HL Deb 29 January 1974 vol 349 cc265-361

House again in Committee on Clause 40.

LORD CRAIGTON moved Amendment No. 168. Page 51, line 42, after first ("of") insert ("reasonably convenient")

The noble Lord said: The next two Amendments are designed to ensure that an ample number of sanitary stations are provided. I am talking now of the needs mostly of people who use holiday boats. We need, first, to have a good mooring for a fair number of boats; secondly, adequate facilities for carrying and emptying privy buckets or containers—these are very heavy and facilities must be fairly adjacent to the waterside; thirdly, proper facilities for washing the receptacles when they are emptied. None of these essential facilities seem to be included in the Bill, which refers only to what people themselves use, that is, water closets, urinals and wash basins. I should like subsection (2) of this clause to read— A water authority may provide or arrange for the provision of reasonably convenient and that is very important— facilities by way of water closets, urinals and wash basins and arrangements for emptying and washing out other sanitary facilities.

The other point in this Amendment, as I read it, is that the operation of emptying and cleansing is not included in the words collection and disposal of waste in subsection (1), and although subsection (1) could refer to pump-out stations the words do not refer to the equally essential work of cleansing and recharging the tank unit of the pump-out station. That must be provided for. With that short speech I hope that the Minister can agree to provide what in fact are sanitary stations, as they are known to people who use boats, and that he will agree to my Amendment. I beg to move.


I should like to take up my noble friend's offer and consider with this Amendment the one which follows, No. 169, chiefly because it is the latter one that concerns the arrangements for emptying and washing out sanitary facilities such as Elsan buckets, with which I most agree. In fact, I would tend to go a little further than my noble friend and say that wherever the other provisions as set out in subsection (2) are made it should be almost a duty on the authorities to make these other provisions with which my noble friend is concerned. So I can go all the way with him on that; and, in fact, a little further.

However, I am not sure that I can or do agree that anything much would be gained by adding the words, "reasonably convenient", as suggested in his Amendment No. 168. In the last resort the decision as to what is reasonably convenient can rest only with the water authorities and, as I have already described, they will take this decision in the first instance in the course of making the full plans for the recreational development of their waters. If I give an assurance that we will certainly give effect to this, but not precisely in the way proposed in No. 169 and without doing anything to limit or add any further glosses to the responsibility of the water authority for deciding just how convenient and how reasonable their provision of the sanitary stations should be, I hope that my noble friend will not feel it necessary to press this Amendment. We should like to look at it further, and incorporate something very much like it, and, if anything, strengthen Amendment No. 169.


I am very glad to hear that from my noble friend, and I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 40 agreed to.

Clause 41 [Power of water authorities to exclude unregistered vessels from rivers, etc.]:

LORD CRAIGTON moved Amendment No. 169A:

Page 52, line 10, at end insert: ("( ) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) above, byelaws made in pursuance of that subsection may make provision for prohibiting the registration of any vessel which is not provided with such sanitary facilities as are specified from time to time in the byelaws for that vessel or class of vessel.").

The noble Lord said: if this Amendment is not right as it stands I hope that my noble friend will be able to give effect to it. Once the discharge from the lavatory into the water is illegal, one is left with three possibilities: the boat can have no toilet at all; secondly, it can have a container or bucket which is emptied by hand; thirdly, it can have a tank which is pumped out by a pump on the bank. The first essential is to do everything possible to encourage the vessel user not to foul the water. If there is a bucket it can be so easily emptied overboard when nobody is looking, or it is possible to go to a convenient and wooded bank and use that as a toilet; or, as the noble Viscount opposite said, you can dig a hole and empty the contents of the bucket into that.

The most satisfactory type of toilet is undoubtedly a containment recirculating toilet. Even then this can be pumped out by hand on to the bank, but it is a long and messy arrangement and it is the least likely to be emptied except in the right place. In practice, a recirculating toilet is no more than a closed lavatory. The boat is brought alongside and a pipe which is exited flush on the deck is attached to a pump, and in about a minute the toilet is emptied. As I have said, the tank unit is without question preferable even to the portable container, and some of those are very good—some better than others.

The reason for this Amendment is that there are many types of portable containers, some good, some not good, and many other types of equipment for treating sewage on board in some way. In fact, the list is quite formidable, which shows the necessity for the water authority to be careful to choose the one which suits its water best. There are containment recirculating toilets which I have been talking about, there are filtration systems, electrolysis incinerators, chlorinators' aeration by agitation, what are called "magical additive chemicals", and even the sealing of waste matter into an airtight endless plastic sock. With that long list of types of closet, it seems essential that a water authority should have power to do two things: first, to approve the types of toilet that may be used; and secondly—when, for example, adequate riverside pump-out stations have been installed—to phase out certain types of toilet by a specified date. That is why the Amendment includes the words "from time to time". With that explanation, I beg to move.


I think that the whole Committee are disposed to accept any proposition which helps us to get our rivers cleaner and to keep them cleaner, but I am not sure whether my noble friend is justified in going quite as far as he proposes in this Amendment. Side by side with all the other alternatives open to people to adopt in order not to foul rivers and canals, and places such as the Broads, with sewage discharged from boats, there is the very straight forward alternative of availing themselves of the sanitary facilities on shore. Of course that is not practicable in every case, but it will become increasingly practicable. With that alternative available, and becoming increasingly available, I should not have thought it necessary to be quite so restrictive as my noble friend intends to be, especially when powers to make by-laws controlling boats in the ways laid down in the clause are already there.


So long as the powers are already there, I am quite happy. But I must tell my noble friend that his answer will not bring joy to the heart of anybody who knows anything about boats. But with that assurance, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.13 p.m.

LORD CRAIGTON moved Amendment No. 169B: Page 52, line 18, leave out ("or by arrangement with").

The noble Lord said: I think that this is really a probing Amendment. I am not quite clear what policy is intended in regard to pump-out stations, but apart from that aspect the clause is quite all right. These pump-out stations cost several hundred pounds to install and it is estimated that there is very little profit in charging £1, including V.A.T., for a pump-out and a wash-out. It is highly desirable that pump-out stations should be as numerous as possible, and I am quite sure that eventually every responsible boat hirer will have one for the use of those who hire his boats. But will a boat hirer allow the owner of a private boat to use his equipment if he cannot charge for it, which I do not think he will be able to do under the Bill?

Under a previous Amendment, a water authority might rely on the use of his pump-out station as part of the services on a river, and might reimburse him. But a private boat user could expect to pay £1 to have his re-circulating containment toilet emptied—there is no reason why he should have this service free—and instead of a water authority reimbursing a boat hirer I think that a boat hirer would be perfectly satisfied to provide services free for his own boats and to charge for other boats. That is the reason why I put down this Amendment. I hope that the noble Lord can be helpful on it. I beg to move.


I agree that the current position is exactly as my noble friend has described it. We are talking about a service which involves boatyard owners in considerable expense, but which they provide free to the people who are using the other services of the boatyard, the economic charge for which might be as high as £1. The position under the Bill is that there is nothing to oblige a boatyard owner to enter into arrangements with a water authority for the provision of facilities, and there is nothing which prevents him from doing so. Nor is there anything in the Bill which prevents a boatyard owner from making his own arrangements, including a scale of charges for people who are not using his boatyard but who want to make use of this service. I hope my noble friend will agree that that is the right framework within which water authorities, on the one hand, who have the duty to collect this waste and the power to pay other people to discharge that duty for them, and boatyard owners, on the other, can make sensible arrangements which are mutually convenient to themselves and which provide a satisfactory service for boat users generally.


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

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 41 shall stand part of the Bill?


When we discussed Clause 25 I gave my noble friend notice that when we reached this clause I would ask whether the words "keeps or uses" in Clause 25 are right, or whether the words "a person who causes or knowingly permits" in this clause are more advantageous; since the words "keeps or uses" include a person who hires a boat, whereas the words "causes or knowingly permits" exclude—as they should exclude—a person who hires a boat from any liability for infringement of the law under this Bill. I shall be grateful if my noble friend can answer that point.


Before the Minister replies to that question, may I put a general question to him on which I shall be grateful if he can give some information. I believe I am right in thinking that there have been a great many discussions held between Government Departments and other concerns involved on the question of whether there could be introduced some comprehensive system of registration of vessels, partly to avoid duplication of effort and partly to achieve a number of purely practical objectives. I should like to take an example which is of concern to the Royal Yachting Association. Their concern is that it is very difficult for the owners of pleasure craft to move them up and down the country—for example, by boat trailers attached to motor vehicles—because there are so many local systems of registration.

The broad position, I think, is this—and the Minister will be able to confirm it. The number of authorities involved has in substance been reduced from 29 river authorities to 10 regional water authorities. The river authorities were given a general power to institute registration systems for vessels by means of by-laws made under Section 79(6) of the Water Resources Act 1963. Those powers are now transferred to the water authorities under the Water Act 1973. There are the broad powers. In addition, the British Waterways Board operates a registration system of its own in relation to the river waterways which are under its charge for all pleasure craft using them. Other inland navigation authorities operate further registration systems in relation to the inland waterways for which they have a responsibility. There, I believe, is the general picture and I hope that, broadly speaking, I have described it with reasonable accuracy.

One is now dealing with this clause, which confers on the water authorities a power to prescribe by by-laws for the registration of vessels and for the prohibition of their user in streams (which, broadly speaking, means inland waterways) unless they are suitably fitted with the facilities under discussion or are exempted by by-laws from registration. The first subsection speaks of the power to exempt vessels from the necessity to be registered. Subsection (2) confers the power to make charges. The proposition which I would advance is that it is in the public interest that there should be a single, overall system of registration. I gave the reasons. Certain practical objectives can be obtained; and it is surely better for the purpose of avoiding the duplication of labour, expense and inconvenience that there should be one comprehensive system operative throughout the country.

I am told (I am sorry to repeat myself) that these discussions have been continuing between those concerned and Government Departments. The question I should like to put to the Minister and which I should be grateful if he would answer on the Question, Whether the clause shall stand part? is: what is the state of those discussions now? Is there a possibility of a comprehensive system being arranged? What are the prospects? Is the power contained in this clause under discussion—that is, the power to exempt by by-laws vessels (of categories I suppose to be specified in by-laws) from the necessity of registration—designed to fit in with some more general system? Is that the objective of this power to exempt? How do the Government envisage that the general system of registration in the country will work? I should be most grateful if the Minister would give us any information he has at his disposal, and I think it would be very much valued by those who are concerned.


Perhaps I may add one word to the remarks of my noble friend. There is an absolute necessity to get a unified system of registration in this country as soon as we possibly can, because we are getting small craft capable of being trailered and craft which are moving all over the place. If they have to take out one licence, that is fair enough; most people will do that. If they have to take out five or six licences; or if, having a fistful of licences, they find that they still need another one, then quite likely they will not take out another one and we shall have more of the trouble that we are already deeply involved in in this country. That is the problem of unregistered boats—and once boats are unregistered it is impossible to control them in any way. Already on the British Waterways Board's waterways we are having a great deal of trouble with these craft which appear from nowhere, break a large number of rules and then vanish—simply because there is no unified system in this country. It is highly important that we get this unified registration as soon as we can. This should be one of the main objectives of this Bill, because unless we have a unified system of registration we shall not have the provisions of this Bill properly carried out.


Perhaps I may start by answering my noble friend Lord Craigton. It is the intention that both the hirer of a boat and the person to whom the boat is hired should be at risk if offences are committed under this clause and under Clause 25, and I think I shall be able to show that there are circumstances in which either party may be at fault. We do not agree that the phrase in Clause 41, "causes or knowingly permits", can apply only to the person to whom a boat is hired. For example, if a hirer owns craft which are normally on a stream and are in contravention of bylaws, he must be causing or knowingly permitting by the act of hiring the boat in that condition. However, we are equally prepared to acknowledge that there are many occasions when the person to whom the boat is hired will be at fault—where, for example, a boat is hired on tidal waters and is taken by the person to whom the boat is hired into an area where by-law limitations apply. In such a case he will be at fault. So the intention is to meet both those sorts of circumstances and for both the hirer and the person to whom the boat is hired to be at risk.

In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, and to the noble Viscount, I would confirm that it is the intention to go for a system of comprehensive registration covering, so far as may be, the inland waters of the whole country. But it is not possible to give many or, really, any further details yet because the extensive discussions which are an essential preliminary to working all this out cannot make very much progress until the water authorities are fully staffed and fully active, which they are not at the moment. When that time comes, and when they are able to address their minds to this matter, then substantive discussions will begin. At the present moment, not very much progress is being made because there are not the people to conduct the necessary discussions.


I cannot really believe that my noble friend, on reading what he has said, will find it entirely satisfactory. If, after the operative date, somebody who does not know anything about boats comes along to a small-boat hirer and hires a boat, and the man hiring the boat has not had the boat sealed off, is the person taking the boat going to be blamed? Is he going to be held responsible for fouling the water when he has hired a boat from a man who has not sealed off the exit? Surely that is not the intention of this Bill.


I think that it depends on the circumstances. If the boat is in an area where it should be sealed but is not, then the person who hires out the boat in that condition has caused or knowingly permitted an offence to take place. If, on the other hand, the boat is in tidal waters, or in some other situation where it is not necessary for it to be sealed, and it is explained to the person to whom the boat is hired in that condition that it must not go beyond point X, if he then takes it beyond point X, it is he who commits the offence.


That is not what the Bill says. On page 33 it states: A person who, after the end of the year, 1978, keeps or uses on a stream any vessel provided with a sanitary appliance …". If I hire a boat which has a sanitary appliance, after 1978 I should be using that boat illegally if I used it on a stream. I think it is most improper that the person who hires the boat should be responsible. The person who owns the boat should be responsible.


Surely the hirer is the person who owns the boat.


May I thank the Minister for the information that he has just given to me and also ask him this question. If it is the case that the Government are in favour of a general scheme of registration; and if in consequence it is likely that after further negotiation and when the staffs of the water authorities have been assembled and get to work that such a scheme will be brought into being, would it not be desirable to make provision for some such a scheme in the terms of this Bill?

The point I have in mind is that if one looks at Clause 41 which provides for registration of vessels, surely it would be necessary to make a fairly substantial amendment in the terms of that clause to accommodate any general registration scheme. It is likely that if there is a general registration scheme and this Bill becomes an Act within months the scheme would come into operation a year or 18 months from now. It would seem rather a pity if legislation had to be introduced specially for the purpose of causing that general system to supervise the sort of arrangements which seem to be envisaged under Clause 41. Would the Minister consider favourably some Amendment at a later stage of the Bill designed, as it were, to pave the way for some such general scheme?


Certainly I will consider that. But my advice at the moment is that Clause 41 is drawn with the prospect of comprehensive registration fully in mind. But I will look at it again to make sure that there is no need to amend the Bill and that comprehensive registration when it comes, can be fitted into it. I will look again at the point raised by my noble friend Lord Craigton, and will answer him more extensively if I find that I am able to do so.

Clause 41 agreed to.

Clause 42 [Investigation of water pollution problems arising from closure of mines]:

8.35 p.m.

LORD CRAIGTON moved Amendment No. 169D: Page 52, line 19, leave out ("power") and insert ("a duty").

The noble Lord said: The investigation of water pollution problems arising from the closure of mines should be mandatory. Is my noble friend satisfied that in every case surveys will be made to establish the extent of the problem and that steps necessary to meet it will be taken in every case? There is a power, but there is no duty. There cannot be all that number of mines closed and we suggest that "duty" rather than "power" would be the right word.


Of course we are all fully in sympathy with that idea, but I do not think it would be satisfactory to lay a universal duty on all water authorities to undertake studies of this matter, just like that. I think that some will certainly need to put studies fairly high on their list of priorities. Others may not need to do so or may even not have abandoned mines in their area; or, if they have, they may not be causing any great trouble. They may not constitute a pollution hazard to any great extent and there may be many other more important things they should be getting on with. But the intention is that studies of this problem will be undertaken by any water authorities who have to contend with pollution in a large measure and in so far as their other duties and powers permit. Obviously this will be an important matter for quite a number of them, but I should not have thought there was any reason to believe that water authorities will not take up the power under this clause; and under the Water Act of 1973 they will be under a duty to submit programmes for the discharge of their functions for the approval of Ministers. So what the Secretary of State judges to be a failure in any particular case to make proper use of these powers would soon become apparent to him.


Last Thursday, my noble friend persuaded the Committee that an Amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady White, was unnecessary because of the assurances that he gave that under Clause 42 studies would be made with a view to action being taken later. I should have thought that it would be entirely appropriate to provide that there should be a duty to carry out these studies. We were told that it was inappropriate to force them to take action at present—the problem is, admittedly, very difficult—and that previous studies were necessary. I should have thought it possible for the Government to agree to this Amendment and that it should be a duty to carry out studies for the purpose of ascertaining what problems might arise, or have arisen. My noble friend has now said that there may be cases where there is no problem. In that case, the study would not result in anything having to be done.

I should have thought that when we are all agreed that the whole problem of pollution of relevant waters from the abandoning of any mine is as serious as it is—and the Government have defended the previous provisions in the Bill by saying how important these matters are and how costly it may be to deal with them—there was nothing unreasonable in asking that there should be a duty on each water authority to carry out the studies. Nothing is obligatory on them. My noble friend says that some of them would have nothing to do; when they had carried out the studies they would find that there was nothing to do. But this is an extremely serious problem in the parts of the country where mining or quarrying has been going on for a long time. I should not have thought that there was any reason at all why the Government should not agree to it being a duty upon all water authorities to study this problem.


I can of course perfectly appreciate the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, that if you do not have a mine you cannot study it. But I should have thought that the number of water authorities finding themselves in that situation must be small. It depends partly (does it not?) on the definition of "mine". I assume that this is not confined to a coal mine. I wonder whether it includes china clay, for instance, because if so that would bring in an area which might otherwise not enjoy the benefits of coal mining.

My noble friend behind me mentioned tin mining, which might also arise, and we know there is prospecting going on in various parts of the country for mineral mining of one sort or the other. There are iron ore operations in certain parts of the country. I assume that the word "mine" could cover any or all of these. I am racking my brains to think of what water authority would find themselves in a position with no mine of any sort. I cannot think of one, although perhaps there may be one. But if they do have a mine, or more than one—that is the whole point—then I think we feel sufficiently strongly that they ought to have a duty to do something about it.

