|5||(1) Without prejudice to any other enactment conferring powers of entry, a person authorised by a drainage board may, after giving notice in writing to the occupier and producing, if so required, some duly authenticated document showing his authority, enter any land for the purpose of exercising any function of the board under the Act of 1930.|
|(2) A person entitled under this section to enter any land may take with him such other persons and such equipment as may be necessary and, if the land is unoccupied, he shall, on leaving it, leave it as effectually secured against trespassers as he found it.|
|10||(3) Admission to any land used for residential purposes and, except in an emergency, admission with heavy equipment to any other land, shall not be demanded as of right under this section unless the notice required by subsection (1) of this section has been given not less than twenty-four hours before the intended entry.|
|15||(4) Subsection (3) of section thirty-four of the Act of 1930 (which provides for compensation in the case of injury) shall extend to any injury sustained by any person by reason of the exercise of the power of entry conferred by this section.|
|(5) If any person obstructs or impedes any person exercising a right conferred by this section he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty pounds.—[Mr. Vane.]|
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. W. M. F. Vane)
I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.
Let me say at once that the origin of this Clause is in representations by the Association of Drainage Authorities during the earlier discussions on the Bill, to the effect that this was an occasion when their powers of entry might be revised. Therefore, it does not arise out of any of the general discussions or consultations such as those which the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) had in mind.
This new Clause gives drainage boards, when carrying out their functions, powers of entry analogous to those possessed by river boards. The earlier powers of the drainage boards could be said to be hardly effective in view of their responsibilities, and it has been said that they were tied too closely to the purpose of survey. We have made an Amendment in the Standing Committee which deals with that.
We originally thought it might have been possible to have amended Clause 43, but in the end it was felt, bearing in mind that the responsibility of drainage boards is probably better recognised today than it was, perhaps, when earlier legislation was considered, that the right thing to do was to give drainage boards which do work broadly similar to that done by river boards powers which are analogous to the powers which river boards enjoy. Hence this new Clause.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
My hon. Friend referred to Clause 43; I think that he means Section 43 of the 1920 Act.
I apologise. My hon. Friend is quite correct. It was Section 43 of the earlier Act.
The powers are not quite as wide as those given to the river boards, whose responsibilities are wider, but I commend the Clause to the House because I think it gives drainage boards what they want and all that is reasonable to enable them to carry out their functions.
§ Mr. Willey
I think that we have had a completely inadequate explanation of the course which the Government are taking. The Parliamentary Secretary might well anticipate that to seek powers of entry causes apprehension any way. No one likes to give powers of entry lightly. The hon. Gentleman has done no more than say that at some time—we know not when—representations were made by the Association of Drainage Authorities, and, consequent upon that, we have this new Clause before us. That seems to me a completely inadequate explanation of the step which the Government are taking.
The first point I would make is that this is not a new matter at all. It is a matter to which reference was made in the Heneage Report. If we look at paragraph 119 of that Report we see that the Committee stated:We consider that the general powers of internal drainage boards to execute works, contained in Section 34 of the Land Drainage Act, 1930, will, so far as they are applicable, 461 be adequate for the exercise of their functions. Under the existing legislation they have the same powers of entry to perform thir functions as catchment boards. Since, however, catchment boards will eventually be superseded by river boards, who have more adequate powers of entry under Section 16 of the River Boards Act, 1948, we recommend that internal drainage boards should be given powers of entry similar to those of river boards.Therefore, this was a matter before the Government and before all the parties to these discussions. These discussions went on for an incredible length of time. The Government produce legislation and we discuss it in Standing Committee, but there is no reference at all by anyone to the need for powers of entry.
§ Mr. Denys Bullard (King's Lynn)
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman is quite correct in saying that. I would point out that when we were discussing the Schedule to the Bill in Standing Committee I raised this matter. It was because of an undertaking given to me by my right hon. Friend that I withdrew the Amendment which I was proposing to the Schedule.
§ Mr. Willey
I apologise to the hon. Gentleman. I was dealing with the parties to the agreement, and I am sorry if I created the impression that I was going beyond that. I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for calling attention to the contribution which he made.
I am concerned with the background to the Bill and with the Government coming to the House, having sought and obtained agreement, and saying, "The steps we take are circumscribed. We are not doing all we might well wish to do because the Bill is based upon an agreement".
In spite of these exhaustive discussions there is nothing about seeking powers of entry. Nevertheless, it is a matter to which attention was drawn by the Heneage Committee, so that it is a matter which would have been on the agenda of the parties who discussed the proposed legislation. It is remarkable that it should be left to the initiative of the Parliamentary Secretary to raise this point. It means that we are in this peculiar difficulty in the House. I hope that the House will never lightly give powers of entry.
462 This is something which I hope, by common agreement, is limited to cases of absolute, patent necessity. We have before us, of course, evidence that there is some case for seeking these powers—I refer to the reference in the Heneage Report—but we have no evidence at all that this matter was discussed and regarded as one which ought to be put into the Bill until, apparently, at a later stage.
I feel that this is a very unsatisfactory way of conceding these powers. I do not wish in any way to reflect upon the drainage boards, but I think that before we agree to these powers being extended in this way we should receive a much more satisfactory explanation from the Government about the matter. As I say, if one looks up the index under "Powers of Entry", and notes the cases in which these powers have been given, one sees that, very properly, the examples are very narrowly limited.
After a state of emergency, one of the first attentions of anyone interested in the liberty of the subject is directed to see that as rapidly as possible the powers of entry provided for the emergency are withdrawn. Here we have the Government extending those powers, and I feel that before we can accept the proposal which the Government are making, particularly in the circumstances in which they are making it—by way of a new Clause on Report—we should point out that the matter ought to have been thoroughly discussed in Standing Committee. We ought not to have been robbed of that opportunity. But, quite apart from that, we ought not to allow the Government to provide these new powers or to extend the scope of powers of entry without a much more satisfactory explanation than we have had so far from the Government.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Bullard
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) for acknowledging the fact that I raised this point in Standing Committee. I was prompted to do so by the Association of Drainage Authorities, and it was very grateful to my right hon. Friend the Minister for proposing to insert this Clause in the Bill. Powers of entry were, of course, granted under the Bill as it stood when we discussed it in Standing Committee, except that those 463 powers were for light tackle or survey equipment, and so on, and did not give permission to enter with heavy machinery, which is the tendency these days.
Having said that the Association is very grateful to my right hon. Friend for the new Clause, I should like to say a word or two about it from my own point of view. I support it in very large measure. As the hon. Gentleman has said, one has to be extraordinarily careful about these powers of entry. I think that there will still be, and especially under the powers which drainage boards will be given under the proposed new Clause, very special need for them to exercise great care in the way they use those powers.
Nothing is said about the length of notice required, but it behoves every drainage board which is carrying out a major scheme to see that owners and occupiers along the whole course of the drain know in good time, not merely days or hours before but weeks before, of the intention to come in with machinery to do the job so that they can make some preparation and are not faced with entry at the last moment.
Most internal drainage boards—indeed, I would say all—are very diligent in this respect, and it will be especially necessary for them so to be when they are given the powers proposed under this Clause. I wish that the notice required to be given to owners of residential property could really be adequate, but the trouble is that it is impossible to do away altogether with the inconvenience caused to them by drainage operations. The people carrying out the work have got to come in and will make a mess, and all the notice in the world will not alleviate the position very much. The community has to take the decision whether it wants drainage work to be done or whether it does not. On balance, its need for it is very great, and, therefore, it has to suffer the inconvenience of it.
Although I am glad to see that a short period is to be allowed before entering on to residential property, it is proper to note that we can never do away with the inconvenience caused. The only remedy is to pay compensation as the new Clause proposes.
§ Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) that we should examine proposals of this kind very carefully. They are an encroachment on personal liberty.
The Parliamentary Secretary said that these powers were analogous to the powers of river boards. I presume that he was referring to the powers of river boards under Section 16 of the River Boards Act, 1948. It seems to me that this new Clause grants additional powers to drainage boards, because there is reference in it to entering on land with equipment, whereas in the 1948 Act there is, I think, no reference to equipment.
I thought that the Parliamentary Secretary would say that in this context a drainage board included a river board and that, therefore, the additional powers granted to drainage boards would apply to river boards. I hope that he realises that this proposal gives new power to a drainage board to take equipment on land which river boards do not have at present.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
Ordinarily, I should be very much in favour of following the advice of the Association of Drainage Authorities on a matter of this kind, because no one knows more about how to administer land drainage in internal districts than this body. On the other hand, we are under an obligation to look after the individual rights of citizens. I think that when we compare the powers which are already possessed by internal drainage boards with what is written in the River Boards Act, 1948, concerning river boards, we will see that the new Clause falls between the two.
Section 16 (5) of the 1948 Act refers to a justice of the peace being brought into the matter in certain instances. There is no mention of that in the new Clause in the event of entry having to be forced. I do not dispute that there may be occasions when entry has to be forced. In the interests of good land drainage and sometimes in the interests of the public's safety, it may be necessary to force entry. In times of emergency in the Fens very unpleasant situations can arise when the local population rises and arms itself with pitchforks to prevent certain things happening. It may be 465 necessary that the strong arm of the law should be brought in, but it seems to me more important that the law should not be exercised arbitrarily by those who will have to do certain jobs. It ought to be done with the full authority of the law. If it were thought necessary to insert such a provision concerning forced entry in the River Boards Act, why is there no reference to in the new Clause?
In general, I am certain that the Association of Drainage Authorities has made out a reasonable case for following up the recommendations of the Heneage Committee which appear at pages 50 and 51 of its Report. I think that there is a case for strengthening the powers and putting them exactly on the lines advocated in the Report. If the new Clause did that, I would have no reservations about it. However, it does not do it, and I think that it should do it.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to explain the meaning of subsection (4) of the new Clause. It refers to compensation to be paid for…any injury sustained by any person by reason of the exercise of the power of entry conferred by this section".Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary would give illustrations of circumstances in which people may be injured and what type of compensation will be payable. I do not understand the new Clause and I should like the hon. Gentleman to clarify it.
