HL Deb 17 May 1934 vol 92 cc500-17

Further considered on Report (according to Order).

Clause 3:

Provisions as to compulsory acquisition of rights to enter on land, etc.

3.—(1) Part I of the Mines (Working Facilities and Support) Act, 1923, as amended by any subsequent enactment, shall apply for the purpose of enabling a person holding a licence under this Act to acquire such ancillary rights as may be required for the exercise of the rights granted by the licence, and shall have effect accordingly, subject to the following modifications:—

  1. (a) references to a person having a right to work minerals shall include references to a person holding a licence under this Act, references to minerals shall include references to petroleum, and references to the working of minerals shall include references to the getting, carrying away, storing, treating and converting of petroleum;
  2. (b) without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) of section three of the said Act, the ancillary rights therein mentioned shall include (in addition to the rights specified in subsection (2) of that section) a right to enter upon land and to sink bore holes therein for the purpose of searching for and getting petroleum, and a right to use and occupy land for the erection of such buildings, the laying and maintenance of such pipes, and the construction of such other works as may be required for the purpose of searching and boring for and getting, carrying away, storing, treating and converting petroleum:

Provided that where a right to lay and maintain pipes under a highway is granted by virtue of this subsection, Sections nineteen to twenty-eight and thirty to thirty-four of the Waterworks Clauses Act, 1847, shall be incorporated in the order granting the right, subject to any modifications or adaptations specified in the order.

(2) In relation to any application made to the Railway and Canal Commission under Part I of the said Act, as applied by this section, the following provisions shall have effect:

  1. (a) the Commission shall, in deciding whether to grant any right applied for or what terms and conditions, if any, should be imposed upon the grant of such a right, have regard, among other considerations, to the effect on the amenities of the locality of the proposed use and occupation of the land in respect of which the right is applied for:
  2. (b) in determining the amount of any compensation to be paid in respect of the grant of any right, an additional allowance of not less than 10 per cent. shall be made on account of the acquisition of the right being compulsory:
  3. (c) time costs in connection with the application incurred by the applicant shall not be ordered to be paid by any person from whom a right is sought to be obtained; and the costs so incurred by each such person shall, unless the Commission is satisfied that an unconditional offer in writing was made by the applicant to that person of a sum as compensation equal to or greater than the amount of any compensation awarded to him by the Commission, be ordered to be paid by the applicant.

LORD RANKEILLOUR moved to leave out subsection (1). The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg formally to move the omission of subsection (1) in order to clear up a matter on which I hope the noble Marquess will be able to convince me that I am wrong in my reading of the Bill. During the debates it seems to have been assumed that when a licensee got his licence he would have to go to the Railway and Canal Commissioners to satisfy them as to the way in which the work was to be carried out. I confess I also was under that impression, but it appears, as a result of Tuesday's debate, that that would not necessarily be so at all. The licensee will get his licence from the Board of Trade and, if he can persuade the landowners on whose land he wishes to construct works, there will be no application whatever to the Commissioners. I think that is made plain by what was said by the noble Viscount the Leader of the House. He said that the licensee has to persuade some landowner within the area covered by his licence to allow him to go on his Lind on such terms as are reasonable. It is only in the event of his being unable to do that that he goes to the Railway and Canal Commission and asks the Commission to give him the right to go on the land on whatever are reasonable terms. That safeguards the position as regards the actual landowners on whose land works are to be constructed, but what of the position of the neighbouring landowners, and what of the position of the public in the neighbourhood?

