HC Deb 24 July 1967 vol 751 cc209-10

Lords Amendment: No. 5, in page 15, at the end insert:

"C.—(1) Where a region adjoins any part of England, and it appears to the regional water board that there may he water in watercourses or underground strata in that part of England, or in the region, which could be transferred from that part of England to the region, or from the region to that part of England, as the case may be, the regional water board shall, in so far as they consider it appropriate to do so, consult with the river authorities and other appropriate authorities in that part of England with a view to securing the best use of that water in the public interest.

(2) In the foregoing subsection the reference to water in underground strata shall be construed as a reference to water contained in strata subjacent to the surface of any land otherwise than in a sewer, pipe, reservoir, tank or other underground works constructed in any such strata."

Dr. Dickson Mabon

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

In another place Lord Inglewood tabled an Amendment which was designed to ensure that there would be consultation about the possibility of moving water across the Border. He intended the proposal to be a counterpart to Section 127 of the 1963 Act, which requires water authorities in England to consult with river authorities in Scotland. Being friendly to the English, the Government felt that we should accept a requirement that a water board in Scotland should be in the same position, and this proposal makes complete the provision of reciprocity between both countries.

Mr. Clark Hutchison

What will happen if there is a dispute? Who will decide between the English and Scottish authorities? What provision is the Minister making to ensure that Scottish authorities do not lose out?

Mr. MacArthur

Having heard the English argument in favour of this proposal, I am surprised that we did not stumble on this point in Committee, when we were preoccupied with the question of consultation between Scottish regional water boards. We must have forgotten that England existed somewhere to the south. Perhaps we were more comfortable in that attitude of mind than we would otherwise have been.

It is right that consultation should take place with authorities in England. I hope, however, that the Minister will watch Scotland's interest in this matter in dealing with the question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Clark Hutchison). If any water is to be taken from Scotland, it should be paid for at a good price. We do not want it going to England for nothing.

Dr. Dickson Mabon

I understand the concern expressed by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Clark Hutchison). Since the South East and South West Boards would be the regional boards, they would obviously be involved in these negotiations. I imagine that there will be every chance of a settlement being reached in these matters between the Scottish and English authorities; all the more so when I remember how, in Committee, Scottish hon. Members often had difficulty in agreeing among themselves. I am sure that Ministers are bound to become involved at some stage in the negotiations between the regional board in Scotland and the local authority in England. I am equally sure that a successful arbitration or negotiation will prevent difficulty arising.

Mr. Wylie

My understanding of this matter is that the provision contains only a duty to consult. There is no obligation to allow water to go south of the Border. This appears to be the obverse of Section 127 of the 1963 Act, which imposes a duty on English local water authorities to consult Scottish water authorities. I would not have thought that the question of arbitration comes into the picture.

Question put and agreed to.