HC Deb 06 July 1934 vol 291 cc2215-7

11.20 a.m.


I beg to move, in page 3, line 10, to leave out from "right," to the end of Sub-section.

The words in question are subject to any modification or adaptations specified in the order. That is to say, that an order under this Clause will give power to modify sections 19 to 28 and 30 to 34 of the Waterworks Clauses Act, 1847. I raised this matter on short notice in Committee, but I had not then fully studied all the sections concerned. I find that Sections 30 to 34 relate to the breaking up of streets while Sections 19 to 28 deal with a number of matters affecting the working of minerals, and it seems to me that if an order can be made modifying those provisions it may involve substantial changes in the existing law. When I raised this point previously the Solicitor-General had not been warned of it and presumably had not had an opportunity of studying the matter very carefully, and he gave an answer which did not seem to me at the moment to be adequate. For that reason I have put down this Amendment on the Report stage, in order to get a fuller statement as to why it is desired to modify or adapt these rather important sections of the Waterworks Clauses Act.

Marquess of HARTINGTON

I beg to second the Amendment.

11.22 a.m.

The SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir Donald Somervell)

The House will appreciate the fact that the Waterworks Clause Act, 1847, contains a number of Clauses which are not law by virtue of that Act, but only become law if embodied in private Acts of Parliament. The Act expressly contemplates, for obvious reasons, that in any such private Act using the machinery which is there set out, those Clauses may be expressly varied or excepted. They are general model Clauses, which in a private Act dealing with waterworks would likely require some modification or adaptation, having regard to particular local conditions. Under this Bill, insofar as it brings in and applies the Waterworks Clauses Act of 1847, the order which is to be made by the Railway and Canal Commission takes the place of the private Act of Parliament and the object of this proviso is that in dealing with the question of pipes being laid under the highway, the Railway and Canal Commission shall take the Waterworks Clauses Act as their guide, but, having regard to the difference of the subject-matter and the special local conditions, they will, of course, have to modify and adapt it.

The necessity for modification and adaptation becomes apparent if one looks at any of these Clauses. I take for example Section 28. It starts with the words "the undertakers" and "undertakers" are defined as the persons operating a special Act authorising them to construct waterworks. Obviously in connection with the Measure with which we are dealing, there will be no persons authorised by any special Act to construct waterworks. There will be people who have licences to bore for and obtain oil, and therefore at the very outset there would have to be a modification in the language of that Section of the Act of 1847. Then there are references throughout the Act of 1847 to "the special Act" which means, of course, a private Act of Parliament, and that has no application in this case.

This Clause says that the undertakers may do all other acts which the undertakers shall from time to time deem necessary for supplying water to the inhabitants of the district. Those words obviously require modification, because it is not contemplated to supply water to the inhabitants, but to obtain oil, and I am sure my hon. Friend will see at once that in applying the principles of this Act, it is obvious that modifications and adaptations have to be made. I am satisfied that I can relieve my hon. Friends of any fear that these words will entitle the Commission to drive a coach and horses through the principles of the Act. The words "modifications or adaptations" occur in many other Acts passed by this House, and they mean what they say. They do not entitle the persons who have the power to introduce modifications to alter the fundamental principles of the Act concerned; they merely entitle them to introduce such necessary modifications or alterations as are proper having regard to the different subject matter with which the Commission will be dealing as compared with the subject matter contemplated by the Waterworks Clauses Act. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving me this opportunity of making a fuller explanation than I could in Committee, and I hope that with that explanation he will be able to withdraw his Amendment.


With the permission of the House, may I ask one further question? Under Section 22 there is provision for the working of minerals lying near the works not to be worked without notice, and in Section 23 there are provisions with regard to compensation. Can the hon. and learned Gentleman assure me that in no case will people be deprived of their rights under those Sections?


If the works in question affect mines or minerals, quite plainly the mine or mineral owners will have the rights set out in the Clauses to which the hon. Member has referred, and the Railway and Canal Commission will have to apply the principle of the Bill, making the necessary modifications having regard to the different subject matter.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.