HC Deb 04 December 1961 vol 650 cc1063-95

Order for Second Reading read.

9.48 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. John Maclay)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The purpose of the Bill is to extinguish the rights of navigation on the Forth and Clyde Canal and to remove the obligation on the British Transport Commission to run it for this particular purpose. The Bill, I would emphasise, affects in no other way at all the Commission's duties or responsibilities in relation to the canal, and in particular it will continue as a source of water for industrial purposes. For a reason I shall explain a little later it is highly desirable that the right of navigation should cease on 1st January, 1963.

This canal cuts Scotland roughly in half along the line chosen by Antoninus Pius about nineteen centuries ago. Although his purpose was somewhat different, his wall and the canal have achieved very similar results, although the canal is perhaps rather more effective in impeding movement from south to north and north to south. Except by the ferry at Dunoon and across the Queensferry Passage one cannot make a journey through Scotland without passing either over it or under it. Including Glasgow there are 40 bridges carrying traffic over the Canal, and five roads go under it. Many of these bridges are timber bascule bridges capable of carrying three tons to five tons only, and often they are awkward to approach. The bridges and approach roads are all, except in one or two cases, quite inadequate to meet modern needs.

After nearly 200 years of the canal's life, most of the bridges are just wearing out. Indeed, except for a bridge built a year or two ago at Twechar, the youngest of the modern swing bridges is already over 20 years old. I need only instance the Camelon and Bainsford bridges in Falkirk, the Castlecary bridge on the A.80 and the Dalmuir and Kilbowie road bridges in Clydebank for hon. Members to appreciate how the existing bridges hamper traffic movements on important routes. Among the timber bascule bridges, a striking one is the bridge at Blairdardie in Glasgow which can carry three tons only but which is the direct link to Glasgow for the 40,000 people who live in Drumchapel and Blairdardie.

Altogether there are no fewer than two dozen road bridges which highway authorities think should be replaced in the reasonably near future, but there is no likelihood of this being done except in the direst need while the cost of replacement is about £80,000 for an opening bridge for a single 24 ft. carriageway and twice as much for duals. Our road programme for the next five years will also involve two new trunk road crossings of the canal on the Denny and Falkirk bypasses, the former taking the place of the present Castlecary bridge. Their combined cost would be about £320,000 if lifting bridges are necessary. If not, about £20,000 would be adequate.

In all, the cost of new bridges and desirable replacements on the basis of new opening bridges amounts to about £2½ million. If the Canal is closed to navigation and culverts can take the place of bridges, up to 90 per cent. of this expenditure would be saved. I am not of course implying that as many as 24 bridges will immediately be replaced, though some would be, if the canal is closed, but the saving would still be real if this process is spread over several years.

The figures which I have given show that there are very strong arguments for ending the navigation rights so as to enable highway authorities to get on with the economic replacement of inadequate bridges. If navigation continues, what I fear is not so much that local authorities will incur heavy expenditure on new swing bridges but that, faced with the cost, nothing will be done and the trouble spots will thus remain.

I should like to examine the present use made of the canal and then go on to discuss the interests which will be affected by closure to navigation. Very little freight is conveyed on the canal and none has been carried throughout its length for some time. Apart from the supply of water to industry, its principal use is by fishing boats, yachts and launches on passage and for mooring purposes. The figures give a good idea of the position and I will give them as averages for the last three years.

In the last three years an average of 210 fishing boat passages and 123 yacht and launch passages were made each year from sea to sea. The receipts from these passages averaged £1,050. Overall, the working costs have been £77,000 per year, the total receipts £40,000, the greater part of which is from industrial water, and the working deficit £37,000 per annum on average. It can be seen therefore that the British Transport Commission incurred quite a substantial loss on running the canal and it may be expected that this will be reduced if it is no longer required for navigation.

The principal navigational use is by fishing boats. At the beginning of last year, well before our decision that the Bowes Committee conclusion was right, the fishermen affected discussed the matter with my Department. They did not then bring forward any fresh arguments for keeping the canal open which materially added to those given to the Bowes Committee. The main argument is the dependence of the Forth fishing fleet on the canal for access to the western herring fisheries in summer and to the Clyde white fish grounds in winter.

We well realise that the closure of the canal to navigation will inconvenience the fishermen concerned, perhaps in parti- cular those operating small boats. But, in the face of the vast sums of public expenditure involved in the bridge problem, we do not think that there is a convincing reason for keeping the canal open primarily for the benefit of the 60 or so fishing boats which use it.

The other main use is by yachts and launches on passage, and I have recently had the opportunity to discuss this with representatives of the Royal Yachting Association and the Inland Waterways Association. They urged, above all, that in the programme of bridge reconstruction sufficient headroom should be preserved for vessels to make the passage, if necessary with their masts unstepped. The headroom which we concluded would be necessary would be about 10 feet—too small, incidentally, to include fishing boats.

The deputation appreciated, too, that there could be no compromise on its request, since the construction of the first bridge at which this headroom was impossible would obviously close the canal to these vessels. I have already said that the cost of an opening bridge for a 24 foot road is about £80,000. The comparable cost for providing crossings by means of culverts or low bridges, according to the circumstances of each crossing, would probably be less than £10,000 a crossing.

It is very difficult to assess, without excessively detailed examination, what would be the cost of providing 10 foot headroom at all these places, but while the bridges themselves might not cost very much they would need extensive raising of adjoining public roads and acquisition of property. The cost to provide 6 feet headroom, which we first considered, might be of the order of £60,000 per bridge. To provide the full 10-foot headroom, or a higher clearance which would have helped fishing boats, by means of fixed bridges, would, in many cases, be almost impossible, and to allow vessels of this height free passage would mean that in the majority of cases opening bridges would have to be retained.

My conclusion, therefore, is that it is really impossible to meet the yachting interests in the way they suggest. I should stress that the Bowling Basins, at present used by a variety of craft, will continue to be available for mooring and other purposes and could be further developed.

I must explain why the Bill is urgent and why we want it to come into force on 1st January, 1963. The Denny bypass on the Glasgow-Stirling road is now under construction and should be completed in the summer of 1963. It will cross the canal near Castlecary, and if the crossing were to be made by means of a lifting bridge we should have to reach a decision to that effect early next year so that it could be built in time. This explains why I have brought the Bill forward now. Any later would have been too late to save the £160,000 which a lifting bridge would cost.

