HC Deb 21 February 1961 vol 635 cc383-448

  1. (1) The following provisions of this section shall have effect with respect to any drainage rate made for a period beginning after the end of March, nineteen hundred and sixty-three.
  2. (2) Subsection (4) of section twenty-four of the Act of 1930 (which provides for the assessment of drainage rates on the annual value of agricultural land and one-third of the annual value of other land) shall have effect as if paragraph (a) thereof referred to agricultural buildings (as defined in subsection (2) of section two of the Rating and Valuation (Apportionment) Act, 1928) as well as to agricultural land.
  3. (3) Where a drainage board have demanded a drainage rate in respect of any land the annual value of which for the purposes of the drainage rate has been ascertained in accordance with the Drainage Rates Act, 1958, then, if—
    1. (a) the land is, forms part of, or comprises land whose annual value for the purposes of income tax under Schedule A has been ascertained by reference to any rent fixed by an agreement commencing after the end of March, nineteen hundred and forty-six; and
    2. (b) the owner and occupier or either of them, by notice in writing served on the board within twenty-eight days of the date on which the demand is made or such further time as the drainage board may allow, claim that the annual value of the land for the purposes of the drainage rate shall be determined by the board under this subsection;
    the annual value of the land for the purposes of the drainage rate and any subsequent drainage rate shall be such value as may be determined by the board, having regard to the annual values of comparable land in their district, other than those ascertained as mentioned in paragraph (a) of this subsection; and subsection (3) of section twenty-nine of the Act of 1930 (which provides for an appeal against a determination under subsection (2) of that section) shall extend to any determination made under this subsection.
  4. (4) Subsection (4) of section twenty-four of the Act of 1930 and the Drainage Rates Act, 1958, shall not apply in the case of land for which a rateable value is shown in the valuation list for the time being in force; but in the case of any such land—
    1. (a) the value on which any drainage rate is assessed shall be one-third of the rateable value so shown; and
    2. (b) the amount per pound at which a drainage rate is so assessed shall be determined in accordance with section (Drainage rates—determination of relative poundage) of this Act.
  5. (5) Where, after an assessment to a drainage rate has been made in respect of any land in accordance with subsection (4) of this section, the rateable value shown in the valuation list for that land is altered and the alteration has effect for the whole of the period for which the rate is made, the rate shall be amended accordingly, and the amendment shall have effect from the beginning of that period and shall be treated for the purposes of the Act of 1930 as an amendment made in pursuance of section twenty-eight of that Act.
  6. (6) Subsection (6) of section twenty-four of the Act of 1930 (which provides for differential rating) shall have effect as if the references to the amount per pound of annual value included references to the amount per pound of the value specified in paragraph (a) of subsection (4) of this section; and any order under the said subsection (6) determining the relative amount per pound of one only of those values shall have effect as if it made also corresponding provision with respect to the other.
  7. (7) References in this section to the rateable value of any land shall be construed, where that value differs from the net annual value, as referring to the net annual value.
  8. (8)The reference in section twenty-eight of the Act of 1930 (which relates to amendments in a rate) to the provisions of Part IV of that Act shall be construed as including a reference to the provisions of this sections.—[Mr. Soames.]

.Brought up, and read the First time.

6.35 p.m.

Mr. Soames

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

The main purpose of this Clause is to overcome various drainage rating anomalies which have been pointed out to us during the passage of the Bill up to its present stage by hon. Members on both sides and also by outside bodies interested. These representations were made principally—and the Clause was drafted to meet them—by my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) and the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hilton). The anomalies which we are endeavouring to overcome are in both the agricultural and the nonagricultural fields.

First, in the non-agricultural drainage rates are levied, and have been levied since the 1930 Act, on Schedule A values, and the vast majority of properties in internal drainage districts are based on the Schedule A valuation of 1935–36, but there are anomalies arising when houses built since the war and houses for letting have had a Schedule A value placed upon them which is out of line with Schedule A for the vast majority of the houses. It is, as it were, a modern Schedule A, and this has meant that there has been inequity in the paying of drainage rates by those living in some modern houses compared with those living in houses with the old Schedule A values.

It was not easy to find a way round this anomaly, and I admit to the Committee that we have taken a good deal of time over it, but it was complicated and it was difficult to find a way. The way which we have found is not complicated. It may look complicated as set out in legal words for the Statute, but it is not in principle complicated.

What is it we are doing? We are turning over for this purpose from a basis of charging on Schedule A values to a basis of charging on net annual values as adapted for rating purposes. I mean by that, as the Committee will understand, the net annual value without any derating element in it. That is what subsection (7) means.

We are turning over from charging on Schedule A values to charging on net annual values. This will put all hereditaments other than agricultural ones on the same basis of the net annual value. Agricultural hereditaments, of course, are not valued for local rates, though they have Schedule A value. The drainage rates were always paid on the basis of one-third of the Schedule A value.

The new valuation is coming along and it will take time to get the books altered, but from 1963 onwards, when the Clause comes into effect, the basis will be the net annual value. We shall thus do away with anomalies which have been represented to me most forcibly by hon. Members and particularly by my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk and by my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke). I was worried whether we should be able to find a way out, but I think that hon. Members will agree that this provision finds that way.

I should like to carry the Committee away from non-agricultural to agricultural spheres. Here, again, drainage rates have always been levied on Schedule A value, because there was no annual value for agricultural land. The vast majority of agricultural holdings in internal drainage districts have had the old Schedule A value of 1935–36. But there are cases where a holding has been divided into a number of new tenancies. One holding of 100 acres, for example, might have been divided into five of 20 acres each. Five houses might have been built, one for each tenancy. The sub-holdings within the original holding would have been revalued in recent years from the Schedule A point of view and would have carried a higher value than the five would have carried together under the old valuation.

To rectify this anomaly we are making it possible for the occupier or the owner to appeal to the drainage board to give him a Schedule A value which would be in line with the tone of the list within the internal drainage district. In other words, a man may say, "I have a holding of twenty acres with a modern house on it and with all the conveniences and buildings. I should like, from the point of view of drainage rates only, to be given a valuation of my property which is in line with the general tone of the list for the internal drainage district as a whole". If he is not satisfied with the valuation put upon it by the internal drainage board he may appeal to the magistrates court.

At the same time as we were preparing this new Clause it was purely a matter of convenience to sweep up Clause 21 of the Bill, which has passed through Second Reading and the Committee Stage and which refers to agricultural buildings being valued along with agricultural land, and put it into this new Clause. This is because it comes in here more logically and will look tidier when the Bill is reprinted as an end product.

Complicated as the wording might be, and I have lived with it for quite a long while, I assure the Committee that it is no more complicated than I fear it has to be. I believe that our aim is fairly easy to see. I hope that the Clause will commend itself to the Committee since its sole aim is to bring about a greater degree of equity in the payment of drainage rates, which in certain areas are rather heavy, than was the case when the Bill was drafted. The heavier the rates are, of course, the more important it is to achieve equity.

I am sorry that we were not able to prepare the Clause in time for the Committee. I should have liked very much to have been able to do it, and it was not for lack of trying that I failed. I suppose that in the end it was a case, as Dr. Johnson said, of the man about to be hanged—that pressure of time concentrated our minds something wonderful.

6.45 p.m.

Mr. Fletcher

I am sure that the whole Committee will be most grateful to the Minister for having done his best to give an explanation in clear, simple and untechnical terms of what he and the whole Committee recognise to be a highly complicated Clause. The right hon. Gentleman said earlier today that if he could understand it anybody could.

Mr. Soames

I said that if I could understand it, the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) could.

Mr. Fletcher

I am prepared to recognise that the Minister understands it, but it would be going too far to say that everybody in the Committee understands it. I, for one, confess that I do not understand it completely. I am sure that the Minister would wish every hon. Member to be quite clear that he did understand it before the right hon. Gentleman asks the Committee to pass the new Clause.

The whole basis on which we are embarking on consideration of the new Clause in Committee of the whole House is, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) put it, because wherever possible all hon. Members should try to understand what we are legislating about. Since the Government's time-table is such that they want a Committee of the whole House to occupy itself with these technical matters, I want to assist the Minister by filling the gaps in his speech and trying to make sure that we all understand precisely what we are doing.

I should like to divide my speech into two parts and, first, try to see from the language of the new Clause what it does. then try to recall to the Committee what the Minister said was its object and, finally, see whether we agree that the language carries out the Minister's intention. When we come to that stage, I suppose that it will be desirable to see whether what is proposed is sensible, whether it corresponds to what various interests and parties want and whether there is anything else that still requires attention.

Since I last intervened in the discussions on the Bill, I have received communications from the National Farmers' Union which have given me a series of new ideas on this subject and have enabled me to look at some of these problems in a new light. I confess that I was hoping that I should not, as a Member, be troubled with a detailed examination of the Bill at this stage. I hoped that this new Clause would first have been ventilated in Standing Committee. However, the House having decided otherwise, I must, like all other Members, do my best to study it in this Committee.

As a matter of convenience, I should like to take the Minister's observations in reverse order. The last point he dealt with was what I believe he referred to as a tidying up operation. He will correct me if I am wrong, but I think I am right in saying that this has nothing whatever to do with the Clause, although it is embodied in subsection (2). He said that he thought it was most appropriately introduced into the Bill at this stage. in order to put agricultural buildings on the same footing as agricultural land for the purposes of drainage rates under Section 24 of the Act of 1930. I hope that this is not tedious for the Committee, but we are at a disadvantage—

Mr. Soames

I believe the hon. Gentleman, when discussing the Motion to recommit the Bill, said that he had not so much as looked through this proposed new Clause. I am sure that he will have found it difficult, in the few minutes that have passed since, to master it.

There is nothing new in subsection (2). Clause 21 of the Bill is to be taken out by a later Amendment, but its sense is retained in subsection (2). Although Clause 21 is to be thrown out, there is nothing novel about subsection (2).

Mr. Fletcher

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. This is, then, a rearrangement. I accept what the right hon. Gentleman says and pass on from that point.

The Minister said that the object of the Bill is to remove certain anomalies which have come to light, first with regard to non-agricultural properties—which are mainly urban properties—and, secondly, with regard to agricultural properties. I appreciate that in nonagricultural properties there may be some inequity between owners of houses where drainage rates are levied on Schedule A taxation of the level of 1935–36, and owners or occupiers of new houses who cone within what he called a modern Schedule A.

As far as I can understand it, I believe that this proposed new Clause is reasonable, and, as far as I have had an opportunity of studying it, I think that the language is appropriate. But I draw the Committee's attention to the representations that have now been made by the N.F.U. The union is probably more familiar with the operations of the Bill than anybody else, and it welcomes the tabling of this Clause. It meets a point raised by the union in connection with some anomalies, but the union does not seem entirely satisfied with it.

The Minister used a phrase which, I have no doubt, is familiar to those who were on the Standing Committee—"tone of the list." He said that an occupier of an agricultural property could appeal for an assessment in line with the "tone of the list". I am not sure whether that phrase occurs in the Bill. I assume that it does not, and that it is not a legal term but jargon adopted as a matter of convenience by those discussing the Bill in Standing Committee. If that is so, then at a later stage I want to see whether the phrase has been adequately translated into appropriate legal phraseology.

It is one thing to use phrases like that and bandy them about in discussion, but quite another to carry out one's intention in a Bill. The union was—

Mr. Soames

Perhaps I might help the hon. Gentleman on this point without further ado. The phrase "tone of the list" is a term understood by those who have been living with this Bill. The legal language is in subsection (3, b) which says that a man may go to the drainage district hoard and ask for a revaluation of his property, and goes on: …the annual value of the land for the purposes of the drainage rate and any subsequent drainage rate shall be such value as may be determined by the board, having regard to the annual values of comparable land in their district… We are trying to get equity and to remove anomalies. That is what is known as the "tone of the list". It means that a piece of land is charged in comparable fashion to similar land in the district.

Mr. Fletcher

I think that that language is adequate, but I have been looking at the few following words which the right hon. Gentleman did not quote— …other than those ascertained as mentioned in paragraph (a) of this subsection; In other words, somebody wants to appeal and claims that the Schedule A valuation in his case is not appropriate because the holding has been split up into several holdings, with an improvement in the property, and that the aggregate of the divided hereditament attracts a higher Schedule A valuation than would have been the case had it remained undivided. He asks the board to examine this and consider the annual value of comparable land in the district. The board's function would be to do that by ascertaining rents under subsection (3,a).

7.0 p.m.

The land referred to in subsection (3, a) is land…or comprises land whose annual value for the purposes of income tax under Schedule A has been ascertained by any reference to any rent fixed by an agreement coming after the end of March, nineteen hundred and forty-six. That is reasonable, but the National' Farmers' Union says: While an extension of the tone of the. list principle to areas outside the drainage districts which will be affected by one or other or both of the new charges is clearly both logical and desirable "— the union is saying that the tone of the list principle should apply to areas outside drainage districts which will be affected by the new charges— it is recognised that such an extension would impose upon river boards a considerable administrative burden which they are naturally reluctant to undertake having regard to the smallness of the sums to be raised. That seems to be a fair case and some of my hon. Friends may want to elaborate it. It has been found over and over again that when one tries to do more justice by removing anomalies, one creates fresh anomalies unless one is very careful. There may be an administrative machine set up to deal with anomalies, but that may be a considerable administrative burden. We must remember that some of the local drainage boards have fairly limited resources for dealing with administrative work.

