HC Deb 28 July 1930 vol 242 cc131-53

I beg to move, in page 21, line 19, at the end, to insert the words: Provided that the amount payable shall in no case exceed a halfpenny rate. I move this out of a sense of gratitude. It is to restore the Bill to the position in which it was when it left the House of Lords. I should be an ingrate if I did not pay my testimony to the merits of the Bill as it left that Chamber and I hope when we are defeated here, as we shall be, that in another place the Bill may be restored to its pristine virtue. There is another reason. I owe a special debt of gratitude to the County Councils Association. They also want this Amendment. I hope they will ultimately get it. It is possible to carry on all the drainage schemes that the right hon. Gentleman wants to carry on, it is possible to spend £30,000,000 if you think that expenditure is worth while, without exceeding the ½d. rate if you put this Amendment into the Bill. It means, however, that you are going to put more upon the internal drainage boards instead. If the money is to be spent, it had better be raised from the internal drainage boards than from the ratepayers. The ratepayers have had a pretty bad three years of it. They derated agricultural land and shoved it on to the householders. They have taken the roads and put them on to the householders. All these things have been taken off agriculture and put on to the ordinary common or garden ratepayer. Now this Bill comes along and suggests that the one rate that is left upon agriculture, which was collected by the internal drainage boards from those people who benefited by the money spent on drainage, shall be passed off the shoulders of the people who ought to pay it and put on to the unfortunate ratepayers. This has gone on ever since I have been in Parliament, and before For the last 35 years they have been shifting what they call the burdens upon agriculture, which are really the burdens on the landlord, on to the general public.


I do not want to interrupt the right hon. and gallant Gentleman.


Then do not. This board collected its funds either from the Treasury—and we have just arranged that the Treasury shall supply unlimited funds as soon as they can place a tax on land values—or from the ratepayer or the internal drainage board. These are the three people who will contribute to the expenses of all these schemes. I am seeking in this Amendment to limit the amount which is to be found by the unfortunate ratepayer and leave the people who are benefiting to pay something towards it. The tendency of this Bill, as I shall be able to explain upon the Third Reading, is to relieve landlords of this country of their burden and put it upon other people. I think everybody will realise that, when the next Election comes along the ratepayers will have something to say about this Bill. It will not be my fault if they do not. Let us make their grievances against the Labour party as small as possible. Let us limit to one halfpenny in the £ what the ratepayers have to pay; let us make the owners' rate to the internal drainage board as much as possible and the charge on the ratepayers as small as possible. It is not a question of the lowlanders, but a question of the whole of the public of this country against the few people who own the land of the country. When that struggle comes along it is not a matter for committees, but for the public to decide, and they will have something to say on a Measure which takes the burden deliberately off the shoulders of the landlords and puts it upon the shoulders of the ratepayers of this country.


I disagree absolutely with what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has said, but at the same time I am inclined to agree to his Amendment, because I am sure that he has misinterpreted its meaning. He has assumed that his Amendment, which is a proviso that the amount payable shall in no case exceed a halfpenny rate, is adapted to the precept which the catchment board makes upon the county council. For the sake of clarity, I will read the Clause: A Catchment Board may issue precepts to the councils of counties and county boroughs and to internal drainage hoards requiring payment of any amount payable by, apportioned upon, or required to be contributed by those councils and boards, under either of the two last preceding sections, and a council or an internal drainage hoard shall pay, in accordance with any precept so issued to it, the amount thereby demanded. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman wishes to add: Provided that the amount payable shall in no case exceed a halfpenny rate. My interpretation of that proposal is that neither a county rate nor a rate upon the internal district drainage board can exceed a halfpenny. Therefore, though I absolutely disagree with the speech of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, I could agree with this limitation, if it were possible, on the internal district rate. I agree that there should be some equality of treatment as between the uplanders and the lowlanders. I do not know whether the right hon. and gallant Gentleman appreciates the point that the precept made to the county council is payable not only by the uplanders but by the lowlanders. They will be obliged as lowland areas to meet that precept, but over and above that they will have to meet the demand made upon them by the catchment board as an internal drainage district. Therefore, the internal drainage district is rated twice under this Bill. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman may go home quite happy with the knowledge that the land will have its fair proportion to the expenses of this Measure. My hon. Friend says, "More." It is because I am afraid that it will be more that I desire equality of treatment between the uplanders and the lowlanders.


