§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Thomson.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly:
§ [The EARL Of DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1:
§ Precautions to be observed in the construction of large reservoirs.
§ (8) Where at the commencement of this Act a large reservoir is in the course of construction, the provisions of this section other than those requiring the appointment of a qualified engineer shall so far as applicable apply to the reservoir, but the certificates required thereunder may be given by the engineer responsible for supervising the construction of the reservoir notwithstanding that he is not a qualified engineer within the meaning of this Act.
THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR AIR (LORD THOMSON) moved to leave out subsection (8) and insert:
(8) Where at the commencement of this Act a large reservoir is in the course of construction—
§ The noble Lord said: This Amendment is in effect a drafting Amendment. It is felt that the words, so far as applicable, in the clause as it now stands were somewhat ambiguous. A new subsection has been drafted to make it clear how, and to what extent, Clause 1 will apply in the case of a large reservoir in course of construction at the commencement of the Act.
Page 3, line 5, leave out subsection (8), and insert the said new subsection.—(Lord Thomson.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 2:
§ Periodical inspection of large reservoirs.
§ (2) The first inspection shall be made—
- (a) in the case of a reservoir constructed before the commencement of this Act, or of a reservoir in course of construction at the commencement of this Act, within three years from the commencement of this Act;
- (b) in the case of a reservoir constructed after the commencement of this Act, at the expiration of a period not exceeding ten years from the date of the preliminary certificate given in relation to the reservoir under the last foregoing section:
§ Provided that if in the case of a reservoir in course of construction at the commencement of this Act the engineer responsible for supervising the construction of the reservoir becomes a qualified engineer within the meaning of this Act, this subsection shall apply as if the reservoir had been constructed after the commencement of this Act.
§ (7) If the undertakers feel aggrieved by any requirement contained in a report of the inspecting engineeer as to the time 971 within which the next inspection is to be made or as to the measures to be taken in the interests of safety, they may, within such time and in such manner as may be prescribed by the Secretary of State, request the Secretary of State to refer their complaint to a referee appointed by him for the purpose, and thereupon the Secretary of State shall refer the complaint to such person as he thinks fit, and the referee, after investigating the complaint, shall have power to make such modifications in the report as he thinks fit, and the report, shall, for the purposes of this Act, have effect accordingly.
§ (8) The Secretary of State may make rules as to the time within which, and the manlier in which, any application to the referee upon a reference under the last foregoing subsection may be made, as to the procedure before the referee and as to the costs of the proceedings before and investigation by the referee (including tile remuneration of the referee), so, however, that the said costs (including the said remuneration) shall be paid by the undertakers.
§ LORD THOMSON moved, in the proviso in subsection (2), before the second "engineer," to insert "civil." The noble Lord said: This is a drafting Amendment, simply to insert the word "civil."
Page 3, line 37, after ("qualified") insert ("civil").—(Lord Thomson.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM moved to leave out subsection (7) and insert as a new subsection:
( ) If the undertakers feel aggrieved by any requirements of the inspecting engineer as to the time within which the next inspection is to be made or as to the measures to be taken in the interests of safety they may within one month from the date of the publication as required by this Act of notice that the report has been made, apply to the Railway and Canal Commission and on such application the Commission shall have power to make an order modifying such requirements to such extent and subject to such conditions as they may think proper: Provided that the Commission shall have power to enlarge such period of one month to such period not exceeding three months as the circumstances of the case may require.
