Column 1167Clause 1 clearly amends section 16 of the Clean Air Act 1956, whereas the wording in the title speaks of repealing it. It seems to be common sense, therefore, to change "repeal" to "amend". After all, clause 1 says :
"there shall be inserted the words".
That is clearly an amendment rather than a repeal.
However, clause 2, which we are invited to say is a repeal, simply states :
"In subsection (1) after the words there shall be inserted the words".
Clearly, that is an amendment, not a repeal. In other words, those who are bringing forward these provisions have got them the wrong way round in any event. Whereas one could agree that clause 1 is an amendment to the principal Act, one cannot agree that clause 2 is a repeal of the other principal Act. The wording by itself is an amendment, and that is our difficulty.
Mr. Powell : I have now been advised by a professionally qualified legal representative from the Conservative Benches, the hon. Member for Orpington, and I think that the Chair should be asked to consider this matter. I accept entirely what has been said, and my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich has been concurring with that. If what has been said means that the wording should be turned around and, as on our arrival this morning we found these verbal amendments, perhaps we can seek advice from the Chair or the Clerks to see whether the amendments could be put the other way round. In view of what the hon. Member for Orpington has suggested, if we "repeal" as he suggested and "amend" as in the first amendment, would there be any opportunity for you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to consider whether we would then be in order--or would we be more in order if the amendments were to be reversed? Perhaps the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) who promoted the Bill will agree to the amendments being reversed so that we can get on with debating the amendments. I ask for your guidance on this, Mr. Deputy Speaker, before I continue with my speech.
Mr. Powell : We accept that if they had not been in order, they would not have been selected, but it has been pointed out to us that, to be in order and to carry the meaning that I believe the promoter of the Bill intended, they should be reversed. Is it possible for them to be reversed at this stage as they were tabled only this morning?
Mr. Deputy Speaker : The hon. Gentleman is asking me a question rather different from the one that he posed in the first place. It is the question not whether the amendments are in order in terms of their admissibility under our Standing Orders and the usual test, or whether they would improve the structure of the Bill. The second point is not a matter for me. If the hon. Gentleman is asking whether it would be procedurally possible, the answer is that it may well have been possible at the outset of our proceedings, when the amendments were first brought to the attention of the House. Hon. Members may have sought then to seek to amend the amendments, but
Column 1168the choice now before the House is to accept or reject the amendments. That is what we shall have to do at the end of this debate.
Mrs. Dunwoody : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The House is grateful for that clear statement of the position and, of course, we would not dream of arguing with your superior knowledge. However, the problem that we face is that on all Bills one of the first jobs of all hon. Members is to consider the title. As you know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the wording of the title is very precise for all Bills and is of considerable importance to the main section of the Bill. That is why any attempt to alter the title must inevitably have consequential effects not only upon the amendments on the Order Paper, but upon the Bill as it is debated. The hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) highlighted the fact that this problem has a direct effect, not just upon the wording, but--
Mrs. Dunwoody : I am concerned, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because I want to know from you whether, if we proceed to debate the amendments in the order in which they have been presented to the House, in effect we shall not only be taking a major decision, but reversing our decision by discussing the second amendment--in other words--
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. If the hon. Lady feels that she should advise the House that the amendments would have a far reaching effect on the remainder of the Bill or on parts of the Bill, it is up to her to seek to deploy that argument and so persuade the House. The question whether the title should have been as it is printed or as it is proposed to amend it was the question before the House when, in its wisdom or otherwise, it decided to give the Bill a Second Reading, which it did. The House gave the Bill an unopposed Second Reading and the Bill has been dealt with by the House in Committee, and these matters could have been dealt with then. We now have an amendment on Third Reading. Nothing is out of order.
Mrs. Dunwoody : With respect, I was not in any way suggesting that it was technically out of order ; I was simply saying that the problem has arisen because these are verbal amendments. If they had been printed amendments in the normal fashion and if the House had had the opportunity of recognising the real technical difficulty that is incorporated in the way in which the two amendments have been tabled, undoubtedly we should have--
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. This is very similar to a point of order that was raised with Mr. Speaker at the outset of our proceedings when Mr. Speaker dealt with the question of admissibility or otherwise, and whether the procedure that we now have is reconcilable with our practice and with Standing Orders. Mr. Speaker has ruled on that. We should now get back to discussing the merits of the amendments. I call Mr. Ray Powell.
Mr. Powell : Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We are discussing in detail and the amendments their effects. As you suggested, if the House feels that we should not accept either amendment, we should reject them.
