were required under regulations made under Clause 25 to restrict their activities in order to avoid causing pollution. But in Clauses 33 and 44, we have incorporated measures to ensure that no restrictions are imposed without full and careful consideration of their effect on agricultural activities. My right honourable friends the Secretary of State and the Minister of Agriculture, 379 Fisheries and Food will keep a careful eye on this matter.
Your Lordships will not require me to run over all the changes that have been made in Part II, but I ought to dwell briefly on two matters. The first is the question of the Common Law rights of riparian owners and others with interests in stretches of water This is an important matter, though the attention given to it has perhaps tended to overshadow other important issues in Part II. Your Lordships will recall the basic point at issue here, that riparian owners have always enjoyed a Common Law right for water in a stream or river to, "flow down as it has been accustomed to flow down … without sensible alteration in its character or quality". They have been able to enforce or protect that right by seeking damages or injunctions against anyone discharging polluting matter higher up the river. This is not an academic right, or an academic remedy. Over the years it has been used forcefully and effectively by riparian owners to keep rivers clear of pollution.
My Lords, under the proposals in Part II of the Protection of the Environment Bill, however, it was proposed that this Common Law remedy should be supplemented and partly replaced by the comprehensive and statutory control of discharges by the water authorities. In future all discharges to inland, coastal and underground waters were to be subject to control by the water authorities who could impose conditions or restrictions designed to protect the purity of the water. All applications for consent to discharge were to be advertised publicly, and third parties, including riparian owners, would have the right to make representations and object.
Given this comprehensive statutory control and publicity, it was originally suggested by the previous Administration that the Common Law remedy of injunctions would become partly unnecessary. It was thought desirable that industrialists and others who had secured consents to discharge should have some security in their operations; and, having gained consent, they should not be liable to further actions by owners seeking injunctions to restrain discharges provided that they complied with the conditions of consent. Clause 36 of the original Bill, therefore, 380 proposed that the Common Law rights (to seek injunctions restraining discharges which complied with the conditions of consent) should be abolished.
As your Lordships will recall, this proposal ran into a great deal of trouble on all sides of the House in our previous debates. I can see the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, waiting anxiously on the corner of his seat. It was forcefully argued that the Common Law rights were a vital safeguard, and that controls by the water authorities would not necessarily be sufficient. Eventually, Clause 36 was withdrawn by the previous Government on the understanding that consideration would be given to the possible re-introduction of a very limited restraint to guard against the risk of what were called "frivolous injunctions".
The Government have carefully considered this question. We have taken into account the strong feeling that was evident in your Lordships' House, that the right to injunctions should remain unaltered. We have noted the views expressed by the noble and learned Viscount. Lord Dilhorne, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, that they would not expect the courts to grant an injunction unless there was evidence of damage or likely damage if the discharge were allowed, and that they would expect the courts to take into account the existence of any consent from the water authority for the discharge. In the light of these circumstances, the Government have decided not to include any measure of restraint on the issuing of injunctions.
As a consequence of this decision, a number of other changes have been made. In particular, the arrangements have now been left out which your Lordships originally voted to include in Clauses 28 and 33 of the previous Bill, to give an authoritative means of protecting the rights of third parties interested in further discharges by giving them a right of appeal against the granting of consent by a water authority. It seems to us that given the right of third parties to make representations to the water authorities on applications to discharge, and given the continuance of their right to seek injunctions, it is really unnecessary to give them an additional right to appeal to the Secretary of State as well, with all 381 the possibilities for delay which this could involve. But, of course, we can return to this point in Committee if your Lordships wish.
My Lords, I turn now to Part III of the Bill which deals with noise. Noise is one of the most difficult forms of pollution to control, and one that is becoming increasingly prevalent in our environment. The public rightly demands that steps should be taken to limit and control this very widespread form of pollution. The proposals in this Part of the Bill are mainly directed at controlling neighbourhood noise with an especial emphasis on noise from factories and construction sites. The existing noise nuisance procedures will be streamlined, and the penalty for offences increased. There wilt be stringent new controls over noise from construction sites, with provision for local authorities to indicate their requirements for noise control before work starts.
There is provision for local authorities to establish noise abatement zones in which it will be possible to require existing noise levels to be held steady and ultimately reduced. The main change we have made is to introduce a new Clause 61 on noise from machinery. This clause will make it possible for the Secretary of State to make regulations under which limits can be imposed on noise levels where machinery is used in a factory or on a construction site. The regulations will also be able to require the use of adequate silencing systems on machinery such as pneumatic drills.
