HL Deb 14 July 1955 vol 193 cc762-84

2.7 p.m.

Read 3a, with the Amendments.


My Lords, the Amendments which I have to move to the Bill are all the Amendments on the Marshalled List apart from those which stand in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Teynham. I cannot say that all the Amendments which I am moving on behalf of the promoters of the Bill are purely drafting Amendments, but I can assure your Lordships that none of them is of much substance. They are not controversial, and, they are, in fact, agreed to by everyone concerned. I am, of course, prepared to go through the different Amendments and point out those which are slightly more than drafting Amendments, but in view of the other business on the Order Paper I feel that the House might wish me to move these Amendments en bloc; that is 10 say, to move all the Amendments standing in my name up to Part VII of the Bill. Later, when Lord Teynham's Amendments have been considered—and I think the House might wish to take those Amendments all together—I should move en bloc the rest of my Amendments. If, therefore, the House will allow me to do so I will move that Amendments Nos. 1 to 18 on the Marshalled List be agreed to.

Amendments moved— Clause 4, page 5, line 5, leave out lines 5 and 6.

Page 6, line 37, after ("undertaking") insert ("transferred by this Act")

Clause 10, page 10, line 37, at end insert ("or so soon thereafter as they are appointed")

Clause 11, page 11, 1ine 47, after "undertaking") insert ("or part thereof")

Clause 23, page 18, line 21, leave out ("or") and insert ("and")

Clause 23, page 18, line 37, after ("undertaking") insert ("not defrayed from loan moneys")

Clause 25, page 20, line 43, leave out ("or stock") and leave out the third ("or")

Clause 25, page 20, Line 44, leave out ("stock")

Page 21, line 12, leave out ("or stock")

Clause 29, page 25, line 28, leave out ("arid")

Clause 29, page 25, line 28, after ("Peckham") insert ("arid Wrotham")

Clause 30, page 26, line 46, at end insert— ("(5) In their application to the officers and servants of the Cranbrook Company section 152 (Transfers of officers) and section 154 (Superannuation and pensions) of this Act shall have effect as if for the first day of January nineteen hundred and fifty-six there were substituted the first day of July nineteen hundred and fifty-five.")

Clause 39, page 30, line 43, after ("undertaking") insert ("or part thereof")

Clause 47, page 33, line 18, after ("undertaking") insert ("not defrayed from loan moneys")

Clause 48, page 33, line 44, after ("1930") insert ("as modified by the said Order of 1950")

Clause 49, page 34, line 31, leave out ("or stock")

Clause 49, page 34, Line 32, leave out ("or stock")

Clause 49, Page 35, line 16, leave out ("VII") and insert ("VI").—(The Earl of Drogheda.

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

LORD TEYNHAM had given notice of Amendments to leave out Clauses 51, 52, 53, 54 and 55, and in Clause 70, to leave out: and (b) the parishes of Bobbing Iwade Lower Halstow and Newington in the rural district of Swale. The noble Lord said: My Lords, with the permission of the House I should like to speak to my Amendments relating to Clauses 51 to 57 inclusive which comprise Part VII of the Water Bill and refer to the Medway area. At the same time I should like to speak also to my Amendment to Clause 70, which is consequential, in order to complete the area contained in the Chatham and District Water Company's original Bill. I wish to make it clear at the outset that I have no objection to the Kent Water Bill as a whole. My objection is only to the method proposed to be adopted in the Medway area for the amalgamation of the water units.

Many of your Lordships will no doubt recall the debate which took place on the Second Reading of the Bill. I then ventured to draw attention to the policy proposed for the Medway area which was in fact different from that for any other area. The method of amalgamation adopted by the promoters of the Bill in all areas except the Medway area has been to amalgamate small units around the principal undertakings. The largest undertaking in the Medway area is the Chatham and District Water Company; in fact 98 per cent. of the Medway area water supply is company-administered and only 2 per cent. administered by local authorities. In the case of the Medway area the Bill proposes to form a water board, in spite of the fact that the largest undertaking is company-administered.

This Bill has no doubt been very carefully considered by the Select Committee to whom the Bill was referred before it reached the Floor of your Lordships' House. The Select Committee could, of course, have either amended the Bill so as to maintain company-administration in the Medway area or left it as it was, which would mean the establishment of a water board. The Select Committee, in their wisdom, chose to leave the Bill in its present state, for which, no doubt, they had very good reason. I am going to suggest that counsel for the promoters of the Bill in fact misled the Select Committee—no doubt inadvertently—by implying that the setting up of a joint board was the policy of Her Majesty's Government. On page 333, at paragraph 2 of the Minutes of Evidence of February 24 of this year, counsel for the promoters of the Bill used these words, which, with the permission of the House, I will read: I press upon your Lordships that the joint board idea—always our proposal—is a good idea. It is the modern trend. It is the course you might expect when you are constituting an area from four separate units —an area containing a quarter of a million people, a busy industrial area. The Minister, since the House of Commons decided the point from their aspect, has twice testified to the value of joint boards—once before the British Waterworks Association in July, 1954, and again a Minister spoke in favour of joint boards—in the House of Commons—in connection with water undertakings.