If, as I hope, the Bill commends itself to the House, and a crossing by means of a culvert becomes possible, with the resultant saving of about £150,000, physical closure of the canal can be deferred till the beginning of 1963 and still allow sufficient time before the road works are completed to enable the much simpler crossing to be built. But we must start on it not later than January, 1963.

I know that the House will share my genuine regret that the passage of time and the changing nature of our transport industry point inescapably to ending navigation on a waterway which has existed for nearly 200 years, but I am confident that hon. Members will agree that we can no longer avoid implementing the writing on the wall. The Bill does not abandon the canal, nor does it mean that the canal will have no future at all. The use of it for the supply of water is a great asset for industry near its course and I have already referred to possible developments at Bowling. But with the main step of extinguishing navigation behind us, all the local authorities concerned will be able to consider their interest in the canal's future and help the canal administration to give the canal—as redeveloped—a useful and economic future.

9.59 p.m.

Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)

Many of us will be a little sad to have to approve the passage of this Bill. Not only do we think of the fishing vessels that use the canal but of the ever-increasing number of our fellow citizens who spend their leisure time on the waterways. That is very important, but we have also witnessed in other parts of the world such use of waterways for the conveyance of freight that it must concern us a little when—

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Proceedings on Government Business exempted, at this day's Sitting, from the provisions of Standing Order No. 1 (Sittings of the House).—[Mr. Maclay.]

Question again proposed, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Mr. Fraser

I was saying that it must concern us at a time when we are seeking to make economies in transport in Scotland that we should be removing from our transport system the most economical system there is. One wonders whether we have not been failing Scotland over the years by not seeking to make better use of this waterway for the conveyance of goods to and fro across Scotland.

Giving us figures of the different types of bridges, the Secretary of State made what appeared to be a very powerful case for his Bill, although many hon. Members on both sides of the House will have questions and suggestions to put. He said that in certain parts the canal would continue to fulfil a very useful purpose. The Schedule says: The Main Canal, commencing by junctions with the Old Harbour, with Junction Dock and with Carron Dock (including the timber basins on each side of Earl's Road), all in the Burgh of Grangemouth in the County of Stirling and terminating in the parish of Old Kilpatrick in the County of Dunbarton at the foot of the two locks connecting the Canal with the River Clyde and with Bowling Harbour respectively … It goes on to describe the Glasgow Arm.

The navigation rights are being extinguished throughout the whole length of the canal, which includes the timber basins of the east of Scotland and that part of the canal adjoining the Firth of Clyde of which considerable use is now being made by water craft. The Secretary of State made it clear that, although the navigation rights were being extinguished, the use of the canal by water craft would not be prohibited.

As there are navigation rights enjoyed by people who use the canal, I wonder whether the British Transport Commission undertakes works of maintenance at the canal's extremities which it will no longer be obliged to undertake when the Bill is enacted and, if so, whether we are likely to see a deterioration of the facilities available to industry at one end and industry plus pleasure craft at the other. Will we make it more difficult for those who use the canal for those purposes to continue to use it, or to extend the use they are making of those two ends of the canal?

The Secretary of State knows that there has been considerable agitation in Scotland in recent years about the in-filling of canals which are no longer being used for the purposes for which they were originally constructed and which have become dangerous to the public. This is not the most dangerous canal in Scotland—I think that the Monkland Canal has claimed most victims—but I understand that this canal has claimed some victims, too. Will the canal, if it is no longer being made available for navigational purposes, be further neglected? Will it become a greater source of danger? If there is such a likelihood, we shall be all the more reluctant to pass the Bill. Is there a possibility that it will become a sort of neglected sewer, and what steps are being taken to ensure that it will not, because is it not the preservation of the navigational rights on the canal that puts an obligation on the British Transport Commission to carry out certain work at present for the better maintenance of the canal?

In describing some of the uses of the canal, the Secretary of State referred to it as a source of water supply for industry. I do not think the whole length of it is required for that purpose. However, it would seem that the canal is likely to be, by itself, a catchment for water, and that water will, therefore, continue to spill into it and find its way to industrial users, presumably at either end of the canal. But how much of the canal is required for this purpose?

If the canal is no longer to be used for navigational purposes, would it be possible to close a good length of it, and, if need be, fill it in? Might it not be used for roads? One does not normally decide the line of a road in accordance with the way a canal happened to be constructed 200 years ago, but is there a possible use for it in this connection?

In as much as some people have advocated the in-filling of dangerous canals and in as much as it is recognised that there is a continuing need for the water that runs in them for industrial purposes, can the Secretary of State tell us what would be the cost of piping the water, thus removiing the danger, particularly to children, along the greater part of the canal which would appear not to be likely in future ever to be used by water craft?

As the Secretary of State told us about the disadvantage to be suffered by the sixty or so fishing vessels which at present use the canal to cross Scotland, can he tell us what will be the extent of it? Will the vessels have to go round the north of Scotland or through the Caledonian Canal? What time is likely to be added to their journey between the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Clyde if they have to go through the Caledonian Canal?

I do not find it possible to offer any vigorous criticism of the Bill on Second Reading, though there are a number of questions still to be answered before we pass the Bill and put it on the Statute Book. We should be irresponsible if we argued against the Bill irrespective of the cost of the provision of the bridges which has been mentioned, and we should not be discharging our duties if we did not seek to preserve the extremities of the two canals for the very useful purposes to which they are now being put.

More and more people are driving over crowded roads to the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Clyde, and I should have thought that as these canals offer a safe harbourage for vessels, we would not wish negligently to put through an Act of Parliament which would have the effect of discouraging the use of our waterways by pleasure craft.

10.10 p.m.

Mr. Grant-Ferris (Nantwich)

I have often battled for canals, and, indeed, we have done a great deal to save many of our canals in England. I therefore ask for the indulgence of hon. Gentlemen opposite from the Northern Kingdom in speaking about a Scottish canal.

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

Last week the hon. Gentleman said that we had no canals in Scotland. Now he wants to talk about one.

Mr. Grant-Ferris

The hon. Gentleman spoke to me about that after the debate. I told him that it was a slip of the tongue and for "any" read "many".

After that short digression, I am sorry to have to say that, feeling as I do about these things, I feel obliged to support my right hon. Friend in the Second Reading of the Bill.

I have been thinking and worrying about this proposition which has been "on the go" for well over a year, and I have done my best with Scottish Members and other people to see that the case of the users of the canal was brought forward as fully as possible. I am rather disappointed at the efforts which the commercial users in Scotland, the fishermen, have made in impressing on all concerned the necessity for keeping their way open. Having looked at it carefully, and also at the question of the passing through of yachts, I have come to the conclusion that, great as this benefit is to these people, by far the greater benefit lies in doing what my right hon. Friend proposes to do.

