HC Deb 01 May 1973 vol 855 cc1167-72


Mr. Graham Page

I beg to move Amendment No. 37, in page 18, line 30, leave out from 'shall' to end of line 34 and insert—

  • '(a) require the relevant authority to prepare and annually revise a programme for the discharge of the said functions as respects their area, having regard to any guidance given to them by the water authority, and to submit every such programme to the water authority for their approval;
  • (b) require the relevant authority to carry out any programme approved by the water authority under paragraph (a) above;
  • (c) provide for vesting in the water authority any public sewer provided by the relevant authority in pursuance of the arrangements;
  • (d) require the relevant authority to provide such vehicles and equipment as may be necessary for maintaining the sewers which it is their function to maintain under the arrangements;
  • (e) provide for the water authority to reimburse the relevant authority any expenses incurred by the latter in the discharge of the said functions;
  • (f) provide for the relevant authority to conduct on behalf of the water authority any prosecutions or other legal proceedings in connection with the discharge of those functions; and
  • (g) provide for the transfer to the water authority of officers of the relevant authority in the event of the ending of the arrangements under subsection (6) below and for the compensation of any such officers who suffer loss as a result of any variation or the ending of the arrangements under this subsection.'
This amendment follows a day-long discussion in Committee. The Opposition protested that the substance of the document prepared by the Department on the heads of agreement for the sewerage arrangements to be made between the water authorities and the relevant local authorities did not appear in the Bill. I objected to giving any assurance that such an agreement should appear in the Bill because I thought that it should be a matter for the authorities concerned. However, I promised to consider whether it would be possible to direct what matters should be dealt with by an agreement between the two parties and to give guidelines to that extent.

This is what the amendment is intended to do. It is intended only as an indication of the main matters which should be included in such an agreement and does not specify the details or anything of that kind. The actual substance of the agreement must be agreed between the parties in each case. I hope that this meets the point which a number of hon. Members made in Committee—that we should set out in the Bill what we expect from these agreements, if not the precise details of the agreements.

Mr. Oakes

I rise only to thank the right hon. Gentleman for putting this provision in the Bill. I am certain that in that day-long debate we were right and that what we were asking for was that the guidelines should be in. We never expected the detailed form of agreement to be in, but it is right and proper that, in the creation of new authorities, where there are existing authorities and new authorities, the Bill should spell this out. It does it well in this way and we welcome it.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Arthur Jones

I beg to move Amendment No. 38, in page 18, leave out lines 38 to 41.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this we can take the following amendments

No. 42, in page 19, line 46, after '1965' insert: 'or in relation to the area of a joint sewerage board'. No. 43, in line 47, leave out: 'and'. No. 44, in page 20, line 5, at end insert 'and (c) in relation to any such area of a joint sewerage board, the joint sewerage board'.

Mr. Jones

These are consequential upon one another and deal with the situation in Clause 15 which provides for the new district councils to have what is described as a "control function" in sewerage.

It is likely to give rise to anomalies because in its present form there is no provision for joint sewerage boards or joint authorities and councils have no provision for arrangements involving several authorities.

This should be rectified and the object here is to secure that where a group of authorities work together in a joint sewerage board, they will be able to continue, preserving joint arrangements, with the same provision for working as agents for the regional authority as will apply in the area of other local authorities.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

I should dearly like to accept any amendments moved by my hon. Friend or by anybody else at this hour of the night, but I fear that I must advise the House not to accept this group of amendments.

I am advised that the amendments as drafted would lead to such administrative difficulties as to make the system unworkable. I am advised that in London the management of main outfall sewers would be parcelled out among London boroughs when neither they nor their predecessors have ever had responsibility for them and joint boards would be required to manage sewers for which they had never had responsibility before.

These are technical difficulties, but apart from them, the amendments arise from the concern of local authorities who believe that there is a weakness in the Bill in that local authorities will no longer be able to exercise their sewerage functions through a joint sewerage board. In fact, the functions which the Government propose to give local authorities in Clause 15 are functions which district or London borough councils will be able to exercise on their own account. This is the very reason for giving the functions to them, because they are concerned with housing and development and that is the Government's reason for thinking it right that they should have sewerage responsibility.

I am advised that in the vast majority of cases the local councils in question will be perfectly capable of exercising those functions without need of joint powers, but so far as there is need for co-ordinating action between several authorities, this can be secured by virtue of the fact that they will be operating under arrangements made by the same water authority.

It was decided to exclude the trunk sewers owned by the joint sewerage boards and the GLC from the scope of the arrangements under the clause, because their design and operation are inextricably associated with that of the sewage disposal works. For that reason the GLC has informed my right hon. Friend that if it is not to retain control of its sewerage disposal works it has no interest in retaining any functions in relation to the trunk sewers that it now owns. The various joint sewerage boards would no doubt take a similar view.

I believe that that is a satisfactory answer to the points my hon. Friend has made, and I hope that he will accept it.

Mr. Arthur Jones

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I had heard of the decision of the GLC that if it could not have the disposal it did not want the trunk sewers.

My hon. Friend read from his brief a litle more into my amendment than I had intended. I noticed that he stuck almost as closely to his brief as I did to mine. Therefore, it would be wrong of me to contest what he said. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Graham Page

I beg to move Amendment No. 41, in page 19, line 39 leave out subsection (8) and insert— '(8) Any arrangements made by a local authority or committee under subsection (7) above for the discharge of any functions by a committee, sub-committee or officer shall not prevent the authority or committee by whom the arrangements are made from discharging those functions'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this amendment we are to discuss Amendment No. 40, in page 19, line 39, leave out subsection (8).

Mr. Page

Amendment No. 41 fulfils an undertaking I gave in Committee in response to an amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for North-ants, South (Mr. Arthur Jones), by limiting the application of subsection (8) to any internal arrangements which may be made by a local authority for the discharge of sewerage functions by virtue of subsection (7).

My hon. Friend, obviously expecting that I might not be able to draft the right amendment in time to restrict its application, tabled his own amendment, No. 40, to wipe out subsection (8). But we need it for the purpose of internal arrangements—sub-committees and so on. However, it need not go as far as it did when the Bill was drafted.

My amendment makes it clear that arrangements between a water authority and a local authority for the performance of sewerage functions are to be terminated only under subsection (6), which provides for a reference to the Secretary of State in the event of disagreement.

I think that this meets the points my hon. Friend raised when moving his amendment in Committee, and I hope that he will feel that it is not necessary to remove subsection (8) altogether now that we are restricting it by my amendment.

Mr. Arthur Jones

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, though I question what he said about my motivation for tabling my amendment. I did not think it was likely to be interpreted as meaning that I thought he might not put down his amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

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