It may mean a slight amendment to the form of words if one wants to make it abundantly clear that if there is no mine whatever in the area of the water authority, then they are absolved from this duty. I would suppose that the noble Lord who moved this Amendment would make no objection to that. We think that this is sufficiently serious, because these studies will take time. No doubt there will have to be some sort of comparison between one area and another so that they can learn from one another. When they have discovered what the problems are, they have to budget, or at least estimate, what the cost of taking the step will be. This may also be quite a lengthy procedure. One then has to take technical advice as to how best to deal with the problem, not merely to ascertain what the problem is.

Furthermore, I am not at all clear what facilities a water authority would enjoy in undertaking these studies. Would they have a right of entry into workings? I suppose with the National Coal Board one might reasonably assume that there would be no great problem as it is a public authority, but some of the mines I have mentioned are not publicly owned and what guarantee have we that that information would be forthcoming, that entry could be secured?

This is a far less simple clause than appears at first sight. I shall be moving another Amendment in a moment, but it has been put to me that anyone who is seriously undertaking a study of this kind in an area which could affect the work of a water authority, but which is not within the jurisdiction of the water authority themselves could come up against all sorts of difficulties. Yet this is a problem of national and public importance. One ought to be quite sure before passing a clause of this kind that what we are saying is not just a pious hope but that we are also willing the necessary means for this kind of investigation to be carried out, both physically on or under land which does not belong to the water authority at all; with records and so forth, all the documentation that might be necessary, studying the workings and also, in certain circumstances, safety precautions to be taken by those who understand safety in mines, which again would not be a matter of expertise for the water authority themselves.

I only mention these in relation to the Amendment moved by the noble Lord opposite because I take this clause very seriously indeed. I want to be quite sure that we know what we are doing, and that the Government are able to assure us that what is purported to be done in this clause will be possible to carry out in practice.


I should have thought that the whole matter could be put simply like this: is it or is it not desirable that the water authorities should carry out this investigation? If it is—and I think we are all quite agreed that it is—why not make it a duty?


I would just remind the Committee that there are not only coal mines and tin mines, but there are arsenic mines and lead mines, and the pollution from them might be very serious indeed.


It would be easier if we knew exactly what was involved in these studies and what it was we expect the water authorities to do. All we know is that this is the first time the authorities which are being created under the Water Act of last year will be able to grasp and deal with this problem, first by studying it and then by taking whatever action the studies indicate is necessary.

But we have not got past either of those stages yet. The authorities which are for the first time able to address themselves to the whole problem of dealing with the pollution hazards of abandoned mines are only now in the process of being assembled. That is the first point. It is quite clear—and the noble Baroness, who knows much more about this than most of us, I think would agree—that the studies themselves are going to take a considerable time and will involve quite a lot of staff effort and resources. Furthermore, the noble Baroness also rightly pointed out that we are not just concerned with one particular type of mine. Some of us might have been thinking particularly of coal mines, but there are tin mines and there are all sorts of open cast and deep mining. They are all involved. Some things are noxious, like lead mines, with arsenic involved as well.

If we are to lay a duty upon each water authority—and it is each water authority that is referred to in Clause 42—the precise nature of that duty would, I am sure all Members of the Committee would agree, need to be much more precisely defined. That could be done if we knew exactly what the duty involved. We do not even know at the moment what the duty of studying this problem involves. It has not been done. I should have thought that it was much more sensible for those authorities for whom this problem is clearly a top priority—some of the authorities, for instance, in the South of Wales where there are a large number of mines and many of them are serious potential pollution hazards—for this study to be tackled perhaps by mining consultants.

When those particular studies have gone far enough, it will be possible to see what is involved for other authorities in other situations, and whether some extrapolation will be possible. Other authorities will then be able to judge how important it is, according to their list of priorities, for them to study this particular problem.

While we are so much in the dark—and it is nobody's fault that we are in the dark—it has not been possible to tackle this problem before and I should have thought it would be wrong to go so far as to lay a precise duty, because duties have to be precise on each water authority to tackle this particular business of studying the problems of pollution from abandoned mines. I will certainly take this away and look at it again to see whether it is possible to go some way—I do not think it is possible to go all the way—toward meeting the concern that noble Lords are expressing, that somehow or other this is an important matter which water authorities will be hesitant and reluctant to tackle.

I should have thought there were some water authorities who would see clearly enough that this is something that it is important for them to get on with quickly and to devote resources, time and effort to. I should have thought other authorities would be quite justified in feeling that for them there are other matters which for the time being are more important. The only other point I would make before sitting down is to remind the Committee that this whole business must be seen in this context, that programmes are to be submitted by each water authority to the Secretary of State for approval. He will see from that which authorities are exercising their powers and have an opportunity to exhort those which in his view ought to be doing more. I hope that, with the assurance I have given that I will look at this again to see whether I can go some way towards meeting these points, my noble friend will not feel it necessary to press his Amendment.


There are two points made by my noble friend to which I should like to draw attention. I do not think they strengthen his argument. He spoke about us all being in such complete darkness about this problem. If we are in darkness about this problem then it really is a matter of urgency that the matter should be investigated. Secondly, reference has been made to mines such as arsenic mines, tin mines and so on—and I confess I had not given thought to them before. It seems perfectly clear that if the Amendment is accepted the only obligation upon the water authorities would be to peer into the darkness and find what problems arise and what steps are likely to be appropriate. If there is no need to do anything about the situation, if there are no mines in their area which are likely to cause trouble, then nothing under this Amendment, imposing a duty, would result in anything more than their satisfying themselves (and public opinion) that there is no danger of this kind.

So far as I am concerned, in view of the assurance given by my noble friend, I should not wish to pursue the matter any further but I should have thought that the Government might well have accepted the word "duty" and this would be entirely in accordance with the line of reasoning my noble friend has adopted.


The impression I get is that the Government do not really know what is involved and that it is all going to be very very difficult and expensive; and I doubt whether anything at all will be done. It is an important point, and I am glad that my noble friend has said he will look at it. I am sure the Committee would wish that he could have gone further than he has gone so far. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.52 p.m.

BARONESS WHITE moved Amendment No. 169C: Page 52, line 19, after ("carry out") insert ("or commission and publish").

The noble Baroness said: I beg to move this Amendment standing in my name. I gather from a phrase which dropped from the lips of the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, that it is intended that the words "to carry out" should include "commission" —in other words, it is not expected that this work would be done by direct labour or by the staff of the authorities, but that they would have freedom to commission possibly university research teams or other specialists to carry out some of the necessary investigations. I should like that to be confirmed on the Record so that we are perfectly certain about it.

I have also included the word "publish", because there is nothing here to indicate that the water authorities should publish the results of their inquiry. I cannot see why not, because this is a matter of public concern and these are bodies carrying out a duty of that sort. As a matter of fact, in the mining areas I know I do not think it would be possible to keep anything secret anyway, because the people working at various levels in the pits (both physically and metaphorically) would know all about the situation between them. They might not know all the scientific facts or the data underlying the condition, but they would have a shrewd idea. So I can see no reason at all why such reports should not be published, and I think it is very much in the public interest that they should be published. Therefore I should like to see at least a reference to publication included in this clause. I beg to move.


I am glad to be able to confirm that there is nothing in this clause to prevent water authorities from either undertaking these studies with their own staff or commissioning someone else to do them, or combining together to do the studies. I think all those different approaches will be adopted. Certainly there is nothing in the clause to prevent the reports, when completed and submitted, from being published. I do not think the noble Baroness or anyone else in the Committee would wish to lay an obligation on each water authority to publish every part of each report. I think that when and what it publishes ought to be left to its discretion and I am happy to confirm that there is nothing whatever in the clause to prevent it doing that. I am sure it would be a sensible course to adopt.


Until we are sure what is to happen to the first line of the clause it would perhaps be unwise to press the Amendment. I believe it is worth while spelling out these things, however, because although they may seem self-evident to us here they are not always so to other people, and I should like to reserve my position so far as putting down some comparable Amendment at a later stage is concerned. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw this one.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 170: Page 52, line 23, after ("area") insert ("or might arise if any such mine were abandoned").

The noble Lord said: On behalf of my noble friend Lady Young, I beg to move this Amendment. This is necessary in order to make it clear that the water authority does not have to identify a particular abandoned mine before carrying out studies. It should be able to carry out studies into problems that might arise if mines were abandoned. I am sure the Committee, and in particular the noble Baroness, would agree that is necessary, and I beg to move.

Clause 42, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 43 [Notice to abstain from certain agricultural practices]:

8.58 p.m.

BARONESS WHITE moved Amendment No. 171: Page 52, line 38, leave out ("requesting") and insert ("directing").

The noble Baroness said: I beg to move this Amendment. We now revert to the question of agricultural practice. I may say, en passant, that I find this Bill very difficult because it jumps about from one thing to another and I think really it might have been drafted more helpfully to those who have to follow it. However, that is by the way.

I put down this Amendment because to me it seemed extremely odd that the Secretary of State should merely "request". I have such veneration for Secretaries of State that I would expect them to direct and not to request, if they thought something should be done. However, I recall that at an earlier stage in our deliberations—I believe the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, pointed this out—the term "request" in this sense was the equivalent of giving prior warning before something rather more drastic might take place. That I can now understand; but from simply reading the clause, I do not think that anyone would have read that meaning into it unless they were very experienced in the ways of legislation and in the ways in which Government Departments work. I would ask that this might be looked at again. I am very much concerned that a Bill of this sort, concerning the environment, should, so far as possible, be clear to interested members of the public. Where those of us who are reasonably experienced in these matters are puzzled, I should have thought we might reasonably suppose that members of the public would also be puzzled. It is not by any means clear what "request" means in this context. I think that I understand it now, but if the noble Lord has anything to add which might clarify the matter further I should be interested to hear it.


This is intended to be helpful. It certainly gives a farmer more time to find out in a practicable or scientific way what he has done wrong. Incidentally, the wording confirms to me that this creates a new form of pollution of something which hitherto has been perfectly legal; but as the noble Baroness has pointed out, it will give rise to confusion in the minds of the public. After all a policeman directs the traffic to stop, he does not request it to stop. The Secretary of State should do the same. Good agricultural practice ceases if there is pollution. Unfortunately, unlike in industry, a farmer cannot install purifying plants to the subsoil water from his fields. Therefore, perhaps it is nicer to request him to stop farming than to direct him to get out. The limiting factor to economic crop production, apart from water, is nitrogen. The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, in answer to my Amendment on Clause 23(2)(c), said that the main consideration was not nitrates. If not, what is? Perhaps "request" is the right word to ask for it to stop raining on a farmer's land. In that case someone higher up is the right person to request.


I remember another reason why I was worried: the word "request" is used in the preceding line where the authority requests the Secretary of State. This adds to the confusion. There "request" is used in the normal way, in that the authority says to the Secretary of State, "Will you please, if it seems good to you, do such and such?" Whereas the Secretary of State, in serving on the occupier a "notice requesting" is using the word "request" in a somewhat different form. This is another instance in the Bill where the drafting could be improved.


If I may interrupt for once, I agree with the noble Baroness. I am a farmer and I am completely lost. I hope that my noble friend will give me an answer to two simple questions regarding the word "request". I have a nasty suspicion—I hope it is entirely unfounded—that this word "request" will involve a farmer in rushing off to a lawyer to ask him what it means. What might be the consequences should the farmer decide to ignore this request and continue to put on fertilisers, "muck" and so on? I do not like the idea of farmers having to consult lawyers and, with the greatest respect to any noble and learned Lord here, I suggest that farmers have better things to do. I think the noble Baroness will agree with me on that matter. Let the Secretary of State make up his or her mind on this point and direct if necessary. I do not think it is fair to put the onus on the farmer.

Secondly, I hope my noble friend will answer one other question. My noble friend replied to the noble Lord, Lord De Ramsey, regarding his Amendment No. 140 (and this is at column 1635 of last Thursday's Hansard) and I have to admit to being suspicious that this word "requesting" is used as an escape for the Government from having to pay compensation should the farmer be prohibited from carrying out certain well-established agricultural practices. I hope that my noble friend can assure me that I have a suspicious and evil mind, that I have the wrong end of the stick and that there is no question in this wording of the Government opting out of their moral obligation to pay compensation. I hope they will not threaten me with removing Clause 43 and Clause 23(2)(c) altogether because I and my fellow farmers would think that that was not playing fair.


I wonder whether "request" is related to the reference to the river of chicken manure that I mentioned last week. We did not get a very clear reply from the Government, but I think we were told that it was perfectly legitimate for the farmer to put his chicken manure on his land outside his chicken-houses, but wrong for him to put it into a stream. We never received any real reply to the point about the natural phenomenon whereby the chicken manure was drawn by gravity down the hill into the stream. Presumably, the Government cannot prohibit the farmer from putting chicken manure outside his chicken-house; they can merely request him to do so. But if it eventually finds its way into the stream it becomes, by act of God, an illegal procedure.


What a fascinating Bill this is! The noble Baroness is perfectly right; her understanding of this part of the Bill is correct. We are not dealing with a control system in which it would be inappropriate for the Secretary of State, or anybody else, to be requesting somebody to do this or that but rather to be directing or ordering him. We are dealing with an early warning system. In that context it is perfectly appropriate to use the word "request". I agree it is unfortunate that we have in two consecutive lines the use of the word "request" in its normal sense, and the use of the word "request" in the technical sense of being part of an early warning system. We will look at that and see if the potential confusion can be removed.

I would make one general point about this particular legislation, and legislation in general. The actual practitioners in the field are normally guided by reference to the legislation not in neat form, but as it is distilled to them in the form of circulars and so on. These should normally be enough, perhaps with the help of ordinary professional advisers—not legal advisers—for most farmers' purposes. I hope that it would not normally be necessary for a farmer on receipt of this kind of request—using the word here in the technical sense—to consult his solicitor.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, for having reminded us of the chicken manure because this might well be the kind of thing which, if it were deposited in the ordinary way outside the chicken-house and left on the land, would not constitute any great polluting hazard, though if it were carried down to a stream, while still forming part of good agricultural practice, might nevertheless become a polluting hazard and form the subject of a request. In those circumstances, the request is issued as a warning to the farmer that unless he does something about it he will cease to be in the special provision provided for the farmers by the operation of these two clauses, and will be in the normal position of anybody who is about to commit, or is actually committing, a polluting offence. I hope that makes the situation clear.

In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, there is nothing in what I have said here which represents any departure from the undertakings I gave when we were last discussing this matter to consider the various issues that were raised by members of the Committee.


I am so sorry, but would the noble Lord be kind enough to refresh my memory? Where is it that we are told that if the farmer declines the request he then takes himself out of the protection given to him in Clause 23? There must be something in the Bill, somewhere, that says what happens to him if he says, "No, thank you very much, I am not acceding to your request." The noble Lord has not answered very adequately this point about whether this is simply a means of enabling the Government to escape the obligation to pay compensation.


The last point is one which I have undertaken on previous discussions to look into again. We are actually on the clause now which deals with this very point, the serving of a notice requesting the farmer to prevent a particular act, because the object is to place him, as a result, in exactly the same position as the other person. I am referring to the notice requesting the farmer to abstain from certain agricultural practices which, because they are authorised by the codes which are being proposed, entitles him to this early warning, the first step in which is the request to desist from something which normally is approved by virtue of the code. This is the very clause we are on now.


I shall have to think about it still further. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw this Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 171A:

Page 53, line 25, at end insert: ("(5) If the Secretary of State considers that a notice served in pursuance of subsection (3) of this section on the occupier of a place should be cancelled he may, after giving notice of his proposal to do so to the water authority on whose application the other notice was served and considering any representations made to him by the authority about the proposal, serve on the occupier of the place a further notice cancelling the other notice at a time specified in the further notice; and where the Secretary of States serves a notice in pursuance of this subsection—

  1. (a) it shall be his duty to serve a copy of it on the authority aforesaid; and
  2. 288
  3. (b) it shall be the duty of the authority to enter in the said register a statement that the other notice was or is to be cancelled at the time specified as aforesaid.")

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 171A. This was one which we considered along with No. 136A at an earlier stage of the Bill. I do not think there is anything I want to add to what I said then. I beg to move.

Clause 43, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 44 [Charges in respect of certain contents and discharges in England and Wales]:

On Question, Whether Clause 44 shall stand part of the Bill?

9.13 p.m.


Here we come to one of the most difficult and puzzling clauses of the Bill. This clause, as your Lordships will be aware, deals with the question of charges. We should like to know what the Government's attitude really is. My noble friend Lord Kennet apologises to the House for the fact that he is not able to be present to-night, but he thought the Amendment was going to be reached yesterday. He had originally intended to move this Amendment because, as some of your Lordships may recall, he referred with some emphasis to this matter on Second Reading. As a result of that, he received a letter from the noble Baroness, Lady Young. It is not in any way marked "confidential", and it referred to that debate, so I assume I might quote from it. I found the letter, with great respect, even more confusing than the clause. The penultimate paragraph says: Of course, this is an altogether oversimplified view.


Two pages.


Two pages of utter confusion. I find this very difficult indeed, but to try to put it as simply as I can, we are not at all clear in our minds (and I fear that the correspondence has not made the position any more lucid) what kind of change is envisaged in this clause. If it is a charge for what might be called "services rendered", in order to cover the cost of treating polluting matter, then of course there could be no possible objection. If there were possibly a charge which included some element for the water authority for overheads or administrative costs, I do not think we should worry about that, either. But what worries us is that there appears to be a possibility of paying to pollute: in other words, provided that you pay a certain charge, and provided that your effluent is not too offensive, then you may continue to pollute on payment.

We are worried about this matter because there is an attitude in this direction, we understand, in certain Western European countries—I think I am correct in saying in the Netherlands in particular; I think there is some tendency this way also in the West German Republic. We know that consultations are going on within the context of the E.E.C. But it has never been part of the philosophy of dealing with these matters in this country, so far as I know, that we think it right that one should be allowed to pollute provided that one pays. So one has a real difficulty over this clause. If it were simply to mean that it might be said: "Look ! If we clean up your effluent for you, then we expect you to pay", that I think is perfectly straightforward, although normally, as we all know, an industrialist either does the job himself or gets a contractor to do it for him. But we see no difficulty in principle if he says to the water authority: "Look! I cannot do this. Will you take it on, and I will reimburse you?" The only difficulty about that concept is that the polluting matter might well get into the stream or river and not be treated until it was a good deal further down, after it was abstracted for some other purpose. The result would be that you would be treating the river as a sewer and you would have polluted Walter for the distance between the discharge into the water and the point of abstraction further down at which the water would be cleansed. This we should regard as undesirable, for quite a different reason.