I am sure that we shall all have been interested to know that the right hon. and gallant Member below the Gangway has found a friend in the Upper House, but this matter does not appear to be the same as that about which the hon. Member for Leominster (Sir E. Shepperson) is thinking. It was because I saw that he was about to rise that I remained seated. I thought that he might probably discern the weakness in the Amendment of my right hon. and gallant Friend. It is obvious that my right hon. and gallant Friend will not get what he wants to obtain by his Amendment. He wants to secure that the landowners of the internal drainage districts, who, it is assumed, will benefit, shall pay their share, but by this Amendment he limits the burden which can be placed upon those persons to a halfpenny rate because they are included in the scope of the Clause as well as the county councils. The Amendment therefore really defeats his purpose. I would suggest to him that his purpose is really met by the powers of the internal drainage boards to levy, as they do levy, and as they have power in the Bill to levy, rates for new works or improvements as owners' rates in the internal drainage area. That is the practice now, and this is the way in which to deal with it. As far as a halfpenny rate is concerned, it is necessary to give the House a simple illustration of what a halfpenny rate will produce. In one particular area, a halfpenny would bring in £194, and in the Thames area it would raise £27,000. The Amendment of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman would not enable him to get what he desires. I am glad that he is at one with another place in a desire to tax land values.


I feel that I ought to withdraw this Amendment, although I would prefer that it should be negatived. I want to strengthen the hands of the House of Lords in putting this Amendment back. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Brigadier-General BROWN

On a point of Order. If the right hon. and gallant Member withdraws his Amendment, shall I be in order in moving the next Amendment, which stands in my name and which is actually the Amendment which another place put into the Bill.


The hon. and gallant Member will be able to move his Amendment after this Amendment has been withdrawn.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Brigadier-General BROWN

I beg to move, in page 21, line 19, at the end, to insert the words: (2) The amount demanded by any precept issued by a Catchment Board to the councils of the counties concerned and which would fall to be paid within any one financial year shall not without the consent of the majority of the councils concerned exceed the sum which would be produced by a rate of one half of a penny in the pound levied in the county on the rateable value of the hereditaments in that part of the county situate within the catchment area. (3) Where the council of a county are at the date of the passing of this Act liable for any drainage expenses the amount demanded by any precept issued to them by a Catchment Board together with the annual charge of such expenses shall not, without the consent of the council, exceed in any one financial year the sum which would be produced by a rate of three farthings in the pound levied in the county on the rateable value of the hereditaments situate within the catchment area. This is the actual Amendment which was proposed in another place with the object of limiting the expenses. The Minister has already pointed out the different amounts which a halfpenny rate produces in the case of various drainage boards. He could make up the amount from the Treasury grant which he has already promised and in respect of which there is a Clause in the Bill. The National Farmers' Union and the Berkshire County Council are not at all satisfied with the Clause with which the Minister has been good enough to try and meet them. They do not think that the Bill is worth having unless the proposal of this Amendment is restored. I should like to point out that some limitation is evidently admitted in the Memorandum to the Bill, because it says: Although there is nothing contained in the Bill in its present form as to any Government contribution towards the carrying out of suitable drainage works, it is the intention of His Majesty's Government to insert in the Bill in the House of Commons, a clause empowering the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries to make grants. He has done that, but the Clause I am afraid does not give satisfaction and shows the necessity for limitation. Later on the Memorandum says: In the first place the rateable value of the different catchment areas, which is now in the course of being ascertained, varies very considerably. Secondly, until the Catchment Boards have had an opportunity of surveying their rivers, no reliable estimate can be formed as to the cost of necessary works. Thirdly, the Catchment Boards are entitled to obtain a portion of their revenue from the Internal Drainage Boards within their area. With these very uncertain factors the bodies concerned feel that the limitation which was put in in another place was the only way in which to deal with the matter at the present time. The Memorandum also points out that the money to be spent may amount to £15,000,000 or more, and that fact, therefore, shows the necessity for some limitation. If the areas are limited to a halfpenny rate and the amount is made up by a Government grant, it will be the fairest way to deal with schemes. I hope that this Amendment will favourably be considered.


I beg to second the Amendment. As the Minister knows, I am a friend of this Bill, but I urge him, in the interests of his own Bill, to accept this Amendment or some similar limitation of the burden to be put upon the rates. The great public objection, and one not without foundation—the great fear—which has been aroused by this Bill centres very largely round the question of the removal of the limit of the rate. I believe that the Minister is much more likely to get his Bill put on to the Statute Book and have it favourably accepted, and is much more likely to find the new authorities, the county councils and others, who will have to contribute membership to these new authorities, doing their utmost to make the Measure a success and carry out its proposals if a limitation is put in. I do not doubt for a moment that he is genuine in his belief that no limitation is necessary, but he has to consider the reception which this Bill has received outside and the fears which it arouses. As a friend of the Bill, I urge him in the interests of his own Measure to accept this or some other limiting Amendment.

