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Viscount Ullswater: I have listened with great interest to what noble Lords have said on this important topic. The debate is timely. Let me make clear immediately how much the Government welcome the initiative of the noble Lords, Lord Lewis and Lord Nathan. The Government propose to build on it in taking forward their strategy for maintaining and improving air quality.

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The Committee will be aware that, following publication last March of the discussion paper Improving Air Quality, the Government published on 19th January Air Quality: Meeting the Challenge, a framework of strategic policies for maintaining and improving air quality. It represents a major step. Rapid progress has been made and the Government are determined to maintain that progress. We have proposed a new national air quality strategy, based on clear standards and targets, a system of local air quality management to underpin it, and an action programme of some 20 measures for improving transport emissions. I can now confirm that it is the Government's intention that relevant provision be made in the Bill now before us.

The Government will therefore bring forward their own proposals at a later stage. Since it is likely that for reasons of timing and procedure they will come forward in another place, I should like to take the opportunity this afternoon to set out clearly the Government's intentions.

Legislative provision will be made, first, for establishing the national strategic plan for maintaining and improving air quality. The duty to establish the strategy should, as noble Lords propose, reside with the Secretaries of State. Key elements should indeed include setting clear national standards for air quality and reduction targets for important pollutants, with timetables for achieving them. The strategy will not be an end-point. It will be a framework against which the Government test relevant policies for industry, transport and other matters in future. It will also be the framework for the new system of local air quality management proposed by the Government. It will be revised and adapted in the light of new evidence and better techniques.

The new system of local air quality management will be focused particularly on areas at risk. But the Government intend also to see that air quality considerations are better integrated with local planning, transport and other policies throughout the country. The Government have therefore proposed that all local authorities should have a duty to review air quality periodically.

The Government agree that local authorities will need detailed advice in order to carry out their new functions properly. As with the national strategy, advice for local authorities and their own plans must evolve and adapt over time. The Government would expect that most matters could be dealt with by guidance, as proposed by noble Lords in the amendment. But, as we have seen in long experience of the operation of smoke control areas, and of more general controls on black smoke, it may sometimes be necessary to state details in regulations.

The Government will be looking for constructive participation from local government, industry and others in developing both legislation and subsequent guidance. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Lewis, will be happy to know that we shall be involving the National Society for Clean Air and any other bodies that noble Lords may wish to suggest in that. Issues to be covered include techniques for assessing air quality and its effects,

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criteria for identifying air quality management areas, and methods for managing air quality in these and other localities including, I am sure, sampling and monitoring.

There is also the question of the powers of local authorities. While it is the Government's view that many of the actions to be taken locally are already in the hands of local authorities, their use may need to be made more explicit. Furthermore, the Government do not rule out the possibility that some special powers may need to be available within air quality management areas rather as they already are within smoke control areas. In accordance with the precedent of smoke control areas, the Secretaries of State should be able, following consultation, to bring forward regulations concerning the functions of local authorities within air quality management areas.

It should be clear from what I have said that I am in agreement with the spirit of much of the noble Lord's amendment. As I have explained, the Government intend to bring forward their own provisions which will cover the issues which Amendment No. 264 identifies as important, extended in the ways in which I have indicated. With that assurance to the Committee, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

4 p.m.

Lord Nathan: Perhaps I may make two points. First, I wish to emphasise the point which other noble Lords have made regarding the existence of air pollution outside the centres of great cities and in particular the impact of agricultural activity on air pollution. I am thinking of nitrogen, let alone methane. Those are matters of considerable concern. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is the department concerned in this area. The Minister might care to take that into account.

The other point to which I would refer is the vexed and disagreeable subject of money. It would be helpful if the noble Viscount could say something about his proposals in that regard. He accepts—and I am appreciative of it—the main burden of the points made in the amendment, although his colleagues will bring forward amendments of their own. That is fine. But I think it would be a mistake to think that an effective system of air pollution control and management will arise without the injection of some money from some source.