§ The noble Lord said: This is a subsection which I have taken from the Bill which was brought in by the Conservative Government in 1928. It is identical with the subsection which was in that Bill. Its object is to enable a person who is aggrieved to have his grievance heard by a judicial body accustomed to hearing 972 complaints, a body such as the Railway and Canal Commission. Under the Bill where a person is aggrieved by the action of an inspector appointed under the Bill, his only appeal is to a referee appointed by the Minister. The Minister under the Bill appoints the inspector. The Minister's servant, the inspector, goes to one of the large corporations of the country and says: "You have not built your reservoir in a proper way and I require you to spend a large sum of money in altering it." If the corporation or the Metropolitan Water Board reply: "We do not think that is so and we are going to appeal against your order," the only appeal provided by the Bill is to somebody appointed by the Minister, who has appointed the inspector against whose decision the appeal is made. That seems to me to be absolutely contrary to all principles of law and I trust that the noble Lord in charge of the Bill will accept my Amendment. On the Second Reading the noble Lord made a considerable point of the Bill being identical, except on small matters, with that introduced in 1928 by the Conservative Government. All I am doing is to make it certain that he was right in that claim and that this Bill shall be identical with the Bill introduced by the Conservative Government. I trust he will accept the Amendment which I beg to move.
Page 4, line 37, leave out subsection (7) and insert the said new subsection.—(Lord Banbury of Southam.)
§ LORD THOMSON
If I may say so, the noble Lord, Lord Banbury, is under a slight misapprehension as to who appoints the inspector. He seems to think that the Home Office appoints that inspector. In point of fact that is not the case. The inspector is appointed by the undertakers. All that the Home Office does in this particular connection is, jointly with the Ministry of Health, to set up a panel of highly qualified engineers—highly qualified not only in the general sense as men of high standing in their profession, but also with special knowledge of this particular form of construction. From that panel the undertakers are at liberty to select their own inspector. That, I think, removes one of the difficulties of the noble Lord in this connection. It is not the Gov- 973 ernment that interferes at every point. It is not a case of "The House that Jack built," of cumulative action on the part of the Government. On the contrary, all that the Governmert do in this matter is to appoint a panel. Needless to say—
§ LORD THOMSON
There is a great deal of distrust on the part of the noble and learned Lord as regards the action of the Home Office in this matter. I should have thought obviously, in the interests of all concerned and more especially for the purpose of this Bill, that the authorities in question would select men of the highest possible standing. The panel having been selected, the undertakers take their choice of all those qualified civil engineers for the purposes of this inspection.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
May I interrupt the noble Lord to point out to him that in subsection (7) of Clause 2 of the Bill these words occur:—If the undertakers feel aggrieved by any requirement contained in a report of the inspecting engineer … they may, within such time and in such manner as may be prescribed by the Secretary of State, request the Secretary of State to refer their complaint to a referee appointed by him …
§ LORD THOMSON
That is another point, if the noble Lord will allow me to say so. I was dealing for the moment with the inspecting engineer, and he is the employee of the undertakers. We now reach the noble Lord's second point—namely, a difference of opinion, we will suppose, between the permanent engineer of the undertakers and the inspecting engineer. Should such a difference of opinion arise the subsection which the noble Lord quotes makes provision for the reference of that matter to another authority. His Amendment suggests that this other authority should be the Railway and Canal Commission as being a judicial body. The Bill lays it down that it should be a referee appointed, as 974 the noble Lord rightly remarked, by the Secretary of State, the Minister. In point of fact that is a difference between the Bill as brought forward by the late Government and the Bill which is before your Lordships. I did not shirk that question at all on Second Reading. As a matter of fact the change was made because it was thought on advice—various authorities were consulted—to be preferable that a matter of such a technical character should be referred to a technical expert rather than to a body like the Railway and Canal Commission.
It is perfectly true that the Railway and Canal Commission is a very authoritative and judicial body. But the noble Lord himself reveals, in the later part of his Amendment, what the process would be if matters of this kind were so referred. The machinery, to say the least, would be somewhat cumbrous. The noble Lord points out the necessity for technical assessors and indeed possibly for legal advice on what, after all, is a technical matter which can only be judged by technical men. The referee would quite obviously be a man of suitable qualifications to deal with such a matter. He would be, if it were purely an engineering matter, a highly qualified engineer, but it is quite possible that an opinion might be desired in regard to some financial aspect of the matter, in which case a referee suitable for the judging of such matters would be selected. If I may say so, the noble Lord has such a deep-rooted suspicion of Government Departments that he perceives trouble in anything that they may do, but in common fariness and upon the common sense of the situation, surely the new arrangement is likely to save trouble, time and money. One of these big undertakings has a permanent engineer of high qualifications, and an inspecting engineer under the Bill goes round and looks at his work, and very often that inspection will be a great relief to the permanent engineer. So far as possible the two will act in consultation with each other.