8.0 p.m


There is some misapprehension in the minds of hon. Members on this matter which is not altogether justified by the facts. One is entitled to say that this question of limitation would not have been inserted in the Bill in another place had the Bill gone to that place in the form in which it is now. It really was something in the nature of a protest, or a safeguard, so far as the rates are concerned, because there were no financial provisions in the Bill whereby a portion of the expenditure would be met by Government grants. Since the Bill has come back to the House my right hon. Friend in Committee inserted a finance clause—Clause 55—which makes provision for what I have every reason to believe will be very adequate grants so far as the catchment area is concerned. I submit that that alters the situation entirely from what it was when the Bill went to the other House.

My hon. and gallant Friend said that great fears exist. Is not that a point which is met by the statement which was once made to the effect that the greatest troubles of our lives are those that never reach us? Are not we fearing something that may never materialise? After all, who is going to constitute these catchment area authorities? They are to be composed of two-thirds delegates from the county councils and the borough councils. The House by this Amendment is asked to infer that these people, almost out of sheer mischief, will put forward schemes of heavy financial obligations and so put a heavy burden on the rates of their areas. I venture the opinion that the full experience of county councils, as such, is of a nature to warrant the assumption that they will be very careful of any expenditure which they incur; and, seeing that there is now a provision made for grants towards these works which the catchment area authorities will undertake, I venture to say that there is no justification for this Amendment.

There is a safeguard in the Bill to the effect that if a scheme goes beyond a certain figure as a total sum, or if it represents an expenditure beyond a certain figure as determined by the rates, there can be a public inquiry. There is in the Bill every possible safeguard which can be inserted to prevent anything in the nature of schemes being embarked upon which are not really justified by the needs of drainage within the area itself. Further, this point was very elaborately dealt with in Committee, and there was a very long discussion upon it. The Committee then decided not to take up the Clause as inserted in the other House. I venture the opinion that it is hardly practicable for us to accept it now. I would emphasise the great change which there is in the Bill as it now stands, as compared to when it was first introduced. There is the definite assurance of Government grants, and there are the other safeguards which will arise out of the common sense procedure of our public administration.


I would ask the Minister to give further consideration to this Amendment before he rejects it. I endorse what has been already said. The fact remains that there is a grave misgiving throughout the whole country on the question of the expenditure which will be involved under this Bill. It is not a misgiving which is the outcome of wild statements; it is voiced by the County Councils' Association, who will be largely concerned in administering the Bill. There is another point with which all Members of the House will agree. It is common knowledge that agriculture to-day is passing through an extremely difficult time. No language can be strong enough to express the situation. If I may refer to one catchment area in order to illustrate the type of statements which are being made, and which are giving rise to these misgivings, I will refer to the Thames catchment area. Statements have been made there that it is possible under this Bill to incur an expenditure of £9,000,000, and that, if that expenditure is incurred, it will result in a rate which it is estimated will be in the neighbourhood of 4s. 8d. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister will know as well as I do that a rate of that kind placed on the land in the Thames catchment area will spell plain bankruptcy.

I am one of those who believe that there is a great measure of good in this Bill. I believe that through this Bill a lot of work can be accomplished which is badly wanted to be done; but we must do it gradually. The whole point, is: Are we going to launch suddenly into a large number of big schemes, or are we going to carry out the matter carefully and gradually, and spread it over a number of years? If we do it gradually, we can do an immense amount of good under this Bill, and not exceed the halfpenny limit suggested. On the other hand, if very large schemes are launched upon, an immense amount of money will be involved which, I can say without exaggeration, will practically mean bankruptcy to an immense amount of the land in the catchment areas concerned.

In Clause 55 there is no pledge on the part of the Government that they will give any definite sum. I agree that it would be impossible for the Minister to pledge himself to any definite sum because of the widely varied requirements of the different catchment areas, but there is not even a promise of a proportion of the sum involved. There is nothing in the finance Clause by which the Minister permits himself to give a certain percentage of assistance in order to meet the requirements of the different catchment areas. There is not a definite promise of a penny under the finance Clause towards the relief of the county councils on any scheme involved. It is this indefiniteness which is one of the contributory causes of this strong feeling of misgiving to the effect that a blank cheque is going to be given to the catchment area board.

Taking the alternative suggestion which the Minister put up in Committee, to the effect that no scheme involving the expenditure of £50,000, or involving the possibility of a twopenny rate, may be embarked upon without, if necessary, a public inquiry being held, in my opinion that is a very valuable safeguard, but it hardly goes far enough—for this reason. Let us assume that a scheme proposed involves over £50,000 or, alternatively, a rate of more than 2d., and that there is a general fear on the part of the local authority, and that the Minister in his discretion orders a public inquiry. Suppose that public inquiry, after having been held, recommends that this scheme should not be proceeded with, or only a portion of it, there is still no safeguard to the local authority, because the Minister may, from totally different and other reasons —for instance, the utilisation of a large number of unemployed—still order the scheme to go forward. I am now expressing the views which have been put forward by some of the county councils, who do not find in this alternative put up in Committee any definite or sufficient safeguard to protect their interests. I feel that a great deal of good could come out of this Bill, and I venture most earnestly to ask the Minister if he cannot see his way favourably to consider the question of a limitation of the rates.