I think it cannot be denied that this statement implies that the Minister of Housing and Local Government was in fact in favour of joint boards. But a little earlier, on December 22, 1954, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, during a debate in another place on national water supplies and with particular reference to the Kent Water Bill, used these words [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 535, col. 2838]: I differ from my honourable friend in thinking that perhaps the best way, within the framework of local government, may be the joint board…

Again, at a meeting of the Water Companies' Association at the Ministry of Housing and Local Government on May 4 this year, the Parliamentary Secretary said that he wished to emphasise that it was not the policy of his Department to favour water boards at the expense of the companies. In reply to a statement from the President of the Water Companies' Association that it seemed from what had been said in Parliament on the Kent Water Bill that the Government had the intention of replacing the companies by boards wherever possible, the Parliamentary Secretary replied that he wished to reiterate his assurance that this was not Government policy, and he expressed regret that Government statements should have been interpreted in this way. I maintain that these Ministerial assurances are quite different from the views put forward by counsel for the promoters of the Bill. For the reasons I have given, I beg to move my Amendment.

Amendment moved— Leave out Clauses 51, 52, 53. 54 and 55.—(Lord Teynham.)


My Lords, perhaps I should say a word on the procedural aspect of the matter. Of course, it is the absolute and undoubted right of every Member in your Lordships' House to propose an Amendment to any Bill on its Third Reading, whether it be a Public or a Private Bill. However, it is a right that is rarely exercised so far as Private Bills are concerned, and I have not been able to find many analogous cases. The last case I have been able to find is the Adelphi Estate Bill, 1933, when the Motion for the Third Reading of the Bill was challenged but later agreed to by the House. Lord Onslow, then Chairman of Committees, said at the end of his speech on that occasion [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 88, col. 151]: I do not think there has been a Bill rejected"— he might, indeed, have added "or substantially amended"— on Third Reading after its consideration by a Select Committee, but of course it is open to the House, if it wish, to do so. There have been a few other cases, and I should like to mention the London County Council (Spitalfields Market) Bill, 1900, a Bill which originated in the Commons and passed that House. In the Lords Committee the promoters of the Bill opened their case and called evidence. Counsel for the petitioners, the City of London, then made a speech, but called no evidence. The Committee decided against the Bill. Lord Monkswell, a member of the L.C.C., moved to recommit the Bill. The Chairman of Committees, Lord Morley, said during his speech [OFFICIAL REPORT, July 10, 1900, col 1092]: To recommit a Bill which has been carefully considered by a Private Bill Committee is a very rare and most unusual step to take. I remember no case in which it has been I taken except where it is alleged that the Committee had refused to hear evidence either or against the Bill. I think your Lordships must give the Committee, which was an experienced Committee, and their Chairman, who is a very experienced Chairman, credit for being able to take the statements of counsel at what they are worth. At the end of the debate Lord Monkswell withdrew his Motion.

It seems to me that everything that Lord Morley then said is equally true of this Bill. The Committee which considered it were an experienced Committee and their Chairman a very experienced Chairman. Nor should it be forgotten that Parts VII and VIII of the Bill were brought to the Committee's special attention by the debate which took place in your Lordships' House on the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, on Second Reading. The Committee, I am told, took over four days to discuss these two Parts, and I am quite sure that they could estimate the statements of counsel "at what they are worth."

As to the wisdom of the Committee's decision I can say nothing, for I do not know nearly enough about the facts of the case. As Ii see it, however, the House can accept these Amendments only if it makes two assumptions: first, that the Committee, after hearing witnesses and considering Parts VII and VIII of the Bill for a long time, came to a wrong decision; and secondly, that this House is more likely to reach the proper decision after a debate of perhaps no great length and hearing no witnesses. If we decide to make these two assumptions, I myself think that we shall be breaking new and very difficult ground.

2.20 p.m.


My Lords, I know nothing about this Bill; I know only in the broadest possible outline what it is, and have no sort of interest in it one way or the other. But I have had considerable experience, both in your Lordships' House and as counsel at the Bar, arguing matters before your Lordships' Committees. I think the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, is absolutely right to move these Amendments—there is no doubt about that: it is only a question of whether it is wise that we should agree to them. I venture to think that if we did we should deal a considerable blow at our procedure on Private Bills Committee. After all, we have an elaborate procedure. We send the Bill to a Select Committee of the House because the House is not physically capable of hearing all the arguments and evidence. The Select Committee have the whole case expounded to them by statements from counsel, though the statements, of course, are of value only in so far as they are supported by the evidence and by witnesses, who are examined and cross-examined.