It is unfortunate that this waterway runs across a route the like of which no other waterway in the United Kingdom crosses. There are these enormous numbers of important road crossings going from north to south in the narrowest part of Scotland. Something has to be done to improve these passages in the interests of the greatest number of people, and I think that that is what we have to bear in mind.

Unfortunately, this canal does not seem to have a great number of friends. There is not a Forth and Clyde Canal Society. I do not think anyone would say that it is a canal with great amenity value. I learnt with some surprise—and I think that it must be the only one in the United Kingdom or indeed in Europe where this is so—that there are no fishermen on this canal. That surprises me a great deal. I am sure that if fishermen had been involved we should have heard a great deal about it from them, although one might say that the closing of the navigation would not greatly affect their amenities.

Who uses this canal, and what are we going to lose? A curious thing is that the yachtsmen of the Forth do not seem to think much of the yachting waters of their brothers on the other side, and there is little passage of yachts from the Forth to the Clyde.

Mr. Maclay

They send them by road.

Mr. Grant-Ferris

They send them by road. I thought that some yachts might be a little expensive to send by road, but perhaps that is not so in Scotland. The great trouble has arisen not from any area in Scotland but from the northeast coast of England. It is from the yachting clubs on the north-east coast that the greatest pressure has been brought to bear on the Royal Yachting Association to save this waterway.

If we consider the figures, and the number of people using the waterway, it is difficult to make out a strong case at the moment. The crux of the matter is, however, that the yachting clubs on the north-east coast of England are bound to be improved, and there is bound to be an enormous increase in yachting in the area. In future more and more people would use the waterway if it remained open. But under the Bill that possibility will not arise. It is, therefore, a good thing to realise that we may be doing away with something which might be of great value to many more people in the future than it is at the moment.

But having said that, if we go on to consider the cost involved we must agree that what the Minister wants to do is right. I thank him very much for meeting the chairman of the Inland Waterways Association, a distinguished member of the Council of the Royal Yachting Association and myself and discussing the matter in great detail with us. We were quite convinced that if he could have seen any way to save the canal for the benefit not only of yachtsmen but fishermen he would certainly have done so. He understood the problem very well. He is a yachtsman of no mean repute—or at least he was in the past when he had a little more time.

One or two other matters arise out of the speech of the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser). I understand that my right hon. Friend intends that the Bowling Basin, at the Clyde end of the canal, shall be preserved for the benefit of yachtsmen and anybody else who wishes to use it, especially for laying up their boats in the winter. I further understand that a half-mile stretch of the canal beyond the Basin will be available for this purpose. This will be a valuable acquisition, because it is a very wide canal, and its value will increase as interest in this form of recreation develops. It will be particularly advantageous, because two railway lines on either side of the canal at that point will add greatly to the security of that stretch.

I hope that the Under-Secretary will be able to give the assurances for which the hon. Member for Hamilton asked. I hope that the British Transport Commission and its successors—the Inland Waterways Authority—will be bound to keep the Basin going, with all the necessary works, in the shape of locks, and to see that the whole thing functions properly.

The hon. Member asked whether, since the canal was being closed to navigation in some parts, it would be a good idea to fill it in altogether. He further asked for some assurances on this point and an estimate of the cost. I do not think that my hon. Friend will be able to give such an estimate here and now, but experience has shown that it is a very expensive thing to do. I recollect the Corporation of Nottingham spending about £93,000, not many years ago, in closing a few miles of canal. Probably the best way of dealing with the matter is to see that the canal is properly fenced in areas where children are likely to be able to have access to it.

Mr. T. Fraser

I did not say so in my speech, but in Scotland we have a great many pit heaps which we could well do without. Were they put into the canal, they would leave areas of Scotland in a little more attractive condition.

Mr. Grant-Ferris

That may well be. I will support the hon. Gentleman in anything he wishes to do to try to make attractive any eyesores which there may be in Scotland, although I do not think that in his beautiful country there are many places which need to be made more attractive.

I support this Bill. I hope that hon. Members will not think because I so often ask for canals to remain open that I am one of the "lunatic fringe". I think this is a case where a canal should be closed in the interests of the majority of the people and the roads in the area improved, as is so badly needed.

10.20 p.m.

Mr. Malcolm MacPherson (Stirling and Falkirk Burghs)

The hon. Member for Nantwich (Mr. Grant-Ferris) agreed with my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) that there was a certain amount of reluctance over the closing of this canal. I support that general feeling because people have a certain sentimental attachment to it. As was said by my hon. Friend its route could be used as a means of transport as it runs from the north-west to the south-east.

The local authorities in my constituency have had the problem of this canal in mind for very much longer than the period of a year, which was the period referred to by the hon. Gentleman. I think that the Minister probably knows already that in my area the local authorities welcome this Bill as a proper solution to a problem which has concerned them for a long time.

This is a simple Bill which removes the obligation to maintain the canal as a means of navigation. I wonder whether it is not too simple and whether one or two things might well have been mentioned in it. I take it that when the right hon. Gentleman, explaining the occasion for bringing in this Bill, said that it was needed urgently, he was also—although he did not say so—explaining why the Measure was so simple. He wants it in a hurry and for that reason possible complexities, I take it, have been left out. There are still one or two things which remain as question marks in the minds of members of local authorities. But on one big problem we have received an assurance. It is that the canal will continue to be used for the supply of industrial water. This means a great deal to Falkirk. A number of industries in the area use water from the canal, and it may well be that in future this use will increase.

The bridges have been the main cause of worry in Falkirk Burgh. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned them, the Camelon and the Bainsford bridges. They have been a serious worry to the town for a long time. They are wearing out and, when repairs are needed, the temporary closing of these bridges causes an enormous dislocation of traffic. Falkirk is becoming congested with traffic and even when the bridges were open, the Bainsford Bridge being a single-line bridge, it was not easy for traffic to get across. The cost of the necessary replacement, whatever might have been decided about the canal, would, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, vary between £80,000 and £10,000. The decision to introduce this Bill and so enable a replacement to be made at the lower figure means a lot for my area.

I wish to ask the Minister about two points which might have been dealt with in the Bill. The first is the terms on which the responsibility for the renewing of the bridges could be taken over by the local authorities. I understand that the position of local authorities is protected by the Bridges Act, 1929. I hope that the Under-Secretary will explain what position local authorities will find themselves in.