However, could you advise me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on whether, if we reject them, we would have a vote in the House on rejecting them, and on whether, if the vote were
Column 1169carried by just one vote, we would accept that and reject them all? Hon. Members who are not in the Chamber now to hear the debate because they are in their offices carrying out their parliamentary work, will have eight minutes from the time that you call a Division for us to explain the amendments to them. We have been here since 9.35 am discussing their merits and whether they should have been tabled in the first place. If we accept your advice and call a Division on this, how would we explain to 649 elected representatives what they were about to vote for? That is the dilemma that some of us face. We should look at this in far more depth and detail.
Mr. Skinner : I wonder whether we should have to wait for other hon. Members to come in to the House. Not many are here on a Friday because it is a bit of a dead day and many Tory MPs are in the law courts. Some of them were to have been demonstrating, but the Government have caved in, in contrast to the way in which they have behaved with the dockers. As there will not be many hon. Members here, we shall be able to approach them individually and, like shop stewards or Whips, we shall have to say something like, "There was a cock-eyed situation in Parliament this morning. An hon. Gentleman brought forward a Bill that had never been discussed before. It had been shoved in his hand by one of the Tory Whips. He was not too sure what it was about and not only had he got it all wrong, he had got the title wrong." That situation is relatively new in Parliament. Although this Government are capable of doing anything, it is a bit much that they have got the title wrong. After all, this is really a Government Bill--
I suggest that we say, "The Government have brought in this measure but they do not know A from a bull's foot. We have tried to explain to the few colleagues who were in the Chamber what it was all about and they are aware of the circumstances. Although you might be in favour of the generality of the Bill, there is good reason to consider whether we should vote the matter down because the whole thing is technically absurd." A question arises on
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. I wonder whether the hon. Member could contain himself until perhaps he catches my eye. Then he could make the speech that he is seeking to make now in an intervention. Interventions should be brief.
Mr. Skinner : The matter is important. This is not just any ordinary day. Mr. Speaker explained that it was very unusual. He went even further : he said that he did not like it. Then he left. Now you have got it. To be honest, I think you are in a predicament. Whereas normally Members of Parliament vote on the principle of a measure--
Column 117010.30 am
Mr. Stanbrook : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. There is a point of substance here. It is, with respect, one for resolution by the Chair. If we are being asked to say that a section of an Act should be repealed when in fact we are only amending it, what is to cure that obvious error at this stage?
Mr. Deputy Speaker : The hon. Gentleman surprises me. The word "repeal", which is in the Bill as it stands, has already been approved by the House on Second Reading and it has not been challenged until now.
"To repeal section 16(1)(a) of the Clean Air Act 1956 and to amend section 1 of the Clean Air Act 1968."
The amendment that we are debating is to leave out the word "repeal" in the original Bill and to replace it with the word "amend." The word "repeal" was in the Bill that was before the House on Second Reading and it was approved by the House.
Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am genuinely trying to be helpful. I have listened to what appears to be a substantial degree of confusion. My starting point is that legislation in haste and without adequate notice is often legislation for which later one has some cause for regret. I assume that there is no particular need for emergency legislation in this case. The current legislation has lasted a long time.
My question--a simple question of guidance--to you is this. Having come before the House with amendments that are of some significance, of which there has been little or no notice, would it be possible--out of courtesy to the House and to ensure that every hon. Member is able to examine and, if necessary, to take advice from whichever outside sources are relevant and that have an interest in the matter--for the promoter of the Bill--
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman was here at the beginning of our proceedings. Had he been here, he would recall that what he is saying now is similar to points of order that were raised with Mr. Speaker and that were dealt with by him. Mr. Speaker pointed out that, although what we are doing may be unusual and that he might regret it, none the less it was in order. The amendment has been selected as being in order. The hon. Gentleman has expressed an opinion. It may be an opinion that I share, but that is not a matter for me to decide. The opinion that the hon. Gentleman has expressed is one that the House must make its judgment on, not me.
