HC Deb 08 June 1944 vol 400 cc1596-9
Mr. Alexander Walkden (Bristol, South)

I beg to move, in page 5, line 9, after "a," to insert "county."

This is a very small Amendment which I think will be helpful. I only move it because it appears to have been overlooked in the drafting of the Bill. In Clause 5 it is laid down that "local authority" means the council of a borough, urban district or rural district, but it does not include the council of a county. I am sure the Minister would desire that the county should be free to act as a local authority in connection with this matter in conjunction with the lesser authorities. I am advised by a friend who has studied the Bill from the point of view of public authorities that it is very desirable that the word "county" should be included here, to remove any doubt as to whether a county may function and may make a contribution and so on. We do not want any learned person to come along and say that counties are outside the Bill bcause they are not mentioned in this definition Clause.

Miss Horsbrugh

Leaving out the word "county" was not an omission; it was because, as the hon. Gentleman will see, Clause 5 refers to the duty of statutory water undertakers to accept guarantees from local authorities, and local authorities are defined in the Clause. They are so defined because the local authority which will give the guarantee will be the council of a borough, urban district or rural district, and not a county council. The county council certainly can give a contribution, large or small, but the actual authority that has the responsibility placed upon it of getting the work done is not the county council but one of the particular local authorities mentioned. We feel it is those authorities which should have the duty of giving the guarantee.

Perhaps the hon. Member will say, "Why leave it to one authority; why not say every authority can give a guarantee?" We think it is well to avoid concurrent powers. If there is power given to these local authorities and to a county authority as well, we 'may find that there are disputes and that one authority will say that the other should give the guarantee. As the responsibility is laid upon these particular local authorities to do this work, we feel that the responsibility of the guarantee should be on them and not be shared, that they should not have concurrent powers with the county council. I hope I have made it clear why the county council has been left out; it was carefully thought over. We think it is better that the council responsible for carrying out the work should be the local authority to give the guarantee.

Mr. A. Walkden

In view of the information given by the hon. Lady I am not disposed to press this little Amendment except to ask whether I can take it from her firm assurance that the county council cannot avoid its responsibility of making a contribution, although other people are to carry out the work?

Miss Horsbrugh

Yes, this does not in any way affect the obligation of the county council or the county council's contribution. I can give that assurance at once.

Mr. A. Walkden

In view of that assurance I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

Mr. Quibell (Brigg)

I should like the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary to give us some explanation of Sub-section (I) of Clause 5. I cannot understand it. It says: where the owners or occupiers of any premises in a rural locality can require statutory water undertakers to bring water to that locality if the aggregate amount of the water rates which will be payable annually in respect of those premises will not be less than a prescribed fraction of the cost to be incurred by the undertakers in complying with the requisition, and if the owners or occupiers of those premises agree to take a supply of water for a prescribed period. I think that plainer words could have been used. The only inference I can draw from this Clause is that the statutory water undertakers shall be required to take a supply of water to a locality, and if the numbers of people in the particular premises to which water is taken is not sufficient to cover the prescribed fraction of the cost, guarantees must be given by the local authority for the difference between the aggregate amount of the rates and the prescribed fraction of the cost.

Mr. Willink

I sympathise with the hon. Member, as I found myself in the same difficulty when I first saw the draft of this Bill; but when I explain I think he will see it is not an easy matter to draft. The position is this: In the legislation setting up statutory water undertakers it is very frequent, it may be universal, that the statutory undertaker has to bring a supply if there are those who say they will take water if it is supplied and if the income which will be produced by these people when they take that water reaches a certain proportion of the cost of the work that has to be done on extending the mains. There are cases where it would be desirable for water to be supplied, but the people to be supplied are not sufficient in number and the income which would be produced from them if the water were supplied to them is not sufficient, to bring these statutory obligations into effect. The first sub-section of this Clause describes the conditions in which this Clause, which is new law—it has not existed before—is to apply. This Clause is to apply in any case where owners or occupiers of premises somewhere in the countryside can require a statutory water company to bring water to them if the income reaches a certain proportion of the cost of the work that is to be done on extending the mains and they agree to take the water. In those circumstances, local authorities can under this Clause guarantee that the income will reach that sum annually, in order to satisfy the statutory undertaker. There have been cases where, in spite of that guarantee being given, the statutory undertaker has said. "I am not bound to accept your guarantee; the prospect of doing the work does not appeal to me." The whole effect of this Clause is that, where a local authority gives such a guarantee, the statutory water undertaker has to accept it and do the work.

Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.

Clause 6 ordered to stand part of the Bill.