I do not pretend to be an expert in this matter, sitting for a London constituency and being more familiar with the duties of Metropolitan boroughs and boroughs in the provinces, but we should remember that local drainage boards are a form of local government authority and, rightly, do not possess the same kind of paraphernalia, administrative talent and resources and secretarial staff as that which is available to the great rating authorities such as London, Manchester, the big provincial towns and the county councils. I hope that hon. Members who are familiar with agricultural constituencies and with the staffing of local drainage boards will satisfy themselves that the introduction of this admittedly complicated and cumbersome provision, designed to deal with anomalies, will not place an undue administrative burden on the boards.

Mr. Vane

The hon. Member for Islington. East (Mr. Fletcher) has mentioned a comment in the National Farmers' Union memorandum pointing out that the Clause is concerned with drainage districts and drainage rates but does not extend to river boards and drainage charges. Hon. Members who were not on the Standing Committee may wonder why that distinction has been made. It is a big distinction and it has been made on purpose and for very good reason.

Whereas drainage rates are frequently a heavy burden, drainage charges are something very much smaller, and the general charge and the special charge together cannot amount to more than ls. in the £on the Schedule A value. To extend this operation for removing anomalies from the more concentrated small drainage districts to the much larger river board areas would mean just that sort of work against which the hon. Member has warned us. With much closer knowledge of the small area, the drainage boards will, we are told, be able to do this work without any great effort or expense and will be removing serious anomalies in so doing. But river boards would have the greatest difficulty finding the staff for doing something of the same sort in their areas, which are very much larger. At the end of the day, there would be very little money in it and more might have been spent on administration than would be involved in the modification of any rates affected. In other words, it would not have been a worthwhile exercise, I hope that that intervention will have helped any hon. Member who may have wondered why we have gone so far but not gone the whole way.

Mr. Fletcher

I will bring my remarks to a close, because this is a long and difficult Clause and all hon. Members are anxious to understand it. The fact that the Minister intervenes from time to time will enable us in the process of time to get a better grasp of the Clause. I do not pretend that I have completely exhausted all the remarks which occur to me, but we are only at the beginning of this stage of the Bill and I prefer to bring my remarks to a close now and, if necessary, to intervene later.

Sir D. Glover

The hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) probably does not realise that an internal drainage district is a rating authority and collects its rates individually, whereas a river board has a precept on county and county borough councils and, therefore, collects its rates in lump sums and does not have the machinery to do what a drainage district would find it comparatively easy to do. It will be especially easy when, as my right hon. Friend explained, the new Clause will not come into force until 1963, by which time people who feel that the alteration will be unfavourable to them will be able to approach the board to get their rating assessment put right.

I am sorry that my right hon. Friend is not now present, because I wanted to compliment him and thank him for the new Clause. I have battled with the Ministry over this problem for a long time, and I had almost given up hope. It therefore came as a kind of double bonus when at last the walls of Jericho fell down on 7th March and we got this concession from the Minister.

As my right hon. Friend knows, I am diametrically opposed to many features of the Bill and the way rates should be collected and levied, but I welcome this provision. Even so, if the rate is to be collected on the same basis as in the past, there will be an enormous sense of injustice when ratepayers find that one farm is paying a grossly excessive charge compared with the farm next door, or that down the road. That sense of injustice will be applicable to agricultural holdings, but it will also be felt by individual householders who, in most drainage areas, will be found to be living in comparatively small houses and facing what, to them, is a heavy burden.

The least that the nation can do is 10 see that the rate is levied on a sound and fair basis. It is possible to find a pair of semi-detached houses where the ownership of one has changed so that one is owned and the other rented and where the drainage rates of one are double those of the other. The sense of injustice which that creates can be readily imagined.

It is with great pleasure that I am able to say that, although I shall be criticising some other things in the Bill as we go along, I think that the new Clause will be very acceptable and very popular in internal drainage districts.

Mr. Willey

I shall not join with the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) in regretting the absence of the Minister. We acknowledge that he cannot be in the Chamber all the time. I should like to join the hon. Member in paying tribute to the Minister. I accept his apologies for sweeping away Clause 31 in this way and the explanation he gave. I did not rise earlier, because I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) might be able to help relate what the right hon. Gentleman said to the Clause before us. Obviously, my hon. Friend, with his acute intelligence, trained in the law and versed in draftsmanship was completely confounded. My own condition is little better. I want to try, in all good faith, to relate what is in the Clause to what the Minister said.

I do not wish to dwell upon the first subsection because we have an Amendment down which may be discussed later. I would only say that the purpose of the first subsection is clear. Whether it is right or wrong is a matter that we may be able to debate later. I cannot say the same about the next subsection. The Minister's claim has the virtue that Clause 21., which we discussed in Standing Committee, has been abbreviated. I do not welcome that. I must say some thing further about this subsection because it is legislation of a kind that is quite unnecessary and confusing to the ordinary person.

7.15 p.m.

This is a provision which will affect a large number of people who want to know the basis of their assessment for drainage rates. They want to know What steps they can take to satisfy themselves that the assessment is correct. If they are to take all the advantages that are afforded to them by law, they must look to this subsection.

The poor fellow, having looked to this subsection, then finds that he has to buy two other Acts of Parliament—the Act of 1930 and the Rating and Valuation (Apportionment) Act, 1928. If he goes to that expense, and is also fortunate enough to have in his library Halsbury's Laws of England, he may be able to understand it, but I doubt whether many ratepayers will have Halsbury to consult.

Why should a man not know what is the provision which refers to the rate of imposition placed upon him? This could be quite clearly set out. We are referred to Section 24 (4) and when we look to the Act of 1930 we find that subsection (4) is quite short. It could easily, at no great expense, be set out here. Incidentally, it is fairly intelligible. If the Government wished to improve the wording, no doubt they could do it. Having turned up the Act and looked at subsection (4) the poor person with the rate demand before him, if he is not satisfied, has to look at the Rating and Valuation (Apportionment) Act. 1928. Then the fortunate fellow with his Halsbury, turns up the appropriate page, which I am now doing, and has to relate it to Section 24 (4).

It is not necessary for me to read out the fairly clear provisions of the Rating and Valuation (Apportionment) Act, 1928. In fact, it defines in a few lines what are agricultural buildings. In short, we have here five lines which are quite unintelligible to the ordinary person but which, if they were made into ten or twelve lines, could be easily understood.

My complaint about the Government is this. This matter was raised in Standing Committee, and I am sure that if the Bill were being reconsidered in Standing Committee and if the Minister had the effrontery to come back with a truncated Clause, the Committee would be able to insist on it being reconsidered and a proper provision brought forward at a later stage.

It is time that the Committee, on behalf of the ordinary person paying rates, insisted that ratepayers should not be in the impossible position of not knowing what is the law. This is a field of the law which should be explicit. We have first Clause 21, which we discussed in Standing Committee and which was obscure enough, and now, having discussed the matter further, we have that Clause appearing as a subsection of the new Clause in an even more difficult form to follow. I mention the proceedings in Standing Committee because, as I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say in our earlier discussions, it was out of those proceedings that the provisions of the remainder of the new Clause came into being.

I have refreshed my mind by re-reading what the Parliamentary Secretary said. He said: I thought that it was a rather light-weight Clause 21 "— which is now the subsection to which I have been referring— I thought that it was a rather light-weight Clause dealing with the one simple point of the revision of the position of agricultural buildings and putting it on the same basis as agricultural land. I shared that impression. I concede that the view was expressed on both sides of the Committee that the present position in regard to Schedule A valuations is anomalous and ought to be corrected, but I would remind the Committee that the Parliamentary Secretary then said: The question of if and when Schedule A assessments may be revised and brought up to date is beyond discussion on this Clause. He then referred to the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) and said: I should not like to know what part of his future he is able to foresee…I hope, however, that I have shown that we appreciate that there are certain anomalies which we intend to examine, though I would not like the Committee to think that we are on the way to dealing with them all."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. Standing Committee A. 20th December, 1960; c. 314–15.] I gather the right hon. Gentleman now to be saying, "In this Clause and that which follows it, I am going a long way towards solving these difficulties." My complaint is that this is obviously a revelation to the right hon. Gentleman. If he had been seized of the proposal put forward in the Clause he would have said, in Committee, "I think I have the solution." We could then have discussed it in Committee. I suspect that somebody in the back rooms of the Treasury was working on this at the time. I object to legislation being carried out in this way, especially when it is difficult to relate the provisions of the Clause to what the right hon. Gentleman said in explanation of it.

Mr. Soames

I am not absolutely clear what happened in Committee, but is the hon. Member objecting to the fact that we were not ready with the Clause, and that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary said that we were trying to tackle the problem and to go as far as we could towards solving it? We are dealing with it on recommittal for the technical reason that a financial element is involved. Is there anything very revolutionary in that? I do not follow the hon. Member's argument. Would he have preferred me to say, "I am sorry. We have got as far as the Committee stage and I cannot go beyond that." This point was brought to my attention not only by Members of the Committee but by people outside, and I have done my best in the matter and have brought it forward now.

Mr. Willey

I do not want to pursue the point, but it is clear that I have been obscure, and I must make my position clear. In the proceedings in the Standing Committee the right hon. Gentleman and the Parliamentary Secretary threw out challenges to the effect that, although there were plenty of criticisms of the Government's proposals, nobody could suggest anything better. Many minds were exercised on this problem and many suggestions were made. My complaint is that at this stage, with only a few days' notice, the right hon. Gentleman makes these proposals.

Mr. Soames

A week's notice.

Mr. Willey

I am sorry—a week's notice. But this matter, which has been the subject of discussions between the right hon. Gentleman and the parties concerned, affects not only drainage rating but rating generally. It allows for local variations in rating. But local authorities have not been consulted. It is not fair for the Leader of the House to announce, as he did last Thursday, that he would get all stages of the Bill today. If the right hon. Gentleman is serious in his proposition we shall not have another opportunity to discuss the matter. I am concerned about the rights of lion. Members as representatives of the different interests which are affected.

I now turn to that part of the Clause which makes the new provision. My first difficulty is that it begins by saying: Where a drainage board have demanded a drainage rate in respect of any land the annual value of which for the purposes of the drainage rate has been ascertained in accordance with the Drainage Rates Act, 1958" Let us consider again the poor man who has a demand for rates—a demand to make his contribution towards the cost of drainage. He has already had to buy, quite unnecessarily, copies of the Act of 1930 and also the Rating and Valuation (Apportionment) Act, 1928. He now finds this novel provision, which is not in Halsbury. This is something new, and only if he has maintained his subscription and has got the continuation volumes of Halsbury will he be able to find out what the 1958 Act does.

I am in some difficulty here. That Act is a very short one, which could easily have been included in the Clause—although I would then have complained of its length. When I carried out some research into that Act I found that it was a Private Member's Measure, which had been introduced by the hon. Member for Melton (Miss Pike), who now graces the Government. In addition, I discovered that I was one of the sponsors. I can only think that the hon. Lady was so persuasive that I came to the conclusion that the Bill had same virtue. I would say, in self-defence, that it was virtually a one-Clause Measure. It was not discussed on Second Reading, although it had some discussion in Committee. As far as I can understand it, the Government deleted the words that the hon. Lady had in the Bill and substituted their own, thus making it even more unintelligible than it was in the form in which I supported it.

I do not wish to go further than to ask the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely, by way of a challenge, whether he is cognisant of that Act and fully comprehends it. If he does, I shall be amazed. I find it very difficult to follow. I have the continuation volume of Halsbury before me. It refers me to the difficulties arising from a certain case and says that the Measure was introduced in an effort to put it right. There it is. Undeterred by the obstacles put in our way we are trying to understand the new provision, but to do that we have had to show considerable resource. We must not only have bought the statutes but we must have understood them. I submit that even with the aid of Halsbury and a copy of the Drainage Rates Act, 1958, it is very difficult to understand the position.

I read the report of the only debate on the Bill. I carefully read what the then Parliamentary Secretary said, and I found great difficulty in following it, but I accept his assurance that this was a welcome elucidation of the law. If necessary we can return to this matter later, when the obligation will be on the Government to explain the significance of the qualifying phrase: in accordance with the Drainage Rates Act. 1958. It has to be in accordance with this before this provision starts to run. We await an explanation from the Minister or the Joint Parliamentary Secretary why this qualification should be placed on the operation of this Clause.

7.30 p.m.

The next thing we observe, which I do not think was explained by the right hon. Gentleman, is the reference to the year 1946. Not only must the annual value have been ascertained in accordance with the Drainage Rates Act, 1958, but then only if: the land is, forms part of, or comprises land whose annual value for the purposes of income tax under Schedule A has been ascertained by reference to any rent fixed by an agreement commencing after the end of March, nineteen hundred and forty-six…. I do not wish to discuss subsection (1), but one of the things which the right hon. Gentleman did not explain was why the year 1963 appears. We can discuss the matter at greater length when we reach the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friends and myself, if it be called, and I am willing to take my chance on it being selected. We have this reference to the year 1946 in subsection (3, a), and I think that it would be as well if, before proceeding to our discussions on this new provision, we were told why this further qualification has been made relating to that year.