My right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Captain Henderson) said he believed that a good deal of good would be done by this Bill. I believe that is true, but, on the other hand, it is quite correct to say that one can receive benefits at too high a price. At a time When agriculture is in such a depressed condition, we have a great fear that whatever is done, even under the heading of assistance to agriculture, might be done at too high a price. This Amendment is an effort to limit expenditure in the interests of the communuity as a whole and of agriculture in particular. Not only to-day, but in Committee, the Minister has used the argument, when we have discussed the question of the limitation of a halfpenny, as to the amount which will be produced in the various areas by a halfpenny rate. He has said that in one area the amount will be very large, and that in another area it will be comparatively small. I cannot see the force of that argument, because to me a halfpenny rate is the same burden upon the individual no matter where that individual resides; consequently, the amount which a rate produces is not, to my mind, a useful or a reasonable argument to bring forward in this particular case.

Unfortunately, this Bill, through its passage upstairs, has been deprived of all reasonable safeguards recommended by the Royal Commission, and also put in in another place. I suppose I might be called to order if I were to discuss the question of an appeal tribunal, but I would refer to the fact that the appeal tribunal, as an effective organisation, has been cut out of this Bill, because the alternative procedure which has been placed in the Bill as against the tribunal which was in originally, and which I hope we will be able to restore, is so expensive and so difficult that it becomes absolutely unavailable for the individual and for the corporations. Consequently, it is ineffective, and is no safeguard at all. Having been unfortunately deprived of all safeguards in the way of appeal, we are thrown back necessarily upon the course of trying in all ways we can to limit the expenditure. That is what we are trying to do in this case.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, when he was speaking, said that they were relying upon the Clause which had been put in dealing with a total expenditure of over £50,000 or a twopenny rate. To a certain extent that is some safeguard, but it certainly is not a safeguard sufficient to satisfy either the County Councils' Association or those in agriculture for whom I am speaking. He told us also that powers had been taken to give grants, and he used the word "adequate" grants. There is no statement in the Bill of what is considered to be adequate. If the Minister will put something in the Definition Clause indicating what the word "adequate" means, probably I shall be satisfied; but he has not done that, and I do not suppose that he intends to do so. There is nothing either to say what "adequate" means or to say what the proportion of the expenditure which is being made shall he. In other departments, there is a definite proportion put down as to what shall be given by the Government towards expenditure which has been sanctioned by the authorities. There should be in this Bill some guarantee that great burdens are not going to be placed on the locality without some adequate assistance being given from the Government.

The statement was made that the greatest troubles of our lives are those which never reach us. Our trouble is that these big grants, about which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade has been speaking, are never going to reach us. Consequently, we are thrown back upon the procedure of trying, whenever we possibly can—and we shall continue to do so throughout the whole of the process of this Bill, and I hope it will be done elsewhere as well—to limit the expenditure by saying, as we are doing here, that it shall be confined to a certain sum.


The Minister of Agriculture would do well to try and meet the very genuine and real alarm which exists as to the financial results of the Bill as it stands. In my opinion a good deal of this alarm is unfounded. I do not think that the far-reaching and costly schemes which some people seem to expect will be undertaken, that is those people who take at their face value the speeches of hon. Members opposite. A good deal of the trouble is due to the expectations which have been aroused by the Minister himself of solving the unemployment problem by making a large contribution to its solution by means of schemes which will be brought into operation under this Bill. But that alarm, whether it is well founded or not, undoubtedly exists. You cannot speak to any member of a county council without appreciating how deeply they are concerned as to the possible burdens which will be thrown upon the ratepayers and at the lack of adequate control on the part of county councils. The only effective safeguard, so far as county councils are concerned, is not in the Bill, and the right hon. Gentleman would be wise to try and find a compromise.

As the Bill left another place it provided that local authorities who have to find the money would have very effective financial control. In my opinion that control might to some extent have hampered the operation of the Bill. The limit of a halfpenny rate, except where there is unanimity among the councils cencerned, might well in certain cases hold up the acceptance of schemes which are really necessary, and the Amendment is framed in a form which gets over that difficulty. It would be no longer possible for one recalcitrant county council out of seven or eight, and it may be a county council responsible for an area which is in no danger of flooding, to hold up work on such a scheme. There can be no reasonable objection to this Amendment, which leaves the control in the hands of a majority of the councils, and the right hon. Gentleman would be very wise to offer this to another place as a compromise. If he does not I am sure he will find that they will insist on the necessary financial guarantees in the interests of local authorities, and will probably find that they will be much more drastic than those proposed by the Amendment.


