HL Deb 16 May 1974 vol 351 cc1161-231

5.23 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Shepherd.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.



I have to call the Committee's attention to the fact that if Amendment No. 44 is agreed to, I shall not be able to call Amendment No. 45.


I wonder whether I may intervene before my noble friend speaks to the Amendment, because my recollection is that we have yet to agree that Clauses 37 to 40 stand part of the Bill, and I was proposing to say something on Clause 37.


I think the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, is quite right. He rose to speak on Clause 37 on Tuesday when I intervened because of the hour, and it was agreed that we should continue our consideration of the Clause. So if the Deputy Chairman of Committees agrees, I think that we should now take Clause 37 and make certain that it and Clauses 38 and 39 get into the Bill.


I am very much obliged. I had not been notified.

Clause 37 [Control of discharges into sewers]:

On Question, Whether Clause 37 shall stand part of the Bill?


As the two Administrations are co-authors of the Bill, we both have an interest in seeing that all the clauses we want are in the Bill. I had risen to speak on Clause 37, because I was concerned about what consultations had taken place on the clause as it was first amended and as it is now amended. I am grateful to the noble Lord the Privy Seal for having written to me, to the noble Baroness, Lady White, and to my noble friend Lord Courtown, from whom I understand that there were indeed very full consultations originally, and that there have been no further consultations about the changes made in the Bill as originally presented and in the Bill which is now before us. I hasten to say that I have also since ascertained that the clause as it is now presented is considered to be reasonable, and therefore I do not want to pursue the matter any further except to thank the noble Lord for writing so fully to me.

Clause 37 agreed to.

Clauses 38 and 39 agreed to.

Clause 40 [Operations by water authorities to remedy or forestall pollution of water]:


I have to call your Lordships' attention to the fact that if Amendment No. 44 is agreed to I shall not be able to call Amendment No. 45.

5.27 p.m.

THE EARL OF COURTOWN moved Amendment No. 44: Page 57, line 17, leave out subsection (1).

The noble Earl said: I beg to move Amendment No. 44 and to speak at the same time to Amendments Nos. 46, 47, 48, 50, 51 and 52, which are all concerned with the same point. It is right that a water authority should have the power to revoke or amend consent if a real need arises. I do not think there is any doubt about that, and this position is allowed for in Clauses 31 and 32. Anyone who believes that his interests have been damaged can begin an injunction. Clause 40 was brought in by the last Government when they were seeking to remove the right to bring in an injunction, and the subsections that I am talking about do not therefore have the same importance as in the previous Bill as it was presented to this House.

I also suggest that they are uncertain in their effects. They direct an authority to exercise power to revoke or vary a consent where it appears that pollution has caused any injury to flora or fauna. In general, I am in favour of flora and fauna being preserved, but surely this is going too far. Even if the damage is to a few daisies, the obligation is there. The ecology of an area tends to change continually, and it is often difficult to be certain about what causes what. If the effect of pollution is significant, then the water authority can take action without the need for this clause.

I know that the Report of the Department of the Environment, which was commended to us on Second Reading by the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, on the monitoring of the environment made the point in paragraph 145, that: It is national policy to improve the condition of our lakes and rivers, … but equally the condition acceptable in a particular water course must bear some relation to the uses to which it is to be put. It went on to say: It may be a misuse of resources to clean all water courses to the point at which they are as unpolluted as a trout stream in Hampshire or the Scottish hills.

My information is that industry is worried by the uncertainty produced by this clause. A person setting up a works has rightly to go through detailed procedures to obtain planning permission and consent to discharge. The fact that damage to any flora or fauna, however unimportant, will lead to the revocation of consent seems to me to be going too far. If the Government cannot accept my Amendments, I hope to hear that by regulation they can ensure that industry is not held up by unimportant claims that flora and fauna have been damaged. I beg to move.


This is an important set of Amendments, and I am grateful to the noble Earl for the way in which he has introduced them. Clause 40 makes two main substantive provisions. Subsections (1) to (3) impose a duty on a water authority to make good damage caused to flora and fauna of a stream by a discharge in accordance with a consent. The Amendments seek to remove this duty. All that would remain would be the power under subsection (4) for the water authority to carry out such operations as it considered appropriate to prevent or cure pollution caused otherwise than by the discharge in accordance with the consent.

The noble Earl referred to the clause as it was previously and to the changes that were made. The Government think that the clause should be retained with its full scope. New discharges—and the clause deals ill subsections (1) to (3) only with discharges made in accordance with consents given after the clause comes into force—ought not to be allowed to continue if they cause pollution injurious to the natural life of a stream. Where damage has been caused, it ought to be mitigated until the discharge can be improved as necessary, and when the discharge has been improved or stopped the damage ought to be made good. These, in brief, are the requirements of subsection (1) which would be left out by the first of the noble Earl's seven Amendments. I do not think that is something which the noble Earl himself would wish to happen.

Subsection (2) deals with perhaps the rarer case where, after a settling-down period, the discharge causes no more difficulty. The water authority are not therefore obliged to revoke or vary the consent but they are still called upon to do what is appropriate to mitigate the damage during the settling-down period, and to put it right afterwards. The second Amendment would omit this important subsection.

Subsection (3), which the third Amendment seeks to omit, provides that where in order to prevent continuing damage a water authority revokes or varies a consent within the period for which it is intended to run—a minimum of two years—they are not to be obliged to compensate the discharger for this premature action. The Government also think that this is right. Indeed, if I may say so, it would be nonsense to pay compensation when at the same time the discharger is to be required to meet the cost of damage which he himself has caused. The subsection also makes it clear that the power of the Secretary of State under Clause 31(2) to direct the water authority to vary or revoke the consent is not restricted. The fourth Amendment would consequentially delete from subsection (4) a reference to the water authority's duty under subsection (1); while the fifth Amendment would delete in subsection (5) references to subsections (1) and (2).

The noble Earl asked for an assurance that no unnecessary restrictions would be placed upon industry. I should have thought he would agree that many of the new provisions in the Bill, particularly those relating to the powers of the Secretary of State, are an indication that these very powerful duties and heavy obligations that are being placed do have a degree of appeal to the Secretary of State. I think that at the end of the day the noble Earl himself admitted that we need to protect these areas, and I think the Amendments he has moved would seriously weaken the Bill. However, with the new information that is clearly available as a consequence of the river pollution surveys which were started in 1970, and the fact that water authorition will be conscious, when they are giving consents after the provision comes into force, of the need for a precise record of the state of a river and its flora and fauna, I would say that industry, which I know the noble Earl has in mind, may be reassured that they are not being placed in a difficult situation. I hope that the noble Earl will accept my assurance that the Secretary of State is deeply conscious of the problems of industry. On the other hand, we need to see that the principles of the Bill, with which I believe most people would agree, are carried out.


I find myself torn between sympathy for my noble friend in the uncertainty which is left in the minds of industry by this clause as it stands (and as it was introduced into the Bill by my noble friend Lord Aberdare), and agreeing with the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal that the Bill needs to have this kind of strength if it is to be effective.

Drawing on my own experience of dealing with a number of planning cases when I was in the Department of the Environment, I wonder whether I might put this point to the noble Lord opposite and ask him whether he would care to reflect on it and perhaps, although not wishing to comment on it now, comment on it later. It seems to me that if there are to be the provisions that appear in Clause 40, 31 and 32, it is important that any fresh new consents made under this Act should, so far as humanly possible, contain some details as to the kind of local and particular circumstances in which it is envisaged that it might be necessary to operate Clause 40 and invoke Clauses 31 and 32 and to set out in those details, so far as possible, what agreement as to the mechanism of measurement and monitoring there will be, and also what kind of discussion and arbitration will be invoked before a decision is taken to operate Clauses 40, 31 and 32.

I recall that we were able to agree in the course of applying a number of planning conditions, that if such and such a thing happened and it exceeded certain limits and it was agreed by some professional body or outside laboratory that some limit had been reached, then certain conditions would begin to bite. If the noble Lord could assure us that the clause will, as far as possible, go into that kind of detail it will resolve some of the present uncertainty.


I will readily respond to the noble Lord, Lord Sandford. Clearly we want to have as much certainty as possible in this rather uncertain area, and what I would seek to do on Third Reading is to see whether we can include in one of the speeches information which will perhaps develop and explain our thoughts on this matter.


I yield to no one in my general support for the principles of this Bill. What worried me about this clause was the fact that some "crank", in examining the contents of a stream or its flora or fauna, might find some difference and then claim that the difference was caused by some new discharge and some new consent, so that the water authority might then go through the whole business of revoking the consent on what might be almost semi-frivolous grounds.


May I say to the noble Earl that there is always a risk of "cranks" in any area, but I do not think this is one of the areas where a water authority, recognising its responsibilities at the end of the day and its relationship to the Secretary of State, would lightly respond to the pressures of a "crank"—anyhow, I hope not: I do not think it would.


In view of what the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal has said, especially in relation to making this clear at Third Reading, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD CRAIGTON had given Notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 45: Page 58, line 2, leave out ("immediately").

The noble Lord said: In view of my noble friend's speech in moving his Amendments and the reply of the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal I shall not move my Amendment.

Clause 40 agreed to.

Clause 41 [Duty of water authorities to deal with waste from vessels etc.]:

5.43 p.m.

LORD CRAIGTON moved Amendment No. 53: Page 60, line 6, leave out second ("the") and insert ("emptying and").

The noble Lord said: This Amendment is about the emptying and washing of prescribed appliances on vessels. The prescribed appliances for which washing facilities are provided come under Clause 41(1)(b). These prescribed appliances have first to be emptied before they are washed. They cannot be emptied into the water closet provided under subsection (2) because they are too heavy and because they cannot be emptied without being spilt and making the toilet offensive for personal use. That rules out Clause 41(2). It is not included in subsection (1)(a) because it is not for the water authority to arrange for the collection of the bucket or receptacle from the vessel in its area. It is not for them to arrange for the collection or the disposal of the waste. The boat user does this himself. The bucket, or whatever it may be called, can only be satisfactorily emptied in a purpose-built receptacle with a drain and where the vessel—that is, the vessel being emptied—can be refilled with water and rinsed out at the same time. For that reason, I hope the Minister will agree that the facilities in paragraph (b) should be—if only for clarity—for emptying as well as for washing the prescribed appliances. I beg to move.


The Government have sympathy with this Amendment and if I may express a personal view, too, since for a number of years I had the great pleasure of having my own boat on the Norfolk Broads, I know what are the more recent difficulties as a consequence of the by-laws. But the advice I have received is that the phrase, "arrange for the collection and disposal of waste from vessels" in paragraph (a) of subsection (1) already includes both going out and collecting and providing a place where waste may be pumped out from boats or carried by the boat owner to be emptied. The advice I have received, therefore, is that the noble Lord's Amendment is unnecessary. As drafted, it would also have the unfortunate effect, because it distinguishes arrangements for collection from arrangements for emptying, of giving the authority a duty to arrange for both types of facility which the noble Lord may agree with me seems perhaps to be asking too much. Usually it should be one or the other.

It may be that the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, on my assurance that collection includes providing facilities for reception of waste, will accept that the clause is all right as it stands. I must tell him that we cannot make our intention clear by saying in paragraph (a),"arrange for the collection or reception of waste", because I am advised that the result might be to throw doubt on the meaning of the word, "collection" in other contexts in the Bill. Here we see how we have done our very best to meet this point. If he thinks it might improve matters, it might be possible to say, "reception" instead of "collection", but I must say that on the advice I have received and in view of my particular interest in this subject, frankly, I think that the phrasing in the Bill at present is the best. But in sympathy, understanding and intention there is nothing between us.


I am grateful to the noble Lord. I have studied this and I know that he has studied it. I think the drafting is terrible and I do not agree with him at all. But we shall live to fight another day. I will study what he has said most carefully and I am sure that my friends in another place will take it up again if they think there is something in what I have said. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 41 agreed to.

Clause 42 [Power of water authorities to exclude unregistered vessels from rivers etc.]:

5.47 p.m.

VISCOUNT ST. DAVIDS moved Amendment No. 54: Page 60, line 23, leave out from ("charges") to ("and") in line 24 and insert ("reflective of the cost of registration of vessels in pursuance of the byelaws and of the enforcement thereof;").

The noble Viscount said: What I want mainly to do by this Amendment is to sort out the confusion between registration and licensing. Registration means listing a boat and sticking a name or number on it so that it can be identified, and that is very necessary for all sorts of control purposes. Licensing is quite different. That is a matter of getting revenue from the boat for the purpose of paying for the various facilities which have been provided. In a sane world they can both be combined very nicely under one head, as they are on the roads. All the roads belong to one authority and it is therefore possible to have one licensing system and to collect the revenue at the same time with no trouble.

The waterways have not been organised in the same manner. They are divided among a great many owners, and the fact of the matter is that if you combine registration and licensing you produce positions where a boat owner having to pass from one area to another—in some cases passing through several different areas—finds himself having not only to register separately with them, but to pay separate sums to each. With a multiplication of ownership this can become very serious. What is more, we are moving into a period of boats which move about on trailers on the roads and which take to several different waterways in the course of a summer's cruising. This can become outrageously expensive if the two are combined.