We then come to the substance of the provision, which I think accords with what my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East claimed it did, though I say again that the provision is not helped by the fact that we get this reference back to previous legislation. I will not labour the point, but here again, having got perhaps as far as half way—I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman would agree that my hon. Friend got half way—to comprehending the purpose of the Clause, if the diligent examiner of his drainage demand wishes to know what the law is he has to turn back to the Act of 1930 and look at Section 29, which we are told provides for an appeal.

That is one leg of this new provision. I hope that we shall hear from the Minister on this point. I am not dealing with the merits of the Clause. I will not be dogmatic about this, but I believe that the Committee is with me in thinking that this provision could have been set out in a form that could have been more easily understood. We will come to the merits of the Clause in a moment. I hope that, as we are now on recommittal, we will at any rate get an assurance from the Government that they will look at this again. I say by way of an aside that this is the unfortunate result of not being able to discuss a matter like this in the Standing Committee. If we discussed this in Committee upstairs, these questions could have been ironed out and we could have had the usual Government Amendments at this stage of the Bill.

I think that the right hon. Gentleman dealt with these things in the reverse order, but when we come to the second leg of these new provisions we are no better off. I understood well enough the purpose of this provision as regards the valuation lists. I think that one hon. Member made this point earlier. If we had had an explanatory note about this before discussing this provision, we might have been able to follow the purport of the provision, but what one cannot be satisfied about—or at any rate I cannot be satisfied about—is that this does exactly what the right hon. Gentleman wants it to do.

We then get a provision about differential rating, which I think is fairly clear. It suffers from the fault and error, that runs throughout the new Clause, of legislation by reference back to previous legislation, but I do not complain too much about that. I think that the provision regarding differential rating is fairly clear.

We then come to subsection (7) which says: References in this section to the rateable value of any land shall be construed, where that value differs from the net annual value, as referring to the net annual value. At the moment, I do not understand that. The right hon. Gentleman has not explained why this subsection is in the Clause, and I think that it ought to be explained before we proceed with our discussions. I am glad to see that the right hon. Gentleman is so disturbed that he is seeking advice on it. I hope, therefore, that we will receive some help from him.

That is an impartial and objective examinaiton of the new Clause, and I emphasise the two points which I have made, which have nothing to do with the merits of the Clause. First, whatever the merits of these two new provisions, as the effect they appear to have on the rating system appears to be contrary to the trend which has been followed since the war, there ought to have been consultations at any rate with the rating authorities. As the Government's case in the Standing Committee was that they were very sorry that they could not meet the points that we raised because they felt that this had been done by agreement—which they enshrined in a White Paper—they ought not to have proceeded this far without consulting all the parties to the agreement.

I hope that I got this wrong. I was rather disturbed, because I got the impression from the right hon. Gentleman that he had been in consultation with the National Farmers' Union. I may be wrong, and the right hon. Gentleman can correct me if he wishes to do so. If there were consultations with that body, for which I have the greatest respect, that makes the position considerably worse. Surely we should not change the basis of assessment of rates after consulting only the ratepayers. Surely we should consult also the rate-raising bodies. I should have thought it was intolerable if there was only partial consultation, but that is a surmise and the right hon. Gentleman can correct me if I am wrong.

The second point is that however lucid and explicit the right hon. Gentleman's explanation was in introducing the Bill on Second Reading, it is difficult to relate what he said then to the provisions in the Clause. As I say, as far as one of the new provisions go, I can see some relation between what he said and what appears in the Clause. In the other case, I find it very difficult to come to such a charitable conclusion.

I do not think that it is necessary to legislate under this cloak of obscurity. I have a great admiration for Parliamentary draftsmen. I think that if they are given the proper direction they can produce something intelligible. As I said earlier, this is where the importance of the Minister is evident. This is not good enough. I protest again about this bureaucratic imposition of legislation. It is our duty to see that all legislation that comes before us is in a form which can be understood. That is all the more important when it is legislation which gives power to raise money by taxation.

I want to refer now to the only two documents, as far as I am concerned, that we have before us. I have not had any representations from the drainage authorities, or local authorities, on this matter. I do not, unfortunately, assume from that that they are satisfied with these provisions. I assume that it had no opportunity to formulate views about it. Of course, a local authority association cannot be expected to formulate its views on an important matter like this within seven days.

We discussed the Heneage Committee proposals from every angle, inside—

Mr. Soames

Upside down and inside out.

Mr. Willey

Yes, upside down and inside out—I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. But this is to be introduced in the last stages of the proceedings on this legislation, so I think that it is an affront to this organisation to behave in this way.

We have before us the views of the Country Landowners' Association and of the National Farmers' Union. But I want to complain about my position. I received these views by post only this morning. From my cursory and preliminary examination of the Clause it is obvious to me that I shall want a good deal of time to consider these things. I want an opportunity to speak about them, and that is what I have not got. If the Leader of the House gets his way, I shall never have it. The Bill will have gone through all its stages and been sent to another place.

Here we have the views of the Country Landowners' Association and, as has been pointed out, its advice does not begin in a very helpful manner. It begins: The meaning of this new Clause is far from clear. I have expressed respect for the National Farmers' Union and I would express respect for the Country Landowners' Association. It is a body that is very well advised and equipped. But with the best advice at its disposal and with all its equipment the Association has to begin by saying: The meaning of this Clause is far from clear. I say that hesitatingly. Literally, the memorandum states: The meaning of this new Clause if far from clear but I think that I can make that verbal amendment and that we should read "if" as "is".

This shows the haste with which such a careful body must have worked to get this memorandum to us. We know that no such body would send a circulated document to all hon. Members without checking it, and obviously, the Association has had to rush this out to get it to us by this morning's post. It goes on: It affects the basis of assessment for drainage rates in internal drainage board areas only, and its underlying purpose is to remove anomalies in assessment as between one hereditament and another. The Association's memorandum goes on to give an example and then continues: The Amendments would allow such people to ask the drainage board to adjust their assessments—to the general average of the district. This seems a desirable objective. I pause there to say that it is not enough for one of the parties to say of this new provision, "This is a desirable objective." We first have to ask ourselves whether this Clause attains that objective. At the moment, we are in considerable doubt about this. We cannot be sure it does. But, apart from that, there are two other important considerations which we cannot overlook. One is the point I have already made, and I do not wish to repeat it unnecessarily; that even though this is regarded as desirable by one party, if the Government rest their case at the moment on all the parties, this carries us only a quarter of the way.

7.45 p.m.

The other factor which, I think, is of importance is that quite apart from the parties to the agreement which is set out in the White Paper are the views of the other rating authorities. It is all very well talking about the "tone of the list" and all the rest of it, but this is a very retrogressive step to take. It may be justified in this instance, but the idea that this small rating authority can take the action of toning the list is contrary to all modern accepted views about uniformity of rating throughout the country.

I wish to turn now to the National Farmers' Union. It is true that the Union says it welcomes the tabling of this new Clause, because it meets a point raised by the Union in connection with some of the anomalies inherent in the use of Schedule A values as the basis of drainage rates in internal drainage areas. Again, I should like to know whether I am right in my suspicions that the Minister has received representations from different parties on this issue separately. If he has, I think that it is quite wrong. If the Minister wished to put forward these proposals, he should have put them forward to the parties generally and got their views.

The hon. Member for Ormskirk and I were both challenged Ito produce ideas. I do not know what the hon. Gentleman has in his head, but I have not anything very constructive to offer on this subject at the moment.

Sir D. Glover

That is quite obvious.

Mr. Willey

I am obliged. Obviously, I am being obvious to somebody. I might say that when the hon. Gentleman made his contribution to the debate it was not so obvious. But I shall have a chance of reading the OFFICIAL REPORT and studying what he said.

From what the N.F.U. has put before us, it is obvious that this is the case. It did put forward these views which have been accepted by the Government. The disturbing thing is what the Union goes on to say. It was on this point that the Government felt themselves in a difficult position, because when my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East raised the point the Joint Parliamentary Secretary sprang up to explain it away. I do not think that he satisfied my hon. Friend and I do not think that he will satisfy the Union. The Union says: Whilst this meets the Union's case in connection with drainage rates in internal drainage districts, it is to be noted that the same principle is not applied outside internal drainage districts … The remarkable thing about this is that in this Bill we are dealing with Clauses 1 and 4. That is the whole purpose of the Bill. Here, we get a new Clause which the Union points out has nothing to do with the Bill. This is more extraordinary still. We now get novel legislation which may be justified—we shall hear later from the right hon. Gentleman about the justification for it—but the National Farmers' Union points out that the essence of the Bill before us in this regard is Clauses 1 and 4. I do not think that I exaggerate when I say that the Union expressed with regret that this innovation is not being extended to Clauses 1 and 4. It goes on: Whilst an extension of the ' tone of the list' principle to areas outside drainage districts which will be affected by one or other or both of the new changes is clearly both logical and desirable, it is recognised that such an extension would impose upon the river boards a considerable administrative burden which they are naturally reluctant to undertake, having regard to the smallness of the sums to be raised. There may well, however, be cases, e.g. of market gardens with large glasshouses, where the Schedule A valuation is a post-war one and where the general or special drainage charge will be a not inconsiderable sum. I wish to make three points—one of which will be a repetition of a point I have already made—about what is said by the Union. First, the Union says that however desirable this may be, it does not arise out of the Bill. It also says, anticipating what was said by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, that if this duty were imposed—because this is a duty which is imposed—upon the river boards, it might involve them in a considerable administrative burden. When we are concerned with the drainage board, apparently this does not matter. I hope that I am carrying the hon. Member for Isle of Ely with me in saying that we have shared a dislike for the increase of administrative expenses. We have disliked the mere raising of rates to pay for the cost of raising rates. We want money to be used for drainage, but if we accept what the National Farmers' Union says a good part of the rates may be spent on raising them. I do not think that we can lightly put this on one side.

If this might involve a considerable administrative burden in the case of the river boards, why does it not involve such a similar burden in the case of other drainage authorities? It is true that the Parliamentary Secretary says, Oh, but the amount of the rate they are raising is much less ". I am concerned with the general problem of avoiding unnecessary administrative expense and that is why I hesitate to rush in to support the Minister.

The third point that arises there is equally important. The right hon. Gentleman comes forward, buoyantly and lucidly, and says to the Committee, "I am removing anomalies". But we find he is creating a new anomaly, namely, the distinction between the drainage authorities. I am not satisfied that this will not lead to considerable difficulty and trouble. I suspect that this is possibly a reason why the right hon. Gentleman has not discussed the matter thoroughly with the drainage authorities. This is a matter which should be discussed with them generally.

All I have before me—because, as I say, it has been quite impossible for me to discus this provision with the drainage authorities and the local authorities—is the statement of the National Farmers' Union and the Country Landowners' Association. The Country Landowners' Association says that this is a desirable objective, but apparently it is hesitant in confirming that this objective is obtained under this new Clause.

The National Farmers' Union says, "We welcome this new provision. In fact, we went to the Minister and suggested it to him." However, when we examine what they say in support of this new basis of assessment we find two disturbing things. One is the sore problem of ratepayers, whatever the purpose of the rate, having to contribute to the rates to support the necessarily expensive method of raising the rates. I would, therefore, hesitate at the moment at any rate, to support the right hon. Gentleman upon his proposal, and I say, "Look at it again and do not be afraid of discussing this with the authorities affected".

I am very struck by the point made by the National Farmers' Union that the drainage authorities are being divided into two categories. That may be. I do not wish to challenge the good sense of the right hon. Gentleman. He may have a case which he can establish before all the drainage authorities, but I am doubtful about it. I am doubtful either way. The internal drainage board may come along and say that it would rather not have this duty imposed because it is afraid of the expense it may involve. On the other hand, it may equally be that the river boards may come along and say they think that it is excellent and should be extended to them. Before we leave this Clause we should know what the position is. I invite the right hon. Gentleman to tell us explicitly what the river boards have said, through their association, on this new proposal, and what the other drainage authorities have said about it.

I do not wish to appear ungenerous but, while congratulating the right hon. Gentleman on the initiative and resource he has shown—an initiative which he has kept well-concealed hitherto in our discussions on the Bill but which should not be discouraged—I must ask him to have confidence to feel that the proposal he is putting to us will be attractive to all the parties affected. Probably, the best course would be to withdraw the new Clause and to have consultations before the question is discussed in another place. At any rate, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will have another look at the provision and satisfy himself that it cannot be put with greater clarity. Much more important than the question of clarity—although I would not regard that as unimportant —he should be absolutely sure that the novel proposal he is making is the correct one and that it is generally accepted by those who will be affected by it.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

It is only right that I should begin by thanking my right hon. Friend for going some way to try to meet the points we put to him in Committee. Hon. Members who were on the Standing Committee will remember that I attempted to make some very considerable alterations to Clause 21. I am afraid that the Committee had a very short time in which to consider the matter, and I realise, after due reflection, that it was, perhaps, too big a mouthful for the Committee to take, or even for the Government to take.

8.0 p.m.

This Clause still ties us to Section 24 (4) of the 1930 Act. It is that which is most in need of reconsideration. It is, however, very difficult indeed to know what the effect of the new Clause will be on what people pay now and what they will have to pay in future. It is clear that what will lie at the root of land drainage rating in the future will be the rateable value and not the net annual value under Schedule A. The root from which all future rating will stem will be the rateable value.