I have one other question, to which I think I can guess the answer. However I should like to have it cleared up. Mention has been made of the terminals of the canal, particularly the one at Bowhill. I am concerned particularly with the terminal in my constituency. The timber basins there are mentioned in the Schedule, but they are one of the few things which are not discussed in the Bowes Report. A certain inference has been drawn in the area about what will be the use of the timber basins. It is not a vital question. Nowadays they have not the importance they used to have for seasoning the timber which came in at the docks. The basins are now used largely for storage. Seasoning is done by different techniques in this modern age. I do not speak with any authority on this, but I understand that that is the position. I should like to know what is likely to happen. I take it that the basins will remain from the point of view of sentiment, although they are put to comparatively limited use. This would be a good thing. Perhaps the Under-Secretary will tell us what is intended.

In spite of the difficulties to fishermen, which I understand and sympathise with, and in spite of the fact that we seem to be, and in fact are, ending a means of transport which we have not been able to use fully, I welcome the Bill.

10.26 p.m.

Mr. William Yates (The Wrekin)

I speak as a canal lover educated in Scotland and also as an angler. There is one point which I want the Secretary of State to bear in mind for the future. He says that canals in general have lost their purpose for transport today. This may well be true, but technical developments are taking place in the use of boats which are capable of hovering. These may, far sooner than we think, come into active use in industry.

Lateral canals and lateral communications in the hands of the nation would be extremely valuable. Before the Secretary of State constructs any bridges or starts interfering with any of the lateral rights of passage across the country, I hope that he will consult his experts and ensure that the construction work which it is intended to carry out will not impede movement of craft of this nature in future. It is no use building bridges at a cost of £80,000 or £100,000 and then finding in ten or fifteen years' time that we have not the right to use the canal. This canal has a very important function to perform in the general movement of trade between Europe and the United States.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider this matter carefully. He should discuss with the Department concerned the future use of canals and the movement of craft of the type to which I have referred up and down the country. It will be no good in future years, after we have built bridges, saying that we have lost the right to use these channels of communication for new forms of craft and transport.

10.29 p.m.

Mr. William Hannan (Glasgow, Maryhill)

I will not follow the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. W. Yates) in the remarks he directed to the Secretary of State. I have only two comments to make to the hon. Member for Nantwich (Mr. Grant-Ferris). First, I do not dissent from his general point of view and I see no alternative to accepting the Bill, though reluctantly and with some criticisms which I shall offer later.

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Nantwich should not be surprised that the Forth and Clyde Canal is not a haven for fishermen. Only young boys fish there who have a morbid attraction for the canal and for losing their lives. Anyway, no self-respecting fish would live in the Forth and Clyde Canal.

The Forth and Clyde Canal has very special and intimate significance to my constituents of Maryhill. The canal flows through Glasgow and through three of the most populated constituencies—Scotstoun, Maryhill and Woodside—to the Monkland Canal in the Central constituency. It is remarkable to recognise—and this is a point the Secretary of State should bear in mind—that it was industry that caused a canal to be brought there. Industry, in turn, formed new towns and, at that time, the new town of Maryhill was established.

Only three years after the completion of the canal the town got its name from the lady who was a superior resident of the district. Her name was Mary Hill—and thus the town was formed. But she laid down the condition that the new town should be built between the City of Glasgow beyond the estate of Gascombe. It is also remarkable to remember that the Survey of 1956 described the Stockingfield area of Maryhill as being near to Glasgow. Of course nowadays Maryhill is the City of Glasgow.

When the canal got to my constituency there was a shortage of money, so the Government of the day advanced £50,000. It was actually that money, given from the estates of nobles and others who had had the temerity to support the Rebellion of 1745. Thus the canal was completed down to Bowling.

The controversy over canals has raged for over a hundred years; not merely for one year, as was said in this case. We have had various reports and many and varied recommendations. The Bowes Report, however, is the document on which I shall concentrate. That Report pointed out that the original canal was built before the railways and had transport as its main purpose. It also pointed out that if the function of transport fundamentally was now to cease, the other purposes, of providing water and so on, should be secondary, and the full picture should be looked at from that aspect.

Many of the problems are inherited from the 18th century and since canals then were only for transport purposes, and as they have outlived their usefulness, they should be looked at from that angle, as the Report pointed out. The Report states—and I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton) will agree—that the Transport Commission as the owners of canals have been saddled with a burden which properly should not be theirs.

In the building of the canal surrounding land was purchased and conditions were laid down regarding agricultural drainage. The British Transport Commission even today is responsible for agricultural drainage and, of course, this is a public body providing a hidden subsidy to farmers and agriculture. The Bowes Committee divided canals into three groups. Hon. Members who have read the Report will know that in the first group were put those which could continue to be navigated successfully, the second category was of those which could be improved, and the third category was the one into which redundant canals came. Included in that category was the Forth and Clyde Canal.

At one stage the Scottish Trades Union Congress was opposed to the closing of this canal. It thought, quite rightly, that on strategic grounds the canal, which ran right across the country and afforded a barrier, could under other circumstances become quite valuable. Those of us who can think back to those days think of the skill with which the canal was constructed and pay tribute to the men who executed their task with such great precision. In my constituency there were John Smeaton and Robert Whitworth, two engineers of that day who have been commemorated in the streets named after them.

I come to the crux of the Bill. The Bowes Committee's Report, on which I am relying a great deal, in its remarks about canals which were to be classed as redundant, said that no plan had been in hand when these canals were being made. There was a need for each to be reviewed case by case, and they should be assessed according to their purposes. Although a canal might be valuable for ancillary functions such as providing water, the disadvantages sometimes outweighed the good properties. The Committee made the distinction quite clearly in paragraphs 127–8 when it posed the question, had these canals to be redeveloped or eliminated?

I ask the right hon. Gentleman and the Under-Secretary, what is the attitude of the Government to this canal? I agree with the Bowes Report when it says that by redevelopment it means the retention of a waterway as a water channel adapted to serve primarily a purpose other than commercial navigation, although the Committee did not exclude that possibility, and responsibility for its maintenance and management is entrusted to some body, not necessarily the owners, capable of exercising those responsibilities.

A canal is closed to navigation, but what happens after that? As the Secretary of State has outlined, there are advantages in having the bridges and so on, but is the canal to lie open as an attraction for children throughout its length of 35 miles to paddle or play in and seize any loose flotsam and jetsam with great danger to public life and public health? Or do the Government agree—does the Bill mean that they have accepted the view—that the canal should be eliminated as a whole? That would mean that all the physical works would be disposed of for other uses and either the rights and liabilities of the owners would be extinguished in respect of this canal or those physical works would be transferred to another ownership. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Malcolm MacPherson), I think that this Bill has come to us a little too suddenly. I am a little suspicious of what is motivating the Government in their anxiety to get this Bill now when after repeated Questions by myself and my hon. Friends we have been met by a stonewalling attitude over the past seven or eight years.