Hon. Members opposite know that I have taken a great deal of trouble to find a way which is administratively practicable in order to deal with the very genuine fear to which they have referred. I considered the matter for a very long time and finally we devised a scheme which is now incorporated in Clause 56. I still think that that is a much better way of dealing with the matter than the method proposed by the Amendment. In the first place a stereotyped figure is quite impracticable. It would be an absurdly low figure one area and altogether too high in another. The Amendment means that if one county council in an area withholds its consent a catchment board cannot move at all.


The words of the Amendment are "without the consent of the majority of the councils."


I will withdraw that observation. At all events it is a majority of the county councils, but the point is that we are setting up a responsible body of experienced men, giving them work to do, and already we have limited them by all manner of inquiries and appeals. We have restricted their freedom of action very much already, and this Amendment would make it quite impossible for a board to work. I cannot accept it consistently with the general framework of the Bill. I have done my best to find a workable compromise and it is embodied in Clause 56. I am not responsible for what may be done in another place, but I am responsible for finding a scheme which will work and I prefer my own prescription in Clause 56 to the present Amendment.


I desire to support the Clause as it stands. It seems to me that most of the arguments which have been put forward in support of the Amendment have been based on a wrong assumption. The Amendment, it is said, is designed to limit expenditure. This Clause does not deal with expenditure at all; it deals with the authority of a catchment board to issue a precept upon local authorities or upon an internal drainage board. In this matter I rely upon the constitution of the catchment board. The Amendment ensures that it shall not be more than a halfpenny rate That assurance is already in the Clause. Two-thirds of the members are direct representatives of borough councils and county councils and only one-third are direct representatives of internal drainage boards. The question as to how much shall be levied upon county councils and borough councils can safely be left to the direct representatives of those councils.

I think the Clause is rather loose and that there is a danger that internal drainage boards may levy tremendous rates upon occupiers of land in order to meet the precepts which are levied upon them. So far as internal drainage boards are concerned they have the power to levy a direct rate for purely local drainage schemes and then they can levy an additional rate in order to meet the precept made upon them by the catchment board. To say that a catchment board shall not have the power to levy what may be a reasonable part of the expenditure on any scheme of drainage which will benefit all sections of the community is wrong. If this Amendment were accepted and put into the Bill, it would be of distinct disadvantage to the occupiers of the land, and it would put an undue financial pressure upon the internal drainage boards. I am glad to know that the Minister is not going to accept it, and I hope that he will stick to his own scheme. In that, I feel he is very wise.


I am very sorry that the Minister has not accepted the Amendment. It concerns a point that affects my area very much. My county council have asked me to vote against this Bill if this Amendment is not put into it. I think there is a very good reason for their attitude. They have grave suspicions that they are going to be held up and made to pay large sums of money in the future. We know there is a scheme to cost £4,000,000, and we know that the Minister has overriding power over any appeal. A local inquiry may be held, and the Minister may decide what the result of that inquiry shall be. There is no adequate protection. You may be going to spend as much as £2,500,000 to £4,000,000 on outfall drainage works on one section of the river, but that will have nothing to do with money that may be spent on other parts of the river. All the time we are spending these vast sums of money, and additional sums for upkeep, a borough in another part of the river is doing its safeguarding work against floods as it has done for many years past, and is spending thousands of pounds in doing it. All that expense is going on, and in addition, there is the expense put on by the Minister in the lower areas.

We have heard appeals in the House in regard to the real needs of Somerset. There is not a Member of this House who would oppose any Measure that the Minister brought forward to deal with the situation in Somerset at once. I do not believe that this work is really necessary. It was spoken of seven years ago when it was going to cost £1,250,000. In 1927, the figure had gone up £2,500,000. So it has grown, and it will grow the whole time. I do not believe that anybody has asked for that work to be done. We have the feeling in the uplands that this money will be spent on drainage work that is not really necessary, and that the cost will eventually be put upon the local authorities. That is one of the reasons why we take up our position in regard to this Amendment. If the Minister cannot accept a halfpenny, I wish he would accept some limit to the expenditure that can be put upon the county councils.


