[Major Sir RICHARD BARNETT in the Chair.]
Every local authority shall, on being required to do so by the Minister, furnish to the Minister such information as he may from time to time require as to their proceedings with regard to the abatement of smoke nuisances.
Captain WATERHOUSE: I beg to move, after the word "Every," to insert the words "county council or other." Possibly the Minister can meet me on this point. I am not sure whether the term "local authority" does or does not include "county council." I think, probably, it does, in which case my Amendment is unnecessary. If, on the other hand, it does not include county council, I think the Minister ought to accept these words, in order that a county council, as well as a rural district council or a municipal council, may come within the scope of the Clause.
The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of HEALTH (Sir Kingsley Wood): The original purpose of the Clause was to enable the Minister to obtain information from authorities which we might have reason to think were not carrying out their duties, which are confined to rural and urban authorities. I have no objection to including county councils, because in certain events the county councils may take over the work of smoke abatement, and it might be useful for the Minister of Health to have reports from them. I do not think they would object to that course being adopted. Therefore, I accept the Amendment.1578
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
(1) Nothing in this Act shall apply to any ship or vessel, or affect the enactments in force at the commencement of this Act with respect to smoke nuisance and smoke consumption in any ship or vessel.
(2) For the purposes of this Section "vessel" means any boat or other description of vessel used in navigation.
Captain WATERHOUSE: I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), after the word "any" ["to any ship"], to insert the words "ocean-going."
Sir K. WOOD: Might I suggest that as all the Amendments to this Clause deal with the question of ships and their relationship to this Bill, it would be for the general convenience if we had a general discussion on the first Amendment?
The CHAIRMAN: I think that would be for the convenience of the Committee.
Captain WATERHOUSE: I intended to suggest that course. Our object is to try to limit the amount of smoke which is blown off into our cities and towns from internal waterways, but while doing that, we are anxious in no way to put unnecessary restrictions on the real ocean-going navigable vessels. In the United States—I do not suggest that we want to follow their example in everything—I understand that they have this restriction on ocean-going vessels, and that they have no serious trouble or serious loss to trade as a result. If the Minister will meet us in some measure in our attempt to limit the amount of smoke which is loosed off in internal waterways by ships plying, and only plying, in internal waterways, it will, at any rate, be a step in the right direction. Those of us who have at various times been on the Terrace, or in other parts of London near the river, must have been struck with the extraordinary amount of smoke that a very small barge can emit. I am sure that it is unnecessary for these barges to emit that amount of smoke, just as it is unnecessary for a Foden wagon or a Sentinel wagon to emit it. If one of these wagons can avoid smoke, I think the small vessels should be able to avoid it. If the words of the 1579 Amendment were inserted in the Clause it seems to me that it would allow freedom for our real navigable mercantile marine to carry on very much as they do at present. My information is that it is not the large vessels, with their better appliances, but the smaller ships which cause most of the nuisance. I hope that the Minister will accept the words which I propose, or some other words, with the object of dealing with the smoke nuisance, which arises particularly in districts which have canals, rivers and ship canals.
Lieut-Colonel STOTT: Can the hon. and gallant Member give a definition of ocean-going craft?
Captain WATERHOUSE: The definition which I should give would be a craft that goes across the ocean.
Lieut.-Colonel STOTT: Under such a definition, what would be the position of a craft of similar size leaving London and going through the Kiel Canal to Leningrad? She is an ocean-going craft, but she does not touch the ocean. Such a definition would be liable to create any amount of disputes and legal proceedings. Whatever definition there might be, I suggest that that is not the one to use.
