HL Deb 06 July 1943 vol 128 cc221-39

Amendments reported (according to Order).

Clause 21:

Incorporation, and application by order, of provisions of First Schedule.

(2) Subject to the following provisions of this section, the Minister may at any time by order apply the said provisions or any of them to the undertaking of any statutory water undertakers supplying water under a local Act or order, subject to such modifications and adaptations as may be specified in his order, and may by his order repeal or amend any provisions previously applicable to the undertaking which appear to him to be inconsistent with, or rendered redundant by, any provisions so applied:

Provided that, during the period beginning with the date of the passing of this Act and ending on the expiration of five years from the day declared by Order in Council under subsection (2) of Section six of the Special Enactments (Extension of Time) Act, 1940, to be the clay on which the emergency that was the occasion of the passing of that Act came to an end, he shall not make such an order except on the application of the undertakers concerned.

LORD FARINGDON moved an Amendment to make the proviso in subsection (2) read as follows: Provided that during a period of six years from the commencement of this Act he shall not make such an order except on the application of the undertakers concerned.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I do not intend to weary your Lordships by repeating arguments made in your Lordships' House on the Committee stage, but really my object in putting down this Amendment was to give some of your Lordships who may not have given the Bill your full consideration when it came up on the Committee stage an opportunity of reconsidering the points which were then raised. Some of us felt very strongly that putting off the date at which the Minister could operate the powers under this Bill until five years after the war might be putting it off to too late a date altogether. I have, in fact, in my Amendment extended that period from five years after the war to six years after the coming into force of the Act. That, I think, is a sounder proposition than putting it off to the rather vague date of five years after the war.

As was pointed out in the Committee stage, five years after the end of the war might, and presumably would, be five years after the end of the war with Japan, which might go on for several years after the European war. The object of the Bill is clearly to pull together the water undertakings of this country, and this provision was inserted in order to enable the companies to put their houses in order. It is quite clear, as everyone will admit, that they cannot obtain materials in war-time, but it does seem to me that, supposing the European War were to end then, certain materials would become available. If either the war went on, or if the circumstances were such that the undertakings could not put their houses in order, I have no doubt at all the Minister would be perfectly reasonable and would not exert his powers. Remember this is a purely permissive clause. The Minister "may" exert these powers, but under this provision he would not exert them before a certain lapse of time. It would be more satisfactory to fix a definite period and rely upon the good judgment of the Minister or, if necessary, on an order which could extend the length of time. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 24, line 4, leave out from ("during") to ("he") in line 10 and insert ("a period of six years from the commencement of this Act").—(Lord Faringdon.)


My Lords, this Amendment, as the noble Lord has pointed out, concerns the date after which the Minister may, on his own initiative, apply the First Schedule to any particular water undertaking. The matter was very carefully considered by the Committee which dealt with the Bill, and with your Lordships' permission I shall read a passage from one section of their Report: It has already been stressed that the undertakers should have a reasonable opportunity of reviewing the circumstances of the undertaking before the new code is adopted. We consider that a period of five years should be sufficient for every undertaker to carry out this survey. We have provided, therefore, that if by the end of that period the new code has not been put in force in any area, the Minister should be empowered, by order, to incorporate it with the relevant special Acts on his own initiative. This recommendation which was made by the Committee provided, as your Lordships will have noted, for a five years' breathing space under normal peace-time conditions with normal administrative staff available. The Bill we drew up therefore provided for a period of five years from the passing of the Act. That period of five years was also accepted by the Joint Select Committee.