I wish to support the Amendment. I hope the Minister even at this late hour will see his way to accept it. It is a very mild and moderate proposal. If there is agreement between the catchment board and the county council, it does not come into operation at all. It only operates if there is disagreemnt, and it is only a limitation, even then. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, when he spoke against this Amendment, said that there was no danger in practice of a larger amount being required from the local authorities, because since the Bill has been altered, there has been an arrangement for grants to be made by the county council. If that is so, why should not the Government give the guarantee that is asked for in the Amendment? If the county councils are not to be required to pay any more, then by all means give the guarantee and put them out of their misery. He said we must trust to common sense in public administration. In my county districts we cannot trust to common sense in public administration. In the last ten years we have seen what we regard as a great deal of extravagance. In the district where I live an immense amount of money has been spent on roads that we consider was unnecessary. The other day there was the astonishing spectacle of all the inhabitants of the district writing to protest against the expenditure on the roads, while the Ministry was going on with the expenditure. We have seen too much of that. We want some definite guarantee. I would rather see this scheme of land drainage held up and take a longer time to carry through than that there should be any further Government extravagance.


This Amendment raises once more the great question as between uplanders and lowlanders. Political differences are insignificant as compared with the differences that we shall find between them. I intend to support the Government. The Minister has now caused another great split in the Conservative party. The split will be seen very soon if the hon. Member presses his Amendment to a Division. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Henley (Captain Henderson) said, and said rightly, that agriculture cannot bear any further burden. It cannot. It is obvious that the present position of agriculture is shocking. If this Amendment were accepted, it would throw a fresh burden upon agriculture. There are three sources of money by which the expenses of the catchment board will be met. Money is supplied by the State, and we shall all try to get as much of it as possible. Secondly, what is not borne by the State will have to be borne either by the precept upon the county council or by the internal drainage boards. The money that is precepted for from the county council will be paid by the county council out of the general rate. Since agriculture is de-rated, the land will not bear any proportion of the precept made upon the county councils. Therefore, the sum paid by the county councils on their precept will not mean any demands from agriculture at all. It is the internal drainage board alone that will have to pay the additional sum. The only way in which the agriculturist will pay towards this Bill will be in his position as a payer to an internal drainage board.


May I point out that the internal drainage board will have its own separate little bit to look after, and that these boards will be masters in their own house.


I think the hon. and gallant Member for Henley is under a misapprehension. The internal district boards will be responsible for their own functions within their own districts, but they will be precepted on by the catchment board. The internal districts will have to pay towards the expenses of the catchment boards. If the county council contribution is limited and the State contribution is limited, there will only be one contribution unlimited, namely, the contribution of the internal district board, and that is the only body to which the agriculturist is definitely paying.


He pays to the county council on another basis. He pays as a householder towards the county rate.


We are talking about the burden on agriculture as an industry and not the burden on occupiers of houses. The farmer who occupies a house is in exactly the same position as the member of a town industry who occupies a house. I am concerned with the burden which this Bill is going to place on the industry of agriculture and the burden which it places on the agriculturist as an agriculturist is in the payment of the internal district rate. The agriculturist in the upland area does not pay to the county council qua agriculturist at all, but as a householder.


Does the hon. Member contend that the rates in those counties at the present time do not constitute a burden?


Agriculture being derated and the precept of the catchment board being upon the general rate of the county council, the agriculturist qua agriculturist will not be paying one penny in that way. He will be paying as a householder, like every other householder, but not as an agriculturist. On the other hand, the demand on the internal district board means that the agriculturist will pay upon the Schedule A assessment of his land, and in that case he will be paying as an agriculturist. It would be against the interests of British agriculture to put this limit on the county council contribution, because it would leave agriculture with an unlimited liability. I would accept the Amendment freely if there was a concurrent limitation of the demand upon the internal drainage board, but, without such a limitation, it would be unsafe and unwise in the interests of agriculture to accept a limitation of the precept on the county council. For these reasons I propose to split the Conservative party, and I shall support the Government against this Amendment.


It is rather unkind of my hon. Friend to try to set the uplands and the lowlands against one another. My hon. Friend belongs to the middle level, and I suppose he thinks that if he sets the uplands and the lowlands against one another, the middleman may come off best. I think he will be satisfied if the middle level is left alone. But he may find the uplands and the lowlands coming together. The uplands very often want to retain the water, while the lowlands do not want the water sent down to them, and therefore they may make common cause. Then they would not want the internal drainage board at all, and the hon. Member for Leominster (Sir E. Shepperson) would be left alone with his very efficient system of drainage. He must not represent to the House that there is any breath among us because we are a very united party. I admit that the Minister has made a genuine attempt to met our apprehensions in Clause 56, but that Clause leaves the matter eventually in the hands of the Minister, and, if I may say so, we do not quite trust the Minister at the present time. The right hon. Gentleman is most courteous and conciliatory, but under pressure of circumstances he may propose very large schemes of which we are rather afraid. There are words in this Amendment which we particularly value. They are: shall not without the consent of the majority of the councils concerned. If the Minister could see his way to insert these words or the sense of them in Clause 56 I think we might possibly see our way to withdraw the present Amendment. The Parliamentary Secretary to