Mr. SCURR: I hope that the Minister will be able to accept the Amendment or other words which will secure the object which the Move of the Amendment has in view. I have an Amendment on the Paper—in Sub-section (1), at the end, to insert the words "other than any steam vessel on the River Thames either above London Bridge or plying to and fro between London Bridge and any place on the River Thames westward of the Nore Light," the object of which is to get something done in regard to London. It is what we may call the local boats that are responsible mostly for the smoke nuisance. I have in my hand three photographs, which I will pass round to members of the Committee, which have been taken in various parts of the country, one on the Firth of Clyde, one in London, and I am not certain where the other was taken, all showing that it is the local boats which are responsible for this smoke nuisance. This matter could be dealt with at very little ex- 1580 pense. I have a letter from the Caledonian Steam Packet Company Limited, of Gourock. Their boats run on the River Clyde, and it has been noticed that they do not emit smoke. This fact caused inquiry to be made, and a reply has been received from the Secretary and Manager of the Company. He writes:— "I have your favour of yesterday regarding our conversation on board the Arran steamer early this month. For about two years past I have been giving the coal question close attention, and, with the assistance of the engineers and experienced firemen on board our steamers, we have been able to show a very satisfactory result. "The usual habit is for the firemen to gorge their furnaces, and then retire for a smoke, resuming when they notice the steam beginning to fall, which is about the most extravagant form of coal consumption,, the proper way being for the men on duty to be constantly there maintaining the fires to a proper thickness and sprinkling coal almost constantly, and which not only brings about a saving of 7½ per cent., but reduces the smoke nuisance to a minimum. "This method, coupled with a slight reduction in speed to the extent of from two or three revolutions per minute on the reciprocating engine, brings about a very startling result, that last year's working of our steamers resulted in a saving of 20 per cent. over the consumption of the previous year. I should say the reduction in speed represents 12½ per cent. and the balance of 7½ per cent. is due to regular firing." I think that letter shows very clearly that this nuisance can be dealt with without any elaborate preparation, simply by improving the organisation and work of the firemen. Those of us who go on the Terrace, and are familiar with London, know the nuisance that is caused by tug boats and other craft passing up and down the river. I hope the Minister will accept the Amendment, or something like it.
Mr. WOMERSLEY: I hope the Minister will not acept the Amendment. The best way out of the difficulty would be for the Minister to give an assurance to the Committee that he will make inquiries and deal with the matter on the Report stage. When the Bill was issued, it was noticed that Clause 9 was inserted, and those representing the shipping interests then withdrew their opposition to the Bill, because they realised that they were not included. That being so, I suggest that those representing the shipping interests have not had a fair chance of putting their case before Members of Parliament. To 1581 amend the Clause in Committee in the way suggested would be very unfair to the shipping interests. The hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Scurr) has told us how the smoke nuisance can be abated in vessels, and he has named one particular firm. Let me remind the Committee that there are thousands of small tug owners in this country, and others who own small vessels, who have not the capital to enable them to put in the improved appliances that are necessary, and to make a sudden change such as this would be a hardship on these people. Something ought to be arranged whereby they will be given time to alter their boiler fires, so that they can abate what is considered a smoke nuisance. Those who have had any experience of the firing of vessels know that it is not so simple a matter as has been suggested by the firm mentioned. It is not always the fireman who is at fault. We in Grimsby with our fishing vessels would be very much opposed to any such Amendment being inserted in the Clause. The hon. and gallant Member who proposed the Amendment could not define an ocean-going vessel, and when he tries to do so he goes a long way off the map. Such an Amendment would inflict a great hardship on the owners and the firemen of thousands of vessels that could not come under the hon. and gallant Member's definition of "ocean going," but if reference were made to legal opinion, it would be decided that they were ocean-going vessels within the terms of the law. As there is so much confusion on this question, I sugest that it requires far more consideration than we can give it this morning. If the Minister will promise to consider the matter between now and the Report stage, those hon. Members who support the Amendment ought to be satisfied.
Colonel Sir ARTHUR HOLBROOK: I have an Amendment to leave out the words "or affect the enactments in force at the commencement of this Act with respect to smoke nuisance and smoke consumption in any ship or vessel," and to insert instead thereof the words "exempted under the provisions of Section one hundred and ten of the Public Health Act, 1875." 1582 I hope that my Amendment will not be regarded in any way as putting an obstacle in the way of shipping, but, as has been pointed out, in the River Thames particularly, the smoke eminating from the tugs and other boats form one of the greatest of our smoke nuisances. My proposal is that ships shall not be altogether excepted, but only those which are exempted under the provisions of Section 110 of the Public Health Act, 1875. I am quite willing to fall in with the suggestion of my hon. Friend that this should be left to the Minister to deal with on the Report stage after full consideration of the point; but I feel it would destroy the whole effect of this Measure if we were to leave all these little tugs and other boats blowing out black smoke while at the same time putting an embargo upon smoke issuing from factories and private dwellings.
Sir K. WOOD: I cannot allow the observations made by the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Womersley) with respect to shipping interests and this Bill to pass without comment. It would be impossible for any Standing Committee to deal with any Bill if the doctrine which my hon. Friend has just suggested were to be accepted. The Amendments dealing with this particular Clause have been on the Order Paper some days.
Captain WATERHOUSE: Some months.
