HL Deb 27 July 1939 vol 114 cc607-15

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee on recommitment of the Bill read.

3.2 p.m.


My Lords, before moving that the House resolve itself into Committee on this Bill I should like to address a few remarks to your Lordships. This Bill is now returned from its examination by a Joint Select Committee, which was under the Chairmanship of my noble friend the Chairman of Committees in your Lordships' House. The Committee's Report, which is now before the House, shows that the Committee heard evidence from as many as forty-two witnesses who appeared on behalf of the Government Departments concerned, the associations representing local authorities, water undertakers, catchment and fishery boards, the main line railway companies, canal undertakers, landowners and industry; also some individual water undertakers, including the Metropolitan Water Board, and various classes of water users, including private individuals. As a result of the Committee's exhaustive examination of the Bill some 270 Amendments have been recommended. Many of these are of a drafting character. The remainder represent in part Amendments suggested by the Ministry of Health, and in part those suggested on behalf of the various bodies who gave evidence before the Committee. These Amendments will be found on pages 5 to 19 of the Report. All these Amendments have been accepted by the Minister of Health, and are, it is understood, acceptable to the great majority of the interests concerned.

Before telling your Lordships of the nature of the main Amendments recommended, I should perhaps remind your Lordships of the intended scope of this Bill. This Bill is primarily a consolidating Bill, designed to consolidate the existing law. It does, however, introduce a number of amendments to the law designed solely to secure greater simplicity, uniformity, and conciseness. Your Lordships may be interested to learn that it is the intention of the Minister of Health to consider the whole question of water supply, with a view to introducing legislation which will reform and reorganise the existing law. This consolidating Bill which is now before your Lordships' House is a very necessary preliminary to the introduction of such a measure. Your Lordships will therefore see the reasons why the Committee have recommended, for example, that Clause 5 of the Bill should be excluded. This clause placed a duty on water undertakers to supply water for non-domestic purposes if the supply for domestic purposes would not be prejudiced. The Committee's reasons for not including this clause were to the effect that they considered that such a departure from the tenor of this consolidating Bill would be inappropriate. The Committee were not opposed to the provisions of this clause. They recommended, however, that until a measure had been enacted controlling the extraction of water from underground, this new duty should not be placed upon water undertakers. The control of the extraction of underground water will be one of the points to be considered by the Minister when he reviews the question of the reorganising and reforming of the law, about which I have just spoken.

The Committee also recommended that the Metropolitan Water Board should be excluded from the provisions of the Bill. The reasons for the Committee's recommendation are given in the Report. They are, in short, to the effect that as the Board is unique in this country as a water undertaking, many of the provisions of the Bill would not be appropriate for application to the Board, and alternatively many special provisions only applicable to the Board would have to be incorporated in the Bill. The representatives of the Metropolitan Water Board before the Committee agreed that it would be better to exclude the Board from the Bill, and that the Board (which, I understand, is often coming to Parliament) would promote legislation to apply the suitable provisions of the Bill to their area. It has not been considered desirable to incorporate in this Bill the recommendations of Lord Carnock's Committee on the breaking up of streets. As far as I know, none of the other interests concerned—gas, electricity, hydraulic or other undertakers—have fully considered Lord Carnock's report, and it would be inappropriate to give effect to the recommendations until they have been considered by all the interests concerned.

I must make some remarks about the recommended Amendments to Clause 52 of the First Schedule to the Bill. The representatives from the various associations of large and small hotels, boarding houses, restaurants, theatres, as well as several individual owners of such premises, were alarmed by the financial hardships which those of their number who carried out what is called seasonal trade might suffer, if this clause in its present form became law. Under subsection (4) of Clause 52 of the First Schedule—I refer to the Bill which left your Lordships' House after the Second Reading, No. 102—as it now stands, hotels, boarding houses and so on would find themselves, during the busy season of the year (which may be less than three months in duration) when they are consuming exceptionally large quantities of water, charged in accordance with a meter reading. During the slack season, however, when very little or perhaps no water is being consumed, owing to the hotel or boarding house being shut, the charge for water consumption will not be in accordance with the low or non-existent meter reading, but will be brought up to the minimum quarterly charge of one quarter of the normal annual water rate.