For all I know, this may have the effect of achieving very much what I tried to achieve in moving an Amendment to Clause 21. The effect of my Amendment would have been to alter the amount paid by agricultural hereditaments. In the example I gave, it altered the percentage very considerably in favour of urban property. I did that quite deliberately because I always felt that farmers could be recouped for increased overheads from the Price Review, and I was not unduly worried about that provision. I felt that it would be less favourable to the townsman.

The biggest disparity in drainage rates with which we are most concerned in our constituencies, is not the disparity between farmer and farmer—which is what this new Clause tries to deal with—but principally the disparity between urban and rural. My disappointment is that this new Clause does not go further. We all know what the root cause of it is. The root cause of it is contained in a statement made by the Minister of Housing and Local Government in this House on 30th November, last year. This is what he said: No valuations of agricultural property for rating purposes exist. The job of carrying out a complete valuation of agricultural property throughout England and Wales would be so tremendous, coming on top of all the other revaluation which has to be done from now onwards that I am advised that, even if we legislated for it here and now, we could not be ready to start collecting rates from agriculture before 1968."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th November, 1960; Vol. 631, c. 400.] That is what he said when we were discussing the Rating and Valuation Bill. The real cause of our difficulty is the cowardice of the Treasury in facing Schedule A revaluation. Schedule A is hopelessly out of date. The unfortunate Minister of Agriculture is put into a position in which he has to try to even out the tremendous anomalies which have arisen. The Treasury will not give him machinery to do so in a most satisfactory way.

The result is that we are presented with a Clause which brings in all sorts of other Acts. The hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) challenged me on the meaning of the Drainage Rates Act, 1958. To the best of my recollection, that was to deal with cases where an appeal was pending for Schedule A assessments and, therefore, there was no effective Schedule A on which to levy drainage rates. What the original Clause was I cannot remember, but it was drafted by my hon. Friend the Member for Melton (Miss Pike). I suppose we could say, "Hell knows no fury like a woman's claws", however we spell "Clause". The Parliamentary draftsman who had been serving the Minister was the final guide on what eventually went into that Act. The sponsor of that Bill has now forgotten what he sponsored and I do not exactly carry in my head the whole of its terms today, but I think that was the purpose.

Mr. Willey

The hon. Member is to be congratulated on his recollection, but I think he will agree that the difficulty here is the reference to the Act and the relevance of that reference. He would also agree, although he has given a synopsis of the provisions of the Act, that it is still a difficult piece of legislation for the layman to understand.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

Of course it is, but the hon. Member made a false paint earlier when he tried to suggest that unfortunate citizens have to buy copies of the Bill. They have only to go to a public library where they will find a copy available free.

Mr. Willey

It is not easy in the country.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

I agree. I know from keeping up to date my manual of military law for eleven-and-a-half years, just what hell it is. I agree that if we can simplify our legislation it will be so much the better, but I do not think that the Minister of Agriculture is to blame. The Minister has done a wonderful job in attempting to iron out as many anomalies as 'possible without the Treasury giving him the real power which is needed, a new Schedule A valuation.

I come to the question of the National Farmers' Union, the Country Landowners' Association, the Association of Drainage Authorities and the River Boards Association. I happen to be a member or officer, in one way or another, of all of them. As I understand this Clause, the people most likely to benefit by the machinery it provides will be the Association of Drainage Authorities. That Association has been fully consulted on this matter, although I believe that the drafting of the Clause has been left entirely to the Ministry. There is no question of the Association having any complaint against the Ministry on consultation. That is a point I may raise with my right hon. Friend on the next new Clause, but not on this new Clause, although this new Clause is indirectly affected. On this new Clause the Minister has certainly honoured his obligations over consultation.

I do not think that the Country Landowners' Association or the National Farmers' Union were consulted over what finally should go into the Clause, but negotiations have been going on for more than six weeks and the Association of Drainage Authorities has no complaint to make about that. What has bedevilled our proceedings is that we have been bombarded by various bodies, and the result is that it has been extraordinarily difficult to make up our awn minds on What we think about this issue. The hon. Member for Sunderland, North was taking things a little far when he contended this afternoon that unless we get all this information we cannot make up our minds about a Bill. That is absolute nonsense, and a complete negation of what Parliament is for. As I said on Second Reading, we are not sent here to represent any of the bodies I have mentioned, but we are sent by our constituents. They are ratepayers and taxpayers and we are supposed to look after their interests. I must resist with the strongest possible vehemence the implication of the hon. Member's remarks. He was denying the right to his constituents and worrying about wheher an association had been consulted.

Mr. Willey

I am obliged to the hon. Member for giving way, because with his sentiments I wholeheartedly agree. They are sentiments I have expressed on previous occasions. What I said in the context of this Bill, as he will recollect, was that we have put forward proposals to the Government and the Government have said "We cannot meet you. We cannot consider this matter because we are resting on an agreement. There were protracted negotiations and the agreement is set out in a White Paper." If the Government take that view, we ought to be assured that otherwise it will put the agreement into effect. I apologise for interrupting the hon. Member further, but, while I fully agree about responsibilities of hon. Members, I think he will agree that the parties affected in any case should have an opportunity of making representations for consideration by hon. Members.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

This is a free country, but the hon. Member seemed to be objecting to the idea of some associations going to the Minister and others not going. Surely it is a question of choice. It is up to the association to go to the Minister and say this, that or the other. We might pass from that point now as we have both had our say on it and it appears that the hon. Member now wishes to agree with me. That is something.

The hon. Member went on to raise the question of the main purpose of this Bill which, he said, was this new new drainage charge. I hotly contest that. It is the main purpose of Part I of the Bill, but no more than that. The main purpose which I find satisfactorily satisfied is the bringing up to date of the Land Drainage Act, 1930, to enable internal drainage boards to carry out work more effectively than they have been able to do—although I think that most of us agree that they have done their work extremely well.

The suggestion that because internal drainage boards are to get the benefit of this new Clause therefore river boards will be levying the charge in the uplands and must also have the same power, seems something of a non sequitur, to put it mildly. Whatever we do in this Committee we have to remember that very often it comes down to a question of reasonable degree or unreasonable degree. I hope that as few river boards as possible will levy the general charge anyway. In Committee, as hon. Members know, I did my best to get the whole thing down to an agricultural charge so that we could have an assurance that new work would be done, that the money would be spent on that, and not on the general run of the river board. As a result, we have some assurance that the boards will be very careful, indeed, before levying either charge. I therefore think that the incidence that worries the hon. Gentleman will be minute. Even if the incidence is slightly bigger than I think it will be, the measure of the actual charges levied will be so small as to make this issue one that borders on the frivolous

With all the reservations I have felt obliged to make—not because I blame my right hon. Friend; I blame the Treasury for funking the Schedule A revaluation—I thank my right hon. Friend for what he has tried to do. He has gone a long way to help those of us in the rural areas in particular to smooth relations between neighbours who have hitherto, perhaps, been jealous of each other because one has been paying more than the other in drainage rates. That is something to have achieved. If we can say that a piece of legislation has done more good than harm, it is very welcome, and one feels that it should be put into a special category.

Mr. Bence

I was not on the Standing Committee that dealt with this Bill, and after listening for the last four hours to the various contributions from both sides of the Committee I am getting quite worried. The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) has told us that the Members of the Standing Committee were so bombarded with literature of all kinds from all sorts of organisations outside this House that they became almost brainwashed. It is not to be wondered at that we have such confusion, and I must admit that after listening to what has so far been said I am but the more confused.

This is a Committee of the whole House, Mr. Arbuthnot, and I am doing my duty by attending. I must understand these matters, otherwise I shall not be doing my duty. I am certainly not satisfied. I was very surprised to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) suggest that those wanting to know what will result from this legislation should get hold of some volume of Halsbury, read the Measure and in that way learn what they should do. I was astonished to hear him say that. If two lawyers read an Act of Parliament on behalf of their clients one can bet that they will disagree as to its meaning. My experience teaches me that it is very seldom that lawyers agree in interpreting Acts. As I say, I was surprised that my hon. Friend should make that suggestion.

I have been reading the Bill this afternoon, and I am still very confused. The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely referred to drainage charges. These are charges levied by the river boards, and river boards in the areas they control have power to levy a charge on owners of hereditaments—

The Temporary Chairman (Mr. John Arbuthnot)

Order. The hon. Member must relate his remarks to the Clause we are discussing.

Mr. Tom Driberg (Barking)

On a point of order, Mr. Arbuthnot—and I apologise for interrupting my hon. Friend—

Mr. Bence

That is all right.

Mr. Driberg

The annunciators have broken down, Mr. Arbuthnot—or some of them. Since they are an essential part of the machinery of this House. I venture to submit to you—

The Temporary Chairman

That has nothing to do with the proceedings of this Committee.

Mr. Driberg

Could I make my submission'? With great respect, I suggest that it is a very good reason for asking that the Chairman should report Progress and ask leave to sit again. The annunciators are an essential part of the machinery of the House.

The Temporary Chairman

That is not correct. That does not concern the Committee, but, in any case, I am not in a position to accept a Motion to report Progress.

8.15 p.m.

Mr. Peart

Further to that point of order, Mr. Arbuthnot. We have not yet seen any of the Law Officers, and they are certainly needed in connection with a Bill of this kind. We may probably get an explanation from the Government. It may be that the Law Officers are willing to come, but feel that we have not yet reached that stage when their presence is necessary. Perhaps we could have some enlightenment from the Chair, if I am in order to ask that.

The Temporary Chairman

No. That is not a point for the Chair.

Mr. Willey

Further to that point of order. What can we do? It is certainly to the inconvenience of everybody that the annunciators should not be working. Is there anything that we can do to see that steps are taken to inform hon. Members of what is happening in this Committee?

The Temporary Chairman

There is nothing we can do within this Chamber.

Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

Then may I call attention to the number of Members present?

The Temporary Chairman

The hon. Member would be out of order in doing that during the dinner hour.

Mr. Ellis Smith

What time is the dinner hour—could we be told that?

The Temporary Chairman

Yes, it is in Standing Orders. If the hon. Member looks up Standing Orders he will find it.

Mr. Ellis Smith

Then, under the Standing Order, may I call attention to the fact that there are not 40 Members present?

The Temporary Chairman

No, not during the dinner hour.

Mr. Ellis Smith

Could we be told what time the dinner hour is?

The Temporary Chairman

Mr. Bence.

Mr. Bence

I believe, Mr. Arbuthnot, that you had just checked me for talking about the river boards, and said that I was getting out of order in not confining myself to this Clause, but I want to relate that to several statements in the Clause that I cannot understand. For instance, subsection (3) states: …the annual value of the land for the purposes of the drainage rate and any subsequent drainage rate shall be such value as may be determined by the board…"— that is the drainage board, not the river board.

When we turn to subsection (4, b) we read: …the amount per pound at which a drainage rate is so assessed shall he determined in accordance with section (Drainage rates—determination of relative poundage) of this Act.' I cannot find that anywhere in the Bill. I have searched everywhere, but there is no Clause or Schedule that bears the title: Drainage rates—determination of relative poundage". And it has to be noted that the paragraph says: "…of this Act."

Does that relate to the Act of 1930? As I was not on the Standing Committee I may be completely misinterpreting this, but I really do want to know what is happening here. What we are doing, as it appears by this Clause, is to create another body that has the power to tax people. Drainage rates are a tax. We have the Inland Revenue taxing us, the river boards taxing us, the Minister of Health taxing us…we are setting up taxing institutions outside the Inland Revenue all over the country.

I want to know what is meant by: Drainage rates—determination of relative poundage. These boards have a right to levy a limited amount of annual taxation, but I cannot find any definition of that limitation. I may get an answer later on, or perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will answer me now…

Mr. Vane

That is the title of the next new Clause which, I hope, we shall shortly be discussing.

Mr. Bence

I see, it is another new Clause. That makes it much easier. When we come to that Clause I shall have something to say about it, let there be no mistake about that. I am very worried about the powers of the central Government to spread their claws into the incomes of the people, and I regard it as my duty to be inquisitive about the different institutions which have powers of taxation.

It has been said many times that, when the new valuation comes on the basis of the annual valuation for Schedule A, this will wipe out anomalies. Drainage boards, river boards and other boards are only collections of persons, and all persons have different ideas. There may be one drainage board adjacent to another board with different persons having different ideas upon it. There may be a quite different environment and people may have different notions about valuation. There may be more anomalies. We see this sort of thing throughout our rating system. Some time ago the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover), I think it was, referred to extraordinary anomalies in an area where there had been tremendous flooding.

There will be a river board imposing charges, a drainage board imposing charges, the assessor of the local authority or of the Inland Revenue imposing charges…

The Temporary Chairman

The hon. Member is going a little wide of the new Clause.

Mr. Bence

This, Mr. Arbuthnot, is the difficulty facing hon. Members who were not Members of the Standing Committee. We are now doing our duty in Committee of the whole House, but we are not quite sure of our ground and we are not quite sure about the language. I wish that we had more lawyers present.

Mr. Willey

Why is my hon. Friend so sure that anyone else is sure?