Sir K. WOOD: I will put it at some weeks so as to come between the two. Obviously, a powerful and wide-awake federation like the Shipping Federation would follow the fortunes of a Bill like this and would know what is happening in Committee, and it not right to suggest to the members of the Committee that because the Bill contains a Clause of this kind we should therefore be precluded, in the interests of shipping people, from dealing with it. As the Bill stands, it says, "Nothing in this Act shall apply to any ship or vessel … with respect to smoke nuisance and smoke consumption in any ship or vessel." What led my right hon. Friend to put this proposal in the Bill was, of course, the special considerations attaching to the shipping position at the present time. He has been assured, for instance, that 1583 it is not practicable to prevent the emission of dense smoke when a ship is getting under way. Secondly, as I think every member of the Committee will agree, it is not desirable to put undue restrictions upon the shipping industry at the present moment. Thirdly, any restrictions put upon sea-going vessels would have to apply equally to foreign ships coming to this country. One does not want to over-emphasise this point, or to go into it too fully, but, obviously if restrictions were put upon foreign vessels coming to our ports, it might well be that other countries would take steps against our vessels. I must say, however, that I do not think any of these arguments apply very much to tugs and vessels of that description, and I have here some words which, I think, will meet the situation and will carry out more precisely the suggestions which have been made by a large number of Members; and I would remark here that we have received many representations that something ought to be done to deal with the tugs and boats that go up and down the river. What I would propose is that my hon. Friend should withdraw his Amendment in favour of an Amendment which I will move, and then,, between now and the Report stage, I will consult with my hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby and any other interests that are affected to see whether, in fact, any damage will be done to them. He represents a very important part of the country, and I have listened carefully to what he has said, but I do not think that under the Amendment which I suggest the interests for which he speaks will be seriously or injuriously affected. What I suggest to the Committee is that I should insert such a series of Amendments that the Clause will then read: "Nothing in this Act shall apply to any ship habitually used as a seagoing ship or affect the enactments in force at the commencement of this Act with respect to smoke nuisance and smoke consumption in any such ship." A searching question was put to the hon. and gallant Member for South Leicester (Captain Waterhouse) as to what he meant by "an ocean-going ship." The term "sea-going ship" is pretty well defined. It is in the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, and it has also been very fully discussed in one 1584 of the leading law cases, and I think my hon Friends, when they examine this Clause a little more, and see the exact definition, will find that their interests are not being affected to any large extent, while at the same time the Committee will be taking a step forward which I think they ought to take to deal with what is undoubtedly a nuisance on some of the rivers of the country. I hope what I have suggested will commend itself to the Committee, and I need hardly say that between now and the Report stage I will gladly confer with hon. Members and go more fully into any points arising if they think this may be going too far. Having listened to the discussion and noting the number of Amendments in the names of hon. Members, I think we must at any rate take this step this morning.
Mr. HERBERT WILLIAMS: I feel with the Parliamentary Secretary that the nuisance can in some measure be avoided, but I would like to inform the hon. member for Mile End (Mr. Scurr) that his shipping friend has not discovered anything new. When I was a marine engineer 21 years ago it was one of my jobs to see that the firemen were firing regularly, and if one keeps a level, bright fire one can avoid a great deal of smoke, but when a ship is starting its journey, whether that journey is going to be an ocean voyage or a river trip, and it is raising steam, there is bound to be a very substantial emission of smoke. I am not quite certain whether the Amendment suggested by the Parliamentary Secretary will protect small craft which work on rivers from being charged with an offence which they cannot very well avoid, namely, the offence which they will commit when they are raising steam. We often see from the Terrace vessels passing up and down the river which, plainly, are being very badly fired, and no one wants to defend that, though it must be remembered they are very small boats and that probably there is only one man to do the firing and superintend the engine, and therefore he cannot give the fires the same regular attention they get from firemen in a big ship. I think the Amendment should be slightly modified so that a prosecution ought not to lie if what would otherwise be an offence is committed when the vessel 1585 is raising steam before and just after starting on a trip. I think that period ought to be taken into account; otherwise a lot of offences will be committed which cannot be avoided, and I do not think we want to create crimes by legislation.
Lieut.-Colonel STOTT: A good deal has been said about small craft on the Thames and observations made from the Terrace. If hon. Members will make a little closer observation of the small craft on the river it will be palpable to them that it is when they lower their funnels to pass under the bridges that the biggest volume of black smoke comes out. Any smoke inspector would be able to lay an information against those vessels every time they pass under a bridge, and he might catch one tug-boat three times in an hour if it were towing a few lighters, dropping them, and then going back for more. It is impossible for those little tugs to drop their funnels in order to pass under a bridge without causing a smoke nuisance. The same thing occurs on all rivers and canals where vessels have to lower their funnels, and I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to see that such cases as those are obviated.
Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE: I wish to ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether trawlers going in and out of Grimsby or going round the coast will be exempted under this new Clause? And whether a tug that does most of its work on rivers but sometimes goes outside will be exempted, and how he will define the distinction between tugs which confine themselves to rivers and those which go outside?
Sir K. WOOD: With regard to the last question which has been put to me, if the hon. and gallant Member will turn to the Merchant Shipping Act, he will find a very fair definition of a sea-going vessel. Then there is the case of "The Salt Union, Ltd. v. Wood," where it was decided that the phrase "sea-going vessel" does not mean a ship which might go to sea or is capable of going to sea, but—and this seems rather sensible for a legal case—a ship which does go to sea. Therefore, my hon. friend can ascertain for himself whether any of those vessels do in fact go to sea. If they do go to sea, they are exempt from the operations of this Clause. Obviously, I do not want to give a judgment on a 1586 particular set of facts, but that is the general position. To reassure hon. Members who have been putting a quite proper and legitimate case before the Committee, I want to say that this new Clause, with the suggestion I have made by way of Amendment, does not in any way interfere with the law as it stands at the present moment in regard to black smoke. We are making no alteration whatever so far as that is concerned. But as regards other smoke, that is, other than black smoke, it would be equally open to the owners of those vessels to put forward the defence that is contained in the latter part of Clause 1, namely, that they have used the best practical means of dealing with the matter as set forth in that Clause. As I have said, I will gladly confer with hon. Members about the Amendment between now and the Report stage, because I think I shall be able to satisfy them that to a large extent, at any rate, their fears need not unduly upset them. I think we must take this step this morning. It is a moderate step in the right direction, and I suggest to the Committee that we should agree to the Amendment which I am about to propose, and then anybody who has any difficulties can bring them to us, and we can look into them between now and the Report stage.
Major BIRCHALL: My right hon. Friend, out of his encyclopædic knowledge, has given us no information about the position in America. It has been said this morning that seagoing vessels which smoke like anything on this side become smokeless when they reach New York. If that be so, it looks as though the smoke nuisance could be avoided without much difficulty. It would be interesting to know whether coasting vessels in America have to consume their smoke, and, if so, why it should not be practicable for vessels on this side to do the same.
Sir K. WOOD: I have no information, about that.
Captain WATERHOUSE: In view of the satisfactory remarks of the Parliamentary Secretary I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment, but I hope that between now and the Report stage he will not allow the great hardships which the shipping industry are putting forward 1587 to override in his mind the great hardships which at present are being inflicted on so many people who live close to the waterways of this country.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
The CHAIRMAN: May I take it that other hon. Members do not move their Amendments? [Hon. Members indicated assent.]
Amendment made: Leave out the words "or vessel, or affect the enactments in force at the commencement of this Act with respect to smoke nuisance and smoke consumption in any ship or vessel. (2) For the purposes of this Section 'vessel' means any boat or other description of vessel used in navigation." and insert instead thereof the words "habitually used as a seagoing ship or affect the enactments in force at the commencement of this Act with respect to smoke nuisance and smoke consumption in any such ship."—[Sir K. Wood.]
Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
If it appears to a local authority that a smoke nuisance exists on any premises within their district occupied for the public service of the Crown, they shall report the circumstances to the appropriate Government Department, and, if the Minister responsible for that Department is satisfied after due inquiry that such a nuisance exists, he shall cause such steps to be taken as may be necessary to abate the nuisance and to prevent a recurrence thereof.