I imagine that a very high-class undertaking would have a permanent engineer who would himself be a great authority and who would also have good records. The inspecting engineer—also a highly-qualified engineer—comes round and they have some difference of opinion. It could only be on a purely technical point, or it might be on a financial point. Why refer 975 a matter of that kind to a body like the Railway and Canal Commission when a publicly-appointed referee suited to give an opinion on the particular question in dispute will be appointed by the Minister responsible? I repeat what I said at the beginning, that undoubtedly, though this was in the original Bill, the change that has been made—namely, the appointment of a referee instead of reference to the Railway and Canal Commission—was made advisedly. I think the door has been left open wide for possible discussion in order to meet the matter in a more practical and logical fashion; in other words, to save everybody concerned trouble, time and money. I sincerely hope the noble Lord will not press his Amendment after this explanation. It is a most important point, and it is one that has been very well considered before the change was made in the Bill now before the House.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
May I point out in answer to what the noble Lord has said that in subsection (7) it says that the Secretary of State may be askedto refer their complaint to a referee appointed by him for the purpose, and thereupon the Secretary of State shall refer the complaint to such person as he thinks fit.As I understood the noble Lord, he has more or less admitted that this is correct, and he says the Secretary of State does not appoint the engineer. If he will look at Clause 8 he will see thatthe Secretary of State, if satisfied after such consultation as aforesaid, that the applicant is qualified to be placed on that panel, shall appoint him to be a member thereof.Therefore, no member can be on the panel unless the Secretary of State appoints him to be a member thereof, and having appointed this engineer to be a member of the panel, then, if there is no grievance against the engineer, the Secretary of State appoints such person as he thinks fit. There is no obligation on him to appoint a qualified engineer or a financial authority. He might appoint a clerk in the office or anybody he thinks fit. In these circumstances I am sorry that the noble Lord does not accept the Amendment, and I shall be compelled to press it to a Division.
I may Add that I have a letter from the Corporation of Greenock—it is too long to read—which is strongly against the 976 Bill. I have also a letter from the Association of Municipal Corporations that I received this morning dealing with the question of an engineer. It says that an engineer is not obliged to be appointed under the Bill and they object to the Bill. They end with these words:—Your new clause is no doubt excellent"—that is not this clause; it is another which comes later on—and if it can be secured it will, undoubtedly, go a long way to remove all our objections.I think I am justified in asking your Lordships to support me seeing that I have the support not only of the Metropolitan Water Board but also of the Association of Municipal Corporations.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
I do not think I had anything to do with the drafting of what my noble friend Lord Banbury calls the Conservative Bill, but I think I was at the Home Office at the time when the accident occurred in Wales, and I remember being very much impressed by the great dangers that were revealed by the position at that time, and by the possibility of similar accidents arising at any moment. After what the noble Lord opposite has said I cannot feel that there is not some truth in his argument that the procedure through the panel of inspectors is less cumbrous than it would be through the Railway and Canal Commission. A flaw in the general procedure under this clause is that the actual engineer employed by the undertakers does not, I think, play a sufficiently important part in the consultation. It seems to me it would be far better, in order to secure the satisfaction of the undertakers, if the Government would agree to put in a clause or a subsection to the effect that in any inquiries the engineer employed by the company itself should always be associated with the outside engineer. I think probably the company's engineer would be very glad sometimes to have the opinion of an outside engineer, and if they were associated together the company would at any rate have a chance of saying all they wished to put forward. I think that very seldom would there be any disagreement between the two. I do not know whether that would meet the views of my noble friends, or whether the Government would do it, but I venture to 977 make that suggestion as one which I think would ease the working of the Bill a good deal.
