HC Deb 18 July 1963 vol 681 cc888-90
Mr. Corfield

I beg to move, in page 140, line 28, at the end to insert: (4) Without prejudice to the proviso to subsection (1) of the said section 76 (which limits the disabilities imposed by that section), that section shall not by virtue of this paragraph apply—

  1. (a) to any interest which a member of a river authority or committee may have in the preparation or revision of a charging scheme or in the raising of any drainage rates or the levying of any general or special drainage charges, or
  2. (b) to any interest in any other matter which such a member may have as the holder of, or as an applicant or prospective applicant for, a licence under this Act, where it is an interest which he has in common with all other holders of, or applicants or prospective applicants for, such licences, or in common with all other persons belonging to a class of such holders, applicants or prospective applicants.
This Amendment adds a new sub-paragraph to the Schedule with a view to modifying the reference to Section 76 of the Local Government Act, 1933. It was pointed out rather late in the day that if Section 76 was applied rigidly to river authorities the people appointed to river authorities specifically to give expert advice might well be ruled out at precisely the time when their expert advice was needed. In an attempt to avoid that and at the same time preserve the general principle that people should declare their interest and not vote where that interest was involved we have retained Section 76 and have added the qualifying provisions of sub-paragraph (4, a and b). I hope and believe that they meet the needs of the case and I am grateful to the representatives of several bodies who came to see us a few days ago and pointed out the difficulties which might be created.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

The Amendment entirely meets the representations which the National Farmers' Union made very recently to my right hon. Friend and they have asked me to express their gratitude to him for meeting their representations so completely.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Temple

I beg to move, in page 142, line 35, after "contribute", to insert: or by any person or body (other than a person or body convening it in the course of his or their trade or business or a body of which the objects are wholly or partly political)". At the same time it might be convenient to discuss Amendment 116, in line 26, at end insert: (c) of such other associations, being associations formed for purposes which include consultation and discussion of matters connected with the performance of any of the functions of river authorities.

Mr. Speaker

If the House so pleases.

Mr. Temple

The Minister throughout discussions on the Bill has impressed on everybody concerned the very great importance of the quality of river authority members. Having accepted that point, it is only fair to treat river authority members as being grown-up persons and not needing to be in children's harness. All I seek in the Amendment is to give those members power to judge for themselves whether they pay to fellow-members expenses to attend a certain type of conference or pay subscriptions to any associated or related bodies with, which they are in contact.

It is very significant that in another place only this evening the principle of this Amendment has been accepted in Clause 1 (1, a) of the Local Government (Financial Provisions) Bill and that Bill has completed all its stages in another place. It would seem that if my right hon. Friend was thinking of resisting the Amendment earlier in the day he might be encouraged by what has just taken place in another place to have a quick change of mind and to give river authorities these powers.

It is only reasonable that river authorities should be the judge in these cases of which conferences their members should be able to attend. The powers are only the same powers that local authorities have at present. Local authorities are usually reckoned to be in status on a par with and certainly not above river authorities. Therefore, I hope that whoever replies will be able to advise the House that the two Amendments should be accepted.

10.45 p.m.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

I am sorry to disappoint my hon. Friend for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple). I do not want to enter into an argument with him whether the future river authorities will be more or less important than other bodies. I entirely agree with him that the river authorities will have extremely important functions, but they will be on a limited scale and of a limited nature compared with the local authorities with their wide powers and wide responsibilities.

May I draw attention to the fact that in Standing Committee we enlarged the powers of the authorities and added an extra sub-paragraph to paragraph 26 which gives a river authority power to make contributions towards the expanses of members who attend anything within the sphere of action of the authority. I think that my hon. Friend is trying to go a little too far and to give too much. He is trying to extend the provision too far in that direction. I ask him seriously to consider whether it is not much better to leave things as they are and to withdraw the Amendment.

Mr. Temple

That is a real disappointment. I am disappointed at the Government's attitude. I should have thought that we could agree that river authorities were equal in status to local authorities, but my hon. Friend does not agree, and I must, therefore, beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.