The discussion on this Bill in Committee took something like twenty-eight days, and these particular clauses took four days. I am certain that the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, meant to be absolutely fair in what he said, but it was inevitable that it should be an ex parte statement—he will not mind my saying that—made in the course of a few minutes. On the strength of that, are we to overrule what our Committee have done after hearing this matter for days, after considering the evidence and so on? If we do so in this case, I would ask your Lordships to consider what is the future of the procedure of the House of Lords Committees. What is the good of people incurring great expense—as I know they did (I am glad to say) in the old days, and as they do to-day—in instructing counsel, calling witnesses to give evidence and having their case judicially considered, if, when we get through the Committee of the House of Lords, some noble Lord, as he is perfectly entitled to do, moves that we disagree with the consideration of the Committee, when we cannot know what the consideration of the Committee was and have not had time to devote ourselves to it? I think that would be most unfortunate. I can tell your Lordships, from the point of view of the Bar, that we always had the highest regard for the Committees of your Lordships' House; we always felt that if we went to a Committee of this House we had a fair deal and a fair hearing.

I beg your Lordships, in this changing and shifting world, not to do anything which by a side wind might destroy public confidence in the Committees of this House. If your Lordships were to overrule your Committee, on the strength of half an hour's discussion by a noble Lord who does not pretend to be judicial in this matter—he has a view, of course, to which he is entitled—I venture to think that it would deal a death blow to our whole system of Private Bill procedure. I know that this Bill has been considered by a Committee of this House, and I venture to think that we ought to stand by the Committee, which has given it great consideration and gone through it with care, and come to a conclusion, be it right or wrong, after hearing the evidence of those people they desired to hear. Therefore, I support the Lord Chairman most sincerely in the observations he has made.


My Lords, that is an astounding statement from the noble and learned Earl, the Leader of the Opposition: that we in this House, after a Select Committee arrive at conclusions, merely make ourselves "rubber stamps" and do everything they want us to do without in any way questioning the reasons why they have done it. That is what has drawn me to my feet. Like the noble and learned Earl. I know nothing about this Bill, but I have been written to by those who do, and I want to ask one or two questions of the noble Earl, the Lord Chairman of Committees, or whoever on the Government Front Bench is to reply. First of all. it seems to me that, in this particular interest with regard to the Medway area, there is a different procedure from that obtaining in the other areas of Kent. I believe that over 90 per cent. of the water supplies are administered by the Chatham undertaking. Why is it that the procedure here is totally different from what it is in the other parts of Kent? It seems to me that what is being done is taking this responsibility away from private enterprise—it is no good scowling about this —and taking a step towards socialising this particular undertaking. Why should it not be left in the condition which applies to other undertakings on a big scale in that area? I should like to know why the Chatham Water Company is treated differently.

I do not want to be controversial and I do not want to be rude to the Opposition, but I feel the greatest concern about removing any industry which is functioning properly and adequately from that condition of private enterprise into anything that can possibly be construed as towards nationalisation. We have had experience of nationalisation. We know perfectly well that the result of it is higher prices and larger staffs, and, in my view, where nationalisation has taken place the consumer has not received as good service as in the past under private enterprise. I have had personal experience of this—not in Kent, but in another area of the country—and I can assure your Lordships that there is a great danger. I am certain that the noble and learned Earl opposite is quite right in saying that the members of the Committee are men of the greatest ability, but I should like to know why they have altered their procedure in regard to this particular area. To me it strikes at a major principle of the policy of the Government and noble Lords on this side of the House. I hope that what I might call my erstwhile colleagues on the Liberal Benches will support me in this view. This seems to me to be in direct opposition to private enterprise, and something which we should deal with now, and not wait until it creeps in on various other questions of the same nature. I do not agree with the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, that, because the Bill has 'Seen before a Select Committee, we have blindly to accept their decisions. We are perfectly entitled, as the noble and learned Earl said, to raise any question that we want to raise without in any way upsetting the general conduct of the affairs of the House.

2.30 p.m.


My Lords, no-one would be more surprised than the Select Committee themselves to be told that they have been considering this question on the basis of whether they are in favour of nationalisation or not: I am sure that it was the last thing they had in their minds.


The noble Lord must not say that. So far as I am concerned, I did not say that they had. What I said was that it was my view of what had taken place.


Furthermore, the case as put by the noble Lard, Lord Teynham had nothing to do with the merits of this particular question. He was putting it simply and solely on the basis that the Committee had been misled, advertently or inadvertently, by learned counsel when they had accepted learned counsel's statement. Then he went on to say that on such evidence as was available the learned counsel's statement was wrong. For my part, I am quite content that the House should decide this question on the case the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, put to the House: Were the Committee in fact misled by learned counsel for the promoters?