Mr. LUNN: I beg to move, after the word "department" ["appropriate Government Department"], to insert the words "and, if the nuisance has not abated or recurs, to the Minister of Health." It will be noticed that I have three Amendments to this Clause, and they all hang together. I think in these Committees we should have as much regard for the convenience of local authorities as we usually show for private employers, and if we can avoid irritation and litigation in regard to local authorities, we should do so. We do not in any way amend the first part of this Clause, which gives the local authorities power in the first instance to report any nuisance either to a Government Department or to any other employer. In that case they 1588 should carry out their duty, and see that notice is given; but in connection with a Government Department, it may be that difficulties will arise under the Clause as it now stands. Take Woolwich, for example. If there are difficulties there it is right that the authorities should report any nuisance to the War Office. It may be taken for granted that there are not many people in the War Office who have any idea of local government, and most of them are busybodies lacking knowledge of local circumstances. In such cases, we should remove the difficulty from the local authority by giving power to apply to the Minister of Health, who is at the head of the local authorities, and it would be much better if we could insert the words I propose, or others which will meet the position. I think after notice has been given by the local authority to the Government Department concerned, and, they have failed to carry out the requirements of the local authorities, there should be an opportunity of appealing to the Minister of Health, who would be able to take the matter up with the Government Department concerned. In that way the Minister of Health can avoid litigation which may be very costly to the local ratepayers, and, as hon. Members know, the high rates at present are a great hindrance and handicap to the people of the localities.
Sir K. WOOD: This Clause deals with nuisances which may arise in Government Departments, and I may say it is the first time that a proposal of this sort has been brought forward to deal with nuisances which occasionally must happen even in those sacred precincts. I must, however, take exception to the suggestion which the hon. Gentleman has just made. He wants to bring the Minister of Health into this business after a reference to other Departments, but he does not say what the Minister of Health is to do, or, at any rate, he does not really arm the Minister of Health, if he is an intervener, with power to deal with his colleagues in other Government Departments if they create a nuisance. If the hon. Member put in his Amendment a fiat enabling the Minister of Health to go through the Various Government Departments and say that certain things must be done, then they might be done, although 1589 I feel sure that the present occupant of the post would not care for the job. It is almost an impossible suggestion that the Minister of Health should deal with his colleagues and their Departments in the way suggested. This is really an effective Clause, and goes a good deal to meet the point which we all have in view. I would like to call attention to words which carry much more weight than anything I could say as regards the effect of this Clause, which were used by the Lord Chancellor, who said: "Where a Government Department offends it does not get off at all scot free. It is open to criticism in either House of Parliament and that is perhaps the most effective preventive one could possibly have. To some extent the Bill goes further than most provisions of this kind. In most cases the Crown and Government Departments are wholly exempt from action or prosecution; but this Bill goes beyond that. It provides in terms that where a Government Department is guilty of causing a nuisance the local authority shall report the circumstances to the responsible Minister, and if he is satisfied after due inquiry that such a nuisance exists, he shall cause steps to be taken to amend the nuisance and to prevent a recurrence of it. Therefore if such a report is made by a local authority—it is called a report, but it is really a complaint—to the Minister he must, under the Statute, hold an inquiry, and if he finds there is a nuisance he must put an end to it and prevent a recurrence of it. If he fails in either duty, if he either refuses to hold an inquiry or to take remedial steps, he will at once be called to account in Parliament. That, I think, is the most effective, indeed the only effective, check that can be put upon a Minister of the Crown." With all respect, I think that is a fair statement of the position, because you cannot really place one Minister under another Minister as suggested. I think Parliament is the correct place to deal with this matter. Perhaps it may comfort the hon. Gentleman if I read a statement which was made by Lord Merrivale, whom we all knew as Sir Henry Duke, a very eminent lawyer. There was an Amendment moved in another place somewhat on the lines of this Amendment, and Lord Merrivale said: "It introduces for the first time, so far as is commonly known—so far as I know at any rate—a provision with regard to a Minister of the Crown, imposing upon him the responsibility for preventing a nuisance. I think there is very good reason for supposing that if he deliberately fails to discharge that responsibility the remedy against him would be an indictment for a 1590 misdemeanour, which is a far severer-penalty than any provided by the Bill." Therefore, I hope the Committee will regard this Clause as a step forward, bringing these matters within the law, so far as they can properly be dealt with. I hope with this explanation my hon. Friend will feel that something is being done in the direction he wishes.
