§ Sir T. Dugdale
I beg to move, in page 40, line 1, after "apply," to insert:and so much of Section six of that Act as provides that a person against whom proceedings are proposed to be taken under Part III of that Act may object to such proceedings being taken, and requires that a sanitary authority shall afford such a person an opportunity of being heard against such proceedings being taken, and provides for matters incidental to such hearing, shall not apply to proceedings which are proposed to be taken by a River Board.This Amendment is designed to simplify the machinery of the Rivers Pollution Prevention Act, 1876, where river boards are desirous of taking proceedings to stop pollution. It is agreed by both sides of the House that this Act is very unsatisfactory and out of date. The procedure to be adopted under it can be divided into four different steps. The first is that if action is proposed under the Act an application must be made to the Minister of Health for permission to prosecute. If that has been received the next step is the investigation of the case by the Ministry followed by either permission or refusal for the prosecution to be commenced. The third stage is that where permission to prosecute has been granted, a period of two months must elapse during which time the offender may require the authority proposing to prosecute to hear him in public why it should not do so. The Amendment proposes to delete that stage in order to simplify the machinery. The fourth stage is, following that period, the bringing of proceedings before the county court assisted by skilled assessors.
The Amendment does not in any way alter the incidence of existing pollution legislation but merely expedites the pro- 2183 ceedings where the Minister himself has agreed that a good case exists to be brought before the courts. We realise that at this stage it would be wrong to recommend any change in the law because we are aware that a sub-committee of the Central Advisory Water Committee is considering the whole question of pollution and that this Bill is a machinery Bill. A river board will be set up and its success or failure to do its job will depend upon future legislation dealing with the ever-increasing evil of pollution. However, pending legislation, we feel that we ought, to make certain suggestions in order to simplify the procedure, which appears to be cumbersome.
I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to give us some guidance on this point. I would like to hear him say that the Central Advisory Water Committee are likely to report in the immediate future and that he is prepared to have the report published and made available to hon. Members immediately. It would be very helpful to the House and the country if we could know that he hopes that the report will be in our hands during 1948. We had only a short discussion on this point during the Committee stage because we hoped that when we got to this stage in the proceedings the Parliamentary Secretary might have further information to give us about the future activities of that sub-committee. Meanwhile, we suggest in this Amendment that the present method of approaching this problem under the 1876 Act be reviewed and simplified.
§ Mr. John Morrison (Salisbury)
I beg to second the Amendment.
I do not want to take up the time of the House, for a great deal has been said on the subject of pollution. The Amendment is a step towards dealing with the matter.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Mr. J. Edwards)
I do not want to follow the hon. Baronet the Member for Richmond (Sir T. Dugdale) into a discussion about the procedure which has to be followed because, in resisting this Amendment, I take my stand, as I did in Standing Committee, on a matter of considerable principle. We have already instituted through a subcommittee of the Central Advisory Water 2184 Committee a comprehensive investigation of the law in relation to the prevention of pollution. This sub-committee comprises persons who have a first-hand knowledge of the problem. They have been given a free hand. They are being assisted by expert assessors from all the interested Government Departments. They have taken written and oral evidence from every interest concerned and are, I am confident, examining all the problems, including the very question of the procedure covered by the Amendment. I put it to the hon. Baronet and his hon. Friends that it would be most unfair to the subcommittee if we were to pre-judge their deliberations in this manner. Nevertheless, I would be the last person to want to deter the House from doing something about pollution if I thought that something in this way could be done, or if I thought that not doing this would impair the work of the river boards.
The sub-committee are at work. They are considering the terms in which they shall report. I have every reason to expect that the report will be made this year, and certainly as soon as it is available we shall proceed with its publication. If it were possible to single out procedures or things of that kind there might be something to be said for taking this step today, but we have a well conceived programme for dealing with the whole matter in which we have carried hon. Members on both sides of the House with us. The programme is that, first, we should form the river boards—authorities with comprehensive powers who will be responsible for the whole river system—and get rid, by so doing, of the present patchwork of piecemeal administration, which is commonly agreed to be the greatest defect in our present system; and then, as closely afterwards as possible, give new powers to the boards and have a large programme of new works of sewerage, sewage disposal and so on as circumstances permit.