I have had some experience of litigation, and in all litigation counsel for one side and counsel for the other make statements which are not always accurate. But it does not follow that, because counsel on one side or the other made a statement which turned out to be inaccurate, the Committee decided on the basis of that statement. There may men have been contrary statements by the counsel for the objectors, establishing that the statement of counsel for the promoters was inaccurate. Therefore, I would prefer to assume that, in the four days which they devoted to this part of the Bill, this experienced Select Committee considered it carefully and attached the right weight to the statements that were made in front of them and to the evidence that they received.

But when we come to the next point, whether the statement was inaccurate, what evidence has this House that it was inaccurate? We do not know.


If the noble Lord will forgive me interrupting, I have already given him in my speech certain evidence showing how it was inaccurate.


I was about to deal with the evidence that the noble Lord put before us and to ask whether we ought to accept that as justifying a reversal of the decision of the Select Committee. What was the evidence he put before us? He said that counsel for the promoters had attributed certain statements of policy to the Minister. He then went on to say that this was incorrect because the Parliamentary Secretary appeared to have made other statements. Speaking with some experience of these matters, it would not be the first time that the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister spoke with different voices. It does not in the least follow that, because the Parliamentary Secretary made certain statements on certain occasions, the Minister did not make other statements on other occasions. I would rather rest the case on the fact that I would trust the Select Committee to assess these statements that were made at their true value; that they had spent four days in putting a proper evaluation on the speeches of counsel and on the evidence, and that they arrived at a reasonable conclusion. That conclusion may be what some noble Lords like, or what they dislike. Clearly the noble Lord who dislikes the decision was entitled to say so. But let us remember that this was a judicial decision, and that we ought not lightly to upset it. Indeed, while I do not suggest that we should never upset a decision of this kind, it should be done only for such reason as the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, wisely put before us—namely, that the Committee had been misled on material questions and therefore went wrong. Frankly, I can find no justification for this allegation and, looking at the matter as objectively as I can, I feel we should be wise to support the Select Committee.

2.34 p.m.


My Lords, having gone as far as we have on this matter, I think we ought to get some arguments to put against those put forward by my noble friend Lord Teynham. I know nothing about the arrangements in Kent, but I want to say one word about this matter because it is a principle which might apply to other Bills elsewhere. I should be the last to say that, in certain cases and in particular areas, a board of some kind, or an undertaking owned by a local authority, is not the best thing. But I should not like it to be thought that it was the Government's policy, or indeed the policy throughout the country, that in every case of the reorganising of water supplies a public board is the best thing.

Furthermore, having decided that public ownership of a certain section of water supply is in any particular case the best thing, I think your Lordships will find that there are many people, particularly those connected with local government, who have a strong objection to an organisation of the type which is known as a joint board. The Board proposed here has, I see, members from eight different constituent councils. Those members on the joint Board are never the elected representatives; they are always appointed by their fellow members of other councils. I am sure that many members of your Lordships' House will have had experience of working a set-up of this kind which is composed of members of so many different councils.

I should not venture to argue the case on the merits of whether or not a Select Committee should be contradicted by this House, but I have always understood that we could make Amendments on Third Reading of Bills here. I should be glad to know the reasons why it has been stated by, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, that this was a judicial decision. I understood it to be a decision by a Committee of the House on the facts of the case and one of policy as to what was the best thing to do in this part of the County of Kent. I feel that, having gone as far as we have, my noble friend's point should be answered by facts. Those of us who are doubtful about this matter would no doubt be persuaded if we could be shown that the arrangement which is proposed was the best thing. On the other hand, perhaps our minds would be set at rest if we were told that there was no fixed policy by the Government or local authorities in general in favour of joint water boards all over the country. It is on those grounds that I feel we should have some statement.


My Lords, to a large degree the high reputation which your Lordships' House justly enjoys in the country is due to the work of its Private Bill Committees. The only relevant ground for your Lordships' over-setting a decision and a finding of one of your own appointed Committees would be if some entirely new fact emerged in the interval between the publication of the Report of the Committee proceedings and the Third Reading of the Bill in your Lordships' House. My noble friend Lord Teynham alleges nothing of the kind. Everything that he has put forward has been before this Committee—and this is the Committee which your Lordships appointed to deal with it. They have heard witnesses; they have heard counsel, and they have come to their decision. They have made a Report and a recommendation to your Lordships. If we were now to overset that, it appears to me that a great deal of what the noble and learned Earl who leads the Opposition has said would come to pass, and we should strike a blow at the reputation which we deservedly enjoy in the country.

There are many noble Lords opposite —there were more when we first entered the House this afternoon—who have sat with me upon these Private Bill Committees, and I can recall no case on any occasion where political principles entered into the questions that were before the Committee. They were always decided on the evidence and on the arguments of counsel in a resolutely objective manner. I should he very sorry if, in my time in this House, your Lordships were to break the rule which has been so wisely adopted by your Lordships in the past, and recommended to us by the Lord Chairman.