§ VISCOUNT FITZALAN OF DERWENT
The noble Lord in charge of the Bill laid stress on the saving of money by his scheme, but I assume that these high functionaries are to be paid in some form or other, either by way of salary or fees. Could not the whole expense be saved and the requisite thing done in some simpler way by allowing the eminent engineers in these big undertakings to issue certificates periodically themselves as to the state of the works with which they are connected, just as I understand the railway companies do? I believe the railway companies' own engineers issue periodically certificates as to the safety of the tunnels, viaducts, bridges, and so on. Could not that be done here? After all, the engineers belonging to these great corporations and municipalities are very highly qualified men. I imagine they are quite as qualified as anybody is likely to be who is appointed for this purpose, if not more qualified, and I would ask the noble Lord if he would not consider that.
§ LORD THOMSON
If I might reply first to the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Banbury, I would say that I think he is a little confusing the panel of referees. The panel is to be a large one composed of highly qualified persons, and the undertakers can select any one they like. It is a standing panel and is always there. If an undertaker cannot find a suitable man from that sort of panel I doubt if he would find one anywhere. The referee is a, person who shall be fit, in the opinion of the Home Secretary, to perform the functions of a referee. The noble Lord laid great stress on the provision that the Secretary of State shall appoint "such person as he thinks fit." He does not suggest, I trust, that the Home Secretary would appoint a person whom he regarded as unfit. He would select the best man he could for the particular purpose.
§ LORD THOMSON
As regards the point raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, I welcome that. It has always been in the mind of the Government 978 that there should be the fullest cooperation between the permanent engineers and the inspecting engineers. It is quite obvious that that is the common sense of the position. The permanent engineer is not a person who is at enmity with the inspecting engineer. Very often he will welcome him. There have been cases of these big undertakings not valuing sufficiently the technical authority of their permanent engineer and sometimes overlooking his advice. If he, under Statute, can call in the assistance of an inspecting engineer of equal or, if possible, greater eminence, it will be a very great comfort to him, and it will tend to what is the purpose of the Bill—greater security for the public from the escape of water from reservoirs and, in the worst case, from disaster. If the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgernan, will be satisfied with my assurance that the Government are prepared to bring forward an Amendment to provide specifically for the co-operation of the permanent engineer in statutory inspections and reports, I can give him an assurance that that will be forthcoming on the Report stage of this Bill.
I think in a sense that meets the point of the noble Viscount, Lord FitzAlan, but not altogether. He was talking about expense and who was going to pay. I am not prepared to go into the details of that at this moment. The only remark I made was that the course suggested by Lord Banbury would cost more money. I did not say who would pay. It undoubtedly would cost more money. It may cost the undertakers more money, it may cost the local authority more money, I do not know whom it might not cost more money. But undoubtedly the expense would be greater, because in his own Amendment he suggests a number of people who would have to be consulted. They are all professional people who would naturally require payment and would have a right to it. If the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, will accept my assurance on the point about bringing forward an Amendment on the Report stage specifically to provide for cooperation in inspections and reports on undertakings, I can give him that assurance.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
That may be all right, but that does not touch my point. My point is not that there 979 should be co-operation between engineers, not that the engineer would do wrong. My point is that you are creating a precedent by which, instead of going to a court of law with your grievance, or to any qualified and well known body accustomed to deal with matters of this sort, you are setting up a referee who is appointed by the Minister to decide cases which are brought against that particular Minister, because it is the Minister who appoints the engineer whose proceedings—
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
The noble Lord says "No," but I have read the clause to him. He puts them on the panel. It is a distinction without a difference. He puts them on the panel. Suppose a man is put on the panel, and presume that he gives a decision which is appealed against: the court to whom his decision is referred is a referee appointed by the Minister who has put the man upon the panel. I really cannot see that that is going to save any money. The expense, as far as I can see—and the noble Lord has brought forward no argument to show that I am wrong—will be just as great before a man of that sort as before the Railway and Canal Commissioners. It creates a precedent which I am sorry to see. I do not know that it has actually been done at the moment, but attempts of that sort have been made, and in my opinion it is so important that I shall certainly go to a Division upon it.