§ Sir D. Glover
I think that most of us accept, with reservations, that the power of entry is necessary so that the drainage authorities may carry out their duties. However, I hope that the Government, in considering this problem in another place, will consider seriously tabling a timetable controlling the right of entry to private property. We had the same problem some years ago concerning the electricity authorities which, when the Bill came before the House, had the power of entry in 24 hours. Because of the opposition encountered in the House the period was changed to three weeks.
I do not suggest that the delay should be as long as three weeks in this case, but the private occupier of property has 466 the right to say that, except in an emergency, he should have reasonable notice of entry. By that I mean, not 24 hours, but a week or 14 days. If they are planning their affairs properly, these authorities do not need to give notice overnight, except in an emergency, and invade somebody's private property with heavy machinery. They can give plenty of notice.
I feel that the objections to this new Clause would be removed if it were laid down that seven or 14 days' notice should be given before the right of entry could be exercised.
§ Mr. A. V. Hilton (Norfolk, South-West)
This new Clause comes strange from the party opposite, which claims to be the custodian of the freedom of the individual. I wish to emphasise what has been said by two or three hon. Members, namely, that adequate notice of entry must be given—not merely 24 hours, but several days, if possible weeks. In fact, as much notice as possible should be given before resort is made to these powers.
Although I agree that in the last resort these powers should be used, it should happen only in exceptional circumstances, where essential drainage work is being held up by the land in question, and then only after every other means of doing the work has been exhausted.
I did not go into the new Clause in greater detail when I spoke before, because we referred to these powers in Committee. They are not entirely novel. They are an extension of powers for drainage boards. River boards have had much wider powers for a long time. We are as jealous as any hon. Member of not giving sundry rights of entry when there is no need for it. We are dealing here not only with drainage problems, over which we can take our time without damage being done, but also with flood water, which can rise rapidly.
The damage which was done not long ago, and which, perhaps, could have been avoided if only longer notice had been given and it had been possible to take remedial measures, is still fresh in most of our minds. Like myself, hon. Members who live within the boundaries of the City of Westminster may remember that a few weeks ago we were 467 awakened in the night by loudspeakers, presumably on police cars, announcing a flood warning and asking people to take precautions. I understand that the water then reached within a few inches of the parapet of the Thames, and the only notice that we had was a matter of minutes, rather than hours. We must bear in mind here that we are thinking of a balance. One would like to give the longest possible notice, but, on the other hand, we must also not forget that we are concerned, by and large, with an emergency.
My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) said that he would have preferred the powers of entry to have been stronger. The fact that they are not stronger is evidence that we are very jealous, as one hon. Gentleman said we should be, about giving powers of entry to any authority. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) spoke of compensation for injury. It can happen on occasions like this that some injury to property results, and, needless to say, the House always wants to ensure, however great the emergency, that no householder suffers damage. It may be that there is a stream running along the bottom of a garden, and that a wall is knocked down in the course of the work. In case of dispute, the amount of damage will be settled by the Lands Tribunal.
§ Dr. Stross
The words are, "injury sustained by any person". This is the point which I should like to have clarified. Does the Parliamentary Secretary envisage that it is possible for people to be injured as a result of this power of entry?
I am advised that, in the main, we are concerned with damage to property which can result from heavy machinery—for example, cleaning out a drain, which might be an urgent job, to relieve flooding elsewhere.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) asked whether we would consider a timetable of longer notice. It was thought that, without making the Clause unduly long, it would be difficult to have different timetables for different cases, but the drainage authorities and the river boards have in the past given ample evidence that they 468 are responsible in exercising their powers. It would be possible to elaborate them, but we thought that, in the light of our experience and of the circumstances we might have to face, probably this wording was right.
The hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) asked why we should give the power to drainage boards and not to river boards to enter land with heavy equipment. The Standing Committee accepted an Amendment to the Schedule which gives the power of entry with heavy equipment to the river boards.
I hope that these answers to the various questions raised by hon. Members will show them that we are not careless at all, but that we have considered very carefully this question of the power of entry, and that we are putting into this Clause what we think are the right powers, but no more than the right powers, to enable drainage boards in emergencies to carry out their duties.
The House might also bear in mind that there is no limit to the length of notice which an authority shall give. What we have got here is a minimum notice, and any ordinary business undertaking, in the course of its planning, does not work on a minimum basis, but has reasonable regard for those with whom it comes in contact. I have no doubt that the drainage boards will have the same regard to this as the river boards have had in the past.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
I think that my hon. Friend has totally misunderstood the point I was putting. He thought that I wanted the powers to be more severe, but the point I was objecting to was the omission from the obligation of the duty to go to a justice of the peace, under Section 16 (5) of the River Boards Act. Powers of entry are similar, and although I am not suggesting that we should include the power to authorise people appointed by the Minister under Section 16 (3), the powers of entry are so great in this new Clause that they ought to oblige us to put in something similar to the provisions of the Section 16 (5), obliging the authority to go to a justice of the peace to get the authority for the entry. That is the point. I am not saying that these powers are not enough; I am saying that the safeguards for the individual citizen are not enough.
My hon. Friend is right and I am right, too. He has drawn a distinction between two sets of powers, but, in general, I can assure him that the powers of the drainage boards are less strong than those of the river boards. It is assumed that river boards, as the larger authority dealing with greater works, may find itself, on occasions, faced with a serious situation, where there is some urgency. Therefore, this power is inserted to enable it, where its way is barred, to be able to take action quickly, whereas the drainage boards will have to go a bit longer way round.
§ Mr. Willey
I think that every hon. Member will feel that we are in a very unsatisfactory position, however we approach this new Clause. If we approach it sympathetically, we find that the Clause is not in very satisfactory form, and this confirms my own impression that there has not been adequate thought or consultation. If, on the other hand, we are unsympathetic, and we always ought to be unsympathetic towards such an extension of power, the position is even more unsatisfactory. The Parliamentary Secretary, in spite of an invitation which I gave him to refer to the Heneage Committee's Report, has not provided any justification for such an extension of these powers.
I have looked up the OFFICIAL REPORT of the debate in the Standing Committee and it consists of a few lines, and that is all. I will refresh the memory of the Parliamentary Secretary on his reply, upon which, apparently, he bases this new Clause. The hon. Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bullard) raised the question, which has been mentioned today, of heavy equipment.
§ Mr. Willey
It is column 484, and I am not surprised that the hon. Gentleman does not recollect it. The hon. Member for King's Lynn had proposed an Amendment to the Schedule, and the Parliamentary Secretary's reply was so short that I quote in extenso. He said:My right hon. Friend appreciates my hon. Friend's point, namely, that there is something missing, and, though he cannot accept the Amendment in so many words, he will at least consider the matter and see whether he can include something on the next stage of the Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 2nd February, 1961; c.484.]470 I do not think that anyone was given notice on such an assurance that we should be considering a new Clause.
If the hon. Gentleman will remember, we were very near the end of the Bill—at ten minutes to one o'clock. Hon. Members of the Committee on both sides were encouraging me to reply to these various points as quickly as possible. I am not saying that that is any excuse for not giving a full reply. On the other hand, during those last few minutes of a long Committee stage, there was a temptation, perhaps, not to elaborate them.
§ Mr. Willey
I do not complain for a moment about the hon. Gentleman's brevity, and I do not want to persuade him to desert such a useful practice. I do not deny that we were dealing with a few miscellaneous points, which always arise at the end of Committee proceedings, but I would not suggest, as he does, that the Committee would not have wished to sit another day if the Committee had felt that such an important matter as this was to be discussed. I am quite certain that if we had felt that this question of extending these powers of entry was to be raised the Committee would have been willing to consider it. We were not in that position, it is quite clear.
We now have before us a Clause which, I think, is unsatisfactory in itself and is also unsatisfactory in the way in which it has come before us. In these circumstances, I do not wish to prolong the debate unnecessarily, because we shall have the opportunity to discuss Amendments to the new Clause, on one of which I hope to attract the support of the hon. Member. The reason for that is that we are concerned about the notice that should be given. If the Government are adamant, the only course that we can take is to register our dissatisfaction with the new Clause by dividing against it.
§ Sir D. Glover
As the debate goes on I get more worried and confused about the Clause than when we started. Will my hon. Friend give an assurance that there will be another look at it in another place?
First, there is the question of time, but even more confusing is that in his last intervention my hon. Friend said that the river boards would have far greater powers of entry than the internal drainage boards because they deal with 471 much more urgent problems. The fact is that the internal drainage boards often have to deal with flood matters which are just as urgent as any dealt with by the river boards. If the power is justified in one case, it is justified in the other case; if it is not justified in one case, it is not justified in the other.