2.40 p.m.


My Lords, I hope I shall have to say little more than I said on the Second Reading. The noble Lord, Lord Teviot, said that he did not know Kent and therefore could not assess the merits of the case one way or the other. Well, I do know Kent, and the first thing I want to say is that this area has not been treated differently from any other area in the county. The negotiations which preceded the introduction of this Bill started in 1948, and in 1951 the local authorities and boroughs and everyone else concerned were brought into consultation with the Kent County Council. So it went on till 1953. And the sole reason why it is now suggested that this particular area should go under a joint hoard is that, after years of deliberation and months of careful study, and. I may say, foray-five days of consideration by two Select Committees, in another place and in this House, it has been considered that that particular area's needs will be served best by a joint board.


May I interrupt the noble Lord? I have never heard from the Kent County Council that they had ever objected in any way to any lack of efficiency in the Chatham area.


I did not quite say that, and hope that I shall not have to; but I can give some evidence, if necessary, which naturally I do not want to do. May I tell the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, that, when amalgamation was first thought of and discussions had been going some time, and when it was quite obvious that this particular area could not supply its own needs (and, incidentally, the Chatham Water Company have had to tell two of the largest industrial undertakings who have gone to that area that they cannot supply their needs), when that amalgamation question was being deliberated in every possible way, the Chatham Water Company wrote to the County Council to say they did not consider it desirable or necessary to carry out the amalgamations to the extent proposed by the County Council. The company were not willing to assist the County Council in arriving at a decision by supplying fact aid information about their affairs and, furthermore, were of the opinion that the water requirements of the area were adequately served.

We have already reached the stage where those water supplies are not adequate, and therefore the area must be considerably enlarged. It may even be necessary to go outside that area to get water. People who do not know Kent do not perhaps realise that it is bounded on three sides by the sea, and that we have to provide all our own water and cannot go to other watersheds and other places to obtain supplies. I hope that this House will follow the judgment of its Select Committee. What I asked your Lordships on Second Reading was that the Chatham Bill, the Sevenoaks Bill, the Tonbridge Bill and the Kent Bill, and every other Bill dealing with water supplies in the county should be considered by the same Select Committee, who would hear all the evidence—and, I may say, the evidence of Chatham was particularly heard. I believe that five and a half days —certainly more than four—were spent on this particular area and sub-area, and a unanimous conclusion was reached. I can only tell your Lordships that, if Lord Teynham's Amendments are carried, it will make a complete mess of the Bill and I do not know quite what will happen. Therefore, I ask the House in this case to support, not a Socialist measure (I dislike the idea of politics being brought into the matter) but a step which has been approved by those who were the elected representatives of the ratepayers on the County Council. For when a resolution supporting Chatham was put to the County Council—a predominantly Conservative County Council, not Socialist—it was defeated by eighty votes to five. I cannot think that we ought now, at this stage, to vote against the decisions of two Select Committees and the considered judgment of the head local authority that looks after the county's affairs.


My Lords, I have here the Minister's report on this Bill. I will not weary your Lordships with reading the whole of it, but it includes this statement: …the promoters of the Bill have considered the desirability of designating the Chatham Company as the responsible undertakers for the Medway area, rather than a joint board of local authorities. The Minister is not aware of any reason why either of these alternative forms of reorganisation should not give a satisfactory service to consumers. I am immensely impressed by what the noble Lord, Lord Cornwallis, has just said, but I am also very much impressed by the Minister's statement.


My Lords, I can only answer the noble Lord by saying that company administration, board administration and every other form of administration was discussed and thought about for months and months.

2.46 p.m.


My Lords, I hope your Lordships will allow just one word or two from these Benches. I listened carefully to the evidence which the noble Lord. Lord Teynham, submitted, in which he said that the Committee had been misled. Frankly, I do not think the words that the noble Lord read out in any way imply that the Government were in favour of these specific proposals; nor could any reasonable body of men infer from what was said by counsel that that was the Government's position. The noble Lord, Lord Teynham, bases his case against these clauses on the suggestion that it is a question of nationalisation. If this is nationalisation, then the setting up of the Metropolitan Water Board was nationalisation; every undertaking by a local authority is nationalisation. There are many forms of boards in this country between various local authorities for specific purposes. I want to suggest to your Lordships that this question ought to be judged on its merits. Obviously, one cannot be conversant with all the details, but we have heard from the noble Lord who has just spoken that a predominantly Conservative County Council, knowing the facts of local government, were overwhelmingly in favour of the proposals of this Bill. Therefore, it would be a case of turning down the considered labours not only of our own Select Committee, which went into the pros and cons of the matter with the utmost care, but also of a Private Bill Committee of another place. If Lord Teynham's Amendments were carried, it would not be a blow for private enterprise; it would be a blow at sane and decent local government in Kent.