It is undoubtedly necessary to register, but it would be far more sensible if the registration were paid for simply by a registration fee which reflected the cost of it, and if any sum collected by licensing were a different matter. In fact, in many cases the money will go to a different person. For this reason, I should like to see registration a matter of listing the boat for which a simple fee would be paid, with licensing being entirely separate. If there were a further charge that would be made under the head of licensing. I have no intention of pressing this Amendment, but I should like my noble friend to say what he thinks about the matter. I beg to move.


I wish all noble Lords were like my noble friend and would declare that they had no intention of pressing an Amendment before they have heard the reply! The chief aim of giving authorities power to require registration is to enable them to enforce the provisions of Clause 27 which controls the keeping or use of vessels equipped with sanitary facilities. The charge for registration would cover the cost of the registration scheme and its enforcement, but it is envisaged that the charge would also cover the cost of providing facilities for collecting waste and alternative facilties by way of water closets and so forth, arrangements for which are provided in Clause 41. Clause 42 goes on to provide that the facilities mentioned in Clause 41 should be free to those who have paid for them through the registration fee.

I must say I find this a logical arrangement. Someone has to pay for the provision of these facilities: they can never be absolutely "free". It seems reasonable that those who use them should pay. It is also a point to be borne in mind that if people have paid for the facilities through their registration fee (rather than, for instance, by being required to pay each time they use them) they may be encouraged to use them and not be tempted to dispose of their waste illegally in the water. We have made it clear that the charge should be reasonable. For that reason, and having already received my noble friend's assurance that he does not intend to press the Amendment, I hope he will withdraw it.


I thank my noble friend for that explanation, it is exactly what I expected. It makes my next Amendment rather more important because if a boat owner who uses his boat in several different areas not only has to pay one registration fee, but has to reregister and then re-register again, he will pay quite a sum of money by the time he has visited several different waterways; whereas if he registered once, and paid only one charge, he would obviously pay very much less. I must thank my noble friend for that explanation. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.54 p.m.

VISCOUNT ST. DAVIDS moved Amendment No. 55: Page 60, line 28, at end insert— ("(3) Registration of a vessel by any water authority in accordance with byelaws made by that authority under subsection (1) of this section, or (pursuant to any other enactment) by any other body which may be prescribed, shall be deemed to constitute registration also of that vessel by any (or, as the case may be, by any other) water authority in accordance with any such byelaws which are so made by that authority.")

The noble Viscount said: This is the matter of multiple registration. It is an absolute curse on the waterways; to some extent it is pressed on us by the fact that the waterways are in so many different ownerships. It would be much better if a boat was registered only once. If you have a number of different authorities keeping different registers you get into a state of confusion. You can have boats with several different numbers on them and, indeed, boats with variable names. A waterway authority like the British Waterways Board insists on a boat having a single name which is not carried by any other boat. If each authority keeps a register one may find that a boat which is called "Nellie Dean" on one waterway, is called "Nellie Dean III" on another. The main content of the name may have to be varied in order to get the boat into the list of different waterways. I have seen names considerably altered in this manner. One can imagine the boat owner as he goes from one authority to another, changing the name of his boat. That really happens. If we are to have all these authorities making up registers, it will be most confusing.

If only this could be dealt with in the same way as on the roads, where at least one's car number does not vary. One's car number is the same all over the world; it is not even varied by markedly individualistic countries like Albania; it does not have to be translated into Arabic for the minions of Colonel Ghadafi, or anything like that. We want some sense in our waterway registration. If registration is for the purpose of identifying a boat, then it is much easier to identify it if the boat's name and number is a constant and not a variable.

There is an additional point which came up on the last Amendment. If the boat has to re-register every time it goes from one authority's water into another—and this is a frequent occurrence because a number of waterways cross and re-cross water authority boundaries—then some boat owners will have to pay heavily, not merely for the registration, but also for the licensing charges which we have heard are applied, quite rightly, to carry the cost of the installations. I hope that my noble friend will accept this Amendment. This is a tangle which has been with us for a great many years, and I have fought against it all my life. I had hoped that when nationalisation came we would cut away much of it, and we did cut away quite an amount. Here is a chance to make another cut in this tangle of weeds. If only my noble friend will accept this Amendment we may be on the way to having a sane system of boat registration. I beg to move.


I am entirely in agreement with my nobe friend, as I was with the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, as a consequence of my own special interest in the matter. The Government, and, particularly, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, would wish to see the free movement of boats from one waterway to another. As the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, made clear when this point was raised in Committee on the previous Bill, the Bill as drafted at present makes all this possible and one day a single system of registration may exist. Clause 42 specifically provides that in their by-laws water authorities may prohibit vessels unless they are registered "or are exempted from registration". The thought here is precisely that one water authority's by-laws could exempt from registration with that authority any vessels already registered with another authority.

The spirit is certainly with the Government; this is something I suspect will take time to evolve. I can only say to my noble friend that if he were to persist with his Amendment, unlike the previous one, he would put boat owners in a much more restrictive situation than now exists. Therefore, with that expression of sympathy and with the hope that we will one day see a free movement of boats with a minimum of processing and registration, I ask my noble friend to withdraw his Amendment.


I think my noble friend for this ray of hope which was a slightly larger ray than I expected; I was sure that this Amendment was too complicated. But with this a ray of hope, and the fact that it is clear that the Bill is meant in the end to unify registration, I will go away satisfied and beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 42 agreed to.


There is now a Manuscript Amendment, No. 55A. I do not know whether any noble Lord lacks a copy of it, but it is rather long. Does the Committee wish me to read it in full?


I think my noble friend Baroness White has unfortunately been delayed. Therefore, I do not think she is in a position to move it.


I do not know whether the noble Lord was about to accept the Amendment, in which case I would offer my good offices.


I will be quite frank. The Government are willing to accept this Amendment, but when I saw it earlier I expressed the view that it was a very comprehensive Amendment—it is one of consolidation—and I wondered whether it was one that should be moved by the manuscript procedure. But I am entirely in your Lordships' hands. I know the feeling about consolidation; and if a noble Lord or a noble Baroness was prepared to speak on behalf of my noble friend in whose name the Amendment is down, I can give the Committee an assurance that the Government will accept it.


I think I shall withdraw my offer. I had inadequately mastered the Amendment in question.

Clause 43 [Investigation of water pollution problems arising from closures of mines]:

On Question, Whether Clause 43 shall stand part of the Bill?


Clause 43 provides for studies on how to deal with pollution from abandoned mines, and it envisages that following the studies steps appropriate to deal with the matter might be taken. There are so many points in the Bill where the waste material from mines and quarries is excluded, that I wonder whether we can have the assurance of the noble Lord that those exclusions will not stand in the way of appropriate action being taken to deal with abandoned mines when the studies have indicated what should be done.


I am very happy to give the noble Lord that assurance. This is an area of very great complexity, but I think I can give the noble Lord the assurance for which he has asked.

Clause 43 agreed to.

Clause 44 [Notice to abstain front certain agricultural practices]:

6.3 p.m.

THE EARL OF COURTOWN moved Amendment No. 56: Page 61, line 6, leave out ("requesting") and insert ("directing").

The noble Earl said: I wonder whether I might move this Amendment. I have not been asked by the noble Baroness, Lady White, to do so but I intended to support it. Is that in order?




As your Lordships see, the Amendment is to leave out the word "requesting" and to insert "directing". If your Lordships will look at the subsection of the clause, you will see that in one sentence there are two uses of the word "request"—one is "request" and the other is "requesting". It says: the authority may … request the Secretary of State to serve on the occupier of the place a notice requesting the occupier to prevent acts or omissions of that kind at the place". The first "request" refers to the authority; but, as I understand it, the second "request" is a direction. It seems to me that if it is a direction, this clause would be very much clearer to the lay person if the word "directing" was used instead of "requesting". Clearly, the words, "request the Secretary of State" do not represent a direction in any way. Therefore, if I am right in my interpretation of this clause, the word "request" is used in two different senses in the same sentence. I beg to move.


With respect, I think the noble Earl has misunderstood the purpose of Clause 44. It has been included in the Bill, together with Clause 25(2)(c), solely to provide an early warning system for farmers. Farmers have been singled out in this way because agriculture is peculiar in requiring substances to be released into the environment, not as waste but as an intrinsic part of production. In some concentrations some of these substances—for instance, fertilisers and pesticides—are polluting or even dangerous in water. Thus a farmer who is following good agricultural practice without any inkling that the materials he is using are getting into underground water will be unknowingly committing an offence. Under the Bill, Clause 25(2)(c) will provide him with a defence until a notice under Clause 44 has become effective.

The notice requests the farmer to prevent a particular act because the object is to place him, as a result, in exactly the same position as any other person who the water authority believes to be polluting water—liable to prosecution for the offence in the courts. If the notice directed him to prevent the act, it would prejudge his guilt and would, presumably, have to be supplemented by provisions for enforcing the direction and imposing penalties for failure to comply with it. The notice is intended literally as a request, thus accomplishing its purpose as a warning device and leaving the farmer to decide whether he will play for safety and accede to the request or disregard it and face prosecution if he is shown to pollute water. As I said, the first request is for the purpose of giving a warning to the farmer to alert him to a possible pollution. I think this is the best way to proceed in this matter.


In view of the noble Lord's remarks, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 44 agreed to.

Clause 45 [Charges in respect of certain discharges in England and Wales]:

On Question, Whether Clause 45 shall stand part of the Bill?


This clause and Clause 46 allow the Secretary of State to issue by order regulations to allow water authorities to make charges for the discharge of unpolluted water into water-courses, or even into the sea within the three-mile limit, and I understand that industry is considerably worried about the possible effects. The principle to which we are working, and which has been repeated several times during this Committee stage, is that the polluter pays for the adequate abatement of his pollution, whether he does it himself or gets a contractor to do it, or whether the local authority does it on his behalf, and that seems to me absolutely right.

This clause, however, enables the Secretary of State by order to go well beyond that. It enables him to authorise charges when the effluents discharged into a water-course or the sea have been so adequately treated as to abate the pollution, if pollution there has been at all. So as I see it, this clause enables the Secretary of State to issue regulations which go far beyond anything else in this Bill. It also allows, or could allow, a pollution tax to be levied according to the degree of pollution in the discharge, without taking on any responsibility to remove that pollution. This also means a change of principle, which should not be subject to an order procedure.

Apart from the question of principle, this clause allows another undesirable uncertainty for industry in setting up a factory in a particular area. Many costs have to be taken into account, including the abatement of any effluent to the standard required for a particular location. It may be argued that this clause is necessary to provide flexibility, but I suggest that much consultation is necessary before any such procedure is made possible.


First of all, I can assure the noble Earl that, like the previous Administration, it is not the Government's intention to use this clause to raise taxation for the benefit of the national coffers, nor to herald a system of open-ended licences to pollute by those who may have the money to do it. There are a number of considerations which make my right honourable friend the Secretary of State prefer to retain this power, although as yet he has neither decided that he should use it nor that it is practical to use it. The starting point is that while rivers and estuaries, and even more the seas, have a considerable capacity for diluting and degrading polluting matters of various kinds, there are limits to the amounts which they can receive without becoming themselves unacceptably polluted. It is right as, I think, the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution recognised in their Third Report, that we should use this capacity for the valuable natural and national resources—that it is in the last resort liquid waste and has to go somewhere.

The question, then, is how we should use it. Obviously it ought to be used in the way which brings the maximum advantage to the community as a whole, and one way is that its use should involve the minimum expenditure to achieve the desired standard of a particular water. I do not think that we need to be economists to realise that the simple regulation of the quality of each discharge will not necessarily, or even probably, secure that standard. Perhaps it costs one firm twice as much to reduce the oxygen demand of its effluent as another which discharges in the same stretch of water, but I surmise that it would be considered unfair if, because of that, the first firm was allowed to discharge effluent with twice the demand for oxygen per unit of volume. But if a charge could be fixed in such a way that the firm with the easier task was let off so long as its effluent consistently reached the specified high standard, while the firm with the greater problem was allowed to take up for itself more of the purifying capacity of the river on paying the charge, we might achieve the same end without any feeling of unfair discrimination. That, as I understand it, is one of the arguments for keeping this enabling power, and I stress that it is an enabling power: it may make it possible to achieve equitably the optimum use of natural resources.

The noble Earl asked whether there would be full consultation before this particular clause was implemented. My Lords, I can unhesitatingly give the noble Earl that assurance. The Secretary of State has not yet made up his mind whether he would use this particular power or, in fact, whether it is practicable to use it, but he wishes to have the flexibility which is contained in the Bill. If it could be used for the national advantage, then he would have the opportunity to use it. I can give the noble Earl the fullest possible assurance that the fullest possible consultation with all those directly concerned will be undertaken before this particular clause is implemented.