It seems to me that the Government have not really thought out all the
|Division No. 145.]||AYES||[5.42 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Grant, Rt. Hon. William||Nugent, Sir Richard|
|Aitken, W. T.||Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R.||Oakshott, Sir Hendrle|
|Allason, James||Green, Alan||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Gresham Cooke, R.||Osborne, Cyril (Louth)|
|Batsford, Brian||Grimston, Sir Robert||Page, John (Harrow, West)|
|Bell, Ronald||Grosvenor, Lt.-col. R. G.||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Gurden, Harold||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Partridge, E.|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth|
|Bishop, F. P.||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Hastings, Stephen||Pilkington, Sir Richard|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Pitman, I. J.|
|Box, Donald||Heath, Rt. Hon. Edward||Pitt, Miss Edith|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Pott, Percivall|
|Brewis, John||Henderson-Stewart, Sir James||Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col.Sir Walter||Hendry, Forbes||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)||Profumo, Rt. Hon. John|
|Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Proudfoot, Wilfred|
|Bryan, Paul||Hinchingbrooke, viscount||Pym, Francis|
|Buck, Antony||Hirst, Geoffrey||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Bullard, Denys||Hobson, John||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Holland, Philip||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Burden, F. A.||Howard, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives)||Rees, Hugh|
|Butler, Rt.Hn.R.A.(Saffron Walden)||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Hughes-Young, Michael||Robertson, Sir David|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Hulbert, Sir Norman||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Sharples, Richard|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Iremonger, T. L.||Shaw, M.|
|Chataway, Christopher||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir Jocelyn|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Jackson, John||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)|
|Clarke, Brig, Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Jennings, J. C.||Smithers, Peter|
|Cole, Norman||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher|
|Cooke, Robert||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Storey, Sir Samuel|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Cordle, John||Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)|
|Corfield, F. V.||Kitson, Timothy||Tapsell, Peter|
|Costain, A. P.||Leavey, J. A.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Coulson, J. M.||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford||Linstead, Sir Hugh||Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)|
|Crowder, F. P.||Litchfield, Capt. John||Teeling, William|
|Cunningham, Knox||Longden, Gilbert||Temple, John M.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Loveys, Walter H.||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Dance, James||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Drayson, G. B.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Duncan, Sir James||MacArthur, Ian||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Duthie, Sir William||McLaren, Martin||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||McMaster, Stanley R.||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Emery, Peter||Maddan, Martin||Turner, Colin|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Maginnis, John E.||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Farey-Jones, F. W.||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir John|
|Farr, John||Marshall, Douglas||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Fell, Anthony||Marten, Neil||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|Finlay, Graeme||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Fisher, Nigel||Mawby, Ray||Wakefiled, Sir Waved (St. M'lebone)|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Walder, David|
|Freeth, Denzil||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Walker, Peter|
|Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Mills, Stratton||Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Montgomery, Fergus||Watts, James|
|Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Morgan, William||Whitelaw, William|
|Goodhart, Philip||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Gower, Raymond||Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
§ implications of what we are trying to do with this power of entry. Consequently, I ask my hon. Friend to give me an assurance that another look will be taken at this in another place. Otherwise, I shall have very great difficulty in supporting the Clause.
§ Question put, That the Clause be read a Second time:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 206, Noes 145.
|Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)||woodnutt, Mark|
|Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)||Woollam, John||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Wise, A. R.||Worsley, Marcus||Mr. Gibson-Watt and Mr. Noble.|
|Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Ainsley, William||Holt, Arthur||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Houghton, Douglas||Proctor, W. T.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Hoy, James H.||Randall, Harry|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Redhead, E. C.|
|Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Benson, Sir George||Hunter, A. E.||Robertson, J. (Paisley)|
|Blyton, William||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Boardman, H.||Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Ross, William|
|Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S. W.)||Jeger, George||Royle, Charles (Salford, West)|
|Bowles, Frank||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Short, Edward|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech(Wakefield)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Callaghan, James||Kelley, Richard||Small, William|
|Chapman, Donald||Kenyon, Clifford||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Chetwynd, George||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Collick, Percy||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Logan, David||Steele, Thomas|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Loughlin, Charles||Stonehouse, John|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||McCann, John||Strauss, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Vauxhall)|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||MacColl, James||Stross, Dr. Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||McInnes, James||Sylvester, George|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Symonds, J. B.|
|Delargy, Hugh||McLeavy, Frank||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Dempsey, James||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Diamond, John||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Dodds, Norman||Manuel, A. C.||Thornton, Ernest|
|Donnelly, Desmond||Mapp, Charles||Wade, Donald|
|Driberg, Tom||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John||Marsh, Richard||Warbey, William|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Mason, Roy||Watkins, Tudor|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Mellish, R. J.||Weitzman, David|
|Fletcher, Eric||Mendelson, J. J.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Forman, J. C.||Milne, Edward J.||Whitlock, William|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Mitchison, G. R.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Moody, A. S.||Willey, Frederick|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Mort, D. L.||Williams, Ll. (Abertillery)|
|Ginsburg, David||Moyle, Arthur||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Neal, Harold||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Grey, Charles||Oliver, G. H.||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Griffiths, W. (Exchange)||Oswald, Thomas||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Grimond, J.||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Woof, Robert|
|Hannan, William||Peart, Frederick||Zilliacus, K.|
|Healey, Denis||Pentland, Norman|
|Herbison, Miss Margaret||Plummer, Sir Leslie||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hill, J. (Midlothian)||Prentice, R. E.||Mr. Lawson and Mr. Ifor Davies.|
|Hilton, A. V.|
§ Clause read a Second time.
§ Mr. Willey
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Clause, in line 2, after "the", to insert "owner and".
It will be convenient to discuss with it the Amendment in line 3, after "required", to insert "by the occupier".
§ Mr. Willey
Certainly, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, they go together. The point they raise is quite simple. The Government having insisted upon providing these extensive powers of entry, we are seeking to improve the provisions. The proposals we are making in these two Amendments are that the drainage board should give 474 notice not only to the occupier but also to the owner, but we recognise that the requirements of producing authority should be a duty which would fall upon the person in relation to the occupier and that it would be unrealistic to insist upon such an obligation falling upon the owner as well.
I am sorry that the hon. Baronet the Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) is not here, because this proposal comes from the Country Landowners' Association. We had already put down several Amendments and then I noticed that the Association also raised this question and we felt that this was a reasonable request. I appreciate the difficulties but, on the 475 face of it, this is a reasonable thing to ask. The Association says:Whilst it is admitted that notice to the occupier is essential, for the entry will in all probability affect his occupation, and possibly interfere with his farming operations, there seems no reason why the owner of the land should not also be given notice. Objections to a statutory obligation on public local authorities to give notice to an owner have in the past been mainly directed to the practical difficulty of finding out his name and address without some long and expensive enquiries. In this case, however, the names of owners are usually known already. If they are not, there is usually adequate time to ascertain them because works are generally planned well in advance. In those circumstances there seems no reason why a drainage board should not in the initial stage ascertain the name and address of the owners on whose land they propose to enter.This seems quite reasonable and it touches a point which we have already discussed on the Clause itself. Despite the picturesque recollection of the Joint Parliamentary Secretary in our earlier debate, we are not here dealing in the main with emergency conditions.
I do not like giving authorities wide powers like this and at the same time not providing the safeguards to ensure that they should act reasonably. I concede that drainage boards may be reluctant to have the further duty imposed upon them of notifying the owner as well as the occupier, but unless the Joint Parliamentary Secretary can produce a convincing case that this would make the work of the boards impossible, I hope that he will accept this proposal.
In spite of the criticism that has been made, the House has said now that it will extend the powers of entry, and I should have thought that all of us in the House would agree that this should be done most reluctantly and with every possible safeguard. The provision in these two Amendments is on the face of it a possible safeguard. I have considered the arguments put forward in its favour by the owners themselves and I should like the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to say that there is no convincing reason why the Amendments should not be accepted.
The requirement of the production of an authority is, of course, one that can only sensibly fall upon the person entering in respect of the occupier. As to the notice, there is no overwhelming reason 476 against the obligation being placed upon the authority to notify the owner. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman will be willing to accept these Amendments as important safeguards.
I concede entirely that the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) is anxious to see that in the ordinary course of routine work public authorities pay proper regard to private interests. I agree with him also that we do not want their work held up by imposing the duplication of any duties. On the other hand, we do not want to give authorities powers out of all proportion to the job that they have to do. The hon. Member has said that the production of authority to the occupier could be reasonably accepted as sufficient. I am glad that he said that, because it might be difficult to find an owner, and in certain circumstances a duplication of work is involved which adds nothing to the efficiency of the operation.
This, again, is a matter of balance of advantage. Are we to ask the authority to send further notices or are we to accept that the notice by the drainage board served on the occupier will be sufficient? We drafted the Clause thinking that the latter provision was probably sufficient. It has been brought home to us and argued in the Standing Committee that we must remember that drainage boards are frequently small authorities with small office staffs and that anything that we can do to save them any unnecessary work ought not to be put lightly on one side.
We therefore felt that in the circumstances not only the production of the authority but also the notice on the occupier would be sufficient, and the occupier normally could be expected to report to the owner that he had received such a notice. Throughout the Bill we have to make the choice whether to elaborate the administrative machinery or to keep it as simple as we can. We do not want to be lax in arrangements made for the exercise of such important powers of entry, but I hope that the House will agree that elaboration here would hardly be justified; and we are acting in accordance with precedent in earlier Acts.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. Frederick Peart (Workington)
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the 477 proposed Clause, in line 4, after "land", to insert:except any land used for residential purposes".The purpose of the Amendment is to safeguard the individual after these powers have been given to the drainage board. As already explained by my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey), most of our Amendments are designed to do precisely that. We do not consider that a drainage board should have power to enter a private home. We must have proper regard for private interests and safeguard residential property such as homes and gardens. I hope that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will be sympathetic to the Amendment. He resisted our previous Amendment, but I hope that he will support this one in view of his statement about the need to safeguard, or at least to pay proper regard to, private interests.
I am certain that the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) and the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) will sympathise with the object of this Amendment, and will, I hope, support it. We move it in a constructive spirit. It seeks to safeguard the property rights of the individual—a matter to Which I hope the Conservative Party will be sympathetic.
I accept at once that hon. Members opposite are being constructive in this matter, and I hope that they will not think me obstructive, for that is not my intention. I reiterate that When we are considering these powers we must not be ruthless but must consider people's homes and gardens. We are not merely concerned here with agricultural land which may be a long way from any buildings, but also residential property. Unfortunately, water does not always recognise the niceties which we recognise in this Clause. We must deal with water where we find it.
