§ As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.
§ Clause 1.—(EXTENSION OF S. 7 OF ACT OF 1951 TO TIDAL WATERS.)
§ 11.21 a.m.
§ Mr. James Ramsden (Harrogate)
I beg to move, in page 1, line 25, at the end to insert:(3) In performing any functions under subsections (1), (2) or (5) of the said section seven in relation to controlled waters, river boards shall have special regard to the factors arising from the tidal nature of the waters and, in particular, to additional dilution due to dispersal of the effluent by tidal action, and the varying direction of flow and salinity and any other special properties of those waters.When the House discussed this Measure on Second Reading my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government drew attention to the fact that at that date there had been little or no opportunity for the representatives of industrial interests to give their opinions on how the Bill might be expected to affect them. I think that is the advice which he gave to the House, and I certainly thought it was the sense of the House, that on behalf of the sponsors of the Bill we should have consultation with the representatives of industry and try to take into account their point of view and meet it so far as we could.
I am glad to say that we managed to have a number of discussions with the Federation of British Industries, which was represented by its technical committee at these talks, and I personally am indebted to the help and advice which I received from that committee, based on its considerable experience of pollution conditions in estuaries with which we are dealing in this Bill.
As a result of the discussions which we had, I was glad to be able to agree to move this Amendment. It is quite plain, I think, and simply seeks to give recognition to the main contention of industrial interests who make discharges in estuaries, namely, that it is an incontrovertible fact that conditions in estuaries and tidal waters are different 1678 from conditions in streams owing to a number of factors that I need not specify here, that they should be treated differently and that the obligation on river boards to take account of these differences when considering applications for consent should be incorporated in the Bill. That is really what we are doing.
I should tell the House that the form of words used in this Amendment, although not the actual words, already have Parliamentary sanction in that Section 5 (1) of the Act of 1951, which deals with the powers of river boards to make byelaws, says in one part of it:A river board in exercising the powers conferred by this subsection to make bye-laws for any stream or part of a stream shall have regard to the character and flow of the stream …This Amendment transposes that obligation and applies it to estuaries.
I think, as a matter of fact, that even were this Amendment not incorporated in the Bill, it is certain that river boards would, in the discharge of their duties, be obliged to have regard to the conditions which industry has in mind. Nevertheless, the Amendment will provide additional reassurances to industry, and I personally would be glad if the House would accept it in witness of the intention of the sponsors of this Bill to be reasonable to and co-operative with all the interests which may be affected. I am sure it is the intention of river boards to maintain what has been their practice in the past, and this Amendment will make clearer their duty in that regard.
§ Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)
I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman could say how far this Amendment might affect sea fisheries committees and their jurisdiction in tidal waters?
§ Dr. Reginald Bennett (Gosport and Fareham)
This Amendment obviously seeks to place in the Bill a perfectly logical recognition of the facts. No doubt, as my hon. Friend says, the facts would be recognised whether this Amendment were incorporated or not, but I cannot help feeling that if we accept the Amendment we shall certainly be making allowances for conditions of tidal waters and permitting possibly a greater degree of concentration or greater quantities of effluent to be poured 1679 in than would be allowed in a straightforward single directional stream.
This rather bothers me because, possibly on the other side of the argument, although salt water has a well-known sterilising effect and the mixing and dispersing effect of tidal action may enable a stretoh of water to accommodate more effluent than a still stretch or a slightly moving single directional river, yet in these estuaries and tidal waters the flow is to and fro. Very commonly it is such that any given stretch of water never leaves the estuary at all but simply goes up and down within the same estuary. To take a local example, between the Isle of Wight and the mainland it moves at the most, during spring tides, at the rate of a dozen miles each way, never leaving those restricted limits.
Therefore, the Amendment needs to be regarded with a certain amount of suspicion as possibly seeking to justify a greater outpouring of effluent when the circumstances do not justify it.
§ 11.30 a.m.
§ Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett). I know that, in Private Members' Hills, one has to meet many opposing influences and try to reach a compromise so that a good Bill should become law. For that reason, I do not propose to take any action which might in any way imperil a very good Bill, but there is here a compromise which does not make me at all happy.
To begin with, I do not accept the analogy given by my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden) as a good one. It is perfectly true that, under the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) Act, 1951, in making regulations river boards had to take into account the speed and flow of a particular river so that, obviously, if a river was as near stagnant as made no difference, the regulations had to be more strict. That one could readily understand. This Amendment, on the other hand, is drawn much too widely.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Gosport and Fareham said, a tidal water is different from a freshwater stream; it ebbs and flows. If we are to allow a lot of effluent to be put by industry into 1680 estuaries—and it is not only industry but, very often, towns as well which do it— we shall permit the continuance of the very matters which the Bill is designed to terminate. I am a little afraid that this Amendment will, in fact, be a wrecking Amendment in its effect upon the whole purpose of the Bill.
The Bill was brought in for a very good reason. Today, our estuaries are a standing disgrace, because many persons—I use the word in the general sense to mean corporate bodies, industries, and so forth—simply put effluent and other material into the estuaries, leaving it, if I may use the expression, to take its chance. This we must stop. It may be that the remedies are expensive, but it is expense which must be undertaken if we are to keep our wide estuaries in anything approaching a state of cleanliness and keep our sea shores from being in the filthy condition in which many of them, even in the pleasanter places, are at present.
If the river boards are to have this new power to torpedo the provisions of the Bill by saying, "We took into account the ebb and flow of the estuary; we took into account the amount of salinity to be found in these waters, and we therefore make exemptions in respect of a wide range of industries and towns", the Bill will have no effect at all. The Amendment gives them that power, and that is why I do not like it.
I began by saying that I should not for that reason propose to offer any opposition to the Bill. On the contrary, it has my full support and I hope it will go through. Nevertheless, I enter that careful caveat and I ask the House to consider for a moment, before accepting the Amendment, what the effect will be upon the general purpose of the Bill.
§ Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Itchin)
I do not consider that the hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) need really have the fears about the river boards which he has expressed. From my experience of them, the river boards are as anxious as we are to preserve the cleanliness of our waters. I share the view expressed by the hon. Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett) that the Amendment is really unnecessary inasmuch as this is the kind of thing which a river board would have 1681 taken into account in any case. Having said that, however, I accept the Amendment as a good one, and I suggest to the hon. and learned Gentleman that there are not the dangers in it which he fears.
§ Mr. Dudley Williams (Exeter)
In my view, this is a worth-while Amendment and I support it. I am a little nervous about it because the powers which are given to the river boards under the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) Act, 1951, are fairly comprehensive, but I am quite certain, from the knowledge which I have had of how river boards have operated, that they will use the powers which will come to them under this proposal with discretion. I do not think that we need have any fear that their powers will be abused.