Do the Government accept redevelopment, or does the Bill mean elimination? Is there to be positive action and never, as the Bowes Committee put it, abandonment of a waterway to time and neglect"? My hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) is right: while the canal would be closed to navigation, are the weeds to be allowed to grow, giving children greater confidence to step on what can be a dangerous stretch of water and leading to their losing their lives?

There are legal intricacies, and the more I have probed into them the more complex they have seemed. The Bowes Report referred to chaotic and archaic legal provisions which make even the old canal companies carry out contracts for the provision of water, for example. I recognise that when a canal has reached a stage, which the Forth and Clyde Canal has, at which its continuous maintenance consumes more than it produces, its final disposal presents difficulties. To deal with it adequately may be so expensive that the relative advantages of elimination and of retention as a water channel are so finely balanced that almost any productive function may make it economic. While this is a relevant consideration, I hope that the Secretary of State will not make it all-important.

I ask the Under-Secretary of State—do the Government accept my definition about redevelopment and elimination? If they do, does not the Bill merely recognise what is already a fact? The canal in any case is used only by a declining number of transits. I do not dissent from the Secretary of State's figures. My own recent information is that there were ninety-four transits last year, and some of the ships may have made a double transit. If and when the Bill becomes an Act, whose responsibility will it be to maintain the banks of the canal, deal with the destruction of weeds, the lock-chambers, and the basins and footbridges? In my constituency there are nine locks on which the water drops from 156 feet above sea level down to Bowling. Whose will be the responsibility to look after the canal and to keep it in a fit state?

What is the distinction between the Bill, which closes the canal for navigation, and the rights conferred on the British Transport Commission by a certificate of abandonment? I have here a Press report from the Scotsman of 27th June, 1959, which shows that when the Monkland Canal in Glasgow was closed to navigation it was abandoned by the issue of a certificate. That seems to have been the method then adopted. When Glasgow Corporation discussed how to deal with the menace of the canals to young children, and the fatal attraction which they offered them, the cost to the local authority to fill in only part of the Monkland Canal would have been £425,000, not £90,000, which the hon. Member for Nantwich said would have been the cost to his authority. I agree with the hon. Member that this is extremely costly.

I seem to sense that, through the Bill and the White Paper, the Government are unloading part of their responsibilities on to the local authorities. That can be borne out by an extract from a memorandum given to me by the Secretary of State only two years ago in connection with the Monkland Canal. It stated: As regards the Glasgow section, the initiative in preparing a redevelopment scheme can in theory come from any interested party, but since no private developer has, so far as is known, shown any interest in acquiring the land, since the B.T.C. have no further use for it and since it is not required for the purposes of any Government Department, the possible uses, so far considered, all seem to fall within the responsibility of Glasgow Corporation. By this Bill, will the same thing happen? I can tell the Secretary of State that there will be great resentment if that is the position. Whatever advantages follow from bridges and making it easier for traffic to flow, these problems will require elaboration.

I hope that the House will forgive my going on, but this is an opportunity for me to air some of the doubts while appreciating and accepting the principle of the Bill. The main burden of my remarks is to try to indicate that it does not go far enough to deal with the remaining problem. It simply recognises that there is nothing constructive in the way of providing work, as it could be provided, by linking up an alternative route for the carriage of oil from Grangemouth to the west coast, or linking up with the Union Canal in Edinburgh as a possible alternative for some of the traffic which is creating trouble on the Glasgow-Edinburgh road.

I agree with the Bowes Report that inaction in relation to disused waterways forfeits opportunities to remedy various evils and inconveniences. When a canal is closed, who becomes responsible for building the bridges? To what extent are the local authority and the Transport Commission asked to meet the cost? Are the bridges then transferred to the highway authority. Does the Commission make any contribution? If so, how much?

The advantages are claimed that permanent structures would lead to traffic and that part of the canal would be incorporated in town planning in various places—for example, Coatbridge. These by themselves are all desirable objectives. The local authorities have for a long time been making complaints in this matter. There are the forty-one bridges of which the Secretary of State has spoken. I do not think it is generally known that, as a result of having those small bridges, the Transport Commission employs twenty lock and bridge keepers, who will now be dispensed with. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will also confirm that the position of these men, small though they are in number, will be safeguarded and that the harsh state of redundancy will not come to them.

All this is commendable, but it is not the only feature. There is the public safety angle, about which the local authorities have, time and again, approached the Secretary concerning the provision of bulwarks and defences at the known danger spots where the canal flows through the city. Those of us who live, as I do, in my constituency are brought close to the poignant, tragic circumstances when a child's life is lost by drowning. The Bowes Committee itself received very strong representations on this matter.

Many of the women folk resident in Maryhill overlook the canal from their own homes, and have time and again expressed their anxiety about the dangers prevalent for children. I am not convinced that waterways are inherently more dangerous than any other form of transport. I want to make that very clear. There are more people killed—and more children killed—in the streets than in the canals. There are more people killed even in their homes than in the canals. This, however, is not the answer when human emotion is aroused when a child loses his life in a canal, as those of us know who receive letters of the character of this one. They will understand just how strong these feelings are.

I have here a letter from a constituent who lost a boy, and if I quote two paragraphs that will be sufficient: As you will see by the enclosed cutting, another young life is lost in your constituency, and what are you doing about it? I suppose, like I was, you are sitting smug because it does not affect you directly, but whereas there was little I could do there is much for you to do, and for God's sake do it now … Yesterday my boy was buried, and next week, next month, or next year there will be others like him, and other parents will have to go through the agony I am going through now, unless you, and others like you with the voice, the authority, do something. That is the sort of letter one gets, and the local Press—rightly—use these incidents to remind the public that only continual pressure will move the authorities.

After Second Reading the Bill is to be committed to a Select Committee of eight Members, four to be nominated by the House and four by the Committee of Selection, for this is a hybrid Bill. It is one of the dangers the Bowes Committee referred to, the danger of dealing with these things by hybrid Bills instead of having all-in action dealing with the legal complexities in an all-in fashion. I ask the right hon. Gentleman, what procedure he is adopting to ensure that those who want to make objections to the Bill have their right to objection made known to them, and to make known to them the last date by which they can make their objections?