It may happen that in a certain area where there is some building development and residential land such as gardens, all mixed up with agricultural land, the problem must be treated as one. We make a distinction in the Clause, but it is not possible for us to rule out entry on to residential land. 478 There is no undue difficulty involved in this matter.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
My hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary is right, but by his reply he has re-emphasised the need for further consideration of the points I made about the Clause itself. If he will give an assurance that this matter will be looked at again in another place, and that the Government have not a closed mind on it, we shall get on a lot better.
§ Dr. Stross
I find myself in sympathy with the point of view expressed by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary in this matter, and I cannot go as far as my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart), who pleaded so strongly for the rights of the private individual and his garden. Obviously there are times when the authorities must go on to private residential land in order to do the work that needs doing. Indeed, I can well imagine an owner pleading for the work to be done for his sake and the sake of his neighbours.
We on this side of the House are very sensitive about the rights of private individuals. That is apparent from our pleadings. At the same time, we must temper those views with the realities of the situation, and on this occasion I could not support my hon. Friend the (Member for Workington against the point of view put by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary.
§ Mr. J. B. Symonds (Whitehaven)
I am surprised that hon. Members opposite do not want to protect private property and private land because, on innumerable occasions in the House, I have heard loud cries that we must safeguard the rights of private property. Now we ask the House to do precisely that. This Clause gives right of entry and the right to take instruments on to property. Is the resident to have no protection whatever in this matter?
If there are any difficulties with water, I am sure that residents themselves will ask for something to be done. I have heard hon. Members on both sides expressing dissatisfaction at some of the things done by officialdom in such work as this, as, for instance, when workmen have stepped over into a garden to do a little work for four or five yards further on.
479 The Minister would be justified in accepting the Amendment. If he did, he would be giving confidence to persons using their land for residential purposes. Otherwise, they will feel that the Minister has given carte blanche for the authorities to run over their land. In my constituency this sort of thing has taken place already, and the residents would feel happier if they knew that no one could go on to their land in this way. The Minister would gain the confidence of many people in the country by accepting the Amendment and by proving that he is bringing forward the Bill in the interests of a very large number of people.
§ Sir D. Glover
No one more than I would like to support this Amendment if it were practical. But it is not practical. We are dealing with the problem of water, and water does not flow on agricultural land and avoid gardens. If the authorities are to guide flood water into the right channels then, whether we like it or not, they must have the power to follow it. That inevitably means that, from time to time, they will have to enter private residential property. We have had the problem in my constituency; I have seen it too often. I should like to support the Amendment, but it is not practical.
§ Mr. Willey
I shall try to evoke a more sympathetic response from the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover). I do not complain of the Joint Parliamentary Secretary being ruthless, but I do complain of his being thoughtless. We believe that no one have given sufficient thought to this Clause. There are several misconceptions about it. It is suggested that water makes no distinctions and that the householder will plead for entry. But that is not what the power of entry is for. No difficulty arises if the householder appeals for help. The power of entry will not be necessary in such cases.
What we are concerned with here is the exercise of an absolute power, disregarding the wishes of the person in his own home. It is accepted that a distinction is already made, because the Government recognise that heavy equipment will cause difficulties. They therefore provide that unless it is an emergency, a drainage board must give 24 hours' notice that it wishes to use heavy 480 equipment and similar notice in respect of land used for residential purposes, and if officials want to break into a person's home they must also give 24 hours' notice.
All that is entirely unsatisfactory, however. If there is an emergency, then, so far as it is possible, I am prepared to allow the person in the sanctity of his home to declare that emergency, but I do not want any outsider to do it. I recognise the difficulties of the drainage boards, because one cannot, for this purpose distinguish, in separate categories, land used for residential purposes and land used for non-residential purposes, but I want to be assured that the Government have thought about this matter. I do not believe that they thought twice about the distinction between land and people's homes.
We used to get unanimous applause when we said that a man's home was his castle, and inviolate, I have complained for years about the bureaucratic government to which we are now subjected. Admitting all the difficulties and the prejudice which might be caused to a person's home if certain steps are not taken in an emergency, I should like special permission to be needed for entry in such cases. We are not concerned here with emergencies—I cannot think of a water emergency which would give 24 hours' notice—but with the ordinary operations of a drainage board. I am not convinced that the matter cannot be dealt with in a better way than that envisaged by this Clause.
It may be that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary is sympathetic to the Amendment but can envisage circumstances in which it would be proper for a drainage authority to have these powers. I should like to be convinced that the Government have thought about this matter, recognise that there is a difference between going into a person's home and going upon his land for drainage purposes, and have done what they can to meet it. But they have not done so. The consideration has not occurred to the Government at all, except in the sense that we have subsection (3). Perhaps there should be provision for an application to a magistrate in such circumstances. There is no practical difficulty, because this is not an emergency. If we were dealing with an emergency, it could be said that the 481 Amendment would give rise to an impossible position, but even in an emergency there would have to be 24 hours' notice.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
That is the second time that the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) has said that there is not an emergency, because a period of 24 hours is involved. That is not an accurate assessment of a state of affairs which can arise all too often in times of flooding. It may be essential for a drainage board to take action of which it could give 24 hours' notice but which, if not taken, would lead to disastrous consequences higher up. What we are dealing with is the high and dry neighbour who may be difficult when his low and wet neighbour is already suffering considerable inconvenience.
§ Mr. Willey
I do not want unnecessarily to quarrel with the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke), because I hope to have his general support. I was distinguishing this from an emergency, because in an emergency, with no time to act, it would be unreal to make suggestions about other possible steps. I was not dealing with the situation of an emergency in which 24 hours' notice could not be given, but with the situation in which 24 hours' notice could be given, when it ceases to be an emergency in that sense, and when safeguards could be provided. I am asking the Government to say that they will consider whether in those exceptional circumstances it is possible to provide exceptional safeguards.
I cannot accept that the Government have not thought about this matter. As we have discussed it, it has become clear that the matter is more complicated than it appears at first sight and the problems are very wide, as the examples which have been quoted show. On the other hand, we think that as drafted the Bill will meet general needs, because drainage boards will have necessary powers without them being too onerous on private individuals.
My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) asked whether we would reconsider the matter when it went to another place, and I nodded assent. Second Chambers are for second looks. But my 482 hon. and gallant Friend did not appear to notice that I had nodded and he asked the question again. I can give no assurance, but the timetable which we envisage for the various stages of procedure can be studied again. I hope that the House will appreciate that we have thought about this matter and made certain distinctions. Some hon. Members may feel that this is not the right distinction, but I gain confidence from the fact that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) saw my point of view, and, as there are various cross-currents of feeling in the Chamber about this matter, I do not think that we can be far wrong.
§ Mr. Peart
I accept that there is a conflict of opinion which goes across parties. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) expressed his point of view. Throughout our discussions of the Bill we have allowed our Members the greatest freedom of comment and action, unlike hon. Members opposite whose comment has not been followed by action when necessary. I hope that hon. Members opposite will now show us more than sympathy. A former Prime Minister proclaimed that this was to be a property-owning democracy, and this is an issue which raises the question of the rights of individuals and their homes, and I am surprised that it has not been received with more enthusiasm by hon. Members opposite. Apart from the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) and the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover), hon. Members opposite have been rather muted. My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) has often said that hon. Members opposite believe in Tory bureaucracy and the rights of the ordinary citizen go by the board when it is a matter of Tory State policy.
§ Mr. Bullard
It is no use having a property-owning democracy if that property is to be flooded out.
§ Mr. Peart
That is quite true, and it is the tragedy of the Government that they have taken ten years to introduce this legislation which arose out of the Report of a Committee which was set up by a Labour Minister of Agriculture, who is now in another place—the former right hon. Member for Don Valley. Throughout our discussions we have 483 complained that the Government have been inactive.
I should have thought that hon. Members opposite would have shown some sympathy for the rights of property owners affected by the powers of a drainage board. Of course, we have to strike a balance and to be practical legislators and ensure that the Bill can be administered. But I hope that on other Amendments hon. Members opposite will show some sympathy, even if they have not expressed it previously.
However, the Parliamentary Secretary has said that in another place the matter will be considered again and the Minister may be able to make practical proposals, including the suggestion of my hon. Friend that the matter might be referred to a magistrate. I hope that in another place the Bill will be carefully scrutinised by those connected with agriculture. Having received the Parliamentary Secretary's assurance that the matter will be considered again, we will not press the matter.
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. Peart
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Clause, in line 4, after "land", to insert "at all reasonable times".
I shall not repeat the arguments already used. We are asking that the entry should be made at reasonable times. In other words, we want the legislation to be reasonable and the drainage authority to act reasonably. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will accept the Amendment. There is nothing impracticable about it and it will not increase administrative costs—an argument used against a previous proposal. I hope that the Amendment will have all-party support and that the Parliamentary Secretary will give us a very sympathetic reply.
I have great pleasure in giving the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) a very sympathetic reply. I can accept the Amendment and I agree that, although one would hope that the authorities concerned would not act unreasonably, it is very reasonable that these words, which have precedent in other drainage legislation, should find their place in this Clause.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. Willey
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Clause, in line 4, to leave out "any function" and to insert "such functions".
It may be convenient with this Amendment to discuss that in line 5, at the end to insert:as the Minister may prescribe by statutory instrument".
§ Mr. Willey
This, again, is an effort to limit the scope of the provisions and not to leave them as absolute as they now are. There has already been some discussion about the desirability of limiting the operation of a board's entry and the House has decided to afford those powers. What we are now trying to do is to keep this matter under the control of the House itself, and the House could exercise its powers if a Statutory Instrument were presented to it. In other words, if it were later felt necessary to limit the powers, that could be done by a Statutory Instrument.