Mr. Bence

When my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) has finished his dinner, he will, I think, come in to give us his expert views on the interpretation of some of the provisions in the Clause. I am not at all clear about it. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will answer some of my questions, and I hope that my hon. Friends on the Front Bench will again clarify certain of the difficult provisions in the Clause which seem to give considerable power to a new taxing body, with new rating values to be assessed by the local assessors of the county council.

I am very concerned about what is to happen to many of our citizens in coastal areas where there has been flooding or erosion and in urban areas subject to heavy flooding. Some people will have a tremendous burden added to their already heavy tax burden. I hope that all hon. Members, whether they were on the Standing Committee or not, will raise difficulties of this kind which affect them in their constituencies. There must be a better explanation of what is proposed, and we cannot go on like this with short expositions from the Minister. We must have more detail and we must have the matter put in its relationship with the rest of the Bill. We come to it as strangers.

I have already misunderstood the new Clause on several points and, quite rightly, I have been put right. More should be done both by the Government Front Bench and, I think, by my hon. Friends as well to make the matter clear and to set it in closer relationship with the rest of the Bill for the benefit of those who were not on the Standing Committee.

Mr. Peart

Although my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) has asked that my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) should explain the new Clause, it is the responsibility of the Government to do that.

The Temporary Chairman

The hon. Member must address the Chair.

Mr. Peart

I apologise, Mr. Arbuthnot. I was trying to answer my hon. Friend, and, naturally, I was diverting my attention towards him. I was asserting that it is the responsibility of the Government to explain these matters. The Minister in moving the Second Reading of the new Clause very fairly tried to present the reasons why we should end the anomalies.

The Temporary Chairman

The hon. Member must not turn his back on the Chair.

Mr. Peart

I am very sorry. I mean no disrespect to the Chair. My back was slightly turned because I was looking towards my hon. Friend in answering him. I do not wish to have a clash with the Chair today, nor do any of my hon. Friends. We are being very orderly.

I am merely asserting that it is the responsibility of the Government to explain their new Clauses. Although the Minister tried very fairly to explain the matter simply, I am still not sure what the new Clause will do or what its effect will be. My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North quoted from a document issued by the National Farmers' Union and showed how anomalies may be created. While we are trying to end anomalies between agricultural and urban areas, new anomalies may arise between internal drainage districts and districts outside or bodies responsible for drainage outside.

I agree with the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) when he says that the Treasury should have taken action long ago. The Minister has a difficult task because there is here involved the whole matter of Schedule A. The failure of the Treasury to give a lead has put the Minister of Agriculture in great difficulties.

Ever since the beginning of our proceedings today, we have not had a Law Officer present. This is wrong. It is a complex matter and even the Minister himself, although he argued earlier that he could well understand the Bill, must, I am sure, take legal advice. Obviously, he must take legal advice from his own Departmental officials who are present.

I see that the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) is leaving the Chamber. I intended to ask him something.

Mr. Bence

He does not like it, either.

Mr. Peart

Perhaps the hon. Member does not: understand the Bill and he is going to seek advice outside.

The Law Officers should be present. It would be no hardship. In a complicated matter of this kind, where we are dealing with technical points affecting rating law and where we have many cross references, we should have the advice of the Law Officers. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will explain why they are absent.

I now come to the question of consultation. I trust that the Parliamentary Secretary will reply to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North. Despite what has been said by the hon. and gallant Member for Isle of Ely, consultation is an important matter. It is fundamental to the Clause and to the Bill. The hon. Member must know that even in the White Paper it is stressed over and over again that this legislation has come about partly through consultation. I should like to quote from the Appendix to the White Paper where the Minister paid tribute to the discussions with other bodies. He stated: I am glad to say that, as a result of discussions with them "— that is, the various bodies— agreement was reached between the four main Associations concerned, namely, the River Boards' Association, the Association of Drainage Authorities, the National Farmers' Union and the Country Landowners' Association "— all through we have had this emphasis on consultation— on the principles which should be adopted for dealing with the main land drainage problems considered in the Heneage Report. Then, later in the White Paper, there came the full text of the agreed principles.

Notice taken that 40 Members were not present;

Committee counted, and, 40 Members being present—

8.30 p.m.

Mr. Peart

I am glad that the hon. Member for Wokingham is back with us, because I propose to refer to something that he said. I am interested in his constituency, partly because it has a name similar to that of my constituency, but also because of what he said this weekend. Tonight, we on this side are arguing constructively and very vigorously and we hope that Conservative back benchers, if they have the strength, as has been suggested by the hon. Member for Wokingham, will be present during our proceedings and will argue constructively on these very important measures before us.

Mr. W. R. van Straubenzee (Wokingham)

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will bear in mind that one of the essential requirements in successful combat is to make one's opponents expend themselves with the minimum of exertion on the part of oneself.

Mr. Peart

It is obvious that the hon. Gentleman is expending his energy with the minimum of exertion. I think that applies mentally as well.

Mr. Ellis Smith

In other words, there are too many watching too few do the work.

Mr. Peart

Exactly. I would welcome the participation of the hon. Member for Wokingham, who feels so strongly about this matter, in this discussion on these important measures affecting land drainage in the rural areas and the whole of our people's welfare. I hope that he will participate later in our efforts constructively to improve the Bill.

I revert to the point on which I was arguing with the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely and to which I want a reply from the Minister. Has there been consultation about the new Clause? The hon. Member suggested that there has been consultation with the drainage authorities Can it be said that the National Farmers' Union or the Country Landowners' Association has been consulted, or have only certain organisations been consulted? We do not say that we should necessarily accept the views of these bodies, but we should consider them.

The hon. Member unfairly criticised my hon. Friend. We have never argued that we should legislate purely from consultation. Obviously, the Government must act. On this new Clause, irrespective of the views of the National Farmers' Union, the land owners and other drainage authorities, it is the Committee which must decide. But, in view of the tradition behind the Bill and in view of the consultations that have been taking place, it would be wrong for the Minister to single out certain organisations.

If we are to introduce legislation which is fundamental—and the Clause is fundamental Ito the although we do not argue that it is the only part of the Bill—all bodies who are affected by previous discussions should have been consulted, as, I think, the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely would agree.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

No, I would not agree. The people who have to implement the Clause are the Association of Drainage Authorities. They are the people who have been consulted. The others are not concerned.

Mr. Peart

I should have thought that everyone is concerned in the matter. The National Farmers' Union is concerned. Local authorities indirectly are affected by the Bill, as are all rating authorities. I am surprised that the hon. Member should say what he has done in view of his constructive approach to the problem. In Committee, he was a shining example to many of his colleagues behind him, although I do not see any of them now. The hon. Member has looked at the matter objectively and constructively. If he examines my argument carefully, he will see that many other bodies are affected apart from the drainage authorities. Therefore, it would be wise and proper for the Government to have consultations. I repeat my main argument without, I hope, being too tedious. The principles of the Bill, the whole of our legislation as affecting the Heneage Report, the Bill itself and this important Clause which the Minister has introduced have all depended in the end on good consultation.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland. North has quoted documents, which have been quoted by other hon. Members, revealing the uncertainty about the Clause. The document from the National Farmers' Union shows the anomalies which might be created even by the new Clause, although it seeks to tidy up the existing administrative machinery. It is important for us to have a reply from the Minister. We might well like to consult other bodies. That is why we have argued that we have not had adequate time and that we would have liked the matter to have been discussed in Standing Committee, because of the difficulties and the technicalities of the Clause and because of the need to consult the various bodies who are affected by it.

We are sorry that so far we have had no indication of who has been consulted. I hope that we shall have a reply. I hope that we shall be given a reply also about why no Law Officers have been present to enable us to put some of the important legal points that arise throughout our discussions. I hope that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will be forthcoming. We make this request in no spirit of obstruction. As I said earlier, the Minister made a fair presentation of his viewpoint as expressed by Clause 1, but I hope that we will be given a specific answer on consultation and on the other matters which I have mentioned.

Mr. Symonds

I spoke earlier this evening in favour of the proposal that the new Clause should be remitted to Standing Committee. In subsection (1), I wonder why the Government state that The following provisions of this section shall have effect with respect to any drainage rate made for a period beginning after the end of March, nineteen hundred and sixty-three. Do the Government want all that time to wade through the Clause? Judging by what I have heard tonight, they will want all that and a bit more.

I wonder what advice the Law Officers gave to the Minister. When the Bill was in Committee the Law Officers, I think, must have said that they would make the Clause so complicated they themselves would not understand it. It is full of the most complicated cross references. Subsection (2) refers us to Section 24 of the Act of 1930, and it goes on to refer to agricultural buildings (as defined in subsection (2) of section two of the Rating and Valuation (Apportionment) Act, 1928)". My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) had all these Acts before him, but some of my hon. Friends and I myself have not had the opportunity to study them in the last week.

This new Clause is so complicated that it will take not only one lawyer, but several lawyers, to understand it. There are, of course, other similarly complicated pieces of legislation. I suppose that that is why lawyers now receive the fabulous fees that they do—construing these complicated pieces of legislation. This Bill is made for the lawyers. Local authorities and the drainage boards will have to consult lawyers with the purpose of getting interpretations of this Clause.

I have not heard my hon. Friends say that they fully understand the Clause and a certain organisation which sent us all a letter said it was not very clear. I was rather surprised that my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) said that the Minister had made a fairly good explanation of the Clause. I feel sure that a large number of hon. Members on this side of the Committee still do not understand what the Clause means even after the Minister's explanation.

There is this complicated subsection (4), which says, in paragraph (b): the amount per pound at which a drainage rate is so assessed shall be determined in accordance with section (Drainage rates—determination of relative poundage) of this Act. That paragraph does not give any number for the Section or anything at all. Who is to interpret that, and how? My hon. Friends want to know.

Subsection (7) is the priceless one. It says: Reference in this section to the rateable value of any land shall be construed, where that value differs from the net annual value. as referring to the net annual value. Again, I say that the lawyers are in for a marvellous time interpreting all this.

But pity the poor individual farmer, the poor individual owner who has an allotment or a greenhouse. Pity him because of the problems he will have in trying to understand what all this is about. That is why I say that the Bill should be sent back to the Standing Committee to give opportunity for further consultation to take place. If the Minister had consulted the various bodies and organisations a good deal of all this difficulty could have been avoided. The White Paper recommends that proposals for a drainage charge should be advertised and should be open to inspection and that the Minister ought to consider any representations made to him where any substantial objections are received.

8.45 p.m.

To avoid all this trouble with the Clause, would it not have been better to have given us an opportunity in Standing Committee to discuss the matter further, and should we not have had a further chance of consulting bodies and organisations which would be responsible for operating the new Clause? I have no explanation up to now of these provisions. I hope that the Government spokesman will give a lucid explanation of what all these subsections mean and I hope that by the time he has finished every hon. Member will understand their meaning.

Mr. Willey

I should like to reinforce what my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) and some of my hon. Friends have said about the Law Officers. The Committee is obviously in a great difficulty. We had a lucid explanation from the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture, but I do not think that any hon. Member who has spoken has been able to associate what he said with the provisions in the new Clause.

It is quite intolerable if we are to discuss the Bill in Committee of the whole House with the Law Officers not having the courtesy to be with us. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary will be the first to concede that this is an extraordinarily difficult Clause to comprehend. I do not think that anyone would deny the simple assertion that the Clause is completely incomprehensible to anyone who is not a lawyer. We should like an assurance, therefore, from a Law Officer that the Clause has the effect which the Minister conveyed he thought it had.

I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) is here, because I thoroughly agreed with him when he said that it ought to be our purpose to have as much discussion on the Floor of the House as possible. The reason why we wanted the Bill to go to Standing Committee was that if one is to get more than a pint into a pint pot one must first decide one's priorities. But here we are discussing the Bill in Committee of the whole House and there are no Law Officers present. Where are they? They have not been here all the afternoon and evening. It is quite intolerable. We should not depart from consideration of the Clause until they come in.

What duty do the Law Officers owe to the House? Surely it is to attend on occasions like this and help the Committee. Everyone is in difficulties about the Clause. The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) has every sympathy from me. We are discussing a new Clause arising out of Clause 21 and the Government are apparently making a gallant effort to escape from their difficulties. The hon. Member made such an effort in Standing Committee. He tabled at short notice a starred Amendment which suggested a way of tackling, at least in part, these anomalies.

I said to the hon. Member on that occasion: We welcome the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) back with us. His intelligence is obviously completely unimpaired, but, unfortunately, my intelligence is not sufficient completely to grasp the implications of his Amendment. I do not think he can expect the Committee to accept such an Amendment without having an opportunity to carry out inquiries and to consult the various bodies affected. The hon. Member has a lively recollection and he will remember that the Committee was not unsympathetic to his effort.

We were not sure, however, that he was able to interpret the advice that he had received from a drainage board in putting forward his proposals. He will realise that the Committee was even unable to be sure that his Amendment had the purpose which he thought it should have.

Here we are again in the same predicament. I thought that on this occasion we should have had the attention of the Law Officers. I say again that we cannot except the Committee to leave this Clause until we have had an explanation and an assurance from them, or from one of them. If we got an explanation from each of them they might be in conflict. This is vitally important. If we discuss a Measure such as the Finance Bill, a Law Officer is always present. We are now discussing a comparable Measure which involves the levying of money. Traditionally, that is a matter which the House, sitting in Committee, should only agree to after the closest scrutiny.

