HC Deb 17 July 1964 vol 698 cc1602-48

11.11 a.m.

Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)

I beg to move, in page 1, line 5, to leave out from beginning to "a" in line 9.

The Chairman

I think that it would be convenient if we discussed this Amendment with the Amendments in page 1, lines 5 and 9.

Mr. Hamilton

I think that that would be convenient, Sir William.

These are all more or less drafting Amendments and cover the same point which is, quite simply, that the words that we propose to leave out are unnecessary.

The Minister will recollect that my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) is probably the most vigilant Member of the House of Commons in trying to cut out verbosity in Bills. I sometimes think that the draftsmen of Bills are paid according to the number of words they can inject into them, and we are seeking to simplify the Clause without detracting from its meaning.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Gordon Campbell)

I understand and am familiar with the intention to cut out words which may not seem to be necessary. I hope later this morning that I shall be able to assist in this process. In this case, I should like to draw attention to the fact that this is a practice which has come in in recent years as a result of requests I understand, by hon. Members that there should be something of this kind in parenthesis to assist them so that they do not have to look up the Statute to see exactly what it is all about.

A secondary point is that it helps those who, later, have to interpret Measures when they become Acts. For that reason, we think that in this case it is for the convenience of the House of Commons and also for those who have to work on the Acts later that this practice, which is now widespread in legislation, including Scottish legislation, should be preserved in the Bill.

11.15 a.m.

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

That sounds all right, but I cannot remember anyone in the House of Commons asking for this to be done. Does it add anything at all to the meaning of the Statute? I am perfectly sure that it does not. What we are doing is putting a new duty on the river purification board. If anyone has any doubt as to the powers of the board he has only to look at Clause 9, which states that this Statute will be considered as one with the main Act. There is no difficulty there.

If there is any further difficulty, one has only to go to the combined statutes and look up the words "river purification board." All we have here is a baroque adornment of a Statute. There is nothing Gothic, or neo-Gothic, or anything quite so simple, about this. This is a practice which the draftsmen should forget as quickly as possible. I like a Statute to tell us exactly what its meaning is. When we have to read about six lines, when we are already told in the Title what is the purpose of the Bill, I see no reason why these words should be there, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will think again.

There is all this reference to a Statute—only one Section of it—and then we get parenthetical reference to one of the things to which it relates. It is nonsensical and unnecessary, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will think again about it between now and Report. When we come to the Report stage, truncated in our considerations as we are and time for reflection being denied to the Government, I hope that you, Sir William, will be fairly lenient with us if we seek to put forward manuscript Amendments.

The Chairman

Perhaps I should reply to that remark as it is directed to me. The hon. Member will be aware that selection of Amendments on Report does not lie with the Chairman of Ways and Means.

Mr. Ross

It becomes even more silly, the way we are dealing with legislation. I direct this point to the Minister. It may well be that by the time we finish the Bill, if we finish it today, some enlightenment will come over the Government and they will appreciate that something should, or could, be done, it may well be in relation to this Amendment. I hope that between now and Report, the channels of communication between the Chair and the Government will be so open that the Chair will be more receptive to the acceptance of manuscript Amendments that are essential to properly legislating for the needs of spray irrigation.

I cannot remember anyone asking for the Statute to be cluttered up with references. If the hon. Gentleman goes back far enough, he will find that people are sick of the business of legislation by reference. It does not add anything in clarity to the meaning of Clause 1; it is just an adornment.

Mr. W. Hamilton

No doubt the hon. Gentleman has taken visitors around this place in his time and will know that in the Lobby and the Library we have volumes of the Statutes from the time of Magna Carta on, and that the volume most handled is the one covering 500 years of Statute law. But at present the one volume of law passed by this House in one year is thicker than the volume covering the 500 years from 1200 to 1700. One of the reasons is that we get this verbosity in our legislation which contributes nothing to its understanding.

There is reference later in the Bill to the 1951 Act. There is no need to repeat the reference if it is made in the first Clause. I would repeat what my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) said. I am sure that no Scottish Member, certainly no Scottish Labour Member, made representations to include this kind of verbiage. I should like the Under-Secretary to produce evidence for his statement that there have been representations. Even if there had been, he should not pander to them in this instance. It is his job, and the job of the draftsmen, to produce legible legislation without a single extraneous word which makes no contribution to the meaning.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will reconsider this matter

Mr. G. Campbell

I am not sure whether the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) heard my earlier statement. I said that I fully sympathise and wish to help him with his objective of taking out words which may seem unnecessary and that I hope later in these proceedings to be able to join him in doing that. But in this case it is a matter of convenience and general structure. I note that he does not like these words, which he thinks are unnecessary. This is testimony to the tremendous amount of work which I know he does among the Statutes and to the fact that he knows them extremely well.

But other hon. Members who are not necessarily in the House at the moment have let it be known that they like the system of putting words in parentheses and it has become the general practice. Therefore, I ask that where we have it here we should retain it because it serves a useful purpose. We have evidence that it assists persons who later have to interpret these Measures. On reading a new Act they can immediately see in brief what the Measure referred to does.

I understand the position of the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton) and the hon. Member for Kilmarnock, and I appreciate their extreme diligence, and I know that they do not need these parentheses because they are familiar with the statutes. But that is not necessarily the case with other Members who may have to turn to this legislation, and particularly with members of the public. Therefore, while I entirely understand the position of hon. Members, I do not think it is an im- portant point, and I would ask them to allow these words to stay in the wider interest.

Mr. Ross

The hon. Gentleman changes his ground so charmingly. First, he told us that this was a practice which had grown up recently. Now he tells us that this is a general practice.

Mr. G. Campbell

I do not think there is any inconsistency. I said that it was something which had grown up in recent years and that it is now general practice in Bills.

Mr. Ross

I am seeking to ensure that this innovation of recent years does not become general practice. I do not think that the things that we have done of recent years are right. The hon. Gentleman said that other hon. Members like it. Will he tell me where they are? Are we to legislate for the absent ignoramuses of the Tory Party? There is not a single Scottish Tory back bencher here. Where are the farmers and the land owners? The man this affects most is probably the Prime Minister, with his thousands and thousands of acres in Scotland—in the south and in Lanark.

Mr. W. Hamilton

He is a Trappist monk.

Mr. Ross

I am surprised about this. I should have thought that this was specially put down for a Friday for the simple reason that we could have "Alexander the Straight" with us so that he could give us an indication of how he feels about the importance of this legislation to the land.

The hon. Gentleman said that this is absolutely essential. Let us look at the words which are absolutely essential—

Mr. G. Campbell

I did not say that it was absolutely essential. I said that it was a matter of convenience and that it was convenient that these parentheses should stay.

Mr. Ross

Let us see how essential or convenient it is. The first words of the Bill are: An Act to enable river purification boards in Scotland in pursuance of their functions". That is important. to control the abstraction of water for the purpose of spray irrigation; and for purposes connected therewith. Having said that, we proceed to say: For the purpose of assisting them in the performance of the duties laid on them by section 17(1) of the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) (Scotland) Act 1951 (which relates among other things to the promotion of the cleanliness of rivers and the conservation of water resources) a river purification board may make application to the Secretary of State …". The only words which refer to the new power we are giving are: a river purification board may make application". If Statutes have to be clear, let us scrub all these inessentials. Is the Under-Secretary really going to tell me that a Member of Parliament has not the sense to turn to Clause 9—or do hon. Members get tired before they get to Clause 9? Clause 9(2) says: This Act shall be construed as one with the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) (Scotland) Act 1951. The references which are essential are duly made throughout the Bill, but this is not essential.

The Under-Secretary is fairly young in his parliamentary experience. It may be that when he was a Whip he did not pay too much attention to the text and context of statutes and was more concerned about the presence of his colleagues. He was more successful on a Friday than his present colleague is. How many Tory garden fêtes are being opened in Scotland today? Essential business? It was the Government who put this Scottish business down for a Friday. I had to cancel all my arrangements for today, and I should like to know where the Government supporters are. Are we legislating for them because they do not find it convenient to be here when Statutes are considered, and do we, because of that, have to spell it all out like a child's primary reader?

Mr. W. Hamilton

Maybe the first words of the Clause: For the purpose of assisting them refer to the Tories who are absent.

Mr. Ross

Maybe. But I am beginning to wonder whether they can read at all. It does not "assist" them. We are empowering them. We are giving them a new duty, not assisting them. If these words were taken out we should salve something and should be given something for our attempt to cleanse the Statute.

I am asking the Under-Secretary to try to treat this seriously. It is not an unimportant matter. These words are not needed here. I can appreciate the soulless joys of a draftsman's existence. Draftsmen must yearn to be innovators, to adorn and put something else in—words such as "anent." That is a lovely one. We have it in the Schedule. I thought of introducing it in one or two other places for the purpose of consistency.