My Lords, I come now to Part IV of the Bill dealing with air pollution. I should first like to say a word about Clause 68 concerning the composition of motor fuel. This clause is substantially the same as the clause in the original Bill introduced by the noble Baroness. Lady Young. It provides powers for the Secretary of State to make regulations governing the composition of motor fuel in order to reduce air pollution. As noble Lords are, of course, aware, the main problem here is the lead content of petrol, and this is a difficult issue to resolve. On the one hand, environmentalists and others concerned with pollution have drawn attention to the dangers that may arise from excessive concentration of lead in the atmosphere, and have called for tight controls. On the other hand, those concerned with the conservation of energy 382 resources and with the balance of payments have rightly drawn attention to the very heavy cost of eliminating lead from petrol, particularly since the rise in the price of oil. The problem is to strike the right balance, given the uncertainties about the nature and extent of the health risks, if any, and about possible ways of reducing lead levels. The noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, has been a powerful advocate of the first line of argument. In the debates in the Committee stage of the Protection of the Environment Bill, he carried an Amendment calling for a total elimination of lead from petrol by 1980, and he has introduced a separate Bill of his own to the same effect in the current Session. The Government are fully as determined as the noble Lord to do everything that is necessary to avoid real health dangers, and they entirely accept that there must be some limitation on the lead content to avoid unnecessary risk. The Bill provides powers for this purpose and these powers will be used. But I must advise the House that, in our view, it would be quite unrealistic in the present state of knowledge to set ourselves a dead-line of 1980 for the total elimination of lead. We shall listen with very great attention to what the noble Lord has to say at a later stage of this Bill.
My Lords, there has been a good deal of public discussion on the problem of securing better information about air pollution. We believe that the proposals in Clauses 71 to 75 will enable local authorities to do much more to investigate atmospheric emissions in their areas and to inform the public about them. On our side of the House, we had some criticisms of the original proposals as not going far enough to make information available, and giving industrialists too many safeguards. We have therefore made some changes to make it harder for persons to refuse to supply information about emissions. In the previous Bill it was possible to refuse consent to publish information because it related to a trade secret, and to refuse to supply information if it was too expensive to collect. This seems to us to be altogether too sweeping, and several noble Lords indicated that they shared this view. We have instead provided for Ministerial arbitration in such cases. We hope that, in fact, it will rarely be needed.
383 I should like to inform your Lordships on a broader front that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State had come to the conclusion on taking office that the time was ripe for a thorough review of the whole system of air pollution control. The form of the review has not yet been settled, but my right honourable friend hopes to make an announcement shortly. Thus there will be an on-going examination of points on which many noble Lords have expressed concern, but which cannot be dealt with in the present Bill. I am sure that the long history of co-operation between local authorities and industry in clean air matters will ensure that good sense and mutual respect allow a reasonable compromise to emerge in most cases. The possibility of arbitration by the Secretary of State is the last stage, and it is not likely to be needed very often. But it should be there as a possibility, rather than allowing one side or the other to take up a totally unresponsive attitude.
My Lords, I have reviewed the main provisions of the Bill and some of the changes of emphasis which the new Government have made in it. As introduced by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition, it was a good and useful Bill. As re-introduced by the Government with the changes to which so many of your Lordships have contributed, I think I may say it is a better Bill. No doubt, as the poet says, if there were world enough and time it could be better still, and embrace many other aspects of the protection of the environment. Though I do not expect the noble Baroness and the House to fall into my arms on this Bill, I hope they will not be too coy in giving it their full support. Indeed, having already devoted such close attention to the Bill in the previous Session, I very much hope that the House will unite in giving it a speedy passage on this occasion and sending it on its way to another place so that it has a real chance of becoming law in this Session.
My Lords, I am sorry that I have spoken so long, but I have sought to cover the changes we have made in the Bill and to give an indication of the philosophy of the present Administration in this important area. Having apolo- 384 gised for speaking too long, I equally apologise to your Lordships' House if I am notable by my absence after the noble Lord, Lord Henley, has spoken. It is not that I have lost interest in this piece of legislation, but following this Bill I shall be concerned with Part IX of the Consumer Credit Bill, on which the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, is intending to cross-examine on some legal and judicial matters. That is an area on which, since I am not a lawyer, I need to be thoroughly briefed. Therefore, I hope your Lordships will excuse me.
§ LORD BARNBY
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, having given us a most helpful explanation of the Bill, may I ask him, in view of his emphatic recommendation of the need to educate the community, whether he will ask his noble friend to give some indication when he winds up of what is being done by education authorities throughout the country to impress on children, the growing generation, the need which he has explained so clearly.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Shepherd.)