I hope that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will ask somebody to convey the feeling of the Committee on this matter. We have waited long enough. I have complained of the misuse of Parliamentary time. With all respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale, we should regard the time of the House as valuable. It is a misuse of that time to allow discussion to become more protracted without our having the proper advice Which the Government can make available to us.

Having said that, I want to make one or two more general points. After my reference to the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely I went on to say in Standing Committee: I would support him very strongly in what he said about Schedule A. We are disappointed that we have had no statement from the Government indicating their view about Schedule A in general or any statement that these disparities and anomalies are going to be tackled. Unless the Government are prepared to take some action I think the hon. Member is absolutely right and that there are going to be very real difficulties and injustices. I hope the Government will go further than they have so far in assuring us that they are aware of all these difficulties." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A 20th December, 1960; c. 312.] The hon. Member brought dramatically to mind today in his speech that this is the very thing the Government have not done. That is another reason against accepting this Clause. I agree with him that this would only be a badge of cowardice, but I also agree that this is a matter on which we have waited long enough. We should have some sign that the Government are cognisant of the problem and are tackling it.

There would be danger if we lightly allowed the Government to escape along this route. The hon. Member will recollect that the major matter which attracted debate in Standing Committee and on Second Reading was the anomalies arising under Schedule A. We should not allow the Government to escape from that. We are all thoroughly dissatisfied, as we were in Standing Committee, that we can get no statement from the Government about Schedule A and their intentions.

According to the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely spoke for all hon. Members opposite, who are conserving their reserves and articulating through him. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary should pay attention to the view expressed unanimously by both sides of the Committee.

We want the Government to come clean over Schedule A and tell us what their intentions are, and, if Schedule A is to remain, explain how they intend to deal with the anomalies and injustices which arise in its administration. On reflection, it would be a bad thing to allow the Government to escape from this predicament without their facing the wider predicament. I know how indolent and apathetic the Government are. If they can get out of this trouble they will try to get out of the major trouble which is upsetting hon. Members on both sides of the Committee.

The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely disturbed me with something else he said. We had asked questions in Standing Committee, as we have been asking questions today. We did not get answers from the Government, but we got answers from the hon. Member. I had been pressing the Government to tell us what consultations they had had, but the answer was —"not a word". I do not know whether it is disgraceful in their view to hold consultations. However, the hon. Member told us that there had been consultations. I was very suspicious that there had been consultations which the Government had concealed. I give every credit to the hon. Member for revealing them.

However, the disturbing thing is that the hon. Member said that negotiations with the Association of Drainage Authorities had been continuing for some six weeks. Six weeks ago we were in Standing Committee. Why were we not told of these consultations? This only confirms my worst suspicion that the right hon. Gentleman does not know what is happening in his Ministry.

The right hon. Gentleman and the Parliamentary Secretary repeatedly said that they would welcome a solution if they could think of one, and they offered a prize to the hon. Member if he could make a sensible suggestion and a prize to the Opposition if they could find a solution. But all the time some civil servant has been negotiating.

This is not political responsibility, but it is what has been happening under the present Government. We are being run by civil servants. This has been an aggravating political factor over the past few years. If the right hon. Gentleman had gone through the time-honoured channels and passed a note, he could have informed the Committee of those negotiations and gained the credit which he could properly have claimed. But there was not a word. That confirms exactly what I said earlier today—that the political action is being taken within the Ministry unknown to the Minister. There is a lack of proper responsibility to the House of Commons.

Mr. Ellis Smith

Will my hon. Friend repeat that?

Mr. Willey

I am anxious to expedite our proceedings. That is why I intervened. I made it clear that I intervened only when the Parliamentary Secretary did not rise to reply. The point I was making—and I say this because I want my hon. Friend's support, which I value —is that too many decisions are being taken bureaucratically, without political responsibility, with Ministers being no more than mouthpieces of the Administration.

What has disturbed us over the past few weeks has been the insensitivity of the Government to Parliament. This is not new. When I was a boy I remember haw the Government took powers from and displaced the Chester-le-Street Board of Guardians because it administered with a little humanity. The Government are now under attack on a matter which affects the humanities and they automatically react insensitively. That is partly because Ministers are detached from the spirit of the House of Commons and partly because, having been the party in office for a long time, they have become indolent and apathetic and are content merely to read the briefs of the Administration.

I understood that the general conclusion of the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely was that the new Clause was not objectionable but was frivolous and unimportant. If that is his view, then, with the broader question of Schedule A and the anomalies arising from it, it would be far better not to give the Government what they are asking for but to tell them that although this might be a difficult problem it is one to which they should find a solution.

I know the hon. Member's personal views, but he must not expect me to agree with them. He argued that Part I was not the most important part of the Bill. But it is. I do not want the hon. Member to tempt me into reading the White Paper, because that would not be helpful when we are making progress. but if he will read the White Paper he will see that the financial aspects are the most important part of this settlement which is based on the Heneage Report. It is anomalous that at this stage we should have a new Clause and be dealing with financial arrangements which will hardly affect the Bill. It is for that reason that I ask the Government to reconsider their approach.

9.0 p.m.

If this were dealing with something arising from the Bill, we would say that while we are very disappointed at the Government's lack of purpose, lack of initiative and lack of energy in dealing with the general broad problem, at any rate they are dealing with problems within the context of the Bill. But that is the very thing that they are not doing, because they say expressly that this new Clause does not apply to the provisions in Clauses 1 and 4. They say that we are dealing, therefore, with something outside the context of the Bill. I say to the Government that if they are doing that, they had better make a good job of it and not deal with this limited, partial aspect.

I hope that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will say, having heard the debate so far, that he is now prepared to take the Bill back for reconsideration and full consultation with the authorities affected. I hope that he will also say that he agrees, even if he does not agree with me so far, that we cannot expect the Committee in any case, to dispose of this new Clause unless we have assurances and explanations from one of the Law Officers.

Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)

Unaccustomed as I am to agricultural speaking, I would not wish to deal with the wider political aspect of land drainage which my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) has so eloquently put before the Committee.

There is one point upon which I should be very glad of the Joint Parliamentary Secretary's assistance and exposition. It arises on subsection (2) of this Clause. What subsection (2) does, as we are told, is to streamline what is at present Clause 21 of the Bill. It provides in terms: Subsection (4) of section twenty-four of the Act of 1930 … shall have effect as if paragraph (a) thereof referred to agricultural buildings (as defined in subsection (2) of section two of the Rating and Valuation (Apportionment) Act, 1928) as well as to agricultural land. That is a style of agricultural eloquence to which personally I would not aspire.

When we come to see what has really happened, so far as I can make out, it is this: we are taking off the burden of drainage rates which hitherto rested half on agricultural land and half on one-third of agricultural buildings, and shifting this incidence so that it falls half on both. I hope that I have put the matter clearly. I see the Joint Parliamentary Secretary looking a little puzzled, so perhaps I should start again.

Section 24 (4) of the Act of 1930 provides for the assessment of drainage rates on the annual value of agricultural land and on one-third of the annual value of other land. The general effect of the Clause is that that subsection will have effect as if paragraph (a) thereof referred to agricultural buildings as well as to agricultural land. The subsection at present provides that a rate made by a drainage board is to be assessed on the basis of annual value as regards all hereditaments, and, subject to the provisions of this section, every drainage rate shall be assessed at a uniform amount per pound throughout the area (a) in the case of agricultural land, on the annual value of the land; and (b) in the case of any other land, on one-third of the annual value thereof. We are now applying the provisions of paragraph (a) to agricultural buildings as well as land. At any rate, we are told that that is what the new Clause intends. The result is to increase the burden on agricultural buildings and—since, if the total burden remains the same and the proportion borne by agricultural buildings will be higher—to reduce pro tanto the burden on agricultural land. I hope that I have now made myself quite clear.

Mr. Vane

indicated assent.

Mr. Mitchison

That being so, I am concerned to discover a little more about the definition of agricultural buildings, in a certain connection. Section 2(2) of the Rating and Valuation (Apportionment) Act, 1928, defines agricultural land, and for the moment I do not want to read out the whole definition, which is rather long, unless anybody would like me to. The term "agricultural buildings" means buildings (other than dwelling-houses) occupied together with agriculture land or being or forming part of a market garden "— and I am not concerned with market gardens for the minute— and in either case used solely in connection with agricultural operations thereon. Since we are altering the incidence of drainage rates on these agricultural buildings, and therefore, conversely, on agricultural land, I wish to raise the question of the broiler hen industry. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has been discussing broiler hens with the Minister of Local Government. The Bill is concerned with land drainage rates, but exactly the same point arises in connection with rates in general, and I want to know, shortly, in what circumstances a place where one rears broiler hens for market—

Sir Anthony Hurd (Newbury)

There is no such thing as a broiler hen.

Mr. Mitchison

I beg the hon. Member's pardon. I have no doubt that he knows the right name much better than I do.

Sir A. Hurd

They are not hens; they are just broilers.

Mr. Mitchison

May I suggest to the hon. Member, without pushing the matter too far, that if they are broilers they will probably be either hens or cocks? That all comes from not understanding agriculture. No doubt there is some other operation in connection with broilers with which I am not sufficiently acquainted. Would it be correct if I called them broilers?

Sir A. Hurd

indicated assent.

Mr. Mitchison

There is another kind of poultry with which I am concerned at the moment, namely—if I have the word right—chickens.

The Temporary Chairman (Mr. H. Hynd)

I should be glad if the hon. and learned Member would explain what broilers have to do with drainage rates on land.

Mr. Mitchison

I hoped that I had done that at the beginning of my speech, Mr. Hynd.

What we are doing in connection with the drainage rate is to alter the incidence of that rate as between agricultural land and agricultural buildings. What I am trying to do is to find out what agricultural buildings are, and, particularly in this connection, the question that I want to raise is whether agricultural buildings nowadays do, or do not, include places in which broilers and chickens are hatched and reared under extremely artificial conditions.

This is no new question. It has been raised in court on several occasions in recent years, and there have been distinctions drawn between this type of building in different circumstances, according to the amount of agricultural land that is occupied, and also, according to whether the buildings are used solely in connection with agricultural operations carried out on the land.

The matter is of some considerable importance because, in the North of England particularly, disused mills of various kinds hitherto rated as industrial hereditaments have been occupied and adapted for rearing broilers and hatching chickens, and, in the result, to the detriment of the ratepayers of the district, they have enjoyed immunity from rates as agricultural buildings.

The same question arises in connection with the incidence of the drainage rate. In subsection (2), which deals with this matter, we are asked to alter the incidence of the drainage rate on agricultural buildings. Can the Joint Parliamentary Secretary say quite clearly within what limits and in what circumstances places where one rears broilers or chickens under somewhat artificial conditions are agricultural buildings and in what cases they are not?

I do not think that I need go through the various decisions of the courts, but there have been several lately. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Because we want to proceed with the Bill. I hope that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will be able to throw some light on this, and let me tell him my particular reason for asking.

In another part of the House a Rating and Valuation Bill is being considered, and this kind of question is likely to arise on that Bill. Obviously, it is highly undesirable that one Ministry should have one view of what are agri- cultural buildings and another Ministry should have another view; and, similarly, that two Statutes should be brought into operation at more or less the same time, one dealing with land drainage rates and the other with rates in general, and that they should provide differently for anything, in particular for agricultural buildings, and the incidence of rates on them.

I hope, therefore, that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, to elucidate the position, will explain in what circumstances the rearing and production of broilers for the market is an industry, and in what circumstances it is an agricultural operation, since that affects the character of the buildings in which it is carried on.

May I go a step further? I believe that recently there have been discussions between the right hon. Gentleman or the Joint Parliamentary Secretary and their opposite numbers in the Ministry of Housing and Local Government about questions of this sort. Perhaps the Minister could tell us whether this is one of the questions which has been considered, and, if so, with what result.

9.15 p.m.

Mr. M. Foot

I think that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) is the first legal expert to contribute to this debate. Whether he has assisted the process of securing the result we all want is another matter, which I will not go into. The only legal advice which the Committee has had on the Bill—despite the persistent demands from this side of the Committee—is from my hon. and learned Friend. If any hon. Member opposite has any quarrel about that his quarrel must be with the occupants of their own Front Bench, occupants who have refused throughout the afternoon, and for part of this evening, to supply any other legal advice. Short of action by the Government to remedy this deficiency we shall have to take our legal advice solely from my hon. and learned Friend.

I am prepared to do so. My hon. and learned Friend may not be an expert on agricultural matters, but I am sure that he is a great legal authority and on this matter I am prepared to accept almost all the words that he has uttered. I do not accept his legal views on all subjects, but on this one I will go with him, in the absence of the Attorney-General. I am sorry to quarrel with my hon. Friends, but I cannot agree that the presence of the Attorney-General would have assisted us. The right hon. and learned Gentleman might have thought that he could bulldoze this matter through the Committee in the same way as he carries all before him in the courts. But had he been present, I think that he would have found that things were not so easy as that.