I despair of the hon. Gentleman. He has all the power of the Scottish Office here today. The Secretary of State, whoever he may be, is not present. Nor are the other two Under-Secretaries of State. They have also fled the field. We do not know where the Lord Advocate is. Probably he is consulting his legal adviser, the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Hendry). The Solicitor-General for Scotland is not here. Of course, neither of these Law Officers has the right to sit in this Chamber anyway.

11.30 a.m.

The Under-Secretary of State, therefore, has complete control. He is already convinced that these words are not> necessary. Why does not he exercise his power? We will assist him in doing so. In fact, we have taken steps to ensure that he gets the chance. He has not long to go in his present office. Let him make a bold stroke for purity and brevity in Scottish legislation. It is a pity that the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) does not speak. It is not that he cannot. He makes wonderful speeches in Scotland and we shall get the chance to deal with them before long.

The Under-Secretary of State should treat this matter as one of considerable seriousness. We do not want this practice to go on unchecked. Here is the chance to check it. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will reconsider it, if not now then between now and the Report stage—to use another well-worn cliché. But I gather that the Report stage is to come on a moment after the Committee stage and it may be that the hon. Member will have the chance to present a manuscript Amendment for our consideration then.

Mr. W. Hamilton

I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will respond to the reasonable request of my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross). The hon. Gentleman is the official spokesman for his party today on this very important and revolutionary matter. If he cannot go all the way, my hon. Friend has made a compromise suggestion. It is that, if the hon. Gentleman cannot accept all the Amendments, he might at least accept the Amendment in my name, in page 1, line 5, to leave out from beginning to "in".

Surely the hon. Gentleman is not all so conservative that he refuses to accept even that Amendment. Surely even his revolutionary fervour would be prepared to accept that one. The hon. Gentleman will find, as we go on with this Bill, that it would be wise to accept Amendments rather than reject them in this offhand way. These Amendments are quite reasonable.

Mr. G. Campbell

The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) and the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton) are tempting in their invitations but I cannot be waylaid into accepting because I think that the words as they stand are helpful and convenient and i would not wish to withdraw them from the Bill, despite what the hon. Members have said.

The hon. Member for Kilmarnock spoke about the absence of Scottish hon. Members. I think that hon. Members got the impression on Second Reading that both sides of the House were fairly happy with the Bill. In fairness to my hon. Friends, I point out that it was not until yesterday, when these Amendments appeared, that they had any idea that there would be a lot of discussion of the kind we have just been having. The impression on Second Reading was that the Bill was necessary, short and had no controversial material in it.

Mr. Hamilton

The Under-Secretary of State cannot get away with that. He is making his position worse. Has he ever known a Scottish Bill, no matter how uncontroversial, no matter how trivial, get through "on the nod", even on a Friday? He should know my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock better than that. If it was a one-line Bill my hon. Friend would find Amendments to it. My hon. Friend's diligence is such that he can put the draftsmen and the hon. Gentleman in their place.

Nor can the hon. Gentleman justly argue in defence of the dereliction of duty by his hon. Friend. After all, they represent the interests that are being advantaged by the Bill. All the hon. Members who were present for Second Reading were farmers or were defending farming interests. Their first duty is to this House of Commons and to the interests they represent in it. I do not represent farmers predominantly, but mainly coal miners. Nevertheless, I regard it as my duty to be here to improve legislation which will affect the farmers. It ill-becomes the hon. Gentleman to make that kind of speech.

If the hon. Gentleman wants to get this Bill through this Committee today or, indeed, if he wants to get it this Session, he would do better to improve his ways. I do not accept his view that this is non-controversial and, therefore, ought to go through in an hour or two. When four o'clock comes I think that we shall be in the middle of the Bill—if we are lucky.

Mr. Ross

The Under-Secretary must learn our procedure. On Second Reading we discuss the principles of a Bill. No one has any great objection to its principles. But on Second Reading we do not discuss the text of legislation. If the hon. Gentleman recalls the history of this Measure, he will discover that the principles of the Bill were generally accepted in another place but that in Committee and on Report there was a growing interest. Considerable time was spent there both in Committee and on Report

The Chairman

Order. I wonder whether the time has not come when I should remind the Committee that at the moment we are discussing three specific Amendments.

Mr. Ross

I am grateful to you, Sir William. We do not want to spend too much of our time on the first three Amendments. There is a considerable number of others to deal with.

The Amendments we are putting forward today were carefully thought out in the interests of the Committee. The hon. Member complains that they were only put down yesterday, but I remind him that we have not been idle in other matters in the Scottish Committees. There may be a Secretary of State, Minister of State, three Under-Secretaries of State and two Law Officers, but we do all our own work.

My hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton) should not be so generous with his praise and overlook his own activities. The halo rests heavily on my head after his speech.

I can assure the Committee that we think this matter important. We must not treat legislation like sausages going through a machine. We must examine it. That is our job for this is, after all, the legislature. If hon. Members opposite do not see fit properly to examine legislation then I can assure the Under-Secretary of State that we do not share that attitude. We regret that the Bill, for whatever reason, is being taken on a Friday, but that is not our responsibility. But simply because it is being taken on a Friday does not mean that we shall forgo our rights to examine, amend and improve legislation of which we generally approve.

Do not let the hon. Gentleman think that, as we go through, the Bill—I hope that he will not persist in his present state of mind—he can merely read a series of briefs saying "Yes" or "No" and stonewall, for otherwise we shall have to spend a long time on the Bill. It may well be that the Whips will need to summon 100 hon. Members before he can move the Closure against us.

I do not think that these three Amendments are the most important, but I hope that the hon. Member's mind is not closed even now to the possibility of making a change in respect of these offending words. It is nonsense to say that they are convenient and desirable. They are quite unnecessary. Indeed, they do not entirely make sense and I hope that he will not weave this Bill into the practice that has grown up in recent years.

Mr. G. Campbell

I should hate to be misunderstood in any way and I say straight away that I make no complaint about the Amendments having been put down yesterday. I was merely trying to explain that many hon. Members, hon. Members opposite as well as on this side of the Committee, were unaware that the Committee stage of the Bill would develop into a minute consideration of the Bill. I would not have expected the Bill to go through on the nod and I agree that we must have proper discussion; but I was merely trying to explain what had been thought. Yesterday, several of my hon. Friends said that, having seen the Amendments, they wish that they could be here, but that it was too late for them to change their arrangements.

Mr. Ross

I wished that I could not have been here.

Mr. G. Campbell

Many hon. Members opposite represent farming interests. I know that the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton) has a chiefly mining interest. Of course, I understand the reasons why many hon. Members opposite are not here today, but I hope that we can go through the Bill and make progress with it.

I can give the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) my word that I am not briefed to say firmly Yes "or" No to the various Amendments. I am ready to listen to what is said and I will do my best to accept wherever possible what are put forward as improvements to the Bill. However, I think that we should not accept these three Amendments. The hon. Gentleman himself indicated that he thought that they were not all that important, and we believe that they would be inconvenient.

Mr. Ross

The Amendments do not add anything to the Bill. They clutter it up and are quite unnecessary for its clarification. I represent and live in a farming area and the rivers in that area are very much concerned. They are rivers of history— Ye banks and braes o' bonny Doon. I will not sing the songs of the River Ayr and the River Irvine, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we are determined to examine the Bill and to see that the purity and worth of those rivers are properly considered. The hon. Gentleman has got off to a disappointing start. I hope that he mends his ways. He has said that he will listen to us. There is plenty of space in the Chamber. Let him throw away his typed briefs and listen and be persuaded. I am sure that we will then make much greater progress.

Mr. W. Hamilton

The hon. Gentleman knows that this is the most important piece of legislation which the Government have produced for Scotland this Session, apart from the Divorce Bill which we are to discuss at 9.30 p.m. on Tuesday.

The Chairman

I am reluctant to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but surely that is going rather wider than the three Amendments.

Mr. Hamilton

I rather feared that I was going somewhat wide. However, I wanted to say that it is an imposition that when we are discussing a Bill of this kind and Amendments of this importance, the House should be so sparsely attended, particularly by Scottish Tory Members.

Amendment negatived.

11.45 a.m.

Mr. W. Hamilton

I beg to move, in page 1, line 11, to leave out "control" and to insert "supervise"

The Chairman

With this Amendment it will be convenient to discuss the similar Amendments to Clauses 1, 2 and 3.

Mr. Hamilton

I have been appalled by the terminology of the Bill, coming as it does from a Conservative Government who shrink from the word "control". This is the language of a vicious dictator. I have counted the number of times these horrible words are used—"controls," "licences," rationing of water in Scotland. The words "control" or "control order" are used 13 times in the first three Clauses. No market forces at work here! No freedom of the market in water in Scotland!

My hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock referred to the absence of the Prime Minister from our proceedings. He is one of the biggest landowners in Scotland and should have been here to defend and justify these controls and this licensing by a public body. Apparently, the man in St. Andrew's House, or on the river board, knows best in these matters.