I must apologise to the House for not being in my place earlier, but I had a public engagement connected with the environment which I simply could not escape. I have, therefore, been able to listen only to the concluding words of my noble friend. I was very glad to hear his assurance that there would be the fullest consultation before this particular clause was activated, because my noble friend will be aware that some of us expressed considerable doubts when a similar clause was included in an earlier Bill. I heard him reading certain phrases which seemed to me to echo at least phrases used by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, in a letter which she sent to my noble friend Lord Kennet on this very subject; they carried no conviction with me then, and I doubt whether they carry very much more conviction when they come from the mouth of my noble friend.

This clause is a difficult one for many of us. I think I am correct in saying that it can be activated in this Bill as it was in the last only by an Affirmative Resolution, but most of us are surely old enough Parliamentary hands to recognise that even an Affirmative Resolution, as opposed to a Negative one, still leaves one with no opportunity to amend such a Resolution. One has to accept it or reject it in toto. I do not think that this is at all a simple matter. As we said in our earlier consideration of the former Bill, it raises considerations of principle as to whether one ought to permit pollution on payment. Since our earlier deliberations, another factor has been strengthened in my mind—a suspicion about this clause—and that is the financial position of the new water authorities.

My noble friend may be aware that in Wales, at any rate, we have had an absolute furore about the charges now being levied on domestic water users by the new water authorities. They are astronomic. There have been debates in another place on this and newspaper articles, television and radio programmes and so forth. If a situation should arise where the new water authorities, who have to pay their way, should feel tempted to use charges in circumstances where obviously the pollution is not gross pollution—I would not believe for one moment that any of them would wish to do that—or rather where there was moderate pollution and they said: "This is a way of getting some cash into our coffers", they could, it seems to me, be under some temptation to press the Government for powers to levy charges on industrialists discharging into waterways, with a fairly keen eye on not just the flow of the river but on their own cash flow. I think that this is by no means beyond possibility.

Certainly so far as the Welsh National Water Development Authority is concerned it is under considerable public and political pressure at the present time over the charges which it is levying to domestic and, I suppose, to industrial users; but most of the pressure has come from the domestic users. This is an element in the situation about which some of us are suspicious. Not having been here early enough to hear the full argument put forward by the noble Earl, Lord Courtown, it would be improper for me to speak further, but I would not wish this clause to be passed without drawing attention at least to some of the problems which some of us foresee.


I have listened to my noble friend. I can understand why she is suspicious of the other side, but why she should be suspicious of me I do not know. On the other hand, it may be that I cannot speak with the same charm as the noble Baroness, Lady Young. I think that if the noble Baroness will study what I have said, she will see that the Secretary of State's Department are in no way convinced that this clause is necessary. I do not know whether they will be able to use it or whether, in fact, they would wish to use it. If, however, you do not insert an enabling clause of this kind now and if in the next two or three years you are desirous of having such a provision, then you will have to wait, how long—five, six, seven years? We all know the problems of Parliamentary time. If I may say so, I am now experiencing those problems. Therefore, I give your Lordships my assurance.

I hope that the Committee will agree that this provision ought to be retained in the Bill, on the understanding that the fullest possible consultations will take place. Certainly, on the fears, the suspicions of my noble friend, I do not think she will find them justified.


Had I thought that my noble friend was going to remain for ever in the office which he now holds, I should have had no apprehensions at all, but changes do occur from time to time.


I can only ask my noble friend to ensure that I continue where I am.


I had understood that both Parties here are doing something which really has to be done if effect is to be given to the views of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution.


With respect, surely the Minority View of the Royal Commission—


The whole Commission came to the view and recommended that the question of charging should be studied. We are studying the question of abandoned mines in this Bill, too. There is no point in undertaking studies if at the same time power is not taken to give effect to them when they are concluded.


Before the Committee decides on this matter, I spoke against Clause 45 on Second Reading and referred to some of the passages contained in the Minority Report of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution. The recommendations of the whole Commission, which appear on page 15, were The majority of us are unable at present to go this far"— that is, the introduction of a charging system— but we do recommend that the Government forthwith examine the case for adopting a charging system. Can the noble Lord the Leader of the House say whether the previous Administration acted in any way on this recommendation? If they did not, is there any purpose in having this clause, if one does not intend to adopt the recommendation that I have quoted?

Also, will the noble Lord agree that to carry out these investigations would entail a great amount of work and expenditure. As I mentioned on Second Reading, the Minority Report said, at page 83: The precise technical details, both concerning the desirable level of charges and also the machinery for the collection, are matters that will require a great deal of work at the local as well as at the national level, involving administrative, technical and scientific considerations on the one hand, and economic analysis on the other. Therefore, in the present economic situation of this country it does not look as though this matter could be tackled at all for quite a number of years, and would it not be better to have a special clause inserted in a much later Bill?


I thought I had dealt with that, since one never knows when appropriate legislation is coming before Parliament. The noble Lord referred to the Majority and the Minority Reports. I think they were divided not on intention or purpose, but on how quickly matters could be made effective. I believe it was the majority who wished to see a full investigation first, while the minority wished to see the recommendation implemented earlier. We have said that we will have full consultation and will carry out a continuing review. If the Secretary of State feels that it is practical or desirable, he has to come to Parliament and, despite my noble friend's views, an Order has to be passed by both Houses of Parliament.

I should have thought that there was enough protection here. If one does not include this sort of enabling clause at this stage, one can never be sure when an opportunity will arise to deal with a particular matter. I have given all the assurances that an honest man can possibly give, and therefore I hope that the Committee will now agree that this clause should be inserted into the Bill.


I am glad to hear the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal say that there will be full consultation. I should also like to say that I strongly agree with what the noble Baroness, Lady White, said. I would add that the danger that some parts of industry fear is that, in view of the difficult financial situation of some of these water authorities, they may be tempted—if the Secretary of State allows—to make charges for discharges into water courses which have already been restored to an accepted level of pollution, and into the sea. So, in effect, they would be making charges for discharging adequately pure water to water courses and into the sea.

Clause 45 agreed to.

Clauses 46 to 49 agreed to.

Clause 50 [Periodical inspections by local authorities]:

On Question, Whether Clause 50 shall stand part of the Bill?


I have already given notice of my intention to raise the whole question of staff, at some suitable opportunity. I indicated on the Second Reading of this Bill that I was concerned about this matter, and I think a similar concern was expressed by my noble friend Lord Amory and by the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman. We all realise that this is an enabling Bill and, to a large extent, its success or failure will depend on whether or not local authorities can recruit and keep well-qualified staff.

The job of waste disposal is a new responsibility for county councils, and the whole policy in Part I implies that we must find new ways of dealing with the problems. In addition to the preparation of a waste disposal plan, the technical expertise that will be needed in the disposal of waste is something that is quite new to most authorities. If the waste disposal authorities take seriously—as we hope they will—their new duties to consider reclamation and recycling, this, too, will require experts.

I have raised this matter on Part III, because the concept of noise abatement zones is quite new and will require great expertise in measuring noise levels, and at present not more than a handful of local authorities have any suitably qualified staff to do this. Also, of course, although I have not touched upon it, we expect expertise from the new regional water authorities, and—under Part IV of the Bill—on clean air. For example, we know that under Part IV local authorities will have power to investigate discharges into the atmosphere, and to undertake research; except where the discharges are subject to the Alkali Act.

Having said that, it seems to me that for this Bill to be effective timing and money are all-important. I should therefore be glad if the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal can answer some questions. Can he tell the Committee when he thinks the Bill will be brought into effect? At one stage it was contemplated that it would not be brought in until 1975. In the meantime, local authorities will need to make preparations and to recruit staff. I think some idea of the time scale might be helpful. Then, does the noble Lord feel that the numbers of staff given in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum are realistic? It is suggested that local authorities will require between 500 and 800 additional staff. In round figures, if one assumes that there are about 400 districts in England and Wales, 45 counties and 10 regional water authorities, such numbers indicate at their lowest about one member of staff for each authority and at their highest about two, and it is suggested that this number would be spread over a number of years. I cannot believe that this is really the kind of figure that in fact local authorities will need to recruit if they are to fulfil the object of this Bill.

Then I wonder whether the noble Lord can say anything about training. There may well be (and no doubt are) a number of people in local government who need to be, and could be trained. I should like to know whether or not the local government training board is looking into proper training and retraining schemes, and whether any of the universities or polytechnics are considering special courses in these relevant subjects? Finally, can he say anything about the Government's thinking (if they have managed to pursue this matter further, and I appreciate that in the time scale they may not have been able to do so) about a suitable career structure? Obviously, for a number of the professional people they will already be covered by the professional qualifications of public health inspectors; but there will be others. It has always seemed to me that in the future a profession in the control of environmental pollution is one that could well attract a number of young people who are interested in this matter. I think therefore that it is important that we should be thinking in terms of a good career structure in order to attract the best people.

6.31 p.m.


I am minded to invite the noble Baroness to come round and sit on this Bench and answer the questions that she has put to me. These are matters and considerations which clearly the previous Administration must have had in mind when they launched this piece of legislation. I would draw the attention of the noble Baroness to the Explanatory Memorandum, which refers to some 500 to 800 additional staff being needed by the local authorities, and 25 additional Central Government staff. Like the noble Baroness, I question that figure. Taken over the country as a whole, and considering the responsibilities that are now being placed on various local authorities, one really wonders whether this is a realistic figure. On the other hand there are, are there not, adjustments being made within the local authority structure which may provide some new reserves for these duties? This is something that I should like to deal with on Third Reading, because I think it is a very important point and something that the House as a whole ought to consider.

In regard to a career, I have no doubt at all that this is one of the most vital parts not only of this project but also of the whole field of local authority, or for that matter of any employment. If one is going to get the right expertise, particularly in that sensitive area to which the noble Baroness referred, of noise, clearly one has got to have men and women of the highest possible calibre and dedication. To get those people, one needs a proper career structure. In regard to training, and those other matters in regard to staff problems, we are intending to ask the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution to undertake studies. I understand this is already in process. Also, the Department of the Environment will keep in close contact with various associations and professional bodies.

This is a field worthy of a separate debate. I will seek to bring the noble Baroness's comments together and, within a short period, to develop this matter within our Third Reading debate where I think we can more appropriately deal with it. Here we are talking about the principles of a Bill. Clearly the principle is of no use at all unless one is prepared to provide the means. Unfortunately, no Government seem to inherit from another the resources and the opportunities to do all the things that they want to do. I am not saying that in any abrasive way towards the noble Lords opposite, because I have no doubt at all that the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, said the same thing when he inherited the Chancellor-ship from his predecessor.

Clause 50 agreed to.

Clause 51 [Summary proceedings by occupier of premises.]:

6.35 p.m.

BARONESS YOUNG moved Amendment No. 60: Page 66, line 15, leave out paragraph (a).

The noble Baroness said: I put this Amendment down as a probing Amendment. I am aware that there is no alteration in this Bill from the former Protection of the Environment Bill. I am raising this Amendment because it has been put to me that this part of the Bill is very widely drafted and its meanings may not be clear to everyone, and particularly to organisers of things such as "pop" festivals and other events which could be noisy. I thought, therefore, it would be helpful if the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal could indicate the meaning of this Clause so that we could have it on the Record. There is no definition in the noise section of what is a noise amounting to a nuisance. Clause 51 reads: Where a local authority is satisfied that noise amounting to a nuisance exists, or is likely to occur or recur, in the area of the local authority …", then it can require the abatement of a nuisance or its prohibition. It would be helpful to know what is meant by that wording, because it could imply that a local authority, if it chose to act in such a way, could stop something happening immediately and without warning.

I am aware that this is a very controversial subject: it is controversial because what one person regards as a noise, another person may regard as something of great pleasure. Furthermore, we are always balancing the rights of local government to freedom while at the same time trying to keep some kind of uniform standard throughout the country. I recognise that it is not an easy matter. If the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, cannot give me an answer to this rather detailed point today, and would like to write me about it, I should be perfectly happy to leave it there. I think it would be helpful to know whether the Government are considering issuing a code of practice to local authorities so that those who undertake to organise such things as "pop" festivals, or anything that is likely to be noisy, or perhaps anybody who is a do-it-yourself enthusiast and may decide to work into the small hours of the morning, may know whether they could quite suddenly be brought within this clause by the action of a local authority. I should be grateful if the noble Lord could let me know the answer to these questions.


The powers given to local authorities in subsection (1)(a) are not, with one small exception, new powers. Local authorities have been able to require the abatement of noise since 1960, and to prohibit and restrict its recurrence since 1969. There is no evidence to show that they have not used their powers wisely. On the contrary, there is a great deal of evidence, for example, in the annual reports of the Association of Public Health Inspectors, to show that powers are used effectively and with the absolute minimum recourse to the courts.

A code of practice about "pop" festivals has I understand gone out. It is not an area in which I normally participate, but I have been informed that that is so. I would expect, too, that within the general framework of this Bill there would be some form of code of practice. I gather—I think it is in a later Amendment dealing with chimes of ice-cream vans—that there is an intention that there should be some form of code of practice, but this is something we can deal with. I think the object here is to give to the local authorities the powers to be able to contain noise, and also, by later clauses, to give a greater opportunity than now exists for an individual—not a group of people as at present, but an individual—who feels that a nuisance caused by noise is so great, to proceed to the courts and obtain an order for that noise, that nuisance, to desist.