It appears to me that they have no opportunity to protest. A man on whose land it is proposed to construct a refinery may protest, and then the Commissioners will judge; but if he is arranged with, in popular parlance "squared," his neighbour's property close by may be affected to any extent and deterioration may be suffered, and that neighbour will, apparently, have no compensation, and will be unable to get an opportunity to protest. Moreover, the public of the neighbourhood, apparently, do not come in at all. There are provisions about the amenity of the neighbourhood, but that is only if the Commissioners come in. If the particular landowners are arranged with, the Commissioners will not come in. I think I know what the noble Marquess is likely to say. He will say that under the Act of 1918 and under the whole Act of 1923 this is the procedure, but I submit that that is not a sufficient answer. With regard to the Act of 1918, I think it is a flaw in the measure that neighbouring owners and the public had no opportunity of preventing the boring. Anyhow, even if that is so, I think the existing operations are capable of raising the time-honoured defence that they are very little ones. But that is a very different proposition from the great developments that apparently are now to take place.

As for the analogy of coal, that is misleading altogether. There is all the difference between coal and oil. Coal is solid; oil is liquid. Coal is not borne by pipes as oil is. Coal does not percolate through strata and pollute water, and, it may be, destroy fish. The operations with regard to coal proceed upon well proved strata, and the people concerned in the neighbourhood know the extent of the operations, at any rate more or less, but the operations with regard to oil are entirely unknown. They are experimental, and no one can say what the result would be to the neighbourhood as a whole and what the result would be to the neighbouring owners. It seems to me that you may have this procedure. First of all there would be a licence granted in secret. Then there would be the actual landowners, whose land is to be taken, arranged with, perhaps also in secret, and the result might be in the end the devastation of the countryside without the people of that countryside, who are not the actual landowners, having any say in the matter. It may be that somewhere there are words latent in one of the Acts which will put this right and avert the danger, but in view of what the Leader of the House said, and in view of the text of the Bill, it appears to me, that the danger is pressing. I therefore beg to move the Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 15, leave out subsection (1).—(Lord Rankeillour.)


May I point out that there are some Amendments to be saved?


Yes, on page 3, line 15, there is an Amendment of the noble Lord.


My Lords, I certainly cannot quarrel with my noble friend for raising these points in your Lordships' House. I think it right and proper that someone with experience should look very carefully into a measure of this description, and endeavour to obtain satisfactory answers from the Government in relation to all its proposals. The noble Lord began his criticism of this Bill by doing everything he could to safeguard the position of the landowners. Now he moves away from that position and desires to safeguard the public from a conspiracy which may eventuate between the licensee and the landlord. I am sure we have every reason to be grateful for the noble Lord's intervention, but the noble Lord, in moving this Amendment, I think desires to call attention to the fact that where a licensee obtains by voluntary arrangements with landowners rights over land which are necessary for his operations, there is no provision in the Bill for safeguarding the amenities of the locality or for dealing with questions of compensation for what is known as injurious affection. In order to make the position clear it would perhaps be as well if I were briefly to explain why the Mines (Working Facilities) Act, 1923, was passed.

The noble Lord has already said he knows the answer I am going to give, and I congratulate him on his knowledge in all these matters. As a result of several inquiries connected with mining operations in this country there was a consensus of opinion, to which the organised bodies representing owners of mineral rights subscribed, that in some instances those who desired to work minerals were faced with real and substantial difficulties in securing those rights of access which were necessary if operations were to be carried on. These difficulties do not always arise from the unwillingness of landowners to grant rights. There are cases where the persons with power to grant the right, cannot be ascertained or found. Or there may he numerous owners with conflicting interests, and instances where the person from whom the right must be obtained has not the necessary power of disposition because of some defect of title or legal disability. Lastly, there may be persons who for no reason at all but quite capriciously are deter mined to withhold the right. By passing the Act of 1923, a Conservative Parliament decided that where it could be shown to the satisfaction of the Railway and Canal Commission, a properly constituted Court of Law. that difficulties did exist which could not be overcome for any of the reasons referred to, the Commission could, where it considered it to be in the national interest to do so, grant a right.