§ LORD DARLING
I am not so sure that the matter is either as plain or as wicked as my noble friend Lord Banbury represents. It seems to be perfectly true, taking the words as they stand, that the Home Secretary puts a certain number of people on the panel. It is not only one person. There are several people from whom selection may be made. Then, says my noble friend, the very person who has put the man on the panel, if there is an appeal chooses somebody to decide that question. But it does not seem to me to be necessarily the case that the same man who has put them on the panel will appoint the person to decide. The Secretary of State for Home Affairs is far from being eternal. He comes and goes. I am not the least 980 satisfied that the same individual who puts the man on the panel will appoint somebody to decide whether the man on the panel has done his duty or whether he has not. But beyond that, as I understand it, if one votes for or against the Amendment one will vote on the question whether the matter shall be dealt with as proposed by the Government in the Bill or whether the question to be decided shall be referred to the Railway and Canal Commissioners. I understand that is the alternative. In that case I shall feel bound to vote against the Amendment.
I have a high regard for the Railway and Canal 'Commissioners, but who are they and what are their qualifications? They are three lawyers. The senior one is a Judge of the High Court appointed, I think, by the Lord Chief Justice, or by the Judges of the High Court, to be president of the Tribunal which is called the Railway and Canal Commission. Who are the others? They have always been lawyers—one of them a barrister, and at one time the other was a solicitor. But there are only two at present. One of them is the Judge who has been appointed, the other is a well-known and highly respected King's Counsel, and the third one, if he is appointed, will take the place of a Commissioner who lately died, who was a lawyer, a Kings' Counsel. I have been a King's Counsel, but I do not think that King's Counsel are better qualified as such, or as well qualified as such, to decide a point of this kind as people having the technical knowledge of engineers. As I understand it that is the alternative. There is no other proposal.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
No, no. I must draw the attention of my noble and learned friend to the clause which says that the Secretary of State shall refer the complaint to such person as he thinks fit. There is nothing about an engineer. He can refer the matter to anybody he likes, even to my noble and learned friend.
§ LORD DARLING
I have not found in the course of my life that lawyers are so universally popular that I can suppose for a moment that, having any kind of choice, the Home Secretary would refer the matter to another lawyer. Practically the only alternative put before your Lordships is between the words as 981 proposed and the Railway and Canal Commissioners, and of the two I prefer and shall vote for, if my noble friend goes to a Division, the proposal in the Bill.
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 3 [Applications to Quarter Sessions]:
Page 5, line 22, after ("keep") insert ("in relation to any large reservoir").—(Lord Thomson.)
§ Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clauses 4 to 11 agreed to.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM moved to insert the following new clause after Clause 11:
§ Saving for Metropolitan Water Board and councils of certain districts.
§ "Nothing in this Act shall apply to any reservoir constructed whether before or after the commencement of this Act and owned by the Metropolitan Water Board or the council of any borough or urban district council having a population, for the time being, according to the published returns of the last census, of fifty thousand or upwards."
