Alkali Act 1863

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Under the British Alkali Act 1863, an alkali inspector and four subinspectors were appointed to curb discharge into the air of muriatic acid gas (gaseous hydrochloric acid) from Leblanc alkali works.

In 1874, under the Alkali Act 1874, the Inspector became the Chief Inspector. The first Chief Inspector was Dr Robert Angus Smith, he was statutorily responsible for the standards set and maintained by the Inspectorate, and reported directly to the Permanent Secretary of his department. For the first sixty years of its existence, the Inspectorate was solely concerned with the heavy chemicals industry, but from the 1920s onwards, its responsibilities were expanded, culminating in the Alkali Order 1958. This placed all major heavy industries which emitted smoke, grit, dust and fumes under the supervision of the Inspectorate.

The 1863 Act was repealed and replaced by the Alkali, &c. Works Regulation Act 1881, which was further extended by the Alkali, &c. Works Regulation Act 1892. The 1881 Act was repealed and replaced by the Alkali, &c. Works Regulation Act 1906.


The Inspectorate has worked under the purview of many different departments:

The Chief Inspector's independence disappeared when the Inspectorate was transferred to the Health and Safety Executive in 1975.

The Inspectorate was known as Industrial Air Pollution Inspectorate from 1983 to 1987 and became Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Pollution (HMIP) when it was transferred back to the Department of the Environment in 1987.

HMIP became part of the Environment Agency and Scottish Environment Protection Agency on 1 April 1996.

Together with amendments, the Alkali Act became the main legislative control of industrial pollution in the UK. It was finally repealed and replaced by the Environmental Protection Act 1990.