But quite clearly, the passing of that Act was not intended to interfere with the right of landowners and those engaged in working minerals to come to voluntary arrangements. In fact, it is made amply clear in that Act that just the opposite was the intention of Parliament. Section 4 of the Act states that: Neither the right to work minerals nor an ancillary right shall be granted under this Act unless it is shown that it is not reasonably practicable to obtain the right in question by private arrangement… That precisely is the position which the present Bill provides. We in this country have a very large mining industry the carrying out of which is of vital importance to us. The opening up of the mining operations in any new locality is necessarily accompanied by certain features which those who have not previously been directly associated with such operations may regard as offensive. But with our long experience in these matters, and the high state of efficiency with which the operations are ordinarily carried on, these disadvantages are reduced to a minimum. And there is no reason why the work of developing oil, if properly carried out, should give rise to any more unfavourable features than other mining operations.

The noble Lord has specified various matters which he claims belong to the oil industry of which a great majority of us know very little. I certainly hope that his gloomy forebodings will not be justified, and from the information I have received I understand there is really no substance in those forebodings which he has uttered in the speech he has just delivered. Indeed, with the aid of the provisions of this Bill, the local disturbance in connection with the finding of oil may be considerably less than the local disturbance which has obtained in operations which have followed the winning of coal in this country. In order, however, to meet any possible criticism that this would not be the case, the provisions of subsection (2) of Clause 3, which are supplemental to those in the Mines (Working Facilities) Act, have been inserted in the Bill, and are brought into operation in those cases where any question of the compulsory acquisition of an ancillary right arises. It would not, in the view of the Government, and on this matter they believe they will have the full support of Parliament, be practicable to apply those provisions to cases where voluntary arrangements are made. To do so would constitute a much wider and more serious interference with private rights than arises under the Act of 1923, or than the Government could possibly contemplate.

I hope that the reply which I have endeavoured to give to the noble Lord will satisfy him. I am quite prepared to say that, having necessarily gone very closely into this Bill, the ideas which have arisen in the noble Lord's mind have also arisen in mine, but from the investigations I have had the opportunity of making and from the information which I have received, I feel that those fears which he has in mind are really not founded on fact. I hope that this explanation will be satisfactory to the noble Lord.


My Lords, of course this Amendment was moved merely pro forma in order to raise this point, and I shall not press it. I am bound to say, however, that my worst forebodings are justified. It is clear now that if particular landowners are squared, their neighbours have no chance whatever of making any representations, nor have the public through the local authority or otherwise. I submit that that is a very serious position, but I do not press the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD RANKEILLOUR had given Notice to move, in paragraph (a) of subsection (2), after "considerations," to insert "to the fitness of the holders of the licence or the greater fitness of other persons to undertake the works." The noble Lord said: My Lords, I do not move the whole of this Amendment because I quite recognise that at this stage it is no use asking for further public inquiry as to the fitness of com peting licensees; but the noble Marquess said the other day that it would be competent for the Commissioners to satisfy themselves as to the fitness of the particular licensee and that they would consider that before granting the application. I therefore move only to insert the words "to the fitness of the holders of the licence."

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 15, after ("considerations") insert ("to the fitness of the holders of the licence").—(Lord Rankeillour.)


My Lords, it is the practice of the Commission to require an applicant for an ancillary right to furnish evidence of financial stability and to satisfy themselves that he can comply with any terms and conditions which the Commission may attach to the grant of a right applied for. But inasmuch as the Board of Trade would not grant a licence to more than one person in respect of the same area, no question would arise at that stage of the greater fitness of other persons. Some working obligations would be imposed on all licensees. If a licensee failed to carry out those obligations because of failure to satisfy the Commission as to the grant of rights applied for, and he also failed to make suitable arrangements on a voluntary basis with any landowner in the area, it follows that he would be unable to comply with the conditions of his licence and would be compelled to surrender it. It would then be open to some other person to apply for a licence in respect of that area. I would venture to suggest therefore that this Amendment is really not necessary.