the Board of Trade said that the county councils were in favour of this limitation of the rates but that was before the offer of Clause 56. The county councils have since seen that Clause. Reference has been made to the opinion of one county council. I have here a resolution passed by the Berkshire County Council on Saturday when the Clause was considered by them. That it is the wish of this council that the Land Drainage Bill be opposed on Third Reading in the House of Commons unless the Lords' Amendments in regard to limitation of rates and the establishment of an appeal tribunal are restored to the Bill on the Report stage. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Henley (Captain Henderson) said that what the county councils are afraid of is the pushing forward of a very big schemes that will entail a heavy rate on the counties. That is a genuine fear. We have heard of a formidable scheme in the Ouse Valley, there is another big scheme in the Trent Basin and there is a very big scheme for the Thames Valley. The farmers of the Thames Valley, I can say with confidence, are very much alarmed at the possibility of such a large scheme. In the Thames Valley we have 12 tributaries of considerable size. It is true that the precept will not be paid by agricultural land, because that is derated, but supposing there is an internal drainage board set up for each of those 12 tributaries, there will be a drainage rate levied by each of those boards, and that will mean that a very large amount of agricultural land which does not now pay a rate will be called upon to pay. The farmers do not want that. This Amendment is generally supported by the counties and the farmers. If the right hon. Gentleman could see his way to insert in Clause 56 the provision that a majority of the councils should give their consent before the rate mentioned in the Clause could be levied, it would go a long way towards meeting the fears that have been expressed.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 101; Noes, 245.