That would serve two purposes. First, it would keep the matter under review. One of the difficulties about legislation affecting the liberty of the subject is that a decision may be taken in certain circumstances then obtaining and may be continued even though little use is made of the powers afforded and although it becomes clear that they can be used in only limited circumstances. The Amendment would be a salutary discipline and the matter would be kept subject to review, so that if the Government received representations about certain instances they could discuss the matter with the interests affected and possibly produce a Statutory Instrument limiting the scope of the powers of entry.
The second merit of the Amendments is that they would give those of us who believe that the Government have not yet given sufficient thought to the matter the feeling that it had not been finally disposed of and that the Government could subsequently define circumstances in which the powers could be used.
485 I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to accept the Amendment. I am not suggesting for a moment that it is easy for the Government to accept the concept that they should take general powers and then return to the House for a definition of the circumstances in which those powers should be used. The Government's present purpose seems to be to define them as widely as possible, but this is a safeguard which hon. Members would appreciate.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
I very much hope that my hon. Friend will not accept the Amendments. While I am entirely in favour of safeguarding the rights of the individual in respect of entering his land, I am almost equally determined not to invite the Minister to interfere in the work of the drainage boards or their officers. The less interference from Whitehall, the better the job which will be done. It has long been established that if Ministers lay down the duties of internal drainage boards and then see that those duties are carried out, with watchdogs everywhere, all that happens is that there is a tendency to pass the buck, and then at the worst moment of all, the moment when flooding is threatening, there will be buck-passing when a decision should have been taken on the spot. I hope that my hon. Friend will resist the Amendment with all the fire he can command. I agree that we are tidying up the new Clause and protecting the rights of the individual, but I would not touch these Amendments with a tong.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Dr. Stross
I should like to have the advice of the Joint Parliamentary Secretary on a specific point relating to the Heneage Committee's Report. I ask if this actually applies. That Report says, on page 54, paragraph 127:As far as the drainage boards are concerned, whilst we do not think a statutory obligation to consult with the numerous interests who are or might be affected by a particular work would be practicable, we consider that drainage boards should develop their projects in the fullest consultation with the interests likely to be affected.The Report goes on to speak of twenty years of experience and to suggest that this is normally done, and then it points out that there are two functions to consider. 486 The interests of drainage may be paramount in some cases and exactly the opposite may be paramount in others. Therefore, there must be supervision and the right of appeal by one against the other.
It seems that my hon. Friend in putting forward these Amendments would, if they were accepted, enable Parliament to supervise what is being done. We could see how it worked and change it from time to time by means of Statutory Instruments. I think there is a great deal in the argument which my hon. Friend has put forward and I should like to hear what the Joint Parliamentary Secretary thinks about it.
§ Sir Kenneth Pickthorn (Carlton)
May I join in on this? I am not an expert on this rather esoteric question; I cannot pretend to be as familiar with the Act of 1930 as I ought to be; but I am in general sympathy with the sentiments of the Opposition now on this kind of point. It seems to me that the decisive thing before we let that sentiment move us into action is this; suppose the Amendment were passed and the Government bound to introduce a Statutory Instrument to define the functions for which the powers might be used, would it, in the Government's view, be impossible to make a list of functions and so define it as to make that list any smaller than it is under the Act of 1930? If not, it seems that we are talking on an academic point in the silliest and emptiest sense; but if such a distinction might be valid, I think the Government have a case to meet.
§ Mr. C. Hughes
I want strongly to support my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) in these Amendments and to make the point that when the Executive by legislation seeks powers which make inroads on the liberty of the individual, it then becomes one of the fundamental duties of this House to examine carefully what is being done to safeguard that liberty.
It is the primary and historic duty of this House to stand between the Executive and the individual. We often tend to allow powers of this kind to slip through our fingers without sufficient thought. In isolation, these powers do not seem to be very much, but in toto they can be perilous to democracy and 487 liberty in this country. The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) said a very strange thing for a Conservative when he said that he did not wish for Parliamentary intervention in this case. I conceive it to be one of our Parliamentary duties precisely to intervene in that way to defend the individual, as is the intention of this Amendment.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
I never suggested for a moment that Parliament should not say what it wants to say. What I was suggesting was that it would be a great mistake to pass the responsibility to Whitehall and not to leave it in the local district.
§ Mr. Hughes
What the Amendment seeks to do is to retain the right in the hands of Parliament and not to release it to Whitehall. In my view, we should never release our rights in matters of this kind without very careful thought
I hope I can help the House with what I can say. The hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) gave two reasons why he would like these powers of drainage boards set out in some form of Statutory Instrument. I hope he will agree that the first reason he gave, which was to keep the matter under review by this House, was the most important of the two. It certainly is a point at which we should look.
We must remember that here we are not breaking new ground. River boards have for some time had the powers we are now considering giving to drainage boards. There is no precedent in the earlier legislation to make arrangements that they shall all be set out in a Statutory Instrument. I am not saying that that is absolutely a reason why we should not think afresh, but, on the other hand, there is experience behind us that this has not given rise to irritation or grievance which might encourage us to think of devising some new way.
It would admittedly be more elaborate and when we come to the question of keeping it under review by the House, unless we intend to have periodical Orders brought in for affirmative Resolution, there is no reason why the House, having once accepted a certain set of Regulations, should necessarily find 488 itself intimately connected very much more than if we leave the words of the Clause as we think them appropriate. I am not trying to pretend that there is no distinction between what we put in a Bill and what we put in a Regulation, but, if we want a continuous review such as the hon. Member has in mind, we should have to accept the fact that it would not be a once-for-all set of Regulations.
The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) spoke about consultation. Of course we should normally expect consultation between a river board and those who obviously were to be concerned with the work it had in hand. One would hope that they would always have reasonable consultation and try to foresee emergencies, but we have to accept the fact that water sometimes faces these authorities with an emergency in which they have to act very quickly.
My hon. Friend the Member for Carlton (Sir K. Pickthorn) spoke of the Schedule in the 1930 Act. I think that, in general, the position has been to have legislation on drainage widely drawn and permissive in character because it is appreciated that circumstances vary so enormously between one part of the country and another. It is very difficult to be precise about what sets of circumstances every drainage authority will have to face. The last thing we want to do when we have given a drainage authority its main task, which is to get on with drainage work, would be to be so precise that in any provision we rule it out from doing what in its judgment is right and proper at any given time.
As there is no great novelty in what we propose, as the suggestions would undoubtedly mean another step and therefore be a great deal more complicated—complicated, I think, to frame—and, if the House is to have close contact, they would have to be brought before it on a number of occasions, and as I have previously said we are willing to look at the timetable set out in this Clause, I hope the House will agree that there is no advantage to be gained in trying to set out what we have in mind by way of statutory Regulations.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
I am sorry to say that I find the Minister's reply thoroughly unsatisfactory and 489 quite unconvincing. He gave two reasons for resisting the Amendment. He said that we do not want to be too precise and then said that if the Amendment were accepted it would involve taking a further step.
In regard to the first objection, I think that we want to be precise. Where the rights of the public are concerned, where the liberty of the subject is involved and where rights of entry on private land are given to a local authority of any kind or to any bureaucratic body, we want to be precise. It is thoroughly unsatisfactory for the Minister to resist this Amendment on the ground that we do not want to be too precise. I think we have gone too far already in giving powers of this kind to all kinds of local authorities and semi-bureaucratic bodies. We should put a stop to it. I think it the duty of Parliament to watch with the greatest vigilance any further invasion of the ordinary rights of private individuals.
It seems totally unsatisfactory for the Minister in this new Clause to ask that carte blanche should be given to enable any authorised person producing "some duly authenticated document"—whatever that means—toenter any land for the purpose of exercising any function.If one looks at the Bill one finds that many functions are given to drainage boards in respect of which they would not want to enter on any land under any circumstances.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
The functions referred to here are the functions given to a drainage board under the Act of 1930. The relevant Section of that Act is Section 34, where the powers of the drainage boards and the nature of the job they have to do are laid down quite clearly. It is in connection with them that this power is sought and "a person authorised" would be a person who had to see that the work is carried out.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I gather that if that intervention means anything it is intended to support my argument for precision. I gather that what the hon. Gentleman says is that if there should be any power of entry it should be limited to the functions required to be exercised under Section 34 of the Act 490 of 1930. But that is not what the new Clause says.
The Clause says that a person producing "some duly authenticated document"—whatever that means—can…enter any land for the purpose of exercising any function of the board under the Act of 1930.If the hon. Member is assuming that that was limited to the purpose of exercising any function under Section 34 of the 1930 Act, that would be one thing, but the new Clause does not say that. It says…any function of the board under the Act of 1930.What I was about to observe was that there are plenty of other functions given to the board by the Act of 1930 that are quite outside the scope of Section 34 of that Act. Therefore, on the hon. Gentleman's argument alone, this wording is far too sweeping, and wide. If it is intended to limit it to Section 34, let us say so—
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Fr. Fletcher
If I had the Act here I could read all of them out, but I do not think that you, Mr. Speaker, would welcome my explaining for the benefit of the hon. Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bullard) what all the functions of the board are under the 1930 Act. They are dealt with in all the other Sections of that Act coming before Section 34. I hope that I have dealt with the hon. Member's objection.
The Minister also said that acceptance of the Amendments would add another complication. I know that bureaucracy is always anxious, if it can, to simplify matters at the expense of the public, but the duty of Parliament is to prevent that, and to place a precise limit on any invasion of or interference with the ordinary rights of privacy, particularly with regard to entry on to land and private premises.
It does not worry me if this involves the Minister in having to take further steps. I am all in favour of making the Government take additional steps if those steps are necessary to ensure adequate Parliamentary control in the interests of the public. I therefore submit that neither of the objections put forward by the Parliamentary Secretary is in any 491 way satisfactory, and I hope that when we come to divide we shall have the support of the hon. Member for Carlton (Sir K. Pickthorn).