It is on the grounds that I am most reluctant to accept isolated amendments of the law while the whole matter is being reviewed that I resist the Amendment. I am quite sure that the time it will take after this Bill has become law to get the river boards set up and working will be ample for us to consider the report of the sub-committee, have it properly discussed with all the interested parties and, in due course, to confer the necessary powers on the river boards. I 2185 hope that the hon. Baronet will feel that in the light of this explanation he need not press his Amendment. I assure him that we are as concerned as he is about pollution, but we do not want to prejudge the issue and embarrass these distinguished people who are giving their time and energy to a complete survey of the problems involved in the law relating to water pollution.
§ Mr. Turton
The Parliamentary Secretary said that to accept the Amendment would not be fair to the sub-committee but by denying the acceptance of the Amendment he is not being fair to the rivers. Let us admit that the whole law of pollution must be remedied, but it will take many years before we get a Pollution Bill before the House of Commons. What hope has the Minister of Agriculture of getting a Pollution Bill into next Session's programme? If it is likely that there will be no Pollution Bill before Parliament in the near future, surely that is a strong reason for wiping out one archaic feature of the present law. Nobody on the sub-committee or in this House can defend the position that, having obtained the Minister's approval to prosecute and having held the local inquiry, there should be two months' delay while we haggle with the sanitary authorities. Surely we might remove the two months? That will mean that the rivers will be less polluted than they will otherwise be and our mechanism will be that much speedier. I agree that it now takes some 10 months from the time the nuisance first occurs until proceedings are taken in the county court. All we are doing is reducing the 10 months by two months but that is a great advantage. That is an interim measure, and after a few years when the Minister of Agriculture—I expect that he will be a Minister of Agriculture of a different political complexion—brings in—
§ Mr. Turton
The hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Stubbs) says that he has some hopes. I can tell him that his hopes are very probable expectations and he may well think about the future with little complacency. I am at one with the Parliamentary Secretary in wanting to get the whole of the pollution law into the melting 2186 pot and devising a new and up-to-date method of procedure, but let us not have this non possumus attitude that until that happens the Government will do everything to retain the archaic features of the system which our ancestors have handed to us simply because they feel that we must not do something piecemeal for fear of offending some sub-committee. I hope that my hon. and gallant Friend will press his Amendment to a Division.
Mr. David Kenton (Huntingdon)
Again I find the Government's attitude quite incomprehensible. Several times through the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary the Government have agreed that the present situation is most unsatisfactory, and they have told us in the plainest possible terms that nothing can be done about it very soon. If the subcommittee were reporting next month and the Report being implemented by legislation this Session, I would agree with the Parliamentary Secretary that it would be rather offensive to the sub-committee to pass this Amendment now, but the position is very different. The position is that the report may be available this year and we do not know whether there will be legislation even in the next Session. I asked the Parliamentary Secretary in Committee if there was any chance of it and he said that he could give no undertaking.
Bearing in mind that there is to be this very considerable gap before matters are improved, I should have thought the sub-committee could not possibly have been offended if the Government said, "We are not trying to hustle you or to prejudice your findings but, bearing in mind that your recommendations cannot be carried out for quite a long time, would you, entirely without prejudice, accept this stop-gap Measure in order to prevent delays until something more satisfactory can be arranged?" A committee of reasonable men could not possibly be offended by an approach in that manner, and for that reason, I invite the House entirely to disregard what the Parliamentary Secretary said about the feelings of the sub-committee.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."2187
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ Mr. G. Brown
I am glad to have the opportunity of speaking on the Third Reading of this important Measure. We have heard speeches telling us that the Bill is in many ways a small one, but it is a step forward, and an important step forward. It has been welcomed from every side of the House. The welcome from the Opposition side of the House was, it seemed to me, a little lukewarm, but I gathered that their enthusiasm for the Bill developed as they were the more convinced that we were not going to operate it as Conservative Governments in the past would have done. I am not sure that we have fully convinced them about it, but it is clear that they ate more keen and enthusiastic about the Bill than they were when it was first introduced.
The Bill is an important step forward in the development of machinery and in the unification of control of our rural drainage systems. We have heard speeches referring to the archaic customs of our ancestors, and other such rolling phrases, but the fact is that we have been talking about unification of this control for very nearly a century, certainly for well over half a century. I might be forgiven therefore for saying how proud and glad I am that it has been left to this Labour Government to take this opportunity to proceed to the next step from the first step which was taken by the previous Labour Government, as a result of which land drainage has been in a very much better condition than it would otherwise have been. The River Boards Bill carries on that great work. It has been well said in other connections that Labour gets things done. The Bill bears out the truth of that well-known statement.
