HL Deb 25 March 1926 vol 63 cc806-14

Amendments reported (according to Order).

Clause 1:

Transfer of drainage powers to councils of counties and county boroughs.

1.—(1) The powers of the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries (hereinafter referred to as "the Minister") under Part II of the Land Drainage Act, 1918, shall be transferred to the councils of counties and county boroughs, and accordingly that Part of that Act in its application to any county or county borough shall have effect as if for references to the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries there were substituted references to the council of the county or county borough.

LORD TREOWEN moved to add to subsection 1:—

"Provided— (a) That in the case of the powers conferred by subsection (2) of section fifteen of the Land Drainage Act, 1918, and transferred to the council of a county or a county borough by this section the council shall, except in case of emergency, before exercising any suck powers, give to the drain-ago authority in whose default they propose to exercise such powers not less than thirty days notice in writing of their intention so to do, and that if before the expiration of the period of notice the drainage authority intimate in writing to the council their objection to the exercise of the proposed powers the council shall not exercise the same except with the consent of the Minister who may, if he thinks fit, cause a public local inquiry to be held with respect to the objection.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, may I remind your Lordships that this was an Amendment to which the noble Lord in charge of the Bill, Lord Bledisloe, promised to give consideration before the Report stage. Perhaps it would be convenient to him if I moved separately the two proposed paragraphs (a) and (b)which stand on the Paper in Lord Clinton's name and my own. I notice that he has put down an Amendment to paragraph (b). If he agrees to that course and your Lordships approve I beg to move paragraph (a). Since the Bill was last under consideration by your Lordships I have had communications from drainage authorities in the country pointing out the desirability of this Amendment and urging me to do what I could on the Report Stage to have it included in the Bill. I need not repeat the arguments I used on the last occasion. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 14, at end insert the said proviso (a).—(Lord Treowen.)


My Lords, I have done my best since the Committee stage to try to meet the views of my noble friends Lord Treowen and Lord Clinton without destroying the underlying principle and intention of the Bill. As I said on the Committee stage we do not want to take away with one hand what we are giving county councils with the other. We are also very anxious to develop a real sense of responsibility on the part of county councils in connection with these new drainage powers, and as your Lordships will realise, if it becomes the practice, or rather I should say if the Bill tends to encourage objectors, to appeal against county councils to the Ministry of Agriculture as an ultimate tribunal the tendency, I am afraid, will be for the objectors to any drainage scheme to pass over the heads of the county council and to look to the arbitrament of the Ministry of Agriculture in all cases. That is exactly what we do not want.

Since these grants were given as part of an unemployment scheme for the provision of drainage works the county councils in many counties have done admirable work. They have developed an immense amount of enterprise and keenness about the work, and we do not want, if we can help it, to stultify their efforts in this direction so long as they do not interfere unduly with private property or do any injustice to the owners or occupiers of land. But we realise that as regards drainage authorities the position is rather different to the case of private individuals, which is dealt with in the noble Lord's Amendment (b). In reference to Amendment (a), which is now before the House, it may become, in effect, a conflict between two drainage authorities—an old Statutory drainage authority and a new county council drainage authority—and in such a case it seems only fair and right that there should be some appeal. For those reasons I am prepared to agree to this Amendment.


My Lords, I am exceedingly grateful to my noble friend for meeting us in this matter. I can assure him that there is not the slightest intention on the part of those who placed this Amendment on the Paper to encourage any frivolous or unreasonable objections to county councils exercising necessary powers over these drainage authorities. I agree with the noble Lord that the effect of this Bill should be to improve the drainage of agricultural land of this country. The concession which the noble Lord has now given will, I think, really be an improvement to the measure and I hope will make it go quite as smoothly as he himself desires.


My Lords. I am much obliged to the noble Lord for the kind consideration he has given to this Amendment. In doing so he has, I think, met the point of these drainage authorities to whom I referred, who feit there might be a cause of conflict between themselves and the county council.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD TREOWEN moved to insert the following proviso at the end of subsection (1):— (b) That in the case of the powers conferred by section sixteen of the Land Drainage Act, 1918, and transferred to the council of a county or county borough by this section any draft scheme made by the council of a county or county borough in pursuance thereof shall (in any case in which the proprietors of one-third of the area to which the draft scheme relates have presented objections thereto and shall not have withdrawn the same) be settled by the Minister and not by the council, and for that purpose the draft scheme and any objections thereto which may have been duly presented in accordance with subsection (2) of the said section shall be referred to the Minister who before settling the scheme shall consider any such objections, and may if he thinks fit cause a public local inquiry to be held with reference to the scheme.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I do not think it is necessary for me to say anything in moving proviso (b), but the noble Lord, Lord Bledisloe, will probably wish to explain the Amendment that he has put down to this Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 14, at end insert the said proviso (b).—(Lord Treowen.)