I should very much like to have further clarification on this subject. We have received very strong representations about it. What worries us is that in any case it appears to us that the industrialist responsible for the discharge will have to pay: but in one case he will be paying for something to be done, and the result will be that the effluent will be treated and the river will therefore be cleaner; in the other case he will certainly be paying (if we take what I might call, for shorthand, the Continental view), but the effluent, provided it is not too obnoxious, will not be treated and will add to the general pollution of the water. So there is here a very real problem.

In her letter to my noble friend, the noble Baroness, Lady Young, said this—I think I should perhaps quote it. She indicated that studies were going on, and pointed out a number of highly complicated problems that can arise in this business of charging, and then finally said: This is why, as I said in winding up, we have an open mind on the question of charging for discharges and feel that we must have the results of the current studies and consult widely about them before reaching any conclusion. That is a perfectly understandable position, but if you are in that position it does not seem to me that you have any business to put this provision into legislation, because you really do not know what you are doing. It is for that reason that my noble friend Lord Kennet and I (and we are supported by other noble Lords) feel that it is inappropriate at this stage to include in a Bill of this kind the provisions which are contained in Clause 44.

If it is the case that we may be involved in arguments with our partners in the Economic Community, anyone with any knowledge of the kind of consultations that go on there will know that these may go on for years. Therefore if we reach a point where, for quite different reasons, we may feel obligated to adopt a philosophy which I think to many of us would be repugnant, that ought to be considered on its merits at the time when it is really necessary. Our submission is that at this moment of time it is not only not necessary but that nobody has yet determined the proper way of dealing with this problem. Therefore it is quite irresponsible to press for legislation at this time.

I assume that the Department has advised Ministers that they want this as a longstop. Of course that is understandable. Departments have to think ahead and say "Legislation is not always easy to obtain when we need it, so why not pop this into the Bill and we shall have it when we want to use it." My understanding—and I would not put any other interpretation upon it—from the letter written by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, is that the Government have not yet made up their mind whether or not they would use the powers in this clause, or how they would use them. I repeat, it would certainly be wholly obnoxious to those of us on this side of the Committee to adopt the philosophy that you may pollute, provided that you pay. That is an interpretation that would certainly be put on the clause as it now stands and I would have thought that was in itself sufficient reason not to accept the clause; but possibly an even stronger reason is that it is perfectly plain that the Government themselves are not sure.

My final submission on this matter is that I am aware, as I am sure are some other noble Lords, that this is one part of the Bill on which the Confederation of British Industry is very much opposed to the view of the Government—so I am told by them—and this is one of the areas in which they have failed to reach an understanding. This seems to me to be an added reinforcement of the view which I have attempted to put before your Lordships.


I have the same fears and was as puzzled as the noble Baroness, Lady White, but perhaps they are unfounded. Perhaps this is intended purely to be an administrative charge for discharging, in which case one's first reaction is relief and to say, as the noble Baroness, Lady White, said, that we are not going to make a fuss about that. But when we come to think of it further we ask ourselves: is this purely an administrative charge that is really necessary or is it just a vexatious imposition? Will it not just add more clerks to the treasurer's department, with supporting staff? I wonder whether the noble Lord thinks that this is an essential provision in the Bill.


I too was puzzled by this clause. The present system of abatement of water pollution is based on an assessment of the effluent to the extent that the pollution needs to be acceptable to the receiving waters. The cost of this is borne by the polluter—by the industrial discharger—either by himself or by payment to a contractor or to a local authority, or possibly both. It seems to me that there can be little justification for making, certainly not without much consultation, an additional charge—that is, a charge over and above the cost of improving the emission to the proper standard. As I see it, the clause means that the water authority may be entitled to impose charges on a discharger to a river, estuary or coastal water, even if the water that he used has never been polluted, or if he has purified his effluent to the standard required.

Then there is the other point mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady White. Is a kind of pollution tax intended, by which a polluter will be taxed according to the amount of pollution in his effluent? This seems to me an extremely difficult measure to operate, and in any case it would require a great deal of consideration before being brought in. It seems to me that the whole question requires further study and consultation, and I hope the Government will be able to undertake to do this.

9.26 p.m.


Perhaps I can deal with that point straight away, and say that that is certainly the intention. Perhaps I should go back, in answering this proposal to delete the clause, to the genesis and reason for it. In including Clause 44 in this Bill, and Clause 45 which is the same thing for Scotland, my right honourable friend is primarily concerned to follow up the Third Report of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, set up by the previous Government, and to follow up the recommendations contained in that Report. Perhaps I may start by reminding the Committee what is set out there.

There was a Minority Report from the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman and Professor Beckerman, who held the view that there was much to be said for switching from a system of consents, which is what we primarily rely on, although some system of charging is already available in existing legislation; all that is happening there is that the system is being modified and made more effective by this clause. They were in favour of switching from a system of consents for controlling pollution to a system of charging. We are not happy with that, nor were the majority of the Commission. Nor are we happy to contemplate, as the minority were, the introduction of charges straight away, and direct provision for them is not made in the Bill. But the Royal Commission were agreed that a case had been made out to them for the possibility of gaining advantages by combining a system of charges with a system of consents, but that nothing should be done until that matter had been studied. Those studies are now under way. Of course, they will be much more effective when the authorities set up under the Water Act of last year—the National Water Council and the various regional water authorities—have been fully established. But it has not been possible to make much progress yet. That is the background. Even at this early stage, one can say that the two things contemplated are, first, the use of charges to buy a licence to pollute. That is clearly not a road which any of us would wish to pursue, and I am glad to be able to say to-day that that is not a proposition which the Government have any intention of accepting.


If I may interrupt the noble Lord for a moment, of course I accept without hesitation what he says is the intention of the Government. But would it not be possible to incorporate it in this clause as it now stands? The noble Lord cannot bind his successors.


That is perfectly true. I shall have to deal with the point, and I shall seek to do so.

The other thing which it is not the intention of the Government to pursue is any sort of levying of a general tax on discharges by means of these enabling powers. The question I think we need to ask ourselves is: is it sensible to seek to follow up the Report of this expert Royal Commission, as we are doing, and to pass this Bill into law, seeing that there are possibilities here which have yet to be fully studied, without providing any enabling powers to give effect to the conclusions when they have been reached, in the expectation that they might include some possibility of combining charges with consents to a greater extent than has prevailed hitherto? Notwithstanding, the Committee has a duty to consider whether it is right to give the Government the kind of blank cheque which Parliament is always reluctant to give to any Government, and rightly so.

It is because it is not possible to spell out precisely how these enabling powers are going to be used, because these studies have not been carried very far, that the charges can only be introduced by Order, and that that Order is to be subject to Affirmative Resolution. I have explained the origin of these proposals, that some combination of charges and consents should be studied. I put it to the Committee that it would be sensible to put in enabling powers to give effect to these conclusions when they have been reached, and I have confirmed that nothing can be done without Parliament having a further opportunity to see what is proposed before it is introduced. I may not have satisfied the Committee that the Bill ought to be enacted in this form, but I should like to end by putting in more of a plea than anything else that we at least leave these clauses in for the time being so that Parliament can continue to discuss the matter. I will take away the points that have been made so far and see whether there is more that can be said to allay such fears and anxieties as have been expressed. I hope I have dealt with the questions that have been put to me. I would have thought that, the state of investigation being what it is, the sensible thing would be to leave this clause in the Bill so that this House and the other place can discuss the matter. I hope the noble Baroness will not feel that it is necessary to move the clause out at this stage, because that would have the effect of stifling all further discussion of the matter, and I hope she would agree that would be a pity.


I must admit that in his final plea the noble Lord has put me into a certain difficulty, because as a good Parliamentarian I would be the last one to wish to stifle discussion of what is a highly contentious matter. The difficulty is, of course, that in this House we are more apt—and I speak with experience in both Houses—to judge matters on their merits, and therefore, I am rather reluctant to leave a decision of this kind to the other place. I am being as frank with the noble Lord as I think he is trying to be with us. I would not, therefore, wish to press this Motion now, but I would hope to carry with me other noble Lords who have put their names to the Motion to leave out this clause, so that we could have some further consultations. I should be less than frank, however, if I did not say to the noble Lord—and he put his finger on the point—that this is a blank cheque, and to say that it would not be presented until one had had an Affirmative Resolution passed by both Houses is not in itself very satisfactory. We all know what happens even to an Affirmative Resolution; it cannot be amended. As a rule it is not difficult for a Government to get through an Affirmative Resolution if they are determined to do so. It is far more difficult for them to get legislation through by Statute.

I would wish to consult both with my noble friend Lord Kennet, and other noble Lords whose names are associated with this Motion and who have taken part in the discussion, before deciding on our line of action at a subsequent stage, To-night it would probably be wise to accede to the noble Lord's request that we should consider this further. In the entire Bill, this is one of the clauses about which I am most unhappy.

Clause 44 agreed to.

Clause 45 agreed to.

Clause 46 [Exclusion of certain liability in respect of discharges with consent]:


I beg to move Amendment No. 172, which is purely drafting, and the consent in question would be given under Clause 27.

Amendment moved— Page 55, line 20, after ("this") insert ("Part of this").—(Lord Sandford.)

Clause 46, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 47 agreed to.

9.37 p.m.

BARONESS WHITE moved Amendment No. 172A: After Clause 47, insert the following new clause:

Application to Crown Premises

(". This part of this Act shall apply to premises used for and to persons in the public service of the Crown as it applies to other premises and persons provided that the Secretary of State may by regulations provide that this section shall apply subject to any exceptions specified in the regulations.")

The noble Baroness said: I beg to move Amendment No. 172A. The point of this Amendment is consistency, and to inquire from the Government why it is that when we reach Part IV of the Bill (which deals with emissions into the atmosphere as opposed to effluents to water) in Clause 70(7) there is an application of Part IV to the Crown but there is not in Part II. It is not plain to us why there should be this discrepancy, other than that we believe that the Parts of the Bill were drafted by different people. There may be some reason which is not apparent, and I should be grateful if the noble Lord could explain what it might be.


I noticed this discrepancy myself. My advice is that the inconsistency is more apparent than real, because in Clause 70, as we shall find when we get to it, the whole business is to do with providing and publishing information, and it does not involve any departure from normal practice for the Crown to supply that information in respect of its own premises, and so on, along with everybody else, and to legislate accordingly. On the other hand, at this point of the Bill we are dealing with control by water authorities, and I think that the noble Baroness would agree with me that it is not normal for the Crown to be bound in that sort of situation in the same way as everybody else. It appears to be inconsistent, but here we are dealing with control and charges in respect of consents, and so on. In Clause 70 it is only a question of publishing information. I think she will agree that with those differences it is reasonable to deal with the Crown in different ways.


I am afraid I cannot see it because if we do not say anything about "premises used for and to persons in the public service of the Crown" it will mean, for example, that if the people who print our Parliamentary Papers like to pollute water with whatever is left when they clean the printing machines they can do so. Is there any real reason why Crown premises and Crown servants should be allowed to pollute, when other people are not? As the noble Lord w ill have noticed, there is provision in the Amendment for the Secretary of State to make regulations which would, for example, exempt defence establishments where there might be some real reason for it. But why, in the normal course of events, should public offices and public officials be allowed to pollute water?


That is a different point, but I am happy to respond to that one, too. The noble Baroness first asked me to explain the apparent inconsistency between the two clauses, which I hope I did. She has now asked why Crown premises should be allowed to pollute the rivers when that is forbidden to everyone else, and of course they cannot be. But that is not to say that it would be right to go to the extreme of binding the Crown by legislation, and it is not normally done. But certainly we are prepared to consider whether it is possible to go further than we have already gone and, for example, to take steps to see that effluents from Crown premises are registered in the same way as other effluents, even though the Crown is not bound by legislation.

This is a situation which prevails under planning law, where applications by the Crown for planning permission to do this, that or the other go over all the same hurdles as any other planning applications, although they are not bound by legislation to do so. That is probably what the noble Baroness is asking for, and I will certainly give an assurance that some such procedure will be considered.


Naturally, I am much obliged to the noble Lord. I still do not see why you can bind the Crown to give information but cannot bind it not to pollute. It seems to me that you should either not bind the Crown at all or should bind it in both directions. However, perhaps the noble Lord will take this point home and look at it together with all the other points that he is taking home to look at, and will let us have the result of his deliberations. For the time being, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

BARONESS WHITE moved Amendment No. 172B: After Clause 47, insert the following new clause:

Duties of water authorities

(". It shall be the duty of a water authority to enforce provisions of this part of this Act in relation to the area of the authority.")

The noble Baroness said: I must freely confess that, with all the papers that I have gathered in order to deal with the various clauses of this Bill, I have mislaid my note on this Amendment. But my recollection is that we want to be quite sure that it is the water authority which is the enforcement authority within its own area for the purposes of Part II of the Bill. This point was raised with me by one of our legal advisers and I am sure that he had good reason for doing so. But if the noble Lord cares to comment on this Amendment, so that we can be quite clear about the position of a water authority as an enforcement authority, I shall be grateful. I beg to move.


Unfortunately, my brief states that the purpose of this new clause is not clear, and if the noble Baroness cannot tell me then I am afraid that we cannot make very much progress. Perhaps she will write to me and we can carry on from there.


The noble Lord has made a very fair point. It is a question of the blind leading the blind. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

BARONESS WHITE moved Amendment No. 172C: After Clause 47 insert the following new clause

Penalties for false statements under Part II

(". Any persons who for the purpose of obtaining the consent of the water authority under this part of this Act knowingly makes a statement which is false in a material particular shall be guilty of an offence and liable:—

  1. (a) on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding £400 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or both; and
  2. (b) on conviction or indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or a fine or both.")

The noble Baroness said: This is rather like Amendment No. 172A in so far as in Part IV there is provision, again in Clause 70 but this time in subsection (8), for penalties for anyone who knowingly makes a statement which is false in a material particular. There may be good reasons why a false statement is more to be deprecated in Part IV, when dealing with emissions to the atmosphere, than in Part II, when dealing with effluents in water. We do not quite understand the moral distinction between the two, but if there are good reasons for making it a criminal offence in one case but not in the other perhaps we could be told. I beg to move.


I am happy to say in response to this Amendment that my right honourable friend thinks it is a rather good one. But, rather than just accepting it and inserting it here, we should like to see whether it cannot be applied in a more general sense and perhaps inserted in other parts of the Bill, or put in the parts of the Bill where it will apply elsewhere. On the assurance that the Amendment will be considered in that light, I hope the noble Baroness will not press me to accept it as it stands.


I shall of course be entirely satisfied if it is put in as a general provision in some other part of the Bill. In those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 48 [Interpretation etc of Part II]:


This is a drafting Amendment. Some reports under the 1963 Act have been prepared; those under the 1973 Act have yet to be prepared. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 56, line 14, after ("or") insert ("is or was").—(Lord Sandford.)

9.47 p.m.

VISCOUNT ST. DAVIDS moved Amendment No. 173A: Page 56, line 26, after (" "tidal waters" ") insert ("means waters which lie seaward of such limits as may be prescribed or (where not so prescribed) seaward of high water mark of ordinary spring tides and").

The noble Viscount said: I am not sure that this is the right Amendment for the purpose, because it is for the purpose of clearing up a piece of confusion which is so confused that nobody quite knows what is right, but no doubt the noble Lord will say what he thinks about it and we will get where we may. The difficulty is this: Boats are not restricted in tidal waters or docks leading off tidal waters. But what are "tidal waters", and what is a dock leading off tidal waters? Presumably, a dock has dock gates. The reason it is included is so as not to have little patches of restricted waters leading off unrestricted waters one quite undestands that. But the difficulty is this: How big is a dock? It is rather like the question, "What is the length of a piece of string?" A dock may be quite a small thing. Ramsgate Harbour has an inner harbour, behind which is a dock; that is clear enough. But then you come to something like the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal. The Gloucester and Sharpness Canal has dock gates only at one end: it has no locks along its length. Indeed, it connects with the tidal river further up, near its other end, near Gloucester. So one may say that the whole of the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal is a dock leading off tidal waters. If that is so, presumably you have to exempt from your pollution requirements the whole of the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal, which I should have thought is highly unreasonable.

This sort of thing needs clarifying; otherwise, nobody is going to know precisely whether they fall within these restrictions or not. You have the same sort of thing in many other places. On the waters of the North-East you have a whole lot of canal sections which are one lock up, so to speak, from tidal water, and the question is: is that whole first length of a canal or inland waterway a dock? If it is not, how do you differentiate it from the rest of the docks in the Bill?

The confusion is even worse than that. Take the Thames for example. At the moment the Thames conservancy area is a boundary stone marking a point in tidal waters both sides of the boundary stone below Teddington Lock. The Thames conservancy pollution restrictions on craft apply down as far as that boundary stone, right down into tidal waters. If this Bill became law as it stands, the boundary for restrictions on pollution would be pushed right the way upstream. And not only to Teddington Lock. You could count Teddington Lock as a dock gate, and push the pollution boundary up to Hampton, miles up river. Obviously, whatever the Bill says, that is not what is required. I am not sure what is required. It needs a great deal more thought than has been given to it. We may have to make a special list of exemptions. I do not know what is the answer to this; there are several answers that I would accept. The Government have to do some thinking about it, but meanwhile let us hear what they have to say.


I support my noble friend's Amendment. He has pointed to the practical difficulties and we have had occasion to discuss them on at least two occasions during the passage of this Bill. The immediate difficulty which arises from the expression "tidal waters" can I suppose be crystallised in the way in which it has been crystallised for me, by saying that it poses the problem of determining where the limit of tidal waters and the downstream limit of fresh waters is to be found. That is the issue that one has to try to resolve by the language used.

