HL Deb 27 November 1951 vol 174 cc541-4

2.44 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I rise to move that the Border Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) Bill be read a second time. I am fortunate when speaking for the first time in this Parliament to have to put forward a Bill which is at once short and, I believe, almost entirely non-controversial. The Bill, which consists of two clauses, the second being merely the short title, was envisaged on both sides of the House before the end of the last Parliament—we adjourned at the beginning of August, as your Lordships will remember. The Bill is no more than a piece of administrative mechanism. We have set up both in England and in Scotland a system of rivers supervision under three Acts—the River Boards Act, 1948, and the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) Act, 1951, so far as England is concerned, and the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) (Scotland) Act, 1951, so far as Scotland is concerned. These are separate systems, and they both incorporate the principle that every drainage area shall be under one central control.

As there are two rivers which flow from Scotland to England, it is clearly necessary that some form of mechanism should be introduced in order to cover those rivers. That is done by this Bill, which permits the boards of the Esk and the Tweed—the two rivers concerned—to constitute a joint committee, leaving it to the boards themselves to decide how that committee shall be constituted. The committee will be responsible for deciding its own procedure. It may appoint sub-committees on to which other persons may be co-opted as seems wise; and one of the purposes of this provision is to permit the co-option of industrialists, who must play a very important part in river purification. Industrialists necessarily form part of a Scottish river board but are not necessarily included in an English river hoard. There is also provision for agreement on the defraying of expenses which arise in the course of this work. This will be by agreement between the two boards.

I do not think I need add much to what I have said. The Bill provides a simple piece of mechanism, and does not in any way alter the operation of the system of river purification which exists under the Acts which I have mentioned, both in England and in Scotland. It merely completes the structure of what I think we all agree will be a useful series of measures, the success of which I am sure noble Lords in all parts of the House desire. If success is achieved, these four measures together will be universally recognised as constituting a great boon. I beg to move that the Bill be now given a Second Reading.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª.—(The Earl of Selkirk.)

2.48 p.m.


My Lords, may I congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, on introducing his first Bill? If I am informed correctly, he has now taken over the very pleasant task which I undertook for a number of years. I am perfectly sure that he will acquit himself better than I did. I did my best, and I hope that it was to the satisfaction of the House and for the benefit of Scottish well-being. The noble Earl and I had many pleasant encounters. They were always conducted in a friendly spirit and. I hope, in accordance with the best traditions of the House. The results of those encounters I should put down as about fifty-fifty, but there were exceptions—as, for example, when we debated Scottish legal problems. On those occasions I used to return to my home and pray fervently that if ever I came to this earth again I should be trained as a Scottish lawyer. It seems to me, therefore, that, now this changeover has taken place, it is a good omen that the first Bill which the noble Earl has brought forward is one which was drafted by the last Government to remedy an omission which the noble Earl himself brought to my notice as recently as July last.

I think it was generally understood that the necessity for such a Bill arose through what is known as a technical oversight in another place. It was intended that the rivers Esk and Tweed should be covered in the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) (Scotland) Bill, but it was found that they were not so covered. Since it was technically impossible, after the Bill had been through certain stages in another place, to insert those provisions in that Bill, a separate measure had to be brought forward. The noble Earl will remember that as early as the end of July he directed my attention to this point, and, as a result, I gave him an assurance that a Bill would be prepared to carry out the provisions now contained in the Bill of which the noble Earl has just moved the Second Reading. It only remains for me to say that we on this side naturally commend the Bill. I hope that when the provisions of the main Acts, together with this Bill, come into force, the results may be a considerable and much-needed improvement in the condition of the Scottish rivers.


My Lords, I should like to add my congratulations to the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk. We used to regard him as the Prince Rupert of debate, with an inexhaustible enthusiasm for exploring the depths of the ignorance of the Lord Chancellor on the technicalities of Scottish Law. I regret to think that he will not be able to treat the present Lord Chancellor in the way he used to treat me. I would ask him, if he can provide me with any subtle points on Scottish Law, to pass them over to me, and I will try to see whether my successor is any better than I was on these problems.


My Lords, if I may speak again, by leave of the House, I should like to thank the noble Lords opposite for what they have so kindly said. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Morrison, that I regard his method of procedure as a great standard which I will seek to emulate as best I can. I certainly found it a matter of great pride when I was able to penetrate any chink of his armour and to find a soft spot. I should also like to thank the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Jowitt, for the sympathetic way in which he dealt with any of the points on Scottish Law which I raised during the last Parliament, and I am most grateful to him for his attitude to me in many other respects. I again thank the noble Lords for the welcome they have given to this Bill.

On Question, Bill read 2ª; and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.