HC Deb 29 June 1965 vol 715 cc287-9
19. Mr. Peter Mills

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he will issue a circular to all river authorities requesting simplicity in their new application forms for the abstraction of water.

26. Mr. Eldon Griffiths

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he is aware that Form W.R.5, issued by the river authorities, is complicated and if he will place a simplified version of this form in the Library.

Mr. Manuel

On a point of order. Is it in order for a Member to read a newspaper?

Mr. Speaker

I can only assume that it is immediately connected with the Question.

Mr. MacColl

I refer the hon. Gentlemen to the reply of my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Bessell) yesterday.

The forms are prescribed by the Water Resources (Licences) Regulations, 1965. They are complicated, but the questions spring from the Act itself. Form W.R.5 will not be used after tomorrow.

Mr. Mills

I thank the Joint Parliamentary Secretary for that information. Yesterday the Minister got it wrong. It is not the Act that is wrong. It is the forms which are wrong. I am very grateful to the Joint Parliamentary Secretary for now dealing with the matter. It will cause a lot of rejoicing, at any rate in the South-West.

Mr. MacColl

I do not follow the hon. Gentleman. I said that the forms spring from the provisions of the Act and the information required under the Act. This was made clear in the debate on the Regulations earlier this Session.

Mr. Griffiths

Will the Minister make it absolutely clear? Is he saying that he is withdrawing this form? If so, will he accept it from me that a great number of farmers will be extremely relieved by his decision, if that is his decision? Will he also say what he is proposing to put in its place? Will he give an assurance that whatever appears in place of this monstrous document is at least decipherable and understandable by those who have to fill it in?

Mr. MacColl

The hon. Gentleman is under a misapprehension. The form will have completed its purpose by tomorrow, because under the Act the last day for applications for licences of right is tomorrow.

Mr. Graham Page

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary cannot brush this aside. Does he intend to amend the other forms which are just as complicated and which will apply after 30th June? Can he do nothing whatever to alleviate the hardship of those who have had to try to fill these forms in by 30th June and who, because they have not been able to answer all these complicated questions, may lose their licences of right?

Mr. MacColl

As to the last part of the question, my right hon. Friend is in touch with the river authorities and has sent them a circular asking them to treat sympathetically people who are out of time in their applications for licences of right. Under the Act passed by the Conservative Government it is not possible for the authorities to give a licence of right, but they can take a broad view about giving a permissive licence.

Mr. Popplewell

These forms are made necessary by the 1963 Act. The type of question asked on the form, namely, the amount of water used in 1961, 1962, and 1963, a period when no records were kept by agriculturists, for example, makes it absolutely nonsensical. Will my hon. Friend ensure that persons who have not answered these questions correctly will not be penalised in the matter of obtaining licences to use water?

Mr. MacColl

I do not want to make any party point either about the Act or about the interpretation of the Act. This is a serious attempt to estimate water resources, of which there is a great shortage in the country. It is necessary, in order to find out how much water can be used in the future, to know what the demand is. That is the purpose behind the questions and behind the Act.

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