This is a useful clause. Local authorities already have quite considerable experience in this connection—some perhaps more than others. Moreover, I was surprised to find out myself that the courts to whom the appeal will be made or to whom the case can be taken also have built up some considerable experience. But this is an area in which some form of code of practice would be best adopted at least to obtain some degree of uniformity of procedure and understanding throughout the country, notwithstanding that of course in certain areas the demand for silence is bound to be greater and more practical than in others.


If I might introduce a frivolous note, if there is to be a code of practice for ice-cream chimes, could it ensure that Mendelssohn's "Spring Song shall not be played in the Millband ward of the City of Westminster?


I feel that this clause is drafted in the right way because it will enable local authorities to exercise a discretion and to tighten up the present state of affairs. I was surprised to hear that local authorities had these powers going back to 1960 and 1969. I cannot think they have been used as extensively as public opinion now would wish them to be used. I am glad therefore that this clause is going to enable greater restriction on noise nuisance to be applied. I feel a little doubt about the expression of opinion both by my noble friend Lady Young and by the noble Lord the Leader of the House regarding uniformity throughout the country. It is quite inevitable and right that in some parts of the country, owing to the very nature of industry there and so on, much greater noise must be tolerated than in parts of the country where there is no industry and where the residents can reasonably expect to be protected more fully against noise. I rise only to say that I support this clause, and I hope and believe that, with the flexibility and the power that it gives to local authorities to exercise their reasonable discretion in the matter, we may find in future that noise is abated much more than has been the case in the past.


I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, for his explanation, which I shall read carefully. I entirely accept what the noble Lord, Lord Molson, says: that there will be variations in the country. The difficulty with the whole of this section of the Bill, with whose aims I am in entire agreement, is that noise is such a peculiarly subjective matter and opinions on it differ very much. But it is useful to have this explanation. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 51 agreed to.

Clause 52 [Summary proceedings by occupier of premises]:

6.45 p.m.

LORD MERRIVALE moved Amendment No. 61. Page 68, line 15, after ("court") insert ("convicting a person of an offence under this section").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 61 and I shall also be speaking to Amendment No. 62. As the clause is drafted at present—and I am thinking particularly of subsection (6)—it empowers a magistrates' court to direct a local authority to do what it can require the defendant to do under subsection (2), without allowing the defendant the opportunity to take the necessary action himself. This would seem wrong in principle as the defendant is not at this stage guilty of an offence, although of course the court may be satisfied that he has perpetrated a noise nuisance. Secondly, if it is considered desirable for magistrates' courts to be able to direct local authorities in this way, is it not illogical then that the court should not have these directive powers where a defendant has not complied with an order made under subsection (2) and the magistrates have not used their directive powers when making that order? I trust therefore that the Minister will feel that my two Amendments to subsection (6) would enable both circumstances which I have just mentioned to be catered for more satisfactorily.

When the Lord Privy Seal, Lord Shepherd, comes to reply, I hope, with the greatest respect, that he will not say, as did my noble friend Lady Young earlier on this year as spokesman for Her Majesty's Government, that subsection (6) is in effect identical to Section 99 of the Public Health Act 1936. It should be recognised that that Act of 1936 was not drafted with noise nuisances particularly in mind. In fact, it required the Noise Abatement Act 1960, to which the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, referred earlier on, to apply the Public Health Act 1936 provisions to noise nuisances. Furthermore, Section 99 of the 1936 Act only empowers a magistrates' court to direct a local authority to abate the nuisance. In fact, the provisions of this clause are much wider than the provisions of Section 99 of the 1936 Public Health Act, for the clause would enable a magistrates' court to direct a local authority to execute any works necessary to prevent the nuisance recurring. In conclusion, is it not surely right that, where any works are necessary on a person's premises, if he is not guilty of an offence then he should have the first opportunity of executing those works himself? I beg to move.


I am going to surprise the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, and perhaps the noble Baroness, Lady Young, because I am going to accept the Amendment in principle. It seems to me quite reasonable to give a defendant an opportunity to undertake any necessary noise abatement himself before requiring a local authority to do the job. But further consequential drafting changes are required to give the Amendment its intended effect. The Government are prepared to consider the introduction of an Amendment which would achieve the intended purpose of this one at the next stage of the Bill. If the noble Lord will accept that and withdraw his Amendment, I will ensure that an Amendment is put down for the next stage.


I must confess that I am rather taken aback, but with that assurance, and with thanks to the noble Lord and the Government, I willingly beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 52 agreed to.

Clause 53 [Control of noise on construction sites]:

6.50 p.m.

LORD SHEPHERD moved Amendment No. 63: Page 69, line 7, leave out ("any specified plant or machinery or") and insert ("the premises in question or at any specified point on those premises or which").

The noble Lord said: Clause 53 gives local authorities power to serve notices imposing requirements on the way in which construction, demolition and similar works are to be carried out for the purpose of the minimising of noise. Subsection (3) lists particular points which the local authority might include in a notice served under subsection (2). The Amendment is designed to change the emphasis of noise emissions of machinery to the total noise emitted from the site of which machinery is only part. The clause concerned deals not so much with machinery noise as with environmental noise levels in the area round the site; for example, the amount of noise which people living in the immediate vicinity can be expected to put up with. This will also be made clear in the code of practice of the Secretary of State under Clause 64(2) which gives guidance to contractors and local authorities on the control of construction site noise. There is also an appeal under Clause 53(7) to a magistrate's court. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD SHEPHERD moved Amendment No. 64: Page 69, line 16, leave out paragraph (c).

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 64, and to speak to Amendment No. 65. Subsection (4)(c) now to be deleted was a recent Amendment inserted so as to further emphasise the point that one of the main means of controlling noise from construction sites was to reduce the noise which was otherwise experienced by local residents. The purpose of the Amendment is to put more emphasis on the fact that controls are needed only where people have to be protected from noise. In some areas there may not be anyone in need of protection, and there would be no point in imposing controls in such circumstances. The Amendment also makes clear that the local authority should be primarily concerned with those living in the area immediately adjacent to the construction site. To this end, the term "persons" has been used instead of the word "dwellings" so that educational establishments, hospitals and the like are now included as well as residential accommodation. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 65.

Amendment moved— Page 69, line 20, at end insert— ("(e) to the need to protect any persons in the locality in which the premises in question are situated from the effects of noise.")—(Lord Shepherd.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 53, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 54 agreed to.

Clause 55 [Noise in streets]:

LORD CRAIGTON moved Amendment No. 65A: Page 72, line 21, at end insert— ("; and (d) the sound emanated does not exceed 80 d B(A) measured at one metre distance.")

The noble Lord said: My noble friend Lady Young, in moving her Amendment No. 60, pointed out that there seemed to be no definition of a noise that can be a statutory nuisance. I am seeking a very small Amendment to subsection (3) which, as I read it, is directed almost entirely at controlling the noise made by itinerant icecream vans. My Amendment would ensure that the chimes, so familiar in urban areas, would be kept to a reasonable noise level. This seems to me to be a necessary limitation, but I am prepared to withdraw my Amendment if the noble Lord the Leader of the House can give an assurance that some limitation of this nose level would be included in the code of practice provided for in Clause 64. I would not ask him to include in that assurance, however, anything about Mendelssohn's "Spring Song". I beg to move.


It would be helpful if the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, would give us a demonstration, with the approval of the Committee, of a noise that does not exceed 80 d B(A). If he is willing, for my part I am willing to move towards him until I am exactly one metre away.


I can give the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, some more information. This noise is the loudest acceptable noise, as accepted and advised to me by no less an authority than the Noise Abatement Society, and I learn from perhaps even higher authority that, it is a little louder than would in fact be allowed by whoever was preparing the regulations in the code of practice. It is quite a loud noise. I hope the noble Lord will support me in my Amendment.


I can give the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, the assurance for which he has asked. The intention is that there should be in the code of practice a noise level for ice-cream chimes. I do not think there will be any restriction on what tunes will be played, but the Government feel that certainly at this present moment it would be wrong to seek to specify any particular noise level. But it certainly would be our intention, if this can be evolved, that there should be a noise level in the code of practice. As the noble Baroness, Lady Young, said, this is an area in which we are making a tentative approach. But I can give the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, the assurance that this is what we have in mind.


That is the comfort I had hoped for, and so I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 55 agreed to.

Clause 56 agreed to.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

Clause 57 agreed to.

Clause 58 [Noise exceeding registered level]:

6.58 p.m.

LORD MERRIVALE moved Amendment No. 66: Page 74, line 10, leave out ("two months") and insert ("twenty-eight days").

The noble Lord said: At the outset of my remarks, I should like to express my appreciation and gratitude to Her Majesty's Government for having substantially modified subsections (3) and (4), compared with the Protection of the Environment Bill. On the previous occasion when I raised this matter, my Amendment specified 28 days as the time within which a local authority should notify an applicant of its decision about whether or not an increased level of noise is to be allowed. I see that a period of two months has now been specified. I should have thought such a delay could be very disadvantageous for an industrial company which was proposing to extend or alter its operations. For instance, it would involve the purchasing of new plant or equipment. Delay could give rise to the penalties of increased prices or extended delivery time. Also, if a company was intending to employ outside contractors, the extended delay in deciding could provide additional problems. There could be problems of meshing in a contractor's work with his other commitments.

It seems to me that the occasions when an application to increase a noise level is necessary will not be unduly frequent, and it is most unlikely that an authority will be overburdened with applications of this nature. Furthermore, the local authority concerned should already have in its possession a considerable amount of information to enable it to reach a decision on the application, as a result of fulfilling its obligations under Clause 57(1); namely: Every local authority which has designated its area or any part of its area a noise abatement zone shall measure the level of noise emanating from premises within the zone which are of any class to which the relevant noise abatement order relates.

So this tends to show that the authority would already have quite a large amount of information readily available to it. Surely there will be many cases where a decision could be taken within 28 days and, for the odd case where a longer period than 28 days appeared necessary, I should have thought there could be discussion and agreement between the authority and the applicant. As a nation, we are certainly heavily dependent on our industry as a whole, and one should minimise its difficulties and delays. I beg to move.


The effect of this Amendment would be to reduce the period of time within which a local authority must deal with an application for consent to exceed the registered noise level from two months to 28 days. The noble Lord raised this matter on the previous Bill, and on that occasion the clause did not specify the time within which a local authority had to notify an applicant of its decision. The previous Administration undertook to consider whether such a time should be specified, since otherwise a decision could be delayed indefinitely. But they did say that it would probably be necessary to allow a longer period than the 28 days suggested by the noble Lord. The provision now in the Bill gives the local authority a two-month period, which can be extended if both parties agree.

The Amendment should be resisted. The issues before a local authority may be very complex and, particularly if it is a refusal, their decision could have considerable economic repercussions. They must, therefore, be given sufficient time in which to consider the application and to carry out the necessary consultation. The latter could well necessitate new noise measurements being taken. A time limit of 28 days could place an unnecessary restriction on local authorities, particularly bearing in mind that the number of working days would be correspondingly fewer. In many cases, decisions could well be taken within the 28 days. The two-month period to which the noble Lord has referred is, of course, the maximum, unless there is an agreement between the parties. I hope the noble Lord will understand that one has to be practical. Clearly, it is to the advantage of the local authorities and the commercial organisations to expedite these matters. But if you put in too tight a control you either get wrong decisions being taken on the part of the local authority to the detriment of the company, or the other way around. So I think that this is not an unreasonable period, and I hope the noble Lord will accept this point of view.


I thank the noble Lord, the Lord Privy Seal for his explanation. I agree that the previous Administration did not specify any period of time, and that his Government did put in this period of two months. I should not have thought there was any particular magic in a period of two months. Although the noble Lord said that two months would be the maximum, I cannot see why the whole operation could not be carried out within the 28 days. I know the noble Lord referred to the fact that there are a number of Sundays in between, so that the working days would be less than 28. However, I know that this is something which is of great concern to industry, and I am sure that the noble Lord and his Department are aware of this.

I should have liked very much to see some provision stressing that if it is possible for a local authority to decide in a lesser time it should do so. If the noble Lord will not agree to have another look at the period of time, will he give an assurance that, in any circular of advice which may be issued by the Department to local authorities regarding the application of these provisions of the Bill, the importance of time in reaching decisions will be stressed, so that local authorities are very conscious that industry wants a quick answer on these matters.


The noble Lord asked me whether I would give further consideration to this matter. Of course, when one is asked to do that one would be very foolish to say, No. On the other hand, the area of movement between 28 days and two months is so small that I think I would be less than honest if I did not say that I do not believe I could come anywhere near meeting the noble Lord. In regard to his latter remarks, it is quite clear that time is important. Time costs money not only in terms of industry, but also in terms of our services. No one would wish to have an unnecessary delay in the giving of consent. Whether this can be included in a circular, I should not like to say immediately. But I cannot see any reason why it should not be included, as it is an important matter.