Since they reported, and since the Bill of 1939 was introduced into this House, representations have been made to my right honourable friend the Minister of Health, drawing his attention to the fact that it would be unfair, and would bear most hardly on water undertakers, if this period of five years should coincide with the period of the war. These water undertakers, before setting their house in order, would have a large variety of things to do. In the first place they would have to consider the effect of the main part of the Bill in relation to their existing Acts, and indeed many of these water undertakings have a large number of Acts in operation. That will obviously involve repercussions in the form of all sorts of arrangements and agreements with other people. They will also have to consider the very complicated issues which ore involved in preparing for the First Schedule to be applied to the undertakings. As your Lordships will note, there are no fewer than 107 paragraphs in the First Schedule. My right honourable friend thought it would be most unreasonable to expect the undertakers to make these investigations and to prepare for the necessary adjustments to be made in their special Acts within the period recommended under peace-time conditions.

Your Lordships will note that the noble Lord proposes to extend the five-year period to six years. That would really be of very little assistance to the undertakers, for they are suffering now from the burden of shortage of staff and indeed of the right kind of staff. I cannot believe that the further year which is proposed would be of any assistance to them if it were inserted in the Bill. I have pointed out that the whole object of extending this period of five years until after the war is to meet the point put to my right honourable friend that it would be unfair to expect these water undertakers to put their house in order when they are in fact working with the barest minimum of staff.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

First Schedule [Provisions to be incorporated in Acts and Orders relating to water undertakings]:

Paragraph 1 [Definitions, &c.]:

THE EARL OF MUNSTER moved to insert: "'business' does not include a profession." The noble Earl said: My Lords, this Amendment is practically drafting. Its object is to make it quite clear that the water required by doctors and dentists in the exercise of their professions is covered by the ordinary domestic water rate. The House will remember that I promised the noble Lord, Lord Horder, that I would introduce words to make this quite clear. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 26, line 36, at end insert ("'business' does not include a profession").—(The Earl of Munster.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Paragraph 14:

Provisions as to compensation water.

14.—(1) During the construction of any authorized impounding reservoir the undertakers may, subject as hereinafter provided, take from any stream to be impounded thereby such water as they may require:

Provided that, before taking any water from the stream they shall, on an approved site, construct an approved gauge to gauge the flow of the stream and, while the flow of water through or over the gauge is less than the prescribed flow, they shall not take any water.

(2) After the completion of the reservoir the undertakers shall, at an approved point within such limits as may be prescribed, discharge into the stream from, or from streams feeding, the reservoir during every day of twenty-four hours reckoned from midnight in a uniform and continuous flow a quantity of water not less than the prescribed quantity, and, for the purpose of gauging such discharge, they shall construct and maintain in good order approved gauges on approved sites.

(3) If the undertakers—

  1. (a) fail to construct or maintain in good order any such gauge as aforesaid, or refuse to allow any person interested to inspect and examine any such gauge or any records made thereby or kept by them in connexion therewith or to take copies of any such records; or
  2. (b) take any water from the stream contrary to the provisions of subsection (1) of this section or fail to comply with the 225 requirements of subsection (2) of this section with respect to the discharge of water into the stream.
they shall, without prejudice to their civil liability, if any, to a person aggrieved, be liable, in the case of an offence under paragraph (a) of this subsection, to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds, in respect of each day on which the offence has been committed or has continued, and in the case of an offence under paragraph (b) of this subsection—
  1. (i) on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds in respect of each such day; and
  2. (ii) on conviction on indictment, to a fine not exceeding five hundred pounds in respect of each such day.

(4) In this section, the expression "gauge" includes a gauge weir or other apparatus for measuring the flow of water, and the expression "approved" means approved by the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries; and, for the purposes of this section, a catchment board, a fishery board, a rivers board and a navigation authority shall be deemed to be interested in the flow of water in, and the discharge of water into, any stream within their area or district, or, as the case may be any part of, their system of navigation, and shall be deemed to be aggrieved by the commission of an offence under this section in relation to any such stream.

(5) The foregoing provisions of this section shall be deemed to have been accepted by all persons interested as full compensation for all water impounded by the authorized works, except in respect of any land between the foot of the embankment of the reservoir and the point of discharge approved for the purposes of subsection (2) of this section.

