HC Deb 19 October 1949 vol 468 cc699-710
Mr. Blenkinsop

I beg to move, in page 6, line 40, at the end, to insert: and shall serve a like notice on any river board or other drainage authority in whose area any of the work is to be carried out. This is one of the Amendments to which I referred earlier, and the object of it is to give effect to the pledge which I gave in Standing Committee; that is, that we should make statutory provision for a notice to be served on a drainage authority for any work proposed to be carried out by a coast protection authority in their area.

Colonel Dower (Penrith and Cockermouth)

Just to show that this Bill is not a party Measure, I have added my name to the Amendment of the Minister of Health. I hope that this will give encouragement to him, when serving on a Committee, to carry out the undertakings which he gives there when a Bill comes back to the floor of the House. My only other point is a small one. I should like to ask why the Bill comes from the Ministry of Health: why not the Ministry of Works, or the Ministry of Town and Country Planning?

Mr. R. S. Hudson

I should like to take this opportunity of thanking the Parliamentary Secretary for carrying out the promise of accepting the substance of Amendments proposed in the Standing Committee.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 6, line 43, after "such," insert "other."—[Mr. Blenkinsop.]

Mr. R. S. Hudson

I beg to move, in page 7, line 2, after "person," to insert (including, in the case of a proposal made by a coast protection board, any river board or drainage authority represented on that board). This is a very similar point to the one which we discussed on an earlier Amendment standing in my name. The words of my Amendment are, in our view, necessary for the avoidance of doubt in view of the statement by the Parliamentary Secretary on 2nd June, in the Standing Committee, when he said, speaking of Clause 5, that it does not specify the area. There was, he said, full opportunity for objections by anyone under that Clause, irrespective of where the works were done. That, I think, is fairly comprehensive and uncompromising. He further said that anyone, whether a constituent member of the drainage authority, or the board, or an individual, had a right to make objection. That is what was said. The interesting part is the inconsistency of that with the official reply by his right hon. Leader, the Minister of Health, to representations by the catchment boards, and also to the representatives of those boards in the conversations to which I have earlier referred.

Mr. Blenkinsop

indicated dissent

Mr. Hudson

The hon. Gentleman should not shake his head; he was not there.

Mr. Blenkinsop

The right hon. Gentleman was not there, either.

Mr. Hudson

Well, I think it is news to him.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Not at all.

Mr. Hudson

His officials have to administer this Bill even after, we hope, he has departed to other spheres in about two months' time. It is important from the point of view of the drainage authorities and the catchment boards that it should be abundantly clear that the officials of the Minister have important obligations imposed on them by statute and are not to be free to act at their own sweet will.

Mr. Blenkinsop

I am surprised the right hon. Gentleman should feel it necessary to move this Amendment after the very specific statement I have made on this subject. It is perfectly clear that there is the right of a constituent member of coast protection boards to make objections, though I do rather resent the suggestion that the coast protection boards and the drainage authorities are to be in a state of general perpetual warfare, which seems to be the attitude of mind of the right hon. Gentleman. The suggestion appears to be that the drainage authorities as constituent members of a board, or where they are constituent members of the boards, will be continuously in opposition to the work of the coast protection authority. That is extremely unlikely. In point of fact, the work that has to be done is for their joint benefit.

Indeed, we have the example in operation today in the work now proceeding at Caister, where the local authority and the drainage authority are co-operating very effectively together. That is merely an example of the co-operation we have every right to expect from responsible bodies working together. There is no sort of suggestion or reason why hon. Gentlemen opposite should imagine that there will be this continuous state of warfare and that there should be pressed upon, as it were, every constituent member of the coast protection board the opportunity of delaying the work of the coast protection boards by not only raising the matter within the board but, also, on every conceivable occasion that it may happen to be in the minority, bringing the matter forward to the Minister concerned.