I am not satisfied, but I do not press the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

THE EARL OF ANCASTER moved, after paragraph (a) in subsection (2), to insert the following new paragraph: (b) Where ancillary rights are granted the Commission shall provide for compensation to be paid to owners, lessees and occupiers of land in the locality which may he affected injuriously by the grant and working of ancillary rights, the amount of such compensation in default of agreement to be determined by the Commission.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, this Amendment, I think, covers a good deal of the ground which was covered by the noble Lord, Lord Rankeillour, when he moved his Amendment to leave out subsection (1). The object which I have in view is this. I think it is quite probable that after oil has been found and the works have been started, a good deal of damage will be done to persons or property in the vicinity of the works which could not have been anticipated in the first instance. The noble Marquess, in reply to the points put forward by Lord Rankeillour, gave us a very clear explanation of the working of the Act of 1923, and showed that that Act was largely framed on the idea that a neighbouring landowner should not unreasonably hold up access to the locality where it was proposed to start a coal or other mine, and that compensation was to be given to those people when their land was taken. I think that hardly applies to the present case. The whole of this clause as I understand it appears to me to he drawn up with the idea that the time for paying compensation is when entry is made upon the land in order either to bore for oil or to put up refineries or for other ancillary objects.

If voluntary agreement were not arrived at, I think it is very doubtful indeed whether the amount of damage which was done would be agreed. Boring for oil may necessitate a large plant, but I imagine that it means nothing to be compared with a huge factory or pipe line. I may be a bit of an optimist, but I hope that oil will be found, and the point of the whole Bill is that if oil is found in paying quantities, as I hope it may be, the only people who are going to get anything out of it are the Crown and the licensee who has very properly gone to expense to bore the hole and to find the oil. We take the view that those are the two people who ought to benefit, and indirectly I hope the taxpayer also will benefit from the discovery of this valuable mineral. But. I do think that there are other people to consider, and in the whole of this clause I do not see that there is one word about granting compensation to any of those other parties—not only owners of the land but any persons who may be in the vicinity and may have an interest in the vicinity —if the district is ruined by the erection of a very large refinery and the carrying on of all the commercial activities which no doubt would ensue from the discovery of oil.

I am no expert, I am sure, upon finding oil; I do not even know what an oilfield looks like. No doubt some noble Lords have had the advantage of seeing an oil-field, but from what I read in books I imagine that if oil is discovered and a refinery is started, and the oil is turned into something which can be used in general manufacture, a great deal of dirt and slimy substance remains, not only within a, mile or two of the area, but very likely up to ten or fifteen miles from the area. In addition to this, I am told that it is rather difficult to make a pipe line conveying oil absolutely oil-tight. It may happen that, all the arrangements having been come to by the landowners and compensation paid for putting down the oil pipe, in two or three years time leaks may occur in the oil pipe and the oil may run into some small brook or burn and, very likely, spoil the water supply of some neighbouring village or town. So far as I can see, there is in this Bill absolutely no provision made for compensation to anybody who may suffer in that respect.

It is an entirely different point, I think, from the actual damage which may be done in first of all seeking for the oil and, when the oil is found, in erecting the refineries and putting down the oil pipes and other things which may he necessary. I think ought to be made clear that the Commission, when they are dealing with this question of compensation, should be able to provide that if in the future grave damage is done, not to neighbouring landowners alone, but to any of the inhabitants of the area or people interested in the neighbourhood, there should be some means of their being able to compensate those people for what might perhaps be very serious damage. I do not know whether the words which I have moved to insert represent the best way of putting such a provision into the Bill, but I think that there is a general feeling throughout the country that, with no wish to prevent anything possible being done in order to discover oil, yet at the same time, as nobody else but the Crown and the licensee are to get anything out of it, it is only reasonable that by the Crown or the licensee some provision should be made for those in the neighbourhood who are likely to suffer grievous harm from having perhaps the whole face of the country altered from its present condition. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 18, at end insert the said new paragraph.—(The Earl of Ancaster.)


My Lords, I hope some light may be thrown upon this question by a noble and learned Lord, but I should have imagined (though I may be wrong) that people in the neighbourhood who suffered serious damage to their property from these oil wells would have had Common Law rights, and those rights, I should suppose, are very considerable. I venture to suggest to the noble Earl who has moved this Amendment that if we make this provision for compensation, not only to landowners but to anybody in the neighbourhood who fancies himself prejudicially affected by the presence of the oil well, we shall really make it quite impossible for anybody to get oil at all. There would be a flood of claims, and many of them would have very little basis.