But that was not the principal point that I wished to raise. When I spoke earlier I was inclined to agree with the Government that it was right that these new Clauses should be debated on the Floor of the House, although, eventually, I was very strongly persuaded by the arguments advanced by my hon. Friends. However, I must say that the more I have listened to the discussion on this Clause the more the view taken by my hon. Friends has been confirmed; and the more anyone has listened to this debate over the last few hours the more he must realise that plenty of time would have been saved had the matter been approached in another way.

The Clause is so complicated that I do not think that any hon. Member could say, with his hand on his heart, that he understood, shall we say, even 50 per cent. of it. This is an extraordinary situation for this Committee to be placed in, particularly in view of the ancestry of the Bill. Not having been a member of the Standing Committee which discussed it, I did not know all the details about the Bill and I dare say that there are few hon. Members on either side of the Committee, who did not serve on that Standing Committee, who have been able to read through all the Committee's proceedings. I have not been able to complete all that reading myself. But if we look back to see the ancestry of this Measure, and how long the preparation has been going on, it is astonishing that we should today, in effect, have something like a new Bill thrown at our heads.

Some of my hon. Friends may not know how long the preparations for the Bill have been going on. It is not just a question of the Second Reading debate having taken place on 14th November. It goes back much longer than that. I do not ask hon. Members opposite to accept it from me, but to accept it on the authority of the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton). He is not here now, but he did take part in the Second Reading debate, and if anybody looks at what he said it will confirm to the hilt the point that I am making now.

Do not let any hon. Member underrate the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton. He is quite a powerful figure in the Conservative Party—a very formidable figure. He can get hundreds of hon. Members to sign Motions. Indeed, one might almost say that the hon. Member has only to sneeze and the whole Treasury Bench catches a cold. So when I quote the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton do not let anybody suppose that I am quoting a second-rate figure in the ranks of the Conservative Party. This is what the hon. Member—[Holy. MEMBERS: "The right hon. Member."] Yes, of course, he is a right hon. Member.

This is what the right hon. Gentleman said about the preparations for this Bill: I agree with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) that one has, perhaps, got to ask: is this Bill really up to date? After all, he was not quite accurate"— that is my hon. Friend, as allegedly said by the right hon. Gentleman opposite— when he talked about the Bill having taken a long time, because it comes nine years after Heneage reported. The major part of the Bill was drafted twenty-five years ago—twenty-five years ago, when the 1930 Act was not proving very satisfactory and Ministers thought to amend it. Twenty-five years ago is an elephantine period of gestation if ever there was one. What happened at the end of it? After twenty-five years of preparation they made their preparations so ill that they had to come along at the end of this quarter of a century and rush in a few new Clauses which we are supposed to pass in a very short time.

That is not all that the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton had to say. He had some advice to give to the Government on the operation of the Bill which I have no doubt was very apposite in November, but is it still apposite in February? He said: We welcome the Bill, of course—we have waited far too long for it "— twenty-five years was quite a long time— but I beg the Minister to reconsider some of the problems. These are the particular words I want the right hon. Gentleman to remember and to mark on his heart: Do not let us rush the Bill. That is what the 1922 Committee said and not me, nor my hon. Friends. That is what the dog says that wags the tail.

The right hon. Gentleman goes on: There is no party issue in it. We all agree about that. We are all anxious to bring our drainage law up to date. I fear I may not be here in thirty years' time to speak on the next drainage Bill when it is introduced. I expect that it will be about thirty years before we get it—so I wish the present Bill well, although I do not like all its provisions."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th November, 1960; Vol. 502, c. 54–61.] In other words, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Thirsk and Malton was putting a very reasonable proposition. He was saying that if one only had a Bill every quarter of a century to deal with this very important problem of land drainage one might as well do the job properly. That is a very reasonable proposition. If one is to do the job properly one might as well have the Bill in proper form before it is presented to the House of Commons.

I am not blaming the Minister of Agriculture—I always try to keep on good terms with him. He explained earlier that he had inherited the Bill. He said that there are some advantages in having inherited it and some disadvantages. I could not understand what he meant when he said it, but now that I have examined the full ancestry of the Bill I can understand it perfectly well. The Minister of Agriculture had inherited a Bill which was to deal with a problem which had been piling up for twenty-five years. He had not had very much time, because he had only been appointed as Minister a few days before the Second Reading came and, therefore, he was introducing a Measure which had not been—

The Temporary Chairman

Order. This sounds like a Second Reading speech. Will the hon. Member please talk about the new Clause?

Mr. Foot

I am sorry. I thought I was all right, Mr. Hynd.

One of the difficulties about this whole proposition is that we are dealing not merely with one new Clause, but with a series of new Clauses which, as I say, if anybody can understand them, make, if not an entirely new Bill, a Bill which is, at any rate, very different from the Bill which the right hon. Member introduced last November. Because it is so different I think that the advice which was given by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Thirsk and Malton, although he made it on Second Reading, is still apposite, not merely to this Clause but every other Clause we have to discuss either tonight or on a future occasion.

I conclude by repeating to the Minister and the Treasury Bench the advice of their most powerful back bencher, "Do not let us rush the Bill".

Mr. Vane

The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) has been speaking as though this Clause were the heart of the Bill. In fact, the Clause simply removes certain anomalies which various hon. Members on both sides of the House were pressing us to do during the consultations before the publication of the Bill, on Second Reading and in Committee. I think it would be right for us to appreciate that that is the purpose of the Clause and nothing further.

The hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) said that he was waiting for me to get up to reply to the debate—otherwise he would not have risen. I was about to do so, but I saw him getting up and I thought that probably he would like to speak before I did. In the earlier stages of his speech he accused the Government of insensitivity, yet previously he had remarked on the number of Amendments in the name of my right hon. Friend which now appear on the Notice Paper. If the Government had been so insensitive in Committee—and I attended every minute of the sittings of the Committee —there would not have been anything like this list of Amendments on the Notice Paper today. I hope the hon. Member will appreciate that this list of Amendments stems largely from the fact that in Committee we tried to meet as many points made by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee as we could. Hence we find that some of the Amendments on the Notice Paper are rather complicated.

When a Clause is drafted aimed to deal largely with machinery—and this Clause we are dealing with is concerned with the assessment and collection of drainage rates and nothing more—in the very nature of things it must be written in technical language. In consequence, it will not be easy for all to appreciate its full implication on a first reading, but I think the course of the debate has shown the majority of hon. Members that the meaning of the Clause is not so difficult to apprehend. The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) paid what I thought a deserved tribute to my right hon. Friend by saying how in his opening speech he had made the Clause very much clearer for hon. Members to understand. He explained how the purpose of the Clause is not so wide.

Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)

On a point of order. There was a Law Officer behind Mr. Speaker's Chair, Mr. Hynd, but he has now gone out of the Chamber. Is that not a gross discourtesy to the Committee?

The Temporary Chairman

That is not a point of order for me.

Mr. Vane

I do not think that in the light of what my right hon. Friend said—

Mr. William Baxter (West Stirlingshire)

On a point of order, Mr. Hynd. Are there any powers under the rules and regulations which would permit this Committee to suspend its sitting for a quarter of an hour so that one of the Law Officers could be asked to be present to give an explanation of the meaning of this Clause?

The Temporary Chairman

No, I am afraid not.

Mr. Vane

I do not think it necessary for me to repeat the general explanation given by my right hon. Friend, but I shall endeavour to answer some of the points Which have been raised. First there is the question of consultation. In the main, this Clause concerns the Association of Drainage Authorities. It does not concern any other of the parties to the earlier quadrapartite discussions—if I may use that phrase—to anything like the same extent. Everything in the Bill concerns a great many people, but machinery for assessment and collection is what we are now concerned with and it is the Association of Drainage Authorities in the main with which we have had consultations. The River Boards' Association is not concerned with this. The National Farmers' Union is, of course, concerned to a certain extent, but this Clause deals with the removal of anomalies and not with the imposition of additional charges.

The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) spoke as if the Clause were imposing a new system of charges and taxes. It does nothing of the kind. It is aimed to remove a relative number of tiresome anomalies, and does not add to the burden at all—

9.30 p.m.

Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)

I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, and I am grateful to him for explaining the Clause, but I understood my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) to say, in giving his description of what did apply as a result of this Clause, that it would shift the balance of rates from agricultural land to that agricultural land that can be described as agricultural buildings. Could the hon. Gentleman deal with that?

Mr. Vane

I was coming to that, in time. With respect to the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), I do not think that that is one of the major effects of the Clause. I was seeking to reply to the question of consultation raised by more than one hon. Member. I can say that this provision, which concerns intimately the Association of Drainage Authorities, is a machinery Clause and does not add to the charges, and it is with the Association of Drainage Authorities that close consultation has been carried out.

Mr. Peart

I ask a direct question. Even though the drainage authorities are the main people concerned with the Clause —which I accept, although there are others as well—were the National Farmers' Union and the landowners' organisations also consulted? I ask a specific question, to be answered "Yes" or "No". Were they consulted in the drafting of the Clause or as to the policy behind it?

Mr. Vane

No, to the best of my knowledge they were not consulted, but they knew what we were aiming at. It was certainly their objective just as much as ours to arrive where we have arrived.

Another question asked was whether we were setting up any new anomalies. I do not think that we are. We are removing existing anomalies, and we are not creating new ones. Furthermore, although the hon. Gentleman laid stress on consultation, he also said, and I agree, that ultimately this was Government responsibility. The authorities have no new taxing powers under the Clause. It is an improvement of the existing arrangement that we are seeking.

The hon. Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Symonds) asked why the mystic date 1963 appeared at the beginning of the Clause. Until the completion of the new valuation lists it will not be possible to effect any uniform assessment of drainage rates on current values. Hence the date, which is the estimated earliest date by which that current valuation will be completed and we can implement what we here propose—

Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)

I am rather interested in this comment. I happen to be a Member of the Standing Committee on the Rating and Valuation Bill. When debating these matters over many recent weeks we have been constantly told, in relation to the new valuation due in 1963, that because of the magnitude of the valuation it cannot be applied to agricultural land but is restricted solely to hereditaments—buildings, houses, factories, industrial premises—and is exclusive of agricultural land. I am therefore rather puzzled by the hon. Gentleman's reference to it, because in that Standing Committee we are told by the Minister of Housing and Local Government that the valuers have no instructions to value agricultural land.

Mr. Vane

I think that my right hon. Friend has the hon. Gentleman's point, which will no doubt be deployed in greater detail on the next Amendment. This does not depend on the Rating and Valuation Bill but on the valuation that is now in progress—

Mr. Mitchison

I am very sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman again, but this is really very interesting. Is there a valution of agricultural land in progress for rating purposes? I understood the Minister of Housing and Local Government to object the other day to the imposition of rates on agricultural land on, among other grounds, the ground that there was no such valuation.

Mr. Vane

I think that I can answer the hon. and learned Gentleman by saying that we are not concerned with an assessment for rates on agricultural land, because no assessment exists or is being made. We are concerned with two different anomalies. We are concerned with the current assessment of rates for dwelling-houses, and in subsection 3 of the Clause we are dealing with the Schedule A assessment of agricultural land. I know that the hon. and learned Gentleman is a great expert on rating matters, and he asked me two questions of which I felt he knew the answers better than I did. One question related to agricultural buildings. They will under the Clause in future be treated as agricultural land which will, in effect, mean a very slight change in the proportions, but nothing really, I think, to affect the main provisions. The hon. and learned Gentleman asked me also about broiler houses. I think the answer to that question is "Normally, yes", but I am advised that there is a case under appeal now and, therefore, it is really not in my power tonight to give an authoritative reply which would cover all cases.

Mr. Mitchison

If the hon. Gentleman answers the question "Yes", that answer depends on which question is put. Are broiler houses agricultural buildings or industrial hereditaments? Will he make his reply a little clearer?

Mr. Vane

I am sorry. When I said, "Yes", I meant that normally they were agricultural buildings.

Sir Leslie Plummer (Deptford)

Will the Parliamentary Secretary consider a point he made in Committee when, in reply to an Amendment moved by the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke), he said: I can see my hon. Friend's argument that, in general, the agricultural industry that stands to benefit most from land drainage is frequently paying what would seem to be a smaller share when compared with various dwelling houses alongside".—[OFFICIAL REPORT. Standing Committee A, 20th December, 1960; c. 315.] If nothing is to be done until 1963, the anomaly referred to by the hon. Member will continue for another two years. Does not the Clause as drafted deny the words of the Parliamentary Secretary himself in Committee on 20th December?

Mr. Vane

I do not deny those words, but the point is not entirely relevant to the Clause except in so far as it admits that anomalies exist. In the main, of course, we are meeting the point which the hon. Member for Deptford makes by imposing, for the first time, through the general and special charges which are not referred to in the Clause, a contribution to land drainage and so much more closely arriving at a balance.

I have answered a great many points raised by hon. Members and I hope that they will now accept that, although the Clause has had to be drafted in a technical language, there is nothing sinister about it. It sets out, with, it must be admitted, a certain ingenuity, to meet the anomaly which was admitted to exist on both sides of the House and the Committee and which it was known we were trying to meet if we could. I submit that we have succeeded in going much further than most hon. Members would have thought likely in meeting this very real anomaly, and I hope that they will now let us have the new Clause.