I am proposing the substitution of the words "supervise," "supervision" and "supervision order" That kind of phraseology is more kindly, intimate and warmer than that used in the Bill as it stands. The expressions "control" and "control order" are harsh, cold, distant and bureaucratic words to be used by a Government of this kind, but they are words which, although the Conservatives say that they dislike them so much, are used ad lib in the Bill.

I do not know why the Bill was not drafted in the words I have suggested. I hope that the Under-Secretary will respond in a much more forthcoming way than he did to the previous Amendments. An important principle is involved here. We are discussing the relations between public bodies and one of the most important sections of our community, the farming community, and it is important to get these relationships right.

A good deal of money passes from the pockets of the taxpayers to the pockets of the farmers and it is important that that money should pass with good will on both sides. It is not the way to do it by saying, "You shall be controlled and you must get a licence and if you do not, you will be fined". That is the kind of language which one does not like to see.

After all, the farmers are performing a very important service for the community. They have discovered this kind of irrigation for the improvement of agricultural production and it will therefore benefit the nation. They ought to be treated rather more kindly and with rather more kindly language than the Bill uses. The present language of the Bill sounds so penal and so vindictive, and I am seeking to get rid of this kind of atmosphere. I should like the hon. Gentleman's reaction to our view on this, and I sit down in the hope that he will be in a more persuasive frame of mind than he was a half an hour ago.

Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)

I apologise for not being in at the beginning of the Committee stage of the Bill, but, unfortunately, I was engaged in other business.

I have a great deal of sympathy with the point of view expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton). For many years we have been frightened about the movement of power from local areas to the centre. There must be a balance of power between Whitehall and the local authorities. It appears from the Bill that some centralised body is to have control over these matters. We must examine this proposal very closely indeed before we give anybody this absolute control, with no right of appeal against its decisions.

There is a tendency to give control to powerful bodies who can delegate that control to people who are influenced by them at the expense of the weak. I am worried about giving these powerful interests the right to abstract water and the right to obtain licences, because they may use their power to the detriment of other interests.

I do not want to deny anybody the right to benefit from our water supplies, but I want to ensure that one person does not benefit at the expense of someone else. By retaining the word "control", the powerful interests may well act without considering the interests of other people. I therefore urge the hon. Gentleman seriously to consider this important Amendment. I hope that we can have supervision from the centre to ensure that everybody gets a fair deal, rather than have a control from the centre which may work in the interests of the powerful to the detriment of the weak.

Mr. G. Campbell

I considered this Amendment very carefully when I saw it on the Notice Paper yesterday. I have listened with interest to the reasons for it put forward by the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton), but we think that the operations visualised in the Bill are more correctly described as control. The word "control" is included in the Long Title of the Bill, and we think that it would be a misnomer to call it supervision.

I point out to the hon. Member for Fife, West that this is control where control is decided to be necessary. It is not suggested in the Bill that control areas should be set up all over Scotland wherever there are river purification boards. The control areas, and subsequent control under the procedures of the Bill, are to be decided on when conditions such as a possible shortage of water make control necessary. This is not, as the hon. Gentleman tended to suggest, an ideological wish to have control. It is merely a sensible way of bringing in control when it is clear that it is necessary to prevent pollu- tion, or a shortage of water, or other damage to the community as a whole.

In reply to the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence), I point out that the control would not be central because the intention is that the control should be exercised by the river purification boards in the various areas. It is local control.

Mr. Ross

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton) on his examination of the Bill and on his calculations about the use of the word "control". When I saw my hon. Friend's Amendment, I ringed in red ink the word "control" every time it appeared. By Jove, it does look a bloody Statute !

I sympathise with my hon. Friend, but he has fallen into the trap of not differentiating between words and deeds. Very soon hon. Gentlemen opposite, if they are not already there, will be standing on Tory platforms, hoarse from the hustings in their efforts to renounce control. The Bill reeks of control. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman, junior as he is in his office, has read the Bill. He said that this was not a matter of centralised control. Has he looked at subsection (2)? It says that the Secretary of State—meandering Michael— may require the river purification board concerned to make application, and that the board shall comply with any such requirement. This is centralised bureaucracy.

The hon. Gentleman says that this is necessary because of possible shortages. But this is what we are continually being told. We are continually being told about wicked Socialist controls, shortages, and rationing, yet the word "control" appears 13 times in the first two pages of the Bill; and when they do not use the word "control", they use the word "licences".

This is ridiculous. Hon. Gentlemen opposite fought the last election on the basis that there would be no more nationalisation in any form. When they became the Government, they discovered that there would be no shipping service to the Orkneys. There were no ships, so we got nationalisation and the Government now build, sell, acquire, and own the ships.

The Chairman

Order. We are discussing the Spray Irrigation (Scotland) Bill and only a series of Amendments to it

Mr. Ross

My hon. Friend has absorbed some of this Tory propaganda that there is something wrong with the word "control". I was trying to point out that he must differentiate between what they say and what they do when faced with the facts. After eight years of Toryism we had no ships. After 13 years of Toryism we have no water, so we have to control water supplies.

I agree that what the Government propose to do is to control. I am sorry to have to disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West, but I think that the word "control" should remain, but other words should precede it. I want the words "wicked Tory" to precede it. We want it to read "wicked Tory control". I hope that at the appropriate stage we shall be able to move a manuscript Amendment to insert those words. On second thoughts, that might be a Little harsh, so we may limit it to "Tory controls".

12 noon.

We have to be fair and compromising in this matter. What this amounts to is hypocrisy on the part of hon. Members opposite. When they are faced with a situation like this, and they are compelled to take action, they immediately turn their backs on all that they have been saying outside. They act with a reasonable amount of common sense. I do not know why I should support the hon. Member, in view of the attitude that he has displayed on other matters. I remind him that if he, in Moray and Nairn, or the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur), in Perth, opens his mouth during the General Election, and talks about wicked Socialist controls, I will see that his opponent, be he Liberal or Labour, has a copy of this Bill so that the hon. Member can be asked how he justifies this kind of thing, with all his talk about freedom.

This will be a very important Bill for the control of water, but is it not staggering that after 13 years of this Government—after all, we do not have 365 halcyon days a year; we have plenty of rainfall at the right time—

Mr. Bence

We have had the wettest 13 summers that I remember.

Mr. Ross

We have wonderful weather in Scotland. It is very healthy weather.

Mr. Bence

We have some wet weather.

Mr. Ross

Although my hon. Friend represents a Scottish constituency it is clear that he has not thrown overboard his inherited Welsh prejudices.

Mr. Bence

There is plenty of water in Wales.

Mr. Ross

We have the healthiest weather in Scotland. I know that my hon. Friend is an angler. All the rainfall in Scotland falls in the right places.

What the Government have not done is to conserve the water where it is in abundance, so that in time of shortage—which is every summer—it can be used for agricultural purposes. Science has made it possible to develop spray irrigation. Considerable sums of money have been spent on agricultural research and it has produced results which have shown the farmers mat by spray irrigation at the right time and in the right quantity they can considerably improve the yields from their land. It is regrettable that the social purposes of conservation—having the water available at the right time—have not been properly produced by the Government.

There is a shortage of water when we need water. That is why we must have control. The hon. Member is right in saying that we require control. This requirement arises from Tory failures to ensure that we have sufficient water all the year round and can bring it to the right places. If we had left electricity in the state that we have left water we should have been short of that. But we have a grid now. Indeed, we also have a gas grid. The Prime Minister talks about the junk-yard of nationalisation, and he sneers at the fact that water is one of the things that we shall attend to in the next Parliament, when we are the Government. I can assure him that when he talks like that he does not know what he is talking about.

The hon. Gentleman's oratory is of the same type, and probably from the same typewriter, as most of the briefs that we have to listen to from the Government Dispatch Box day in and day out. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will appreciate our concern at the fact that the Tories have had to resort to this kind of thing.

I am sorry to have to disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton). I do it regretfully, but in the interests of purity and lucidity. The word "control" must stay. I merely express the hope that at a later stage we may move a manuscript Amendment to insert the words "wicked Tory" before "control."

Mr. G. Campbell

I hope that the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) will send copies of the Bill, when it has become an Act—as I hope it will—to the people of Moray and Nairn. That would do me a great service. Many of my constituents are aware of the water problems of the area, and they will welcome the provisions contained in the Bill.

That brings me to the question of weather in Scotland. In my opinion, we have an excellent climate. There is some difference between the east and the west. In the east there is inclined to be a shortage of rain. As the hon. Member probably knows, in most years there is less rainfall in my area than in the rest of Britain. Therefore, problems arise in connection with water supply, and those who are concerned with spray irrigation will be interested in the Bill.

As the hon. Member said, the modernisation of agriculture—the new technique of irrigating by spray irrigation, with all the new kinds of equipment—is one of the main factors in causing shortage. Therefore, to talk about shortage as being something that we have only just caught up with and in respect of which we are having to impose controls, is not correct.