LORD BLEDISLOE moved, in the proposed proviso (b), to leave out all words after "thereof shall" and insert "where the owners of one-half or more of the land comprised within the area to which the draft scheme relates have duly presented objections thereto and have not withdrawn the same, before settling the scheme cause a public local inquiry to be held with reference to the scheme." The noble Lord said: My Lords, as I have already indicated the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Treowen, tends to a great extent to strike at the root of the Bill and, therefore, I find it impossible to accept it in the form in which my two noble friends have put it down on the Paper. This, I may remind your Lordships, is intended to refer to what are called small drainage schemes under Section 16 of the principal Land Drainage Act, 1918, and these small drainage schemes are limited in amount to£5,000. It is therefore quite obvious that they are only small schemes and cannot in any circumstances result in any large expenditure being thrown upon any one person.

I may remind your Lordships further that some county councils already have these powers as the result of Private Acts passed during the last few years—namely, Lancashire, the West Riding of Yorkshire and Surrey. It would obviously be undesirable to have the same scheme where joint action is advised by two or more adjoining counties when one county had full powers, as would be the case for instance in Lancashire, and the adjoining county had no such powers which they could exercise without the risk of an appeal being made to the Ministry over their heads. But we do feel that there is some point in the contention that if substantial objections are raised on the part of a large proportion of those affected by these small schemes they ought to be properly ventilated in public, and for that reason I understand from both my noble friends, particularly from my noble friend Lord Clinton, that the greatest emphasis is laid by them upon the desirability of some public local inquiry.

I am quite prepared, after considering this matter very carefully, to concede that, if my noble friends will be prepared to regard my Amendment to their Amendment as in some measure a satisfaction of what they desire. I have, therefore, put on the Paper this Amendment to their Amendment, that if the proprietors of one-half of the land affected present objections to one of these small drainage schemes there shall be a local public inquiry initiated by the county council before such scheme shall be settled or take effect. That is the purport of my Amendment to their Amendment, and I venture to hope that your Lordships will accept the Amendment as so amended in that form. I beg to move.


My Lords, I would point out that there is some omission in the Amendment proposed to the Amendment because it does not read.


My Lords, I am very much obliged to the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack for drawing my attention to what is evidently an error in drafting. I am advised that if I leave out the words after "thereof" in line 6 of my noble friend's Amendment and insert the words "the council shall," probably it will then read correctly. It will then run: "the council shall where the owners of one-half or more of the land comprised within the area," and the rest of the words in my Amendment will follow that. If I may do so I will move my Amendment in that form.

Amendment to the Amendment moved— In paragraph (b), line 6, leave out from ("thereof") to the end of the Amendment, and insert ("the council shall, where the owners of one-half or more of the land comprised within the area to which the draft scheme relates have duly presented objections thereto and have not withdrawn the same, before settling the scheme cause a public local inquiry to be held with reference to the scheme").—(Lord Bledisloe.)

On Question, Amendment to the Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, I think the meaning of the Amendment is sufficiently clear to us, and I recognise that the noble Lord has gone quite a long way to meet us. He does not give us all we thought we ought to have got in the way of an appeal, but I recognised during the debate on the Committee stage that there was sufficient ground for my noble friend saying that an unrestricted right of appeal to the Ministry would really strike at the principle of the Bill, which was to transfer from the Ministry to the council powers which the Ministry hitherto held. That being the case, I am not in a position to attempt to force the larger power which I had hoped might be given to objectors under any of these schemes. My noble friend has gone so far to meet us in this matter that I am very glad to accept his proposal, and I have no doubt my noble friend Lord Treowen will do the same. I recognise to what a great extent my noble friend has gone to meet us in many matters under this Bill, and I think the Bill is greatly improved.

On Question, Amendment, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 2:

Maintenance of drains, etc.

2.—(1) Where the council of a county or county borough are of opinion that by reason of the act or default of any person any drain within the meaning of this Act is in such a condition that the proper flow of water is impeded and that by reason of the condition of the drain agricultural land within the county or county borough belonging to or in the occupation of some other person is injured by water or is in danger of being so injured, the council may serve upon the person by whose act or default such flow is impeded notice requiring him to put the drain or any part thereof in proper order.