Lieut. - Colonel FREMANTLE: This question is a much more complicated one than the reply of the Parliamentary Secretary would suggest. He seems to suggest that we should accept the present division of functions between the various Government Departments as sufficient and absolutely sacrosanct. Most people seem to have forgotten the whole object of the original Ministry of Health Act. This Amendment definitely brings the whole matter up again, and reminds us that the Ministry of Health was established to supervise the health of the country generally, and to say that because part of the carrying out of one of the health Measures comes under another Department, the Minister of Health is to wash his hands of it entirely, certainly does not meet the original object of the Ministry of Health Act. What is now suggested in this Bill does not give any sufficient plan to cope with health problems, but it separates them, and gives no general supervision over the health campaign as a whole. The Measure allows many loop-holes, and the point we are considering is really a small loop-hole. The hon. Member who moved this Amendment pointed out an instance in which you may get one Department shirking its duty. It is true that, practically speaing, Government Departments are water-tight compartments. At present there is no power vested in the Minister of Health to look into any question affecting the health of the people in another Government Department. This difficulty is occurring again and again, and the original idea of the Ministry of Health Act in this way is being defeated. When it comes to a point like this, I think we should try to provide some machinery which would enable the Minister of Health to supervise the Acts for which he is mainly responsible in the general interests of the country as a whole, and not simply those parts which 1591 he has to administer. I should like to see the power given which is suggested in the Amendment, namely, that the local authorities should have the power to refer these matters to the Ministry of Health. I should like the Minister of Health to be acquainted with all these cases, and yet there is no suggestion that the Minister shall even be informed of the loopholes which will occur under the Clause as originally drafted. I do not propose any Amendment at the present time, and I am content to take the crumb which has been offered us as a fresh step and a useful one, but I hope that before long the Minister of Health when he has a quieter time, will be able to turn his attention to this matter, and make arrangements whereby he may be informed of all these matters so vital to the health of the community which are being neglected by other Departments. They may only be minor nuisances, but, perhaps, speaking generally, they will be attended to by the special Crown Department concerned. Generally, again and again, we are up against Government Departments, who do not really carry out the duties that should be entrusted to them. The only power is for information to be given to the Minister of Health of any such exception. It is absurd to suggest, as generally it is suggested, that this is only a businesslike way of carrying out things. If there is one essentially businesslike organisation it is the Army, as it was under the acid test of the late War. Under the Army system every general recognises that he has his definite function. He resents the intrusion of any man. What corresponds to the Ministry of Health in the Army has power to look into every Department and to make representations. It is still the responsibility of the separate Departments concerned to carry out those recommendations. We ought to get some such system in civil life; we ought to have some system by which the Minister of Health can be informed of any such representations as are made. I wish that such information could be given, and that it could be made a statutory duty for a copy of such information to be given to the Minister of Health. It is only as a second-best or tenth-best that 1592 I accept the very small measure of advance in the Parliamentary Secretary's suggestion.
Mr. LUNN: I agree absolutely with the last speaker in what he has just said, but, in view of what the Parliamentary Secretary has stated, I shall ask leave to withdraw the Amendment. One point must be mentioned. There may be a Government Department which ignores the local authority. If that sort of thing happens, it will cause irritation in the locality. If a Government Department has works in a particular locality and can emit smoke without any regard to the convenience of other employers who are being prosecuted, that will create a storm in the district, and justifiably so. If that difficulty can be avoided, I am prepared to withdraw the Amendment.
Mr. WILLIAMS: I am not a legal expert, but I think I am correct in saying that there is a statutory obligation laid on the Minister of the Department concerned, and if the Minister fails to carry out that statutory obligation, with the fiat of the Attorney-General there is recourse to the Courts. I do not know whether a mandamus is the method by which you can chivy a Minister of the Crown, but I think that he can be got at if he fails to do his duty.