Those of us who live in the parts of England which have estuaries are very conscious of the damage done to them from time to time by effluent, and I do not think that the additional powers to be given to river boards under the Amendment are in any way unwarranted. I hope that the House will accept it.
§ Mr. Percy Wells (Faversham)
I wish to ask the hon. Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden) one question. In drafting the Amendment, did he have in mind the fact that anyone offended by an order of a river board had an opportunity of appealing to the Minister?
§ Mr. Ramsden
With the leave of the House, I should like to say a few words in reply.
The hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) asked me about the effect, if any, of the Amendment on sea fisheries. I think the answer to that is that many sea fishery districts have their own powers in estuarial waters under byelaws, those powers being separate from and independent of anything which may come about as a result of the Bill or any new powers conferred on river boards under it.
I believe that the Amendment would not affect sea fisheries one way or another. It would not detract from their existing powers, which will remain exactly as they are despite the Amendment and despite all the other provisions of the Bill. They would not, I think, be concerned, although I fully recognise, 1682 since he comes from Cornwall, the hon. Gentleman's interest in sea fisheries.
To the hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. P. Wells), I reply that I am aware that the Bill provides for an appeal to the Minister in the event of any objection to conditions to a consent imposed by a river board.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) called the Amendment in question to some extent. In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Gosport and Fareham, I can only repeat what I said in moving the Amendment, namely, that there is a substantial physical difference in the condition of the water, the rate of flow and many other factors which are, I think, obvious between the water of an estuary and the water of a stream.
It is, I think, appropriate that a river board, in considering how far a contemplated discharge might affect the character of an estuary, should have these considerations in mind. A broad stretch of water with a considerable current and ability to dilute a discharge would tolerate, without damage either to fish life or to amenities, a higher rate of pollution in the discharge than would the constricted water of a stream. That is really a practical matter of fact. In any case, the duty which a river board has to behave reasonably in these considerations would mean that it would have to take account of those matters in any event.
One example which was given to me by a representative of an industry concerned—I can only pass it on as it was given to me, without being able to vouch for its scientific accuracy—is that a discharge of sulphuric acid is so metamorphosed by the action of salt water upon it that, within a very few yards from the point of discharge, it will turn into gypsum, a wholly innocuous chemical which, indeed, in some industrial instances, is actually added to water to increase its desirable properties. It is that kind of consideration which river boards will be taking into account under the Amendment.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East expressed apprehension lest river boards might 1683 wish to torpedo the Bill and use the Amendment so to do. By no conceivable stretch of the imagination could it ever be the intention of a river board to torpedo the Bill, since the River Boards Association is the main body sponsoring this Measure. For that reason, this Amendment is not particularly agreeable to that organisation; it will not use it to torpedo the Bill. It is afraid that it may be used as a torpedo against the Association. I thought it right to try to preserve a judicial attitude. The sponsors of the Bill are not acting as agents of the Association or anyone else.
In framing the Bill, we thought it right to try to bring before the House what we think is the most workable, the best and the fairest thing to all the interests concerned. Having listened to the arguments of my hon. Friends, I must recommend the House to bear me out in this Amendment if it can see its way to do so. I hope that my hon. Friends will not press their objections to it.
§ Dr. Bennett
If I may have the permission of the House to speak again, I should like to accept entirely what my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden) has said. He knows that I am a greater well-wisher of his Bill. However, it is undoubtedly a double-edged consideration that "special regard" should be had to the circumstances mentioned, for the reason that it is possible, in my mind, that, although a continuously flowing river might remove effluent altogether from the scene— while distributing it over a much bigger area and therefore past more people, it might remove it once and for all— in tidal waters, river boards might be prompted to allow an even smaller quantity of effluent to be discharged, as effluent which is discharged today will return tonight. I therefore hope that it is understood that this is not merely a way of giving effluent-makers an extra permission to foul waters. It would seem a little less like what is, I believe, called special pleading if the word "special" were omitted and it were said that river boards should merely have regard to the circumstances I have mentioned.
§ Amendment agreed to.1684
§ Schedule.—(SEAWARD LIMITS OF CONTROLLED WATERS.)
§ 11.45 a.m.
§ Mr. Ian Percival (Southport)
I beg to move, in page 8, line 20, to leave out "the northern corner of the bathing lake at Southport at SD33151797" and to insert "SD37752180".
I appreciate that this is rather a come down from the important matters that have been discussed earlier this morning. It is a point of detail, but, nevertheless, I hope that I may have the indulgence of the House, because I hope to persuade hon. Members that, although this may be a small point and one of detail, it is important. I ought to confess that the procedural aspect of what I am proposing is largely a mystery to me. I only hope that I shall compensate for that deficiency by the sincerity and conviction with which I hold the views which I shall express to the House and by the fact that I think I can fairly claim to have some close and personal knowledge of this small point.
I was present during most of the Second Reading debate, and I have read the OFFICIAL REPORT of that debate over and over again. I paid very careful attention to what was then said about letters from town clerks and not being swayed too much by them. I can assure the House that I have paid very careful heed to that injunction. It is only fair that I should make it clear that I received a very courteous note from my town clerk simply drawing my attention to the Bill and asking if I would take a look at it. What I am doing is in no way at his instigation, or at the instigation of any other officer of the corporation. Officers of the corporation have given me valuable assistance in my personal investigation of the facts, but I have been in no sense persuaded by them to do this.
I also paid very careful heed to these words of my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden), on Second Reading:I realise that what happens, now we have brought this Bill to the House in its present form, must be a matter for the House and not for the river boards or the A.M.C."—that is, the Association of Municipal Corporations—or anyone else. But I wish to say, on behalf of my hon. Friends, that if the House will 1685 endorse the principle of what the Bill seeks to do about estuaries, and will give a Second Reading to the Bill, we will undertake to introduce Amendments during the Committee stage to define the estuaries which we mean to deal with, because we are simply concerned with trying to do something about the cleaning-up of estuaries and we are not trying to build up an empire for the river boards all along the coast at the expense of local authorities or anybody else."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th November, 1959; Vol. 614, c. 748.]It seems to me that the first part of what my hon. Friend said, namely, that now the matter has been brought before the House itmust be a matter for the House and not for the river boards or the A.M.C.",must be right and that, as the promoters could not possibly consider each single case on its merits—that would be asking too much of anyone—it was especially my responsibility, as the only one who could be expected to do it, to examine the situation very closely in relation to my own constituency, and, if I then felt that what was being done was wrong, it was my responsibility to so inform the House. It is in that spirit that I have approached and investigated the matter very closely and it is in that spirit that I now speak.