§ 3.33 p.m.
§ BARONESS YOUNG
My Lords, I think I can sot the mind of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, at rest immediately, by saying that we on this side of the House give a warm welcome to this Bill and are glad that it has been possible to re-introduce it into the House, albeit under a new title. We thank him for his very lucid explanation, not only of the principles of the Bill, but of the major changes contained within it. It is as we know a Bill which is based on a number of reports and on an extensive period of discussion and consultation with interested bodies. It is primarily an enabling Bill and it thus provides a framework for improvement of the environment which will be of benefit to everyone. Furthermore, it has already been the subject of extensive debate in your Lordships' House. We had eight full days in Committee, and quite rightly so, for the subject matter of this Bill is one on which the House has a great many experts to whom a Government, of any political complexion, should listen with great care. I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord 385 Shepherd, for his help in letting me have the memorandum on the changes that have been made to this Bill since it ceased to be the Protection of the Environment Bill.
As the noble Lord said, we are working to a very tight timetable indeed, but we on this side of the House will do our best to keep to it. We believe in the principles behind the Bill and, although we shall want to look with care at all the changes that have been made, we want to see the Bill on the Statute Book. I have already referred to the change of Title. I am not surprised to see it. Such a name was suggested by the noble Baroness, Lady White, and by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, and indeed we devoted one quite extensive debate in Committee to it; and although I was fully prepared to defend the former Title—and I make no apology at all for it—I do not propose to debate this one. There are, I believe, more important issues for discussion at this time.
Although a number of changes have been made to the Bill, I should like to begin by commenting on some of the things it has not been possible to do. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, himself drew attention to the fact that the Amendments of my noble friend Lord Amory and many other noble Lords, which were most forcibly pressed, were to introduce a measure of consolidation, particularly of the Deposit of Poisonous Waste Act and the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) Acts. It has not been possible to bring in that measure of consolidation. I am bound to say that I was not altogether surprised to hear it, and I listened with great interest to the explanation which the noble Lord gave. I shall certainly study it with care when I read Hansard.
Nor is there any change in the Financial Memorandum at the start of the Bill. The financial provisions were criticised last December as being an underestimate, and they are hardly likely in the present financial climate to be more realistic to-day. Local government needs to be thinking now about how it will carry out the provisions of this Bill, and it is absolutely certain that it will need to employ a large number of expert staff, not only because it is a new duty for county councils to be waste disposal authorities; but also because many of the provisions—for example, those dealing with noise—embody entirely new techniques of meas- 386 urement and control. I believe that very few authorities indeed will have staff suitably qualified and able to carry out this duty.
While I am on the subject of staff, I should be interested if the Government could give us more information on any further thoughts they may have on the new careers structure for staff who come into this new profession of pollution control or environmental control, whatever it may be called. It is a profession which will be of increasing interest and, at the same time, it is one which will require important technical qualifications. On the former Second Reading of this Bill, a great many noble Lords raised the question of finding a suitable careers structure and training for people entering the profession, and there is no doubt at all that, if the provisions of the Bill are to be effectively carried out, it is essential to have enough of the right, properly qualified people.
I do not propose to go through all the changes that have been made to this Bill. A great many changes meet points already fully debated in the last Committee, and many are far more suitable for the ensuing Committee stage. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, that many changes are improvements to the Bill. Indeed, taken together, many of the changes hold the difficult balance between all the interests involved—the interests of the individual, the local government, the water authority, the industrialist and the farmer. It may well be that the balance is not yet right, and that we shall want to look again at sonic of the changes.
Having said that, we welcome the increased flexibility of the arrangements for consultation with interested bodies; for example, the disposal plan, the increased rights for an individual in regard to consultation about such a plan, the increased security for industry in the variation of conditions and revocation of licences, and the consultation with the National Park authorities about litter. The changes also meet a number of technical points on water and noise; in particular, there is Clause 36, which is concerned with applications to discharge into water which are to be exempted from the publicity arrangements. As I have said, these proposals are brought into line with the proposals on a similar clause on clean air.
387 I should like to turn to what seemed to me some of the major matters debated during the Committee stage and which are changed in this Bill. The first matter, as the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said, is the whole question of recycling. Nothing that has happened in the weeks which have elapsed since we last debated this subject has made this question any less urgent. Each day we become more aware of the finite nature of the world's natural resources and of their cost, and it seems deplorable from any point of view not to reuse or reclaim anything that can have a further use. I welcome, therefore, the fact that the clauses on recycling—the provisions in both Clause 2 and Clause 13—have been strengthened.