Mr. Loughlin

At one stage in our discussions, I thought that we were having light thrown on the legal terminology of the Clause, and I appreciate that the Minister in moving the Second Reading of it tried to avoid using legal terminology. When my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) was performing the functions which, apparently, the Government's Law Officers cannot perform in trying to explain to the Committee what some of the terms mean, he said, if I remember aright, that the new Clause was designed to alter to some extent the burden of rates imposed by the Act of 1930 as it applies today in the apportionment of rates as to one-half on agricultural land and one-third on agricultural land described in the Act as being buildings. There is, therefore, a change of balance in the cost of the rates to the owners of agricultural land and building.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary said, in answer to an intervention which I made, that there would be no change at all. He also said that he would deal with the point later in his speech, but when he came to the point he gave the Committee no information at all. As there is to be a change from one-third to one-half concerning the rateability of agricultural land on which there is a high proportion of agricultural buildings, there is a shift in the rate burden on the owners of that land. I may be wrong. I am merely accepting the opinion of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering, which has not been contradicted by the Government Front Bench. We have made numerous complaints that there are no Law Officers on the Government Front Bench. It appears to me that the Government Front Bench is not even bothered about the persistent complaints of hon. Members. I think that that is discourteous to the Commitee, to say the least.

My biggest problem concerning the Clause is that I am a layman. As a layman I am not expected to understand and to try to sort out the ramifications of the law. I have a right to expect that the Government will explain the legal position so that we may do our job properly in examining the Bill. [Interruption.] The Minister seems to find that funny. Either we treat the Bill seriously, in which case the Government have a responsibility to place before us adequate explanations of the legal issues involved, or we can take the Minister's attitude and consider that this is one of those things about which we can make jokes.

There are fifty-four lines in the new Clause, with references to Sections, subsections and Acts. It deals with Section 24 (4) of the Rating and Valuation Act, 1930, with Section 2 (2) of the Rating and Valuation (Apportionment) Act, 1928, with Schedule A and with the Drainage Rates Act, 1958. It mentions Sections and subsections ad infinitum. How can lay Members on this side or that side of the Committee possibly begin to understand the implications of the Clause unless we have an explanation of the legal aspect from the Government Front Bench? As I have said, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering put forward his opinion, and the Parliamentary Secretary failed to deal with it. Then, in spite of another interjection asking for the information, he again failed to give it.

9.45 p.m.

This is a wonderful Government. At 3.30 this morning, we discovered that they were incapable of drafting a Bill, so that all our discussion in the early hours of this morning came to nought.

The Chairman

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but he is getting far away from the new Clause.

Mr. Loughlin

You had not allowed me to complete my sentence, Sir Gordon. How do we know that all these references to Acts, Sections, subsections and paragraphs are correct? We might well be in the same dilemma as last night and in another three hours' time somebody will find it out. We may find that all the explanations that we have had from the Minister and the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, all the free legal advice which has been so readily tendered by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering and all the attempts to get information from the Government benches, have come to nought. I would not trust them at all—

Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)

Is my hon. Friend suggesting that even if one of the hon. and learned Gentlemen were to come here, his advice would be worth accepting? Is it not better to have them out of the Committee because their legal advice is not worth accepting?

Mr. Loughlin

I do not want to cast any reflections on the legal ability of Members of the Government Front Bench.

It is wrong for the Government to treat the Committee in this way. It is wrong for the Minister and the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, who speak on behalf of the Government, not to take the steps necessary to ensure that the Committee has the information and explanations to which it is entitled. The Government Front Bench should arrange, if not for this Clause, for subsequent

Division No 61. AYES [9.50 p.m.
Agnew, Sir Peter Atkins, Humphrey Baxter, Sir Beverlay (southgate)
Altken, W. T. Barber, Anthony Beamish, Col, Sir Tufton
Allason, James Barlow, Sir John Bell, Ronald
Ashton, Sir Hubert Barter, John Bennett. F. M. (Torquay)

Clauses and Amendments, to let us have the necessary legal information that would guide the Committee in the right way.

Mr. Willey

I think I am conveying the feeling of the whole Committee when I say that I very much appreciate the contributions made by the Minister and the Joint Parliamentary Secretary. They have tried to help us in our discussion of this difficult Clause. The fact remains, however, that the Law Officers have shown a contempt for the Committee. One of them was seen near the Chair, but he withdrew. This is bringing Parliament into disrepute. Nobody who has listened to our discussions would deny that this is particularly a matter on which we should have the advice of the Law Officers. They have not come.

As I said earlier, I want to expedite our proceedings. I do not want to hold up discussion unnecessarily. The course that I would advise my hon. Friends to take, therefore, is to vote against the Clause. I do that although I still have an open mind upon it, but I have not been satisfied that it will meet its objectives. I am not satisfied that it serves the purposes that the Minister believes it to serve.

Moreover, there are other matters which disturb us, particularly the failure of the Government to meet the wider problem. I do not, however, want unnecessarily to pursue this discussion. We have Amendments on the Paper, which may well be selected, which will allow us an opportunity to discuss further matters arising under the Clause. In the light of the discussion, recognising the failure—I do not attribute it entirely to them—of the Government Front Bench to meet the arguments which have been raised, I suggest that we should follow the only alternative open to us to express our disapproval of the Clause.

Question put, That the Clause be read a Second time:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 237, Noes 164.

Ainsley, William Bacon, Miss Alice Blackburn, F.
Albu, Austen Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.) Blyton, William
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Boardman, H.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Bence, Cyril (Dunbartonshire, E.) Bowden, Herbert W. (Leis, S.W.)
Awbery, Stan Benson, Sir George Bowles, Frank
Berkeley, Humphry Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G, Noble, Michael
Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald (Toxteth) Gurden, Harold Nugent, Sir Richard
Bidgood, John C. Hall, John (Wycombe) Oakshott, Sir Hendrie
Biggs Davison, John Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough) Orr-Ewing, C. Ian
Bishop, F. P. Harris, Reader (Heston) Osborn, John (Hallam)
Black Sir Cyril Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Page, John (Harrow, West)
Bossom, Clive Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)
Bourne-Arton, A. Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Partridge, E.
Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan) Harvie Anderson, Miss Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)
Box, Donald Hastings, Stephen Peel, John
Boyle, Sir Edward Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Percival, Ian
Braine, Bernard Heath, Rt. Hon. Edward Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth
Brewis, John Henderson, John (Cathcart) Pike, Miss Mervyn
Bromley-Davenport,Lt.-Col.SirWalter. Henderson-Stewart, Sir James Pilkington, Sir Richard
Brooman-White, R. Hicks Beach, Maj. W. Prior, J. M. L.
Browne, Percy (Torrington) Hiley, Joseph Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho
Bryan, Paul Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe) Profumo, Rt. Hon. John
Bullard, Denys Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk) Proudfoot, Wilfred
Bullus, Wing Commander Eric Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Quennell, Miss J. M.
Burden, F. A. Hirst, Geoffrey Ramsden, James
Butler,Rt.Hn.R.A.(Saffron Walden) Hooking, Philip N. Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin
Campbell, Sir David (Belfast, S) Holland, Philip Rees, Hugh
Carr, Compton (Barons Court) Hollingworth, John Rees-Davies, W.R
Carr, Robert (Mitcham) Holt, Arthur Roberts, Sir Peter (Healey)
Channon, H. P. G. Hope, Rt. Hon. Lord John Robson Brown, Sir. William
Chataway, Christopher Hopkins, Alan Roots William
Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.) Hornby, R. P. Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Clarke, Brig. Terence(Portsmth, W.) Hornsby-Smith, At. Hon. Patricia Russell, Ronald
Cleaver, Leonard Howard, John (Southampton, Test) Scott-Hopkins, James
Cole, Norman Hughes-Young, Michael Sharples, Richard
Cooper, A. E. Hulbert, Sir Norman Shaw, M.
Cooper-Key, Sir Neill Hurd, Sir Anthony Skeet, T. H. H.
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Hutchison, Michael Clark Smithers, Peter
Costain, A. P. Jackson, John Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher
Coulson, J. M. Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Speir, Rupert
Courtney, Cdr. Anthony Jennings, J. C. Stevens, Geoffrey
Craddock, Sir Beresford Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Stodart, J. A.
Crowder, F. P. Kaberry, Sir Donald Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm
Cunningham, Knox Kerans, Cdr. J. S. Studholme, Sir Henry
Curran, Charles Kerby, Capt. Henry Tapsell, Peter
Currie, G. B. H. Kerr, Sir Hamilton Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)
Dalkeith, Earl of Kershaw, Anthony Teeling, William
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Kirk, Peter Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
beetles, W. F. Kitson, Timothy Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
de Ferranti, Basil Leavey, J. A. Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Digby, Simon Wingfield Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.)
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M. Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S)
Doughty, Charles Lilley, F. J. P. Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin
Drayson, G. B. Litchfield, Capt. John Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)
du Cann, Edward Longbottom, Charles Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Duncan, Sir James Longden, Gilbert Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Duthie, Sir William Loveys, Walter H. van Straubenzee, W. R.
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vane, W. M. F.
Elliott,R.W.(N'wa'stle-upon-Tyne,N.) MacArthur, Ian Vaughan-Morgan, Sir John
Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn McLaren, Martin Vickers, Miss Joan
Errington, Sir Eric McMaster, Stanley R. vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis
Erroll, Rt. Hon. F. J. Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold(Bromley) Wade, Donald
Farr, John Maddan, Martin Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Fell, Anthony Maginnis, John E. Wall, Patrick
Fisher, Nigel Manningham-Butler, At. Hn. Sir R. Webster, David
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Markham, Major Sir Frank Wells, John (Maidstone)
Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton) Marten, Neil Whitelaw, William
Freeth, Denzil Mathew, Robert (Honiton) Williams, Dudley (Exeter)
Gammans, Lady Matthews, Gordon (Meriden) Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Gardner, Edward Maudling, Rt. Hon. Reginald Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
George, J. C. (Pollok) Mawby, Ray Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Gibson-Watt, David Maxwell-Hyslop, R.J. Wise, A. R.
Glover, Sir Douglas Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham) Mills, Stratton Woodhouse, C. M.
Goodhart, Philip Montgomery, Fergus Woollam, John
Gough, Frederick More, Jasper (Ludlow) Worsley, Marcus
Grant, Rt. Hon. William Morgan, William
Green, Alan Morrison, John TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Gresham Cooke, R. Neave, Alrey Mr. Finlay and
Grimond, J. Nicholls, Sir Harmar Mr. Chichester-Clark.
Grimston, Sir Robert Nicholson, Sir Godfrey
Boyden, James Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Randall, Harry
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Rankin, John
Brockway, A. Fenner Kelley, Richard Reid, William
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Kenyon, Clifford Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Brown, Alan (Tottenham) Key, At. Hon. C. W. Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Lawson, George Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)
Castle, Mrs. Barbara Ledger, Ron Ross, William
Chetwynd, George Lee, Frederick (Newton) Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Cliffe, Michael Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Collick, Percy Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.) Skeffington, Arthur
Crossman, R. H. S. Logan, David Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)
Cullen, Mrs. Alloe Loughlin, Charles Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Davies, Harold (Leek) Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Small, William
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) McCann, John Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Deer, George McInnes, James Snow, Julian
de Freitas, Geoffrey McKay, John (Wallsend) Sorensen, R. W.
Delargy, Hugh Mackie, John Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Diamond, John McLeavy, Frank Spriggs, Leslie
Ede, Rt. Hon. C. MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles) Steele, Thomas
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Mallalieu, J.P.W.(Huddersfield, E.) Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Manuel, A. C. Stones, William
Edwards, Walter (Stepney) Mapp, Charles Strachey, Rt. Hon. John
Finch, Harold Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A. Swingler, Stephen
Fitch, Alan Marsh, Richard Sylvester, George
Fletcher, Eric Mason, Roy Symonds, J. B.
Foot, Dingle (Ipswich) Mendelson, J. J. Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Millan, Bruce Taylor, John (West Lothian)
Forman, J. C. Milne, Edward J. Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Mitchison, G. R. Thornton, Ernest
Gordon Walker, At. Hon. P. C. Monslow, Walter Tomney, Frank
Gourlay, Harry Moody, A. S. Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
Grey, Charles Morris, John Wainwright, Edwin
Hamilton, William (West Fife) Mort, D. L. Warbey, William
Hannan, William Moyle, Arthur Watkins, Tudor
Hayman, F. H. Neal, Harold Weitzman, David
Hewitson, Capt. M. Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon) Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Hilton, A. V. Noel-Baker,Rt.Hn.Philip(Derby,S.) Whitlock, William
Houghton, Douglas Oswald, Thomas Wilkins, W. A.
Hoy, James H. Owen, Will Willey, Frederick
Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Padley, W. E. Williams, LI. (Abertillery)
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.) Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Hunter, A. E. Parker, John (Dagenham) Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Hynd, John (Attercliffe) Parkin, B. T. (Paddington, N.) Wilson, At. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd) Winterbottom, R. E.
Janner, Sir Barnett Peart, Frederick Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Jeger, George Pentland, Norman Woof, Robert
Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Plummer, Sir Leslie Zilliacus, K.
Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech(Wakefieid) Popplewell, Ernest
Jones, Dan (Burnley) Price, J. T. (Westhoughton) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.) Probert, Arthur Mr. Redhead and Mr. Howell
Jones. Jack (Rotherham) Proctor, W. T.

It being Ten o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.

Committee report Progress