My Lords, the Bill provides in subsection 2 (a) of Clause 3 that: the Commission shall, in deciding whether to grant any right applied for or what terms and conditions, if any, should be imposed upon the grant of such a right, have regard …. to the effect on the amenities of the locality of the proposed use and occupation of the land in respect of which the right is applied for. These provisions in this Bill are entirely new, and are designed to ensure that so far as practicable the amenities of the locality shall be preserved. The Amendment which my noble friend is proposing appears to go much further than this, and to raise the question of the interests of third parties. I think I pointed out during the debate in Committee, in reply to a similar Amendment which was moved by the noble Lord, Lord Strachie, that the question of third parties was carefully considered by the Government when the Bill was drafted, and it was decided that these third parties must be left, as the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, said, to their rights at Common Law in the event of damage or nuisance arising.

If injurious affection is likely to arise, it may equally happen whether the operations are to be carried on by a licensee who has secured access to land by a voluntary arrangement with a landowner, or whether that access has been gained by an order of the Court. In the first place any persons injuriously affected would have to rely on their Common Law rights. It seems to me that there is no reason why this should not also be the case where the Court grants a right. The specific cases which the noble Earl mentioned seem to me, and I should have thought would have seemed to him, with his knowledge of the law, to be cases in which redress could be obtained at Common Law. If the surface is injuriously affected those owners over whose land the pipe line is laid would come under the proceedings of this Bill, and one would imagine that the question of compensation would be decided at the beginning of the proceedings, but if there is a leakage in the pipe, and if the ground is injuriously affected, it seems to me that under the Common Law practice of this country they would have their rights retained for them at Common Law.

One knows quite well that in the development of industry in this country, where for instance coal mines have been sunk and houses have been built, many of the amenities of rural districts have been affected, and that when they have been grievously affected there is redress to be obtained at Common Law. I can hardly think that in the boring for oil and the development of an industry of this description these rights are not safeguarded, and will not be maintained by an action which the individual is capable of taking at Common Law. In those circumstances I hope the noble Earl will see that all those interests which he is trying to preserve and safeguard will be maintained and safeguarded by the law as it at present exists in this country.


After the explanation of the noble Marquess, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD RANKEILLOUR moved, after subsection (2), to insert: (3) The Commission shall hold a local inquiry before granting any application under this section if required by any local authority having jurisdiction within three miles of any of the contemplated works.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am afraid that a good deal of the value of this Amendment has disappeared, because it is governed by the supposition and assumption that there will be sittings of the Commissioners and applications to them. In many cases we now know for certain that will not be the case. Still, if there is a sitting of the Commissioners, and an application, I cannot help thinking that the local authority should have the right to demand that there should be a local inquiry. I submit that the Railway and Canal Commissioners, sitting in London, are not in the best position to judge what will be the effect on the neighbourhood of a proposition like this, and I think the local authority, representing the people of the neighbourhood, ought to be able to insist that they should come and hear the views of the people on the spot.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 34, at end, insert the said new subsection.—(Lord Rankeillour.)


My Lords, under the Mines (Working Facilities) Act, 1923, the Railway and Canal Commission have power to hold a local inquiry "by any one of their members, or by an officer of the Commission, or other person whom they may direct to hold the same". Under that Act a person desiring to secure the grant of an ancillary right has first of all to apply to the Board of Trade, and amongst other things, the Act imposes on the Board of Trade the duty of sending a copy of the application to any local authority who appears to the Board to be affected "in order to enable them to take such steps as they think fit for placing their views before the Commission". The Railway and Canal Commission is a properly constituted Court of Law, presided over by a Judge of the High Court, and I venture to submit that it can be relied on to use its powers of holding a local inquiry if satisfied that it is necessary to do so. I think the noble Lord will agree with me when I say that it would seem to be improper to allow a local authority, which might be a party to proceedings before the Court, to dictate to the Court where the Court should carry out its investigations. I think, if I can persuade the noble Lord to have confidence in this properly constituted Court of Law, he will see that no such danger as he has anticipated can possibly arise.