There is no doubt that they have the right, if they wish to exercise it, of raising objections, but we believe that as a natural practice they will co-operate together, and we have every evidence to show that they will. For that reason and because we think this is a wholly unnecessary Amendment, we hope that the right hon. Gentleman will withdraw it, but if he presses it we shall take a Division upon it.

Mr. Joynson-Hicks (Chichester)

I really do not think the hon. Gentleman has been fair to the House. Just because on two occasions the possibility has been visualised from this side that there might be difficulties between a drainage board as a constituent member of the coast protection board and the coast protection board as a whole, and because we have sought to avoid the possibility of such difficulties arising, he has no right to suggest that we are contemplating a perpetual state of warfare between these two bodies. There is nothing of the sort. But what we visualise is that unless care is taken and unless goodwill is exercised, the Bill, as it is printed, does admit of friction being created, and we want to ensure by every possible means that no such friction will arise.

Mr. Blenkinsop

There is no special provision here that would encourage friction any more than the setting up of a drainage authority or other joint board where there are constituent members. They are responsible people. Why should we assume that there should be this disturbance?

10.45 p.m.

Mr. Joynson-Hicks

Let me tell the hon. Gentleman straight away that to begin with, he has created a singularly bad impression with the drainage boards because his Department has given them to understand that any representations which they may make as minority members are going to be over-ruled. That is the impression that has been left on the minds of representatives of drainage boards. I do not say that it is a correct impression, but the hon. Gentleman has started on the wrong foot and we are trying to put him on the right foot—on the right road. Once we get him on the right foot we hope we shall get him on the right road, and that will be a considerable advance.

There is no technical or real difficulty in accepting our Amendment. The hon. Gentleman says that the effect we are trying to establish is already in the Bill, but there is doubt, if not in his mind, at least in other people's minds, whether it is already in the Bill. If he wants to promote a cordial atmosphere and bonhomie between these two bodies, why does he not take this simple step? It can do no harm; it removes doubts and avoids confusion. I hope the hon. Gentleman will get on the right road and accept this Amendment without further ado.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman to reconsider his attitude because it seems to me he is making very heavy weather indeed with what is really a very simple matter, and largely one of drafting. An Amendment which he himself moved to subsection (1) of Section 5, provides that notice has to be given to a drainage authority by a coast protection authority proposing to do work. Subsection (3) says that where notice has been published by an authority, then any person may serve a notice on the Minister giving notice of

objection. That is the effect of subsection (3). All this Amendment seeks to do is to ensure beyond all manner of doubt that in the definition of the words "any person" there should be included the river board and drainage authority.

The hon. Gentleman may say that these words are not necessary. On the other hand, they obviously remove doubt and would remove any possibility of friction—which appears unfortunately to have arisen following an interview in his own Department. It seems that this is largely a matter of drafting and not a matter of perpetual warfare between the two bodies, or between the two bodies and the Ministry. In view of the fact that the hon. Gentleman has made specific reference to drainage authorities in subsection (1), the omission from subsection (3) might be taken, reading the two together, to infer that the definition of "any person" in subsection (3) would exclude the drainage authorities.

It really cannot do any harm as far as I can see, and from what the hon. Gentleman said, to accept this Amendment. It is clearly carrying out the present intention of the Government, and all that we are asking is that that intention should be made absolutely clear in this complicated Measure. It is for those reasons I ask him to reconsider the matter.

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

The House divided: Ayes, 74: Noes, 189.