Division No. 467.] AYES. [8.48 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut-Colonel Balniel, Lord Bourne, Captain Robert Croft
Ainsworth, Lieut.-Col. Charles Berry, Sir George Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.
Atholl, Duchess of Bevan, S. J. (Holborn) Boyce, H. L.
Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet) Bird, Ernest Roy Braithwaite, Major A. N.
Brass, Captain Sir William Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E. Ramsbotham, H.
Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham) Gunston, Captain D. W. Reynolds, Col. Sir James
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C.(Berks, Newb'y) Hacking, Rt, Hon. Douglas H. Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)
Burgin, Dr. E. L. Hammersley, S. S. Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.
Butler, R. A. Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward Haslam, Henry C. Salmon, Major I.
Carver, Major W. H. Henderson, Capt. R. R.(0xf'd, Henley) Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth,S.) Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart
Christle, J. A. Herbert, Sir Dennis (Hertford) Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.
Colfox, Major William Philip Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller Smith, R. W.(Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)
Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L. Hurd, Percy A. Smithers, Waldron
Cranborne, Viscount Hurst, Sir Gerald B. Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Crookshank, Capt. H. C. King, Commodore Rt. Hon. Henry D. Southby, Commander A. R. J.
Croom-Johnson, R. P. Lamb, Sir J. Q. Stewart, W. J. (Belfast, South)
Dalrymple-White, Lt.-Col. Sir Godfrey Leighton, Major B. E. P. Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)
Davies, Dr. Vernon Little, Dr. E. Graham Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) Llewellin, Major J. J. Todd, Capt. A. J.
Edmondson, Major A. J. Long, Major Hon. Eric Turton, Robert Hugh
Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s. M.) Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.) Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert
Everard, W. Lindsay MacRobert, Rt. Hon. Alexander M. Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Falle, Sir Bertram G. Margesson, Captain H. D. Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah
Fermoy, Lord Meller, R. J. Wells, Sydney R.
Flelden, E. B. Millar, J. D. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Ford, Sir P. J. Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Forestier-Walker, Sir L. Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B. Withers, Sir John James
Galbraith, J. F. W. Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr) Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount
Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester) Womersley, W. J.
Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Muirhead, A. J.
Gower, Sir Robert Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Gray, Milner Ormsby-Gore. Rt. Hon. William Sir Frederick Thomson and Sir Victor Warrender.
Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London) Penny, Sir George
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West) Cowan, D. M. Isaacs, George
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Dagger, George Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher Dalton, Hugh Johnston, Thomas
Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigle M. Davies, E. C. (Montgomery) Jones, F. Llewellyn- (Flint)
Alpass, J. H. Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)
Ammon, Charles George Denman, Hon. R. D. Jones. Rt. Hon. Leif (Camborne)
Arnott, John Duncan, Charles Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.
Aske, Sir Robert Ede, James Chuter Jowitt, Sir W. A. (Preston)
Attlee, Clement Richard Edge, Sir William Kelly, W. T.
Ayles, Walter Edmunds, J. E. Kennedy, Thomas
Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bliston) Edwards, E. (Morpeth) Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.
Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley) Elmley, Viscount Kinley, J.
Barnes, Alfred John England, Colonel A. Lambert, Rt. Hon. George (S. Molton)
Barr, James Foot, Isaac Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George
Batey, Joseph Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton) Lathan, G.
Bellamy, Albert Gibbins, Joseph Law, Albert (Bolton)
Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood Gibson, H. M. (Lancs. Mossley) Law, A. (Rosendale)
Bennett, Capt. Sir E. N. (Cardiff C.) Gill, T. H. Lawrence, Susan
Benson, G. Gillett, George M. Leach, W.
Bentham, Dr. Ethel Gossling, A. G. Lee, Frank (Derby, N.E.)
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale) Gould, F. Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)
Birkett, W. Norman Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin.. Cent.) Lees, J.
Blindell, James Granville, E. Lewis, T. (Southampton)
Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Coine) Lloyd, C. Ellis
Bowen, J. W. Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Logan, David Gilbert
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.) Longbottom, A. W.
Broad, Francis Alfred Groves, Thomas E. Longden, F.
Brockway, A. Fenner Grundy, Thomas W. Lovat-Fraser, J. A.
Bromley, J. Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Lowth, Thomas
Brothers, M. Hall, Capt. W. G. (Portsmouth, C.) Lunn, William
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts. Mansfield) Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn) MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Zetland) MacDonald. Malcolm(Bassetlaw)
Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire) Hardie, George D. McElwee, A.
Brown, W. J. (Wolverhampton, West) Harris, Percy A. McEntee, V. L.
Buchanan, G. Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon McGovern, J. (Glasgow, Shettleston)
Burgess, F. G. Hastings, Dr. Somervill McKinlay, A.
Buxton, C. R. (Yorks. W. R. Elland) Haycock, A. W. MacLaren, Andrew
Caine, Derwent Hall- Hayday, Arthur Maclean, Sir Donald (Cornwall, N.)
Cameron, A. G. Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.) Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)
Cape, Thomas Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow) McShane, John James
Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S.W.) Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield) March, S.
Charleton, H. C. Herriotts, J. Marcus, M.
Chater, Daniel Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth) Markham, S. F.
Clarke, J. S. Hirst, W. (Bradford, South) Marley, J.
Cluse, W. S. Hoffman, P. C. Marshall, Fred
Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R. Hopkin, Daniel Mathers, George
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Horrabin, J. F. Matters, L. W.
Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock) Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield) Melville, Sir James
Compton, Joseph Hunter, Dr. Joseph Messer, Fred
Cove, William G. Hutchison, Maj.-Gen. Sir R. Middleton, G.
Mills, J. E. Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich) Sullivan, J.
Milner, Major J. Romeril, H. G. Sutton, J. E.
Montague, Frederick Rosbotham, D. S. T. Taylor R. A. (Lincoln)
Morley, Ralph Salter, Dr. Alfred Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)
Morris, Rhys Hopkins Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen) Thurtle, Ernest
Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh) Samuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West) Tinker, John Joseph
Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South) Sanders, W. S. Tout, W. J.
Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.) Sawyer, G. F. Townend, A. E.
Mort, D. L. Scott, James Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles
Muff, G. Scurr, John Vaughan, D. J.
Muggeridge, H. T. Sexton, James Viant, S. P.
Murnin, Hugh Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston) Walkden, A. G.
Noel Baker, P. J. Shepherd, Arthur Lewis Walker, J.
Noel-Buxton, Baroness (Norfolk, N.) Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittome Wallhead, Richard C.
Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley) Sherwood, G. H. Watkins, F. C.
Palin, John Henry Shillaker, J. F. Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)
Paling, Wilfrid Shinwell, E. Wayland, Sir William A.
Palmer, E. T. Simon, E. D. (Manch'ter, Withington) Wellock, Wilfred
Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan) Sinkinson, George Welsh, James (Paisley)
Perry, S. F. Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe) West, F. R.
Pethick-Lawrence, F. W. Smith, Frank (Nuneaton) Westwood, Joseph
Phillips, Dr. Marion Smith, H. B. Lees- (Keighley) Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)
Picton-Turbervill, Edith Smith, Rennie (Penistone) Whiteley, William (Blaydon)
Pole, Major D. G. Smith, Tom (Pontefract) Wilkinson, Ellen C.
Potts, John S. Smith, W. R. (Norwich) Williams Dr. J. H. (Lianelly)
Pybus, Percy John Snell, Harry Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Ramsay, T. B. Wilson Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Raynes, W. R. Snowden, Thomas (Accrington) Winterton, G. E.(Leicester, Loughb'gh)
Richards, R. Sorensen, R. Wise, E. F.
Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Stamford, Thomas W.
Riley, Ben (Dewsbury) Stewart, J. (St. Rollox) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees) Strachey, E. J. St. Loe Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. Hayes.
Ritson, J. Strauss, G. R.

Amendment made: In page 21, line 32, leave out "(4)," and insert instead thereof "(2)."—[Mr. W. R. Smith.]