I have said that this is an important Bill. We recognise it as only a step forward. We have to complete that step forward. We have now to proceed to set up river boards. I would like to assure the House that we shall lose as little time as we can in carrying out the most important part of that step. Getting the river boards set up will involve considerable consultation with all sorts of people. Quite a lot of work will be involved, but no time will be lost. It is the intention of my right hon. Friend to 2188 proceed immediately with the completion of this step. The next step is the modernisation of the pollution and drain age legislation of this country generally. Sub-committees of the Central Water Advisory Committee are hard at work on the subject. In passing this Bill on its way I want to say how much one hopes, and is sure, that it will fall to the lot of a Labour Government, perhaps even of this Labour Government, to carry the whole thing a step forward by introducing important legislation for modernising our attitude on these matters If this task does not fall to a Labour Government then, unless the whole history of this country for the last century or two is to be falsified, the task will not be done at all.
The Bill is very largely a compromise Measure. It has involved taking into account the views of a variety of interests and keeping a firm and fair balance among those interests. It has followed, because of that, that my right hon. Friend has had to resist a number of Amendments which have had as their purpose the advancement of sectional interests. He has had to preserve the balance, in spite of the blandishments, and sometimes the accusations, which have come from the other side of the House. The result is that there will be a much happier atmosphere for the commencement of the operation of the Bill than if we had allowed ourselves to be persuaded to disturb the balance which had been so painfully reached. I am sure that the House will be in full agreement with the attitude that my right hon. Friend has adopted on that point. During its passage through the House the Bill has been improved in many ways. We would like to thank hon. Members for the very calm and careful consideration which the Bill has had. There was only one time when the calm was disturbed, and that was when an hon. Baronet opposite physically assaulted his right hon. and gallant Friend by heaving his glasses at him. On that occasion, my sympathies were equally divided between the hon. Baronet and his right hon. Friend. Otherwise we have had a very calm discussion.
The Opposition have suggested at various stages that the Bill showed an undue partiality for the interests of urban districts generally. It was suggested even that it was somehow a little indecent that 2189 my right hon. Friend, as Minister of Agriculture, should be concerned with urban interests in the way that has been alleged. We think it is wrong to suggest that the Bill shows partiality in any way to urban interests. The countryside cannot simultaneously get the assistance of townsfolk in dealing with these problems and at the same time expect to hold the townsfolk at arms length. It is important that we should get this point clear. We think that the townsfolk and the urban districts have to accept their share of responsibility for things which might seem primarily to be a countryman's interest but which are an important part of the general life of the country. If that is so, those who claim to have the interests of the countryside at heart must not try to keep alive all the antagonisms many of which are quite artificial and have the effect 'of divorcing and dividing that important community of interest.
The Bill seeks to give, and I believe it does give, to urban areas a representation which emphasises the responsibility which they are now being asked to accept. We believe that to be a fair and a very important principle, if the new river boards are to get off to a good start. For half a century or more we have overlooked the importance to our river systems of unification of control. When the Bill finally leaves us we believe it will lead to cleaner rivers and better sport for anglers, something which is very much the concern of hon. Members all round the House. We believe it will lead to much greater development of drainage work. Many of the older authorities, the Catchment Boards and the even older one, the Fishery Boards, have done extremely good work, but they have been cruelly handicapped very often by lack of support and facilities. We believe that the support and facilities given by the Bill will enable their work to be carried very much further. When the river boards are established and as their work develops, we believe that much that now shames us about our rivers will be gone for ever. It is in that spirit that the Bill marks an important step forward in this highly desirable, very necessary and overdue work of unifying the control of our rivers.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Sir T. Dugdale
I know that I can associate myself and my hon. Friends on this side of the House with the closing 2190 words of the Parliamentary Secretary's speech. We welcome the Bill in the main as being a step forward in setting up a comprehensive authority for all functions connected with rivers. We hope that the improvements that the river boards will be able to accomplish in their areas will be very marked from every point of view. We consider that the Bill is only a machinery Bill, although it is a very necessary bit of machinery. Its success or otherwise, as I said earlier in the evening, must depend upon future legislation dealing with pollution, which some Government of some complexion will have to carry through this House. I would not agree with the Parliamentary Secretary in his assumption that it must be a Labour administration.