§ The noble Lord said: The object of this Amendment is to omit from the provisions of the Bill those large undertakings against which, so far as I have982
§ On Question, Whether subsection (7) shall stand part of the clause?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 39; Not-Contents, 9.981
|Salisbury, M.||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)||Doverdale, L.|
|Beauehamp, E.||Mersey, V.||Fairfax of Cameron, L.|
|Denbigh, E.||Novar, V.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)|
|Lauderdale, E.||Hemphill, L.|
|Lucan, E.||Gloucester, L. Bp.||Marks, L. [Teller.]|
|Peel, E.||Marley, L. [Teller.]|
|Plymouth, E.||Alvingham, L.||Olivier, L.|
|Russell, E.||Arnold, L.||Passfield L.|
|Askwith, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Barnard, L.||Ruthven of Gowrie, L.|
|Chaplin, V.||Clinton, L.||Somerleyton, L.|
|Devonport, V.||Darling, L.||Stanmore, L.|
|Eshor, V.||Dickinson, L.||Thomson, L.|
|Hailsham, V.||Dynevor, L.|
|Elibank, V.||Auckland, L.||Danesfort, L.|
|FitzAlan of Derwent, V. [Teller.]||Banbury of Southam, L. [Teller.]||Daresbury, L.|
|Carson, L.||Leigh, L.|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
been able to ascertain, no accident has ever been recorded. The intention is to prevent their being put to the unnecessary expense which the ratepayers—because, in the case of all these bodies that I wish to omit from the Bill, it is the ratepayers who will have to pay—will have to bear in having their reservoirs inspected by another engineer. The noble Lord, in introducing the Bill, gave two instances why this Bill was necessary. One was a case in Wales some five years ago and the other was a case in Scotland. It may be that in the cases to which he alluded it is necessary to have some safeguard and, therefore, I leave those cases to be dealt with by the Bill. All I do is to exempt the large reservoirs of the large undertakings, against which, so far as I have been able to ascertain, there has never been any complaint, from an unnecessary expense. This ought to recommend itself to the noble Lord who was most anxious not to spend money a few moments ago. It will relieve the already overburdened ratepayers from finding unnecessary expenditure for engineers no better qualified than their engineers themselves. I have a letter here, which I received this morning, from the Association of Municipal Associations which I shall be glad to show him if he would care to see it. It concludes in the following terms:—
Your new clause is no doubt excellent and, if it can be secured, it will undoubtedly go a long way to remove all our objections.
I shall be very glad to give this letter to him if he cares to see it. I hope that in those circumstances he will accept my Amendment.
After Clause 11 insert the said new clause. —(Lord Banbury of Southam.)
§ LORD THOMSON
The undertakers who wrote to the noble Lord would no doubt be pleased if this Amendment were passed because it would wreck the Bill. This is a Public Bill not a Private Bill. Its purpose and its object is to provide precautions in respect of all reservoirs throughout this country, to amend the law with respect to compensation due to damage done by the escape of water, and also to reassure public opinion. It is a Public Bill applying to every reservoir throughout the land and to make exemptions in favour of certain undertakings because they are large would be illogical, very arbitrary and somewhat sweeping. The noble Lord seems to think that, because a reservoir is a big one and is put up and maintained by a large undertaking like the Metropolitan Water Board, it is necessarily safe, or safer than a small one. I do not think experience shows that this is the case. No one wishes to impugn the efficiency or the public spirit of these large undertakings, but, as a matter of fact, the more important and the larger they are the more necessary it is that the reservoirs, or whatever the construction may be, should be absolutely safe. As regards the expense to individuals in the areas affected, if all the costs arising out of this Bill were spread over the whole area of the Metropolitan Water Board the effects would be inappreciable.
Repeated efforts have been made by the authorities at the Home Office to get some formula which would meet the objections raised by the Metropolitan Water Board, for example, who waited on the Home Office and put their case and were asked if they had a suggestion to make. Nothing was forthcoming, nothing that meets the case. The formula which is required is one which will be applicable to every reservoir throughout the country. To exempt in this fashion something because it is large is almost as illogical as the case of the lady who 984 had erred and excused herself in mitigation because the offspring was very small. We cannot make these exemptions in a Public Bill; it is quite impossible. To show that the danger of slackness in these matters is pressing in this problem may I cite a case that has been given to me? The local authority of a large town lately proposed to employ their permanent engineer to construct a new reservoir although it was doubtful whether he was sufficiently qualified for this difficult task. The sanction of a Government Department for a loan for the amount of the works was not required. A grant in aid of the work was sought from the Unemployment Grants Committee, who, on the advice of the Ministry of Health, were able to bring effective pressure to bear on the local authority to call in another engineer to express his opinion. Otherwise they threatened to withhold a grant.