Sir K. WOOD: I do not want the Committee to be under any misapprehension in this matter. It was never intended, in any Ministry of Health proposals, that if, for instance, an outbreak of small-pox or scarlet fever took place among the clerks of the War Office, the Minister of Health or any of his medical officers should go down and attend to it. If there were a chimney burning there it was never the intention of any Ministry of Health proposal that the Minister should be concerned in the abatement of that particular nuisance. That, of course, would be the duty of the responsible people at the War Office. Suppose that the Minister of Health did go down to the War Office and said "Your chimneys are outrageous. Your boiler is bad. Put in a new boiler immediately." The Secretary for War would reply, "Who is to be responsible to Parliament for this new boiler, you or I?" The Minister would say "You are." The Secretary for War would then 1593 reply, "Very well, if I am responsible, I am the man who orders the new boiler and not you." The Committee will see the difficulty. I quite agree with the last speaker that we shall have to see that this system is worked properly and in fairness to other people who have to obey the law. If it is not, I am sure that Parliamentary criticism will be quite sufficient to bring anyone to book.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Captain WATERHOUSE: I beg to move, to leave out the word "if" ["and, if the Minister responsible"]. This Amendment should be read in conjunction with another standing in my name, which proposes to leave out the words "is satisfied after due inquiry that such a nuisance exists, he." The essential part of the Clause, with these two Amendments adopted, would then read: "they shall report the circumstances to the appropriate Government Department, and the Minister responsible for that Department shall cause such steps to be taken, etc." These two Amendments meet the only real point that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary has made. He spoke at great length about the impossibility of the Minister of Health interfering with other Departments. My Amendment would not make it necessary for him to interfere, but it would do away with the lengthy inquiry. A Departmental inquiry is bound to take some time. It is a very clumsy procedure, first to have a Departmental inquiry, and then to have questions in the House of Commons, in order to do away with a smoke nuisance in a Government factory or Department. These factories and Departments have an altogether undue privilege over the ordinary private trader. The ordinary private trader is not told that he must have an inquiry into his smoke nuisance. He is told, "You are sending out too much smoke and you must put it right." We ought to tell the Minister responsible for various factories that when they create a nuisance, it must be put right. The local authority should be the arbiter and not the Minister. How can a Minister be a judge in his own case? He cannot.1594
Sir K. WOOD: I am sorry that I cannot accept the Amendment. My hon. and gallant Friend will, see that it would lead to an impossible position. Even the humblest person in the land is entitled, when a local authority alleges a nuisance, at any rate to have an inquiry of some sort before the Court. Here my hon. and gallant Friend wants to put upon Government Departments and Ministers the fiat of the local authority itself. What would happen would be this: The local authority of Slocum-on-the-Mud would say to the Minister who had a factory there, "You have committed a nuisance. Put it in order at once." The poor Minister would be helpless. He would not be able even to dispute the fact that there was a nuisance. The council there would reign supreme, not only in their own area, but over the Government Department and the Minister's estimates and everything else.
Captain WATERHOUSE: The Minister has access to the Court.
Sir K. WOOD No; he has not access. That is the difficulty. You have to rely upon the fact that when a nuisance is brought to the attention of the responsible Minister, he is not going to try to dodge his responsibility. Should he do so, there is an excellent opportunity for any Parliamentarian to deal very severely with him. You really could not say that in the case only of a Government Department the local authority was to be the prosecutor and the judge as well.
Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
(1) This Act may be cited as the Public Health (Smoke Abatement) Act, 1926, and the Public Health Acts, 1875 to 1925, and this Act (except so far as it relates to London) may be cited together as the Public Health Acts, 1875 to 1926, and the Public Health (London) Act, 1891, the Public Health (London) Act, 1891, Amendment Act, 1893, and this Act, so far as it relates to London, may be cited together as the Public Health (London) Acts, 1891 to 1926.
(2) Section three of this Act shall be construed as one with the Alkali, etc., Works Regulation Act, 1906, and the other provisions of this Act in their application to London shall be construed as one with the Public Health (London) Act, 1891, but save 1595 as aforesaid this Act shall be construed as one with the Public Health Acts, 1875 to 1925.
(3) This Act shall not apply to Scotland or Northern Ireland.
(4) This Act shall come into operation on the first day of January, nineteen hundred and twenty-seven.
Mr. WILLIAMS: I have on the Order Paper an Amendment which has been put down to correct an error in drafting. I do not propose to move it, because another Amendment in the name of the Minister will make the necessary correction.
Amendments made: In Sub-section (2), leave out the word "three," and insert instead thereof the word "four."
At the end of Sub-section (2), insert the words "Provided that in the application to London of such other provisions of this Act as aforesaid the expression 'local authority' shall mean the sanitary authority within the meaning of the Public Health (London) Act, 1891, save as otherwise in this Act provided."—[Sir K. Wood.]
Lieut.-Commander ASTBURY: I beg to move, in Sub-section (4), to leave out the word "twenty-seven," and to insert instead thereof the word "twenty-eight." This is a very reasonable Amendment. There is no doubt that this Bill is going to have a very far-reaching effect on the manufacturers of this country. We have all been going through a very serious time owing to the six months coal stoppage. The vast majority of firms are extremely short of capital now. The Bill will mean that many firms will have to make many alterations in their works, and those alterations will cost a very large sum of money. I refer especially to the smaller firms, which have been struggling along with great difficulty during the past year. We must do everything we can to bring back the trade of the country and to get our men full employment. The Amendment simply means that these works will have a year in which to make the alterations that are necessary in order to comply with this Bill. If the Bill comes into operation at once, there is not the least doubt that there will be hundreds of prosecutions all over the country. I need not labour the Amendment. It is very reasonable, and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will accept it.1596
Mr. WILLIAMS: I beg to second the Amendment. Quite apart from our controversies regarding various Amendments, this Bill will certainly involve some manufacturers in difficulties. I need not remind the Committee of remarks that I have made previously about ash, grit and gritty particles. Some of the people who have adopted methods for reducing smoke and have increased the amount of grit or gritty particles, may find that it will take some time to introduce baffle plates or whatever may be necessary to prevent these things being thrown out into the air, if prevention be possible. Firms ought to be given reasonable time. Sub-section (3) of Clause 1 will not be any protection to them, because it may be said, "You have not taken all practicable steps to reduce this nuisance." Manufacturers ought to be given some time. If not 12 months, cannot the Minister agree to six months?