I cannot say for my own people that they would be inclined to accept the Bill, even as a first stage. For myself, I shall try to persuade them, but I recognise the shortcomings of what we are doing. We are closing the canal to navigation. I hope that the second stage will not be, as I suspect it will be, to seek a certificate to abandon the canal and leave it, with no one apparently responsible for it, as an open cesspool and as an invitation to young people to play upon it, with the great possibility of further young lives being lost.

10.55 p.m.

Commander C. E. M. Donaldson (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)

I follow the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) in his thought about safety and the responsibility for safety which will be residual after the Bill comes into force. I feel regret and sorrow that the canal is to be closed, but I see the force of my right hon. Friend's argument and I am sure that few will dissent from the facts which he has produced for us on the financial aspects of the Bill.

It would be wrong if I did not say a few words of farewell on behalf of many yachtsmen friends of mine who have worked their way through the canal in small craft. I doubt whether there are many in the House who have done so. I certainly did on a number of occasions before I came to the House where lack of time inhibits one from doing such things. I well remember the Mary-hill area and how hard it was to work small craft through the locks and to help to open bridges when there was not always a bridge-keeper there. I know that there will be yachtsmen in east and west Scotland who will be sore and sorry when the canal is closed to navigation.

I had intended to speak about safety but that aspect has been dealt with fully by the hon. Member for Maryhill. I remember passing through the canal a few days after a child had been drowned in the Maryhill area. I was deeply impressed by the sorrow and upsurge of feeling which that occasion aroused, but I also thought of the full passage of the canal and those long waste areas where there are no gates and where fishing would be an impossibility. I remember that the count of animals dead and floating in that passage of the canal—for we kept a record in the log book—was 21 dogs, 13 cats, one pig, one goat and I do not know how many chickens.

These dead animals are as great a danger to health as is the open canal a danger to the safety of children. I am sure that the people of Scotland who live in areas abutting on to the canal would wish my right hon. Friend to give an assurance of the safety element which will be taken into account when the canal is closed to navigation. When the locks were being used and craft moved up and down there was some good effect, in that some of the dead creatures were removed at the lock ends. Not only do children go into the canal and get drowned, but they also go swimming there because there is nowhere else. If I were the parent of a child living in the area I should be horrified if this health aspect were not considered when the canal is closed to navigation. I am sorry from the point of view of yachting and recreation that the canal is to be closed, but I should be even more sorry if it were to be closed and left, as the hon. Member for Maryhill has said, an open ditch and a pollution in the nostrils of the people of Scotland.

10.59 p.m.

Mr. William Baxter (West Stirlingshire)

I very much regret having to bring a note of discord and disharmony into this happy band. It would appear that everyone looks upon this great asset to central Scotland, valued in the region of £50 million, as being a thing that should be cast away without very much consideration other than the two pages of this Bill which indicate to some extent the advantages of doing away with drawbridges and instituting ordinary standard bridges because it would be much cheaper to do so. This is a tragedy. There is a lack of imagination in the whole plan for central Scotland and even for the well-being of Scotland itself.

There is no apparent co-ordinated effort to make the best use of our natural resources. On the one side of Scotland we have the great industrial city of Glasgow and on the other the expanding small burgh of Grangemouth which, with its neighbours Falkirk and Larbert, is becoming almost a city in the making. Here is a great artery for the flow of goods to and from these two great centres, not only great centres of people, but great harbourages for boats which come from far and near. This canal is one of Scotland's great assets and if the Secretary of State and his advisers were to show a little more imagination, they would be trying to pump new blood into the utilisation of the canal.

Small and large barges can be made capable of carrying more than 100 tons of goods along the canal. Propelled by small diesel engines costing very little, they could be made to carry merchandise from one side of Scotland to the other, at the cost of a matter of a few pence. The whole of our approach to Scotland's problem is frustrated by this attitude of penny wise and pound foolish.

It is said that replacing the drawbridges with fixed bridges will ultimately save the taxpayer a good deal of money. When a flyover is required in London, or anywhere else in England and Wales, and the cost is £1 million or £1½ million. there is no hesitation about spending the money for the benefit of the trade and commerce of the area, but in Scotland we hesitate to use this great artery to the maximum possible extent. Scotland's economic and industrial planning is hamstrung by the number of small planning committees existing throughout the central belt.

Some years ago there were two great conceptions in the Abercrombie Committee and another whose name I cannot for the moment recall. The reports of those committees were cast aside and no major plan for the industrial development of central Scotland has been laid down. Instead, we have a patchwork quilt with no continuity of ideas. Now we have reached the stage of closing down the Forth and Clyde Canal with its great potential for the trade and commerce of Scotland and which, with a little ingenuity, could be made to work effectively for the general good of Scotland.

I am one hon. Member in a large gathering and I may be alone in deprecating this closure.

Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)

Oh, no.

Mr. Baxter

It is true that certain local authorities are very keen to have it closed, but they are looking to their immediate advantage, which is to do away with the cost of looking after the bridges. If the Secretary of State went into the cost of providing new bridges for the old ones over the canals, he would find that it would not be so very costly bearing in mind the future uses that I have mentioned.

I may be regarded as an interested party, because I happen to be the owner of the land on which the Townhead Reservoir is situated. It is that reservoir which feeds the Forth and Clyde Canal; without it there would be no canal. So I declare my interest.

The Bill lacks certain things. For instance, what is to be done about the maintenance of the reservoir? Some of my colleagues have asked what is to be done about the maintenance of the Forth and Clyde Canal. The Secretary of State said that the canal will be used for carrying water for industry in Grangemouth and Glasgow, as at present. It is not very wise to continue this open sewer, as it will ultimately become, to carry industrial water to Grangemouth and Glasgow.

I suggest that the water should be piped to those industrial users and that the Forth and Clyde Canal should then be filled in, especially as it is now being done away with anyway. It may be argued that at the moment it is a catchment area for water from various hills. But anyone who knows the geography of the area knows that it need not be so used. Down at Kelvinhead the River Bonny flows one way to the Carron and then into the Forth and the River Kelvin goes the other way, and the shedding of the water actually takes place at a distance between these two seats.

Consequently, there would be no problem about the catchment of the water that at present goes into the canal. It would be much better if the water went into the River Bonny and the River Kelvin for the simple reason that it would help to purify the rivers. At present they are not pure enough for the fish for which the anglers want to fish. They used to be great fishing rivers, containing not only trout but salmon. The great Forth and the Kelvin have been wasted because of pollution.