Division No. 254.] AYES [10.51 p.m.
Agnew, Cmdr. P. G. Granville, E. (Eye) Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)
Amory, D. Heathcoat Harvey, Air-Comdre, A. V. Roberts, P. G. (Ecclesall)
Baldwin, A. E. Henderson, John (Cathcart) Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Barlow, Sir J. Hogg, Hon. Q. Ropner, Col. L.
Beamish, Maj. T. V. H. Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport) Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)
Bennett, Sir P. Hutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'rgh, W.) Scott, Lord W.
Birch, Nigel Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C.) Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)
Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells) Jeffreys, General Sir G. Strauss, Henry (English Universities)
Bowen, R. Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W. Studholme, H. G.
Bower, N. Keeling, E. H. Teeling, William
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Turton, R. H.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral) Vane, W. M. F.
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Lucas, Major Sir J. Wadsworth, G.
Butcher, H. W. Lucas-Tooth, Sir H. Wakefield, Sir W. W.
Clarke, Col. R. S. McFarlane, C. S. Walker-Smith, D.
Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow) McKie, J. H. (Galloway) Wheatley, Colonel M. J. (Dorset, E.)
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Maclean, F. H. R. (Lancaster) White, Sir D. (Fareham)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Manningham-Buller, R. E. Williams, C. (Torquay)
Darling, Sir W. Y. Marlowe, A. A. H. Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Digby, S. Wingfield Marples, A. E. Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Dower, Col. A. V. G. (Penrith) Marshall, D. (Bodmin) York, C.
Drayson, G. B. Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury) Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)
Drewe, C. Neven-Spence, Sir B.
Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead) Nield, B. (Chester) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Gates, Maj. E. E. Odey, G. W. Major Conant and
Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. Peto, Brig. C. H. M. Brigadier Mackeson.
Adams, Richard (Balham) Hardy, E. A. Pannell, T. C.
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth) Harrison, J. Pargiter, G. A.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Hastings, Dr. Somerville, Parkin, B. T.
Alpass, J. H. Haworth, J. Pearson, A.
Attewell, H. C. Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick) Porter, E. (Warrington)
Austin, H. Lewis Herbison, Miss M. Porter, G. (Leeds)
Awbery, S. S. Hewitson, Capt. M. Price, M. Philips
Balfour, A. Hobson, C. R. Pryde, D. J.
Barton, C. Holman, P. Pursey, Comdr. H.
Bechervaise, A. E. Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth) Ranger, J.
Binns, J. Horabin, T. L. Rankin, J.
Blenkinsop, A. Houghton, Douglas Reeves, J.
Blyton, W. R. Hoy, J. Reid, T. (Swindon)
Boardman, H. Hubbard, T. Rhodes, H.
Brook, D. (Halifax) Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme) Richards, R.
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell) Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.) Ridealgh, Mrs. M.
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Hynd, J. B. (Atterclifle) Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)
Brown, George (Belper) Janner, B. Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Burden, T. W. Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S. E.) Ross, William (Kilmarnock)
Burke, W. A. Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool) Royle, C.
Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.) Jones, J. H. (Balton) Sargood, R.
Callaghan, James Keenan, W. Scollan, T.
Carmichael, James Kenyon, C. Shackleton, E. A. A.
Champion, A. J. Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E. Sharp, Granville
Cocks, F. S. Kinley, J. Shurmer, P.
Coldrick, W. Lang, G. Silverman, J. (Erdington)
Collindridge, F. Lavers, S. Simmons, C. J.
Collins, V. J. Lee, F. (Hulme) Skinnard, F. W.
Colman, Miss G. M. Leonard, W. Smith, C. (Colchester)
Cook, T. F. Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton) Smith, S. H. (Hull, S. W.)
Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N. W.) Lewis, J. (Bolton) Snow, J. W.
Corlett, Dr. J. Lewis, T. (Southampton) Sorensen, R. W.
Cove, W. G. Lindgren, G. S. Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Davies, Edward (Burslem) Logan, D. G. Steele, T.
Deer, G. Longden, F. Swingler, S.
Delargy, H. J. Lyne, A. W. Sylvester, G. O.
Diamond, J. McAdam, W. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Dobbie, W. McGhee, H. G. Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)
Dodds, N. N. McKay, J. (Wallsend) Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)
Driberg, T. E. N. Maclean, N. (Govan) Tiffany, S.
Dye, S. McLaavy, F. Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Turner-Samuels, M.
Evans, E. (Lowestoft) Mainwaring, W. H. Ungoed-Thomas, L.
Evans, John (Ogmore) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury) Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersheld) Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)
Ewart, R. Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping) Warbey, W. N.
Fairhurst, F. Mathers, Rt. Hon. George Watkins, T. E.
Farthing, W. J. Mayhew, C. P. Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)
Fernyhough, E. Mellish, R. J. Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
Forman, J. C. Middleton, Mrs. L. Wells, W. T. (Walsall)
Fraser, T. (Hamilton) Mikardo, Ian Wheatley, Rt. Hn. John (Edinb'gh, E.)
Ganley, Mrs. C. S. Mitchison, G. R. Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Gibson, C. W. Monslow, W. Wilkins, W. A.
Gilzean, A. Moody, A. S. Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)
Glanville, J. E. (Consett) Morgan, Dr. H. B. Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Gooch, E. G. Morley, R. Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
Gordon-Walker, P. C. Morris, P. (Swansea, W.) Willis, E.
Grey, C. F. Moyle, A.
Grierson, E. Nally, W. Wills, Mrs. E. A.
Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley) Neal, H. (Claycross) Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side) Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.) Woods, G. S.
Gunter, R. J. Orbach, M. Yates, V. F.
Hale, Leslie Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)
Hannan, W. (Maryhill) Palmer, A. M. F. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mr. Popplewell and Mr. Bowden.