(6) Subject to the provisions of Section five of the Criminal Justice Administration Act, 1914, any fine recovered under this section on the complaint of a fishery board or of an officer of, or person authorized by, a fishery board shall, as to the whole or such part thereof as the court may determine, be paid to the board in respect of the costs of the prosecution.

LORD HEMINGFORD moved to leave cut paragraph 14. The noble Lord said: This Amendment is precisely the same as the one I moved in Committee. At that stage the noble Earl, representing the Government, promised, though somewhat pessimistically, to give some further consideration to the point. This particular paragraph deals with the difficult and complicated question of compensation water. The experience of Parliamentary Committees in regard to Water Bills has always been that compensation water is one of the most difficult points, and the form of compensation water clauses has necessarily varied immensely in different Bills. What I suggest in regard to this particular paragraph is that there will be a very large number of cases in which the provisions of this paragraph will not really fit the circumstances of the case. I shall refer to one particular point only as an example. This paragraph provides that compensation water shall be discharged in a regular flow every twenty-four hours. In a large number of cases that is not what is desired.

It is perfectly true that these special points of variation can be raised if the Minister proposes to enforce, if I may use that word, the provisions of this Schedule on existing undertakings, but in most cases—and there are a large number of them—it is perfectly certain that if the point is raised there will be disagreement and dissension which will make it more difficult to impose the provisions of this Schedule on these existing undertakings. It is largely from that point of view that I would appeal to the Government that they would be assisting the real object of the Bill—which is to get uniformity in these water undertakings—if they were to leave out this particular paragraph. It is my firm belief that the provision to impose these conditions of the First Schedule on the existing undertakings would go through far more easily and that disputes and differences would occur in far fewer cases if this paragraph were omitted. For that reason I have ventured again to put down the same Amendment and to express the hope that the noble Earl will see his way to meet us to some extent on the point.

I am sure the noble Earl will not think I am attempting to threaten when I say, and I am sure he will not mind my suggesting, that if this Amendment is not made here the point is certain to be raised, and raised with a very great deal of support, in the other House. I venture to suggest that the passage of the Bill— which I thoroughly support for it is a most excellent Bill—will be facilitated ii we try as far as possible to dispose in this House of those matters which are sure to be points of contention in another place if they are left as they are. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 33, line 38, leave out paragraph 14.— (Lord Hemingford.)


My Lords, I would like to supplement the clear and persuasive remarks of my noble friend who has just spoken on this Amendment. I would like also to compliment him on his persistence in moving it again in spite of what happened in Committee. I ask the indulgence of the House for speaking now because I was prevented from being present during the Committee stage. Had I been here then I would certainly have sought the opportunity to support my noble friend in the remarks that he made. I have taken up this matter because my friends in Yorkshire have a very strong interest in it. They are mill owners with riparian interests, and with their long experience they feel that this Amendment should be pressed with the greatest force. This Bill is a very complicated one. Those who give their minds to its study will realize that there is a long record of past controversial legislation in regard to this question, which has produced much eloquence and argument in both Houses of Parliament. It will be within the memory of many of your Lordships that a Bill of this character was fully discussed in another place in August, 1939, and that that discussion brought out many arguments which are under consideration at this stage of the Bill.

My noble friend who is moving this Amendment has had a long and intimate experience in another place of these matters, and that fact I am sure will impress your Lordships in regard to the propriety of giving the fullest consideration to the Amendment. I hope indeed that my noble friend will not be so easily satisfied to-day as he was with the answer given in the Committee stage, and that he will not rule out the possibility of pressing this question to a Division. I read with great care the proceedings in Committee stage as reported in the Official Report and particularly did I give attention to the reply of the noble Earl who spoke for the Government. Perhaps he will permit me to say, without being regarded as discourteous, that I am afraid there is one angle of this matter with which he failed to deal. There are three points to which I will refer. One of them my noble friend, according to the record in the Official Report, did not himself touch upon in moving the Amendment in Committee. I seek the indulgence of the House in order that this point may be fully understood. I repeat that it is of vital interest to mill owners who are very much affected by the flow of waters which come under this Bill. In these days we must make the fullest possible use of all water of whatever character that can contribute towards the production of power. As the matter stands now, there is a possibility that under these proposed arrangements a good portion of these waters may not be able to make their proper contribution to the power production resources of the country. On that ground amongst others it seems justifiable to press this Amendment.