In his Amendment, my noble friend has tried to resolve that problem in a twofold way, first by providing a regulation-making power. I am not sure that that is altogether satisfactory. "Tidal waters" as an expression should be understood. If one wishes not to use it in any particular context and to substitute some regulation-made concept in place of it, well and good. But when we use the expression we should know what it means. I should have thought that in its second limb my noble friend's Amendment gives an intelligible meaning to that. It reads that tidal waters means: waters which lie seaward of … high water mark of ordinary spring tides … The result in any given context may or may not be satisfactory. It may not answer the problem that my noble friend posed. But at least one has reached the first stage, and achieved the first objective, which is saying what it means. For that reason I strongly commend at least that part of the Amendment, and hope that Ministers will be able to say that they will give consideration to trying to embody in Clause 48 a definition that is clear in its meaning. Then it would be a matter of policy, when one is looking at other parts of the Bill, whether one wanted to use that definition or whether one would prefer some concept formulated by regulation or as I would prefer it from some actual context of the Bill itself. I hope the Ministers will be able to say that they agree that there is a real problem here which ought to be tackled. It ought to be tackled, and I believe that Clause 48 is the appropriate part of the Bill in which to deal with it. Therefore, I hope that my noble friend's Amendment, if not accepted in terms, will at any rate be viewed favourably.


I certainly agree that the right place to define tidal waters is in this clause. The normal understanding of the expression tidal waters will probably not suffice here, and the main reason is indicated there already. We need to take into account the issued raised by the noble Viscount at an earlier stage of this Part of the Bill and on which I gave the undertaking to consider whether, and in what way, it would be possible to discriminate in favour of certain ports which are connected to the sea by a short length of canal, the amenity of which it is not necessary to protect to the same high standards as that of other inland waters. All I should like to do, in replying to this Amendment, is to confirm that consideration of that issue will also involve consideration of this definition, and I think that is what the noble Viscount himself was arguing for. I am grateful to him for putting down the Amendment to draw attention to the fact that that definition must embrace the result of our consideraions on the issue which he raised earlier.


That is possibly as far as we can take that this evening. I must say that any definition I can think of will have some strange results, for example, on the Thames—some results I should never have imagined. For instance, I never thought of Hampton Court as being on tidal waters. However, possibly the best thing to do is to make a special list and deal with these one by one. I do not think we shall get anything satisfactory in the way of a general definition, try as we will—our efforts so far have got nowhere. So I suggest that we might leave the matter as it is for the present and await the results of further consideration by the Government. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 174: Page 56, line 27, at end insert ("and").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move this Amendment and at the same time to speak to Amendment No. 175, which follows, and to Amendments 206 and 207, which come much later in the Bill and refer to Clause 93. They are only drafting Amendments, and the effect of them is to transpose the definition of "a vessel" from Clause 48 to Clause 93, so as to apply to the whole of the Bill instead of only to Part II. I beg to move.


I beg to move Amendment No. 175.

Amendment moved— Page 56, line 36, leave out from ("trade") to end of line 38.—(Lord Sandford.)

LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 176: Page 57, line 3, leave out from ("means") to end of line 6 and insert ("such underground water as may be prescribed").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 176. This Amendment alters the definition of "specified underground water" so that it is in terms of water prescribed in regulations by the Secretary of State for Scotland. It does this by removing the reference to its being water which is used or expected by the Secretary of State to be used for any purpose which is inapplicable in Scotland because the law there is slightly different. I beg to move.


This is the last Amendment of Part II of the Bill, a mere drafting Amendment. I beg to move Amendment No. 177.

Amendment moved— Page 57, line 25, leave out ("those Acts") and insert ("the Act in question").—(Lord Sandford.)

Clause 48, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 49 [Periodical inspections by local authorities]:

LORD CRAIGTON moved Amendment No. 178: Page 57, line 31, at end insert ("and not less than every two years.")

The noble Lord said: This is the first Amendment in Part III of the Bill. This is a simple matter. I have never liked the phrase "from time to time". Unless the local authority enforces this clause the whole of Part III of the Bill falls to the ground. But what exactly do the words "from time to time" mean? I believe that it will be much better to make it the duty of the local authority to carry out inspections at least within some period or other, and I suggest it be not less than every two years. I beg to move.


One can well understand why the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, might consider that it would be an advantage to put in a specified period of time at which measurements of noise should be taken by local authorities. The reason why this particular form of words has been put into this clause is that they are based on the Public Health Act 1936 and we have no reason for supposing that this has not worked adequately in the past. There is a practical reason for not giving a specified period of time: noise nuisance is very much a local matter. The fact is that for many authorities it may be appropriate that inspections should take place much more frequently than every two years, for instance in a heavily industrialised area. On the other hand, in a rural area it might not be necessary to have inspections as frequently as every two years; perhaps five-yearly intervals might be more appropriate. It is for that reason that we have specified the words, "from time to time". I hope that will answer Lord Craigton's doubts about this phraseology.


Unhappily I accept what my noble friend has said. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 49 shall stand part of the Bill?


May I make a brief comment. This is a flourish of trumpets announcing what we are talking about in Part III. I hope that trumpets will never be considered pollution!

Clause 49 agreed to.

Clause 50 [Summary proceedings by local authorities]:

10.5 p.m.

LORD MERRIVALE moved Amendment No. 178C:

Page 58, line 35, at end insert— ("or (d) the alleged offence resulted from operations which were subject to a notice served in accordance with section 52 or a consent issued under section 53 and the operations were not in contravention of the terms of such notice or consent.")

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 178C. Defences are provided where a consent made by a local authority under Clause 57 in respect of any premises or a notice served under Clauses 58 and 59 are being complied with in relation to any premises or to a building to be constructed, with reference to noise exceeding certain levels, or to a reduction in noise levels. I feel it only reasonable that notices issued under Clause 52 regarding control of noise on construction sites, and consents for work on construction sites under Clause 53 should be analogous to those previously mentioned. Therefore I hope my noble friend will agree to the inclusion of these additional defences regarding construction sites and prior consent to carry out works.


As I understand it, what Lord Merrivale wishes to do in this Amendment is to provide to a contractor operating within the terms of a notice under Clause 52 or a consent under Clause 53 an automatic defence in noise nuisance proceedings. The works to which Clauses 52 and 53 relate tend to be noisy. The notice/consent procedure is designed to ensure that the noise is minimised. But even this minimum of noise could amount to a nuisance. In such a case the local authority could, theoretically, proceed against the contractor for this nuisance. The Amendment therefore seeks to safeguard the contractor from what might appear to be completely arbitrary behaviour.

I think the difficulty that we have with this Amendment is that it is very difficult to envisage in what circumstances a local authority might take such action, especially as it would involve an admission to the court that its original judgment had been at fault. But in the unlikely event of such proceedings being brought, the contractor should in practice be able to rely on the defence of the best practicable means given by subsection (5). This is on the assumption that he was really operating within the terms of the notice consent. Since the local authority is required by Clause 52 (4) and Clause 53 (5) to have regard to the relevant code of practice, and to the need to ensure that the best practicable means are employed to minimise noise, a contractor should have little difficulty in most cases in establishing his defence. I hope this will serve to reassure my noble friend Lord Merrivale that we have taken this point and that we feel this clause meets this case.


I wonder whether the noble Baroness could perhaps speak a little more slowly. This subject is somewhat difficult to follow.


This is a highly technical matter as well as a legal matter. What I am trying to achieve is that the provisions within the clauses I have mentioned—that is Clauses 58 and 59—which have certain defences, should also be applicable under Clauses 52 and 53. But as the noble Baroness is advised that any contractor would have appropriate defences, all I will say now is that I should like to read in more detail what she has said. Then, if her assurances are not satisfactory, we can come back to this question again on Report stage. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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


I think that in this particular clause (and of course I am subject to correction) we are touching on something which is of very substantial importance. The Noise Advisory Council's Working Group, which produced a document called Neighbourhood Noise, which went on sale in 1970—the Scott Report—made six points. One of them was that the total exemption for authority undertakings was unnecessary and unreasonable: in fact, the Crown could do wrong in this matter. Apparently the Noise Abatement Act 1960 exempted various statutory authorities from responsibility in obeying this particular Act. The Scott Report proposed that in fact this immunity should be withdrawn and that various statutory authorities should be responsible for obeying the law of the land as if they were owned by private individuals. I should be grateful if the noble Baroness who is replying to this discussion could confirm that this is so.

If it is so, then a series of rather interesting situations arise. As I understand it, Clause 50, if we translate it into the English language, means that statutory undertakings ("undertakers" is in the document I have in my hand, but I do not really think that is meant) will be able to plead that noise was necessary for the continuance of their undertaking at a particular time or place; it does not mean that they can make noise because they find it convenient to do so. This is a very important point. In the past, I am certain that many of the statutory undertakings (or undertakers, depending on how correctly the typescript I have is produced) must have hidden behind this particular right. Under the 1960 Act they are protected; they do not have to obey the law that is applied to organisations other than those owned by the State or the Crown. If one looks at the list one sees a rather interesting number of undertakings to which this now applies, if this particular clause means what I believe it means: British Rail, British Waterways, Inland Navigation, Docks and Harbours, Gas, Central Electricity Generating Board, Statutory Water Undertakers, National Freight, National Bus, Passenger Transport Authorities, London Transport Executive, and—here is the real problem one—British Airports Authority.

It is very curious to see how they can react to this particular situation. As I understand it, there is in fact a protection. They can argue that noise is necessary for the continuance of their undertaking at a particular time or place. I suppose that London Airport here and now is an area which can hardly be moved at short notice. Nevertheless, it is a healthy fact that these statutory undertakings have in fact to adapt themselves to the requirements of the community that surrounds them in the same way as (shall we say?) a subsidiary of Imperial Chemical Industries or a smaller undertaking must adapt itself in order that the irritant of noise, which apparently is something that is becoming increasingly significant in our society, shall be denied to them in the same way as it is denied to the subsidiaries of major private companies. I should be most grateful if the noble Baroness would comment upon my interpretation of this particular clause and my interpretation of the situation of nationalised undertakings under it.

10.14 p.m.


May I make just one or two comments on Clause 50 on the Question, That the Clause stand part? I want to refer to subsection (3) of the clause which reads: The person served with the notice may appeal against the notice to a magistrates' court within fourteen days from service of the notice. That, I believe, is broadly based on the model of the Noise Abatement Act 1960—subject to this. In the case of the 1960 Act the recipient of a notice is given no right of appeal. All he can do, if he receives a notice and wishes to challenge it, is to disregard it, and, when subsequently proceedings are taken against him in a magistrates' court for continuing the nuisance, plead that the notice was for some reason or another invalid.

One therefore has this new model. The person who gets the notice is given a right of appeal within 14 days to a magistrates' court, and one scans Clause 50 to try to discover what the magistrate is empowered to do if he has such an appeal brought before him. Can be set the notice aside? Can be amend it? What can be do? One finds no guidance at all in Clause 50 and one has to go grubbing through this Bill, I suppose, until one gets to Clause 61—that is to say 10 clauses later—before one gets any information on this point at all.

I start from the general proposition that our criminal legislation should be perfectly clear. The ordinary liege of Her Majesty must know, in terms chosen for their clarity, exactly how he stands in the face of the criminal law—and I suppose this is a branch of the criminal law. He is given a right of appeal to the magistrates' court. Therefore when one has found one's way to Clause 61 (and may I, in parenthesis, protest against having to look 10 clauses further on to find out how you stand if you are a person who wishes to appeal against a notice; I submit that that is thoroughly bad drafting and a thoroughly bad arrangement) what does one find? Subsection (1) says: Where any provision … provides for an appeal to a magistrates' court, the procedure shall be by way of complaint … and the Magistrates' Courts Act 1952 shall apply to the proceedings. You know therefore what are the proceedings to which you are to be subjected, because you look at the 1952 Act. Then you want to know what the magistrate can do. That you find (in so far as you find it at all) in subsection (2) of Clause 61, if I have understood this Bill correctly. That subsection provides that: The Secretary of State may make regulations as to appeals under this Part of this Act to the Secretary of State or, subject to the preceding subsection, to magistrates' courts, and the regulations may in particular— (a) include provisions comparable to those in section 290 of the Public Health Act 1936 (appeals against notices requiring the execution of works) …". Then the succeeding paragraphs go on to give a regulation-making power with regard to other matters relating to a notice which need to be dealt with.

With great respect, I protest strongly against that way of drafting. So far as I know it is quite contrary to our criminal law—or semi-criminal law if one is dealing with a notice in this case. Our criminal law should be clearly spelt out in the terms of a Statute and not left to a Minister to determine by regulation. This really is mixing up the function of an executive Minister and the functions of the courts. I do not mind whether the Minister says that this is not really criminal in substance. The appeal lies with the criminal court—and I quite agree that appeals in non-criminal matters also lie with the magistrates' court—but this initiates criminal proceedings in that failure to comply with a notice gives rise to criminal proceedings pure and simple. So it is half a step towards a criminal proceeding.

I do not know who is responsible for this drafting. I should like to know whether the Minister can cite to me any precedent for a regulation-making power which gives power to define a magistrate's jurisdiction. Is the magistrate to be empowered to impose a penalty? What in the world is the meaning of the word "comparable" to those in Section 290 of the Public Health Act, 1936? "Comparable" is a word of wide import. A thing can be comparable even if it is very dissimilar; it may have points of similarity which give rise to the possibility of comparison. If I may respectfully say so, I do strongly protest against this form of drafting. I wish my noble and learned friend Lord Dilhorne, were here; I can just imagine how he would approach this matter and the sense of indignation he would feel about it.

I do ask the Minister to say that she will take this back, and that she will have this re-drafted in such a way there will be spelt out in the words of the Bill itself and in the subsequent Statute precisely what the powers of a magistrate are when he has an appeal against a notice before him: spelt out in terms of the penalty jurisdiction he is to have. I ask the Minister generally to re-draft this either non-criminal, semi-criminal or criminal proceeding (I do not know which it is) in a form in which it is clearly intelligible without having to look at the regulations made by an executive Minister. It is clearly undesirable to draft in that way. I hope the Minister will take this back and look at it again.


I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, for his reception of the inclusion of statutory undertakers in this part of the Bill. I should like to confirm that it does include them, and I am glad that he accepts that this is a useful advance in the whole of the noise legislation that we have. The Department has in fact had consultation with those statutory undertakers most likely to be affected, in particular British Rail and London Transport. Indeed, it would not be untrue to say that they have accepted these proposals in a spirit of resignation rather than anything else, but the fact is that they do have a safeguard written in in Clause 63 subsection (4). This will give them some manoeuvrability that they may require to run their undertakings without what they might regard as frivolous intervention on grounds of noise. They can in fact plead that noise is an inevitable part of doing their statutory duty. Only in that case can they plead this defence in Clause 63. In other cases, of course, they would be subject to exactly the same rules as would any other body.

The noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, has, I realise, raised a very different point. I shall want to read with very great care what he has said about this clause. Perhaps it may be helpful if I state what I think subsection (3) is trying to achieve. This provides for an appeal to the magisstrates after the service of a notice which has to be made within 14 days, and the time for appeal is kept to a minimum in order to reduce the delay in eventual compliance with any such notice. As I understood him, the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill asked what was to happen then. The position is that magistrates, on receiving the appeal, can review the matters that have been dealt with in the notice, and if the court dislikes the terms of the notice, it can then set it aside, or not, as the court considers to be right under those circumstances.

Clause 61 really deals with procedures and not with action which magistrates can take under Clause 50, or indeed under any other clauses in this part. I think that there is some misunderstanding as to how this subsection would work, and with this explanation I hope the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, will feel that some of his criticisms have been met. I will, however, read very carefully what he has said; if I have not given him a sufficient answer, or if indeed there is anything further I can find out for him, I shall be very glad to write to him about these matters.


I am very grateful to the noble Baroness. She says the magistrates are given a power to review or dismiss a notice; I forget which she said. Is that provided in the Bill? If it is, I will withdraw and at once apologise to those who drafted it. I searched for it and could not find it. The only provision I found was a regulation-making power in Clause 61. It is that that I think is undesirable; it should be spelled out in the Bill. If it is in the Bill, as I say, I will at once withdraw and offer apologies to those who drafted the Bill: it would be most unfair if this criticism remained on the Record, not withdrawn, if that power is in the Bill spelled out in terms. But I have not found it. If the Minister can tell me where it is, I will withdraw at once. I have looked quite carefully and could not find it.

Clause 50 agreed to.

Clause 51 [Summary proceedings by occupier of land]:

10.27 p.m.

LORD MERRIVALE moved Amendment No. 178D:

Page 59, line 37, at beginning insert— ("Where an offence is committed under subsection (4) of this section,").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 178D. Subsection (4) of this clause reads: A person who without reasonable excuse contravenes any requirement of an order under subsection (2) above shall be guilty of an offence against this Part of this Act. It seems to me that this clause, Clause 51, and subsection (6), as drafted now, would allow a magistrates' court the right to direct a local authority to take steps to abate noise nuisance without affording an opportunity to the defendant to himself institute abatement measures. While I would agree that it is perfectly reasonable for a local authority to abate a nuisance in cases where a defendant is unwilling to do so himself. I do feel that in the first instance the defendant should always be allowed to take the appropriate steps himself. I have put down this Amendment with a view to endeavouring to achieve this end. I hope I shall have a favourable answer from my noble friend. I beg to move.


I sympathise with the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, in the intention behind this Amendment, which is indeed to make sure that the consent that has been given is in fact being carried out. The purpose of subsection (6) of Clause 51 is to give a magistrates' court the power to direct a local authority to take action to deal with a noise nuisance. Such directions would be given at the same time as the magistrates made any order under subsection (2).

This clause gives the court various powers against a person responsible for noise nuisance. In the first place, it can make an order under subsection (2) requiring the defendant to abate the nuisance and prohibit a recurrence, and requiring the execution of any necessary works for either purpose. Secondly, in addition to, or instead of, such an order it can use its powers under subsection (6). Thirdly, if the defendant contravenes any requirement of the court's order, he can be fined. This last possibility is quite separate from the other two and arises at a separate stage. To attempt to link subsection (6) with subsection (4) in the way suggested in the Amendment would result in fact in the nullification of the subsection (6) powers, and this is presumably not the intention of the Amendment.