§ Mr. Willey
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher), I am dissatisfied with the Parliamentary Secretary's reply. I share the difficulty of the hon. Member for Carlton (Sir K. Pickthorn). I cannot claim to be an expert on land drainage matters, but I should not like to say what precisely are the functions of the board under the 1930 Act.
I do not think that it is good enough, if I may say so to the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke), to refer to a particular Section of the 1930 Act—
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
The hon. Member must know by now—he has been here long enough, and so has his hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher)—that in most Acts there are certain Sections that deal with powers and functions and other Sections that do not. All I suggest is that all this really means is that those Sections of the 1930 Act that deal with functions and powers are those referred to in this Clause.
§ Mr. Willey
If that is the case, why do not the provisions in the present Clause accord with that? Why should we have the present reference to…any function of the board under the Act of 1930"?I should image that it is quite arguable that there are matters under the 1930 Act that are wider than those referred to by the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely but, without pursuing the matter further, I should have thought that one could agree generally that this is not a very happy reference to functions when we are considering powers of entry. I should have thought that it was now commonly agreed that we should limit powers of entry as much as possible.
The hon. Member says, "Don't touch your own Amendments with a tong". That is difficult advice to follow, but he gives it on the ground that it would lead to a great deal of bureaucratic interference. We are not here concerned with bureaucratic interference but with the rights of the House. We should not evade the 492 issue. We want to keep this within the power of the House.
The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely says that the better course would be to tidy up this Clause, but that is the very thing that we are failing to do. We are dissatisfied with the Clause. We have had one Amendment accepted, for which we are obliged to the Parliamentary Secretary, but we are not tidying up the Clause. These Amendments would tidy up the Clause a little, but here we face the position that, though the Clause has been accepted by the House, we on this side are not very satisfied with it, and want to reserve to ourselves the right to improve it.
Another circumstance supports the Amendments. If we consider the powers of entry of a river board, we look to the River Boards Act, but, as has already been mentioned, we there find provisions that are different from the provisions in this Clause. We do not have a re-enactment for drainage boards at large of the provisions of Section 16 of the River Boards Act; we have new provisions. That Section 16 refers to functions under the 1930 Act, so I should have thought it undesirable to have different provisions in relation to different drainage authorities.
More than anything else, we should be realistic and practical about this. Whom are we considering? We are considering, not the river board but a lesser authority. It is quite pernicious to say that because river boards have been accorded wide powers of entry we should also accord those powers to the inland drainage boards. That does not follow at all. We should inquire to what extent it is necessary, if it be necessary. If the case is made out, and in view of the acceptance of the Clause we must accept that, we must ask to what extent it is necessary to extend these powers to the inland drainage boards. It does not follow that those boards should necessarily have the same powers as are accorded to the river boards.
On those grounds I think that the better thing is to define the functions in this way. Where we are dealing with the liberties of the subject we want to define those functions as narrowly as possible, and the narrowest definition that we can at present write in is to say that we do not accept the present wide 493 definition, but that the definition will be made subsequently and the House will have an opportunity to accept it or to reject it.
For those reasons, unless the Parliamentary Secretary is willing to give a better assurance than he has yet given, we shall have no alternative but to divide the House. If we do so, it will
|Division No. 146.]||AYES||[6.52 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Pitman, I. J.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Pitt, Miss Edith|
|Allason, James||Hastings, Stephen||Pott, Percivall|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Profumo, Rt. Hon. John|
|Batsford, Brian||Henderson-Stewart, Sir James||Proudfoot, Wilfred|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)||Hendry, Forbes||Pym, Francis|
|Bell, Ronald||Hirst, Geoffrey||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Hobson, John||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Bishop, F. P,||Holland, Philip||Rees, Hugh|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Howard, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives)||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Box, Donald||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John||Roots, William|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Hughes-Young, Michael||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Braine, Bernard||Hulbert, Sir Norman||Sharples, Richard|
|Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Shaw, M.|
|Bryan, Paul||Iremonger, T. L.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir Jocelyn|
|Buck, Antony||Jackson, John||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)|
|Bullard, Denys||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Smithers, Peter|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Jennings, J. C.||Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Jones, Rt. Hn. Aubrey (Hall Green)||Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)|
|Chataway, Christopher||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Tapsell, Peter|
|Cole, Norman||Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Kitson, Timothy||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Leavey. J. A.||Teeling, William|
|Cordle, John||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Temple, John M.|
|Costain, A. P.||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Coulson, J. M.||Linstead, Sir Hugh||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Crowder, F. P.||Litchfield, Capt. John||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Cunningham, Knox||Longden, Gilbert||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, w.)|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Loveys, Walter H.||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Dance, James||Lucas, Sir Jooelyn||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Drayson, G. B.||MacArthur, Ian||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir John|
|Duncan, Sir James||McMaster, Stanley R.||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|Duthie, Sir William||Maddan, Martin||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Emery, Peter||Marshall, Douglas||Walder, David|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Walker, Peter|
|Farey-Jones, F. W.||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Farr, John||Mills, Stratton||Whitelaw, William|
|Finlay, Graeme||Montgomery, Fergus||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Freeth, Denzil||Morgan, William||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Wise, A. R.|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Nugent, Sir Richard||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Oakshott, Sir Hendrle||Woollam, John|
|Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Page, John (Harrow, west)||Worsley, Marcus|
|Gower, Raymond||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Grant, Rt. Hon. William||Partridge, E.|
|Grimston, Sir Robert||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Pilkington, Sir Richard||Mr. Noble and|
|Gurden, Harold||Mr. Gordon Campbell.|
|Ainsley, William||Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Forman, J. C.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Crossman, R. H. S.||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Davies, G. Eifed (Rhondda, E.)||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Galpern, Sir Myer|
|Blyton, William||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Grey, Charles|
|Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S. W.)||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Griffiths, W. (Exchange)|
|Boyden, James||Delargy, Hugh||Hamilton, William (West Fife)|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Dempsey, James||Hannan, William|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Diamond, John||Herbison, Miss Margaret|
|Callaghan, James||Dodds, Norman||Hill, J. (Midlothian)|
|Chapman, Donald||Driberg, Tom||Hilton, A. V.|
|Collick, Percy||Fletcher, Eric||Holt, Arthur|
§ be because we object to the generality of the provisions that at present appear in the Clause, and to the Government's lack of response in providing safeguards where they should be provided.
§ Question put, That "any function" stand part of the proposed Clause:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 151, Noes 108.
|Houghton, Douglas||Milne, Edward J.||Small, William|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Mitchison, G. R.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S)|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Moody, A. S.||Snow, Julian|
|Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Mort, D. L.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Moyle, Arthur||Stonehouse, John|
|Jeger, George||Neal, Harold||Stross, Dr. Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent,C.)|
|Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech(Wakefield)||Oliver, G. H.||Sylvester, George|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Oswald, Thomas||Symonds, J. B.|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Parker, John||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Kelley, Richard||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Kenyon, Clifford||Peart, Frederick||Thornton, Ernest|
|Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Pentland, Norman||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Warbey, William|
|Logan, David||Prentice, R. E.||Watkins, Tudor|
|Loughlin, Charles||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Whitlock, William|
|MacColl, James||Proctor, W. T.||Willey, Frederick|
|McInnes, James||Randall, Harry||Williams, Ll. (Abertillery)|
|McKay, John (Wallsend)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Manuel, A. C.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Mapp, Charles||Robertson, J. (Paisley)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Ross, William||Woof, Robert|
|Marsh, Richard||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Mayhew, Christopher||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mendelson, J. J.||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)||Mr. Lawson and Dr. Broughton.|
§ Mr. Peart
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Clause, in line 13, to leave out "twenty-four hours" and to insert "seven days".
This is the last Amendment which seeks to improve the new Clause and to protect the rights of the individual. There is no doubt about the meaning of the Amendment. There is no question of any legal interpretation. We wish to substitute seven days for 24 hours.
If the Amendment were accepted, subsection (3) of the proposed new Clause would read:Admission to any land used for residential purposes and, except in an emergency, admission with heavy equipment to any other Hand, shall not be demanded as of right under this section unless the notice required by subsection (1) of this section has been given not less than seven days before the intended entryWe think that 24 hours is too short. It is rather arbitrary.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) did not feel able to support me on a previous Amendment. I would refer him to page 54 of the Heneage Report, where there is a reference to the need for the fullest consultation with the interests concerned. In other words, there should at all times be co-operation between the parties concerned, and the drainage boards and those who seek powers of entry should consult the people affected. There should be a partnership, and we are therefore seeking to provide time for consultation before action is taken.
496 The new Clause will affect the rights of the owners of residential property. In addition, it will affect the movement of heavy equipment. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will again be sympathetic. He was sympathetic when I moved a previous Amendment which referred to being reasonable. I hope that he will be reasonable now and accept the Amendment.
I also hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite who have expressed concern about these powers of entry will support the Amendment. We do not seek to restrict the work of the drainage boards. We recognise that in an emergency it is often necessary to act quickly, but we do not think that the work of the drainage boards will be frustrated if the Amendment is accepted. We accept that it is important to have a proper drainage policy for a particular district or area, but, at the same time, we feel that the rights of the individual must be safeguarded.
I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary, who has expressed concern about striking a balance between the needs of the community and the rights of the individual, will regard seven days as not being unreasonable and accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. Symonds
I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will accept this reasonable Amendment. Suppose the Minister had a piece of land attached to his house and he was given 24 hours' notice to move some articles off that land. He might have difficulty in moving them, and he would not be pleased. I think you will agree with me that you 497 would not like to be given such short notice. You may have heavy equipment on that land. The drainage board may want to take a short-cut between the houses and if your property was affected I am sure that you would feel sore about it.
§ Mr. Symonds
I apologise, Mr. Speaker.