If the canal were then filled in, it would obviate the problem of children being drowned in it.

Mr. Grant-Ferris

It is important that we should appreciate that the cost of filling in, as an hon. Member opposite has clearly indicated, would be absolutely enormous. The filling in of 35 miles, or even 20 miles, of the canal would result in a most tremendous bill. I do not think one would find anybody, local authority or the State, in a position to meet it.

Mr. Baxter

I live fairly near Kilsyth, and in the centre of it are most unsightly bings, and they could be cleared and used for the purpose. We cannot get industry into Kilsyth because we have no sites for it. If the bings were cleared, land would be brought into use for industry, and we should get a return on the money spent.

This is a case of penny wise and pound foolish. If the canal is to be closed, it should be filled in. Let us have the job done properly. If it is to be retained, the transport system in the area should be reorganised to enable it to be used to the fullest possible extent.

We have neither one thing nor the other in the Bill. The canal is to be closed to shipping, but it is to be left open to become a sewer and, as the hon. Gentleman said, to become so contaminated by dead dogs and cats that the health of young people who swim there in the summer will be impaired. I implore the right hon. Gentleman to do one thing or the other in the Bill.

11.10 p.m.

Mr. Forbes Hendry (Aberdeenshire, West)

I cannot allow this event to pass without expressing a sense of regret that this canal is to be closed to navigation. It is seldom that I agree politically or in any other way with the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. W. Baxter), but on this occasion I agree to some extent because both he and I were born, and spent the greater part of our lives, within a stone's throw of this canal.

I do not know about the hon. Gentleman, but I have quite a fondness for this canal. My hon. Friend the Member for Nantwich (Mr. Grant-Ferris) was wrong when he said that this canal had no amenity value. It is a beautiful canal, and one of the most beautiful views I know of is that from the house at present lived in by the hon. Gentleman.

I have known this canal all my life, both as a yachtsman and as an industrialist using it for commercial purposes. I have used it as a passenger on a canal steamer, and for mucking about in small boats. From many points of view it would be a tragedy if the canal were closed, but here I must part company from the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire because I think that this canal has served its day and generation, and served it well.

One point which no hon. Member has mentioned is that the canal follows the line of Agricola's Wall. At one time it had alongside it a road which must have been almost the oldest road in Scotland. It was built because this is almost the most important route in Scotland. The road has disappeared, but about one hundred years after the construction of the canal there was built a railway line which still serves a useful purpose.

There has never been very much road development in that area. As hon. Members know, the road from Edinburgh to Glasgow via Falkirk is one of the most difficult roads in Scotland. It is being improved, and will remain in perpetuity very much over-burdened. I suggest that my right hon. Friend should carry on his consideration of this route, and see whether this canal provides an opportunity for the construction of a new route across Scotland. After all, we have here a strip of land from Glasgow, the greatest city in Scotland, to Grangemouth, which is rapidly becoming the greatest port in Scotland.

Mr. Willis

When the hon. Gentleman talks about Glasgow being the greatest city in Scotland, I take it that he means in size?

Mr. Hendry

Yes, in size. I am not talking about the capital. As the hon. Gentleman knows, a spur goes to the capital.

This strip of land has tremendous potential as a commercial route. As a canal it has served its day and generation, and I ask my right hon. Friend to consider carefully the possibility of converting it into a road. Knowing the geography of that part of Scotland extremely well, I can see the importance of it, and I think that there are great possibilities in that.

As for water supplies, I do not agree with the hon. Member for West Stirling-shire that the rivers could serve the purpose, but it should not be impossible, from an engineering point of view, to pipe the water and at the same time build the road.

Mr. W. Baxter

I would point out that the rivers served the purpose before the canal was provided. The canal was built almost 200 years ago and the Townhead Reservoir, the first reservoir ever to be built in Scotland by Act of Parliament, got its water from the Kelvin and other rivers.

Mr. Hendry

What the hon Member says is true, but he will agree that the canal follows a rather different route, at a rather different level, and that there are industrial establishments which could not get their water from the rivers but which get it from the canal.

Mr. W. Yates

As an industrialist who knows Scotland, has my hon. Friend and other industrialists given consideration to the new movement of major fluids by pipeline, and the possible use of the canal route for major pipelines?

Mr. Hendry

I have considered that. If my hon. Friend knew the centre of Scotland as well as I do he would know that for at least thirty years there has been a pipeline along the line of the canal, and it is capable of development from that point of view.

I do not want to detain the House: I make an appeal to my right hon. Friend to consider that this is the most important commercial route across Scotland, and that the line of the canal and its site might be used for a roadway, not only for relieving the road along that route but the other roads east and west in Scotland.

11.17 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. R. Brooman-White)

The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) summarised very succinctly most of the questions which have been touched on and developed by subsequent speakers. He thereby set the tone of the debate. Every hon. Member who has spoken, with various degrees of emphasis, has expressed a sense of sadness at the passing of this canal as a navigable waterway, with a history starting with Antoninus Pius, as mentioned by my right hon. Friend. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) developed the more constructive aspect of its history in relation to his own area, and perhaps its more financial aspect, its sequestration of funds from the 'Fortyfive. But he joined in recognising the necessity for the action proposed in the Bill.

I think it would be the wish of the House that I should answer the substance of questions put rather than discuss the general principle, which found acceptance as the result of my right hon. Friend's speech.

The hon. Member for Hamilton regretted that the canal was not put to use for transport, and suggested that more thought might have been given to its possible utilisation for through traffic of goods before a final decision was taken on the lines of the Bill. The arguments for and against that course were set out in paragraph 196 of the Bowes Report. After surveying the various suggestions which have been touched on in this debate the Committee came to the conclusion that there was no real prospect of traffic being economically conveyed. The Committee's reasons for reaching that conclusion are set out in that paragraph.

The hon. Member for Hamilton also mentioned the very regrettable fact, which we all accept, that this involves a sacrifice to the fishing industry. He asked for a measure of the degree of sacrifice. I am afraid it is not possible to state this with any precision. It depends on the weather, on the movements of the fish, and on the unpredictable decisions skippers would take as to what course to follow. Hon. Members have been given figures of the number of boats. They have shown a tendency to decline, but statistics cannot be read very accurately because they fluctuate with changing fishing conditions from year to year. I cannot say more than that there has been a tendency to decline. One can expect the tendency to develop further with the increase in the number of larger boats on the east coast grounds. The hon. Member asked how long the passage took. Again, I can only make a broad average. It takes about four days on the round passage for a boat having to go round by the Caledonian Canal.