I know too that the whole principle of recycling, although it sounds splendid and almost as if at the wave of a wand one could solve all one's problems, is in fact a highly technical matter, and that there are very real practical problems indeed. To name just one problem, officers in local government have explained to me at considerable length that it is no use local government collecting and sorting out the different kinds of waste if there is not an immediately available market for it, and furthermore a market which will continue. It is no use having it one year and not the next. Therefore, I was very glad to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, that there is a proposal to set up a waste advisory committee. It seems to me that it is very difficult for a local authority, or an individual, or an industrialist, to find out and get advice on this whole subject of recycling. As I understand it, a number of Government Departments are concerned in it; not simply the Department of the Environment, but also, of course, the Department of Industry, which deals with trade, and the Department of Energy. It also involves private industry and, last but by no means least, the local authorities. I believe it to be true that, at present, the local authorities contribute only 15 per cent. of the total material collected to be reclaimed. Therefore, I believe that a Central Advisory Council to advise on the reuse of waste will be of enormous value to all those sections of the community which, quite rightly, are in a position to do something about it but which really now 388 require more advice and help on the best way to go about it.
Turning to the clause on water, I would only comment on two points. I was glad to see that, after the very long debates on the subject, the right of a private individual to bring a private injunction against a water authority has been retained. I must say that, remembering the long discussions that we had, I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, was quite right to leave this matter where it was. There may be further discussion on the other very difficult issue which he himself raised, that of compensation to farmers whose farming activities could be affected if, notwithstanding the fact that their methods conformed with the code of good agricultural practice, they caused pollution and, as a consequence, their farming practices were restricted. I understand that there is no special compensation provision at all, but if I have understood the Bill correctly there will be an additional safeguard, in that appeals on this matter of whether or not something is a good agricultural practice will be decided jointly by the Secretary of State for the Environment and the Minister of Agriculture. We shall want to read very carefully what the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has said about this point, and consider it very carefully.
I should also like to comment, with interest, on the changes to Clause 68 governing lead in petrol. Only a few weeks ago we had a debate in this House on this subject, and I have no doubt that there will be a further debate upon it. For myself, I consider that the increased flexibility given to the Secretary of State on this matter, to make regulations governing the composition of motor fuel, is a good change, and one which I support. However, I hope before we come to debate it, if the Government have any more information either on the medical aspects of this matter, which, of course, are very important, or indeed on any of the research that is being carried out on engines and on fitting devices into the exhaust pipes of cars, then it will be very helpful to have it.
Almost at the end of his speech the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, raised what I thought was an important matter; namely, that the Government are proposing to set up a Committee to review all 389 forms of air pollution control. It is very difficult to comment on this matter having just heard of it at this time when, of course, we do not know what the terms of reference of this Committee will be and, therefore, in what way it will affect Part IV of this Bill on air pollution. I hope that he will tell us what is proposed on this matter as soon as he can, and preferably before the Committee Stage, because I think our observations would be much more constructive and helpful if we knew the limits within which we were discussing what is an important matter.
In a sense this is a second Second Reading. The subject of pollution, or the protection of the environment, whatever we may choose to call it, is a subject of great importance to everyone. I believe that one of the great values of having a further debate like this is the educative value. We must bring everybody to realise that each person has a responsibility for protecting the environment, and that each person could himself make some effort to improve it by his own behaviour. I was, therefore, very glad to see that the provisions covering litter have been strengthened and improved. Indeed this is a subject of such importance that it behoves us all who are interested in the environment to see all the time if we cannot think of, and devise new ways of trying to educate people, and draw the attention of people to the need to keep our cities and our countryside clean.
In thinking of this particular subject, one is made to realise that standards in the environment are being raised constantly and that it is always possible, in a Bill like this, that we should think of other matters which were not included in the original Bill but which, over the period of time which has elapsed since January, it has been possible to consider. Although I do not expect an answer to this question to-day, I should be interested to know whether the Government have given any consideration to the possibility of bringing British Rail within the provisions of the Bill, and perhaps at some stage the Government would like to comment on this. I realise that it is a new issue and not the subject of the first Bill, but it is one which, if one considers the matter, is something which really ought to be brought within the provisions of a Bill, and I should like to 390 know whether there is any possibility of doing this. I am not here this afternoon simply to criticise this Bill. As I said at the beginning, it is one which we welcome and which we believe to be of benefit to all citizens. We, on this side of the House, will co-operate in giving the Bill a speedy passage through this House.