London's Pulse: Medical Officer of Health reports 1848-1972

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City of London 1956

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for London, City of ]

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The Port of London is outside the provisions of the Various Powers Act, but having regard to
the complexities of smoke nuisance which are peculiar to the 70 mile long district covered by the
Port Health Authority, it is not suggested that consideration should be given to declaring the
area a Smoke Control Area. Section 31 (2) of the Clean Air Act (as applied by section 32) ensures
that the Port Health Authority will assume the powers and functions of a local authority.
On the second appointed day, i.e. in the earlier part of 1958, section 20 will come into operation
and vessels will become subject to the provisions of sections 1 and 2 which prohibit the emission
of dark smoke.
Smoke from railway engines and vessels. Smoke from railway engines cannot be dealt with
under the Corporation's own powers for smoke abatement, but by Section 19 of the Clean Air Act,
1956, they will be prohibited from emitting dark smoke. Under Section 20 of the Clean Air Act,
1956, as already mentioned, the same will apply to smoke from vessels. Unfortunately the act
does not prohibit the emission of grit from either railway engines or vessels, although during the
course of the Bill's transition through Parliament, Mr. Remembrancer, in consultation with your
Medical Officer, made persistent efforts to get the prohibition of grit emission from vessels
inserted in the Bill.
This was because vessels are apt to cause a nuisance when tied up at Riverside Wharves as
well as in the Docks by blowing their boiler tubes. This may be a serious nuisance particularly
at the riverside. It is a nuisance which can be reduced by intelligent control of ships furnaces,
and it is a constant endeavour of your Worshipful Committee's Port Health staffs to persuade
masters of ships as to the undesirability of the practice which can be reduced by care, e.g. the
tubes could be blown while the vessel is still at the mouth of the Thames and before it ties up at
a riverside .vharf.
With regard to railway engines, it will be noted that there are a number of these in the various
dock groups owned by the Port of London Authority, and in the City, of course, there is the problem
of the termini of the Eastern, London Midland, and Southern Railway Regions.
Research and publicity. Under Section 25 a local authority may:—
(a) undertake or contribute towards the cost of investigations and research relevant to the
problem of pollution of the air;
(b) arrange for the publication within their area of information;
(c) arrange for the delivery of lectures and addresses and the holding of discussions;
(d) arrange for the display of pictures, cinematograph films or models or the holding of
exhibitions; and
(e) prepare or join in or contribute to the cost of the preparation of pictures, films, models
or exhibitions to be displayed or held in connection with the problem as aforesaid.
With regard to publicity a good deal has already been done. Thus in the Port, conferences
have been held both with the Association of Master Lightermen and Barge Owners, the principal
tug owners, and with the Port of London Authority, who themselves own a fleet of vessels on the
Thames. The help of the Fuel Research Station was obtained, and as reported to the Port of
London Health Committee, their advice on the spot in practical experiments was much appreciated.
The Port of London Authority have been reminded of their responsibilities in regard to railway
engines in their dock areas, as well as for their fleet of vessels on the river, and with
regard to railway engines in the City, numbers of conferences and representations have been
made at various levels, with a view to reducing smoke nuisance from this source. The Chairman
of the Public Health Committee has been particularly active in this sphere, and arrangements
are now being made for the showing of films and lectures to be given to railway staffs
by Mr. W.R. McGrath, your City Public Health Inspector. Pamphlets will also be issued.
The Smoke Control Areas (Authorised Fuels) Regulations, 1956
The regulations declare the following fuels to be authorised fuels for the purposes of the Clean
Air Act:— anthracite, briquetted fuels carbonised in the process of manufacture; coke; electricity;
gas; low temperature carbonisation fuels; and low volatile steam coals.
Electricity, gas, and briquetted fuels carbonised in the process of manufacture, are not
included in the list of fuels authorised by the Court of Common Council for the purpose of the
City of London (Various Powers) Act, 1954. It will also be observed that instead of the designation
"Welsh Dry Steam Coal" in the City's list of authorised fuels, the Regulations refer to
"low volatile steam coals". The latter designation is preferable since not all Welsh Dry Steam
Coal has a low volatile content. The recommendation set out below is designed to bring the list
of authorised fuels under the Various Powers Act into conformity with those named in the Authorised
Fuels Regulations.
The new legislation supplements the City's own powers to promote clean air in the City,
particularly by giving powers which will come into force in 1958 for taking action in respect of
smoke from railway engines. The Clean Air Act, 1956 gives power which was lacking in the
City's own act to pursue smoke offenders outside the City boundaries if such smoke affects any
part of the City.

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