Mr. Ross

I would remind the hon. Member of one of the few speeches that he ever made before he came to adorn his present office. In the Scottish Standing Committee, on a Bill called the Flood Prevention (Scotland) Bill, which was the second of these sorts of Bills, he talked about the damage done by flooding in his area. What I have been talking about is the failure of the Government to legislate comprehensively in respect of our water supplies so as to make use of the floods and to conserve the water made available thereby so that it can be used at times and in places where there is a shortage. They cannot say that they never thought about it, because we had two flood prevention Bills—one for the countryside and one for the burghs. Neither has been satisfactory, because the floods that come to the towns usually, by natural processes, start somewhere else.

By this piecemeal and unsatisfactory legislation we are unable to make use of the flood waters. In summer or in spring, when water is required—when all the beneficences of Scotland's natural charm of weather brighten us up after a fairly healthy if not undreary winter—we have a shortage of water. We want the hon. Member to think beyond the Bill, and the word "control" takes us beyond it. We are using the word only because we have to. We are controlling the waters only because we have to—and we have to because of Government failure to conserve.

No wonder that members of the Government party do not call themselves the Conservative Party in Scotland. They are the Unionists. I do not know what they are united in; certainly in the hon. Member's area or even further north, where there are two Tory candidates fighting Caithness and Sutherland, they are not very united. But I see why his hon. Friends are not here. They are ashamed of the Bill.

The Chairman

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but I feel that he is going further than this small Amendments permits. It simply seeks to leave out one word—"control"— and to insert another word—"supervision".

Mr. Ross

I appreciate your difficulty, Sir William, in relating my discursive remarks to the Amendment, but this is a vital part of the Bill. I do not know whether my hon. Friend has done an Amendment to the Title.

Mr. W. Hamilton

A manuscript Amendment.

Mr. Ross

Usually, the Amendment to the Title is the last thing which we discuss. The purpose of the Bill is to control the abstraction of water. I suggest that Unionist Members for Scottish constituencies are affronted that at this stage the Minister asks for legislation to control the waters of Scotland. That is why they are not here. In his Amendment my hon. Friend is trying to do them a service and to save them from themselves in respect of the kind of speeches which they have been making and no doubt are anxious to expand in the coming weeks. But I agree that we should use the word "control".

Mr. G. Campbell

I gave way to the hon. Member thinking that that was an intervention, but I am glad that he was able to continue. He underlined one of the difficulties. In the North-East, when there is a day or two of hard rain, the rivers come up and there is a flood. If the hon. Member had heard the excellent speech which his right hon. Friend the Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Wood-burn) made on Second Reading, he would recall that his right hon. Friend spoke of the drainage in forestry areas undertaken when the Labour Government were in office. He said that many people, rightly or wrongly, said that the fact that the rivers often rose quickly and violently was a result of what had been done at that time. That was a good example of things which one cannot always foresee and of mistakes which one may unintentionally make. That is another factor which arises. But I am glad that the hon. Member accepts the word "control".

12.15 p.m.

Mr. W. Hamilton

The speeches of my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) do not normally depress me, but his disagreement with the point which I am trying to make is a very disturbing reaction which I did not expect from him. This may appear to be a very small Amendment to substitute one word for another, but it is much more important than that. The Under-Secretary of State justified the use of the word "control" on the ground that it was a purely local control and was only where necessary. Surely the same argument would apply to "supervision"; it would be supervision where necessary and on a local basis.

Supervision implies a certain measure of control but a more enlightened form of control, and this is what I sought to emphasise when I moved the Amendment—that here is benevolent control. Hon. Members are quite right that in the West of Scotland we have a superabundance of water and in the East we have rather short supplies. But surely the way to tackle the problem is not to have local control or supervision but to have a national plan. This is where I move near to my hon. Friend's point of view. This Measure of itself will not solve the Scottish water problems. It is tinkering with them. No measure of local control or local supervision will alleviate the problems; all it will do is to control the amount of water which is used for spray irrigation.

My Amendment is designed to correct the impression that the Government are out to help people to use water sensibly and intelligently and to strike the right atmosphere between the Secretary of State, the river board and the users. This is a serious, not a trivial Amendment; it is an important point which merits much greater consideration than the Minister has given it.

Reading the Bill one would think that in Scotland we were living in the middle of the Arabian Desert, with water control, water rationing, and licences for water. With due deference to my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock, it is no good trying to "kid" tourists about the shocking weather which we have in the West. It adds to the glory of the scenery, but it would be idle to delude and deceive people into thinking that we have a Riviera on the West Coast of Scotland.

Mr. Ross

But we have.

Mr. Hamilton

My hon. Friend is a very loyal representative of Scotland, but he should not deceive poor, innocent Americans and others into thinking that they can bask in the sun for three months of the year in the West of Scotland. This is not so.

The whole point of the Amendment is to give the impression that the problem can be solved by a partnership between the central Government, the river board and the users, in so far as it can be solved in the limited way laid down in the Bill. I hope that the hon. Member will reconsider his decision.

Mr. Bence

I am sorry to intervene again, but I am not satisfied with the answer. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton) I think that the word "control" is too strong. Much damage has been done to angling interests in Scotland, although efforts have been made to prevent it. Angling is one of Scotland's assets for tourism. The streams, rivers and lochs provide for those interested in game fishing probably the finest spots in Europe for pursuing that sport.

There is a consistent fall of rain in Scotland in the Highlands, so that the rivers are never too low to be fished. Sometimes they are low, but one can invariably go to the Highlands and get a good day's sport. I advise any Sassenach interested in angling to go to the Highlands of Scotland for a week's fishing. They will find a week's angling which they cannot enjoy anywhere else in Europe, not because of brilliant sunshine and a dry atmosphere but because of the humid conditions and the ample rainfall.

The Bill proposes to give the Secretary of State control of the watershed—not over a single stream but over a whole area in which there are many good angling rivers, including rivers with brown trout. These rivers may be adversely affected if too much water is abstracted for spray irrigation. A salmon river can be destroyed just as easily by abstracting too much water from its upper reaches, where spawning takes place, as by pollution. Angling interests should be fully considered. When rivers have been affected by schemes for using water—not for spray irrigation, but for power generation—fishing interests have often been affected. I am always sorry to see a river's salmon life affected by any scheme.

Sometimes when interests are affected they are well compensated. If fishing areas are destroyed by spray irrigation, it is unfortunate for the ordinary man who likes a day's fishing. I know that it is not his by right. I go to fish in the waters of one of the lochs owned by the Secretary of State for Scotland. I do not poach. I buy a permit. I should be sorry if, through spray irrigation, one of the lochs were emptied or if the water level was so lowered that it was not conducive to the carrying of game fish.

These interests must be considered. That is why I support the Amendment. I am worried about the Secretary of State or the Department having such powers of control that angling interests, which are important to Scotland, are not properly considered. Thousands of anglers go to Scotland for an angling holiday. They are an important element of the tourist industry. If the Amendment cannot be accepted now, I hope that at some stage a provision will be inserted to protect what some people may regard as trivial interests but what are in fact very important interests.

It is a grand thing for an industrial worker in a great city such as Glasgow to be able to get out of the city for a day's fishing. An industrial worker in Glasgow is probably the world's most fortunate industrial worker, in that he can within an hour get from a great industrial city to a countryside where there is no sign of industry but where the rivers teem with fish.

If, because of centralised control granted to a river purification board by the Secretary of State, as a result of spray irrigation water is abstracted from rivers to such an extent that industrial workers cannot for a shilling a day, or 6d. a day—or sometimes for free—enjoy their fishing, I should be very sorry. I know that fishing in the Spey, the Dee and the Don will never be destroyed. I am not thinking of those rivers. I am thinking of streams and rivers in Ayrshire. If it is all right to preserve salmon fishing for the lairds, we should preserve brown trout fishing for the working man. That is why I am worried about centralised control over spray irrigation.

I hope that something will be done in the Measure to ensure that the little man who enjoys his fishing will have his rights preserved, just as the rights of a man who can afford fishing at £30 a week are preserved.

Mr. Ross

I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton) has not yet been persuaded. I hate to have now to state the consequences of accepting the Amendment I am surprised that the Under-Secretary did not state them. This is the touchstone of whether the Amendment should be accepted. If the abstraction of water is to be supervised, it presupposes that water will be abstracted, and all that is done is to supervise the operation. We want to ensure that at a particular time there will not be so much water abstracted and in particular cases and at particular times that there will not be any abstraction at all. I suggest that from that point of view only one word can be used, namely, "control".

This is to safeguard the interests of which my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) spoke. At the moment, we are not dealing with the question of principle. We are dealing only with the question whether "control" or "supervise" is most appropriate for what we want to do. This is an important Amendment. If we accepted "supervise", we should reduce the power that we would be able to give to the river purification boards in respect of their important functions. To that extent, it would be a much less effective Bill. "Control" is absolutely essential. If we introduce "supervise", boards would not be able to do other than supervise the abstraction. This is the one thing which tends to make me resist the Amendment.