Question put, and agreed to.

11.0 p.m.

Mr. Blenkinsop

I beg to move, in page 7, line 5, to leave out from "proposal," to the end of line 9.

This Amendment, together with one to be moved later, covers points raised in Committee where it was suggested that there should be at least a general right of objection even though it might not be necessary in every case for a full public inquiry to be held. This Amendment is to ensure that there shall be that general right of objection to a proposal to do coast protection work, though there would be no necessity for the Minister to hold a local inquiry unless the objection is on one of the grounds already mentioned in subsection (3) and now mentioned in the succeeding subsection.

Mr. Hudson

May we discuss, at the same time, the Government Amendment in line 11, after "withdrawn," to insert: and the ground of objection is that the proposed work will be detrimental to the protection of any land specified in the notice, or will interfere with the exercise by the objector of his functions under any enactment other than this Act.

Mr. Speaker

If that is for the convenience of the House.

Mr. Hudson

The effect of the Amendment in line 5 is to delete the portion of this subsection specifying the grounds on which objection to a proposal can be taken and, therefore, by itself, it enables an objection to be made on any grounds. The next Amendment reinserts the words deleted from subsection (3). The two Amendments therefore have the effect of limiting the local inquiry to objections on the grounds specified.

As a result, the catchment boards are in some doubt because of the words used by the Parliamentary Secretary in Committee on 2nd June. He said that the Amendments which we had moved were unnecessary, adding: I do not feel that the Amendment is necessary, because it seeks to add as a ground of objection that the proposed work will affect detrimentally a drainage authority's works. If it did so affect them it would obviously interfere with the authority's statutory functions, and, therefore, the case would come within the statutory grounds of objection which are already laid down in subsection (3)."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee C, 2nd June, 1949; c. 68–69.] We are advised that the Parliamentary Secretary was not completely accurate in his reference to statutory grounds. The statutory functions of a drainage authority are to make and maintain works for the protection of low-lying land. If an existing wall or bank of a drainage authority collapses as a result of the execution of works by a catchment board or one of the new coast protection authorities, that is not an interference by the protection authority with the statutory functions of the drainage authority. The coast protection authority might well say to the drainage authority, "Your function is to keep the bank or river wall in repair. If it collapses through any cause whatsoever, it is your function to restore it". [Laughter.] I do not know what the hon. Member laughs at.

Mr. Ungoed-Thomas (Llandaff and Barry)

I was merely appreciating the argument.

Mr. Hudson

The argument is a very sound one because under the existing law it would be the function of the drainage authority to repair this wall and it would have no redress against the coast protection authority, although that authority's works directly caused the collapse of the wall.

Mr. Edward Evans (Lowestoft)

What caused the collapse of the wall?