It is also important to bear in mind the second part of what my hon. Friend said, namely:… we will undertake to introduce Amendments during the Committee stage to define the estuaries which we mean to deal with, because we are simply concerned with trying to do something about the cleaning-up of estuaries."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th November, 1959; Vol. 614, c. 748.]I am not relying on the undertaking, but the principle behind it. It seemed to me at the time, and it still seems to me, that that was a clear statement that the Bill is not intended to introduce control for the sake of control but only to give river boards control where it is necessary that they should have it for the proper performance of their duties, namely, the cleaning up of rivers and the estuaries connected with them.
That principle was also made clear in the speech of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government on Second Reading. He said:I think that my right hon. Friend would wish the sponsors themselves to decide what estuaries they want to include in the Bill, and then those who might be affected will have ample opportunity to make any representations 1686 they wish. In that case, the final result, whether presented in the form of a Schedule or in some other way, will be one that takes into account all the interests which have a legitimate right to be considered in this complex matter. It would still remain true that the river boards would retain power to bring in by the present Order procedure any estuaries which have not been included in the Bill from the beginning …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th November, 1959; Vol. 614, c. 775.]My hon. Friend seemed to be making it clear that it was not in his mind at that time that all estuaries would automatically be included in "controlled waters." I need not read the rest of the sentence. It seemed to me that this made it quite clear that it was not intended simply to include all estuaries at the outset, whatever other interests were affected, and whether there was any necessity for it or not.
I then considered such observations as those which I have quoted, coupled with the following facts. First, it seems to be clear that what the House was concerned about, and the reason why the Bill was welcomed on Second Reading, was the fact that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate said, on Second Reading:A local authority on tidal waters, or on river estuaries, can, and in most cases does, discharge its sewage raw, unscreened and uncontrolled into the tideway."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th November, 1959, Vol. 614. c. 742.]That was the state of affairs creating the problem with which the Bill was intended to deal.
The observations which I have quoted, coupled with that fact, and also with the fact that by common consent, and I think that my hon. Friend will bear me out on this point, Southport goes to very great lengths—equalled only by one other authority round our coasts—to purify its sewage, and also coupled with the fact, thirdly, that Southport is a seaside town and not a river town—
§ Mr. Percival
I am told that it is Skegness. That is the only other one.
These things together led me to believe that the proposed Amendments would clearly exclude Southport, and that optimism was strengthened when my hon. Friend was kind enough to write me a letter, which I will not quote, in which it appeared to me that he had the 1687 same idea as I had at that time. That is not intended as a criticism, because I did not expect him then, any more than I expect him now, to know the details of how Southport deals with its sewage, or how it finds its way to the sea. It is quite enough for one hon. Member to find out about that in his own constituency.
It was, therefore, a considerable surprise to me to find, when the Amendments were published, that half of South-port was included, measured from the bathing lake, which in fact no longer exists, and whatever happens to my Amendment my hon. Friend may care to put that right. Southport is one of those places which is developing rapidly in several directions. A new sea wall has been built which encloses what was the bathing lake, which is now a boating pool.
§ Mr. Ramsden
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. Perhaps we could dispose of the point now. What he says, I understand, is quite true. On the other hand, coupled with the term "bathing lake" there is an eight-figure map reference, which partly clears up his difficulty. I will undertake now, however, to have a look at this again. There would be an opportunity for a detailed Amendment at a later stage. This has nothing to do with the substance of his Amendment.
§ Mr. Percival
I quite accept what my hon. Friend says, and I mention it only because it is a point of detail which I have found out from my own personal investigations, and I feel that whatever happens to my Amendment, my hon. Friend might like to take the opportunity of putting that matter right at a later stage.
What surprised me was to find, when the Amendments were published, that half of Southport and all the main outfalls were included in the controlled waters, and it is to rectify that position that this Amendment is necessary. The Amendment does no more than that. It does not strike at the principle of the Bill, with which I am in agreement, in any way at all. At that stage, it was too late to deal with the matter in Committee, because I had adopted the line all through that I would not express a view until I had learned sufficient facts 1688 to form a useful view, and that I was not able to do before the Committee stage. My hon. Friend, however, drew my attention to the fact that nothing would be lost, and that this Amendment could be moved at this stage.
Since then I have spent a good deal of time in probing the details, including a final inspection on the ground as recently as last Tuesday afternoon. Before I tell the House what I have discovered, I ought to say that the principle which has governed the whole of my investigations has been this. I have always said that if I could discover any reason which makes it desirable for the river board to have this measure of control over Southport, I should leave the matter where it is, for I have no quarrel with the principle of the Bill.
In my view, however, there must be a good reason before any control over one public body is given to another. I feel confident that everyone in the House would agree with that, and that no one wants control for the sake of control in this sphere, any more than in any other sphere. I also felt confident in adopting that approach that I was following the same principles as were enunciated by my hon. Friends in the passages which I have quoted from HANSARD.
I have been able to discover no reason at all why any measure of control should be given to the river board. I will now do what the hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. P. Wells) asked me to do, and will explain as shortly as I may how we deal with our sewage. I think that my hon. Friend agrees that the Borough of Southport has gone to great lengths to purify its sewage, and that its standards are, by comparison with others, extremely high. I have here the only map which is small enough for me to be able to manage it by holding it up like this, and, I hope, large enough to give some idea of the Ribble and what is called its estuary.
I have drawn two lines, which I hope are visible, one being the line drawn as the Schedule stands, and the other being the line as it would be drawn if my Amendment is accepted. What is important, and all that is important to know, for the purpose of my argument, is that all this part which is coloured light blue is out of the water at low tide. The whole of it is covered only if there is a 1689 very high tide of 28 feet or more, and the tides average from 21 feet to 28 feat, save for an exceptional tide of 30 feet. Therefore, for by far the greater portion of the time, all this area is out of water, and, in fact, a good deal of it is becoming land which is extending out from the south bank. I have not pointed out where Southport is, because I have assumed that all hon. Members of the House know that.
The main channel of the Ribble is right over on the other side, and the shortest measurement across here is about five miles. When the tide is out, all that five miles is either sand and mud, overgrown with grass, or firm sand over which one can walk until reaching this channel which is called the Crossen's Pool, and which, at low tide, looks just like and is, in effect, a stream, running through the sand, and quite a deep one. The next channel right over on the north side is the main channel of the Ribble.
This may be of some importance. The main channel of the Ribble has been over there for longer than anyone I have met knows. This is something which has been accentuated and perpetuated by the activities of those concerned in recent years. Training walls have been built along both sides of the main channel, especially for the purpose of making it the main channel and confining the waters of the Ribble to that channel as far as possible, so that there is one channel which is kept fairly deep simply by the action of the water, rather than having the water coming down to be dispersed over this whole area south of the main channel. The result is to accentuate the growing out of the bank from the south side.