My Lords, I wonder whether the Government would consider the framing of an Amendment on the Third Reading to provide that regard shall be had, so far as practicable, to any housing and town-planning scheme? I take it that it might be possible to tap oil at different points, and I think it is only right that such special schemes should be taken into account in the operation of this Bill.


My Lords, I think the point that the noble Earl has put forward is one which is very worthy of consideration. I can assure him that this matter has come before us, but to satisfy the noble Earl I can promise him that I will again go into the matter between now and the Third Reading, and if it is considered desirable we will bring forward an Amendment.


I will not press my Amendment in view of what the noble Marquess has said. I will only say that if the Commissioners have the right to hold a local inquiry they never have held one, as a matter of fact.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD RANKEILLOUR had on the Paper an Amendment, after subsection (2), to insert the following new subsection: (3) Draft rules of procedure for applications under this section shall be made by the Commissioners and laid before both Houses of Parliament not less than three months before the commencement of this Act, and shall have effect unless an Address is presented to His Majesty by either House of Parliament praying for their annulment in whole or part within the ensuing twenty-eight days on which that House has sat.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, inasmuch as the Commissioners will not come in at all the importance of my Amendment is largely lost, and I will not move it.

Clause 6:

Power to make regulations.

6.—(1) The Board of Trade shall make regulations prescribing—

  1. (a) the manner in which and the persons by whom applications for licences under this Act may be made;
  2. (b) the fees to be paid on any such application;
  3. (c) the conditions as to the size and shape of areas in respect of which licences may be granted;
  4. 514
  5. (d) model clauses which shall, unless the Board think fit to modify or exclude them in any particular case, be incorporated in any such licence;
and different regulations may be made for different kinds of licence.

(2) Any regulations made under this section shall be laid before each House of Parliament as soon as may be after they are made, and if either House, within the next subsequent twenty-eight days on which that House has sat after any such regulations are laid before it, resolves that the regulations shall be annulled, the regulations shall thenceforth be void, but without prejudice to anything previously done thereunder or to the making of new regulations.

LORD RANKEILLOUR moved, in subsection (1), after "shall," to insert "not less than three months before the commencement of this Act." The noble Lord said: My Lords, a great deal of the importance of this Bill lies in the proceedings of the Board of Trade in issuing licences. I submit that Parliament ought to keep its control to this extent, that before the measure comes into operation it shall know on what lines the Board of Trade are going to act; for instance, in regard to the persons who may apply, and so on, and what preference, if any, may be given to a particular class of applicant beyond others. At present the Board of Trade need not make such regulations at all, but they may do so for their own protection, and if they do so f submit that before the Act comes into operation Parliament should know what those regulations are, and that after the Act comes into operation they shall not be changed without the knowledge and consent of Parliament.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 14, after ("shall") insert ("not less than three months before the commencement of this Act").—(Lord Rankeillour.)


My Lords, this is the first of four Amendments on the same subject standing in the name of my noble friend. By these Amendments he apparently seeks to secure by the use of different words something which he sought to do by an Amendment moved on the Committee stage, which your Lordships did not accept. By the last of the four Amendments, my noble friend proposes that the new Act shall not come into force until the 1st January, 1935. By the first of the Amendments he requires the Board of Trade to make regulations not less than three months before the commencement of the Act; that is to say, the regulations would have to be made not later than the 30th September next. By the third Amendment it is provided that the regulations must be laid before Parliament in draft, and that they shall only have effect if they have laid before both Houses of Parliament for twenty-eight sitting days, and that during that period no Address has been presented to His Majesty by either House praying for their annulment. It is not possible to say at this stage when, if the Bill is passed, it will receive the Royal Assent. This depends on the state of Parliamentary business and when the Session will end. One cannot therefore be certain that regulations could be made three months before the 1st. January, 1935.