The Government assume that the purpose of the Amendment is to make it clear that the court should only use the powers given by subsection (6) if it is convinced that the defendant would himself be unwilling to take the necessary action. As this subsection is identical in effect with the relevant part of Section 99 of the Public Health Act, 1936, and as there is no suggestion of a defect in these powers, the Government consider that the fears underlying this Amendment are unfounded. Nevertheless, they would be willing to consider the possibility of introducing an Amendment to make the power of subsection (6) available only where the court is satisfied that the defendant is not going to do the work himself. I hope that that is a sufficient reassurance to the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, for him to feel able to withdraw the Amendment.


I am grateful to my noble friend for her final remarks. What I was trying to achieve was that the defendant should be given the opportunity to first of all endeavour himself to reduce the noise. I understand that is what the noble Baroness has said the Government are prepared to do. With that assurance, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 51 agreed to.

Clause 52 [Control of noise on construction sites]:

10.33 p.m.

LORD MERRIVALE moved Amendment No. 178E: Page 60, line 28, leave out ("and")

The noble Lord said: With your Lordships' permission, I should also like to speak to Amendments Nos. 178F and 178L. The purpose of these Amendments is to replace subsection (6) by a new subsection (3)(e). As subsection (3) deals with what may be specified in a notice, it would seem to me to be sensible to include in this subsection the question of the time within which a notice is complied with rather than separately under another subsection. The execution of works, and the taking of other steps, should be specified in the code of practice proposed under subsection (4), and it would therefore seem unnecessary to reiterate this in subsection (6). I beg to move.


This group of Amendments would have the effect of preventing a local authority specifying in a notice the works to be executed and the steps to be taken for the purpose or the notice. A local authority would also be obliged to specify a reasonable time for compliance with the requirements of a notice served under this clause.

Similar powers to those in subsection (6) which allows a local authority to specify works or other steps in a notice are to be given to local authorities in other contexts in this Part of the Bill. This it not an innovation. Parliament conferred similar powers on local authorities in the Public Health (Recurring Nuisances) Act 1969. The power to specify works is discretionary and there is no compulsion on any local authority to exercise these powers if it does not wish. But even if a local authority did so wish and was not well advised in so doing, there is always the safeguard of an appeal against its requirements under subsection (7). We believe that there is no doubt that these powers, properly used, are a useful instrument for the local authority to have, and there is no evidence to suggest that they use their present powers irresponsibly.

A statutory requirement that a local authority should specify a "reasonable" time for compliance with the requirements of a notice seems to us unnecessary. Subsection (6) as drafted allows a local authority to specify a time for compliance and this has to be realistic. Local authorities already operate this kind of requirement in the context of the Noise Abatement Act and other legislation. Indeed, if insufficient time is allowed for compliance this could well constitute a valid ground for an appeal. I hope it will be some reassurance to my noble friend that we intend in due course to issue a circular to local authorities giving guidance on this and other similar matters which are essential to the smooth working of the Bill. I do not think that the Amendments he has suggested would help us very much, so I hope that he will not persist with them and will withdraw them.


I should like to thank my noble friend for his reply. It appears that there is a precedent in the Noise Abatement Act and in other legislation for inserting this subsection into the clause. I am pleased that it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to circularise local authorities about the way in which this clause should be applied. With that assurance, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.


Before leave is given, may I say that we have received very strong representations about the necessity for retaining subsection (6) and we should be very much against any suggestion of removing it from the Bill. So we are glad to have that reassurance from the Minister that the Government are also of the opinion that it should remain in the Bill.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

10.38 p.m.

LORD MERRIVALE moved Amendment No. 178G. Page 60, line 30, leave out ("have regard").

The noble Lord said: With this Amendment I should like to speak to Amendments Nos. 178H, 178J and 178K as they are consequential and interrelated. The point about Amendment No. 178H is that if a code of practice is to be effective it will not be sufficient for a local authority merely to be obliged to "have regard" to it. With regard to Amendment No. 178K, subsection (4)(c) refers to the use of, methods of plant or machinery … which are equally effective", but it is not clear what the alternative methods should be effective in doing. It could mean that they should be equally effective either in carrying out the job in hand or in reducing the noise level.

The alternatives may not be strictly comparable in this way. The comparison may be between a piece of machinery which would complete a job in a short time, and in so doing would produce a certain level of noise, and other machinery which would take far longer but would produce a lower level of noise. Taking all the circumstances into account, it might well be preferable to allow a higher noise level for a shorter time or vice versa. That being so, I trust my noble friend will agree that it would be preferable to remove the poorly defined constraint that alternatives should be "equally effective" and to insert instead: In acting under this section the local authority shall—… have regard to the possibility of specifying the use of reasonable alternative methods, plant or machinery. I beg to move.


My noble friend has described the effect of these four Amendments, but I am afraid I cannot advise the Committee to accept them. I hope I can convince him that what is in the Bill at the moment is preferable. In so far as the Amendments requiring the local authority to serve notices which are consistent with the code of practice have any effect at all, they do not provide any better safeguard for the interests of the contractor than the clause as drafted. If the local authority has patently failed to have regard to the relevant provisions of the code of practice, its requirements will be at severe risk of successful challenge in the courts under subsection (7).

But there is a disadvantage to his Amendment. To require the local authority to serve notices which are "consistent with" the code would limit its freedom of action to depart from the code where it judged it reasonable to do so. Circumstances may well arise when in a particular case it would be in everybody's interest to depart from the strict interpretation of the code. An excessive rigidity might well work to the disadvantage of a contractor. It would, for example, prevent local authorities from exercising any latitude where the contractor was working on a "green fields" site, and this would be undesirable for everybody concerned. And, of course, the appeal provisions are always in the background. The code will be there for the guidance of local authorities and others, and is not intended as a rule book. Discretion and good sense in its interpretation are important, and may be looked for from local authority officials. I hope that, in these circumstances, my noble friend will see that this part of his series of Amendments really would not help the contractor as much as anybody else.

As to his other Amendments, again I do not think the last one, No. 178K, would be desirable. It would mean the loss of the words "equally effective", and this would weaken the powers of the local authority. My noble friend was asking me what those words meant. In this context, "equally effective" means effective in minimising noise. Local authorities will have to decide whether short and noisy is better than longer and less noisy. I hope that, with that explanation, my noble friend will agree to withdraw these Amendments.


I suppose that in this case I shall again have to bow to greater wisdom. What one definitely wants, of course, is flexibility regarding the use of this code of practice. I was interested to hear from my noble friend that the code of practice does not set down rigid instructions, but, in effect, is meant to act as (what shall we say?) not a source of inspiration but a source of guidance for local authorities. At this stage, I can only ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 52 shall stand part of the Bill?


May I ask a question before we part with this clause? I was going to move some Amendments which I had been asked to do by the Federation of the Civil Engineering Industry. I did not put them down in time as I got them only this morning, and I did not think that we should reach Part III to-night. The industry say that they will be able to make adjustments to some of their equipment to make it less noisy. I was glad to hear the noble Baroness say that guidance would be given to local authorities, but there are certain aspects of this clause which worry me. It is not possible to make pile drivers less noisy. Will special guidance be given in the memorandum to be issued to local authorities so that throughout the country local authorities will be treating this matter in the same way, and that machines like pile drivers will be exempt?


I was a little surprised to hear my noble friend Lord Wolverton, with his long experience of Parliamentary affairs, say that he was going to put down Amendments for any other organisation. It is the normal practice to put down Amendments in one's own name—


I should have put them down in my own name.


I do not think that my noble friend need worry. There will be the code of practice. If he looks at Clause 62 he will see the code of practice is there laid down. Furthermore, in acting under Clause 52 the local authorities should also have regard to the need for ensuring that the best practical means are employed to minimise noise. If he looks at Clause 63 he will see the definition for "best practicable means" which naturally covers the current state of technical knowledge and financial implications; and I think he will find that all those matters are satisfactorily covered.


I should like to make a brief point before my noble friend Lord Winterbottom makes a more substantial one. We were asked to consider possible Amendments to this clause which would exempt work on agricultural buildings more than a hundred yards from any dwelling. In the light of what the Minister has said and from what is included in the Bill, I should have thought that it would be undesirable to have such a specific Amendment. But I hope that in any guidance which is given it will be suggested to local authorities that in the country where, apart from the farm or agricultural holding, residential accommodation is a considerable distance away it would be reasonable to take a fairly lenient view of any noise which might occur.


I will certainly take that into account.


May I make three quite short points? The noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill, made a complaint about drafting. Although I think I understand the reason why the content of Clause 52 precedes Clause 53, nevertheless, in terms of the average man trying to understand the Bill, it would seem that Clause 53 should precede Clause 52. Clause 52 gives a local authority power to impose requirements. Clause 53 gives the individual contractor the opportunity to ask the local authority what are its intentions. Although I understand that Clause 52 is weightier than Clause 53, I feel that this is the wrong way round, and is putting the cart before the horse. Perhaps when we send the Bill to another place it may be adjusted slightly.

The first of my other points refers to pile-driving, which was also mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Wolverton, and which has kept me awake for many a long hour at night. Possibly the best way of countering the noise is by muffling in some way. But I should like to ask for how many hours each day the noise would be permitted and whether the control of this kind of nuisance covers the hours of day or night during which activities of this type may continue. It is a question not of techniques but of the number of hours each day that the activity may continue.

I should also like to ensure that it is made quite clear that the statutory undertakers (I understand that is the correct form of words) are as bound by this provision as anyone else. Most of the pile-driving at night is on behalf of river authorities, people building power stations and anyone driving piles where there is water—and that is usually a public undertaker. I should therefore like to ask that it be made quite clear that the individual who has to do the work knows that he can turn to the local authority for a definition before he starts. Secondly, is time a factor, as well as technology? Thirdly, do all these statutory undertakers know that they are bound by their construction activities to the same degree as they are by their operating activities?


To comment on the first point made by the noble Lord about drafting, a great many hard things have been said about the Parliamentary draftsmen. I must say I have the very greatest sympathy with them. I am not sure that noble Lords are correct in blaming the draftsmen—I think perhaps it should be the Minister who takes the blame; but at any rate my sympathies lie with them. As to the second point made by the noble Lord, regarding the number of hours that may be worked by pile-drivers, Clause 52(3)(b) says: The notice may in particular … specify the hours during which the works may be carried out. There is a cast-iron provision there, making it clear that the licence will permit pile-driving only within certain hours. This applies to public undertakers as well.

Clause 52 agreed to.

Clause 53 [Prior consent for work on construction sites]:

10.54 p.m.

LORD MERRIVALE moved Amendment No. 178M: Page 62, line 7, leave out ("twenty-eight") and insert ("fourteen")

The noble Lord said: I beg to move this Amendment and also to speak to Amendments 178N and 178O, which are related. I suggest that a local authority should be required to issue its consent within 14 days and not 28 days, as mentioned in the Bill, and that the code of practice should be applicable to a wide range of cases, thus enabling the determination of consent conditions to be carried out quickly and easily. Many developments are on a relatively small scale, and a delay of 28 days could be very significant.

I have in mind, too, under Clause 52(1)(a) the repair or maintenance of buildings, structures, and so forth. In such cases 28 days could be quite a long time. Large scale developments, on the other hand, usually involve a very much longer time scale, and therefore could accommodate an agreed extension to the 14 day period. I feel that the effect of the 28-day period would be to deter developers from making applications for smaller developments, and to apply pressure on local authorities with regard to the use of their powers under Clause 52.

Would it not be better therefore to encourage the obtaining of prior consent under Clause 53 by shortening the 28-day period, as I am seeking to do in this Amendment? I beg to move.


I can well understand what my noble friend has in mind. I hope that we shall arrange matters so that there is no undue delay. Certainly it is relevant to point out that the 28-day period is a maximum, and one would hope in the case of a relatively minor operation that the consent would go through much quicker than that. We think that 28 days is a reasonable maximum in the majority of cases. The giving of consents is not a rubber-stamping operation. Applications will require expert scrutiny and consultation between public health officials and the authority's professional staff. Discussions with the contractor and site inspections may also be necessary. It would be unrealistic to expect that these essential processes could be carried out properly if insufficient time was allowed for proper consideration. If we were to adopt the suggestion of 14 days that would be only 6 or 7 working days if allowance is made for typing and postal time. Local authorities might react to the imposition of an unrealistically tight timetable by attaching very stringent conditions to a consent. This would lead to delay while they were challenged in the courts, and the contractor would then be in a worse position than if the clause had been left unamended.

The 28 days period is a reasonable compromise between the sometimes conflicting interests of the contractor and the local authority. Since this clause is primarily intended for the benefit of the contractor, to enable him to get a decision before work starts, the onus is on him to make his application in sufficient time for the local authority to give proper consideration to it. By allowing the local authority a reasonable period to deal with the general run of cases, the chances of their being able to respond more quickly to the application where urgent consent is genuinely required are also improved. We intend to issue guidance to local authorities on the need to deal with cases as expeditiously as possible. I hope therefore that after hearing that explanation my noble friend will agree -to withdraw his Amendment.


I was hoping that my noble friend would assure the Committee that Her Majesty's Government would give guidance to the local authorities so that they would know exactly how to proceed in order that in certain cases—emergencies, or in the case of the smaller developments—consent could be given in a short period of time. I was also pleased to hear my noble friend mention that the 28-day period would be a maximum period, and that Her Majesty's Government feel it to be a reasonable maximum. I only hope that local authorities will also consider this to be a very definite maximum, and that they will endeavour, whenever possible, to deal with the matter in a short period of time. I also take the point that in certain cases there will need to be expert scrutiny and consultation. It could be in the interests of the contractor that this should be so.

I also take my noble friend's point that in asking for 14 days, that would leave only six or seven working days. I was just wondering though (one very often hears in Parliament that half a loaf is better than none) whether my noble friend would agree in this case possibly that 21 days may be a reasonable compromise, or are Her Majesty's Government wedded to this idea of a 28-day period? Would my noble friend like to comment on that?


I should like to help my noble friend if I could, but in this case we have looked at the matter very carefully, and I really think 28 days for a major building contract is required. Since it is only a maximum, I think we must stick to 28 days.


I take my noble friend's point at this stage, and ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 53 agreed to.

11.3 p.m.

LORD WINTERBOTTOM moved Amendment No. 178A: After Clause 53 insert the following new clause:

Noise Ratings

(". The Secretary of State may by regulations require that—

  1. (a) prescribed machinery shall have noise ratings ascribed thereto; and
  2. (b) any machinery prescribed as aforesaid shall not be used if it emits noise above a prescribed level.")

The noble Lord said: This new clause is in itself quite a simple addition to the Bill—not an Amendment but an addition. If we are talking about noise, and in particular about noise arising from plants, it would surely be sensible that the actual noise emission by machine tools and machinery being offered for sale should be defined before the machine is offered to the public. If we have a certain noise emission rate considered as a standard for an operation on a construction site, it would be stupid to sell a machine with a noise emission rate higher than that which would be permitted on the site itself. So we are putting forth the suggestion laid down in the clause which we would wish to see added after Clause 53. It is very simple and good English: . The Secretary of State may by regulations require that—

  1. (a) prescribed machinery shall have noise ratings ascribed thereto; and
  2. (b) any machinery prescribed as aforesaid shall not be used if it emits noise above a prescribed level."

So, if a local authority says that machine tools working on a site shall not emit a volume of sound above a defined level, then the machine tool should not be sold with an emission of noise above that of the prescribed level.

This suggestion really arises from the Scott Report which recommended that the Secretary of State should be empowered to specify the noise emission level of machinery. It is recommended that a comprehensive statutory framework for the progressive alleviation of the neighbourhood noise problem over the next 10 or 15 years should include a reserve power for the Secretary of State to introduce by regulation a statute of limitations on a noise output of a specified class of machinery. It is only common sense. We are not going to get a satisfactory world overnight. We must work towards a certain level. If we think in terms of a decade, it is entirely sensible that we should arrange that the machinery to be used on a construction site should be so designed that its noise emissions are acceptable to the people living in the general area.

Of course, it is not only the people who surround a building site or a working site who are affected; the people who actually work the machines are themselves affected. We are dealing not only with citizens but with the workpeople on the site. It is for this reason that I believe we should include a clause of this type, which would empower the Secretary of State to lay down levels of noise for machinery that is offered for sale for use on sites, where the local authority is empowered to lay down the standards of noise emission, and so on, which would take place with the work on that site. I beg to move.


Does this new clause apply only to construction sites, or to any machinery, such as the noisy saws which householders use for cutting down trees on Sunday afternoons? I do not see why it should apply only to construction sites. Is that the noble Lord's intention?


I am afraid that I have not thought this matter through as deeply as I should have liked. I, like the noble Lord, suffer from the noise from active power saws on Sundays, but I find it difficult to know how one could silence a rip saw carving through a fallen tree. Nevertheless, I suppose that we in the country, who spend our weekends in the country, do not suffer so much as people who are closed in in an urban environment, who have to hear the traffic by day and pile-driving by night.


They employ machinery with a noise rating.


Surely one of the most awful noises is that of the pneumatic drill, particularly on building sites. But is it possible to produce a piece of machinery that would dig up concrete without making such a frightful noise? We have to be a little careful in drawing up regulations or we may find that we are asking for the impossible. As an antedote at this late hour, I would say that the most pleasant noise is that of your wife mowing the lawn.


It was originally our intention to include a provision of this kind because we, too, had read the Scott Report. But, having looked at it carefully, we thought that it would probably be preferable to see whether manufacturers themselves would respond to market pressures for quieter machinery. We therefore thought this was not an essential provision and it would be better to leave it to see how manufacturers dealt with the situation, in the light of pressure for quieter machinery. Indeed, you can make quieter machinery. I do not think any drills are very quiet, but they can be made quieter. The noble Lord said, quite rightly, that his new clause was drafted in plain English. That is the most dangerous thing to do in any Bill—to put it into plain English. And I have to warn him that there would be great drafting difficulties with his clause—indeed, with any Amendment of this kind—because it would have to avoid the danger of being regarded as erecting a technical barrier to trade which would make it unacceptable to our trading partners, notably in the E.E.C. But, having said that, I appreciate that this is an interesting clause and I will certainly consider all that has been put forward by the noble Lord.


I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I think my new clause, Amendment No. 178B is saying the same thing in rather more complicated language, and is therefore more in line with what the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, seems to wish. However, as it is more complicated I will not press the matter.