There is one thing I must say to make the picture complete. At the position which I am now indicating, there is a channel called the Pinfold Channel, which runs straight out to sea. South-port's main effluent comes into this little stream, Crossen's Pool, runs down between its banks to the Pinfold Channel and goes straight out to sea. It cannot at low water go up into the Ribble, because the training wall has been so built as to cut off the Pinfold Channel entirely from the Ribble Channel. At low water, therefore, none of our effluent can get into the Ribble. 1690 It goes down the channel and straight out to sea.
§ Mr. Percival
If my hon. Friend will bear with me, that aspect of the matter was on the tip of my tongue. I have dealt with the tide going down. I was about to say what happens when the water comes back. This has not escaped me and I have also investigated it.
By means of float tests and observation of the water—the former are the most useful—it is found that when the water comes up, if the wind is in the wrong direction or in a certain direction and a sea is running, some of the effluent may be carried up. To get into the Ribble, however, it must be carried not only several miles northwards, but over the training wall, too. I do not deny that that is possible if all the conditions are wrong. It is, however, plain Chat even with a comparatively high tide, the danger of any effluent going into the Ribble is very small indeed. I hope that hon. Members will feel that I have not tried to leave out any point in the cycle, because I appreciate that there is yet another danger which may arise when the tide turns out again, namely, that what comes up may be deposited all along Banks Sands and the beach at Southport. It does not do that, however, and at least one very good reason is that, because Southport does not want sewage deposited on its beaches, it has. ever since 1911 at least, been taking positive action to make sure that that does not happen.
I cannot do better than give the House the following illustration. On Tuesday, I walked over these sands for several miles after a reasonably low, short, tide had gone down. It is, of course, the short tide which is the biggest danger, because when there is a short tide there is only a small depth of water over the sands and, therefore, the danger of deposit is greater. I walked over the sands after a reasonably short tide had gone out and I saw no trace of effluent or solids whatever. I could see no damage done to any part over which I walked. I walked in whatever direction my fancy took me, looking for any evidence that might exist to show that 1691 any of the effluent coming from South-port was doing any damage at all on the sands, but there was none whatever.
There are two reasons for that. The first, of which, I hope, I have satisfied hon, Members, is the conformation of the so-called estuary. Anybody who cares to come to Southport, where everyone is always welcome, would appreciate, as I have now found, how misleading it is simply to look at a map and say, "That is all the estuary". Even if it is so regarded, the conformation of the tidal flows is such that the danger of anything being deposited on the sands south of the main channel, even if our system was not as good as it is, is very small.
Coupled with that is the second reason, namely, that in the course of its treatment all our sewage passes in the first instance through sediment tanks except in the case of storm water outflows, and these all have cills to prevent anything going over the top unless the flow is six times the normal. In cases where there might be any real danger of that, there is also a drum which rejects all solids. On Tuesday, I stood immediately above the point where between 4 and 6 million gallons a day is discharged, but I saw no trace of anything, nor did I notice any noxious smell.
To deal further with the question of treatment, the sewage passes through sediment tanks and then the liquid passes through 14 100 ft. bacterial filters, great round coke beds. The liquid is piped or pumped to the top. Its own action forces the arms to move round, the liquid comes out of the arms and falls through the filter, then passes to the next one and eventually gets to the main outfall. The result is that the sewage is so well treated that it is innocuous by the time it has passed through, certainly in comparison with the sort of things that the promoters of the Bill have in mind.
I appreciate that it may be different in other cases, but I am talking about Southport. The fact is that the discharge is innocuous, and combined with the fact that it is only in the rarest of circumstances that any of it could get into the channel, this seems to me to justify the conclusion that what we do in South-port in no way affects the activities of the river board and in no way makes it 1692 necessary for the river board to have control over Southport.
§ Mr. Percival
The former bathing lake, which, on an old map, would still be shown as the bathing lake, is at the end of the line marked on my map. Even this copy, however, which is a fairly recent one, is now out of date, because a new sea wall has been built which takes out all this area of land. This is the kind of process which is going on all the time and has been going on all through this century. More and more sea wall is being built out to enclose more and more land, partly because the effect of making the Ribble run more and more in the way which is now being done is to cause more rapid silting. A noticeable and appreciable amount of land has been taken away in the last fifty years.
§ Mr. Percival
I submit that those arguments, allied to the principle on which I have said I have acted and which, I hope, is acceptable to the House, are conclusive. I do not propose to occupy the time of the House in endeavouring to anticipate what replies hon. Members may make. I understand that, as mover of the Amendment, I may speak again should anything be said which calls for a reply. I ought, however, to refer, albeit briefly, to one or two more points.
I have always made it clear to my hon. Friend, as, I hope, he will bear out, that if he could show me any good reason why the board should have control, I would reconsider my view. I have made that clear to the secretary of the River Boards Association in my discussions with him.
There appear to me to be only two reasons which I have been able to discern for the suggestion that the river board should have control. First, it is said that if the line were to start at the northern end, it would be logical to draw it as it is in the Schedule, to take in the estuary. That may be so, but that would be to proceed on the wrong basis. We are not proceeding on the basis that we take in all estuaries willy-nilly. The 1693 line just as a line means nothing. What matters is whether it includes those parts which ought to be included and excludes those parts which ought to be excluded, and, in my submission to the House, this line in this instance does not satisfy those requirements.
The second reason I have been given is that it is said, I think, that Southport is so good in the treatment of its sewage—in which opinion I concur—that it has nothing to fear from control. With respect, all I can say is that it is my submission that that is a very bad argument, because it is approaching the matter from the wrong end, in that that argument appears to advocate control for the sale of control. I cannot think that that is what my hon. Friend intends.
I would ask the House—if it were to consider that Southport might ever depart from its present very efficient treatment of its sewage, when it has shown such a sense of responsibility and willingness to implement proper policies —whether it thinks it really likely that Southport would suddenly reverse its policy, and to bear in mind that even if it did the river board could always apply under Section 7 (17) of the Act of 1951 for an order under Section 6 of the Act of 1951 applying the provisions of subsections (1) to (15) of Section 7. So the river board does not stand to lose anything by the Amendment.
I had one or two other small points to put to the House, but I think that as I have spoken rather longer than I had intended to do, I had better leave them now, and, if in any discussion there may be of the Amendment any material objections to the Amendment are raised, deal with them afterwards.
I put my case simply on this footing, that, as I have endeavoured to show, my own personal researches lead me firmly to the conclusion that the activities of Southport do not, in this instance, give cause for concern and are not affecting detrimentally the activities of the river board and that there is no practical possibility of their doing so. I move my Amendment because I submit that the principle on which we should act is that control should be given only where there is reason for it; and that there is no reason for it in this case. All my Amendment will do, if accepted, will be to bring about that situation.