2.49 p.m.


My Lords, I think it would be appropriate if I rose at this stage of our discussions on these important Amendments to give the House some indication of the views which Her Majesty's Government hold on this matter. I agree that the proposal of the noble Lord that we should discuss all his Amendments together is the right one in these circumstances, because they all hang together, and the decision which your Lordships may take on the first one would, of course, apply to all the others as well. My noble friend who moved the first of his Amendments asks the House to delete a large number of clauses in Parts VII and VIII of the Kent Water Bill which deal, in particular, with the supply of water in the Medway and Sittingbourne areas. At the beginning of the discussion this afternoon, the House was fortunate to hear the views of the noble Earl, Lord Drogheda, who is Chairman of the Committees of this House and who, I venture to think, is very well qualified to speak on these subjects. He has suggested—and the Government fully concur—that it would in fact be most unusual to amend a Bill on Third Reading after it had been to a Committee upstairs.

This Bill has had a long and arduous journey through Parliament. Nevertheless, your Lordships, as is common practice on these Private Bills, decided to send it to a Committee upstairs, who spent no less than twenty-two days in considering its detail. Moreover, more than six days were spent in considering Parts VII and VIII of this Bill, and the Chatham Water Bill as well. After listening to all the arguments which were put forward by learned counsel on both sides, the Select Committee reached a unanimous decision to let the Kent Water Bill proceed but to recommend to your Lordships the rejection of the Chatham Water Bill. It is important to note that the decision which the Select Committee reached was similar to that reached in another place, where the Kent Water Bill was considered by a similar Committee for a period of twenty-three days. It is more than interesting to note that the Select Committees of both Houses sanctioned every conceivable kind of transfer, and neither House was apparently wedded to any particular form of undertaking.

After hearing all the evidence which was put before it, the Committee came to a unanimous decision and recommended that the Kent Water Bill should come before your Lordships' House for 'Third Reading. Here I venture to suggest that when a discussion takes place in your Lordships' House on decisions which have been reached by a Select Committee, it is not the duty, it is not the responsibility of—indeed it would be most unbecoming for—the Chairman of that Committee to have to defend his decision before your Lordships' Mouse. In the opinion of Her Majesty's Government it would be utterly wrong, although the House has the power and anyone is entitled to move an Amendment, to amend a measure which has been considered by a Select Committee. The noble Earl who leads the Opposition says that it would be a death blow to Select Committees. I would go even further and say that it would reduce the work of every Select Committee to a complete and utter farce, and the House might well find it difficult in the future to secure the services of any noble Lord to serve upon it. What would be the alternative? It would be for every Private Bill which is promoted in Parliament to be considered on the Floor of this House: and that, I venture to think, is a course which your Lordships would most emphatically reject.

My noble friend behind me, who moved his Amendment in the most brief and admirable manner, called in aid the observations of learned counsel for the promoters, and although I have no wish to enter into any detail, I should like to remind my noble friend that that was not the only evidence which the Committee heard on the Minister's views about the organisation in the Medway area. Indeed, the report made to Parliament by my right honourable friend on the Chatham Water Bill itself was read in full by learned counsel for the promoters of that Bill, and therefore the Select Committee was fully aware of the Minister's views, and it had the opportunity of considering this question in every possible detail. My only observation in reply to my noble friend Lord Teviot would be this. He asks why there was in the Medway area a different procedure from that in the other areas in Kent. I do not know. I have not read the evidence which was before the Select Committee for twenty-two clays; but I am prepared to accept the decison of that Committee, and I recommend that your Lordships as a whole should do likewise.


My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, I should like to be quite clear about this point. Is it a laid-down principle of this House and a matter of procedure, that once any question goes before a Select Committee of the House, we, as members of your Lordships' House, have no further responsibility at all with regard to that matter? Because that is what this means. I rose as a Back-Bencher merely to ask a question to elucidate some of my apparent misunderstandings. So far as I can make out, that is rather an improper thing to do, but I cannot see why. If a Bill is coming back to this House for final voting upon before passing into law, surely there is left to this House some responsibility, if we do not quite agree with or cannot quite understand the conclusions of a Select Committee and their reasons for arriving at those conclusions. I should like to know definitely whether we have any responsibility at all on the subject.


My Lords, this seems to be a point upon which the Leader of the House should give some guidance. I am sorry that I did not hear the earlier part of the discussion, but the point raised, by the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, is a perfectly simple one: namely, has the House any interest—discretion is probably the right word—in this Bill once the Select. Committee has reported? The, answer is that the Select Committee is a Select Committee of the House, and the House is, as it were, the sovereign body in the matter. At the same time, if a Select Committee has reported, having given so many days of time to the most careful consideration of every point raised on this or any other Bill, then I should have thought there would have to be new and special considerations before the House decided to reverse a recommendation of that Committee. Otherwise, it seems to me it would knock a great hole in the whole system. The time of the whole House cannot be fully occupied with matters of this kind, and the House appoints a Committee to give special consideration to a Bill of this type. Once it has considered it, and reports to the House, if there are some special or new considerations it would, of course, be open to the House to take whatever action it thinks proper: but it would have to think most carefully before it reversed the recommendation of the Committee.