Clause 54 [Noise in Streets]:

11.10 p.m.

LORD CRAIGTON: moved Amendment No. 178P:

Page 64, line 2, at end insert: ("( ) It shall be an offence under this Part of this Act to connect a burglar alarm to a bell which, when the alarum is operated, can he clearly heard from any street unless there is no reasonably practicable method of connecting such alarum to a police station; and notwithstanding the provisions of section 97(2) of this Act this provision shall not come into effect before the expiry of two years from the date of the passing of this Act.")

The noble Lord said: This Amendment is in such simple English that I will read it out to your Lordships. It says quite clearly what I should like to see: It shall be an offence under this Part of this Act to connect a burglar alarum to a bell which, when the alarum is operated, can be clearly heard from any street unless there is no reasonably practicable method of connecting such alarum to a police station; and notwithstanding the provisions of section 97(2) of this Act this provision shall not come into effect before the expiry of two years from the date of the passing of this Act.

The noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, when referring to the pile-driving spoke of the noises by which one is personally affected, and he asked whether they have to go on for 24 hours in the day. I expect every noble Lord in the Committee has heard the noise of the burglar alarm that is set off by a heavy lorry, or even by a mouse, and rings for hours—even all night, even all week-end. It is well known to everyone and is one of the most irritating noises that one can imagine. I will read an extract from a letter from somebody who also wrote to his Member of Parliament. It says: It does seem extraordinary that the peace of law-abiding, peaceful citizens should be shattered periodically by shopkeepers who go away for weekends and are not available to control an alarm bell that admittedly has gone of inadvertently. Two nights running of sleeping pills seems to me to be quite unjustifiable if it is for reasons beyond one's control. I am sure the police have powers to act in this matter. Maybe they do. I do not blame them if there are too many instances where a bell just keeps ringing. But something must be done, and if the police powers need strengthening perhaps my Amendment is not so essential. But it would have two advantages: one is that it would be an answer to quite a large number of potential offenders, and the other is that it would lessen some of the work of the police. I beg to move.


I am sure we all have sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, in his Amendment, especially if we have had the misfortune to suffer from one of these alarm bells ringing for a long period of time. It seems to be one of the facts of modern life that these machines go wrong, for whatever reason, and ring for long periods of time.

But while we have a great deal of sympathy in regard to the problem I am not sure that this particular Amendment is the most appropriate way to deal with it. Unfortunately, burglar alarms, whether of a silent or an audible type, are in fact a necessary part of modern life, and it would be difficult to justify making it an offence to connect a burglar alarm to a bell when there are many such devices which cause no inconvenience to anybody and which provide the protection for which they are designed. It really is not unreasonable to allow this type of alarm, provided it is switched off as soon as possible after it has been activated, although clearly the key holder has a great responsibility to ensure that his alarm is in good working order and that if it is activated arrangements are made to switch it off. Some companies, I understand, are prepared to offer a switch-off service if an alarm is activated, and if more people were to take advantage of this it would do something to mitigate this dreadful problem.

We hope, however, that the Bill as at present drafted will lead to an improvement in the position. Under the Bill a local authority will be empowered to issue a notice prohibiting the occurrence or recurrence of a noise nuisance which it is satisfied is likely to occur or to recur. This should certainly be a way of dealing with faulty alarms which are continually activated. Furthermore, consideration is being given to the possibility of reinforcing these powers by issue of a code of practice on audible alarm bells. This might, for instance, require them to be switched off within a specified period, and failure to observe such a code of practice could then be taken into account in any proceedings which might subsequently be brought for noise nuisance. This may not be, as it were, a cast iron solution, such as the noble Lord's Amendment provides, but I hope I have said enough to show that we do think something should be done about this matter, and we hope that this Bill will go some way towards meeting it.


There seems to be a problem here because it is difficult to know who can switch off a burglar alarm. Recently, one went off in our mews at about 11.30 at night; it started to ring loudly, and after a certain time a cluster of people formed outside the house wondering what to do about it. We rang up the telephone number on the alarm; I spoke to a man, who said he could not do anything about it unless he was given authority from the police. In the meantime we found out that the owners of the house were in New York. I went round to the police station, and they said they appreciated the alarm was making a noise, but they could not of their own responsibility switch it off. They said the man I had already talked to was responsible; it was his alarm. So there does seem to be difficulty in knowing who can switch off when the alarm goes off and the owner is away. In the end, in this case, the man who made the burglar alarm came and switched off the bell outside. The other one inside went on ringing gently until the owners returned from New York.


I am grateful for that support, but as all noble Lords in the Committee have not jumped to my aid, and as the noble Baroness gave what I thought was a reasonably satisfactory answer, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 54 shall stand part of the Bill?


Before we leave this clause, might I put in an urgent plea to the Government to introduce a ban of some sort on the use of radios in residents' gardens in urban areas? This is sometimes an extreme nuisance. I need not go into all the technicalities and the acoustical reasons, but there is no doubt that noise from a loudspeaker carries for a much greater distance than a similar noise produced in a natural way. I think the reason is that it emphasises certain harmonics which result in the noise carrying much further. There is also another peculiar characteristic. Some loudspeakers tend to emphasise one particular note very much more than others, so if one is a sufficient distance away all one hears is a constant repetition of that one note. This can be absolutely maddening. As this part of the Bill is concerned with reducing noise which is a nuisance to other people, I sincerely hope that the Government will consider introducing something of this sort.


It is always very difficult to strike a balance when one has a problem such as noise from transistor radios. Obviously, they can be very noisy and objectionable to some; on the other hand, there is the freedom of the individual to play one, and to that individual it is not objectionable at all. It is really a subjective matter. It is, of course, open to one individual, if the noise can be heard outside the house or in the street, to bring an action for nuisance under the Bill, and it is open to a local authority to have a bylaw, if it so wishes, prohibiting the use of radios in certain public places. So this would be another way that the problem could be met. It is very difficult to see how one could go further than that. Apart from any of the legislative difficulties, there is always the difficulty of enforcement of any proceedings that could follow, or indeed tracking down people playing radios or switching them on and off. I hope, however, the noble Lord, Lord Somers, will recognise that the whole provision on noise is strengthened by the fact that one person can now bring an action for nuisance under this Part of the Bill if a noise can be heard in the street or outside a private house. This Bill does not, of course, apply to noise within a private house or private property altogether.


The noble Baroness speaks of the liberty of the individual, and, I quite recognise the desirability of that. But should it be the liberty of the individual to create noise which is a thorough nuisance to all those living in very close proximity to him? I remember that when I was a student and was practising regularly I made it a rule to keep my windows closed. I suppose I could have exercised my liberty of the individual in summertime and kept them open. I did not do it. So far as making a protest about radios is concerned, it is very often very difficult to track them down, to decide exactly where they are. You hear them coming from somewhere, but you cannot tell definitely whose they are. How can you make a protest?

Clause 54 agreed to.

Clause 55 [Designation of zones]:

LORD WINTERBOTTOM moved Amendment No. 179: Page 64, line 10, at end insert ("and in doing so, shall take into account noise from traffic and from all other sources present in or adjoining the area to which the Order relates").

The noble Lord said: If we turn this Amendment into a meaningful clause, to use an Americanism, it should now read: A local authority may by order confirmed by the Secretary of State designate all or any part of its area a noise abatement zone"— and here the Amendment starts— and in doing so, shall take into account noise from traffic and from all other sources present in or adjoining the area to which the order relates.

The reason for this is that if you take London or any of the great cities in this country traffic noise is a predominant source of noise nuisance, and if we are trying to define a noise abatement zone it is rather stupid to say you cannot do this and cannot do that if you do not at the same time take into account the fact that traffic is also making a substantial addition to the background noise of the zone in question.

I think we have to bear in mind, when we think of the implications of Clause 55, that every effort must continue to be made to reduce traffic noise at source, if the Government's policy on noise abatement is to be of real benefit to the community, and in particular if the benefits of noise abatement zones, which at the moment deal only with industrial noise, are not to be jeopardised by continuing unacceptable nuisance from traffic. Part of industrial noise is major heavy vehicles moving in and out of factory space. My life when I live in London is dominated by a whole series of noises, one of them being a major dairy operation opening its roller doors at five o'clock in the morning, and lorries bringing in milk and moving out the full cases. We have to think of a noise abatement zone in its entirety; not only the noise arising from industry in a certain area but also the movement of traffic in and around the industrial area controlled in the noise abatement zone. It is for this reason that I move this Amendment.

11.25 p.m.


We expect that a local authority will have in mind all types of noise when considering whether or not to designate a particular area as a noise abatement zone, but we do not think that there would be merit in singling out traffic noise for special mention. Indeed, we think there would be some disadvantage in so doing. The clause as drafted allows a local authority to designate a zone, taking into account whatever factors it thinks appropriate. No two areas will be the same, and it is therefore appropriate to leave to a local authority the widest possible discretion in the process of making designation orders. We do not think it right to require local authorities to take a particular type of noise into account; it is the total noise with which they ought properly to be concerned.

Moreover, the Amendment might give the impression that the noise abatement zone clauses are designed to deal with traffic noise, and this would be misleading. The powers provided in Clauses 55 to 59 relate to noise from classified types of premises—for example, factories; and I should think possibly even the dairy which the noble Lord was concerned about—and they are not appropriate for dealing with noise from moving sources. There are already adequate powers to control traffic noise by existing legislation, such as the Construction and Use Regulations made under the Road Traffic Act 1972. There are powers available to local authorities to ban traffic, or certain classes of traffic, from using specified roads under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967, and there are the powers available to local authorities under the Heavy Commercial Controls and Regulations Act 1973 to prohibit or restrict, the use of heavy commercial vehicles.

Where there are limitations on the action we can take in these respects is in the economic and technological constraints imposed by the need to make use of existing vehicles and to meet the European Community's general requirements. The need to reduce noise is one requirement that has to be weighed against others. New and generally exhortatory legislative powers are not going to alter this situation. We have to tackle the question of vehicle noise at source. The Government have already secured the E.E.C. agreement to a revision of existing vehicle noise limits by October 1, 1974, and we are also sponsoring a great deal of research, particularly into the production of a quiet heavy goods vehicle. These are the reasons why I suggest that the Amendment has some disadvantages, and I hope that the noble Lord will agree to withdraw it.


I am grateful to the noble Lord for his explanation. We live in an imperfect world, and what we are trying to do is to lessen the degree of imperfection. I am glad that thought is being given to this particular problem of background noise arising from traffic. Death and noise on the roads are things that we seem to accept as part of nature; and of course they are not. I am glad to know that we are giving a lead to Europe in this matter of quiet vehicles, and doing research into very quiet heavy goods vehicles. I hope that we shall not use the European Community too often as an alibi. As an ardent European I should be unhappy if this were the sort of thing behind which we hid. But having received the noble Lord's reassurance, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 55 shall stand part of the Bill?


As I understand this clause, it requires that a noise abatement zone order shall specify the classes of premises to which it applies. However, construction and demolition works are controlled separately under Clauses 52 and 53, so would it not be inappropriate for there to be dual control in a noise abatement zone order? Is it the Government's intention that the Secretary of State will not allow construction and demolition works to be covered in a confirming order? I regret that I have not given my noble friends notice of this point, but perhaps either he or she can reply to it.


I think that "he" will reply to this point, but I do so with some uncertainty because, as my noble friend said, he has not given me any warning. My understanding of a noise abatement zone is that it is a zone where the general noise level is measured and where efforts are made to restrain the level of noise to that level, and, in certain cases to reduce it. But if there were a construction operation going on within the zone, that would be a purely temporary interruption in the normal noise level of the zone and, I think, would be controlled under the other clauses, as my noble friend said. But I should like to confirm that point.

Clause 55 agreed to.

Clause 56 [Register of noise levels]:

11.33 p.m.

LORD MERRIVALE moved Amendment No. 179B: Page 64, line 31, leave out ("on") and insert ("before").

The noble Lord said: As this clause now stands, the noise level register might contain entries which were misleading because an appeal to the Secretary of State had not been determined. This would obviously be unsatisfactory, and it seems sensible to allow an owner or occupier of premises an opportunity to accept or to appeal against the validity of the noise levels before an entry is recorded in the register. I hope that my noble friend will consider this to be a reasonable Amendment. I beg to move.


I hope I can show my noble friend Lord Merrivale that his Amendment is unnecessary. The recording of the noise level in the register will be a statement of fact, and against that fact the person concerned with the noise level will have an opportunity to appeal. The Amendment suggests that he should be told before it is recorded, so that he can then give notice of his appeal. I do not think that this Amendment is necessary, because a person will have the opportunity to appeal if he is dissatisfied. The recording in the register will be merely a statement of the measured noise level. I think my noble friend will agree that anybody who is concerned will have an adequate opportunity to object.


I am most grateful to my noble friend for stating categorically that this Amendment is unnecessary, and that the recording will be merely a statement of fact. With that assurance given by my noble friend, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

11.35 p.m.

LORD MIDDLETON moved Amendment No. 179A:

Page 65, line 5, leave out subsection (5).

The noble Lord said: Clause 56 provides that when a local authority has designated a noise abatement zone it shall measure the noise level emanating from premises covered by the order, that such measurements are to be recorded in a noise level register, and that a copy of that record must be served on the owner and the occupier of the premises. Subsection (5) says: Except as provided by the preceding provisions of this section the validity or accuracy of any entry in a noise level register shall not be questioned in any proceedings under this Part of this Act.

I do not see any provision in the preceding provisions of Clause 56 with regard to proceedings. Subsections (3) and (4) refer to a right of appeal after receipt of a copy of an entry in a noise level register. An owner or occupier could therefore presumably question an inaccuracy under subsection (3), which provides that he can appeal to the Secretary of State against the record so long as he does it within twenty-eight days of receipt of a copy of the record. One can, however, envisage an administrative mistake, for example, or some other cause putting an owner or occupier out of court through missing the twenty-eight days allowed for the appeal. Under subsection (5) it would seem that the register then becomes sacrosanct, and that the validity or accuracy of any entry cannot be questioned in any further proceedings.

Local government officials are not infallible. Inaccuracies can occur only too often in the making of measurements and in the compiling of records. The validity of noise level measurements in particular, may, in our urban circumstances, be open to all sorts of question. The subsection appears at first sight to be one which could act unfairly on a person charged with an offence. If a mistake has been made in a register, it is only right that a defendant in peril of the criminal law should be allowed to question it. The mistake may, for example, be a clerical error, referring to the wrong premises, to premises not within the noise abatement order, or to the wrong level of noise. I am sure there is a good reason for this subsection and that my noble friend will justify its existence, but it does not seem to me to serve any useful purpose and it does not seem to me to be right that it should be there so long as there is no provision in the Bill—and I cannot find one—for rectification of a noise level registry in the same way as, for example, you can rectify a land registry through the provisions of a land charges bill. I beg to move.


The noble Lord, Lord Middleton, is I think concerned that there will not be an opportunity for somebody to object to the measurement which is put into the noise register in a noise abatement zone, and perhaps it might be helpful if I explained that subsection (3), which of course is the subsection particularly referred to in subsection (5) when it says Except as provided by the preceding provisions of this section …", provides an opportunity for an appeal to the Secretary of State if anyone considers that a local authority has not used the right methods of measurement or has not taken accurate measurements within the procedure as laid down.

Subsection (3) is designed to ensure that the matter may be dealt with promptly while the facts are fresh in the minds of everyone. Subsection (4), to which this also applies, enables the Secretary of State to give directions to the local authority about the record of measurement so that a record of undisputed validity and accuracy can be produced. I hope, therefore, that my noble friend will agree that the position of the individual or industrialist in a noise abatement zone will be adequately safeguarded. If the possibility of an appeal is not taken up, or is exhausted, the difficulty is that under his Amendment the possibility of questioning the accuracy of any measurement could be raised a long time after the original measurements were taken, and therefore would not contribute anything to safeguarding the individual, which is what we want to do. The aim of subsection (5) is to create finality because, as I said in answer to a previous Amendment on this subject, the object of the noise register is to provide a record of fact and not a judgment about noise levels. It is to provide a record of fact against which future noise levels can be measured. I hope I have said enough to explain that the individual has this right to appeal on this point.

On the particular point raised about the clerical error, the noise readings could not be taken without co-operation with the industrialist or the individual, because they would be required to be taken at certain times, and obviously this would have to be done with agreement. Furthermore, there would be nothing to prevent the individual from seeing that the record in the register was accurate about the premises, the day, and so on. If it were not true, that would be a ground for objection.


I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Middleton, will not readily withdraw his Amendment. Subsection (5) reads in a peculiar way—that the register shall not be questioned in any proceedings under this Part of the Act except as provided by the preceding provisions. Is it not in any case completely redundant because it already says in subsection (3) that the owner and occupier of the premises: may, within twenty-eight days of the date of service, appeal to the Secretary of State against the record."? If he may do so within 28 days is it not implied that he may not do so within 29 days? Therefore, does not subsection (3) do everything that you are trying to do in subsection (5)? I may have misunderstood the noble Baroness, but that is my reading of it.


I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Platt, is quite right on this matter. The individual concerned has the right to object within 28 days. I have no doubt that if he objected on the twenty-ninth day, in many cases that might well be accepted. If subsection (5) is left out there is no ultimate limit to when objections might arise and they would be held in a completely different context than the time when the measurement was taken. This is a technical matter in a new field, and therefore it is necessary to have a limit put on the time far objection against the measurement which has been taken. That is why it is written in this way. After all, it is not a measurement that is going to stand for all time. It could well be that five years later other measurements would be taken and the same procedure gone through. What it is doing is setting finality on the measurements taken at a specific time.


My point is that that limit is set at 28 days.


I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for what she has said. I am concerned with the man who has missed the opportunity to lodge his appeal within 28 days: there may have been a muddle, or the record may be wrong. The noble Baroness said that this is a new field and that in this respect we are feeling our way, but it seems to me quite wrong that someone who has committed an offence cannot challenge this record, if the record of facts is wrong. However, I should like to study very carefully what has been said, and to reserve the right to bring this up again at a later stage, if necessary. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

11.46 p.m.