During the passage of the Bill we have emphasised at all stages the overdue representation of the urban areas. We do not seek in any way—to use the Parliamentary Secretary's term—to keep old antagonisms alive. We take the view that urban areas with a high rateable value have been given undue representation as compared with rural areas, which are much more intimately associated and concerned with river problems of drainage, fisheries and pollution. They have had more experience in these matters. We therefore feel that urban representation has been overdone.
The Government have insisted that, irrespective of the financial contribution, local authorities should never nominate fewer than three-fifths of the total membership of any river board. We consider that proportion to be wrong and that is why we have argued that point through all the stages of the Bill. We admit that the number of cases where land drainage provides, say, three-quarters of the total income of an existing catchment board, must be very small, but this is the place in this country where minorities are protected. This House is the guardian of minority interests. On these benches we have done our utmost to safeguard the interests of these catchment boards and have tried to convince the Government that they should give further consideration to this aspect of the matter.
The Minister has tried to meet the point that we raised on Clause 2 in connection with fishery interests. We do not consider that he has gone far enough and we are sorry that he was not able to meet us by appointing a fishery committee for regu- 2191 lating matters connected with fisheries. The fishery interests of this country have done a great deal in all the river board areas under the Salmon and Fresh Water Fisheries Act, 1923. They feel very strongly that what they gained through that Act is now being taken away from them under this Bill. They have made a great contribution to improving the cleanliness of our river system, and we wish the Minister had been able to go further in that regard.
I want to raise one other point which I do not think has been discussed to any great extent during the passage of this Bill, that is, the taking of water from rivers. I urge the Minister to lose no time in setting up these river boards. The sooner they are set up the better. We may be faced—I think we shall—with the prospect of a severe drought in parts of the country during the Summer. This will mean that water authorities will have much pressure put on them to abstract water from rivers. I believe this to be a disastrous policy in the long run. You cannot keep on taking water from rivers and expect the flow to continue indefinitely. When more and more water is wanted in the country and in the great cities, I trust that the river boards will be strong enough and important enough to resist such pressure from water undertakings, and will be able to encourage the full exploration of possible alternative supplies, such as deep wells and other sources, before acceding to abstraction from rivers. As the usages of water, which are growing, expand still further, we shall find ourselves short of water unless definite measures are taken to watch the water supply. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary, when he is dealing with that aspect of the matter, will take note of this point. Finally, I would wish, as I know my hon. Friends on this side wish, success to every river board when it is established. Each river board will have to do a very difficult job, a very important job, and a very necessary job for the wellbeing of the countryside and the nation.
§ 7.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Renton
Generally at this stage of a Bill we are able to rejoice that, by the efforts of Members on both sides, the Bill has been improved since it was introduced. On this occasion, however, I regret to 2192 have to place on record my view that this Bill is not now as good as when it first came here. I say that mainly because the representation on river boards has been altered, and because I believe the Minister has adopted an attitude there which is not likely, in the long run, to produce the best results. Bearing in mind the importance of angling and fishing interests—and it was not until I came to study this Bill, and heard it talked about, that I realised the difference between angling and fishing, and even now only realise that angling is fishing writ large—it seems to me that their representation by only two members is not enough. As the hon. Baronet has mentioned, it is most important that the interests of minorities should be protected in a democracy, and I do not feel that we have sufficiently represented on the river boards that very worthy minority of people who in their leisure time engage in angling and fishing.
The Parliamentary Secretary welcomed the support he had had from both sides of the House, but I felt that his welcome was a little besmirched by the party capital he tried to make at the expense of my hon. Friends above the gangway, as to the competence of one party or the other to make these river boards function well. I should have thought that, if we wanted them to function well, that was the wrong way to start off. In conclusion, may I ask the Minister when he intends to set up the river boards? If it is not in the nature of a red-herring, I should like also to have enlightenment on one further point: that is, if and when a river which is at present polluted is again purified, will the river board have power to re-stock the river with fish? Nature has wonderful ways of bringing fish to places where fish can thrive, but nature works very slowly, and it will obviously be necessary to consider the possibility of re-stocking the rivers. I should like to know whether river boards will have power to do so.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Ivor Thomas (Keighley)
This subject is of deep interest to my constituents, many of whose homes were flooded in 1946, and to many others who are obliged to pay drainage rates although they cannot possibly derive any benefit from them, and in spite of the provisions in the Land Drainage Act of 1930, Section 1 (5). This 2193 is a good Bill, introduced by a good Minister—one of the best in the Government I should say—and I intervene only to urge him not to be weary in well doing but to go on with his good work. He knows there are many difficulties in the existing law, still embodied in this Bill, which need to be put right.