In general, I sympathise very much with the point which my noble friend has made, that industry is usually in a hurry and wants quick decisions. In this case, if one thinks about it, there may well be cases where a few more weeks could result in a decision to the benefit of the company; whereas if there were a shorter period the local authority might feel that they had to act and therefore would act in a different way. I have an idea that there may be cases where two months is not excessive.


I thank the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, for what he has said and for the assurance that he gave. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 58 agreed to.

Clause 59 [Reduction of noise levels]:

7.10 p.m.

LORD MERRIVALE moved Amendment No. 67: Page 75, line 33, leave out ("magistrates' court") and insert ("the Secretary of State").

The noble Lord said: I apologise to the Committee for again putting down the Amendment that I moved earlier this year on the Protection of the Environment Bill but, with respect, I felt that some of the arguments put forward then by my noble friend Lady Young on behalf of Her Majesty's Government were not entirely satisfactory, at least not to my way of thinking. On Second Reading of this Bill on May 7 at column 428 I gave one or two reasons for so thinking.

On January 29 last my noble friend Lady Young contended that the magistrates would have the relevant technical expertise to deal with a noise reduction notice, and that they would have that expertise from handling cases under the Noise Abatement Act, 1960. But it is one thing to assess whether or not certain proposed measures will abate a nuisance, and a completely different thing to assess the technical and financial aspects of specific proposals in the absence of the objective of nuisance abatement, for notices issued under Clause 59 will contain noise levels and requirements which will be based not on the abatement of a nuisance but on the opinion only of the authority concerned. On January 29 at column 347 my noble friend, again speaking for Her Majesty's Government, said: … of course they"— the magistrates— can get the technical advice that they require in order to make a judgment. But from where are the magistrates to get this technical advice? The local authority inspectors could hardly be regarded as independent in such cases. It would therefore seem to me that magistrates are ill-equipped to handle appeals under this clause. In the absence of any other appellate body it would surely be more appropriate for such appeals to be made to the Secretary of State, who would be able to be guided in the same manner as he is guided when determining appeals under Clauses 58 and 60 of this Bill. I beg to move.


My first reaction to this Amendment was similar to that of the noble Lord when he put it down, as to whether a bench of magistrates were the most suitable people to deal with a possibly technical matter. But on careful examination one finds that they have been carrying out these duties under the Noise Abatement Act for some 14 years. The noble Lord may brush this aside, but it is a fact. I asked whether there had been any cause for discontent in this particular method of taking appeals, and my understanding is that there has been none. I should have thought that it would be infinitely better, if there is to be an appeal to somebody, that it should be, so far as possible, a local appeal rather than to some person in the Secretary of State's Department.

Magistrates undertake a wide range of duties and they always seem to me, except for the odd occasion that hits the headlines, to perform not only a notable service but to bring a great deal of commonsense to their deliberations. There is of course a further appeal from the magistrates to the Crown Court, but that, I should have thought, would be exceptional. Having started off with some of the doubts of the noble Lord, I must say that finally I became quite convinced that, if we are to have such bodies to receive appeals, then these are the right bodies. They are certainly free from any local authority pressure or interest, and I think would take a proper view of the matter.


I thank the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal for his reply. If he felt like I did in the early stages of his consideration of my Amendment, I am sorry that he did not follow it through, but changed his mind, or that his Department changed his mind for him.


If the noble Lord had expected that of me, I can assure him that there would not have been quite as many Amendments accepted as there have been on this Bill.


I take the noble Lord's point. To return to my Amendment, the noble Lord said that he had a preference for local appeals rather than appeals to the Secretary of State. He also said that there was a provision whereby an appeal to the magistrates' court could then go, if need be and in rare cases, to a Crown Court. From a technical point of view, I do not think that would assist matters; and equally from a financial point of view it would not, because it would mean extra expenditure for the company concerned.

If the noble Lord prefers the idea of a local appeal, and if, shall we say, and as I believe, that half a loaf is better than no loaf at all, would Her Majesty's Government consider between now and the next stage, or when the Bill goes to another place, whether, instead of appeals going to a magistrates' court, they could go to a standing tribunal whose members would have expert knowledge of noise problems? Industry believes, and I think that this is reasonable, that the best alternative to the right of appeal to the Secretary of State would be to such a tribunal.

The Franks Committee on Administrative Tribunals and Inquiries in 1957 said that tribunals would be cheaper, more accessible and more expeditious than the courts. The tribunal can be provided with relevant policy by the Department, which can also assist the parties involved in assessing their prospects. This would allow the opportunity for an agreement to be reached without the need for the tribunal formally to adjudicate on the case. Legal costs can, however, be high, since such a tribunal is likely to induce legal representation. There is this proviso, I agree, from the financial point of view, but, as I understand it, industry would rather see an appeal, if it cannot go to the Secretary of State as it can on the other two clauses I mentioned earlier—Clauses 58 and 60—go to a tribunal rather than a magistrates' court.


The noble Lord has made it clear that he is mainly concerned with industry, but may I say that the role of the magistrates here, surely, is to decide whether anything can be done to reduce noise within the best practical means test. A second job, which I think is important, is whether people in the neighbourhood will benefit from noise reduction. I suggest that the magistrates are a more likely body to take into account these conflicting interests than a tribunal, as suggested by the noble Lord. Since he has asked me to look at it, I will, but I do so expressing the view that I do not think he is likely to persuade me, at least having taken a view, to change it, but I will certainly look at it as required.


I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, for that assurance. I should like to mention that on the previous occasion I think I had the support of his then noble Leader, Lord Shackleton, and, I believe, the noble Baroness, Lady White. Lord Shackleton said: Before the noble Lord withdraws the Amendment, I wonder whether the noble Baroness would consider further what she has said. I did not find it entirely convincing. I have consulted my noble friend Lady White, and it may well be that on the Report stage the noble Lord may wish to return to it again when he has discussed it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 291/74, col. 347.] So I am returning to it again, but I thank the noble Lord for his assurance at this stage.


I think my noble friend Lord Shackleton consulted me on the occasion referred to, but I have no recollection that I acquiesced in his opinion.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 59 agreed to.


I propose to call Clauses 60 to 70 inclusive.


I wonder whether the Committee would agree that we should take the Clauses to No. 67 which would complete Part III of the Bill and then to adjourn for, say, 35 minutes. Dinner has been laid on and I think we should support the establishment on this occasion, and for some of us who seem to have been on our feet for pretty well the whole afternoon, I am sure that we would enjoy a little break, after which perhaps we may, with our renewed spirit, make greater progress on the Bill. If that would be of general agreement I ask the Deputy Chairman whether he will put the Clauses up to No. 67 which would complete Part III and then move that we do adjourn during pleasure.

Clauses 60 to 67 agreed to.

LORD SHEPHERD I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure.

Moved, accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended at twenty-five minutes past seven o'clock and resumed at eight o'clock.]

Clause 68 [Regulations about motor fuel]:

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


I should like to reassure your Lordships that I will not abuse the renewed vigour that we have all just accumulated by speaking for very long, even though it be on one of my favourite topics, which is the lead content of petrol. I have not put down an Amendment to this Bill, partly because my own Bill is still before your Lordships' House, but more so because of the assurances I received during the Second Reading of that Bill on April 2 from the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy. But there are one or two points on which I should like some further information, and I am taking this opportunity to ask the Government for further information and for some reassurance.

I should remind your Lordships (I hope for the last time) that on February 4 of this year 31 Members of the present Government Party voted for an Amendment of mine which, if carried into law, would have resulted in the total elimination of lead from petrol by 1980. Subsequently, when I introduced my own Bill to try to carry into effect that same Amendment, which was carried by your Lordships as a whole, with the support of the Labour Party, I heard from the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, speaking on behalf of the Government, some very sensible practical objections to having this carried out; but at the same time, on April 2, the noble Lord gave me several very concrete assurances, which I would beg leave to quote. He said: We are all, I think, united in feeling that health considerations are of paramount importance, although of course it has been said—and inevitably it needed to be said—that economic considerations have to be carefully weighed".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2/4/74, col. 890.] I accept that, and, seeing my old sparring partner Lord Lucas of Chilworth here, I would say to him what I am sure is the view of most Members present here to-night: that on this issue, as on so many other environmental issues, there is a conflict of perfectly legitimate interests. On the one side there are the perfectly legitimate interests, the economic interests, of the big motor companies, on whom we are dependent for so many of our exports, and the great oil companies, who keep the wheels of our economy moving round. On the other side, there is the health and welfare of the people of this country; and it is the Government's job to be the arbiter between them.

Now the lead content of petrol is a miniature cameo of these environmental versus economic conflicts, and on the occasion of the Second Reading of my Bill the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, balanced those two countervailing forces in the way I have just indicated. He went on to say—and he was speaking for the Government—that, even while acknowledging the difficulties of eliminating lead from petrol by 1980, What we seek to do, and what is surely desirable to do, is to ensure if we can that lead is not emitted into the atmosphere. That is our aim" [col. 892]. I was very encouraged by what he had to say, and therefore I was not in my place when the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, the Leader of the House, moved the Second Reading of the Bill now under discussion. Reading Hansard, I found what I hope was not but what appeared to be a shift in attitude. It is this apparent shift in attitude between the statements of the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, on April 2 and the statement of the noble Lord the Leader of the House on May 7, which has caused me to speak to-night to ask for further clarification and information as to what the Government's present attitude and intentions in this matter now are.

The noble Lord the Leader of the House summed up the dilemma to which I have just referred in these terms: 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 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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7/5/74, col. 381.] That is quite unexceptional; there is no criticism of that. But then he goes on to say: The problem is to strike the right balance, given the uncertainties about the nature and extent of the health risks, if any,"— I repeat, "the health risks, if any"— and about possible ways of reducing lead levels". It was the common theme among even the most strong opponents of my own Bill that lead was not a substance the ingestion of which by humans should be encouraged; and, therefore, the words "health risks, if any" I felt to be rather a letdown from the assurances I had been previously given.

What I should like to know to-day from the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, who I understand is to speak on behalf of the Government, is: what is the Government's attitude on this subject? What are they going to do? When are they going to come forward with some firm proposals under the permissive clause, Clause 68, which we are now debating? Is there a firm intention that is going to be implemented soon, or does what the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said on May 7 represent a shift from what the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, said on April 2, which itself represents a falling back from what the Labour Party in this House said in February? I do not want to make too much of this, but there is a lot of cynicism created which results in people like me not being in political Parties. One of the reasons is that there is a difference between what politicians say and what they do. Very recently, people now in the Government called for a speedy solution to this problem. What are they going to do about it now?

Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, could also give us some information about the inquiry that he mentioned during a previous debate as to the incidence in the Birmingham area, at Gravelly Hill, of dangers to health from lead in petrol.

8.10 p.m.


I have listened, as I am sure the Committee has listened, with the greatest interest to what the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, has just said in regard to the problem of lead in petrol. At the time of the Second Reading of this Bill my noble friend Lord Shepherd, the Leader of the House, described the serious view taken by the Government of this problem of lead in petrol. He then gave an assurance that the powers granted under this clause would be used to control the lead content of petrol, and to set whatever limits to the use of lead might be necessary to avoid real health dangers. The noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, has twitted us a little, because there was seemingly some difference between what my noble friend and I said. I would say this: if there was a difference, it was more apparent than real. I am quite certain that my noble friend shares my view on the urgency with which we hope this problem can be tackled.

I should also like to say that I had very much hoped to come here to-day not only prepared but able to make a definitive statement on the Government's policy, and on the programme to be adopted during the next year or so for a further reduction of the lead content in petrol. Nobody regrets more than I that I am not in a position to do that, because there are still so many outstanding problems to be resolved as regards the additional costs which will have to be met, the availability of the crude oil which will be needed and the future trend in national demand. This is not meant to indicate that these matters are not being pursued very actively, because they are. But because they are so difficult, progress is taking rather longer than had been hoped, and therefore I would ask for the understanding of the Committee this evening. A statement will be made at the earliest possible moment. I feel sure the Committee will agree that it would be wrong to embark on a programme of such great importance without first completing the assessment of its effects on both the health and economy of the country, to which the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, has referred. We want to ensure that we have sufficient information available on which to reach the best answer that can be found to meet the problem.

The noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, made specific mention of Gravelly Hill, and I am very conscious of what I said during the debate on the Second Reading of the noble Lord's Bill. I have kept the matter under active consideration and have asked to be kept continually informed on progress. I am satisfied that the report which I said was being prepared has now been with my honourable friend for some little time—though I must emphasise the word "little", because he has not had over-much time. These are important issues which require active consideration, and as soon as my honourable friend is able to reach the necessary decisions he will make them known. I hope the noble Lord will be content with that. He has drawn attention to what every one of us said on February 4, and to what was said on April 2. In terms of will to achieve the end, there is no falling off so far as we are concerned.


Before we conclude our discussion on this clause, I should like to say that I appreciate the difficulties confronting the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, concerning it. He has my sympathy, because I know from my experience of replying to the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, that this issue is fraught with difficulties—not the least of which is the undoubted fact that the conclusive evidence on which to base a judgment is simply not there.