I do not wish to imply that all the rest of the 270 Amendments are of a consequential or drafting nature. Should any of your Lordships desire more information on any of these other more or less agreed Amendments—that is to say, Amendments which have been nearly all agreed to by the water interests concerned—I shall, to the best of my ability, endeavour to give your Lordships the information required. I suggest that the most convenient course for dealing with all these Amendments of the Joint Committee would be to follow the procedure adopted in the case of the Local Government Act, 1933, the Public Health Act, 1936, and the Food and Drugs Act, 1938, all of which originated in Bills of a similar character—namely, to insert en bloc all the Amendments recommended by the joint Committee. This would obviate the very laborious task of moving each of these Amendments individually. It is also proposed to move at this stage the Government Amendments on the Paper, which are all of a minor character, largely drafting. With your Lordships' permission, these Amendments, which I assure you are largely drafting, will also be taken en bloc. If this procedure is acceptable to the House, your Lordships will then have before you at the Report stage the Bill containing the Joint Committee's recommendations, when further Amendments, if the House so wishes, can be made. I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Viscount Bridport.)

3.13 p.m.


My Lords, may I ask for some further information from my noble friend who has just moved? He tells us this is a consolidating Bill and that there are 270 Amendments by the Joint Committee. I bear in mind that there was another Joint Committee besides this one, which was appointed to deal with the water resources of England. I was a member of that Committee representing another place, and we took several months to report on the water resources of England. My noble friend has not told us whether he will include in the legislation which is to follow this Bill, or whether there will be included in this Bill, anything to deal with catchment areas, fishery areas, industrial supplies of water, and compensation water. All these different subjects were so extremely important that we issued a Report to the two Houses upon them. I trust that this Report upon the water resources of England will not be side-tracked, but that the points and recommendations of that Report will be to some extent embodied in any fresh legislation placed before your Lordships' House.

3.15 p.m.


My Lords, as Chairman of the Joint Committee which sat on this Bill, I do not think I have very much to add to what my noble friend Lord Bridport has told your Lordships. This is the fourth Joint Committee of this kind of which I have been Chairman. We have had the Local Government Committee, the Food and Drugs Committee, this one, and I cannot at the moment recall the name of the fourth. In all these what we had in view was to take the existing law and, so to speak, clean it up. The process is called consolidation and amendment. The amendment in all these four cases is almost entirely represented by the em- bodiment in the general law of model clauses and accepted general clauses inserted in Private Bills without question. That of course is an amendment of the general law, but it is more technical than actual, because the clauses are available to any local authority or undertaker who chooses to bring in a Bill. As regards other Amendments, there certainly have been one or two points on which new law has been added, but the Committee, as my noble friend told your Lordships, were very careful indeed not to go more than they could possibly help beyond this consolidation of the general law by amalgamating the actual general law and model clauses in Private Bills. There are one or two Amendments of which my noble friend has told your Lordships. He has also told you that the original proposals, like Clause 51, contained suggestions which went further than the Committee felt justified in asking your Lordships to accept at this stage. There were one or two others. There was a question regarding catchment areas which was new in Clause 11. It is not a very far-reaching Amendment, although there were some who did not very much like it. I do not think there are more of any substance.

As regards Clause 5, all the members of the Committee—I speak under correction—welcomed it on its merits, but did not think it was the proper place in which to insert it at the time. As regards Lord Carnock's Committee on the breaking up of streets, it is quite impossible to deal with that for various reasons. In the first place, as my noble friend said, the interested parties have not had time to consider it, and they were told by the Ministry of Health they had not even had time to read it. They are very busy at present, and it is very long, intricate, and able Report. Obviously your Lordships would agree that the Committee were right in not attempting to deal with that matter at this stage. Then there is the Amendment to Clause 53, which was Clause 52 in the former Bill, which my noble friend explained at length in regard to payment for water by small hotels and boarding houses. I ought to mention to your Lordships that I had a telegram to-day—I do not quite remember from whom, but evidently from some important body, who, I gather, does not approve of this particular Amendment, and will bring forward alternative proposals at some later stage.

As regards procedure my noble friend suggested we should take all the Amendments together and, when I get into the Chair, put them en bloc. I should say this, that on the Paper are Amendments which were not considered by the Committee; they are Amendments which have been introduced by the Ministry of Health at a subsequent stage. I am assured—I have not read them—that they are not of substance and might easily be accepted by your Lordships with the others and taken en bloc. If your Lordships approve that would be the easiest form of procedure because the important Amendments are in the Bill and the unimportant ones are on the Paper. I cannot of course say anything with regard to the point raised by my noble friend Lord Mancroft, just now, but I did take pains, as Chairman of the Joint Committee, to ask for a statement from the Ministry of Health as to their intentions in regard to future Bills. That statement is printed in the evidence and summarised in the Report, and probably will give as much information as is available at the present time in regard to future undertakings. The same question was addressed to the representative of the Minister of Transport, and his reply is also in the Report. The matter is going to be dealt with, but the position is rather vague. I do not think I have anything further to add to what my noble friend has said, but we sat for six days and gave a great deal of consideration to the matter and I hope your Lordships will approve the Amendments which the Committee have ventured to suggest.