The operation of the drainage boards is one of them. On the lower slopes of Ilkley Moor, although well above the flood level, there are many dauntless Hampdens in militant mood who are very reluctant to pay their drainage rates. I know he will attend to this problem, because he has stated that a sub-committee of the Central Water Advisory Committee is studying this problem and he hopes that legislation will follow. I hope it will fall to him to introduce that legislation at an early date. I have only one other matter to refer to, and that is the question of representation on river boards which has been raised by several hon. Members. We feel, in my part of the world, that the rural interests are very well represented, and so are the large urban interests; but I can see no provision for representation of non-county boroughs. I did not feel it proper to put down an Amendment on this point, but when the Minister constitutes these bodies I hope he will use them to ensure that these areas are properly represented. With those few words, I give my full blessing to this Measure.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Lambert (South Molton)
I think hon. Members in all quarters of the House are in agreement with the general intention of this Bill, which is to ensure that our rivers are cleaner and our land is better drained. However, as one who has the honour to represent an agricultural and rural constituency, I feel that the rural interests have been sacrificed for the urban interests. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) who expressed disagreement with the representation of the river boards. In my constituency, and in fact all over Devonshire, there is considerable apprehension among the fishery interests. They are wondering how they will fare under the Bill. I urge the Minister, in administering this Bill, to let them see that they will fare well, because they represent a considerable proportion of the community, and without their good 2194 will the working of the Bill cannot be as good as it might be.
In conclusion, I would like to put in the claim of Devonshire to have two river boards when the Minister draws them up. It is a large county and has many rivers —admittedly small ones, but they are of considerable importance locally. In addition, the county is divided by Dartmoor, and the people north of Dartmoor have little or no identity of interests with the people south of Dartmoor. Therefore, I urge the Minister to see that Devon is well represented.
§ 7.12 p.m.
Mr. Cherwynd (Stockton-on-Tees)
I hope the hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) will not mind if I do not follow him in his allusions to the inhabitants of Dartmoor. I think some of them would welcome an opportunity of doing a little fishing now and again. I want only to make a brief intervention to express the hope that my right hon. Friend will set up these river boards as soon as possible, and that in a reasonable time he will give us some idea of the geographical areas of the river boards. There is bound to be a good deal of local wrangling as to which areas should be allotted to any particular board.
In my own part of the country I do not think we shall have much trouble with the River Tees, because it makes a homogeneous unit for a single river board administration. We have heard so much about the differences of rural and urban areas as regards river boards, but we ought to stop regarding this as a kind of dog fight between the two. The river should be a unifying force, and not one which divides one community from another. It is the same water which starts at the source and finishes in the sea. We ought to look on the river as a unit and not as an interest to be fought over between rural and urban districts.
The hon. and gallant Member for Richmond (Sir T. Dugdale) said that this was a machinery Bill. I agree entirely. Then he said that it would not be of much use unless further legislation ensued. It will not be of much use unless we have the right men to work it. We want men with vision and foresight, men who feel that they have a mission to make our rivers really worth while. If we have those people now, we need not wait until further legis- 2195 lation ensues, because they can ensure by vigorous action that the best possible use is made of our rivers. I hope, whether it is a Labour Government or any other Government, that our deliberations will result in much bigger and better fishing for many anglers all over the country.
§ 7.15 p.m.
Dr. Barnett Stress (Hanley)
As one who represents an urban constituency, I express my approval of this Bill. The River Trent runs through my Division of Hanley, rising two or three miles away, and for some time we have been suffering from great pollution of this river. We are also aware that a change has occurred, for certain reasons, which makes us the keenest advocates of a Bill of this kind which will help to clean up our own river. This evening there has been reference to the tension that exists between urban and rural interests. I do not agree that that tension really does exist today. With very little encouragement we can abolish this tension, because our interests are now becoming the same. The days of indiscriminate and licentious use of our rivers are now passing; great masses of our people, certainly in my constituency, want to see our own river cleaned up, and that must apply to the whole of the country.