When the Tory Party, which speaks so viciously and stupidly about control generally and uses slogans which confound common sense, is faced with a practical situation it must resort to common sense. This is desirable. How the controls are administered is a different matter. I hope we shall come to that question during the course of the day. All these things depend upon the use of an appropriate word to describe the functions we wish to give river purification boards. I am content with "control", although I wish to hang round the neck of the party opposite "wicked Tory" before "control".

Mr. W. Hamilton

I shall not detain the Committee any longer on this point. I am not convinced by the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), or by the argument of the Under-Secretary; but, if I were to seek to divide the Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock would be in the embarrassing position of having to go into the Lobby with the Tories, which might lose him his seat. In view of that possibility, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Ross

I beg to move, in page 1, line 16, to leave out from "State" to end of line 20.

At present, we have five lines in the Bill which I consider to be superfluous verbiage. This is how the subsection reads at present: Where the Secretary of State in performance of the duty laid on him by section 1 of the Water (Scotland) Act 1946 or by section 1(1) of the said Act of 1951 (which provisions among other things lay a duty on the Secretary of State to promote the conservation of water and the cleanliness of rivers) is satisfied that in relation to any stream or locality … If the Amendment were accepted, the subsection would read as follows: Where the Secretary of State is satisfied that in relation to any stream or locality the question of a control order should be considered … That would be clear. It is what we want done. We would have got rid of unnecessary words

We are again on the general practice which has grown up of making constant references. It has grown up to such an extent that it occurs in subsection (2) as well as in subsection (1), namely, there is a second reference to a Statute. This is unnecessary. Who will be confused if these words are omitted? I suggest that nobody will be. All we need to do is to make it clear to anybody concerned what powers the Secretary of State will have under the Statute.

We would then get rid of this bit of tautological stupidity: in performance of the duty laid on him by section 1 of the Water (Scotland) Act 1946 or by section 1(1) of the said Act of 1951 Surely the Secretary of State does not need to cite two Acts of Parliament for his existing duties when we are to add to his duties. I suggest that, irrespective of what the Under-Secretary has before him in type, he could say, "Yes, we should leave out those words. There is nothing sacred about these five lines. We will accept this useful, clear and helpful Amendment."

12.30 p.m.

Mr. W. Hamilton

The Under-Secretary has indicated that he has no brief with which to reply on this Amendment, so presumably he will accept it. I am sure that must be the reason that he has not been supplied with a brief. He must have been told, "Do what you like; it does not matter whether these words are in or out." If that is the interpretation, it is a strong condemnation of those who orginally drafted this provision. To take out these words would detract nothing from the meaning of the subsection. In fact, without these words it would be clearer than with them.

Mr. Bence

I want to ask a question before I make up my mind whether to support the Amendment. If the Amendment were carried it appears that where the Secretary of State was satisfied in relation to a stream or locality he could do what he liked about it—

Mr. Ross

No. He can do only what the subsection says he can do.

Mr. Bence

The subsection says: Where the Secretary of State … is satisfied that in relation to any stream or locality the question of a control order should be considered, he may require the river purification board concerned to make application under the foregoing subsection for such an order and the board shall comply with any such requirement. If we cut out these words the Secretary of State would not operate under any particular regulations already established. He would act quite freely and independently of other legislation. He could operate only in the performance of any duty laid on him by a Statute.

If we take these words out he will operate freely in any duty laid upon him. I do not want him to be given powers to do anything unless it is laid down in the Statute. I should like to be certain that Ministers operate under Statutes and regulations and are not given power to operate freely in any way they like. I am quite prepared to be proved wrong in my assumption if it is shown that he would be limited by other provisions. Perhaps the Under-Secretary can explain why these words should remain or, if not, why he supports my hon. Friend in thinking that they should be deleted.

Mr. G. Campbell

This Amendment seems very similar to the first group of Amendments we have discussed. It seeks to take out references to Statutes and the descriptions following them in brackets. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) pointed out that the Secretary of State has these powers and suggested that because this is well known it is not necessary to put this in the Bill. The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) brought out the point that it is helpful to be able to see straightaway what are the powers under which the Secretary of State would have this reserve power.

It is a matter of general convenience that this should be mentioned with a brief description. I quite understand both points of view. Probably the hon. Member for Kilmarnock knows this by heart because he is well versed in the matter and would not need to have it spelled out, but members of the public who are not fully acquainted with these statutes might be assisted by this provision. For the reasons I gave when discussing similar Amendments, we suggest that these words should stay in because they are helpful and would be of great convenience to all who will have to operate under the Bill.

Mr. Ross

I do not weary in well doing. I try to clean up the Statutes. The Under-Secretary said that it was essential to have these words in because the power to act will be related to some other Statute. The power of the Secretary of State to act will be under this Statute.

Mr. G. Campbell

I have not used the word "essential." I indicated that the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) knows that the powers are there but that other hon. Members will find it greatly convenient for these words to be included.

Mr. Ross

When the Secretary of State writes a letter to any river purification board requiring it to make application, which Statute does the Under-Secretary think he will cite? He will cite only one Statute. He will cite the Spray Irrigation (Scotland) Act, 1964 because this Measure, for the first time, will give him this power. We find in the Schedule how he must act in relation to the Statute. The words which the Amendment seeks to leave out are purely descriptive, explanatory and quite unnecessary. It does not matter whether I or anyone else knows about this. This provision does not add anything.

When we turn to the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) (Scotland) Act, 1951 we see that it says: It shall be the duty of the Secretary of State to promote the cleanliness of the rivers and other inland waters and the tidal waters of Scotland. If the Under-Secretary is to proceed on this basis we might as well adjourn because he is not looking at this Bill with an amending eye. I am quite sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Woodside (Mr. Carmichael) if he were concerned about the River Kelvin, or the Clyde, in his constituency, would not approach the Minister of Transport on the subject, but would go to the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Does anyone doubt that we are giving the right hon. Gentleman a new duty here of general supervision of how the river purification boards are acting and that if he sees one of them failing to do something he can suggest that it should consider the matter? These words do not add anything at all to the Clause. The hon. Gentleman should not allow his draftsmen to get away with this sort of thing. There is a splendid opportunity here for them for an exercise in simplicity and if the hon. Gentleman thinks that leaving out these words would confuse the absent hordes of Toryism I do not know whom he thinks he is "kidding". It is certainly not I.

All that these lines do is to confuse. Our statutes should be as clear as possible, and one of the good things about the Scottish Standing Committee and about Scottish Members is that we do not have the obfuscating help of lawyers. We can do without them, and the result is that we have better statutes. The more one puts in a statute the more it tends to confusion and the more grist there is to the legal mill. The hon. Gentleman is the Minister. He is the boss and he should exercise his authority. He should not allow himself to be pushed around by someone who says that these words are sacred. The words do not add to the Statute. They detract from lucidity and, therefore, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will sincerely reconsider the matter.

Mr. W. Hamilton

The Under-Secretary should be more forthcoming than he has been up to now. These are not terribly important Amendments but important principles are attached to them. The hon. Gentleman's attitude to this Amendment and to the earlier one in subsection (1) establishes an undesirable precedent. He is stating in effect that we are legislating so that everybody in Scotland will know which Act to con- sult to make abundantly sure that the Secretary of State is acting within the law.

This is absurd. Does the hon. Gentleman think that the miners in Fife, for instance, if they see the Secretary of State requiring a river board in the Lowlands to apply for a control order to be made will consult the board to find out what powers the right hon. Gentleman has to do that? They do not care a hoot. The people who are likely to be interested in the exercise of the right hon. Gentleman's powers are the people immediately concerned, who will be the farmers seeking to use the water and the river boards seeking to control it, and nobody else.

If these people turn to the Bill, which will then be an Act, they will see that the Secretary of State is acting within the terms of the Bill. I cannot see any valid reason, nor does the hon. Gentleman, why these words should not be omitted. All that the hon. Gentleman says is that he thinks it convenient for some remote, unnamed persons in Scotland who are not conversant with the 1946 and 1951 Acts to have the words in the Bill. The hon. Gentleman presumes too much interest in what the Secretary of State is doing. Not many people care what he is doing, because he will not be there all that long anyhow. The people who will be interested in what he is doing will be the people who are already conversant with the relevant Acts, and to make repeated references to those Acts in the Bill is just verbiage.

If the hon. Gentleman lends himself to this sort of thing, he encourages the very people whom we ought to be discouraging, those who have been putting this kind of nonsense into our legislation.

12.45 p.m.

We find it difficult enough to go through a Bill of this kind without assistance. I do not think that any of us on this side of the Committee has a secretary or research facilities. It is a hard grind to go through the Clauses and it makes matters worse for us if superfluous words are put in the Bill and we have to prepare under our own steam arguments for their deletion and then the hon. Gentleman says that it would be best to have the words in the Bill because they are a bit of a help to people outside.