There is no accusation against public bodies as a whole, but there is evidence of the fact that it is desirable to insist on these precautions being taken. I cannot possibly accept the Amendment. It defeats the whole purpose of the Bill. It treats it as though it were a Private Bill applicable only to special purposes, whereas this is a provision designed to apply to every reservoir and every similar construction throughout the land. There must be general legislation in regard to such a matter without exemptions. I hope the noble Lord will not press his Amendment because it will be impossible to accept it.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
I should have thought there was much more to be said for exempting very small reservoirs than very large ones, and I was going to ask the noble Lord opposite whether he could not provide some clause which would have prevented what seemed to be a good deal of unnecessary work being put upon a man who wanted to put up a small reservoir merely to provide electric power or light for his farm or house. You must put a limit below which these precautions are unnecessary. I believe that, however small a reservoir is, it would be liable for damages if it burst and therefore its builder has to consider that risk and to try to make it safe. I do not quite know what five million gallons looks like when you see it. I know a gallon but I have not the least idea what five million or five hundred thousand gallons 985 would look like in a pool of water. I do not know if the noble Lord could tell us in dimensions of this House how full this House would be if five million gallons or five hundred thousand gallons were in it.
There is something to be said for the small man. My noble friend Lord Banbury says, quite rightly, that the risk with these very large and important undertakings is very small. At the same time, if anything goes wrong with a large reservoir, whether it belongs to a large municipal undertaking or not, though they are almost always a long way from the town they do just as much harm as, or more than, the bursting of a small one. I do not want this Bill to be lost and I would like to ask the noble Lord whether he has considered the possibility of putting a limit below which these precautions are not necessary—one hundred thousand gallons or something comparatively small?
§ VISCOUNT FITZALAN OF DERIVENT
With reference to the two cases which have been mentioned, I understand that the whole of this Bill is founded upon the two deplorable accidents which occurred at these reservoirs. Were those reservoirs constructed under statutory authority or not? It might make a difference if you limited this Bill to reservoirs constructed without statutory authority.
§ LORD THOMSON
I am not able to tell the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, exactly what 5,000,000 gallons look like. I have never thought about the matter. And I am afraid I have not considered, either, the question of the small reservoir being exempted. After all, what this Amendment amounts to is that these large undertakings, like Metropolitan Water Board and county borough council undertakings, should be exempted from all the provisions of the Bill. These provisions are not very exacting, whether for large or small reservoirs. They provide merely for ten-yearly inspections. I really cannot see that it is much of a grievance on a man, even if he has only 100,000 gallons in his reservoir, that he should submit to an inspection every ten years.
§ LORD THOMSON
I quite agree, but I do not think it is a very great exaction that he should have an inspector in. It reassures the public in the neighbourhood as to what may happen to themselves and their property. With regard to undertakings which have got statutory authority, there was a good deal of discussion about that on Second Reading. It was held that in some cases the undertaking acting under statutory authority would, in the case of disaster, not be liable to pay compensation.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Can the noble Lord inform us, in reference to small reservoirs, whether the limit goes down so far as to include a little store of water on a farm? I quite agree that with any considerable reservoir a ten-yearly inspection is a very small matter, but in regard to a small private store of water it might be a heavy fine. Perhaps the noble Lord will consider that point?
§ LORD THOMSON
I certainly will consider it, though I confess frankly I do not know down to what level this Bill applies. I should imagine from reading it that it applied to everything in the nature of a reservoir. As regards the point raised by the noble Viscount, Lord FitzAlan, the disaster in Wales, as I understand it, was not caused by a reservoir into which water had been pumped, but was in a valley across which a dam had been built, and which was filled by the flow of water from the hills—a much more dangerous kind of construction, I should imagine. But between the two recommendations, that there should be exemption on the ground of smallness and exemption on the ground of largeness, I confess my sympathies are with the very small ones, as described by the noble Marquess. But the larger exemption asked for by the noble Lord, Lord Banbury, is, I am afraid, quite impossible, because it really defeats the whole purpose of the Bill.