The first angle of approach that I make is this. During the temporary period of the construction of a proposed reservoir by the undertakers sub-paragraph (1) permits the undertakers to take all water above the minimum normal flow without giving compensation for water so taken or paying anything in money. The point there is that there is no limit as to the time, and it is quite possible that an undertaker, or anyone concerned in the matter, may start works and deliberately continue them far beyond what may be a reasonable time. The flow of water will be all lost during that time. Again, after the completion of the reservoir there is the suggestion in this Bill that the compensation water shall be discharged during the twenty-four hours in a uniform and continuous flow. All those with practical minds will realize that a commitment of that character for a continuous twentyfour hours, admirable in the case of streams where fishing rights and other matters are vital, is quite a different thing when you are dealing with a case where the water is contemplated to be employed for industrial purposes in the production of power or for other convenience of industrial undertakings.

There are on record two precedents. There is the Huddersfield Corporation Bill of 1937, which specifically lays it down that there shall be a descrimination between a continuous flow and a selected flow. For instance, during day working hours there shall be a flow of 138,000 gallons and in non-working hours 8,000 gallons. Again the Bradford Corporation Act of 1931 specifically discriminates between the full working days and Saturdays. It goes still further and says that the flow shall be only between prescribed hours. Parliament therefore has laid down the precedent that there are grounds for discriminating between what my noble friend proposes in the Bill now and what Parliament has already recognized by legislation. On these grounds I have no hesitation in urging that my noble friend is entitled to receive the sympathy of your Lordships' House. I hope indeed that my noble friend in charge of the Bill will take a sympathetic view of the Amendment, and will see his way on that particular point to agree that the flow shall be according to the wishes of the interested party. I fully realize that it may be difficult for him at this stage to give any undertaking, but I certainly hope that as a minimum concession he will consider this question between now and the next stage.

The third point I wish to deal with is this. Gauges are employed to measure the flow of water which of course fluctuates. Nature makes that inevitable. The Bill provides that this flow shall be entirely under the control of the Minister of Agriculture. If there is no gauge it does not matter, but I hope that if the situation requires it the matter will not be left to the control of the Ministry of Agriculture and that there will be safeguards so that riparian owners may participate in its supervision. I suspect that the noble Earl will refer to Clause 21, in which it is provided that there should be automatic checks, but I think I can dismiss that by saying that that is permissive and not mandatory. I feel that the eloquent arguments which he addressed in reply to the mover of the first Amendment could be used as a precedent for supporting the points I make. It is on those grounds that I support most strongly the Amendment standing in the name of my noble friend.


My Lords, may I ask a question of my noble friend Lord Hemingford? I do not quite understand what I am asked to vote on in this Amendment. I have a perfectly open mind, and no doubt my noble friend may persuade me. The thing which troubles me is Clause 21. Your Lordships must not suppose that the provisions in the First Schedule are automatically going to be applied to every water undertaking which is incorporated by an Act of Parliament. If a new water undertaking is suggested there will be, of course, an Act, or in certain cases a Provisional Order or statutory order. In such cases the only effect of the First Schedule with its various paragraphs is that the provisions of the First Schedule will apply subject, however, to such exceptions and modifications as may he specified in the said Act or order, and to such necessary adaptations— including something I need not read— as may be so specified. To my mind, the effect—I may be quite wrong—is no more than that of the provision in the Companies Act of Table A, of which many of your Lordships may be aware. You need not necessarily, if you are starting a company, adopt Table A. You may have your own articles of association. That is an example of the trouble in my mind. If somebody is starting a new water undertaking he would suggest that the Act should incorporate—he must suggest that it should incorporate—some of the provisions in the First Schedule, but he could exclude paragraph 14 and have a totally different provision for compensation water. Therefore I do not quite see that the noble Lord is doing anything more than say, if he does say, that there can be no water undertakings which shall ever require the provisions in paragraph 14 which we are discussing. If he says that, and we are to approve it, I could vote for the Amendment, but if a considerable number of undertakings will require this paragraph, I confess I do not see that we shall be doing any harm to any living human being by letting the paragraph stand.