The noble Lord's Amendment on the Committee stage had the merit of containing a clear-cut proposal. Regulations were to be laid in draft and could not be effective until they had lain for twenty-eight sitting days in both Houses of Parliament. But this is still secured by the third of the noble Lord's present Amendments, and it is not clear really why the first and fourth of the Amendments are put forward; unless the noble Lord feels that, as the House rejected his earlier Amendment, it is advisable to submit an Amendment somewhat different in form for discussion on the Report stage. There is a further difference in form, although not apparently in substance, in that in the earlier Amendment a Resolution of the House was provided for and in the present Amendment an Address to His Majesty is necessary. If the Government or the House wished to change its mind on this point—although I would venture to say there is no real ground for doing so—the earlier Amendment is preferable to the present series of Amendments. I would, however, point out that as the Bill now stands it declares that the Board of Trade shall—not "may"—make regulations.

I would suggest that the Bill as drafted provides an effective Parliamentary control, while at the same time it allows only such latitude to the Board of Trade as reasonable and effective administration requires. Under the Bill, both Houses of Parliament have a period of twenty-eight sitting days in which to consider regulations made by the Board of Trade, and they can if they take exception to the regulations annul them. The only difference between the Bill and my noble friend's proposal is that under the Bill the regulations might have been made and some action might have been taken under them before Parliament could have considered them. But to claim that this is wrong really implies that the Board of Trade, which has precisely similar powers under a number of other important Acts of Parliament and even in certain cases the right to make regulations which have not to be submitted for Parliamentary approval, cannot be trusted to exercise these powers in a proper manner under this Bill.

If Clause 6 gave the Board of Trade power to make general regulations, without any restriction on the matters which might be dealt with, a substantial case might be made for requiring the prior approval of Parliament. But the clause specifies very definitely the matters in respect of which regulations may be made. After the first regulations have been made, whether or not prior approval by Parliament is provided for, it may prove desirable, for a perfectly good and practical reason, to alter them and to do this with a minimum of delay. But if my noble friend's Amendments were accepted, this could not be done, at the earliest in much less than three months, and it might take six months. For the reasons given, I suggest that these Amendments should not be accepted.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

Clause 10:


10.—(1) Nothing in this Act shall prejudice the right of any person who, at the passing of this Act is using any supply of natural gas for any commercial purpose, to continue to use the gas for that purpose.

(2) Nothing in this Act shall Be construed as imposing any liability on any person where in time course of mining or other lawful operations petroleum is set free.

THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY moved to insert: (3) Nothing in this Act shall be construed as conferring, or as enabling the Board of Trade to confer, on any person, whether acting on behalf of His Majesty or not, any right which he does not enjoy apart from this Act to enter on or interfere with land.

The noble Marquess said: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Strachie, moved an Amendment to Clause 1 on the Committee stage designed to ensure that the Crown should be put in no better position under the Bill than a person who obtained a licence under Clause 2, and who is obliged, if he wishes to enter upon or interfere with land, to obtain an ancillary right under Clause 3. The matter has been considered by the Government's legal advisers, who express the view that the Bill ought not, on any reasonable interpretation, to be open to the construction suggested by Lord Strachie and those noble Lords who supported the Amendment. The Government are, however, anxious to remove any possible doubt which might exist, and accordingly this Amendment has been put down. Lord Strachie had another Amendment, which was designed to make it clear that not only would a licence not give any right to a licensee to interfere with land, but that it would also not give him any right to interfere with minerals, the ownership of which had been divorced from the surface rights. This point also has been considered on this Amendment. The Government are legally advised that the expression "land" includes minerals. This is confirmed by reference to page 24 of the Fifth Edition of "MacSwinney on Mines."

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 24, at end insert the said subsection.—(The Marquess of Londonderry.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to