The hon. Gentleman says that the words are not helpful to my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) because he knows what all this is about, but that others who have not done that homework, like absent Tory Members, will no doubt need help. That the hon. Gentleman should work for them, despite the recommendations of hard-working hon. Members on this side, is a bit thick and we strongly object to it. I hope that he will give a clarion call to his draftsmen and say, "Enough of this nonsense. You are highly paid to do your job to help Parliament and you must do it thoroughly and efficiently and cut out meaningless verbiage which adds nothing to the clarity of a Bill".

We use this opportunity to register our objection and we shall keep repeating our objection until the hon. Gentleman has the courage to see that this really is nonsense and he removes it.

Mr. G. Campbell

I listened carefully to the views of hon. Members but I must confess that the more I listened and the more I read over and over again the subsection in question the more I thought that in the interest of clarity it is better to leave the words in the Bill. This is a matter of judgment and opinion, but that is my reaction to the debate.

There is certainly substance in what the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) said. The words which would be left out by the Amendment have a limiting effect because they draw a boundary line within which the Secretary of State may require an application for a control order to be made. This is a valid point as well as the question of showing quite palpably under what provisions the Secretary of State would be acting in this respect. I understand the drafting points and I hope later in the debate to indicate that I am always in favour of improving and tightening the language in Bills where we can do so, provided that we do not lose any substance in the process.

In this case, I think that it would be better and would make for greater clarity to leave the words as they are.

Amendment negatived.

Mr. G. Campbell

I beg to move, in page 2, line 12, at the end to add: , but does not include any underground stream, or any body of water, whether underground or otherwise, which is not a stream". On Second Reading, the question of boreholes came up, and, in reply, I said that we would look at the Bill very carefully and that, if we thought that it would help to make it absolutely clear that boreholes and the water which they would normally be expected to extract do not come within the scope of the Bill, we would put down an Amendment accordingly. This is the Amendment.

Mr. Ross

I am a bit confused. We are defining what a control area is and we say that it means all streams and localities to which a control order relates It is now proposed to add: but does not include any underground stream or any body of water, whether underground or otherwise, which is not a stream". The last part seems quite unnecessary. If it is not a stream, it is not a stream.

Moreover, I wonder to what extent much of this is already covered by the existing interpretation of "stream". The definition of "stream" in the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) (Scotland) Act, 1951, is that it includes any river, watercourse or inland water (whether natural or artificial) and any tidal waters to which this Act applies, except that it does not include either

  1. (a) any body of water which does not discharge into the stream, or
  2. (b) any sewer vested in a local authority; but any reference to a stream includes a reference to the channel or bed of a stream which is for the time being dry".
I should have expected the first part of this Amendment to be covered by that definition.

I am not quite sure of the actual sense of the Amendment or, indeed, of the desirability of it. We are to leave out underground streams and then we are to leave out underground bodies of water which are not streams. I presume that a stream is flowing water. I am not entirely sure that we are limiting what is done here to the point raised about boreholes.

I should like the hon. Gentleman to consider whether he has opened up possibilities by this strange definition, going beyond the point raised on Second Reading by the hon. Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan), who, I should say, has apologised to me for the fact that he is not here today and who, indeed, suggested one or two Amendments to me. I am quite sure that, if he had been here, the hon. Gentleman would have been with us in some of the points which we have raised, and he would certainly have been rather querulous about this Amendment.

It is so confusing that I am prepared to take the hon. Gentleman's word for it—1 have some respect for the draftsmen—but I doubt that it is really necessary. It is certainly not obviously necessary, and it may well be that, by the very confusion added to the existing meaning of "stream" in Section 35 of the 1951 Act, some difficulty of interpretation will be introduced.

Mr. Bence

One could have a part of a watershed where the water table was very near the surface. This is undesirable, and by irrigation works carried out by river boards, the water table in such circumstances can be lowered. Dykes or ditches are used for this purpose. The water thus drained into the ditches to lower the water table is a body of water not underground, but the ditches are not streams as such; they are really irrigation canals.

As I understand it, such water could not be used for spray irrigation. This is a tricky situation. As everyone knows, the raising or lowering of the water table can very often change the plant life on the land. There are remarkable instances of this in the Fen Country near the Wash, where the water table has fallen, and also in the Lea Valley where the water table has been lowered 12 or 15 ft. The plant life is completely changed. After the lowering of the water table in waterlogged land it might be desirable also to have spray irrigation from the dykes, perhaps to take the water table down lower still and improve the quality of the land further. One sees this sort of thing in the countryside especially in the lower reaches of a river basin.

I hope that I have made myself clear. I am trying to put to the hon. Gentleman a legitimate point, asking him to consider whether the Secretary of State should have powers to make an order that a body of water such as this not constituting a stream should not be used for spray irrigation. Why should not it be? Why should not such water be conveyed under control or supervision to some area where the water table could be raised a bit because the level was too low, or, perhaps, the drainage away of water was too fast?

As I said on Second Reading, I was rather worried to learn that spray irrigation could be used to take water from a small pond or a loch into which the inflow of water was very slow. The altering of the water level can completely change the balance of nature in the loch. Weed may grow and fish life can be coarsened or destroyed. Game fish may disappear and weed can come in to choke the previously existing natural life.

It would be very dangerous to give a licence to people to take water out of mountainside streams because this could have a serious effect on water flows in many directions. I should never consent to that being done. But in the case of an irrigation scheme it might be desirable to convey the bodies of water created in the dykes to other areas where the water table is perhaps 50 per cent. down because of the porous or sandy nature of the soil.

By this Amendment the Secretary of State would not be able to make use of that water. I think that it would be desirable if he had that power.

1.0 p.m.

Mr. G. Campbell

The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) referred to the definition of "stream" in the 1951 Act. I confirm, as I indicated on Second Reading, that that definition is effective for the Bill. It is in Section 35, which the hon. Member read out. I assure him that the object of the Amendment is to cover the point which was made on Second Reading about boreholes and underground water.

The key part of the definition in relation to the point that the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) raised is that "stream" does not include any body of water which does not discharge into a stream. For example, if there were a loch which had no outlet it would not come within the terms of the Bill. But any trickle from a body of water caused, perhaps, by dykes which have been put up to hold the water is a stream within the definition in the Bill. I think that that answers the hon. Gentleman's main point.

The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East was worried about the possibility of water of the kind which I have indicated in a loch or pond which was isolated or underground not being used for spray irrigation. By excluding them from the Bill they can be used legitimately by those who have the right to use that water without coming into the Bill and needing licences for spray irrigation. It is when people propose to take water from streams that they will need to apply for licences. Schemes which would use existing supplies of underground water or other water which was not connected with streams might be useful to agriculture.

The point which the hon. Member made was a good one. I assure him that the Bill will be no obstacle in this matter.

Mr. Ross

The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that this is a very important Amendment because we are defining the control area and the bodies of water from which there can be abstraction quite freely without licence, control, supervision or anything else. We are, therefore, in this Amendment, giving freedom in the abstraction of water. Hitherto, in the case not only of pollution, but when obtaining information about the abstraction of water, which, as far as I understand, is the only duty which we have laid on the river purification board, we have been able to ask abstractors to provide certain information about how much they are taking out. That has been fairly comprehensive. It applied for the first time to tidal waters, to canals and to not only streams but artificial streams. But it did not include any body of water which does not discharge into a stream—that is, standing water. This would apply to water whether it was on the surface or underground.

The original statute, however, applied, and must have applied, to an underground stream. This is the only point about which I am a little perplexed. Why do we leave out underground streams? In the 1951 Act we left out any body of water which did not discharge into a stream. There was no doubt that an underground stream— that is, water flowing underground—obviously discharged itself somewhere. I should like to know why there is this very much wider application to underground streams. I thought the point which was raised concerned a well, a bore, which was not a stream but which was underground.

It may well be that by widening the matter we shall land ourselves in difficulties. We are preventing the abstraction of water for the purposes of spray irrigation. Spray irrigation is already defined in this subsection. Strangely enough, in the legal definitions, "land" includes water. I should like the lawyers in the Department to consider whether by this amended definition it will be possible to abstract water which cannot be used for spray irrigation but which can be used to fill up a standing pool. We want as far as possible to have standing pools. This is one way of conserving water. We do not mind people filling up pools from streams when there is no shortage, but we do not want them to do that when there is a shortage.

It may be that by these new words the Under-Secretary of State is creating fresh difficulties. I do not want us to get into difficulties over this subsection. That is why I am concerned that the hon. Gentleman has widened the matter beyond what was required by the hon. Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan) in his valid point about boreholes.

I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will have another look at this matter. This is only the Committee Stage. We still have the Report and Third Reading stages ahead of us. They will all be taken today. I deplore this failure by the Government to give us time to contemplate what Amendments we should propose between one stage and another. It is all right for members of another place. They get a month between one stage and another—or several weeks, anyway. The landlords have had their say. We are told, "You fellows down there just finish it off ". I am sorry that the Leader of the House is not here, because I should have a few words to say to him about the way that he treats legislation. But it is indicative of the Government's attitude that they treat divorce in the same way just before an election.

I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will have time to obtain some thorough-going advice on this matter. I should be very grateful if he could help us on it.