My Lords, if I may be allowed in a few words to reply to my noble and learned friend's question, I would say that the most important part of the proposal in this Amendment depends upon the fact that in the case of already existing undertakings the Minister can impose upon them, to use the simile of the noble and learned Viscount, instead of their existing articles of association the Table A provided by this First Schedule. As I mentioned in moving the Amendment, it is in those particular cases quite possible for an existing undertaking, when the Minister proposes to apply the First Schedule to it, to raise the question of this particular paragraph and if successful have it cut out and have a special clause inserted in place of it. Unless it does that it will have the provisions of paragraph 14 imposed upon the undertaking in place of the provisions of the existing Act. One of the points I made was that that will happen very often—I should say, in practically every case of the Schedule being imposed on existing undertakings. In almost every case the undertakers will object to this paragraph, and therefore the whole operation of applying the First Schedule to existing undertakings will be very much simplified if we cut out of the First Schedule the one provision which beyond all others is likely to be unacceptable to the existing undertakings and likely to be opposed by them.


My Lords, I am very much obliged to my noble friend. He has made the matter a great deal clearer to me, but it seems to me that if that is the only object the thing to do is not to strike out paragraph 14 of the First Schedule but to prevent the possibility of a Provisional Order or statutory order made with regard to existing undertakings applying the paragraph in question. In other words, he could limit the Amendment if he pleases to existing undertakings, leaving alone that part of it which seems to me to be valuable—namely, the whole First Schedule as regards future undertakings.


May I say that I should like a great deal more than—

NOBLE LORDS: Order, order.


My Lords, perhaps it may be convenient if I intervene at this stage and endeavour to reply to some of the questions which the noble Lord, Lord Hemingford, has raised. I frankly admit that on his original explanation I was not at all clear what my noble friend had in mind, but if, as I understand now, he objects to this paragraph 14 being applied to existing special Acts by virtue of Clause 21 of the Bill, then I think I can give him a reply. Before the clause is applied to any undertaking at all every opportunity is given to make a case for any necessary modification or adjustment to meet special circumstances and special local conditions. Experience of the working of special Acts will obviously be taken into account as well. Furthermore, if the undertaker is not satisfied with the Minister's decision on his particular case and still maintains his opposition, the final decision rests with Parliament, as my noble friend will see if he looks at page 24, lines 25 and 26, of the Bill. There will then be a Provisional Order and Parliament will have the final say in the confirming Bill. The whole object of the First Schedule, as I think my noble friend will probably realize, is to give the same standard to all future Acts. This paragraph 14 is in fact a standard clause to meet normal circumstances. As I have pointed out to my noble friend, there is an opportunity for the undertakers, if they object to the decision which the Minister has reached, to bring the matter before Parliament and let Parliament in the end be the sole and final judge.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

Paragraph 33:

Duty of undertakers to lay additional mains on certain conditions.

33.—(1) The undertakers shall lay any necessary mains and bring water to any area within the limits of supply if they are required to do so by such number of owners and occupiers of premises in that area who require a supply of water for domestic purposes that the aggregate amount of water rates payable annually by those owners and occupiers in respect of those premises at the prescribed rates will not be less than one-tenth of the expense of providing and laying the necessary mains, and if those owners and occupiers agree severally with the undertakers to take a supply of water for three years at least.

