Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Atmospheric Emissions: Tall Chimneys

2.41 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Earl Ferrers): My Lords, chimneys are needed in order to disperse any atmospheric emissions which cannot reasonably be controlled in other ways. The height of any particular factory chimney will depend on calculations which take into account a number of factors, including improvements in technology and quality of the air in the area.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I am grateful, as always, to my noble friend for his reply. If pollution of the air can now be controlled in certain processes--for example, modern incineration and recycling of refuse--without the need for tall chimneys, can that be turned to the public's advantage by adapting regulations relating to industrial buildings so that there will be fewer excrescences scarring our landscape and so that new factories can more easily harmonise with their surroundings?

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I agree that where it is possible, it is obviously better to have smaller chimneys. Where there are technological improvements those factors will be taken into account when deciding the height of the chimney which is necessary. Even after many of the cleaning processes have been undertaken, it is necessary to ensure that any pollutants, such as there are, are dispersed in the air and away from human beings. A great deal depends on the lie of the surrounding land, and the emissions from the chimney.

24 Jul 1996 : Column 1375

Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, is the Minister aware that I am as baffled by the portent of the Question as he showed he was by his answer? The Question seems to be very Delphic. Will the Minister comment, because I am sure that he has been given notice by his noble friend of what this is all about, upon which particular factories and plants are referred to in the Question, what processes are referred to, and which are the "certain industries" referred to? We greatly look forward to hearing the Minister's response.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I do not know what has come over the noble Lord, Lord Williams, this afternoon. He says that he cannot understand the Question. Well, I am very sorry for him. I understood it perfectly. Perhaps I can explain in terms of one syllable. My noble friend is worried, because he thinks that large chimneys affect the visual amenity. He asks whether it would not be nice if we could have smaller chimneys. My reply was that if the technological improvements in dealing with emissions are such that we can have smaller chimneys, then we will have them.

Lord Gisborough: My Lords, given the fact that none of the reasons for high chimneys applies to Battersea Power Station, can those chimneys be taken down now?

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I am not too familiar with the details of individual places. I shall find out about what my noble friend refers to, but my guess is that it is a listed building.

Baroness Seear: My Lords, does not the Minister agree that most modern factories do not have any chimneys? Is not that an end to be very much applauded?

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, the noble Baroness must go to some pretty funny factories if they do not have any chimneys. Most of the factories I see have some form of process, whether it is heating or manufacturing, and most of them require to get rid of the emissions.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, in order to assist the noble Lord, Lord Williams, may I ask my noble friend whether he is aware of the modern plant built in south-east London for the incineration and efficient recycling of municipal waste, to which a number of us and Members of another place were invited about four weeks ago, where we were told that in future, due to the great technological advances, tall chimneys, like the one there, will not be necessary?

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I do hope that the noble Lord, Lord Williams, understands that question. I am glad that my noble friends went to the place to which I, too, have been. It is a remarkable building. There are enormous technological improvements which enable there to be fewer emissions from chimneys. The chimney has to be high enough to enable the emissions to be dispersed in the atmosphere so as not to harm human beings.

24 Jul 1996 : Column 1376

Teachers: Special Needs Training

2.47 p.m.

Lord Rix asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans are being made to rectify the shortfall of trained teachers of children with severe learning difficulties.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Employment (Lord Henley): My Lords, local education authorities are responsible for ensuring that teachers are equipped to meet the needs of children in their area. The DfEE and the Teacher Training Agency are considering how we might improve training for all teachers of children with special educational needs in the light of a report by the Special Educational Needs Training Consortium. Priority has been given to training in severe learning difficulties in allocating money under the grants for education support and training programme. Next year, money will be protected for this area and a small number of other areas of high priority.

Lord Rix: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that helpful Answer. Does he agree that the lack of a dynamic career structure for teachers of children with severe learning difficulties acts as a disincentive to them to take the special courses which are required and to seek employment in that area of work? Can he suggest how the Government might be able to persuade such teachers to undertake the training, for their careers to become, as it were, more productive, in what is perhaps the most important area of special needs education which at the moment appears woefully to be underfunded.

Lord Henley: My Lords, before necessarily accepting what the noble Lord says about the career structure for those involved in special needs education, I should want further evidence. There is no reason why career prospects for teachers with experience in SEN should be less good than those for other teachers. Teachers who teach children with special educational needs qualify for an extra pay point. Many qualify for a second extra pay point if they have further training or extra qualifications. A much higher proportion of teachers in special schools--that is, those dealing with severe learning difficulties, in the main--is on the higher points of the pay spine than other teachers. In the light of a recent report to the Secretary of State I am aware of concerns that there are a number of LEAs which will not spend money to train teachers to move into SEN training, which is the important point at which to look. We have consulted widely on that report, and we hope to be able to announce measures to address some of those concerns in the near future.

Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the teaching of children with severe learning difficulties is becoming more demanding and complex? Does he further agree that there is a widening gap between the possible help and the available help to such children and that there is no local solution to this

24 Jul 1996 : Column 1377

national problem? What is required is a national response by the Government to ensure that such children are helped by fully trained teachers.

Lord Henley: My Lords, that is one of the reasons why we funded the review by the Special Educational Needs Training Consortium into the systems in place for the training of teachers of children with SEN. As I made clear in my Answer, we are considering the recommendations in detail with the teacher training organisation and we will be responding to them in the near future.

I must remind the noble Lord that in the end it is for the LEAs and not the Government to ensure that their staff have the appropriate skills, knowledge and understanding to deal with the needs of all the pupils in their care.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, if there is indeed a shortage of teachers who are adequately trained to teach mentally handicapped children, will the Government consider reversing their present policy of encouraging local services to frustrate parents who wish to place their mentally handicapped children in special schools and, instead, actively encourage such schools with all their well known advantages of scale and effect?

Lord Henley: My Lords, perhaps I may assure my noble friend that we have no such policy. Obviously, we wish to see as many children as possible integrated into mainstream schools. However, we have always made it clear that parental choice in the matter should be observed. If parents wish their child to attend a special school that policy should be pursued as far as possible. It would be wrong to say that we had a policy of actively encouraging or forcing LEAs to push all children into mainstream schools.

Lord Dormand of Easington: My Lords, is the Minister aware that there has always been a shortage of specialist teachers of children with special learning difficulties and that no one has done anything about that? Is it not the case that the Minister has given the usual response by putting the responsibility onto the local education authorities? I recently wrote to the Minister about the matter and I agree that the Government do a great deal as regards the shortage of maths teachers, science teachers, modern languages teachers and so forth. Therefore, why cannot they do something about these specialist teachers? Will the Minister say what is being done in particular about the training of teachers for deaf-blind children?

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page