(3) Any person upon whom any such notice has been served may within twenty-one days from the date of the service of the notice either—

  1. (a) complain to a court of summary jurisdiction on any of the grounds hereinafter mentioned; or
  2. (b) by notice in writing addressed to the clerk of the council require that any question, being a matter on which he might complain to a court of summary jurisdiction, shall be referred to the arbitration of a single arbitrator to be appointed in default of agreement by the President of the Surveyors' Institution.

(11) For the purposes of this section, the expression "drain" includes any stream, ditch, drain, cut, culvert, dyke, or sluice: Provided that where any drain as so defined is under the jurisdiction of a drainage authority, a board of conservators, or an inland navigation authority which is exercising its powers, this section shall not apply to the drain except with the consent of the authority or board.

LORD BLEDISLOE moved to insert at the end of subsection (1): Provided that no such notice shall be given in any case where the works required can conveniently be dealt with by a scheme under section sixteen of the Land Drainage Act, 1918, as amended by this Act.

The noble Lord said: I may explain to your Lordships that in Committee I moved an Amendment to this clause with a view to recasting the whole of the clause. The result was that a proviso in very similar terms to this was, by an oversight, omitted. Perhaps I can indicate what I have in mind by saying that you may have a considerable stretch of a drain or stream blocked by held-up water Higher up in a watershed and the presence of the actual obstruction might cause no real injury to the land on either side of the obstruction in the stream, but it might cost one particular owner quite a considerable sum of money to remove the obstruction without any real benefit to himself. This is a case contemplated in the principal Act where obviously a small drainage scheme, under Section 16 of that Act, would be the right course to pursue, without serving a notice with all resultant effects upon the particular person upon whose land the obstruction was found. In effect, it simplifies the machinery, because your Lordships will realise by glancing at paragraph (c) of subsection (4) of the Act that if a notice is served upon a person in these circumstances that is one of the grounds of appeal he will ultimately have to a higher tribunal. It really is anticipating that possible action by avoiding the notice upon him altogether in such cases as this where a small drainage scheme would be the proper remedy to apply. In these circumstances I beg to move the proviso standing in my name.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line, 5, at end insert the said proviso.—(Lord Bledisloe.)


My Lords, I must say I think this is a very desirable addition and I am very glad it has been moved by my noble friend.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 3:

Provisions as to councils.

3.—(1) The expenses of a council under this Act, so far as they are not defrayed out of moneys recovered by the council in accordance with this Act, shall be defrayed—

  1. (a) in the case of the council of a county, out of the county fund as expenses for general county purposes, or if and so far as the council think tit, as expenses for special county purposes, charged on such parts of the county as the council think fit; and
  2. (b) in the case of the council of a county borough out of the borough fund or borough rate: Provided always that the expenses referred to in this section and incurred in connection with this Act shall not exceed in amount the sum which would be produced by a rate of one penny in the pound levied by the council of a county or county borough.

LORD BLEDISLOE moved, in subsection (1) (b), to leave out "by the council of a" and insert "over the." The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is in effect a drafting Amendment. I am instructed that these words are necessary to make the clause conform with the existing law of rating.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 33, leave out ("by the council of a") and insert ("over the").—(Lord Bledisloe.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Powers of entry on land.

4. Any person authorised in that behalf by the council of a county or county borough for the purpose of carrying their powers under this Act into effect may, on production, if so required of his authority, enter on and inspect any land.

If any person prevents or obstructs the entry for the purpose aforesaid upon any land of any person authorised under this section, he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty pounds.

LORD BLEDISLOE moved, in the first paragraph, after "may," to insert "after notice in writing to the occupier and". The noble Lord said: My Lords, my noble friend the Earl of Midleton, in moving the Amendment which stood in his name on the Paper on the Committee stage, asked me to confer with him in relation to it. This I have done and I think I have been able to suggest an Amendment which will go a long way towards meeting his views. What, as I understand, he was most anxious about was to ensure that surprise visits should not be made by officers of the county council without any sort of notification to the owner or occupier of the land affected. I have placed on the Paper words which will ensure that notice in writing shall be given to the occupier before the visit of the officer of the county council shall take place. I understand the noble Earl will be good enough to accept that, at any rate in part payment of his demand, and I hope your Lordships will agree to it.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 16, after ("may") insert ("after notice in writing to the occupier and").—(Lord Bledisloe.)


My Lords, I do not propose to move my Amendment in view of what my noble friend has said.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 7 [Saving of existing powers].


My Lords, this last Amendment is a purely drafting Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 6, line 5, after ("powers") insert ("are").—(Lord Bledisloe.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to