Mr. G. Campbell

The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) has raised an interesting point and one which should certainly be looked into. I have looked into it and there are two aspects of it. First, there is the technical question, of which I spoke on Second Reading, of whether a borehole is likely to tap water which would otherwise be in a stream and, therefore, abstract water from a stream in the way that somebody taking it direct would be able to do. All the technical advice which is available indicates that it is extremely unlikely that boreholes would be able to do that. Even if a borehole were only a few feet or yards from a bank going down underneath a river, the amount of water coming through by seepage would not be enough to be of use in spray irrigation.

The hon. Member raised the question of tapping an underground stream and this is a possibility. That brings me to the second, or legal, aspect. It is an established right at common law for an owner to be able to abstract water from underground sources on his land. He can legally do that. We have no intention in the Bill of trying to alter the law in that respect. We are building on the riparian rights at common law, but we are not seeking to alter the common law right for someone to tap underground sources of water below his land.

Therefore, if someone legitimately abstracts water from a borehole, it would be difficult in practice to prove whether it was from some static water in strata below ground or whether it was an underground stream or a combination of both. I assure the hon. Member, however, that on the technical side, as I said at the beginning, it is most unlikely that a borehole would be able to affect the flow of streams—which is what we are considering under the Bill—and that we certainly are not seeking to alter the common law right covering such boreholes in the Bill because of the possibility or eventuality to which the hon. Member drew attention.

The hon. Member certainly has raised a point which we have had to consider. We are quite satisfied that the definition as drawn in the Amendment, taken with the definition in Section 35 of the 1951 Act, will carry out what I indicated and makes it clear—that is the object—to those concerned that the Bill does not seek to cover boreholes and that it does not introduce complications concerning underground streams which might have an effect on streams.

Mr. Ross

Because they might have an adverse effect on streams, it is right to introduce safeguards. We are not interfering with anybody's rights; it is wrong for the Under-Secretary to give that impression, even loosely, because what we are doing is to confer rights. The hon. Gentleman knows from what he said on Second Reading that there are very limited rights for anyone to take water from streams, whether underground or otherwise. The rights exist for domestic purposes

Mr. G. Campbell

That was the riparian right. I mentioned just now, however, the right of somebody to draw water from underground, which I understand is not limited in the same way.

Mr. Ross

It is limited at common law to the extent of not interfering with other people's rights to take water from a stream. In this respect, we are giving only limited cover to the people who at present take advantage of the position which hitherto nobody has bothered very much about.

We are controlling the abstraction of water by people who have no right to abstract it in quantities to which they have no particular right. If the Under-Secretary thinks that somebody's supply of water is being interfered with, I doubt very much whether it will be found in Scottish law that people can do it quite freely or without having to defend their right to take it as against somebody whose supply is affected by abstraction from an underground stream.

When a stream can be proved to be a stream, it may be found that people do not have the same freedom as the hon. Gentleman seeks to give them. I am not however, a lawyer, although I am interested in these points, and I shall be grateful if the hon. Gentleman will look at the matter from this other point of view.

Amendment agreed to.

Question proposed, That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

1.15 p.m.

Mr. Bence

On the first Amendment, concerning supervision and control, I sought to express concern but was limited in the manner in which I could do so. In the Clause, which is the substance of the Bill, we are concerned at the possibility of various powers of control by the Secretary of State over river boards to affect every stream and every loch in Scotland.

Over a number of years, the water flow over the courses in various parts of rivers could be changed. In the Trossachs, for instance, the River Forth rises from several points and flows through several lochs. Salmon and sea trout leap the Forth and run up the water. They never run up the one tributary, but always run up the other, for the simple reason that there is just that much difference between what they can get over and what they cannot. A little more water comes down the one stream than down the other. There are, therefore, no salmon or sea trout spawning in the one course; they spawn in the other.

It is obvious that if we are to have a series of controlled streams over the whole of Scotland and over a whole area, we must watch carefully the exercise of these controls and the issue of licences which give power to extract water from an area.

The Clause, I understand, differentiates not between stream and stream, but between a body of water which is not a stream and a body of water underground which is a stream. The Clause seems to me to be widely drawn to the extent that the nature of the animal life of a river could be completely changed and, indeed, destroyed.

Anyone who knows anything about rivers and angling knows that a small change in the flow of water in a river over small obstacles over which the salmon and sea trout leap to get up to the redds could stop the fish going up. This could mean serious consequences to the game fish life of the river. This was my concern when the Bill was first printed. I sat in at Second Reading, although I did not speak. I have been worried about this point on Clause 1 and I have been in touch with some of my angling friends. They, too, are worried about it.

We know from years of experience that large, powerful industrial interests are one thing, but the interests of the private angler are another—the angler who is not a riparian owner, who is landless, whether a professional or manual worker. He has no rights. He has to buy a little bit of fishing out of his limited income and we ought not to do anything to limit the fishing which is available to him.

In Scotland now we can get fishing for 5s., some of the finest fishing in Europe. Indeed, one can get wonderful fishing for 1s. a day. There is nowhere in Europe where the sport can be enjoyed so cheaply as in Scotland. I do not want to see it reduced, but increased, because fishing is an excellent way for men and women to spend leisure—there are some excellent women anglers—to enjoy the fresh air and the beauty of our Scottish rivers and lochs. Many of my angler friends and I are worried that the schemes proposed here may, in a few decades, destroy the fish capacity of many of our small streams and small lochs in the West of Scotland. I hope that the Under-Secretary can give an assurance to the angling fraternity of Scotland that in carrying out the Bill, and in using our water for spray irrigation, the Secretary of State will always bear in mind that we must not strip our smaller streams of their capacity to carry game fish.

This is very important to many thousands of people and to the tourist industry in our country. I still believe that the greatest attraction in Scotland is not the weather, but the fishing and the beauty of our mountains and lochs. Even people who are not anglers come to see the salmon leap the Pots of Gartness, on the River Endrich. It is a wonderful spectacle to see the salmon coming up and leaping over the falls. It is a glorious sight, and I should hate to think that the water level could be lowered so that the fish could not get up and we would lose that sight for ever.

Everyone is concerned with preserving animal life. We do not want our children to inherit a country whose natural beauties and plant and animal have been destroyed by all sorts of artificial means. Those natural assets should be preserved. The great industrial exploitation of the nineteenth century destroyed much of the beauty of our country and has left scars. Let us be careful that science and the techniques of today do not do the same thing in the twentieth century. Let us stop this destruction of the natural beauties of our country. I am sure that science and technology today can preserve the amenities and beauty of our countryside and our rivers. There is no need to destroy them.

What worries me is that although many people pay lip service to preservation of natural assets and amenities, when the Treasury comes along to help with a few thousands of pounds it is only to compensate the riparian owner for the loss of his salmon rights, but it is not concerned with the sporting facilities for the humble man with a few shillings. He very often is not considered. He, like the little man all over the place, falls by the wayside. I hope that the Secretary of State's powers will be such that our small streams will not be denuded of the water supplies to sustain the fish life.

Mr. W. Hamilton

We all welcome the general principles behind this Clause. I am sorry that I did not hear the earlier part of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence), but he is quite right about the need to preserve natural assets like our rivers. I do not think there is a finer or more inspiring sight than to see a clean, sparkling river, as we still can in parts of Scotland.

One of the depressing things about living in or representing an industrial area is this increasing, all pervading pollution of our rivers. We ought to take this opportunity of paying tribute to the river boards for the work they are doing in seeking to obviate this evil if not entirely to eliminate it. One of the dangers which we have to guard against in this Bill is an increase of pollution as a direct consequence of spray irrigation, and of course that is one of the primary purposes of the Clause.

We had a little bit of leg pulling earlier about the need to control. I think that in their saner moments members of the Tory Party recognise that controls have to be exercised by whatever party is in power, exercised to limit the freedom of the individual in order to safeguard the freedom and welfare of the community. That is exactly what is being done in this Clause, and I wish the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends would stop this nonsense about State control, and the danger of control, and implying that the idea of control attaches only to one party in particular, This is obviously not so, and when a country has got natural assets which are being denuded for one reason or another it behoves the Government and the local public bodies by control and other devices to prevent it.

We are here trying to marry what appear to be contradictory concepts. We want an increase in food production, and it has been discovered, apparently, fairly recently, that this method of spray irrigation increases quite considerably the productivity of certain crops. Of course, to that extent we must encourage it, but immediately the problem of river pollution is intensified, and one has to marry the interests of the farmer to the interests of the community and the interests of the amenity value of the rivers. The Bill goes a good long way to marry these apparently contradictory concepts.

I do not believe, however, that the Bill deals adequately with the overall problem of water. My hon. Friend was quite right when he said that when the Labour Party's proposals on the water problem are raised there is, for some unknown reason, a guffaw of laughter. I do not know why that is so. Water is one of the most important, one of the most vital natural assets we have got. What concerns the nation should be controlled by the nation; and the Bill goes a little way to recognising that fact.