Viscount Ullswater: Perhaps I may respond briefly to those two points. I indicated that this would be a national strategy with national standards for air quality and reduction targets for the important pollutants. I hope that that will give the noble Lord some assurance on the first point.

On the second point, for the core functions of reviewing air quality and taking into account more fully land use and transport planning, the costs are unlikely to be significant. For the most part, it will be a matter of doing differently things which most relevant local authorities already do. Nevertheless, the Government have indicated that local authorities will be able to bid

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for resources where necessary. We anticipate that that matter will be covered when the proposals come forward in another place and we are in touch with local authorities.

Lord Lewis of Newnham: I thank the Minister for his clear exposition of what is an important case. He has covered all the points that we would wish to make. We will look with great interest at the report when it comes forward. Perhaps I may take this opportunity to thank the noble Lords, Lord Nathan and Lord Beaumont, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, for helping me with this proposal. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Jenkin of Roding moved Amendment No. 264A:


Before Clause 75, insert the following new clause:

("Emissions
Emissions from stationary vehicles

.—(1) Save as provided in subsection (2) below, the person in charge of a motor vehicle shall, when the vehicle is stationary on a road, stop the action of any machinery attached to or forming part of the vehicle so far as may be necessary for the prevention of the emission of smoke, fumes or vapour.
(2) The provisions of subsection (1) do not apply—
(a) when the vehicle is stationary owing to the necessities of traffic;
(b) so as to prevent the examination or working of the machinery where the examination is necessitated by any failure or derangement of the machinery or where the machinery is required to be worked for a purpose other than driving the vehicle; or
(c) in respect of a vehicle propelled by gas produced in plant carried on the vehicle, to such plant.
(3) If the person in charge of a stationary vehicle on the road does not stop the action of a vehicle in accordance with subsection (1) above, an authorised officer of the local authority in which the road is situated may serve a notice on him requiring him to pay a penalty charge to the local authority.
(4) The person in charge of a vehicle served with a notice under subsection (3) above shall have the right of appeal against the service of the notice to the local authority in the first instance and thereafter, to an adjudicator appointed by the local authority.
(5) The amount of the penalty charge payable under subsection (3) above shall be set at a level which would allow the local authority to recover the reasonable costs of the enforcement of the provisions of this section.").

The noble Lord said: With this amendment we are taking Amendments Nos. 264B and 264C. I gained the impression from the previous debate that there is already a good deal of support in all parts of the Committee for this group of amendments. Perhaps I may say at the outset how very much I welcome the comprehensive statement which my noble friend has just made about the Government's legislative intentions in this regard. The speed with which the Government have moved on the matter—after all, it was only on 19th January that the document was published—is very much to be commended.

With this group of amendments we move from the general to the particular. As everyone has said, it is a very important particular. The amendments aim to give local authorities new powers to deal effectively with certain vehicle and other emissions which contravene the relevant provisions of the construction and use

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regulations. There is a history behind the amendments. It has long been apparent that a significant part of the atmospheric pollution in our country comes from a relatively small minority of badly maintained vehicles, which not only puff black smoke but produce completely burnt hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxide and other pollutants. Those puff into the street, with all the consequences that have been described.

When a vehicle comes up for its annual MOT test these things are tested and if the vehicle is found to be wanting the certificate is withheld until matters are put right. But that means that a car or lorry may go on polluting the streets for many months before the law catches up with it. At present the powers to deal with this menace are non-existent, very defective or incompletely enforced.

So last year the two London local authority groups—the London Boroughs Association and the Association of London Authorities—gave evidence to the Transport Select Committee of another place in which they said that they were proposing legislation in a Private Bill which was intended to deal with the problem. It was put forward by the London Borough of Westminster but it has the support of all the other London boroughs. In its report the Select Committee said:


    "We also recommend that the Government should give favourable consideration to a possible proposal from the Association of London Authorities and the London Boroughs Association for private legislation to give local authorities in the capital the power to carry out emissions checks on vehicles and to serve the driver, where necessary, with an enforcement notice requiring remedial action to be taken. Such a system could be financed through a fixed penalty charge".