§ 12.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Dudley Williams
First, I should like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Percival) on the care which he has given to the presentation of his case to the House. I think it was a first-class effort, and showed great consideration for the rights of his own constituents. However, I am wondering whether he is right to press this point at this stage, and whether it would not be better if examination of it were to be made in another place, which, of course, is possible.
What my hon. Friend is concerned about is that the Ribble, as he has explained so clearly, has this tributary which runs into it from the Southport direction. I should have thought that it was very desirable for the river board to have control of what goes into that tributary. I do not know whether my hon. Friend is nervous lest the Southport local authority is likely to be unduly pressed by the river board. I can assure him that it is not so. I think that the river boards exercise their powers with great discretion.
Indeed, in the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) Act, 1951, there are adequate restrictions on unfair uses of river boards' powers. My hon. Friend will find, if he looks it up, that the last part of Section 7 (5) makes it clear that anyone has a right to appeal to the Minister if people feel that they have been unfairly treated by a river board, and not only have they the right of appeal, but the Minister has the right, if he thinks fit to do so, todirect the board to vary or revoke any such condition.I do not think that the local authority need be at all nervous about the powers which the river board has. The board is under very strict supervision. I do not myself think that there is need for any fears in that respect.
I think one is really rather getting at the whole idea of the Bill if one tries to allow a local authority to pump sewage into a tributary and thence into the main flow of the river, for in peculiar circumstances, with a spring tide running and a following wind, there may be such a build-up that the sewage will run into the river. I hope that my hon. Friend will see fit not to press this Amendment, but will possibly withdraw it and allow 1695 the matter to be considered in another place. I am quite certain that the local authority will not be penalised, and that its fears are quite unjustified.
§ Mr. Doughty
I, too, wish to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Percival) on the very clear and forceful way in which he put his argument to the House. I am sure that Southport should be congratulated upon having a Member who raises questions of this kind with great detail and puts them before the House in so very clear and unambiguous a way.
I wonder, however, whether, when my hon. Friend considered what he would say to the House today, he had fully considered other Amendments on the Notice Paper. Undoubtedly, he had before him the Bill and its effects, and the remarks which had been made upon it by local people in his constituency, but, perhaps, he may have overlooked the effect of the Amendment we discussed a short time ago, which was moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Harro-gate (Mr. Ramsden), in page 1, line 25 —the new subsection (3):In performing any functions under subsections (1), (2) or (5) of the said section seven … river boards shall have special regard to the factors arising from the tidal nature of the waters and, in particular, to additional dilution due to dispersal of the effluent by tidal action, and the varying direction of flow and salinity and any other special properties of those waters.If my hon. Friend's arguments are right—and I do not doubt for a moment that everything he has told us is perfectly correct—then it would appear to me that the troubles and difficulties which Southport fears it may suffer from the river board can well be taken care of by the special provision that the House passed in that Amendment a few minutes ago.
I must frankly admit that when I looked first at the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Southport, and heard my hon. Friend's opening words, the idea of excluding a bathing lake from the powers of a river board to keep it clean, and of putting it under the direct control of a corporation, if the outfall should be close by, was not one which appealed to me at all. But my hon. Friend knows Southport better than I do. If I have been there at all it was 1696 many years ago. My hon. Friend tells us that the bathing lake is not, in fact, used as a bathing lake, and, presumably, never will be. If that were not so, and it were to be close to the outfall, I would unhesitatingly oppose his Amendment, but as we have passed that other additional Amendment earlier today it would appear that the corporation has nothing to fear, because it is to be congratulated upon the way in which it deals with its sewage.
I wish I could say that of other corporations. I regret to say that there are far too few in the country today about which those remarks can be made. I do not think that the Southport Corporation will really suffer in coming in some indirect way under the control of the river board. Although my hon. Friend has put his argument clearly and forcefully, I do not think that it invalidates the previous Amendment.
§ Mr. Ramsden
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Percival) for the lucid way in which he has explained his Amendment and for the trouble he has taken to get hold of facts upon which the House can make up its mind. I am sorry that in the series of amicable conversations that we have had I have not been able to persuade him that in proposing to include Southport within the ambit of the Bill we are not doing something unreasonable. I shall have one final attempt to persuade him and the House on the matter, and it may help if I begin by explaining—with a rather larger map than my hon. Friend used—the principle upon which those who drew the lines to delimit estuaries have worked, because that principle bears on the problem.
In the case of rivers with narrow mouths—of which there are a great many round the coast—or rivers whose mouths are artificially determined either by a pier or a breakwater or two piers, it is easy to delimit the boundaries of the estuary by drawing a short line between the two man-made features. But in the case of a funnel shaped estuary—and many estuaries, including the estuary of the River Ribble, are funnel shaped—one has to proceed upon rather different principles.
The principles adopted by the cartographers of my right hon. Friend's 1697 Ministry—which commend themselves to common sense and other practical considerations—are that they should follow as far as possible the normal line of the coast, above and below the estuary in question, and draw the line in such a way that it runs where the coastline would have run if the estuary had not been there. As my hon. Friend says, this is an easier thing to demonstrate than to explain. That is the principle upon which the line delimiting the estuary of the River Ribble was drawn.
The line leaves the coastline where it ceases to run south and turns east, at a point within the borough boundary of St. Anne's-on-Sea, and hits the coastline again at a point within the borough boundary of Southport-on-Sea. I am assured that even if Southport had not been there, or if St. Anne's had not been there—and St. Anne's and Lytham, which are both within the line, have made no objections—the line would still have been drawn in exactly the same place. I realise that this puts my hon. Friend in a difficulty, because he has either to move Southport, or move the line—and he cannot move Southport.
But I would assure him that Southport is not the only town round our coast that is affected in this way. If hon. Members will look at Ordnance Sheet No. 173, for East Kent, they will see that the line across the estuary of the River Swale is drawn so as just to include the borough and seaside resort of Whitstable. This has been done out of no offensive intentions toward Whitstable, but simply because that drawing of the line follows the principle upon which the Ministry has worked. The same thing can be seen even more clearly in the case of Weston-super-Mare, which is shown on Ordnance Sheet No. 165. There the red line again follows the line of the coast from point to point, and happens to include the seaside resort of Clevedon.
I have taken those two maps at random, and there are many other examples round the coast. I am not aware that any objections on lines similar to those propounded by my hon. Friend have been raised by any other local authority. The House will respect my hon. Friend's constituency interest in the matter, but I would ask him to try to put himself into the position of the supporters of the Bill, who have been concerned 1698 throughout—and the House endorsed this concern in the Second Reading debate—to do something about the pollution of estuaries. He must not mind if our suspicions are aroused when the line which the Southport Corporation prefers to our line happens to fall in just such a position as to exclude the main sewage outfall from Southport.