LORD CRAIGTON moved Amendment No. 179F:

Page 65, line 15, at end insert— ("( ) A local authority may measure the level of noise in any part of its area not designated as a noise abatement zone under section 55 of this Act and may enter the particulars of such measurement in the noise level register").

The noble Lord said: I beg leave to move this Amendment. As I read this clause, the local authority has powers only to measure the noise in a noise abatement zone and to enter only such zonal information in the register. Supposing a ratepayer, not in the noise abatement zone, complains about a noise: should the local authority not have power to test the truth of his complaint? It can do this only by measuring the noise, and it can most properly give the ratepayer the answer by entering the noise level in the register, so that the authority may justify to ratepayers the case for action—perhaps by making a new noise abatement zone—or for inaction. This seems so obvious to me that I fear I must have made a mistake somewhere. I am sure the noble Baroness will tell me, if I have. I beg to move.


I can assure the noble Lord that in fact his point is met in the Bill. It is open to a local authority at any time to take a noise measurement outside a noise abatement zone and to enter it in a register of noise levels. This would be a different register from that in a noise abatement zone, which would have its own register for that zone. But there is nothing to prevent a local authority, under Clause 49, from taking measurements and recording them anywhere it chooses within its area.


I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for that explanation, and I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, whether Clause 56 shall stand part of the Bill?


I should like to take this opportunity to ask my noble friend whether it is the Government's intention to bring this Clause 56 into effect only after regulations prescribing the way in which, and the methods by which, noise levels are to be measured have been prepared. Subsection (8) reads: Regulations may provide for the way in which, and the methods by which, noise levels are to be measured for the purposes of this section, … and so on. This subsection recognises the fact that noise levels can be measured by different methods, used in different ways. Surely there is a need for standardisation of the methods adopted by different local authorities.

As I see it if this clause is brought into effect before regulations are made prescribing the methods to be used, not only will there be a variation in the approach of different local authorities, but some local authorities may find it necessary to remeasure noise levels of premises where measurements have already been carried out. I know that I have not given notice to my noble friend on this matter, but would it be possible to confirm, or consider confirming at a later stage that regulations will be introduced at least no later than when this clause takes effect? It would be preferable if the regulations could come in beforehand.


I am glad to confirm this point. It will be brought into effect after regulations have been laid down. As I indicated in answering an earlier Amendment, the measurement of noise levels is a new and somewhat complex science and we are devising a scheme in conjunction with the Building Research Station. It is hoped that we shall be able to devise regulations that will cover the different types of area, and the different types of noise abatement zone, which could apply to different local authorities.

Clause 56 agreed to.

Clause 57 [Noise exceeding registered level]:

11.52 p.m.

LORD MERRIVALE moved Amendment No. 179C: Page 65, line 35, after ("section") insert ("within twenty-eight days from receipt of the application").

The noble Lord said: I believe this Amendment conforms to normal practice whereby there is mention of a period within which consent should be given or refused. Without such provision the application could remain undetermined indefinitely, and this would place the applicant in a difficult position for he might not know whether or not he should continue with his plans. I beg to move.


My noble friend has a real point here and we shall consider requiring the local authorities to notify an applicant of their decision within a specified period of time. This is given in the other clauses of the Bill and I think that something should be put in here.


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

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 57 shall stand part of the Bill?


I presume that the level of noise measured and recorded in the noise level register will usually be the level of noise when plant and machinery are on the premises and operating normally. However, the noise level under start-up and emergency conditions is higher than the registered levels, although this is only for a limited time. Could my noble friend say whether it is intended to advise local authorities that consents under Clause 57 should be granted to allow levels of noise above the registered levels under start-up and emergency conditions? This is possibly permitted under subsection (2), although I am not sure about that. Perhaps my noble friend could clarify this point.


The noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, has asked a question as to the circumstances in which the noise permitted would be above the noise level recorded in the register for a noise abatement zone. It is possible for a local authority to give a written consent in certain circumstances for industry to rise above these noise levels. Such a circumstance could well be the kind of circumstance that the noble Lord has mentioned. There could be examples, such as the expansion of existing facilities, or a return to full-capacity working after existing noise levels had been registered, where indeed a higher level might be justified. I hope this answers his point.

Clause 57 agreed to.

11.58 p.m.

LORD CRAIGTON moved Amendment No. 179: After Clause 57, insert the following new clause:

Prohibition of vehicles

".—(1) A local authority may make a noise abatement order which shall prescribe the level of noise which shall not be exceeded by road vehicles of the classes named in the order except with the consent of the local authority.

(2) The local authority's consent may be made subject to such conditions, whether as to the amount by which the level of noise may be increased, or as to the period for which, or the periods during which, the level of noise may be exceeded, as may be specified in the consent.

(3) The local authority shall notify the applicant of its decision on any application for consent under this section, and the applicant may appeal to the Secretary of State against that decision within three months of the date on which the local authority notifies him of the decision.

It shall be the duty of the local authority to act in accordance with the decision of the Secretary of State on the appeal.

(4) If noise emitted from any road vehicle constitutes a contravention of subsection (1) of this section, or of a condition attached to a consent under this section, the person responsible shall be guilty of an offence under this Part of this Act."

The noble Lord said: I beg to move this new clause. As the Bill is drafted, the only major uncontrolled noises left out seem to be vehicles and aeroplanes. I should like to bring in vehicles. The existing provisions about vehicle noise are governed by the Ministry of Transport Road Vehicle (Maximum Noise) Regulations 1968. I am advised that in the five years that have ensued only twelve prosecutions have taken place. Why is this? It is, as I understand it, because the prescribed method of measurement of noise in these regulations is virtually unenforceable. First, the measuring instrument has to be in open country, so that no other vehicle or building can be in the vicinity; secondly, the vehicle's speed has to be 30 m.p.h. only; and thirdly, the measuring instrument must be 25 feet away from the vehicle. This sort of restriction might be all right for the Yorkshire Moors, but I do not think that it goes down in Bond Street.

It is essential that some legislation should be available to enforce this. We have been able to enforce the speed limit: why not a nuisance noise limit? This new clause would produce a system that could be enforced in practice. I would hope the local authorities could fix, say, 80 decibles as the maximum noise. This would give the Government an opportunity to correct what seems a strange omission in this Part III of the Bill, which is headed, "Noise." I beg to move.


I should like to support this Amendent very strongly. A great deal of noise from road vehicles is easily avoidable. People who drive cars with noisy exhausts, merely for the purpose of feeling that they are driving a very powerful vehicle, should be made to have them properly silenced. There is also the rather more difficult problem of very high-powered diesel vehicles which make an absolutely shattering noise that could, I think, be silenced to a very great extent. I think that the reason, probably, why there have been so few prosecutions, as the noble Lord has just said, is that it is extremely difficult to catch a car when it is travelling at a very high speed with a noisy exhaust; and unless it is travelling at a high speed it does not make much noise.


In considering this Amendment I am afraid that I rather have to repeat what I said to the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, who was equally interested in an earlier Amendment on the question of vehicle noise. These provisions in the Bill—noise abatement zones—are designed to deal with noise from fixed premises, such as factories, and not with noise from moving sources such as road vehicles. When we were preparing this Bill we considered the possibility of introducing new legislation to deal with vehicle noise, but came to the conclusion that the Government had all the powers they could wish to have to give better control over this source of noise and that there was nothing to be gained from new powers in the Bill. I have already mentioned the extensive powers we have under Section 40 of the Road Traffic Act 1972, under which the Secretary of State for the Environment may prescribe any reasonable level as the maximum permissible noise level for vehicles; and limits have been prescribed in the Motor Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1973.

We accept that the existing limits are too high, but since motor vehicles are an internationally traded product, effective action requires international co-operation, and unilateral action can only touch the surface of the problem and would place United Kingdom manufacturers at a serious competitive disadvantage. There are also the local powers of the local authorities under Sections 1 to 6 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act, and the Heavy Commercial Vehicles (Control and Regulations) Act 1973, to regulate the movement of traffic through their area and thereby to reduce traffic noise. But I can see grave difficulties in going any further as my noble friend was suggesting. The noble Lord, Lord Somers, himself mentioned how difficult it was to enforce this kind of provision and catch people for making a lot of noise, and I really do not think, with due respect to my noble friend, that this would fit neatly into the present proposals for noise at all into the present proposals for noise abatement zones. I hope that he understands the difficulties and will withdraw the Amendment.


I have heard my noble friend's case with due respect. I am grateful to him for such a careful explanation, which I shall read with great care. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 58 [Reduction of noise levels]:

12.3 a.m.

LORD MERRIVALE moved Amendment No. 179D:

Pace 66, line 46, at end insert: ("Provided that the time specified in the notice in accordance with subsection (3) above is not less than two years from the date when consent was granted under the preceding section.")

The noble Lord said: The previous clause, Clause 57, provides for the granting of a consent to an increased noise level, perhaps after the determination of an appeal by the Secretary of State. Such a consent may specify the period for which the consent applies, and it is expected that an appropriate period would be specified where the activities producing increased noise were of a limited duration. On the other hand, there will surely be many instances where activities producing increased noise level will be more permanent in character. I think that in industry it is inevitable. While I would agree that it would be wrong to remove the possibility of the variation of a consented level, it would be reasonable for a minimum period during which the consented level may not be varied to be prescribed in the Bill. Also, it should be a reasonable period of time that is inserted in the Bill, for failing this we might easily run the risk of unduly penalising industry, on which in effect we all depend so much.

Under Part I of this Bill certain noble Lords (perhaps also the noble Baroness, Lady White; but the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, I know) rejected the idea of inserting at the end of subsection (4) in Clause 5 wording to the effect that a notice served in pursuance of this clause shall not revoke or modify a disposal licence within two years, except in the case of an emergency. That was what we were debating at that time. On that occasion my noble friend Lady Young said—and I quote: We propose to consider whether any greater security can be given to an operator once he has a licence, by laying down explicitly in the Bill that once a licence has been issued it shall not be unreasonably varied or shall only be varied where there is good reason to do so in order to secure satisfactory standards of operation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17/1/74, col. 1119.]

The noble Baroness also spoke on that occasion to the effect that the licence holders must be able to make their investments with a reasonable degree of confidence. I think the Government gave certain assurances then, and I hope that my noble friend will be able to do so now. I agree that in this Amendment I am not considering waste, but noise at consented levels, where also high investment may already have been made. Therefore I hope my noble friend will be able to give certain assurances so that at least the Amendment may be useful as a probing Amendment, if nothing else. I beg to move.


I think it would be useful at this point to consider the relationship of Clauses 56, 57 and 58. Clause 56 establishes the noise abatement zones and Clause 57 allows an industry to have a higher level than the register has allowed it in the noise abatement zone. This is presumed to be the exception rather than the rule in this case. Clause 58 will allow a local authority to lower the levels of noise allowed within a noise abatement zone. Therefore if this Amendment were agreed to, one of the difficulties would be that an industrialist could, if he had permission for a higher noise level, keep this for two years without having it altered, and therefore in a sense he would be at an advantage as against other people in the noise abatement zone whose noise level was lower. So that is one quite practical difficulty.

But if what the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, is seeking is, as I think it is, a safeguard against what might appear to be unreasonable behaviour by the local authority in that they would be continually asking for lower levels at a time when the industrialist was quite unable to achieve it, of course he has a safeguard in that he has a right of appeal to a magistrates' court against that local authority's requirements. This should be a safeguard for him.

I am not sure that I would entirely agree with the noble Lord that the situation with regard to a licence holder in Part I, who has a licence for disposal, is exactly comparable with an industrialist in a noise abatement zone. The fact is that a local authority would have to consider carefully the zone that it decided upon as a noise abatement zone. It would clearly have to get the co-operation of everyone in it, and there would have to be a great deal of consultation between the local authority and the industrialists. In the case of a licence holder, he is applying to the local authority for a quite specific job to do, and therefore he needs safeguards which are quite different from the kind of situation that would arise in a noise abatement zone. I trust this will reassure the noble Lord that we have understood his point, and I hope we have met it.


I do not wish to detain the Committee at this "early" hour, but would just like to say I am very glad indeed that the noble Baroness has taken the line she has. I think we would have been very unhappy had she been able to accept her noble friend's Amendment. Of course, she is perfectly right; the circumstances are very different in this Part of the Bill from those in Part I, and we are very happy with the line she has adopted.


I thank my noble friend. I take the point that there would be practical difficulties in the implementation of my Amendment if it were incorporated in the Bill. The noble Baroness also said there are safeguards, in that the local authorities should not behave unreasonably, and that there is a right of appeal to a magistrate's court. The noble Baroness stressed, and this I think is a very good point indeed, that there would be extensive consultation between local authorities and industry. With those assurances, and also bearing in mind the practical difficulties regarding my Amendment, I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

12.13 a.m.

LORD MERRIVALE moved Amendment No. 179E: Page 67, line 2, leave out ("a magistrates' court") and insert ("the Secretary of State")

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 179E. As I see it, appeals against noise reduction notices will usually be made on the grounds that the noise level or levels specified in the notice are inappropriate for the area in which the premises concerned are situated, or that the steps prescribed in the notice to reduce the noise levels do not constitute the best practicable means of abatement. These two grounds are the same, I should imagine, as those on which one would normally expect appeals to be made under Clauses 57 and 59. In those cases, a new increased level is under consideration, whereas in Clause 58 a new reduced level gives rise to the appeal. The two circumstances are surely very similar, and I would have thought one could regard the serving of a noise reduction notice as the belated imposition of a condition which would normally be attached to a planning consent.

In Clauses 57 and 59, the Bill proposes that appeal should be made to the Secretary of State. There are certainly merits in that. For instance, one merit is that there should be a large measure of consistency in the determination of the appeals. It is essential that the consent to noise levels for premises in one part of the country are the same as for premises similarly situated in another part of the country. The determination of the best practicable means of abatement usually requires the assessment of highly technical considerations by persons with the requisite technical competence and expertise. I am sure my noble friend would agree that the D.O.E. inspectors are perfectly suitably qualified to advise the Secretary of State when determining such appeals.

The determination of appeals under Clause 58, bearing in mind that these are cases which do not involve the perpetration of a statutory nuisance, also demand a large measure of consistency, so that reduced noise levels are consistent both with one another and with the new or increased noise levels allowed under Clauses 57 and 59. Furthermore, under Part I of the Bill magistrates' courts usually will not have the appropriate technical expertise to decide what is the best practical means; nor will they have available independent assessors to assist them in this task. In view of these arguments, I sincerely hope my noble friend will feel it is appropriate that appeals against noise reduction notices should be made to the Secretary of State. I beg to move.

12.15 a.m.


The noble Lord has advanced two arguments in support of his Amendment, the first being that the magistrates would not have the technical expertise to deal with this particular kind of case. I hope he will be reassured when I say that we believe that they would. Since the Noise Abatement Act, which is now about 14 years old, they have been dealing with this kind of case. They have also had to deal with questions of noise nuisance, which are somewhat similar in character, and of course they can get the technical advice that they require in order to make a judgment.

His second argument was that there is a difference between Clause 57, where a person has a right of appeal to the Secretary of State, and Clause 58, where it is to the magistrates. We do not think that the two circumstances are really the same. Under Clause 57, which is an appeal against a local authority's refusal to allow noise levels to be increased, the matter goes to the Secretary of State. The reason is that refusal of consent could in certain circumstances have very widespread implications for jobs, or the whole of the industry, or possibly for investment or for some such big reason. Once the noise level has been accepted and the question is one of reducing it, we believe the situation is not parallel. The situation is one in which there must be a measure of agreement about reducing the level, and it is only when discussions have failed that the person has a right of appeal to the magistrates. It could not involve the same kind of major implications for industry as applies under Clause 57. I think the noble Lord will recognise that magistrates have considerable experience in dealing with these kinds of case; although in a technical matter they would have available to them, or could get, the technical advice they need to make a judgment. For those reasons, I hope he will feel able to withdraw the Amendment.


I am to some extent grateful to my noble friend for her Answer, and particularly that she feels the magistrates have the appropriate expertise. The advice I have had from industrial sources is that they do not; but I would not argue that matter at this stage. I need to study what my noble friend has said as to the exact reasons why certain cases should go on appeal to the magistrates' court and others to the Secretary of State. I may return to that later.


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. I did not find the arguments entirely convincing, as I have done most of her other arguments.


I am grateful to the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition for that unexpected support. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

12.21 a.m.

LORD CRAIGTON moved Amendment No. 180:

Page 67, line 11, at end insert: ("(9) If it appears to the Local Authority that in regard to any premises within its area action cannot properly be taken against any person requiring him to abate the level of noise occurring in those premises then the Local Authority shall themselves take such steps as are reasonable and within their powers to bring about such abatement.")

The noble Lord said: In giving the local authorities powers to control noise in premises where no one else can be blamed, I was thinking of the word "premises" not only as a building but also as an area. On looking up the word in the Library, I found that small boys using an enclosed space in a built-up areas as a dirt track for motor cycles were using "premises" within the meaning of the Act. The example I have in mind is that there might be traffic noise at certain times of the day for which no one person was responsible, but which could be minimised by the local authority by perhaps a small diversion. Or there could be excessive noise created by, say, holidaymakers on a beach that maybe could be controlled a little by displaying a notice or by an attendant. I believe that this would be a useful power for a local authority. They may need to use it very seldom but I think they would be sorry if the noble Baroness said that they could not have that power. It would not do any harm, and there might be examples where it would do a great deal of good. I beg to move.


I am sorry to oppose my noble friend, but it would seem to me—I may be wrong—that acceptance of the Amendment would mean several things. A local authority could avoid serving a noise reduction notice; it could also mean the removal of the opportunity for the person on whom a notice would be served to take corrective action himself, and possibly also could mean the removal of the right of appeal against such a notice. Bearing in mind that noise reduction notices will be served in cases where a statutory nuisance is not involved, the provision of such far-reaching powers to a local authority can scarcely be justified. Furthermore, Clause 65 of the Bill contains substantial financial penalties, £200 and so forth, which would be sufficient inducement to ensure that noise reduction notices are complied with. I shall be interested to hear what the noble Baroness has to say.