The hon. Member for Hamilton, my hon. Friend the Member for Nantwich (Mr. Grant-Ferris) and the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Malcolm MacPherson) were all concerned with terminal problems. The hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs was the only east-coast terminal worrier. He asked about the timber basins. The position there will remain unchanged. I can assure him that access to the basins will still be available. Equally on the west coast, as my right hon. Friend said in opening, access to the yacht basin at Bowling, which is now used by a very wide variety of small craft, will be maintained. There are interesting prospects of further development. I can say no more than that at this stage, except that it is under consideration. What has been said will certainly be brought to the notice of the Commission, which is looking into the possibility of further development on these lines.

Mr. Grant-Ferris

Will the Commission be legally bound still to maintain the basin, or is it only a directive? If it is not to be legally bound, perhaps my right hon. Friend will consider moving an Amendment in Committee to make it obligatory on the Commission to maintain the basin.

Mr. Brooman-White

I should want notice before replying categorically on the exact legal extent of the Commission's obligations regarding access to the basin. The Commission has expressed its intention of maintaining it and is certainly looking into the question of developing it.

The main substance of the misgivings which have been expressed turned on the expression "open sewer" used by the hon. Member for Hamilton. Another view of the canal was taken by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Hendry). He spoke of its beauty in some areas. Sewer or not, it will be no more "sewery" as a result of the Bill. The essential fact about the Bill is that it removes no obligation at present resting on the Commission, except the obligation to keep the canal open for free traffic. I say this in answer to some of the points raised by the hon. Member for Maryhill. All the other obligations—maintenance of the banks, keeping the canal from being choked by weeds, maintaining adjacent land against dangers of flooding, etc.—remain untouched by the Bill.

Mr. W. Baxter

Can the hon. Gentleman give the House a measure of the estimated cost of maintaining the Forth and Clyde Canal now that it is not to be used by boats? What is the estimated revenue from water?

Mr. Brooman-White

I think that the hon. Gentleman will find that those figures were given by my right hon. Friend. I have not got them on the tip of my tongue. I ask for aid if the hon. Member wishes to press the point.

Mr. W. Baxter

I have asked a simple question. What is the estimated revenue from the sale of water for industrial purposes? What is the estimated cost of maintaining the canal now that it is not to be used by ships?

Mr. Brooman-White

The 1960 receipts were: water, £23,000; tolls and other incidental receipts, £3,000; rent, £7,000; other receipts, £4,000. The working costs were £77,000. That is; about £37,000 receipts and £77,000 working costs.

Mr. Willis

What is the saving?

Mr. Brooman-White

I must continue. That calculation was given by my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Willis rose—

Mr. Brooman-White

I do not have the figure on the tip of my tongue and I do not want to guess in case I mislead hon. Members. The essential factor is not the saving of running costs but the saving on future development of bridges.

Regarding bridges, the hon. Gentleman for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs asked about the transfer of responsibility. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that there will be no transfer unless it is mutually agreed between the local authorities and the highway authority, who are at present responsible for the bridges. It may be that the B.T.C. and the Glasgow Corporation, and others, have a responsibility for them. The local authorities have powers to take over if they wish, but they have no obligation to take over unless they agree a satisfactory settlement.

The question of safety weighed understandably heavily in the mind of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Maryhill, who rightly said that a canal is no greater risk than a busy thoroughfare. The only real answer is in the accumulative effort being made by local authorities, education authorities and, above all, by parents to keep children away from these dangerous places. Several hon. Members have spoken on this topic and we appreciate all the work that is being done in this safety field. It is to be hoped that the raising of this matter today will bring the matter further home to all those concerned. The answer, primarily, lies in education. The statistics show that a canal is no more dangerous than a busy thoroughfare and it is only by the growing awareness of the public that the answer will be found.

The hon. Member for Maryhill also asked about the future of the canal. This point was also raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Commander Donaldson). The closure to navigation will be no bar whatever to considering a comprehensive scheme for redeveloping the waterway later. Indeed, it will assist rather than hamper such a scheme because the authorities concerned have been reluctant to make detailed plans until the future of the canal was known.

When the question of closure was referred to the Inland Waterways' Development Committee that body said that it was unable to comment as no redevelopment proposals had been put to it. The B.T.C. indicated at that time that the preparation of a comprehensive scheme would take several years. In view of the urgency of the matter, as my right hon. Friend has explained, it was decided that the problem could not wait for this long-term consideration and that the various possibilities of the future use of the canal should be left to the Commission for future consideration. But, in the meantime, it was urgent and essential for this Measure to be passed so that the immediate needs of bridge development could be made.

The final point made by the hon. Member for Maryhill was on the question of notices required for the further stages of the Bill. The various notices required by Standing Orders were published in the Gazettes, the Glasgow Herald, the Scotsman and other newspapers on the introduction of the Bill at the beginning of November. The statutory drill and moves required by Standing Orders have been gone through. It will be open for any representations or objections to be made at a later stage. I hope that what I have said will be sufficient to satisfy hon. Members who have asked questions and that the Bill will be given a Second Reading.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Ordered, That the Bill be committed to a Select Committee of Eight Members, Four to be nominated by the House and Four by the Committee of Selection.

Ordered, That there shall stand referred to the Select Committee—

  1. (a) any Petition against the Bill presented by being deposited in the Private Bill Office at any time not later than the twenty-second day of December, nineteen hundred and sixty-one, and
  2. (b) any Petition which has been presented by being deposited in the Private Bill Office and in which the Petitioners complain of any amendment as proposed in the filled-up Bill or of any matter which has arisen during the progress of the Bill before the said Committee,
being a Petition in which the Petitioners have prayed to be heard by themselves, their Counsel or Agents.

Ordered, That if no such Petition as is mentioned in sub-paragraph (a) above is presented, or if all such Petitions are withdrawn before the meeting of the Committee, the Order for the committal of the Bill to a Select Committee shall be discharged and the Bill shall be committed to a Committee of the whole House.

Ordered, That any Petitioner whose Petition stands referred to the Select Committee shall, subject to the Rules and Orders of the House and to the Prayer of his Petition, be entitled to be heard by himself, his Counsel or Agents upon his Petition provided that it is prepared and signed in conformity with the Rules and Orders of the House, and the Member in charge of the Bill shall be entitled to be heard by his Counsel or Agents in favour of the Bill against that Petition.

Ordered, That the Committee have power to report from day to day the Minutes of the Evidence taken before them.

Ordered, That Three be the Quorum of the Committee.—[Mr. Maclay.]