Since then there has been a great deal of consultation between the local authorities, the Department of Transport, my noble friend's department and the Home Office—the police may well be involved—and last month when the Government's publication on air quality was printed it was seen that the Government committed themselves. The report said:


    "the Government welcomes the LBA initiative in bringing forward proposals in the London Local Authorities Bill to extend kerbside emissions testing powers to London local authorities. The proposals may present an opportunity to increase the level of roadside emissions testing in London, supplementing testing already carried out by the Vehicle Inspectorate, and may provide a blueprint for future initiatives elsewhere in the country".

It will be recognised that hitherto this had been seen as being confined to London. It was the Government who recognised that there might well be wider application for the powers.

The Private Bill was presented in this House at the end of last year and it has begun its somewhat slow and uncertain progress through Parliament. One remembers that the 1991 Bill, which was introduced in this House, has still made no progress. Private legislation has its perils. Part II of that Bill contains eight clauses and four schedules setting out the proposed powers. A Petition has been presented against that Private Bill on behalf of a number of motoring and other organisations. Two main points are made in the Petition. The first point is that, if there is going to be legislation, it should be made national. The second point is that a Bill should not

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provide power for a local authority official to stop vehicles and that such power should be confined to the police. I will not elaborate on that.

These three amendments provide national powers of the kind that have already been commended by the Government in the White Paper on air quality. As your Lordships will see, they contain no powers for local authority officials to stop vehicles in the street. So the two main points of the Petition against the Private Bill seem to have been met. There are others—and I have no doubt that they will be argued—but I am hoping that the main opposition to the provision will not extend to the new clauses.

What do the new clauses do? Perhaps I may take them in reverse order as that makes more logical sense. Amendment No. 264C gives the power to test to see whether vehicles are complying with the relevant regulations. If a vehicle is in breach, there is a penalty charge and the driver is given eight weeks to get the defect put right. The clause contains a right of appeal. A very important point is that the penalties which were suggested by the committee in another place are set at a level to cover costs. It is not intended to be a revenue-raising measure, but merely to cover the costs of the new operation. As is appropriate, there is provision for a code of practice.

Amendment No. 264B extends to on-street nuisances powers which are already available off-street. If there is a concrete mixer or an air compressor which is chuntering away on a building site and emitting smoke and other pollutants, the local authority can stop it. The power is not available if the contractor keeps it in the street. That is absurd. This amendment is intended to deal with that.

Amendment No. 264A is an interesting one and I am sure that Members of the Committee will have a good deal of sympathy with it. It is designed to stop people sitting in their vehicles in the street, often for hours at a time, with the engines running. Sometimes large buses and huge lorries have their engines running for no better purpose other than that the driver wants to keep warm in the cab. There must be less polluting ways of keeping drivers warm. One may suggest a woolly hat and an overcoat. One of my honourable friends in another place got into dreadful trouble suggesting that. We have all seen engines running, and that is nonsense. It is quite wrong to have an engine left running for a long period with nothing being done about it.

These are in the nature of probing amendments. I am not so rash as to believe that we have got matters right. My noble friend has already said that the Government will be introducing legislation in another place to implement many of the provisions of the policy document on air quality. I hope that he will be able to give the Committee an assurance this afternoon that they will legislate to confer the necessary powers on local authorities in order to save what at the moment are the perils and vagaries of a piece of local legislation which would apply to London only. The London authorities are to be congratulated on their initiative. It would be very much better if these provisions can be incorporated in the Bill and applied nationally.

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I hope that I am pushing at an open door on this issue and that the Government will carry through the words which I quoted a few moments ago from the policy document Air Quality: Meeting the Challenge into effective legislation. I beg to move.


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