§ Mr. Percival
That is not coincidence. I put it there deliberately for that reason, and I have no hesitation in saying so.
§ Mr. Ramsden
Exactly, That makes my point for me. I accept everything that my hon. Friend has said about what happens to the outfall at low water— and he has supported his argument with good evidence—but low water occurs only half the time, and at high water, as my hon. Friend admitted, the effluent from this outfall at the Crossens Channel is washed up the estuary by the action of the tide.
We are all familiar with estuaries. Many of us have walked on them at low water. Some have gone wildfowling on them, and those who have know that one's preoccupation when doing so is that one should not be caught by the tide, because it is a very uncomfortable experience to be marooned on a sandbank at night. It is one of the characteristics of estuaries that part of the time they are dry land, and when they are I have no doubt that my hon. Friend is right in saying that the discharge goes into the open sea. But for the rest of the time they are covered by the tide, and with the tide washing up over the sands pollution from an outlet into the estuary can occur.
That is what we are concerned with, and that is why I should be reluctant to recommend the House to move the line so as to exclude the outfall into the Crossens Channel. I accept what my hon. Friend says, that the effluent from Southport sewerage works is of a very pure and innocuous character. I willingly pay my tribute to Southport, and I hope that other local authorities are following its example. But, as my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Dudley Williams) pointed out, that is only one more reason why Southport has nothing to fear from the Bill.
My hon. Friend mentioned the undertaking we gave in the Second Reading 1699 debate to exclude seaside resorts. I am glad that, as it happens, the way we have drawn the line has excluded South-port bathing beach—not that bathers there have anything to fear, owing to the precautions taken by the municipality.
Even if I could feel convinced by my hon. Friend's arguments on behalf of the Southport Corporation and its interest in having this line moved, I should still not be convinced sufficiently to enable me to advise my hon. Friends and the House to accept the Amendment. The Bill deals not only with local authorities and their discharges; we must remember that other people may discharge effluents and pollute an estuary, including those in industry and, in some cases, even agriculture. If we left this power in the hands of the Southport Corporation it would have no control over any other kind of pollution than its own.
For those reasons, I cannot advise the House to accept the Amendment. I hope that in re-examining this matter carefully my hon. Friend will accept my assurance—and the assurances which other hon. Members have given—that he will have nothing to fear from the exercise, by the river board, of its responsibility in the waters with which he is concerned.
§ 12.30 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Sir Keith Joseph)
I sail with some diffidence into this battle of the line, but since my hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Percival) referred to my Second Reading speech perhaps I may be allowed to make some comments on this Amendment. I join with other hon. Members in commending the lucid diligence shown by my hon. Friend in this case.
The object of his Amendment is, as he clearly said, to shift the boundary inwards so as to exclude the Southport outfall sewer from the effect of this Bill. In this connection, I must endorse categorically what was said in reply by my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden). It is true that my hon. Friend the Member for Southport has deployed most effectively a number of technical arguments. He maintained the 1700 quality and the efficiency of Southport in its sewage administration, which no one wishes to deny. But he will agree that once he embarks upon a technical argument probably a powerful technical argument could be made against it. However, that is not at all my object. My purpose is to maintain that the reasons he has deployed are completely irrelevant to the purpose of the Bill, and I will try to sustain that by the following arguments.
First, my hon. Friend is concerned because the Bill, with its Schedule, would catch Southport's sewage outfall, but the fact is that the Bill does not affect existing outlets at all unless the quality or nature of the effluent or discharge changes. Secondly, as some of my hon. Friends pointed out, even if it were to affect the output because the quality of the effluent were to change, were there to be any difficulty whatsoever—which the very quality of Southport's administration makes unlikely—there is an appeal to the Minister should the local authority feel aggrieved in any way.
The second argument I put to the House is that my hon. Friend's point of view is irrelevant because there is no moral or administrative implication whatsoever in the definition of the boundary of the estuaries set out in the Bill. That Schedule is entirely a geographic one. This House accepted the principle of the Bill on its Second Reading, namely, that new outlets in all tidal estuaries should be controlled and that all that remained was to define the term. That has been done by listing all tidal estuaries and defining their seaward limits. This is essentially a geographic exercise, to draw a line in words at the end of the estuary.
As my hon. Friend pointed out, it is true that at column 775 I spoke of wishing the sponsors themselves to decide what estuaries they wanted to include in the Bill, but my hon. Friend did not relate this to the context in which I was speaking. The paragraph from which that extract was taken dealt with Clause 2 of the then Bill, as is clear from the rest of the paragraph, which gave to my right hon. Friend a power which the sponsors agreed later to drop, to exclude certain estuaries later at his discretion.
1701 The argument I was putting forward was that it was for the sponsors of the Bill to decide what estuaries were to be included and not for my right hon. Friend to do so later by the exercise of his discretion. I was not in any way implying that, once they had made up their minds, it should not include all estuaries. My point was that it was for them and not for my right hon. Friend to decide.
To shift this line to exclude or include a particular outlet, for whatever technical reasons would be unjustifiable in view of the clear decision reached by the House on the Second Reading of the Bill. If we were to accept that, for one reason or another, we could shift the line in one case, we would be obliged to scrutinise every other estuary whose boundary might inconvenience some local authority or some other interest. Thus we might have to argue over limits with local authorities and other interests in the very areas where most damage is being done to the estuarial waters which this Bill is designed to catch.
I suggest to the House that if we started upon this course there would be no absolutely firm ground on which we could rest, whereas the geographical definition which the Schedule now contains is at least firm ground. I repeat to my hon. Friend, in asking him to reconsider his Amendment, the three points I have made. The first is that the existing outlets are not affected by this Bill and that the Southport sewage discharges in an existing outlet. Secondly, even if there were to be a change of the nature which would come within the Bill, there would be a right of appeal to my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Percival
Before my hon. Friend leaves that point, I should point out what I think is not appreciated by many hon. Members, namely, that it is not right to say that existing outlets are not at all affected. What are affected are new outlets or new discharges, and a new discharge can be a new discharge from an existing outlet, which few hon. Members in the House realise. This means that, without any change in a local authority's outflow, on a change in the composition or quantity of the effluent passing out of that outlet, the provisions of the Act would be brought into force.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I think that I covered that proviso in all I said. It was for that reason I said that where an outlet changed in such a way it would come within the Bill, there would be a second line of defence against unreasonable behaviour by a river board, namely, a right of appeal to my right hon. Friend.
The third reason why I hope my hon. Friend will reconsider his Amendment is that this is a logical definition of an estuary, of general application, and can be sustained around the whole coast of the country.