I wonder whether, before he produces the definitive statement that he has promised us and which I am sure we shall all welcome, the noble Lord can say whether he has any more evidence about the health risks involved. I think the fears expressed by the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, are shared by the public at large and by the fuel companies, in particular; in other words, because there is a doubt about the long-term dangers to health as a consequence of lead in petrol, one must always err on the side of caution. Therefore, I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, has any further evidence on the health aspect of this matter, quite apart from what may come out of the published findings regarding Gravely Hill.

Will the noble Lord confirm that it is still the Government's intention that the agreement which I understand they reached with the motor and oil industries, that the lead content of petrol will be reduced to 0.45 grammes per litre by January 1, 1976, still stands? I should also like to ask whether the noble Lord is able to confirm that the real difficulty about reducing the lead content to a lower level—which I understand is being proposed by Germany—is the fact that if all countries did this there would be very serious shortages in the supply of crude oil, and serious consequences for our economy would ensue.


I have a strong suspicion that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, received the same document as I did in the post this morning, and therefore I believe she will be reasonably well aware of the position in this matter. I appreciate what she said about the difficulties involved; indeed, she has very good reason to know what they are. As we all know, the noble Baroness was at the Department of the Environment and I should like to say that I am sure she is reasonably up to date on the evidence regarding health aspects.

The question which the noble Baroness asked gives me an opportunity to make a point that I think needs making—that fuel is not the only source of lead in this country. I am expressing a personal view when I say that, so far as the health aspects are concerned we ought really to be rather more concerned about the effects of lead in general than we show ourselves to be. So far as the effects on health of lead in petrol are concerned, I do not think there is any substantial evidence about that of which the noble Baroness will not be aware. I am sure she is right in saying that the 0.45 grammes per litre target still holds good. I hope I have answered all the questions that have been asked on this matter.


Since the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, has raised the question of other sources of lead, I wonder whether he is now in a position to reply to the question I asked during the passage of the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan. The question concerned the Holgate Report, which I believe draws some comparisons between lead pollution from various different sources. Also, since the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, drew the principle that this clause suggests a balance between, on the one hand, the requirements of big business—the motor companies, the oil companies and so on—and the environment on the other. I wonder whether the noble Lord would like to emphasise that this is not only a question of big business, and the economy that goes with it, and the environment or the environmentalists. I say that because the very nature of the way in which we live could be greatly altered by any radical change in the composition of petrol, unless it was phased in quite gradually so that the cost of foodstuffs, and one's living costs can adapt.

I like the way in which the clause is written. I like the way the noble Lord has given assurances that this is not just to be left aside. It re-affirms the Government's intention to do something about it, bearing in mind that the date of striking the balance cannot be fixed at this moment of time. Far too many things have happened far too rapidly in far too short a period to ask of any Government that a balance should be struck within a short while. Again, we have his assurances that the matter is under review and that reports can be made so that we may gauge what kind of progress is made. Frankly, this should satisfy us all.


With leave, if I could detain the Committee for a minute, I think the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, was referring to a difference of view between us that does not really exist about the conflict of industry and so on that he was describing. I was merely trying to hint that it is the Government's job to assess the various needs of the community and to set a fair balance between all these interests when they conflict. I was not singling anyone out for criticism. May I thank the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, for what he has said and say to him that I was not imputing any falling off in his or his colleague's enthusiasm for dealing with this question but that the way in which this had been expressed seemed to show a decline in the urgency with which they were applying themselves to the job. May I thank him for what he said to-day and ask him whether he can hazard a guess as to whether the statement that he referred to, presumably enacting the powers given to the Government by this clause, will be likely to come during this year or not?


I can understand the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, trying to get me to commit myself to a date. I do not think that I can. I am quite sure that this is not the last occasion we shall be discussing lead in petrol. With regard to what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, and the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, have said, I feel that the more we discuss it the more we get nearer to being in agreement and it would be a pity to reopen the controversy at this point. May I say in regard to the Holgate Report that I think I am right in recollecting that we anticipate it in about the first week in July.

Clause 68 agreed to.

Clauses 69 and 70 agreed to.

Clause 71 [Research and publicity]:

8.25 p.m.

LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 68: Page 84, line 37, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 68 which is a probing Amendment. I was grateful, as no doubt were other noble Lords, to the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, when at the Second Reading he drew our attention to the recent Report of the Central Unit on Environmental Pollution about monitoring. This caused me to read through this Report and to look afresh at the Sharp Report of July, 1973, and the Royal Commission Report of March, 1972, on the whole question of air pollution and information about it, and to wonder whether the balance of obligations laid upon the district authorities in Clause 71(1) was right. On reflection I do not think that it is, because we have the strongest demands from all three Reports for more and better marshalled information, more accessible to the public.

If I could remind your Lordships of what was said by those bodies on this point, the Royal Commission says: Measures should be devised to increase the availability and flow of information and remove the needless cloak of secrecy. Then a year later the Working Party is reported to have said: They considered it in the public interest that information about all polluting wastes should be available not only to statutory bodies with a right to demand it but also to research workers and other responsible persons who could make use of such information to improve the environment. In three successive Reports over a period of three years there is an insistence that more information should be made available to the public so that they can exercise their judgment on these issues.

Here is the opportunity in Clause 71(1) to get the local authorities to publish this information, not simply to keep registers which people who are specially interested can look at. They have access to the information to which the Alkali Inspectorate have access and they can publish that as well. Is seems to me that it was right of the Government in which I served and it is right for the present Government not to prescribe precisely how the districts should do this. That is what the Working Party suggested, but I think that would be going too far. It would be right to give guidance as to what is required of them, perhaps by circular, but on reflection I think that it is wrong to leave them with the option, as this clause does as it is worded at the moment, as to whether they do anything at all. If they decide to do nothing at all—and just conferring the power leaves them free to decide that they will do nothing at all by way of publishing information—then that precludes everybody else who was relying on that information from coming to grips with the problem.

I am aware that my Amendment which is only intended to probe this matter, is incorrectly worded because it changes the power to a duty both in respect of paragraph (a) and (b). I ask the Government to consider whether it would not be better to leave Clause 71(1)(a) as a power—a power to "undertake, or contribute towards the cost of, investigation and research"—but to change the publication of information as a duty which all districts have to shoulder. For myself I should be content if the Government this evening would undertake to look again at this matter in the light of those three recommendations with which I began my remarks.


The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, has carefully explained the Amendment and made it quite clear that local authorities should give the information and publish the results of any investigation. The local authorities concerned are the councils of the London boroughs, the district councils of England and Wales and the Islands and district councils of Scotland. In many of these areas, such as the Scottish Highlands and the Islands, air pollution, thank goodness!, is of little other than very localised significance.

Air pollution is a problem in Sheffield while it is not in Shetland and this difference must be recognised. It would not be reasonable to impose on remote rural areas an obligation to research into and publish information about problems very low in their priorities. The reports to which the noble Lord referred are now under active consideration, and I will see, perhaps on Monday, what the state of their consideration is, and if there is anything which I can convey by word or letter I will be happy to do so.

The information we have suggests that most local authorities will be eager to use their powers to collect and publish information and that those whose air pollution is worst will be most keen. There may conceivably be one or two areas where the local people think these powers should be used but the authority do not. If this should happen the usual methods of lobbying are always open and of course the Secretary of State can be asked to use his powers under Clause 75 to direct local authorities to install and operate monitoring equipment. But cases like this are rare: local authorities are responsible bodies and we should rely on them to use these powers where they are needed. I will be in touch with the noble Lord some time next week about my researches into how active has been the consideration. The noble Lord perhaps has a more intimate knowledge of the Department than I have at present; but I will look into it and if I can help I will do so.


I wonder whether my noble friend can enlighten me. The definition of a local authority is the council of a district or a London borough plus—and I should hardly think they would undertake much research in this direction—the sub-treasurer of the Inner Temple and the under-treasurer of the Middle Temple. What happens about the other authorities, the counties, the metropolitan counties and the Greater London Council? There is nothing to stop them, if they so wish, undertaking this duty. In some circumstances there could be a situation where the Greater London Council, or one of the metropolitan counties, might wish to embark upon investigations of this kind, or support research. Am I right in thinking that they are entitled to do so?


Looking very quickly at that subsection, I would think that what my noble friend has said is correct.


In view of those remarks, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.33 p.m.

BARONESS WHITE moved Amendment No. 69: Page 85, line 29, at end insert (", on the ground that exceptional hazard or difficulty was involved in measuring the emissions. Failing agreement, either party may within the next following 21 days appeal to the Secretary of State for a decision.")

The noble Baroness said: The reason for this Amendment is that in the Bill which we were previously considering there was a clause which had the effect of debarring a local authority from entry into an establishment in order to take measurements of emissions to the atmosphere if the occupier of that establishment virtually forbade them so to do. That particular clause does not appear in this Bill. It appears to me that the last four lines of Clause 71(3) have precisely the same effect. If one reads subsection (3) one will see that the local authority shall not be entitled to exercise the powers referred to in subsection 2(b) if during the requisite period the occupier of the premises concerned gives a notice to the authority requesting it to serve on him a notice under the following clause with respect to the emissions.

The following clause, Clause 72(1), says that the occupier personally will be asked by the local authority to undertake the measurements. In effect, the local authority itself will still be precluded from entering premises in order to make these investigations and undertake the measurements and recordings. This gives the power of veto to the occupier of industrial premises. My first thought was simply to leave it out altogether and I am still rather disposed to do that; but, out of regard for the noble Earl, Lord Courtown, I put in the phrases which appear in my Amendment because I was impressed by some remarks that he made in our earlier deliberations, when he suggested that in certain areas the local authority might have difficulty in providing staff of a calibre capable of undertaking certain rather sophisticated and complicated operations in measuring emissions to the atmosphere. There might be some risk for people not adequately qualified undertaking certain operations.

I very much doubt whether these safeguards are really necessary. It was in an endeavour to enlist the sympathy of the noble Earl, Lord Courtown, and hoping that one would not attract any objection to the spirit of this Amendment, that I tried to meet what I thought may be his reservations about such an Amendment. It was for that reason that this Amendment refers to a possible ground on which the occupier of premises might request a local authority not itself to undertake the operation, but to allow the occupier to do it and then inform the authority of the results. If one referred to exceptional hazard or difficulty it seems to me this should meet any conceivable case the noble Earl, Lord Courtown, might have had in mind.

One then has to provide for the possibility of failure to agree between the occupier of the premises and the local authority as to whether these conditions were fulfilled, and hence the reference to a possible appeal to the Secretary of State. If one does not put in an Amendment of this kind then, as I say, the occupier of the premises has an absolute right to debar the local authority from entering the premises at all for this purpose. This is wrong; the local authority has such a right. But I am prepared to consider that there might be exceptional circumstances where there was some risk or unusual difficulty in performing the operations. I beg to move.


My noble friend has, with her usual skill and ability, presented the case for the Amendment as she sees it. I ought to try to put the position as we see it. Clause 71(2) provides that a local authority may get information on emissions to atmosphere from industry not registered under the Alkali Act in one of three ways—by notices, by agreement or by entering to take the measurements themselves. Subsection (3) provides that a local authority cannot do the measuring themselves until after they have given the occupier notice of their intentions, and during the period of notice the occupier may opt for a notice under Clause 72 so that he can measure the information himself. As I am advised—and considerable thought has been given to this—the effect of this Amendment would be to limit the power of exclusion to cases where exceptional hazard or difficulty was involved in measuring emissions and provide for an appeal to the Secretary of State.

The notification procedure of subsection (3) was included so that the industrialist would have the right to know what was to be measured, and how the measuring was to be done. The right to opt for a notice is included for two reasons; first, that the industrialist may for some reason, such as that he is already measuring all or part of the emissions concerned, wish to do the job himself. There is no scope, it seems to us, for abuse here. The local authority have full power under Clause 82 to check what is being done, and if the notice is not fulfilled they have a right under Clause 72(8) to measure for themselves. In any event, an industrialist opting for a notice will be obliged to pay for the measurements. The other reason for the right to opt is that a person who has opted and duly received a notice under Clause 72 then gets a right of appeal under Clause 73. This clause enables appeal to the Secretary of State on grounds of prejudice of a trade secret to an unreasonable degree, or damage to the public interest, or difficulty of obtaining the information.

The effect of the Amendment would be to restrict the scope for recourse to the provision, because the local authorities would end up doing most of the measurements themselves. It is not contemplated that there will, in practice, be many appeals but, as we see it, it would not be equitable to restrict as drastically as the Amendment proposes the occupier's right to put up a case for non-disclosure. The Bill as it stands seeks to strike a balance which the Amendment would destroy. With the greatest respect to my noble friend it seems to us to serve no great purpose, because the last word never rests with the occupier. I hope that my noble friend will consider what I have had to say on this Amendment, because I think that it justifies us in asking her not to press it.