Sir K. WOOD: Both my hon. Friends know that if I could help them in any way I would gladly do so. I have listened to them with the greatest interest, and would wish on personal grounds that they had had more success in relation to the Bill. But I must appeal to the Committee to adhere to the date. The Bill is really a very moderate Bill. The criticism that might be more correctly directed against it is that it does not go far enough. The Minister of Health has had considerable regard to the difficulties which manufacturers are in at the present time. My hon. Friends have spoken about the cost to which manufacturers would be put. We have made particular provision for that in Clause 1, Sub-section (3), which says that the question of cost is one of the defences. Having regard to the cost and to the local conditions, such a step that would have to be taken would be a good defence. Therefore, I appeal to the Committee to adhere to the date, having regard to the very many provisions we have put into the Bill with a view to assisting business and manufacturers.
Mr. WILLIAMS: I did not use the word "cost." I only used the word "time" in regard to dealing with the problem.
Mr. WOMERSLEY: I would make a further appeal to the Parliamentary 1597 Secretary. The people who will be most affected are, undoubtedly, the smaller manufacturers, who have not had the capital to put into improved plant, and who, possibly, have to employ a type of man who not only acts as a fireman, but has to do other jobs. Possibly he is not careful in his firing, and needs a certain amount of training. Seeing that we are at the end of November and that it will be well into December before the Act receives the Royal Assent, the Minister ought to give us, at any rate, six months. It may be said that people have had a certain amount of notice that the Bill was to be presented to the House, but they had not notice that it would be passed at this time. Moreover, we are dealing with a problem altogether different from the nuisance of black smoke. We are dealing with an entirely different problem. In the circumstances, those people who are affected ought to be given a chance to get their new apparatus, and the smaller men ought to be given a chance to train their men in firing. Six months is not an unreasonable concession to ask.
Sir K. WOOD: I will convey what my hon. Friends have said to the Minister of Health, but I must ask the Committee to-day to adhere to the date in the Bill. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will have regard to what has been said. I know that he will take it into consideration. I will inform him of the strong expressions of opinion by my hon. Friends.
Lieut.-Commander ASTBURY: After what the Parliamentary Secretary has said, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause, as amended, order to stand part of the Bill.
(1) A local authority may undertake or may combine with other local authorities in undertaking investigations and researches into problems relating to atmospheric pollution and the abatement of smoke nuisances, and may contribute towards the cost of similar investigations and researches undertaken by other bodies or persons.
(2) The Minister of Health may, for the purposes of this Section, make rules prescribing restrictions or conditions subject to which powers conferred by this Section may be exercised.—[Sir K. Wood.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
Sir K. WOOD: I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time." This is a valuable new Clause, which has been suggested since the Bill was introduced. Its meaning is apparent, and I do not need to take up the time of the Committee in explaining it.
Mr. SCURR: On the previous Amendment moved by the Parliamentary Secretary, the expression "local authority" is defined as "sanitary authority." That includes a Metropolitan borough council. The London County Council, under its Act of 1910, has the power which is given in the new Clause, and has conducted very valuable researches. I suggest that the Minister should consult with the Standing Joint Committee of the London County Council to see whether they want this new Clause.
Sir K. WOOD: I will look into that matter. I thank the hon. Member for the suggestion.
Question put, and agreed to.
Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.
Bill, as amended, ordered to be Reported to the House.
The Committee rose at Five Minutes after Twelve o'Clock.1599
THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:
Barnett, Major Sir Richard (Chairman)
Davies, Dr. Vernon
Holbrook, Colonel Sir Arthur
Jones, Mr. Haydn
Luce, Major-General Sir Richard
Meyer, Sir Frank
Williams, Mr. Herbert
Wood, Mr. Edmund
Wood, Sir Kingsley1600