We are particularly conscious that we gained a great advantage through the pollution of this river where it runs through my own area. We have near us a great estate where the Dukes of Sutherland and Trentham have lived. It virtually belongs to the city now, but we doubt very much whether we would have been allowed to use it if it had not been that by pollution of the river we drove the original owners out. We made it very offensive. We made it almost impossible for anyone who was sensitive to smell to live on the estate. We are, as it were, poachers who are now likely to become gamekeepers. Having obtained some privilege, we want to see it perpetuated, and we would like the original conditions to be brought back. That does not mean that we would welcome back the original owner, because 60 or 70 years' usage have made us so accustomed to the amenities of one of the loveliest estates and parks, particularly the Italian Park, that anyone has ever seen.
Anything that is done to allow simple, clean sport for urban dwellers is bound 2196 to have the fullest support of those who have to live in our cities. Therefore, anything that will help us in this direction must receive our support. There is no difference between the interests of those who live in the countryside and those who live in the cities.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Mr. T. Williams
Before we reach the final chapter of this Bill, I would like to express my thanks to hon. Members in all parts of the House, and particularly those who have followed the Bill through the Second Reading, Committee and Report stages. I believe the Bill may, perhaps, be slightly improved, compared with what it was when it first arrived in this House. As the hon. and gallant Member for Richmond (Sir T. Dugdale) truly said, this is a machinery Bill, but I think it is a Bill of great importance nevertheless. Once we can have the report of the sub-committee dealing with pollution and drainage, and we can clothe the machinery with the right powers, this Bill will be the foundation stone upon which we can build cleaner rivers, better drainage, agriculture, and fishing, and better sport all round.
I have about three points to reply to. I would like, first, to reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Richmond and the hon. Members for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) and Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) who said that the rural areas were let down in this Bill. They seem to have forgotten, because they wanted to forget, that if there is a balance of advantage at all in this Bill with regard to urban or rural representation, the rural areas have got it. May I remind those hon. Members that in 42 of 52 catchment boards, drainage boards pay less than one-third of the revenue, and yet we give them at least one-third of the representation? In 18 catchment areas, drainage boards did not pay a penny, yet we give them at least one-third of the representation. I think it is right that that should be so, but it is utterly contrary to the suggestion that rural Britain is left out. In fact, in this Bill rural areas have been given a fairly big piece of the pie.
The hon. Member for Huntingdon referred to minorities and to anglers in particular. He will perhaps be happier when he knows that the main fishery boards, who have been operating very successfully, particularly in the West 2197 Riding of Yorkshire and Lancashire, are quite happy with the Bill as it stands. The anglers' national association are quite pleased with the assurance given them in Committee. Since then there has been no representation from them, but they are satisfied that we mean well and will fulfil our pledges and that minorities are safeguarded within the Bill. The hon. Member also asked when the river boards will be set up. I am afraid that before the last is set up one or two years, or even more, will have passed. I can assure him, however, that no time will be lost. Catchment boards are very anxious that the transformation shall take place so that they can start tomorrow where they leave off today. They are anxious to accept and fulfil their new obligations. No time will be lost in setting up river boards. The hon. Member also asked about restocking rivers with fresh fish. Presumably that will be an obligation on the part of the river boards to decide where anglers wish to fish and to seek to satisfy their desires as nearly as practicable.
I am thankful to my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas) for his personal observations. He can rest assured that we are fully conscious of the drainage problems in many parts of the country where, unfortunately, remedies have not been found for periodic floods. I know how unpleasant it is when people are called upon to pay drainage rates and yet know that from time to time they are not protected from floods. Wherever it is possible for a river board to use their power and ingenuity to resolve problems which have been with us for a long time, I hope the boards will not hesitate to spend the money and do the job.
With every other Member, I want to see those millions of anglers enjoying themselves and agriculture improved because of better drainage. If this drainage problem had been dealt with 20 or 30 years ago in as determined a fashion as it is now being dealt with through the catchment boards, it would have been a very minor problem today. I hope this small but very important machinery Bill, which has been welcomed in every part of the House, will lay the foundation stone for better drainage throughout the country.
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed with Amendments.