LORD HEMINGFORD moved, in sub-paragraph (1) of paragraph 33, to substitute "one-eighth" for "one-tenth." The noble Lord said: My Lords, this again is an Amendment which was discussed in Committee. The alteration has to do with the amount of the contribution to be made for the necessary mains for bringing the supply to the consumers. The amount stated in the Bill to be contributed by the consumer is one-tenth, and the proposal in the Amendment is to increase the amount payable by the consumer from one-tenth to one-eighth. This is really justified, I think, by the fact that a larger amount than one-tenth has usually been decided upon by Parliamentary Committees in recent years. As the noble Earl pointed out during the Committee stage of the Bill, the proposal to make the contribution one-tenth dates from prewar times, and there is a great deal to be said for increasing the amount now, and giving some slight extra compensation to the undertakers.

I believe that the objection which was raised in Committee was raised mainly by my noble friend on the Front Bench opposite, Lord Addison, and I venture to think that, if you look at it, his objection can scarcely be regarded as sound. He objected to the amount payable to the undertakers being increased because, as he said, the expense generally, or, if I may so put it, the value of money had also changed in the hands of the consumer, and, therefore, the one-tenth would cost him more now than it would have done before the war. That is to beg the question altogether. Here we are dealing with the question of the supply of something required by a consumer. The noble Lord to whom I refer was at one time, I understand, a practising doctor. Now doctors have increased their charges in recent years, and I think that they have done so with the general acceptance of their patients. The patients grumble, of course, as an Englishman has every right to do, but they realize that it costs a doctor more to get all the necessary qualifications to put himself in the position of being able to give them the help and advice which they require. Then again, the noble Lord, I believe, in his spare time, is a farmer. If that be so, would he say that the argument which he has put forward would also afford sufficient reason for his selling grain, or milk or fat beasts, at the same old prices notwithstanding the fact that it has cost him a great deal more to produce them? After all, we all have to put up with hardships, but it is the consumer who really has got to pay something at least approaching the cost of what he wants and what he desires to obtain for the purpose of consumption. I venture to think that your Lordships will support this really very small alteration. The original proposal is for a contribution of one-tenth. The purpose of the Amendment is to increase the contribution from one-tenth to one-eighth. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 41, line 49, leave out ("one-tenth") and insert ("one-eighth").—(Lord Hemingford.)


My Lords, as I told your Lordships on the Committee stage of this Bill, the Government were prepared to accept the Amendment which my noble friend has just moved. Perhaps, on this occasion, I might elaborate in a little more detail the reasons which have prompted the Government to accept the Amendment to insert "one-eighth'' instead of "one-tenth''. The figure of one-tenth was certainly fixed in pre-war days; in fact it was fixed in the year 1847. And it is one-tenth of the cost of the extension of the mains only. To that I shall refer again in one moment. The Milne Committee, in their Report, unanimously recommended that the figure of one-tenth should be increased to one-eighth. I venture to think that that was a most representative Committee. Its sixteen members included representatives of a very large variety of interests, including all types of local authorities, and also representatives of industry. Furthermore, as I said on the Committee stage of the Bill, it has invariably been the practice of Parliament, during the last twenty years, to allow one-eighth whenever it has been asked for, whether there was opposition to it or no opposition. In fact, I am told that, on occasions. Parliament has even allowed a figure of one-sixth. It is surely right, I venture to think, that this Schedule should follow the normal practice which has been followed by Parliament; and its clauses, as I have said when speaking on a previous Amendment, are all standard clauses. At the same time the Schedule has no validity whatever until it is incorporated into a special Act.

Let me take the case of a group of houses which it is desired should go on to a water main. The contribution is for the extension of the mains only. That means to say that it does not take into account other expenses and overhead charges, however heavy they may be, such as the deepening of wells, providing for new reservoirs, or increasing the size of mains further back to secure a satisfactory flow for the new extension pipe. Having regard to all these reasons which I have enumerated, we feel that it would be wise for your Lordships to have the figure of one-eighth inserted in the measure in place of one-tenth, and I trust that the House will support the Government on this Amendment.