Mr. Hudson

The river, possibly as a result of works carried out by the coast protection authority. Their work might cause flooding further up the river. It is quite clear, therefore, that the words used by the Parliamentary Secretary are not absolutely accurate, and there is the possibility that there would be a real ground of objection although, under the terms of the Bill, if the Amendments were made, no grounds of objection would lie.

Mr. Charles Williams (Torquay)

I listened with considerable interest to what the Parliamentary Secretary said. Apparently he thought it wise to leave out these words which, in a sense, give a certain amount of protection to those who might wish to object on these matters. We have never been informed how it was that these apparently superfluous words ever got into the Bill at all, and we were certainly never given any proper reason why they should be taken out. It seems that there is a later Amendment on the point and that has been most ably dealt with, as always, by my right hon. Friend.

How is it that this muddle has been made by the Government draftsmen, under the supervision of the Minister, who tells us that he is a great authority on this matter? I quite appreciate that the position is highly objectionable to the Secretary of State, and I hope an admonition will be given not to do this again. The House of Commons should be given a much fuller explanation on how this position has arisen, instead of the Parliamentary Secretary just reading a few words off his brief without giving any reasons at all. It is not treating the House of Commons with respect.

Mr. Blenkinsop

With permission, I would make it clear that what we are proposing here is that there shall be a full and general right of objection, but that only in the specified cases will the right of objection also include the right of public hearing as applied in the Bill. I would point out that not only does this provide for a hearing where the works will interfere with the exercise by the objector of his functions under any enactment other than this Bill, but also where the works will be detrimental to the protection of any land specified in the notice. We are satisfied that within these definitions any matters suggested by the right hon. Gentleman will be covered.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

Does the Parliamentary Secretary then say that the particular case my right hon. Friend put will be covered by the phrase "detrimental to the protection of any land specified in the notice"? That seems to me to imply that the particular wall which was damaged by reason of the coast protection authority would have to be specified in the notice—that part of his Amendment is extremely limited. I do not think there is much between us, except a matter of wording and definition. I feel certain that where the works of a drainage authority may be affected by the works of the coast protection authority, it must be the Government's intention to give the drainage authority the right of objection and for that right of objection to be followed either by local inquiry or hearing before the Minister. I do not think it is carried out by these words.

As far as the functions are concerned, the words are very limited. They refer to functions under any enactment other than this Bill, so that one has to refer to the statute to see what the definitions are—no doubt to erect and maintain works for drainage purposes. But in spite of interference with these works by reason of the operations of the coast protection authority, the maintenance, re-erection and erection of the works of the drainage authority may not be interfered with.

That is why my right hon. Friend states that the words of this Amendment are not quite wide enough to carry out the purpose which is common to both sides of the House. I do not think that the earlier words of the Amendment really cover the point at all, because those earlier words are limited by the phrase detrimental to the protection of any land specified in the notice. I do not know what the notice is going to contain, but if the land likely to be affected—it may be miles away from the works of the coast protection authority—

Mr. Blenkinsop

It is the notice of objection served by the drainage authority which claims that there is damage to its works.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for what he has now said. If that be the correct interpretation, it follows that if the drainage authority specifies in that notice any land, no matter where it may be, no matter whether there is any reference to the functions of the drainage authority under the Act, then consequent on the notice there will be a right to the local inquiry or the hearing before the Minister. If that be so, the case put forward by my right hon. Friend would appear to be covered.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. R. S. Hudson

I beg to move, in page 7, line 9, at the end to insert: or (in the case of an objection by a river board or drainage authority) that the proposed work will, or will be likely to, affect detrimentally any of the drainage works of such board or authority. This is consequential on another Amendment on which we have had a discussion.

Amendment negatived.

Amendment made: In page 7, line 11, after "withdrawn," insert: and the ground of objection is that the proposed work will be detrimental to the protection of any land specified in the notice, or will interfere with the exercise by the objector of his functions under any enactment other than this Act."—[Mr. Blenkinsop.]