My Lords, in the first place I should like to deal with one or two points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Cornwallis. I would say, as I said a few moments ago, that not even the promoters of the Bill, the Kent County Council, have had anything to say against the efficiency of company administration in the Medway area, until the noble Lord, Lord Cornwallis, suggested it in his speech, and I think in fact he gave no reasons why he thought they were inefficient. If my Amendments were to succeed there would be no difficulty in the supply of water, in spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Cornwallis, has said. The Chatham Water Company would again put forward this Bill for amalgamation under company structure. There is no difficulty whatsoever. The noble

Lord, Lord Silkin, said that I had not put forward sufficient evidence in the case. I should like to deal a little further with that. In the Report of the Minister of Housing and Local Government there appears this phrase: The proposal of the Kent County Council to replace the Chatham Companies undertaking and other undertakings in this area by a Joint Board is a departure from the general method which the Kent Bill seems to follow, the general method, with which the Minister is in broad agreement, of building the proposed new units around the principal undertaking in each area. There, again, we have a reiteration of Government policy towards the amalgamation of water units.

I feel strongly about this matter. I have sat in your Lordships' House for some twenty years: I have been a member of a number of Select Committees as well as a chairman, and I have never yet seen a Private Bill reach the Floor of the House which is so contrary to the policy put forward by the Government of the day. There is no doubt whatever that the Water Companies' Association were assured, with particular reference to the Kent Water Bill, that the intention of Her Majesty's Government was not to replace companies by boards wherever possible; in fact, Her Majesty's Government expressed regret that statements should have been interpreted in that way. May I humbly suggest that it is the duty of this House carefully to scrutinise every Private Bill when it reaches the Floor of the House and amend it if there is reason to believe that a serious mistake has been made; and I maintain that, in this particular case, a mistake has been made. I beg to press the Amendment.

On Question, Whether the Amendment shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided:—

Contents 9 Not-Contents. 73.

Goschen, V. Birdwood, L. Somers, L.
Long, V. Ebbisham, L. Teviot, L.
Ridley, V. [Teller.] St. Levan, L. Teynham, L. [Teller.]
Kilmuir, V. (L. Chancellor.) Beauchamp, E. Listowel, E.
Bessborough, E. Lonsdale, E.
Salisbury, M. (L. President.) De La Warr, E. Lucan, E.
Lansdowne, M. Fortescue, E. [Teller.] Munster, E.
Reading, M. Gosford, E. Onslow, E. [Teller.]
Jowitt, E. Radnor, E.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Lindsay, E. St. Aldwyn, E.
Alexander of Hillsborough, V. De L'Isle and Dudley, L. Lyle of Westbourne, L.
Bridgeman, V. Denham, L. Macphcrson of Drumochter, L.
Colville of Culross, V. Derwent, L. Mancroft, L.
Gage, V. Digby, L. Merthyr, L.
Hall. V. Fairfax of Cameron. L Milner of Leeds, L.
Hereford, V. Greenhill, L. MonkBretton.L.
Hudson, V. Haden-Guest, L. Moyne, L.
Stansgate, V. Hampton, L. O'Hagan, L.
Woolton, V. Harris, L. Pethick-Lawrence, L.
Hawke, L. Rea, L.
Amherst of Hackney, L. Henderson, L. Rotherwick, L.
Ashton of Hyde, L. Hindtip, L. Saltoun, L.
Baden-Powell, L. Hylton, L. Silkin, L.
Burden, L. Jessel, L. Sinha, L.
Carrington, L. Kershaw, L. Strabolgi, L.
Chesham, L. Killearn, L. Terrington, L.
Colgrain, L. Lloyd, L. Westwood, L.
Cornwallis, L. Luke, L. Winster, L.
Croft, L.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, with the permission of the House I will move en bloc the remainder of the Amendments standing in my name on the Marshalled List.