§ Mr. Percival
I am obliged to all my hon. Friends for the views which they have expressed, to which I assure them, I have given careful consideration. I hope that they will not think I am discourteous if I say that none was a surprise or new to me. In preparing my case, I endeavoured to foresee what could be said on the other side, because I hope that I can fairly say that, although I now hold a firm opinion, I was willing to be persuaded by the arguments used by others.
Now I will deal with one or two points of detail mentioned by my hon. Friends. It is not really right to talk about discharging our effluent into a tributary running into the River Ribble. It is clear that the Crossen's Pool never runs into the main river. My map is too small for hon. Members to see this, but the House can take it from me that it is not correct to say that we pump our sewage into a channel which goes into the main Ribble channel. I concede that in certain circumstances, when the tide is running out, some of the effluent may be taken over the banks of the Crossen's Pool and dispersed over an area of sand between the Crossen's Pool and the main river channel, but I hope that my hon. Friend will accept it from me that this only happens to a small degree and that it is only in exceptional circumstances that it would get right over into the main channel.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) mentioned the Amendment which adds a new subsection to the Bill. I had not overlooked it. It seemed to me that the fact that it was thought necessary to add that new subsection rather supported my argument, because it is a recognition that 1703 in waters such as I have been speaking about, the tidal flow may make the danger of pollution that much smaller, and this is stating in the Bill that river boards should have special regard to those considerations.
I have already made my point about existing outlets, and I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary will not think it discourteous if I do not say anything further about that. I agree with him that if what we are concerned with doing is simply logically defining all estuaries, the line may be right. But I have never understood that this was a Bill to define estuaries, or that it was anything but a means of doing the very difficult task which, I accept, faces the promoters, that of bringing under control those tidal waters which ought to be controlled. That is a task which I have supported all the way till now. All I say now is that if that is the reason why the line is drawn where it is, I hope that I have demonstrated that the line in question has been drawn in the wrong place.
The Parliamentary Secretary said that my reasons are irrelevant and that as a result of the Amendment one would have to look all round a map of the country and investigate each line. My hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate said that no other local authorities are complaining. Surely the House would not draw any conclusion from that point, because it might easily be that my authority is the only one which has such a record as enables me to make the case which I have made. It is within my knowledge that one of the areas mentioned by my hon. Friend as being included by one of these lines is included for the very good reason that it discharges its sewage raw, uncontrolled and untreated straight into the main channel. That may be why it does not complain.
§ When those things have been said, all the arguments of my hon. Friends who have spoken against the Amendment have really rested on the one point that South-port has nothing to fear. My opinion is that this is approaching the matter entirely from the wrong end. What it amounts to is saying, "We give control whether it is necessary or not and then provide the safeguards. Now look at the Bill; it provides the safeguards." As a side-wind, I have never felt very sure how good the safeguards were. No doubt when the 1951 Act was passed the feelings of local authorities were quietened by the drawing of attention to Sections 6 and 7 (17) and the safeguards provided by the steps which had to be taken before the jurisdiction of a river board could be extended. These safeguards are now shown not to amount to much.
§ The main argument against my case is, as I say, that Southport has nothing to fear. I suggest to the House that this is not the right approach. Whenever one is thinking in terms of giving control to one person over another person, the right approach should be to ask, "Is there any necessity for it?" I hope that I have demonstrated to the House that there is no necessity here. Having reached that conclusion as the result of my personal and very lengthy and careful investigations, and consideration of all that my right hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate has said in the many discussions that we have had, I have come firmly to the view that, despite the advice as to what I should do, which has been given to me in, no doubt, a very friendly spirit, it is illogical for me to do anything but carry through what I have started, something in which I still firmly believe.
§ Question put, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 101, Noes 5.1705
|Division No. 69.]||AYES||[12.45 p.m.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)|
|Beaney, Alan||Deer, George||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Bell, Ronald (S. Bucks.)||Doughty, Charles||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)||Ede, Rt. Hon. Chuter||Hughes-Young, Michael|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Hunter, A. E.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Fell, Anthony||Hynd, H. (Accrington)|
|Braine, Bernard||Foot, Dingle||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Fraser, Hn. Hugh (Stafford & Stone)||Jeger, George|
|Butler, nt.Hn.R.A.(Saffron Walden)||Grimond, J.||Johnson, Carol (Lewitham, S.)|
|Castle, Mrs. Barbara||Hannan, William||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech (Wakefield)|
|Cliffe, Michael||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Joseph, Sir Keith|
|Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Hayman, F. H.||Kelley, Richard|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Howard, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives)||Kerr, Sir Hamilton|
|Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|King, Dr. Horace||Page, A. J. (Harrow Watt)||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|Kirk, Peter||Pavitt, Laurence||Warbey, William|
|Lawton, George||Pott, Peroivall||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Leburn, Gilmour||Ramsden, James||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Legge-Bourke, Maj. H.||Rankin, John||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Redhead, E. C.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|McAdden, Stephen||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|McInnes, James||Reynolds, G. W.||Whitelaw, William|
|McLaren, Martin||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Paneras, N.)||Whitlock, William|
|McLeavy, Frank||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Willey, Frederick|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Russell, Ronald||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Mapp, Charles||Skeet, T. H. H.||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Marsh, Richard||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Mellish, R. J.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Mendelson, J. J.||Stonehouse, John||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Mitchison, G. R.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)||Zilliacus, K.|
|Morgan, William||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Moyle, Arthur||Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Nabarro, Gerald||Thorpe, Jeremy||Mr. Deedes and Mr. Gower.|
|Padley, W. E.||Tomney, Frank|
|Allason, James||Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Box, Donald||Hicks Beach, Maj. W.||Mr. Rees and Mr. Percival.|
§ 12.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Ramsden
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
We had a very good discussion on the Bill on Second Reading, and since then we have implemented the undertaking we gave to confine the Bill to estuaries and estuarial waters and to take steps to define estuaries in a form acceptable to the House and to legal interests. We have also given effect, as I have already explained today, to the undertaking we gave to consult industrial and other interests concerned. I do not, therefore, think that this is an occasion when a long speech from me is required, and I hope the House will feel that, after the full and fair discussion which we have had, it is right to give the Bill a Third Reading.
I should like to thank all those who have been of immense help in preparing the Bill and bringing it to this stage, in particular the Clerk to the River Boards Association and my hon. Friend and officers of his Ministry, without whom we could not have produced anything in a practical and workable form. I also thank all hon. Members on both sides of the House who have given such valuable support to the Bill throughout.
Of all the explanations I have been called upon to furnish during the passage of the Bill so far, the most difficult was that required from me by my nine-year-old son, at the conclusion of which he simply said, "Well, let us hope it works." In the confidence that, with the co-operation of hon. Members, we have 1706 managed to produce something that will work and that the river boards, on whom the duties are laid, will see does work, and work fairly, I commend the Bill to the House.
