HC Deb 26 April 1961 vol 639 cc457-8
Mr. Soames

I beg to move, in page 31, line 31, to leave out "After" and to insert "In".

I think that it would be convenient, Mr. Blackburn, to take with this Amendment the next one, in page 31, line 33.

The Temporary Chairman


Mr. Soames

This Amendment arises from discussions in Standing Committee, when the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) moved a number of Amendments which would have increased the powers of local authorities. I said at the time that we could not meet him exactly on the suggestion he made. I am sorry that he is not able to be here today to see the manner in which we have been able to meet him, as we said we hoped to be able to.

I could not agree with the hon. Member's suggestion that the powers provided in Clause 25 to deal with obstructions in watercourses should be taken away from the county councils and conferred on district councils, but we take the view that district councils should be able to exercise these powers without the powers having to be delegated to them by the county councils. This, I think, meets the point on which the hon. Member was keen.

The Amendments will, therefore, provide that district councils will be able to take action within their areas to require clearance of obstructed watercourses without having to wait for this power to be delegated to them by the county councils. This does not, of course, impinge upon the work of river boards or on main rivers in any way. Before taking action the local authorities will, of course, have to notify the river or drainage board concerned.

Mr. Willey

In the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), I would thank the right hon. Gentleman for the steps that he has taken, and would also say that this is, I believe, satisfactory to the body which was not a party to the agreement, but which was interested, the Association of Municipal Corporations. I think that it appreciates the action which the right hon. Gentleman has taken. My hon. Friend is unavoidably unable to be with us at the moment, but he hopes to be able to join us in our discussions later.

Mr. Joseph Slater (Sedgefield)

Do I take it that rural district councils now automatically replace the county authorities altogether in this business, and that the county authorities have no power whatever in regard to it and that everything passes over to the district councils within their respective areas?

Mr. Soames

No. That is not so. As I said when I moved the Amendment, power still remains with the county authority, but the district authority can also clear a watercourse without having to wait to be told to do so by the county authority. There may be occasions when speed is everything, and it would be a pity to have to get in touch with the county and for arrangements to have to be made from that level all the way down to the district level before action could be taken. It is permissive, so to speak, for both the county authority and the district authority to act.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 31, line 33, after "Act" insert: after the words 'county borough', in each place where they occur, there shall be inserted the words 'or county district', and after that subsection".—[Mr. Soames.]

Schedule, as amended, agreed to.

Bill reported, with Amendments; as amended (in the Standing Committee and on recommittal), considered.