I have read these clauses as they now stand, and quite considerable alterations have been made, particularly to Clause 71, and I feel that the point which I was trying to make in Committee on the last Bill is now covered. I think we generally agreed—at any rate, the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, agreed with me—that what you really want is for the local council to get together with the industrialist to make sure that proper tests are made of emissions by people who are sufficiently skilled to do the job. There are various alternative ways of doing this, which I think are now allowed for. Also, if the industrialist was difficult about it the power was needed to go in as a matter of right. If, on the other hand, the industrialist thought that the council was being unreasonable, then he had the right of appeal to the Secretary of State. I think that that is the case now in this Bill as it stands. I think that the Amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady White, would be necessary.


Needless to say, I shall read with the greatest care what my noble friend has said, because it is not at all clear from the Bill as it is at present drafted that the prohibition on the local authority exercising its powers under subsection (3), if the occupier invokes subsection (1) of Clause 72, is covered by Clause 82. My noble friend made reference to this point. Perhaps it would be unfair to continue this discussion until I have had a chance of reading precisely what he said, but it would appear that the local authority is absolutely debarred. I hope I am wrong in that, and that Clause 82 does cover it. I had read it in such a way that I assumed it did not. But if I am wrong and it really does mean that the local authority has the last word and can enter to check exactly what is being done by the occupier, then I should, of course, be content.


I do not know whether it will help my noble friend if I say that I am advised that Clause 82(1)(a)(iii) means that a local authority can go in and check up on the industrialist's own measurement. I thought that if I said that it may help my noble friend when she is considering the matter.


I am greatly obliged to my noble friend. All I would say is that one really needs a lawyer to interpret this Bill, because it is far from clear to anybody reading a plain English sentence, which says that a local authority shall not be entitled to do such-and-such, who is then informed that in fact it does not matter very much, because under Clause 82(1)(a)(iii) they can go and have a look at what the chap is doing. If that is really so, then the provision is probably better than I thought it was. Anyhow, I should like to study carefully what my noble friend has said. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.47 p.m.

BARONESS WHITE moved Amendment No. 71: Page 86, line 8, at end insert ("or to have an interest in local amenity").

The noble Baroness said: This is a somewhat different point which is concerned with the proposal that a local authority shall, from time to time, consult various categories of persons. The categories of persons to be consulted for what is a purely local situation are precisely the same as the categories of persons whom the Secretary of State at national level is enjoined to consult in certain other circumstances. However, it seems to me that here, where one is considering the ways in which the local authority shall exercise its powers under Clause 71, one ought to bring in other people besides those listed here and who are carrying on some trade or business, or the organisations of those carrying on some trade or business, or even those conversant with problems of air pollution.

I am not at all certain that the phrase, "those persons … conversant with problems of air pollution", would include persons who have an interest in local amenity. They could be local inhabitants, people living in the neighbourhood who might be affected, civic societies and the like, or other groups concerned with the general amenities, including the condition of the atmosphere. I thought that it would be advisable to make it perfectly plain that such persons, who might not have scientific expertise in matters of air pollution, but who might, nevertheless, have a very strong interest in the effects of it, should be quite specifically included among those who should be consulted by the local authority. I beg to move.


I am very pleased to say that I am able to accept this Amendment. But I ought to enter a caveat that the Government might want at a later stage to see whether the description of all the groups to be consulted could be expressed more succinctly without altering the sense. I am extremely pleased to be able to accept the Amendment.


I presume therefore that if at some later stage the Government find some more elegant form of words it will be up to them to table them?



On Question, Amendment agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 71, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

8.50 p.m.


On the Second Reading of this Bill (col. 383) the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, told us that there was to be a review of the whole system of air pollution control. I hope he will forgive us if from this side of the Committee we have some scepticism as to exactly what the need for that is. We had the Royal Commission Report in March, 1972; the Report of the Sharp Working Party in July, 1973, and now the report of the Central Unit for Environmental Pollution in February, 1974, all covering this subject. I will not take up the time of the Committee to-night by asking the noble Lord to give us the rationale of this review now, but I feel certain that my right honourable friends and honourable friends will be asking his right honourable friend at later stages of this Bill in another place what it is all about and why it is necessary.

I wish to ask him to-night to confirm that the three following points will be borne in mind in any review leading to a restructuring of this business of air pollution control. First, it really would be folly to weaken or to reduce the influence of the Alkali Inspectorate or to disperse their skills bearing in mind that it is one of the oldest and most respected Inspectorates in the world and is the envy of almost all other industrial nations that have to deal with this problem. Secondly, it would be ludicrous to abandon our well-established and long-established principle of seeking to abate pollution by the best practical means—what the noble Lord, Lord Ashby, at col. 418, described as "the pragmatic approach"—and to put in its place a wasteful system of arbitrary, absolute and uniform standards.

Would the noble Lord also agree that it would be necessary to consider a third point; namely, that it would be nonsense to move away from proceedings by way of co-operation and understanding and patient reconciliation of interests just because the current fashion to-day is to believe that social progress can best be made—or even only be achieved—by engineering and fermenting conflict. I should feel reassured if the noble Lord could tell us that those three factors will be in the mind of anyone who is undertaking a review of air pollution control.


Before my noble friend replies, may I say that there are certainly some of us who have certain hesitations about the absolute value of the Alkali Inspectorate. During the Second Reading debate I referred to an extremely interesting report by Social Audit on the Alkali Inspectorate, which I have no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, and the noble Baroness, Lady Young, have both read. I would not say that I subscribe to everything in that report, but I think it brings out—particularly in its later paragraphs—the very genuine problems which can arise when the Alkali Inspectorate, which is primarily a technical or science-based body of men, are in a position where in fact they are making value judgments for which they have no responsibility. They come to conclusions which some of us at least suppose are more properly to be determined by elected representatives, particularly in the local authorities. But the local authorities are not always in a position to know the basis of facts on which the Alkali Inspectorate reach their conclusions.

There are quite genuine differences of view about this. I understand that some little while ago there was a movement on the part of some of the major local authorities to make the Alkali Inspectorate only an advisory body and to lay upon the local authorities the duty of enforcement. I can quite see that this division of responsibility might also lead to problems; and although I really do not know, I imagine that it is considerations of this sort which would have led my right honourable friend the Secretary of State to think that one ought to have a more general review of a position where there are perfectly valid conflicts of opinion and of principle.

I do not think anyone would imagine that simply because the Alkali Inspectorate had existed for, I think it is, 110 years, that was necessarily a reason for maintaining it unchanged. In fact, as we all know, in the Safety and Health at Work Bill which is before another place at the present time, the Alkali Inspectorate is going to be moved from one Department to another. This in itself needs examination, because if the Alkali Inspectorate is working in the Department of Employment, on the face of it one would imagine that its responsibilities would be much more strongly directed to considerations of safety and health in the workplace. This is in itself very important and necessary, but in this Bill we are concerned with emissions into the atmosphere as they would affect people living outside the workplace. Therefore there is again some division of interest and responsibility.

So I find it difficult to understand why the noble Lord should apparently be taking exception to the suggestion of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment that there should be this general examination of the position, which is not provided for either in this Bill or in the Bill which is before another place. There are some possibly irreconcilable interests here and therefore I think it is very statesmanlike indeed, and I was delighted to learn that my right honourable friend had made this proposition.


I find myself very much in agreement with my noble friend in this matter. I do so rather as a newcomer to the problem but as one who perhaps has been part of the problem, in that I have been an industrialist in a particular field which has been criticised for the extent of pollution that the petro-chemical industry creates. There is undoubtedly concern, suspicion and uncertainty in this whole field. I have listened to the noble Earl, Lord Courtown, and on later Amendments we have the clash of industry, the efficiency of industry and the consequences of industrial growth with the natural desire of people like my noble friend Lady White for the protection of the environment. These are issues in regard to which I suppose no one really can put his hand on his heart and say, "I know the entire truth".

The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, recalled what I said during the Second Reading debate on this Bill; that is, that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is to set up a review of the whole system of air pollution control. I can now say that my right honourable friend intends to ask the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution to undertake this task. Inquiries are to be set up urgently and they will be asked to report within one year. It will obviously be for the Royal Commission to decide what precise form the inquiry will take, but I have no doubt that they will wish to look at the recent publicity about air pollution and, of course, the points made in your Lordships' House during the passage of this Bill and its predecessor. My right honourable friend and I will ensure that Parliament will be kept informed of progress.

The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, referred to the three reports on information and on monitoring. A new review is much more basic over the whole subject of air pollution control. The noble Lord asked me three questions. The first was about the folly to weaken the Alkali Inspectorate. This is a rather ancient organisation that has served us well. I think there are many who feel that they are subject to an inquiry, but an inquiry not in any sense being critical of what they have done or what they can do in the future. I have no doubt at all that the Royal Commission will be well aware of their merits.

The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, then hoped that there would be no intention to abandon the best practical means. I can give him that assurance. His third point was on co-operation. Of this we can only be well aware. At the end of the day it is only through co-operation—if I may say so, a theme very much of the Labour Party, when it was silting on the Benches opposite, on a number of pieces of legislation—that one makes progress. I hope I have given the noble Lord a satisfactory answer to the three questions he asked.


I am most grateful to the noble Lord and I am tremendously reassured by what he said. I think the news, which is news, that the Royal Commission are to be asked to undertake this task is very good news indeed because it will certainly secure that there is no unnecessary duplication.

Clause 71, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 72 [Notices requiring information about pollution]:

9.3 p.m.

BARONESS WHITE had given Notice of her intention to move Amendment No. 72: Page 86, line 38, leave out ("is being") and insert ("may be").

The noble Baroness said: I do not propose to pursue this Amendment because I think it is subsumed in the announcement that my noble friend has just made. When we were discussing this before, the point of the Amendment—which was slightly different—was that circumstances could arise where there was conflict between the Alkali Inspector and the local authority; and there might be a position of deadlock if the local authority wished for some information which the Alkaline Inspector was not prepared to give. When we debated it in the other Bill on February 4, the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, said: "It will need much more than this Amendment to put matters right." I could not agree with him more. I think the inquiry about which we have just heard will probably consider this matter among others. Therefore, I do not intend to move this Amendment.

9.4 p.m.

LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 73: Page 87, leave out lines 4 to 7.

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 73, and at the same time speak to Amendment 80 which are both probing Amendments designed to secure a short discussion about the position of pollution arising from Crown premises and caused in the service of the Crown. I imagine that I speak for the whole Committee in saying that we all want to see the Crown subject, in one way or the other, to all the restrictions and restraints designed to prevent and abate pollution. I am not satisfied, myself (perhaps the noble Lord can satisfy me) that we have really secured this in the Bill as it stands. There is a reasonably satisfactory provision in the Clean Air Act of 1956, at Section 22, from which I will read extracts briefly, which makes it the function of the local authority … to report to the responsible Minister any cases of emissions of dark smoke, grit or dust, from premises which are under the control of any Government department … which are within a smoke control area", and anything constituting a nuisance to the inhabitants of the neighbourhood, and so on. On receipt of such report the said Minister shall inquire into the circumstances and, if his inquiry reveals there is cause for complaint, shall employ all practical means for preventing or minimising the emission of the smoke, grit or dust or for abating the nuisance and preventing a recurrence thereof.

That seems satisfactory so far as it goes. If that is what can happen in respect of the enforcement of the Clean Air Act, then we should like to feel—and I am sure the noble Baroness, Lady White, would like to feel—that every such instance of a report should be included in the information published by local authorities under Clause 71(1)(b) so that people know what has been going on. They would like to feel that Ministers receiving such a report will respond on each occasion not only by taking action to prevent recurrence, but by giving an account which can subsequently be published about what has been done by way of abatement or prevention.

Most of all what I should like to see embodied in the Bill—or for the noble Lord to confirm that it is in the Bill already, if it is—is similar provision made before this Bill leaves Parliament to review the operation of this clause and other clauses like it, and making it apply to other fields besides that of clean air. As I say, I should like to see a reference made to what reports from local authorities to Ministers have been received, and what Ministers have done about them in respect of their various offending Crown premises published in such annual reports as we can expect under Clause 71(1)(b). If there is further amendment of this Bill to be done in order to secure this, I would recommend to the noble Lord and his right honourable friend that he be guided in this by Parliament. I have a feeling—and I think others might share this—that if this is a matter which is put out for consultation in Whitehall, from where Crown premises are controlled, all sorts of influences and impediments will be put in the way and we shall not get anything in at all. So I hope the noble Lord will agree with me, that if we want anything done here the right course is to be guided by Parliament.


I would first say a general word about the way in which this Bill affects the Crown. There is a well-established convention that legislation conferring powers on local authorities and other non-governmental bodies should not formally bind the Crown. This is because it is held to be wrong constitutionally for local bodies of this kind to have powers of entering, inspection and control over the Crown and its Government Departments. But that does not, of course, mean that the Crown or Government Departments are to behave as though they are above the law. On the contrary, the normal practice is for arrangements to be made administratively to ensure that they comply with the standards set by the law. The Control of Pollution Bill has in the main followed this convention and the licensing procedures of Part I, the consent procedures of Part II, and the noise regulation procedures of Part III will not directly bind the Crown. In Part IV, however, it has been thought reasonable to adopt a different approach because these clauses are rather different in character.