I am sure that the Minister would feel very sore if he were told to move some of his property within 24 hours. If he had a tent in the garden for use by his children, and he was given seven days' notice to move that tent, he could send his children off to the seaside to enjoy themselves while he got on with the job, but I am sure that he would not like to be told to move it within 24 hours.
There are times when it is necessary to take action without adequate warning. Sometimes it matters not what obstacles are in the way, they must be moved, but I consider it unfair in ordinary circumstances to give only 24 hours' notice.
I hope that the Minister will consider the proposed new Clause from the point of view of the private individual. Consider the inconvenience which 24 hours' notice might cause the owners of residential property. The period for which we are asking is not unusual, and if owners of property are given the longer period for which we are asking they will be only too pleased to co-operate with the drainage boards. I hope that the Minister will accept the Amendment.
§ Sir D. Glover
I hope that the Minister will give us some assurance that he will be able either to accept the Amendment, although perhaps not in the words put down, or that a similar Amendment will be made when the Bill goes to another place. Unless this is done, I shall have to go into the Division Lobby in support of this Amendment, if hon. Members opposite take it to a Division.
I am quite certain that there is nothing in the Clause which would preclude seven days' notice being given. It is only reasonable to do so. I know of nothing more annoying to farmers or householders than having people arriving 498 to do jobs without notice. As the Clause stands, what does 24 hours' notice mean? Is it from the time that a person signs a letter, from the date of the postmark, or from the time the person receives the letter? I know that my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General would be the first to admit that one cannot always rely on mail being delivered by the first post. It may well be delayed, and the letter received after the bulldozer arrives to do the job. Twenty-four hours is no notice at all. Nobody knows the basis upon which it was fixed.
§ Sir D. Glover
My hon. Friend knows the procedure of the House far better than I do, and he would be able to catch me out.
This Clause does not deal with emergencies. It would be perfectly fair to say that the Minister cannot accept the Amendment as it is. It might have to have words added, such as "except in the case of emergency". Everyone would accept that, particularly in the case of flooding, there are times when immediate access must be permitted to all premises. But that is not what we are dealing with here. We are dealing with the ordinary procedure of drainage improvement operations and the proper drainage of the country. In 99 per cent. of the cases there should be no difficulty in the drainage authorities giving at least seven days' notice of their desire to carry out the work.
I am sure that the Minister must realise that this is a reasonable Amendment and I hope, therefore, that he will find it possible to give me an assurance that either here, or in another place, the principle of the Amendment will be carried out, otherwise I shall not be able to support him.
§ 7.15 p. m.
§ Mr. Tom Brown (Ince)
I support very strongly the arguments put forward from this side of the House and also by some hon. Members opposite. I hope that the Government will have the common sense and wisdom to be governed by past experience. We have had many arguments advanced during consideration of these Amendments 499 about the rights of private property owners, private landowners and of a property-owning democracy. I want to advance the argument that we should approach this Amendment from the standpoint of fair play.
I do not consider that the Government are being fair in limiting the time on this question of entry to land to 24 hours. Surely those responsible for drafting the Bill could not have realised what was entailed by giving only 24 hours' notice. Seven days' notice is little enough, considering the experience that we had in 1941, when a state of emergency was declared.
Then the Defence of the Realm Act was put into operation without any consultations. We had to accept that the nation was in a state of emergency. Work was started on opencast coal mining, and I know the heartburning, anxiety and trouble that we had during that period under the Defence of the Realm Act; but I will not go into that now.
Later, when the state of emergency was over, the Government considered legislation. The first principle, when we then discussed legislation to protect the farmer, was that of consultation. That has been agreed. The next was that there should be a period of notice before the right of entry was conceded. What happened? The Ministry of Fuel and Power came like thieves in the night. My hon. Friend the Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Symonds) and my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) know that we had a protracted struggle with the Government to protect the right of the farmer against entry on his land before he had been given reasonable notice. Let us learn a lesson from that experience.
My hon. Friend the Member for Whitehaven referred to the question of a private garden behind a house and said that there is to be only 24 hours' notice before the drainage board or the river board come along to start work. If I may be allowed to make a personal reference, I have a small back garden which I cherish.
§ Mr. Brown
I reclaimed it from waste land. It took me almost thirty years to do so, and woe betide the man who 500 comes along and tells me, "I am giving you 24 hours' notice to enter your garden." I do not think that it is fair or just to give just 24 hours' notice when one has spent years working in one's garden or on one's land.
Certain things have to be done. We are not opposed to drainage, or to the Bill. We want to see the implementation of the Heneage Committee's Report. The hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover), who represents a constituency next to mine, knows that we had a fierce battle there, not many years ago, on the question of land drainage. Now is the opportunity. If we are attempting to put on the Statute Book legislation which will help the agricultural industry to drain its land, let us be fair in doing so.
I spoke about my own land. At the moment there is a big drainage scheme coming along and the main drain will run down my garden and upset the whole caboodle, as the saying is in Lancashire. If I am given only 24 hours' notice there will be a heck of a row. We ought to approach this from the point of view of fair play and justice. I do not think that it is fair to give a farmer or a landowner, or those who are on any land which has to be drained, 24 hours' notice.
The Parliamentary Secretary knows, although he does not live in a mining area, the trouble we have had and which we shall have unless we play fair in the legislation which we put upon the Statute Book. There are two things which stand out uppermost. The first is fair play and justice, and the second is to have a proper period of time. In my judgment, 24 hours is not sufficient time for a farmer or a landowner to clear implements off the land. He should be given plenty of time, and if the Government do that they will win the admiration of those people who will have to give up something.
I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown). May I tell him that in my childhood I lived in a mining area. When deciding such matters as this, we have to be guided, not by technical words, but by signs of fair play. Unfortunately, water does not always play the game according to the rules and we must also bear that in mind. The hon. Member for Ince spoke 501 about opencast coal mining, but there the problem does not present quite the same element of urgency as rising water levels after heavy rainfall in certain areas.
§ Mr. T. Brown
I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will not press that argument too strongly. Experience shows that there is a good argument against giving short notice, because in the case of opencast coal it brought a great deal of condemnation on a Government Department, and we wish to prevent that from happening if possible.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman, and I do not wish to press that point. But I think that we should be wrong if we did not give consideration to the damage and trouble that water can cause at short notice. Therefore, the notice for which we have provided in this Clause, which incidentally, is a minimum—is something hon. Members must bear in mind.
Some hon. Members have said that a 24 hour minimum notice for entering residential property is too short, but if 24 hours is too short I am sure that a period of seven days is too long. I do not think that the proviso, "except in an emergency", would apply to the entry into residential property, as the Clause is drafted. Even though hon. Members may say that 24 hours is too short, they must, I think, agree—bearing in mind the effects of flood waters—that a period of seven days would be too long.
I said earlier that we are ready to look again at the timetable. I am not prepared to accept that the inclusion of this Amendment would improve the Bill, rather the reverse considering recent experiences of flooding. None the less I have said, and I repeat, that there are other stages in the progress of the Bill and we shall look at this timetable again. In drafting the Clause we followed a precedent. We do not want to be bound rigidly by precedent, even the precedent of the terms of the 1948 Act which was a Measure introduced by the Socialist Government, and which hon. Members opposite have been criticising. I do not want to introduce too strong a party element into these discussions, but I cannot resist reminding hon. Members opposite that in relation to the last Amendment all their criticism of 502 our proposals is equally valid against their own Act of 1948.
I thought it appropriate, on the last Amendment on the Clause, to call the attention of the House to the question of dates.
There is something to be said for having the powers which we give to drainage boards comparable with those given to river boards. We do not want to complicate administration and the work of those who have to concern themselves with river boards and drainage boards. We should not too lightly depart from conditions which have proved not unsatisfactory in the case of river boards. I am sure we should be wrong to accept this Amendment. If we altered this period to seven days it would not be something which, in case of emergency, the people in the area would thank us for doing. I appreciated the picturesque way in which the hon. Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Symonds) described the tent on the lawn. The hon. Member lives in hill country and knows how streams can rise—
§ Mr. Symonds
The Minister has referred to the way in which water can rise. Surely, when an emergency occurs, the Clause would permit the necessary action to be taken. It is not to deal with an emergency that we are asking for this Amendment.
If the hon. Member will look at the Clause as it would be amended, he will see that that would be the case. In the circumstances I invite the House to reject the Amendment, but I remind hon. Members of what I have said about the timetable. I can give no assurance, but we are prepared to look at the timetable again.
§ Sir Leslie Plummer (Deptford)
I do not want to "upset the whole caboodle". This has been a pleasant afternoon in many ways, but I think that the Minister has overlooked one point. It is that the success of this Measure will depend on the willing co-operation of people whose land has to be drained, and of the drainage boards and river boards, Unless there is a feeling of confidence between them, the work will be impeded 503 to a considerable extent. The Government and the officials of the Ministry—I am thinking more about the officials who are permanent than about the Government who, thank goodness, are temporary—will not get support, particularly from the agricultural community, if people start barging in at 24 hours' notice when longer notice could have been given.
There was a reference to the garden of my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) and we have been told about the rivers rising. I do not possess a garden but the land where I live is heavy clay. If heavy machinery is brought on to that sort of land without proper notice being given, it can lead to a lot of quite unnecessary irritation. I do not want farmers to be irritated, or for there to be a feeling of bitterness between drainage people and the farmers. I believe that a spirit of co-operation should exist between them. I do not know whether seven days is the right period, but I am always in favour of splitting the difference. I do not know what my hon. Friends propose to do, but I think that 24 hours is too short. The very shortness of the period could exacerbate feelings and that, I feel, must be avoided.