My Lords, in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, I can assure him that the recommendations of the Committee to which he referred will be considered when the new Bill for amending, as opposed to this one which is a consolidating Bill, is drafted.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly:

[The EARL OF ONSLOW in the Chair.]

3.21 p.m.


I beg to move that the Amendments proposed by the Joint Committee be made.

Moved, That the Amendments proposed by the Joint Committee be made.—(Viscount Bridport.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.


Now I beg to move that the Amendments of which Notice has been given be agreed to, and I suggest that they be taken en bloc.

Amendments moved—

Clause 1, page 3, line 30, after ("district") insert ("and the rivers board for any area")

Clause 2, page 7, line 2, leave out ("and")

Clause 2, page 7, line 2, after ("district") insert ("and the rivers board for any area")

Clause 5, page 11, line 5, after ("may") insert ("after a demand therefor")

Clause 5, page 11, line 10, after ("pay") insert ("within seven days after a demand therefor")

Clause 5, page 11, line 17, leave out from ("if") to ("notice") in line 18, and insert ("before the expiration of the said seven days")

Clause 5, page 11, line 21, leave out ("on their application") and insert ("on the application of either party")

Clause 5, page 12, line 24, at end insert:

("(7) Nothing in this section shall affect any enactment under which undertakers who are also a rating authority may be empowered to collect water rates, rents or charges together with general rates, or to recover water rates, rents or charges in the same manner as general rates.")

Clause 7, page 13, line 6, after ("undertaking") insert ("(regard being had by him to any capital which the undertakers may reasonably be expected to expend during the next five years)")

Clause 10, page 17, line 25, at end insert:

("(6) Nothing in this section shall be construed as affecting the provisions of Section three hundred and six of the Public Health Act, 1936, with respect to the powers of water undertakers who are a local authority to purchase land compulsorily for the purposes of their water undertaking.")

Clause 12, page 20, line 32, leave out ("and") and insert ("the")

Clause 12, page 20, line 33, after ("district") insert ("and the rivers board for any area")

Clause 20, page 28, line 18, at end insert:

("'rivers board' means a joint committee, board or other body constituted under subsection (3) of Section fourteen of the Local Government Act, 1888, or by or under a Local Act, for the purpose of exercising powers of a sanitary authority under the Rivers Pollution Prevention Act, 1876;")

Clause 26, page 31, line so, leave out from ("1939") to end of subsection.

First Schedule, page 33, line 24, at end insert ("and includes any apparatus used in connection with such a pipe")

First Schedule, page 35, line 14, at end insert:

("'rivers board' means a joint committee, board or other body, constituted under subsection (3) of Section fourteen of the Local Government Act, 1888, or by or under a Local Act, for the purpose of exercising powers of a sanitary authority under the Rivers Pollution Prevention Act, 1876;")

First Schedule, page 36, line 33, leave out ("interested in those lands") and insert ("having a legal interest therein")

First Schedule, page 41, line 37, after ("fishery board") insert ("a rivers board")

First Schedule, page 41, line 39, leave out from ("their") to ("any") in line 41, and insert ("area or district, or, as the case may be")

First Schedule, page 42, line 25, leave out ("(other than service pipes)")

First Schedule, page 42, line 27, leave out ("(other than service pipes)")

First Schedule, page 42, line 37, at end insert ("In this subsection the expression 'pipes' does not include service pipes")

First Schedule, page 45, line 4, leave out ("water")

First Schedule, page 45, line 35, leave out ("water")

First Schedule, page 46, line 7, leave out ("water")

First Schedule, page 46, line 44, leave out ("or construct")

First Schedule, page 47, line 2, leave out ("persons living") and insert ("premises")

First Schedule, page 47, line 4, leave out ("or constructed")

First Schedule, page 50, line 26, at the beginning insert:

("(1) The provisions of this Part of this Schedule shall apply in relation to any land within the limits of a street, but not included in a roadway or footpath thereof, as if that land were, or formed part of, a footpath of the street.


First Schedule, page 59, line 37, after ("minimum") insert ("annual")

First Schedule, page 66, line 16, at end insert:

("In this subsection the expression 'month' means a period of four weeks exclusive of any day in the month of August")

First Schedule, page 77, line 4, after ("necessary") insert ("and until the prohibition is withdrawn by them")

First Schedule, page 77, line 11, leave out from ("who") to ("shall") in line 12, and insert ("while the prohibition is in force, contravenes its provisions").—(Viscount Bridport.)

On Question, Amendments agreed to.