Mr. Anderson : With respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that is not the point that I am seeking to make. I am sure that your views, although very cogent for some of us on the substance of the Bill, are not relevant. The point is surely this : since Mr. Speaker made his ruling, events have moved on. The amount of debate shows that hon. Members feel some concern. The simple question is this : is it now technically possible, in the light of the debate that has taken place since Mr. Speaker gave his ruling, for the
Column 1171promoter of the Bill, out of courtesy to the House--because, as you can see, this is, at the very least, a highly unusual issue and we have to be wary of creating precedents in this or any other matter--to say, "I will pull up stumps at this stage and seek to adjourn the debate and come back, after due notice, to the House?" Given the nature of the amendment, it may even be that due notice is seven days or 14 days, but--
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. The hon. Gentleman said that he was raising a point of order, but he is now making a long speech. I think that I can deal with the matter. Of course it will be open to the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) who moved the amendments to seek the leave of the House to withdraw them, but that would be a matter for the House, not for the Chair, to decide. Alternatively, if the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) is saying that, for whatever reason, hon. Members, both inside and outside the Chamber, have had insufficient time to consider the implications of the amendments, that is a matter for argument and debate. It may be an argument that the hon. Gentleman will seek to deploy later in an attempt to persuade the House that it should reject the amendments until further consideration can be given to their effect.
Mr. Anderson : I concede that perhaps I strayed into the realms of argument and that that is a matter that I can properly deploy in the Third Reading debate. May I ask a simple question? If, in the light of the debate, the mover of the amendments were to come to the conclusion that he should withdraw now and pull up stumps, or whatever the appropriate expression may be, would he be able to bring the Bill back to the House for further debate after due notice?
Mr. Deputy Speaker : No. We should then proceed to debate the Third Reading of the Bill, and it would be for the House to decide whether to give the Bill a Third Reading. We are all familiar with the fact that Bills that have been the subject of comment in the House but that have not necessarily, for whatever reason, at that point been amended, can be amended in another place, or their Lordships can be persuaded to consider amendments that may be tabled in another place.
Mr. Powell : I am becoming not only confused but bemused and aggravated. I am very worried. What worries me most of all is you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. When a point of order was raised by the hon. Member for Orpington, you had to consult the document to amend your ruling. That illustrates to me--
Mr. Powell : Then the observations that you were making on it. We have all had to do that this morning--even you, with your knowledge and expertise in the Chair. What we ought to be doing now is a very worrying problem. It is causing embarrassment to the sponsors of the Bill and those who are discussing it. Even Mr. Speaker this morning was not, I assume, eager to suggest that the amendment should be accepted on a verbal basis.
For the benefit of those hon. Members who have joined us since 9.30, you highlighted the fact that first word of the
Column 1172Bill--"repeal"--is to be amended and that the word "amend" is to be inserted instead of the word "repeal". We have to consider the effect of the Bill as a result of the insertion of that one word. That is the reason for the dilemma. The whole thread and trend of my speech is now in shreds. I am having great difficulty in trying to pull all the threads together in dealing with the amendments.
I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) half an hour ago that I had not made up my mind whether I wanted the word "repeal" to be accepted or the word "amend." Now I am not sure whether either word should be accepted, or even whether we should be debating the matter any further. Perhaps we should reject the Bill altogether, and that creates another dilemma. As a Whip, I know that when hon. Members arrive at night directly from meetings, they ask, "In which corridor shall we go--left or right, Noes or Ayes?" and we have to advise them, as you know, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Mr. Skinner : A few weeks ago, when the title of the Bill was different, I would have advised hon. Members to go into one Lobby, but since a different Bill has been pesented to us this morning, a Bill that went through on the nod in a different fashion, I would advise the opposite. That shows the nature of the Bill. Within a few weeks, that Bill has not been amended but has been totally and utterly changed. That is the burden of my hon. Friend's argument.
Mr. Powell : What my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover has said is extremely important. Imagine the scene when you call a Division on the matter, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and hon. Members are herded into the corridors and say, "In which Lobby shall we vote?" As it is a private Member's Bill, there should be no Whip advising them. There is certainly no Whip on the Opposition Benches.
Hon. Members will come in, all confused and ask where to go, and be told, "You can vote Aye for a repeal, you can vote Aye for amendment, or you can go into the No Lobby." They will ask, "What are we doing in the No Lobby?", and be told, "We are voting on two verbal amendments that have been tabled this morning.".
That will all happen in the space of eight minutes, in which hon. Members have to get here from their offices which may be in Norman Shaw or Abbey gardens. They will run in with their shoes untied and their ties undone to get here in eight minutes to be confronted with a dilemma as to which way they should vote. Are we to send them into the Lobby to vote on one amendment or both amendments, and how will we explain to them the effect of that on the entire Bill which, in all probability they have not seen because it was hurriedly put through?
Mr. Anderson : I pay tribute to my hon. Friend's work as a Whip. As an hon. Member representing a Welsh constituency, I have never had any doubt as to which Lobby to choose. I have never needed to ask my hon. Friend for an explanation, I had only to look at him. I recall coming in from the bath, scantily clad. I did not ask my hon. Friend for advice, I simply looked at him. The advice he invariably gave me since I first entered the House as, "When in doubt, vote Labour." I have faithfully followed that advice. One never need ask for explanations from my hon. Friend, one just looks at his eyebrows, which have been eloquent enough.