The Crown and Government Departments will be expected to co-operate with local authorities, but again they are exempted from the formal powers of entry and inspection by the local authorities. This exemption is formally necessary, because we retain the right for Government Departments to refuse entry to local authority inspectors in some cases. It would not be right, for example, for local authorities to have a legal right of entry into Defence establishments. For this reason, the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, No. 73, must be resisted. But having said this, I would again emphasise that there is every intention that, in practice, the Crown should comply with the requirements of the Bill wherever possible, and I can assure the Committee that all Government Departments and establishments will be expected to give the fullest co-operation to local authorities in exercising their functions under Part IV of this Bill and, indeed, under other Parts of the Bill.

May I say a word about Clause 95(3) on which the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, and the noble Baroness, Lady Young, have tabled a probing Amendment? The purpose of subsection (3) is to make clear that the tenants of Crown and Government Departments are subject to all the controls of this Bill. As I have explained, the Crown and Government Departments are not in general bound by the Bill, but there is no reason why tenants of the Crown and Government Departments should not be subject to all the controls, and the subsection so provides. How far the Crown and Government Departments fulfill their obligations under Statutes is, I know, always subject to questioning. I should have thought the best procedure here was through Parliament, to which the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, referred, because it is here that Ministers who are responsible for Departments are themselves answerable. It may not necessarily be practical that all these matters should be raised in either House, but I have no doubt at all that if a letter from a Member drawing attention to a certain aspect has no effective consequence, then the quickest and most efficient way of getting a result is to put down a Question in either House. So I would agree with Lord Sandford. I think that in dealing with the Crown the method should be through Parliament. There are many ways, as the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, now knows and also has experienced, by which pressure can be brought on Ministers and also on the Departments concerned.


I am grateful to the noble Lord for that explanation and I certainly accept the theology behind the first part of his answer, that we cannot have local authorities having legal statutory rights over the Crown. But I like the pattern of the Clean Air Act 1950 and would have hoped that it was possible to adapt it to the other Parts of this Bill. I would be content to leave the matter there at the moment. Perhaps I might, however, invite the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, while he is reflecting about the degree to which servants of the Crown and the premises of the Crown can be entrusted to set standards in the environment, to go and have a look at the squalor at the back of No. 2 Marsham Street, remaining after the building has been in use for about three or four years, and then consider whether we should tighten up the position.


I can only say to the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, and to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, that I have been in the D.O.E. building, but have known of its existence for only six weeks. So I am not quite sure what the precincts are like. I was being a little hesitant in replying to this Amendment, having made one slight nonsense on a previous Bill when I moved an Amendment which I should have opposed, and so I was slightly reluctant to be too forthcoming to the noble Lord, Lord Sandford. But my noble friend reminded me that this is an area where I am advised that I can say that I will undertake to have further thoughts. In the light of what the noble Lord has said, I shall be most happy to consider the point, and also to make sure that I will look at the area he has in mind on either Friday or Monday.


May I just inquire whether the next time I see the most hideous black smoke emerging from the roof of the Department of the Environment and I write a letter to the noble Lord the Leader of the House, or even ring him up, he will ensure it is stopped?


If the noble Baroness, Lady White, sees black smoke coming out on Wednesday morning, she will know that it is the Briefs from this Bill that are burning.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 72 agreed to.

Clause 73 agreed to.

Clause 74 [Regulations about research and publicity]:

9.17 p.m.

LORD GARNSWORTHY moved Amendment No. 74: Page 88, line 29, at end insert— (cc) require each local authority to maintain in a prescribed form a register of information obtained by the authority by virtue of section 71(2) of this Act, other than information as to which a direction in pursuance of subsection (2) of the preceding section provides that the information is not to be disclosed to the public;").

The noble Lord said: On behalf of my noble friend Lord Shepherd, I should like to move Amendment No. 74 and at the same time speak to Amendment No. 75. The effect of this Amendment is to provide for a register to be maintained by each local authority to obtain information on emissions by any one of the three methods specified in Clause 71(2). This will bring these clauses more into line with Clause 35 dealing with water. The register will not contain information which the Secretary of State has agreed should not be published in the public interest because of its relationship to a trade secret. The register will be available for inspection in the town hall concerned, and the public will be able to take copies of that register. I beg to move.


While I welcome the Amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Garnsworthy, and the consequential Amendment No. 75, I am disturbed to find that in this Amendment it is proposed that information shall not be disclosed if the Secretary of State has issued a direction under Clause 73(2). However, we surely agreed in discussing the register on water effluent that the fact that an exemption had been granted in Part II of the Bill should be recorded in the register for water, giving the name of the person or firm concerned and the place, but not disclosing anything further by way of details. It seems to be a quite serious omission in this otherwise admirable Amendment that there should be no reference to the fact that if a direction has been given under Clause 73(2), then the fact that it has been given by the Secretary of State should be recorded, but without any further details of the substance of it.


I think the best assurance I can make is that we will examine carefully what my noble friend Baroness White has had to say on this. At the moment it seems to me that we have covered the position, but we will certainly consider what she has had to say. If the position is not as satisfactory as we had thought we were making it, there is every reason for coming back to it.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 75. Amendment moved— Page 88, line 46, at end insert— ("(5) A register maintained by a local authority in pursuance of regulations made by virtue of subsection (3)(cc) of this section shall be open to public inspection at the principal office of the authority free of charge at all reasonable hours, and the authority shall afford members of the public reasonable facilities for obtaining from the authority, on payment of reasonable charges, copies of entries in the register.").—(Lord Garnsworthy.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 74, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 75 to 82 agreed to.

Clause 83 [Provisions supplementary to s. 82.]:

THE EARL OF COURTOWN moved Amendment No. 78: Page 93, line 43, at end insert— ("( ) If the person referred to in subsection (1) of section 82 is not a full-time officer of the relevant authority, that authority shall notify the owner or occupier of the land or vessel in question of—

  1. (a) the name of that person;
  2. (b) the nature of his full-time employment, including the place of that employment;
  3. (c) the nature of his employment by th authority; and
  4. (d) the same information regarding such other persons as he may take with him.")

The noble Earl said: Clauses 82 and 83 allow a relevant authority to authorise any person to enter upon any land or vessel for the purposes of this Bill and to take any other person and equipment as may be necessary. As the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, mentioned on Second Reading, and the noble Baroness, Lady Young, today, considerable technical knowledge and experience will be required by those carrying out some of the duties involved, and it is questionable whether, at first at any rate, many authorities will have such people on their staff. As the noble Baroness, Lady White, said, it may even be dangerous for people untrained to this work to carry out some of the tests that may be necessary. Such authorities, therefore, will either have to use one of the established Inspectorates, the Alkali or Factory Inspectorates, or alternatively technical consultants with the relevant training.

No responsible industrialists should be worried about a visit from a member of one of these established Inspectorates, or indeed from an inspector of the local authority. But the situation may be quite different if the inspector is from a firm of technical consultants who may, in a few weeks' time, be advising one of his competitors at home or overseas. Indeed, under the Bill as it stands at present by Clause 83(2) he could bring in to assist him the employee of a competitor, although I hope that no responsible consultant would do such a thing. I am aware that in Clause 85 and other clauses it is provided that disclosure of information is illegal, but the fine cannot exceed £400, which is tiny in relation to the value of the information which might be obtained regarding the layout and operating processes of a plant. It is unlikely that information will be communicated in a form which would provide evidence of such an offence. The consultant however responsible, who would not think of giving the information by putting it in writing for somebody else, cannot possibly exclude part of the knowledge which is in his head, and indeed consultants build up much of their value on the basis of the jobs they have been employed on.

This Amendment tries to deal with this point by ensuring that an industrialist at least knows who the inspector is and whom he is bringing with him. He will know how much guidance they will need; and, if he is worried about the security aspect, he can then take the matter up with the local authority. I am assuming the local authority would be reasonable in all cases and would meet him. On the other hand, if they would not meet him, then presumably he could refuse admission to the works and make his case before a justice of the peace. This may not be the best way of achieving the object of the Amendment, but I think I have said enough to show what I am driving at. I think this is a real safeguard and one which is needed. I am open to any suggestion of a better way of doing it. I beg to move.


I should very much like to support my noble friend in this and urge Her Majesty's Government to recognise the important distinction, which he has put before us, that exists between persons who are industrial consultants, though engaged by the local authorities, and people who are the direct employees of the local authorities. I think my noble friend has made it quite clear that an entirely different set of considerations apply in the mind of industry being visited by those two categories. I hope the Government will either be able to accept this Amendment, with which I personally cannot find any fault, or if for any technical reason they cannot do so, they will accept the principle behind it and provide for this important distinction.


May I say shortly that we take the point that the noble Earl makes in presenting his Amendment. I have to say that we think the Amendment, as drafted, would not satisfactorily meet the point he seeks. If he would agree to withdraw it we shall certainly look at the position, consider it, and if we can we shall be as helpful as possible. I do not know whether he would like to have a talk with us before Report stage to see whether he is satisfied with the consideration that is given to it. We shall look at it. It is a matter that needs careful consideration. We are certainly not satisfied that he would achieve his object as the Amendment is drafted.


I am quite happy that the Government should do that. The Amendment I moved I felt was a most imperfect way of achieving my aim. Probably the Amendment is badly drafted. But this is an important matter. We hear a great deal about industrial espionage. There is not only an obvious possibility for industrial espionage in these particular circumstances but there is also the possibility, as I indicated, of almost accidental imparting of useful information to a competitor at home or overseas. Do understand from what the noble Lord has said that he is hoping to bring something forward on Report stage in this House, or in another place?


I should certainly not wish to be misunderstood. I said that we would consider the position, and it might be helpful if the noble Earl would care to have a word with us about it before we reach Report stage so that he is satisfied that we fully understand him and he fully understands us.


I am at the noble Lord's disposal at any time he wishes to discuss this matter. I have said almost all I need to say about it. I think that the problem is quite clear. With those assurances, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 83 agreed to.

Clauses 84 to 90 agreed to.

Schedule 2 agreed to.

Clauses 91 to 94 agreed to.

Clause 95 [Interpretation etc.—general]:

9.29 p.m.

BARONESS WHITE moved Amendment No. 79A: Page 102, line 24, at end insert— (""Water Authority" has the same meaning as in the Water Act 1973.").

The noble Baroness said: in the absence of the noble and learned Viscount, if my noble friend on the Front Bench tells me that this Amendment will be a helpful one, I shall be happy to move it on behalf of the noble and learned Viscount.


I have to say that we feel that this Amendment is quite unnecessary. I am probably running a very serious risk in saying that. I am delighted that I am saying this to my noble friend and not to the noble and learned Viscount. I appreciate that I am running a risk at a later stage.


If it is any consolation to the noble Lord I will support him because that is what I said on the last occasion.


I was going to remind the Committee of that fact.


In that case, on behalf of the noble and learned Viscount, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 95 agreed to.

Clauses 96 to 98 agreed to.

Schedule 3 agreed to.

Schedule 4 [Repeals]:

LORD GARNSWORTHY moved Amendment No. 82: Page 118, leave out lines 27 and 28.

The noble Lord said: Briefly, Section 13 of the Port of London Act 1964 has already been repealed by the Port of London Act 1968, Section 103 of which included a new provision which was itself repealed by Statutory Instrument 1974, No. 607. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Schedule 4, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 99 agreed to.


I should not like this occasion to pass without first expressing some sincere words of appreciation to my noble friends Lord Garnsworthy and Lady White—particularly for the brevity and punch of her speeches—and especially to the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, and the noble Baroness, Lady Young. We have had not only co-operation but sympathy. It is not easy to pick up a Bill of such complexity as this at such short notice, and have to deal with a noble Lord and a noble Baroness who, shall I say, were brought up with it. But they have been very helpful and I hope they will think that, as a consequence not only of their labours but of the labours of the whole Committee, what was a fairly good Bill on Second Reading is now a much better one. Report stage is only a few days away and I hope to be moving a Standing Order in order that we can take the Third Reading on the same day, so that the Bill can go to another place.

Time is short but if there is anything that we can do—and I am thinking particularly of the noble Earl, Lord Courtown—we shall be most happy to do so. Even then, if there are still items which we have not been able to finalise here, there are the proceedings in another place, and I would certainly be open to any approaches by any Member of this Committee. I would certainly ensure that my right honourable friend and honourable friends in another place responsible for the Bill took into account any views or any doubts that may still exist, bearing in mind the speed with which we have dealt with this Bill—but a speed which I think the House will feel, in the end, was utterly justified. I thank the Committee very sincerely indeed.


In response, may I say that I should very sincerely like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, and the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, on the manner in which they have managed the whole of the Committee stage. They have my sympathies, because this is an immensely complicated Bill involving four separate subjects of a tremendous amount of technical detail which is difficult to grasp. We, for our part, are very grateful for the help that we have had. As I said at the beginning, this is a Bill the principles of which we support, and we wish to see it on the Statute Book.

House resumed: Bill reported with the Amendments.