HC Deb 17 July 1972 vol 841 cc294-6


Mr. Speed

I beg to move Amendment No. 637, in page 88, line 28, after 'imminent', insert: 'or there is reasonable ground for apprehending such an emergency or disaster'. I hope that it will be convenient also to deal with Amendments Nos. 638 and 639.

These are all rather different Amendments and I shall explain them separately.

Amendment No. 637 gives a new power to principal authorities enabling them to take action when an emergency or disaster threatens or has occurred. The purpose of this Amendment is to make it clear that a local authority need not necessarily wait until disaster is actually staring it in the face. It might wish to make seamanlike preparations so that action can be taken if disaster occurs. The sort of thing one envisages is oil spillage and possible subsequent pollution of beaches. Maritime authorities may want to arm themselves in advance with the necessary equipment to deal with this kind of situation, and the Amendment would allow them to do so.

On Amendment No. 638, the powers in Clause 137 as at present drafted are additional to the existing powers of local authorities.

4.0 a.m.

The purpose of the Amendment is to define the relationship of the new powers to those which already exist in connection with land drainage and flooding. Paragraph (a) in the Amendment ensures that the powers contained in Clause 137 do not permit a local authority to encroach upon or interfere with the land drainage functions of river authorities in connection with main rivers—which means those defined watercourses which, in general, constitute the main arterial drainage channels in each local authority area. The Amendment ensures that river authorities retain overall control over works carried out by local authorities under their present powers in the Land Drainage Act, 1961, for the purpose of preventing, remedying or mitigating flooding.

Amendment No. 639, again dealing with emergencies, is to extend the powers for dealing with an emergency or disaster to the City of London, which is not embraced within the expression "principal council" but the City is no more immune from a disaster than anywhere else and there could possibly be an explosion, or an aeroplane crash, in the City of London, and, therefore, clearly it is important that the City should have the same sort of powers as other authorities.

The Amendment has the effect, and I think this is important, of making the powers in the Clause immediately available to existing authorities as from the passing of this Bill—that is to county councils, county borough councils, non-county borough, urban and district councils, the Greater London Council, London borough councils, and the City. If the Clause is justified at all, as I am sure it is, clearly the powers should be available straight away, rather than that they should wait till 1974.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: No. 638, in page 89, line 6, leave out from beginning to 'in' and insert:

Subsection (1) above does not authorise a local authority to execute—

  1. (a) any drainage or other works in any part of a main river, within the meaning of the Land Drainage Act 1930, or of any other watercourse which is treated for the purposes of any of the provisions of that Act as part of a main river, or
  2. (b) any works which local authorities have power to execute under section 34 of the Land Drainage Act 1961 (measures against flooding),
but subject to those limitations, the power conferred by that subsection is.

No. 639, in page 89, line 9, at end insert: (4) In this section 'principal council' includes the Common Council and, until 1st April 1974, the council of an existing county, county borough or county district.—[Mr. Speed.]

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