I understand the purpose of the Amendment, but I do not think that it is necessary. The purpose of this clause is to give the local authority adequate powers to require any person responsible for noise from classified premises in a noise abatement zone to reduce the level of noise from those premises. Furthermore, as my noble friend pointed out, there are fairly high financial penalties for non-compliance with the noise levels, and these penalties rise very rapidly. Therefore, there is every incentive on a person to keep to the noise levels that have been agreed. If, however, my noble friend is referring not to premises but to areas of a local authority, that is a matter which could be covered by local authority by-laws.


The word "premises" in the Bill refers to any area—not simply to bricks and mortar. My noble friend Lord Merrivale did not read my Amendment. I am thinking of a noise about which no single person can have any action taken against him. Of course, if someone is responsible for it, then this clause will operate. I am thinking of a noise anywhere in a noise abatement zone, not necessarily in a building, for which no one person can be held responsible, and where there are no powers under which a local authority can do anything about it. Will my noble friend see my point of view and consider whether something can be done about this matter?


I will certainly read very carefully the report of what my noble friend has said, and if there is some gap in the provisions which we ought to fill I will consider it.


In view of that assurance, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 58 agreed to.

12.26 a.m.

BARONESS WHITE moved Amendment No. 180A:

After Clause 58 insert the following new clause: .—(1) It shall be an offence for any licensee of a place to which the public has access or of any club to permit noise levels therein which may cause impairment of hearing. (2) The Secretary of State shall by regulation prescribe the relevant levels. (3) The penalty for an offence under this section shall be for the first offence a fine not exceeding £200 and for a subsequent offence a fine and the forfeiture of the licence.

The noble Baroness said: Had my noble friend Lord Kennet been able to be present he himself would have wished to move this Amendment, because it embodies a subject in which he has taken a very keen personal interest. Anyone who has studied the question of the noise level in discotheques, clubs and "pop" concerts must be concerned about it. I do not think any of us can accept with equanimity a situation in which young teenagers, as well as older teenagers, subject themselves, sometimes with great frequency, to a level of noise which may have permanently damaging effects on their hearing. Anyone who knows young people who frequent these places is aware that they may come back from them in a state of partial deafness, because they have been subjected to a level of noise which I find almost inconceivable.

I do not wish at this hour to weary your Lordships with too many figures, but I have here various computations of the danger level—"danger" in the sense of a possible threat to hearing—of noise. I am advised that it starts at some 80 decibels, and that 120 decibels is loud enough to cause actual physical pain. This sensation is positively sought after by some teenagers, and certain "pop" groups produce a noise of up to 125 decibels which is well above what is regarded as the lower danger level. It produces a physical reaction on the persons who hear it which is apparently rather like a blow in the chest. It is not simply a question of what one hears; it has a very marked physical effect.

Studies have been made and my noble friend Lord Kennet has supplied me with a report, which was recently compiled at Leeds Polytechnic in the Department of Architectural Studies by Mr. Fearn, who is the principal lecturer in environmental physics. He has carried out a very widely-based survey with a control group, not only to see what the effects of exposure to noise at this level may have, but also to try to see what recovery of impaired hearing can be expected over a period of time. I must say that if one accepts the evidence given in this report—and there is no reason not to—it is really very disquieting indeed. It is perhaps significant that this study was made in the City of Leeds, because that city has made a by-law, which took effect at the beginning of this month, limiting the level of noise which may be permitted in places of public entertainment or clubs. It is obviously too soon to judge whether the limit of 96 decibels is the right one. Complaints have been made by organisers of "pop" concerts that this level is too low. So far as one can judge on the medical evidence, it would probably be about right. But in the new clause which I am putting before your Lordships, we felt that it would be quite improper to suggest any particular level. What we are suggesting is that in the light of the kind of evidence which I have mentioned we should put this enabling clause into the Bill which would make it possible for the Secretary of State, by regulation, to prescribe (on taking advice, obviously) a level which would appear to him to be reasonable.

Nobody wants to interfere with the enjoyment of the young, and it is quite clear to many of my generation that they obviously enjoy a level of noise which I find utterly intolerable; but for them it brings great pleasure. One hesitates, therefore, to suggest action of this kind, but these young people—and some of them are really quite young teenagers who go to these discotheques—should not be exposed to something which is going permanently to damage their hearing, and in a way which I think, if one uses a little imagination, can be quite peculiarly tragic if it should occur. I am advised that with noise damage of this kind one has a sort of deafness which may result in a constant ringing in the ears which one cannot stop, and this must be almost literally a maddening state of affairs.

These youngsters are sometimes exposed with great frequency to noise which is at a level which would not be allowed in industry; and also, for various reasons of physics which I cannot profess to understand, it appears that the type of noise which subsists in these discotheques is of a level which impairs one's hearing of the speaking voice. I think it would be inappropriate to try, in a layman's terms, to explain this, but it means that in some ways this noise is really far worse than even bad industrial noise. If any noble Lords who are skilled in physics wish to look at the evidence I have here, I would be most happy, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Kennet, to show it to them, or to place the documents in the Library, if desired. If we are serious about the problem of noise, it seems to me that this is a case in which we ought to take powers in this Bill which would, as I say, enable the Secretary of State to prescribe levels above which young people should not be so exposed. I think I should emphasise that it is not only the teenagers who go to these discotheques; there is also the staff, who are there sometimes for very long periods and who may be exposed to really very serious danger indeed to their hearing. It is for those reasons that I plead with the Committee to accept this new clause.

12.35 a.m.


This is not a matter on which I, as a medical man, can claim any particular expertise, but I have carried out some research on the subject and I am sure that everything the noble Baroness, Lady White, has put before us is true. I have a certain amount of knowledge of "pop" groups and so on, having at least five grandchildren who have played in them, and I know what the noise can do. Not only can it have the devastating effect that the noble Baroness described, but I also believe that it could be permanent, as she said and even progressive. It is a very serious thing. The fortunate thing about it is that in spite of the intolerable noise the deafness phenomena is comparatively rare, but I do not think that is a reason for us to say that we are not going to take any notice of it. The noble Baroness mentioned the staff. I do not know whether she was including the players who get the biggest share of the noise and for the longest time. I think that the Committee should take this matter seriously and I hope that we shall be able to write something constructive on this subject into the Bill.


I should like to support the noble Baroness, Lady White, in her intention. I feel that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, should give careful consideration to this Amendment. Perhaps I should have consulted my son, as I believe he was a member of a "pop" group called "The Stormy Clouds" and he might have been able to advise me on the question of the strength of noise of some of the instruments. When I heard the noble Baroness, Lady White, refer to 120 and 125 decibels, with my limited knowledge of physics it seemed to me that that was certainly above the threshold of pain. If the Minister could give favourable consideration to what the noble Baroness is trying to achieve it would be a very good thing.

The noise made by "pop" groups was brought to my attention some years ago when I visited the E.M.I. studios where a group was being recorded. The recording on tape was played back at absolutely the greatest possible noise level. I asked the technician, "Why do you play it at the threshold of pain?" He replied, "Because the defects emerge better when it is played at a very high level of decibels." On the question of the desirability of keeping the number of decibels reduced within licensed premises and clubs I think one should also take account of the damage that could be caused to eardrums by the very high level of the low notes which do more harm to the eardrums than the high notes.


May I interrupt the noble Lord for a moment? I am afraid he is mistaken there: it is the high notes that cause harm.


I thought it was the low notes, and that beyond a certain level only dogs could hear some sounds. However, I stand corrected. I should like to support very strongly the plea made by the noble Baroness, Lady White.


I should also like to support the noble Baroness, and I hope she will not take "No" for an answer.


I also would ask my noble friend to take a friendly view of this Amendment. The objection against it might be that there may be a limitation of freedom concerned here, but there is in this Chamber a considerable precedent for protecting people from exposure to self-injury. We have recently passed laws making it obligatory to protect oneself from injury while riding motor-cycles by wearing protective clothing. We do not allow people to smoke injurious drugs and we do not even allow them to go and see films which may corrupt them; so it is quite right that we should try to prevent them from receiving a particular form of injury which may result from a particular form of enjoyment. It may be difficult to recognise the levels which are specified by the Minister, but I understand from the Noise Abatement Society that instruments are being developed which can do this quite cheaply and efficiently.

Finally, I should like to urge the Minister to pay attention to the competitive effect. Where any group can get a bigger clientele by investing in even more expensive electronic machinery, then it is tempted to do so, in order to rob its competitors of an audience. If we put a limit beyond which competition cannot go, we remove this factor; and art will perhaps replace science at the upper levels of noise in discotheques in this country.


The number of people who have spoken on this Amendment at this late hour shows that the noble Baroness, Lady White, has raised an issue of great interest and concern to all the Committee. People in general hold differing views about "pop" groups and discotheques, as the noble Baroness herself pointed out.

Underlying this argument is the freedom of the individual and the right to attend "pop" groups, and indeed to play in them. I should like to follow up some of the points that have been made, because this is a matter of serious concern; and I think it would be helpful to the Committee if I gave all the evidence we have managed to collect on this matter—because one of the problems is that, so far as we can ascertain, the evidence on the question of impairment of hearing is not yet complete and experts on this subject differ.


Before the noble Baroness goes any further, may I say that she spoke rather as though we were disapproving of "pop" groups or were trying in some way to prevent their meetings. Surely no such intention was in the minds of any of us. It is only a question of how many decibels are allowed.


I think the answer to the noble Lord, Lord Platt, is that those who enjoy going to discotheques and listening to "pop" groups often enjoy exceedingly loud music. That, as I understand it, is part of the pleasure; and that of course is the point at issue.


May I interrupt the noble Baroness once more? The noble Lord, Lord Elton, has just pointed out that we are not allowed to damage ourselves by drugs, by indulging in car accidents, by smoking too much or by various other means. We are not even allowed to commit suicide, though we may often feel like it. What is the difference? What are we trying to do in the way of reducing noise?


I hope that in Part III of the Bill we are trying to do quite a lot. I was about to explain that we have been looking very hard at the evidence on this question of the level of noise and its effect on hearing, which we recognise to be a very important matter, and I shall try to show how far we have progressed on this subject.

Research into this problem suggests that those who are most at risk are the performers and disc jockeys who might be exposed to high noise levels for long and continuous periods. This is primarly a question for the Department of Employment who are responsible for the health, safety and welfare of employed persons. That Department has a code of practice for reducing the exposure of employed persons to noise, and it might be appropriate for the provisions of this code to be brought to bear in the case of performers and disc jockeys. But, as I indicated earlier, one of the difficulties has been that expert opinion differs on the degree of risk to members of the audience; that is, those attending a discotheque or a "pop" group. It is thought that the worst situation for the average audience, those going to a "pop" group perhaps once a week or twice a week, would be about 104 decibels. That would be at a "pop" concert or a commercial discotheque.

The medical evidence on permanent hearing damage is not very clear. A survey of studies which has been carried out by the National Physical Laboratory has found that existing statistics are suspect and too little is known about the teenage behaviour patterns for reliable conclusions to be drawn. One does not know enough about the number of times teenagers go to discotheques or hear "pop" groups, nor the hours during which they are exposed to this very loud noise.

It is not only a question of numbers of decibels, but also the numbers of hours of noise to which a person is subject, and also the frequency, whether it is every day, part of a day or once a week. It is because we do not have this definite evidence that we do not feel able to accept this Amendment. It would be on a basis that there was conclusive evidence which, as I think I have shown, we do not yet have. But, having said that, I can reassure the Committee that we recognise that this is something of concern and we shall of course study carefully what has been said.


It is an interesting thought that the greatest number of decibels are probably pounding out from the Slade and other groups at this very moment. Since I am in considerable disagreement with the noble Lord, Lord Somers, on certain aspects, and am one of the few Members of your Lordships' House who has actually made speeches in defence of "pop" festivals, I find the noble Baroness's argument somewhat confusing. The suggestion was that it is for the Department of Employment to protect the performers, and that they might impose the obligation on the performers to wear ear muffs while the public are exposed to 125 decibels. That points to the difficulty of this problem. I am sure this is a difficult issue to deal with in this Bill.

My noble friend Lord Kennet was only seeking to give the Government a power. Noble Lords who judge the noise in discotheques by the noise in Annabel's would be very misguided if they thought that that was the noise inflicted by "pop" groups in certain clubs which I do not attend, but which I am sure Lord Merrivale's children or grandchildren—


My son!


—would be able to supply information on. This is more serious and may carry long-term implications. It may be much less serious out of doors at a "pop" festival, but within a jazz club with a live "pop" group it is quite astonishing how acute it may be. Most of your Lordships, like me, would flee at that point. The fact that this may be doing permanent damage suggests it is a matter to which further consideration might be given before the Report stage. I am sure my noble friend has no intention of pressing this Amendment to a Division at the moment.

It raises again these difficult questions of the freedom of the individual and the duty of the State. I think that most of us would really be horrified at the State having to interfere in this sort of area. None the less, we may have to face the consequences. I hope that before we come to the Report stage, the noble Baroness might make some further inquiries, possibly from the noble Lord, Lord Platt, and from Leeds, as to further evidence that might be available. We could look at it again at the Report stage. It is a serious problem, and not one lightly to be dismissed from the standpoint that it may not be many years before we have a certain number of people who will be unnecessarily deaf.


I would certainly be very happy to look at any further evidence between now and the Report stage. Indeed, if any noble Lord would let me have any evidence he has I should be very glad to receive it. I can say further that the Noise Advisory Council has set up a new Working Group on noise as a hazard to hearing. One of the objectives of this Working Group will be to look at the problem of exposure to excessive noise in discotheques. If I may indicate the kind of difference of expert opinion there is, I think the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said as a statement of fact that the public is subjected to 125 decibels. My evidence is that the average audience would be subjected to 104 decibels; whereas a pilot study of ten "pop" groups undertaken under the auspices of the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research found that the mean noise level within a "pop" group is about 110 decibels and 105 decibels within the audience. I am only saying this to indicate that there is some difference of expert opinion.


May I draw to the attention of my noble friend that the "mean noise" is not what we are really concerned with; it is the "peak noise".


If I may say so to the noble Baroness, I do not wish to blacken the reputation of certain groups or clubs, but there are certain much more intense noise producers than the average 104 decibels.


I should like to feel that this matter is going to be given genuine consideration. If the Government can put in this Bill anything like Clause 44 (when they do not know what they are going to do with it) then there is, to my mind, no good reason why they should not put in enabling powers, maybe somewhat differently drafted from this particular Amendment. But they should take to themselves enabling powers. That will give them an opportunity to study the reports of the various committees referred to by the noble Baroness. They do not necessarily have to use enabling powers unless they are convinced; but the powers will be there. From such evidence that we have been able to obtain, we have little doubt that there are certain circumstances in which such powers should be used. But that is a matter which could be left to the future. I should have thought that we have established beyond any serious doubt that there is a situation here which must cause concern and that we should put ourselves in a position, if we are serious about noise, to do something about it.

I would entirely agree that the new clause as drafted may need amendment because, for example, I have "shall" when I was told on some earlier amendment it ought to have been "may", and of course one would be happy in that connection. I am reminded that there are some noble Lords in this House who know something about gun-fire. I do not think we need go into that, but I should have though that anyone who had had experience of certain types of gun-fire, at any rate at close quarters, would not be unduly complacent about the possible permanent effects of noise. But in the circumstances I would ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clauses 59 and 60 agreed to.

Clause 61 [Appeals to Secretary of State and magistrates' court]:

On Question, Whether Clause 61 shall stand part of the Bill?

12.56 a.m.


This was a clause to which I referred earlier when I was addressing the Committee upon the provisions of Clause 50(3). I do not want to detain the Committee. The noble Lord on the Front Bench said that criticism should not be addressed to Parliamentary Counsel but to Ministers. At this late hour I hesitate to do so, but I agree with him 100 per cent. that criticisms should not be addressed to Parliamentary Counsel, and I did not intend it. Over the years I have received the most invaluable help from Parliamentary Counsel, for which I am infinitely grateful, and I yield to nobody in my admiration of their skill and expertise. This Bill is a long and complicated and difficult Bill, and if no more can be said in criticism of some passages in the drafting than has been said, I should have thought one could say that this is a very high example of the art and a great tribute to the Parliamentary draftsman who was its author.

The only comment I would make about this clause is this. It is a matter of judgment, and I may be wrong, but I submit that subsection (2) gives the Secretary of State far too wide a regulation-making power. I should have liked to see, and I submit it would be right, that the powers of a magistrates' court, when an appeal is brought to the court under subsection (3) of Clause 50, against a notice, and indeed against other notices for which provision is made in subsequent clauses, should be spelt out in terms, and somewhere near the subsection which gives the right of appeal. I would submit that it is wrong in principle that the Secretary of State should be given the power in effect to formulate the jurisdiction of the Appeal Court in some important respects. From what the noble Baroness said, I apprehend that I was right in my thinking that one cannot find in the Bill any formulation of the jurisdiction of the Appeal Court when an appeal goes to it under subsection (3) of Clause 50. If so, I would respectfully submit that my criticism is well-founded. But if I can be referred to some passage which does formulate that jurisdiction in the terms of the Bill, I would at once gladly withdraw it. But the last persons against whom I wish my criticism to be directed are Parliamentary Counsel, who I think in formulating this Bill have excelled themselves in producing in such perfect form such a long, complicated and important measure.


I shall certainly read very carefully what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill, has said on these points and look at them; and I will, if I may, write to him on this particular point which he has raised.

Clause 61 agreed to.

Clauses 62 and 63 agreed to.

Clause 64 [Interpretation and other supplementary provisions]:

On Question, Whether Clause 64 shall stand part of the Bill?


The noble Baroness and her friends who have so ably conducted this Bill will, I know, be glad and relieved that there is no Amendment tabled to delete subsection (3) which makes the Bill not applicable to aircraft noise—the most objectionable noise in our environment. But the tabling of this Amendment has not gone by default. Noise is not the only objectionable feature about aircraft. We realise that it would be virtually impossible to achieve it, at least in subsection (3), but we feel very strongly that the Department of the Environment should have some status in the operation of aircraft. Therefore, I have tabled an Amendment in Part IV, and I want to give my noble friend warning that if I am supported by my noble friends on either or both sides of the Committee I intend to press it very strongly, not because it is such an important Amendment but because it gives my noble friend some status about aircraft operation which is badly needed and which is such a vital matter. I do not want the noble Baroness to reply to that point.

Clause 64 agreed to.

Clause 65 agreed to.

House resumed.