Column 117310.45 am
Mr. Powell : My hon. Friend makes very kind remarks, but on this occasion, if a Division is called, my eyes will have to be cast to the floor because I would not be able to advise hon. Members by giving them directions with my eyes because I do not know whether they should be going into the Aye Lobby or the No Lobby.
I shall get on with my speech, but I do not feel that I can make the speech that I wanted to make about the amendments ; I will have to wait for Third Reading because the remarks that I want to make may be interpreted as out of order. I represent a mining constituency. In 1979, it had seven collieries employing some 5,000 miners. The mining industry in Ogmore employed some 7,000 people in total. All the collieries were closed, so all the miners' homes which used to have smoke coming from their chimneys because of the allocation of free coal--although the free coal has stopped, tradition dies very hard in Wales, especially in my constituency and people still burn free coal--may be affected by the Bill as those people might be breaking the law if smoke is emitted from their chimneys.
Mr. Win Griffiths : My hon. Friend has probably received a number of representations about the problem of free coal. Because of the way in which British Coal is amending the scheme, it is becoming less likely that miners will convert their homes to gas or other completely smokeless fuels, but will continue to use their free coal allocation.
Mr. Powell : I appreciate what my hon. Friend says. It is very relevant to whether we replace the word "repeal" with the word "amend" in the title of the Bill as that will have a considerable effect on the Clean Air Act 1956, and section 1 of the Clean Air Act 1968. Those of us who have studied those Acts in depth and in detail because we are genuinely concerned about the environment--unlike the green goddess at No. 10--were concerned about the Clean Air Act long before 1979, and were affected by it even before the legislation was introduced in 1956 and 1968.
I illustrated that by describing my walk from Willesden to Acton at the tender age of 17 in all the fog and smog in London. I should be claiming from someone for the continual bouts of bronchitis I have suffered, not because I worked down the mines but because I have had a chest complaint ever since I was 17.
Mr. Eric Illsley (Barnsley, Central) ; I should be happy to advise my hon. Friend about a claim for pneumoconiosis should he wish to claim some compensation for his chest complaint. I, too, am quite concerned about the Clean Air Act, as I also represent a mining constituency. If we vote against the amendments, we should be left with the Bill in its present form. Would that mean that section 16 of the Clean Air Act 1956 would be repealed, or would it remain in place within the Bill? Having listened to most of the debate, I am in something of a dilemma as to whether the Bill in its present form will repeal or amend section 16(1) of the Clean Air Act 1956.
Column 1174pages of interpretation. He has obviously had time to study the matter. He may well be far more informed than some of us who have been participating in the debate since 9.35 this morning. Having read the documents perhaps he will be able to advise us.
Mr. Skinner : I am prepared to vote in order to produce that dilemma, because there is nothing wrong with the Opposition attempting to destabilise the Government. However, there is another way of attempting to find an answer to the problem. Unfortunately, that is difficult now. We could have consulted a barrister but they are on a go-slow--cacanny as they say in Scotland. There would be no point in approaching a run-of-the-mill solicitor because they have fallen out with the barristers. In fact, they will not sit with them on the Tory Benches. Therefore, there is a dilemma, and we should look at it from a layman and a laywoman's point of view.
We should use our native gut instinct and vote the amendments down. The hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) could then read his Bill--he has not had a chance to read it because the Whips shoved it into his hand. They took it from the Government shelf. We could then have a fresh crack at it and support a measure which is environmentally and technically clean.
Mr. Powell : I accept the advice of my hon. Friend. Nevertheless, we should debate which way we should vote. With respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, despite all the advice afforded us by both you and Mr. Speaker, we are still in a dilemma. If we were to stop the debate now and say that we will vote on the basis of the discussions we have had so far, we would not know which Lobby to enter. We would not know whether to insert the word "amend" or leave the word "repeal". I return to the same argument I put to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover, the repeal of section 16(1) of the 1956 Act would be rather strong.
Mr. Powell : Yes, it is sweeping. I do not think that the environmentalists who have turned up to debate the matter would be eager to see that. Therefore, we are in a dilemma as to whether "amend" is the right word. We are facing great difficulties even on advising people on amendment No. 1. The difficulties have resulted from the way in which the amendments were thrown at us at 9 o'clock this morning.