§ LORD DANESFORT
Did I understand the noble Lord to say that there were only two or three cases in which accidents had occurred from reservoirs being improperly or carelessly constructed? And were these cases, as the noble Viscount, Lord FitzAlan, asked, reservoirs which have been constructed under statutory authority? If those were the 987 only cases, and those were reservoirs not constructed under statutory authority, surely it is rather a strong measure to bring in a Bill laying down that in the case of reservoirs constructed by local authorities which have never had an injury in the whole course of their existence they should be subject to restrictions which are necessary in the case of others. One would have thought that if you wished to apply the provisions of this Bill to reservoirs constructed by local authorities and others you would have had to make some case for it, and to show that there was some danger arising from reservoirs so constructed. But if you find that for generations past these local authorities have built and maintained reservoirs, and that there has never been an accident, surely it is rather an excessive action on the part of Parliament to put them under all these restrictions, although they have never done anything wrong. And I thought it was invariably the case, when you wished to restrict an individual or a company in the legitimate action which they are able to take by law, that you made out a case for it. In the instance referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Banbury, no case has been made out, and therefore I would suggest that they should be left out.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
As regards size, unless I read the Bill wrongly, it only applies to large reservoirs. In the margin of Clause 1 it is written "Precautions to be observed in the construction of large reservoirs," and again in reference to Clause 2 "Periodical inspection of large reservoirs," and afterwards the Bill gives a definition of what a large reservoir is.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
I am sorry the noble Lord persists in his attitude, because no case has been made out for including these large reservoirs. They have been constructed under statutory authority by competent people, and there is no reason why the ratepayers of London and other large towns should be put to the expense of having their reservoirs periodically inspected by somebody who is no better qualified than their own engineer. We all know what happens when a person is appointed to inspect something. He has got to say something, otherwise people will ask: 988 "What is the good of you if you cannot find anything wrong?" He is there to find out something. Moreover, all experts disagree. Even lawyers disagree among themselves. It is a rare thing for a gentleman learned in the law to make a statement in the House of Commons without another gentleman learned in the law getting up and contradicting his learned brother. That has been my experience. Experts always disagree with each other, and the result will be unnecessary expense to the ratepayer.
The noble Lord has admitted that in the case in Wales it was not a reservoir at all but a dam constructed across a valley. There was a sudden fall of rain, and that caused a large quantity of water to flow between the hills and burst the dam. The other case was in Scotland, but the noble Lord did not give us any particulars. As to the case he mentioned just now, he admitted that the corporation, when spoken to, changed their tactics, and everything was all right. Therefore, on his own showing there is no necessity for putting the ratepayers of London, Manchester, Liverpool and other large towns to this expense.
§ LORD DANESFORT
Would the noble Lord be kind enough to answer the question I put to him? Are there any cases on record of accidents arising from reservoirs except those two, or at most three, which have been mentioned?
§ LORD THOMSON
The argument that because these accidents have been rare, fortunately, we should not take reasonable precautions now to make them impossible as far as we can in the future, seems to me rather a weak one. There 989 have been two startling disasters, and there have been many minor cases brought to the notice of the Home Office in the past few years. I am afraid I have not a list of them, but that is undoubted and undisputed. In the more distant past there have been serious disasters of a similar kind. All that this aims at doing is to make these accidents impossible as far as is practicable, to reassure public opinion and to provide for compensation. It does not raise any new principle at all.
§ VISCOUNT FITZALAN OF DERWENT
In the cases where accidents have occurred, were the reservoirs constructed under statutory authority or not? That is my question.
§ LORD THOMSON
I could not tell the noble Lord that. It is very difficult to say. The whole matter has been considered. Statutory authority may be up to a point a certain safeguard, but undertakings which are set up under statutory authority surely can afford to pay these very small expenses of a ten-yearly inspection. That is all that is asked of them.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (LORD PARMOOR)
I might say this in answer to the noble Viscount. Perhaps he recollects the case of the Sheffield reservoir where there was terrible destruction. Of course, it was some years ago, but I think it is a notorious case in the history of those years.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Remaining clause agreed to.