My Lords, I am sorry to intervene again to-day, especially as I have to address your Lordships on a much more important subject later on. But I would like, on behalf of my noble friends here, to seek a little further information for your Lordships on what we are really asked to do. No doubt, your Lordships would have thought that it is not the precise function of the Party which I represent to pose as champions of private property. We are, I may say, grossly maligned in that matter; but never mind. As I say, we are not supposed to pose as such champions. Many of your Lordships, doubtless, have very great and widespread interests in property, and what is proposed now is that the owners and occupiers where these additional facilities are provided by the water undertakings, instead of paying 10 per cent. should pay 12½ per cent. of the cost. That is what it comes to. I admit that the other day my calculations were not ready enough to turn one-eighth into 12½ per cent., but it is so. This Amendment puts up the cost to owners and occupiers who receive this additional assistance to 12½ per cent.

The noble Earl omitted, and so did the noble Lord who moved the Amendment, to remind your Lordships of the essential governing fact which is this—that this Bill was considered by a Joint Committee of the two Houses; they considered it with great care, and they recommended that the amount to be paid by the owner or occupier should be 10 per cent. My Party are champions of Parliamentary institutions, and we see no reason for suddenly, without any real reason being given, increasing the charge upon the owner or occupier from 10 per cent. to 12½ per cent., when a Joint Select Committee of the two Houses recommended, after investigating the whole matter very carefully, that the figure should be 10 per cent. No real reason has been given for suggesting 12½ per cent. It is true that costs have increased, but the proportion of those costs represented by 10 per cent. has increased in exactly the same way. If some works now cost £200 where previously they cost £100, it means that the owner or occupier will have to pay £20 instead of £10; and that argument has really no relation whatever to the case. My noble friends and I strongly object to this surrender of the interests of every owner and occupier to these water undertakers, contrary to the deliberate recommendation of the Joint Select Committee of the two Houses.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Paragraph 87:

Power to prohibit temporarily use of hosepipes in case of drought.

87.—(1) If the undertakers are of opinion that by reason of an exceptional shortage of rain a serious deficiency of water available for distribution by them exists, or is threatened, they may prohibit as from such date as they deem necessary and until the prohibition is withdrawn by them the use, except for the purpose of extinguishing fires, of any water supplied by them and drawn through a hosepipe or similar apparatus.

LORD FARINGDON moved, in sub-paragraph (1) of paragraph 87, after "cause," to insert "beyond human control." The noble Lord said: My Lords, on the Committee stage of this Bill the noble Lord, Lord Hemingford, moved an Amendment to leave out the words "an exceptional shortage of rain" and insert "drought or other cause". On literary grounds, I very much prefer the word "drought", but I wonder whether the noble Lord was wise in his proposal, because I fancy that in a court of law the meaning of the word "drought" might be arguable. No doubt that is why the noble Lord added the words "or other cause". A good many members of your Lordships' House felt at the time that those words were rather wide, and it is in the hope of qualifying them that I have suggested that the words ''beyond human control" should be added. I fancy that that represents what the noble Lord, Lord Hemingford, had in mind; I do not suppose he meant to refer to causes which might be the fault of the water undertaker. I hope, therefore, that the Government may consider that these words do define "other cause" to some extent, and thereby partially close what might perhaps be an excessively open door.

Amendment moved— Page 62, line 32, after ("cause") insert ("beyond human control").—(Lord Faringdon.)