I want to ask a question which I do not think was answered on Second Reading. I understand that a precise figure has not been given of the cost of administration. The Schedule provides not for a complicated administrative procedure, but an administrative procedure for publicising, keeping registers, and so on. That must cost money and I ask the hon. Gentleman what is the estimate of the cost of administration.

The Temporary Chairman (Mr. H. Hynd)

The hon. Gentleman is getting rather wide of the Clause.

Mr. W. Hamilton

With great respect, Mr. Hynd, I think that Clause 1 provides for the setting up of control areas and gives the Secretary of State power to require boards to set up control areas. I referred, in passing, to the Schedule because it provides the administrative procedure for implementing the ideas in the Clause.

All that I was asking the Under-Secretary was to give a figure or to say whether a figure is available. I was not presuming to enlarge on that. I am asking for information because the information which he gives, or does not give, will be relevant to Amendments which, I hope, subsequently to move. I leave it at that point.

Mr. Ross

This is the key Clause in the whole operation. On the question of its purpose and the need for it we shall certainly not vote against the Clause.

We have raised certain points on the clarity of the Clause. I can assure you, Mr. Hynd, that these were only a few of the points that we could quite well have raised. There are others. There was one Amendment that the Chair in its discretion did not call: in page 1, line 21, to leave out "the question of". Those words, I suggest, are quite superfluous and could be taken out. In subsection (4) there is the definition of "spray irrigation". I ask the hon. Gentleman to explain exactly what is meant by this definition. It means the irrigation of land, but we already know from the definition in the 1951 Act that land includes water. Could the hon. Gentleman tell us the extent to which there will be an abstraction of water under control for irrigation? It is not an impossibility or an improbability, but it is something which tends to lead to confusion when we convey that definition in other definitions and other actions.

The subsection goes on … irrigation of land or plants (including seeds) by means of water or other liquid … We are concerned about the abstraction of water, not the abstraction of "other liquid". I presume that the "other liquid" somehow or other gets into the water through some process. It then says … from apparatus designed or adapted to eject liquid into the air in the form of jets or spray; … We have already stated that it is emerging in whatever form and then we say from apparatus designed or adapted to eject liquid into the air in the form of jets or spray". What on earth are we talking about if the form in which it is ejected does not matter? Then we relate the definition not to the actual thing but to the apparatus and to how it was designed or for what it was adapted. A certain amount of clarification is required in respect of this definition of "spray irrigation".

These matters apart, I think there is no justification for us taking our opposition completely to the point of opposing the Clause. As my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton), and my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) said, we are dealing with something that has come to us relatively as a surprise.

I was reading in the British Farmer a short time ago that experiments commenced in 1958 and continued for four years on the spray irrigation of potatoes. It was concluded that an appreciable response is obtained from irrigation, particularly in summers with a low rainfall in May and June. That is the time when the rivers are low and when the river purification board is more concerned about its main problem which is to keep the rivers pure. It is then concerned about the pollution that is caused. This is a matter of concern to those who want to abstract water under their legal rights which are very limited. It is also of concern from the national point of view. When there has been abundance no one has bothered very much about what has been taken out.

It also affects fisheries in rivers. We know that in many of our streams the fishing has been wiped out by pollution. The pollution is directly related to the flow of the stream and the volume of water in it. If there is little or no water there is little or no dilution which is essential to rendering less harmful the obnoxious elements poured into the water. This is the point. It is meant to protect the balance of interests, and we have come to the conclusion that we have to act quickly.

The experiments on potatoes started in 1958 and were concluded in 1962 only two years ago. But we were given the information on Second Reading that in one river in Scotland alone there are eight pumps capable of pumping 15,000 gallons per hour. It was stated that before long there would be 20 pumps along that stream. I think it was the Tyne which flows through East Lothian.

I am sure that the Under-Secretary appreciates that this is not such a small and limited Bill as some think. This is what has happened over a few years. What will happen over 10 years? There may be considerable extraction of water from many rivers in Scotland where there is at the moment no spray irrigation. Considerable expense in equipment is involved. In the recent Measure that we passed dealing with agriculture and horticulture the Government, with customary pre-election generosity, gave horticulture £24 million. That will be invaluable to the horticultural industry at a particular time, and the Government may be subsidising the equipment which will do the damage. This will also make the pollution problem more difficult and spoil the amenities of our rivers.

This comes down to the shortage of water. We are dealing not with the Sahara but with Scotland. The Government neglect our true interests terribly. We discovered the value of water for the creation of power, but the Government put a stop to that. For three years we have had no hydro-electric scheme in Scotland despite our sources of power and energy—the Under-Secretary's constituency is affected by this—and so we are not using the water for that purpose. We have not been able to conserve water, and this means that progressive farmers will not be able to use the benefits of research done in public laboratories and on public and private experimental farms.

In West Scotland we probably produce the best early potatoes in the country. We have not so far resorted to spray irrigation for this purpose. When one realises how acres of early potatoes could be lost through the vagaries of the weather, it is clear that spray irrigation may well become a standard application. We are told that the maintenance of a soil moisture deficit of not more than one inch is considered to be the treatment giving the highest yield of ware potatoes. A study of the economics of the irrigation of early potatoes was completed in 1962, resulting in the recommendation that one inch of water applied at the quarter inch tuber size was economical and worth while. What we want is greater yield. According to other researches the palatability of the potatoes is not affected and in some cases may well be improved.

What we are doing is taking timely action because we appreciate that this practice will spread and will do considerable damage to our rivers. But the lesson in all this is that this is not the right way to deal with the problem. The right way is to ensure that our ample water supplies are conserved and properly distributed for the needs of agriculture. Let us not under-estimate the difficulties which will arise, with which we shall deal when we discuss the Schedule.

We are giving river purification boards power to make application to the Secretary of State, and he will adjudicate if there are objections. But we never know with the present Secretary of State; he does not need objections to stop things. I should like to know on what basis the Secretary of State will exercise his power of interference, which is given to him by subsection (2). The Secretary of State can tell the river purification board to apply for a control order, and it must then do so.

This is probably a justified power. There is a balance of interests on the river purification boards. The Under-Secretary told us about a statement made in the other place to the effect that the Secretary of State, in respect of the possibilities of control orders, would put more agriculturists on the boards. Where there was an imbalance of interests and the agricultural interests wanted a control order, the reserve power of the Secretary of State might be essential. Therefore, I support that part of the Clause.

1.45 p.m.

I regret that we have not cleaned up the Bill as we have gone along. It would have been better and clearer if we had done a real job. We agree with the safeguarding of our rivers, but let us not forget that we are denying to agriculture the benefits of science and research, and that is not a matter for great satisfaction, bearing in mind the amount of water available in Scotland if we conserved it and distributed it at the right time

Mr. G. Campbell

Both the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) and the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) drew attention to consequences that might occur in some areas if the new technique of spray irrigation spread and a great deal of water was used. They pointed to the pollution and the shortage which could be created. I would point out to the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East that it is not the control areas proposed in Clause 1 which would produce that situation. As the hon. Member for Kilmarnock said, the increase in spray irrigation itself could do that if in those areas there were no means of controlling the situation, such as by this Bill.

I would remind the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East that it is a duty of the river purification boards, the bodies which will have most of the work to do under the Bill, to attend to purification. Their main function will be concerned with measures to keep the rivers pure and, therefore, to protect the interests of anglers. Angling interests are represented on the boards.

The hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton) spoke of the excellent work of the boards—I join him in what he said—when they are concentrating on the purification of our rivers. He asked me for an estimate. I will simply give him one very approximate figure which may help him. It looks as though three boards might in the near future avail themselves of the provisions of this Measure. This is only an estimate, and I hope the hon. Gentleman will not ask me to be specific at this stage. If there were three, then our rough estimate is that the additional expenditure would be about £4,000 a year. I think that answers the point put by the hon. Member. I will not stray further but I wanted to give some indication in answer to his request.

The hon. Member for Kilmarnock asked about the definition of spray irrigation. The word "liquid "is used to safeguard the position where a farmer might draw off water from a stream, mix it with some other substance and spray what he might call another substance on his crops. The definition makes it clear that, if water is abstracted and then used, perhaps in combination with other substances, in spraying the crops, that will fall within the Bill. I am sure the Committee will agree that this is desirable because such abstraction would have the same effect of drawing off probably large quantities of water.

Mr. Ross

It would have the same effect of drawing off large quantities. What we are seeking is to prevent abstractions of water, not other liquids.

Mr. Campbell

Perhaps we are at odds about the use of words. I hope that what I have said is clear. It is the intention to cover the case where a substance is being sprayed which includes water which has been abstracted from a stream.

The hon. Member asked about the power under subsection (2). We regard this power as a reserve power for the Secretary of State. It would be used only if the Secretary of State felt that a board was not taking the action it should or in a case where a board itself was in difficulty in making up its mind. It is very much a reserve power and the reasons given by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock for its necessity were valid.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.