§ 12.56 p.m.
§ Mr. John Farr (Harborough)
I am chiefly concerned with the pollution aspect of this problem. Clause 2 states that the Bill and the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) Act, 1951, may be cited together as the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) Acts, 1951 and 1960. I must place on record my regret that there is not more emphasis in the Bill on the causes of pollution by flooding. That is a very serious cause of pollution. One of the most effective ways of polluting rivers is to have continual or frequent flooding of streets—
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member must bear in mind that we cannot have such a wide debate on Third Reading as we can on Second Reading. He must confine himself to the contents of the Bill as opposed to omissions from it.
§ 12.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Doughty
This is a very important Bill and I do not think it right that the House should pass it without further discussion. I support the Bill, but the House will realise that some aspects of 1707 this problem axe not affected and that the Bill goes only part of the way to deal with it. For far too many years, our rivers and estuaries—particularly the estuaries—have been a standing disgrace to the country. Industries and corporations have been discharging their effluent into our rivers in a most unpleasant condition. It is most unhealthy for the population and for those who go on beaches near estuaries. It does great harm to the fishing interests and also to fishing as a sport. This state of affairs has been allowed to go on far too long. If the problem concerned housing we should all be angry and insist that something be done, but because it concerns what are public waters we have allowed it to continue far too long. When a corporation or an industry says that to deal effectively with its effluent is expensive, then there is no excuse. It was once truly said that there are votes in houses but no votes in sewers. That may be one of the reasons why so many Governments have not dealt with this important question.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden) for going as far as a private Member can go to deal with this very difficult and important problem. If he had had the resources of the Government behind him, undoubtedly he would have brought in a stronger Measure, because this Bill does not deal with the evil of the past. It hopes to control the future only, thereby giving licence to those who have been polluting our estuaries and rivers so long to continue to do so. That is not something which we can look upon with equanimity.
The Bills deals, or purports to deal, only with:new or altered outlets for the discharge of trade or sewage effluent to a stream and of the making of new discharges….Firms and corporations can continue to discharge in the old careless way, dangerous to health, dangerous to fishing interests and dangerous to people, and when called upon to stop, they can reply that they were doing it before the Bill came into force. That is a matter which the Government will have to tackle and which they should tackle in the not over-distant future.
I sincerely hope that the river boards will show enough strength in this matter 1708 to make and to enforce regulations to prevent new and altered discharges from being made. I have the greatest respect for river boards and nothing I say today should be taken as any form of criticism of them, but they vary from river to river. In some cases, to put it mildly, they are not very active bodies, while in others they take great interest in the rivers under their control and can be expected to implement the provisions of the Bill.
I hope that the Minister will keep an eye on the river boards and, in cases where they are not making the necessary regulations or, having made the regulations, are content to sit back and to see them not observed, will bring pressure to bear on them and will draw their attention to the provisions of the Bill and ensure that they live up to its principles. If he will do that and if the river boards will carry out their part of the duty, I give the Bill my personal blessing, so far as it goes, but I say that it does not go far enough.
§ 1.3 p.m.
§ Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)
I hope that the House will give the Bill a Third Reading, and I want to say something which my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden), who has been responsible for the Bill, cannot say for himself. There is one aspect which will affect the working out of these proposals more than anything else and which will affect the future of the Bill more than anything else. It is the degree of co-operation and the degree of willingness to make the Bill work which the bodies and the local authorities concerned show after the Bill reaches the Statute Book. All Statutes depend on that to some degree, but a Statute of this kind, by its very nature, depends almost more than any other on a willingness to see that not only the letter but the spirit of the law is observed.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate on the stand he has taken at every stage in the preliminaries of the Bill to safeguard the interests of those who have shown concern about it and to discuss with them freely and fully the various difficulties which might arise. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Percival) will acknowledge that my hon. Friend has been scrupulous in 1709 that respect. There is no reason for anyone coming within its orbit to feel that they have been ridden over and there is no excuse for them to feel that they must seek to evade its provisions. Since that will affect the future workability of the Bill more than almost anything else, I end by hoping that the Bill will be observed by those who need to do so, to make it work not only in substance but in spirit.
§ 1.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Dudley Williams
I add my congratulations to those of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) to my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden) as the prime mover in taking the Bill through its various stages. Anyone who has any connection with the rivers of England will be extremely grateful to my hon. Friend. I am sorry that the Bill could not be extended to Scotland, but I understand that that was impossible. I hope that hon. Members who sit for Scottish constituencies will take some action of their own at a later date.
The rivers of Devonshire, in which I am particularly interested, although I am not a fisherman myself, for a long time have made a substantial contribution to the sport of fishing, which all enjoy, not only we in the House, but the country generally. It is a great tragedy that rivers should have been allowed to become so polluted through a lack of the reasonable powers sought in the Bill.
I hope that when the Bill goes to another place it will be considered expeditiously and will become law shortly after that. Succeeding generations will be very grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate for his action.
§ 1.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Hayman
I add my congratulations to the hon. Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden) on getting so important a Bill through the House. The beaches of St. Austell have already been polluted by china clay effluent, and the River Plyn in South-West Devon is also polluted. I hope that local authorities and the river boards will do all they can to 1710 achieve the objective of the Bill and the previous legislation so that we can have clean rivers and clean coasts.
§ 1.7 p.m.
Major W. Hicks Beach (Cheltenham)
I, too, express my congratulations to the hon. Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden). I recall that on Second Reading I said that I regarded this as a great step forward in the solution of the problem of pollution. It is a problem which affects Gloucestershire, and on Second Reading I said that the City of Gloucester had been very badly affected by the pollution of the River Severn and that one of its industries, salmon fishing, had been entirely destroyed by pollution.
The only thing about the Bill which frightens me is that I do not think that it goes far enough. However, it is undoubtedly a step in the right direction and I wish it well. I confess that I hope that when the Bill goes to another place consideration will be given to whether the last Amendment which we accepted this morning is wise. It seems to me to some extent to detract from the strength of the Bill. Unfortunately, I had another engagement or I should have spoken against that Amendment. I hope that the promoters of the Bill will consider that Amendment very carefully, as it causes me grave apprehension.
I am sure that the whole country is greatly indebted to my hon. Friend for the skilful way he has got the Bill through its various stages.
§ 1.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Percival
May I add my congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden) and my support to the Third Reading of the Bill? In spite of what I have been saying this morning, I have always supported the principle of the Bill, and feel I must make that clear again. I congratulate my hon. Friend on introducing and piloting the Bill through its various stages, and I wish success to those who have to implement it.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.