My Lords, I entirely sympathize with what my noble friend has said, but I would remind him that the difficulty would be that his Amendment would be introducing a form of words different from those used in many of the local Bills which have passed through your Lordships' House recently. If you adopt the suggestion of my noble friend, you will put a limitation on the terms which are used in these local Bills, and, when you get different terms used in different Acts of Parliament, that is likely to lead to difficulty in interpretation. A good many Bills have passed through my hands in which the words used in this Bill are employed, and I do not think that they have led to any difficulty, although I appreciate what my noble friend has said about the possibility of their doing so. If I may venture to advise your Lordships, therefore, I think that we had better keep to the original wording, which has been used on a great many occasions in the last ten years or so.


My Lords, I should like to say a word as a lawyer with regard to this question. I have constantly had to deal with the construction of Acts of Parliament containing words such as those which we have now before us, and I can tell your Lordships that they are almost unintelligible to a lawyer. If you use language which suggests a genus, you can then construe the words "or other cause." If you are given a couple of examples which give a genus, there is no difficulty, but if you simply say "drought or other cause," what is there to limit the words "other cause" to any cause in the world? Let me take an example to make it clear. It may be due to the negligence of the water undertaker, or of some servant employed by the undertaker, that the deficiency in the water supply takes place, or it may be due to the vindictive attitude of a servant. That is another cause than drought, and then this paragraph will apply.

If your Lordships can suggest some other words to follow the word "drought," so as to get a genus to describe the nature of the cause with which you are dealing, well and good; but, if you leave it as it is, you leave the door wide open from the point of view of a lawyer who considers the meaning of the words as they are found here. What those who support the measure really intend, I believe, is not something which is beyond human control but some extraordinary occurrence which could not have been avoided by the exercise of reasonable foresight and care. I would hesitate very much, however, to tell your Lordships that that is the meaning of the words "or other cause" as they are found in this paragraph.


My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, knows full well, a shortage of water is a serious matter, which has to be dealt with whatever the cause may be. The cause may not be beyond human control. It may be a drought or an earthquake or enemy action or criminal action by somebody with a grievance against the water under- taker or, as my noble and learned friend Lord Maugham suggested, the action of a disgruntled employee who damages important valves to such an extent that not only will the damage take a long time to put right but there will be a substantial shortage of water in the locality. In those cases I think it is obvious that the water undertaker will have temporarily to ban the use of hosepipes. These words "drought or other cause" are, so I am advised, very commonly used in local Acts and orders which contain provisions empowering undertakers to prohibit the use of hosepipes. I have in front of me nine local Acts passed between 1936 and 1942, all of which contain those words. After hearing the view of my noble and learned friend Lord Maugham, I think that my noble friend opposite will be well advised to leave these words as they stand in the Bill. Finally, I would draw his attention to paragraph 87 (4), which says that in the event of these hosepipes being prohibited for certain reasons set out in the Schedule the undertakers must make a refund for the period of prohibition.


My Lords, I think that the noble Earl, Lord Munster, misunderstood the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Maugham. I think that the noble and learned Viscount, whilst disliking the words which I suggested, equally and very emphatically disliked the words "drought or other cause" standing by themselves. What I should like to ask the noble Earl, Lord Munster, is whether the Government would be prepared to accept some such words as were suggested by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Maugham. If the Government were prepared to accept some such qualifying words, that would meet the case of those who are anxious lest these words—as well as the words of other clauses—should be too wide.


By permission of the House may I just make my position clear? I understood—but I gather I was wrong—that the Government intended when they used the words "drought or other cause," to mean some other exceptional cause, but I now understand from Lord Munster that by the words "other cause" they mean any cause whatsoever. If that is what they mean I dare say they are quite right, except that as a purist I would say why drag in "drought"? But, after all, that may be the view of a purist.


While this Amendment is open to criticism I hope the noble Earl will give an undertaking to consider these words before the next stage of the Bill. There will be an opportunity, I believe.


Naturally, I am quite prepared to accept what Lord Maugham has said, but I still maintain, subject to correction at a later stage, that it will probably be wise to maintain these words in this particular Bill, as they are in a large number of local Acts the names of which I have in front of me.

On Question, Amendment negatived.