Mr. Anderson rose--
Mr. Powell : I want to get on with my speech. I have been delayed by interventions and I have a speech to deliver on this important issue. If we can resolve the dilemma, I could ensure that my speech is recorded.
Mr. Anderson : The most important point mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) is the way in which the amendments have been thrown at us. I am trying to think of a compromise--
Mr. Anderson : I am trying to think of a solution which might satisfy both sides of the House. Since the Bill improves the environment, albeit in a limited way, it would be wrong to block it. If the Bill were to be withdrawn now and within a reasonable time there were to be adequate environmental and technical explanations of the need for it, on its reintroduction would my hon. Friend give the Bill a fair wind so that it can be enacted by the end of the Session? Would that not be a fair way of meeting both sides in this matter?
As an environmentalist, I am concerned about pollution. However, there is another Bill on the Order paper for which I prepared a speech--the Sunday Trading (Reform) Bill. I had hoped that we would have reached that by now, because I stayed up late last night preparing for it. I am also interested in the Weights and Measures (Amendment) Bill, but, because of these amendments, we have been thrown into a dilemma and have been delayed for an hour and a half. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover said, we may have been able to call on the other place for advice. However, as a result of the Government's attitude and policies to the health workers, railway workers, transport workers and now the judges and the Law Lords, everybody is in dispute. The country is in turmoil, and on arriving here at 9.30 on a Friday morning to discuss the control of smoke pollution, we find that the House is in turmoil.
Mr. Win Griffiths : My hon. Friend has mentioned the turmoil being caused by the Government. He omitted to mention that the proposals for the National Health Service are causing turmoil in the medical profession. My hon. Friend also mentioned the severe chest problems from which he suffers as a result of pollution. Therefore, there are far more substantive issues with which we should deal, but we cannot do so because of the way in which the Bill has been presented to us and the mistakes that have been made.
Mr. Powell : My hon. Friend has raised an important point. If we can prevent smoke being ejected from industrial and domestic units, it would clean the air and should stop some of the health problems with which we are faced now and the expense of curing them. We should be looking at that closely.
I was considering this matter last night and was in a dilemma as to whether I should seek to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to speak on this Bill or whether I should wait for the Sunday Trading (Reform) Bill. I am sponsored by the union representing shopworkers and therefore, I have an interest in that Bill.
Hon. Members have sought your advice, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on what to do with the amendments. We have received certain legal advice from the hon. Member for Orpington, but we are still in a dilemma. We shall not make progress unless the hon. Member for Basingstoke withdraws the amendments ; until he does so, the matter will not be resolved. Hon. Members have said, in points of order and interventions, that that is the only way out.
Column 117611 am
My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) mentioned health hazards caused by smoke pollution, which affect us all. I look forward this afternoon to driving down the M4 or catching a train from Paddington to the fresh air and beauty of Wales. In Wales, I do not have to wear an oxygen mask, which some hon. Members use in London. There is a particular need for smoke control in cities. Hon. Members are concerned about pollution, and had the amendments not been thrown at us this morning we would probably have made short speeches in support of the Bill, which we believe could be effective and helpful to people. I want more smokeless zones and less smoke emitted into the atmosphere.
We should be debating smoke emitted not only by domestic homes or industrial units but by farmers burning stubble, where black smoke is emitted and--
"To repeal section 16(1)(a) of the Clean Air Act 1956 and to amend section 1 of the Clean Air Act 1968."
We are debating smoke emission from chimneys, industrial units and other places. I am questioning whether we should repeal or amend--
Mr. Powell : I was talking about the extension of the offence of emitting dark smoke from industrial or trade premises. Some farm units are industrial units. I have been on trains when dark smoke has blocked the entire railway track. Indeed, I have travelled on the M4 when the same has happened as a result of industrial waste being burnt on farms.
Mr. Anderson : My hon. Friend has mentioned one of the most important sources of dark smoke. If I am fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on Third Reading, I should like to deal with the definition of dark smoke. Some major polluters have been omitted from the Bill, and my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) should consider whether there is anything sinister in that. Has there been a conspiracy to omit from the Bill major polluters and to deal only with--
Mr. Powell : My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) is right. The Bill should define black or white smoke. When one travels on the train to Didcot, one sees electricity power stations that have large chimneys. When white smoke is being emitted, it does not look too bad, but sometimes they emit black smoke. The difficulty is how to define black or grey smoke. Who will define it? Are there sufficient inspectors to ensure that offences are not committed? I have a 40-page document--
Column 1177reduction in the number of inspectors. I do not want to aggravate matters because I can see you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, shuffling in your chair.