§ Mr. R. H. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary said that in an emergency action would have to be taken within 24 hours. That is not excluded from this Clause, which says that in an emergency action could be taken without any time elapsing at all. I think that seven days is far too long, and that a reasonable compromise would be something like 48 hours, which is frequently the period of time laid down in respect of powers of entry. If the Government could say that, in another place, they would alter the period of 24 hours to 48, or if the Minister could tell us that now, I think that hon. Members on both sides of the House would be satisfied over what is a minor but an important point.
§ Mr. Willey
I join with the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) in appealing to the Government to give a specific undertaking. That is what the House requires. I hope that the Minister will give us something which we have not had from the Parliamentary Secretary. My hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) referred 504 to this having been a pleasant afternoon. I would add that the Parliamentary Secretary seems to be flagging. I hope that he will think about this again and give us a positive assurance that this provision will be altered in some way which would improve it.
This Clause came about because the hon. Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bullard) raised the question of heavy machinery and the Parliamentary Secretary referred to the 1946 Act which provided for 24 hours' notice in the case of residential property. The Minister took that period from the 1946 Act and said that it would apply to the bringing in of heavy machinery.
Special consideration should be given to land that is used for residential purposes. This land should be treated differently from other land and there should be a different notice and a different time for that notice.
It cannot possibly be suggested that seven days is too long, especially when heavy machinery is under consideration. There is no reason why 24 hours should be the length of the notice given and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) said, when considering operations using heavy machinery, there should be provision for proper notice. That would give an assurance that the boards employing the machinery were employing it properly.
I will not repeat all the arguments that have been adduced in favour of this longer notice, except to mention that the Government appear to be under a misapprehension. The Parliamentary Secretary spoke of water knowing no boundaries and made similar picturesque statements. We all appreciate that, in an emergency, special actions need to be taken, but that argument should not be called in aid to show why the notice of seven days is too long.
Perhaps seven days is too long, and perhaps there is a better time limit. But one thing is certain: 24 hours is too short. If the Government are not prepared to say that seven days is right, they must concede that 24 hours is too short, and the least they can do to satisfy hon. Members who proposed seven days is to say that they will seriously reconsider the matter. We must have an undertaking that in another place the 505 notice will be extended. Unless we get that assurance, we must express our disapproval of the Clause and support the Amendment. I see no evidence, technical or otherwise, to show that seven days is too long, provided it is clearly understood that this is not legislating for an emergency.
This is a technical matter and I am willing to be convinced by technical arguments that seven days is too long. But we have had no such technical argument. We are, in the main, dealing with the bringing in of heavy machinery, and no one can seriously say that, in these circumstances, 24 hours is adequate notice.
§ Sir D. Glover rose—
§ Mr. Bullard
I have been cited by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) as having been the culprit who originally brought this matter before the Committee, and I wish to explain my point of view. For most of the purposes I have in mind, seven days' notice would not be too long. Naturally, if an emergency arose, there would have to be a different time period—and it is well known that in an emergency the boards operate fairly swiftly. Therefore, the question of an emergency would seem to be adequately covered.
I hope, therefore, that the Minister will be able to give a strong assurance that he will alter the notice time as it now stands, for he must be aware that all we are endeavouring to do is to safeguard the rights of the individual.
I am the chairman of a drainage board and sometimes we have to do work on private residential property. Many difficulties have often to be overcome. Obstacles have to be removed, flower beds have to be covered up, dog kennels have to be taken care of, and I should be prepared to risk the sacrifice of holding up the work for a short time while matters such as these were dealt with amicably. For that reason, I do not consider that seven days is too long.
§ Mr. Peart
I regret that the Parliamentary Secretary has not responded to the pleas that have been made to the Government. In view of that lack of 506 response, we shall have to press the matter to a Division. I regret the necessity for this, because there have been eloquent appeals from hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House.
The hon. Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bullard) made an appeal as a practical farmer who has had considerable experience with drainage matters in his own area in East Anglia. The hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) who has taken a great interest in this Bill, pleaded with the Government to make a concession. We have also had an appeal from the hon. Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Symonds) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown), who speaks with great experience both as a practical gardener and as one who took an active part in our discussions on opencast coal mining. My hon. Friend reminded me of the way we have always sought to protect the rights of farmers, owner-occupiers and householders, and in the Amendment under discussion we are seeking further to protect the public.
I hope that the Minister, even at this late stage, and after consulting the Parliamentary Secretary, will be able to give a more reasonable reply. It is not sufficient for him merely to fob us off. We have asked for an assurance and so far we have not been given one. We are not being unreasonable because, as has been pointed out, powers exist to cope with emergencies. This is a non-party matter and I hope that all hon. Members will support the Amendment because we intend to divide the House unless the Minister gives a more reasonable assurance.
§ Mr. Soames
I do not know if I can be of any further help. The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) suggested that if the Amendment were carried, and seven days substituted for 24 hours, boards could enter land used for residential purposes in an emergency within seven days. As the Clause is at present worded, 24 hours' notice must be given—emergency or no emergency—unless boards are invited to enter land used for residential purposes. When it comes to the admission of heavy equipment, there is the proviso,…except in an emergency, admission with heavy equipment to any other land, shall not be demanded as of right under this section unless the notice required by subsection (1)…507 In any circumstances, the admission to land used for residential purposes must be by 24 hours' notice.
It is inevitable that the time limit will be a matter of opinion as to what is best—24 hours, 36 hours or, perhaps, 48 hours—but I strongly believe that seven days is too long. To empower river boards to enter land used for residential purposes on seven days' notice is, I believe, too long and, therefore, I am certain that the Amendment is wrong, and I cannot ask the House to accept it.
It is a matter of judgment, and I will give my attention to this time limit before the Bill reaches another place, to
|Division No. 147.]||AYES||[7.40 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Pott, Percivall|
|Aitken, W. T.||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Allason, James||Henderson-Stewart, Sir James||Proudfoot, Wilfred|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Hendry, Forbes||Pym, Francis|
|Barlow, Sir John||Hirst, Geoffrey||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Batsford, Brian||Hobson, John||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)||Holland, Philip||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Bell, Ronald||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John||Rees, Hugh|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Hughes-Young, Michael||Renton, David|
|Bishop, F. P.||Hulbert, Sir Norman||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Roots, William|
|Box, Donald||Iremonger, T. L.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Sharples, Richard|
|Braine, Bernard||Jackson, John||Shaw, M.|
|Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir Jocelyn|
|Bryan, Paul||Jennings, J. C.||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)|
|Buck, Antony||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Smithers, Peter|
|Bullard, Denys||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Kitson, Timothy||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Leavey, J. A.||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)|
|Chataway, Christopher||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Tapsell, Peter|
|Cole, Norman||Litchfield, Capt. John||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Longden, Gilbert||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Loveys, Walter H.||Teeling, William|
|Costain, A. P.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn||Temple, John M.|
|Coulson, J. M.||MacArthur, Ian||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Crowder, F. P.||McLaren, Martin||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|Cunningham, Knox||Maclean, SirFitzroy(Bute&N.Ayrs.)||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Curran, Charles||McMaster, Stanley R.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Maddan, Martin||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir John|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Deedes, W. F.||Marshall, Douglas||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|Drayson, G. B.||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|du Cann, Edward||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Duncan, Sir James||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Walder, David|
|Duthie, Sir William||Mills, Stratton||Walker, Peter|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Montgomery, Fergus||Wells, John (Maldstone)|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Whitelaw, William|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Morgan, William||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Finlay, Graeme||Nugent, Sir Richard||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Oakshott, Sir Hendrle||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Page, John (Harrow, West)||Wise, A. R.|
|Gower, Raymond||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Grant, Rt. Hon. William||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)||Woollam, John|
|Gurden, Harold||Partridge, E.||Worsley, Marcus|
|Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth|
|Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Pilkington, Sir Richard||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hastings, Stephen||Pitman, I. J.||Mr. Gibson-Watt and Mr. Noble.|
|Ainsley, William||Blyton, William||Brown, Thomas (Ince)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S. W.)||Callaghan, James|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Boyden, James||Castle, Mrs. Barbara|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Chapman, Donald|
§ see whether it would not be better to substitute some different period for 24 hours. I cannot give the House an assurance that I will change it, because I am not sure that 24 hours is not, perhaps, the best answer. It will be looked at and I will take advice on the point between now and a later stage. Nevertheless, I am sure that seven days is too long and, having given the assurance I have given, I ask the House to reject the Amendment.
§ Question put, That "twenty-four hours" stand part of the Clause:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 147, Noes 107.
|Collick, Percy||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Kenyon, Clifford||Robertson, J. (Paisley)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Lawson, George||Ross, William|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Logan, David||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Delargy, Hugh||Loughlin, Charles||Small, William|
|Dempsey, James||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Diamond, John||MacColl, James||Snow, Julian|
|Driberg, Tom||McInnes, James||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Fletcher, Eric||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Forman, J. C.||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Stonehouse, John|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Manuel, A. C.||Stross, Dr. Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Mapp, Charles||Sylvester, George|
|Grey, Charles||Marsh, Richard||Symonds, J. B.|
|Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Mendelson, J. J.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Milne, Edward J.||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Hannan, William||Mitchison, G. R.||Thornton, Ernest|
|Herbison, Miss Margaret||Moody, A. S.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Hill, J. (Midlothian)||Mort, D. L.||Wade, Donald|
|Hilton, A. V.||Moyle, Arthur||Warbey, William|
|Holman, Percy||Oliver, G. H.||Watkins, Tudor|
|Holt, Arthur||Oswald, Thomas||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Houghton, Douglas||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Whitlock, William|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Parker, John||Willey, Frederick|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Williams, Ll. (Abertillery)|
|Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Peart, Frederick||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Jeger, George||Pentland, Norman||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Prentice, R. E.|
|Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech(Wakefield)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Proctor, W. T.||Mr. Irving and Mr. Ifor Davies.|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Randall, Harry|
§ Clause, as amended, added to the Bill.