Amendments moved—

Clause 56, page 37, line 14, at end insert ("or so soon thereafter as they are appointed")

Clause 56, page 37, line 16, after ("Council") insert ("to be held")

Clause 57, page 37, line 38, leave out ("became") and insert ("become")

Clause 60, page 38, line 31, at end insert ("in the pound")

Clause 63, page 41, line 46, leave out ("Contribution") and nsert ("Contributions")

Clause 72, page 45, line 23, leave out ("that part of")

Clause 72, page 45, line 24, leave out ("which is situated within the limits of supply")

Clause 72, page 45, line 28, leave out ("of the said part")

Clause 72, page 45, line 36, leave out ("the said part of")

Clause 72, page 45, line 45, leave out ("Board") and insert ("Sittingbourne Council")

Clause 79, page 48, line 4, at beginning insert ("the")

Clause 83, page 48, line 40, at end insert ("or so soon thereafter as they are appointed")

Clause 83, page 49, line 2, after ("Council") insert ("to be held")

Clause 93, page 53, line 1, after ("thereof") insert ("not defrayed from loan moneys")

Clause 94, page 53, line 46, after ("water") insert ("by the Company")

Clause 95, page 54, line 12, leave out ("or stock") and leave out the third ("or")

Clause 95, page 54, line 13, leave out ("stock")

Clause 95, page 54, line 30, leave out ("or stock")

Clause 111, page 58, line 2, leave out ("the") and insert ("a")

Clause 123, page 63, line 7, after ("let") insert ("to those persons")

Clause 123, page 63, line 8, leave out ("for those purposes")

Clause 127, page 63, line 34, leave out ("or stock")

Clause 128, page 63, line 38, after ("stock") insert ("or shares")

Clause 128, page 63, line 40, after ("security") insert ("or the number of shares")

Clause 128, page 63, line 45, after ("money") insert ("shares")

page 64, line 3, after ("money") insert ("shares") and after ("has") insert ("or have")

Clause 131, page 64, line 24, leave out ("shares or stock") and insert ("or securities")

Clause 131, page 64, line 27, after ("mortgages") insert ("or")

Clause 131, page 64, line 28, leave out ("or other securities")

Clause 131, page 65, line 5, leave out ("stock") and insert ("securities")

Clause 131, page 65, line 7, after ("shares") insert ("mortgages")

Clause 131, page 65, line 11, leave out ("shares") and insert ("securities")

Clause 131, page 65, line 12, after ("shares") insert ("in the company and of mortgages and debenture stock of the company (hereinafter referred to as the holders')")

Clause 131, page 65, line 13, after("send") insert ("by post")

Clause 131, page 65, line 14, leave out ("shareholders of the company") and insert ("holders") and after ("their") insert ("last known or usual")

Clause 131, page 65, line 15, leave out ("shareholders") and insert ("the holders")

Clause 131, page 65, line 20, leave out lines 20 to 27 and insert— ("(b) the scheme shall be submitted to the meeting for approval: Provided that unless the scheme is approved by holders representing not less than three-fourths in value of the shares mortgages or debenture stock of each class voting thereat in person or by proxy it shall be referred to an arbitrator to be appointed by the President of The Law Society who shall settle the scheme; (c) the scheme approved at the meeting or if referred to an arbitrator settled by him shall be binding on all the holders. (5) In this section the expression 'securities' means in relation to the holders of shares in a company or mortgages or debenture stock of a company whose undertaking is transferred to a board or a council the stock issued by that board or council under section 126 of this Act and in relation to the holders of shares in a company or mortgages or debenture stock of a company whose undertaking is transferred to another company the shares or debenture stock issued by that other company under section 127 of this Act.")

Clause 131, page 65, line 39, leave out ("stock") and insert ("securities")

Clause 131, page 65, line 41, leave out ("stock") and insert ("securities")

Clause 132, page 66, line 33, leave out ("stock and")

Clause 133, page 67, line 4, leave out ("or stock")

Clause 137, page 70, line 15, leave out ("is") and insert ("or shares is or are")

Clause 137, page 70, line 17, after ("stock") insert ("or dividends on such shares (as the case may be)")

Clause 140, page 71, line 7, leave out ("use") and after ("impound") insert ("use")

Clause 141, page 71, line 23, leave out ("Waterworks") and insert ("Water")

Clause 145, page 72, line 47, leave out ("may be") and insert ("were being")

Clause 154, page 78, line 47, after ("For") insert ("the")

Clause 162, page 81, line 35, leave out ("British") and insert ("Central")

Clause 163, page 82, line 7, leave out the first ("of")

Clause 164, page 82, line 20, at end insert— ("Section 49 (Inquiries by Ministers);

Section 50 (Power to revoke and vary orders);")

First Schedule, page 85, line 27, leave out ("Waterworks") and insert ("Water")

First Schedule, page 85, line 37, leave out ("(part of undertaking)")

Second Schedule, page 86, line 6, after ("year") insert ("after the year ending on the thirty-first day of March nineteen hundred and fifty-six")

Fourth Schedule, page 88, line 51, leave out ("1953") and insert ("1955")

Fourth Schedule, page 90, line 12, leave out ("1953") and insert ("1955")

Fourth Schedule, page 90, line 54, leave out ("1953") and insert ("1955")

Fourth Schedule, page 93, line 43, leave out ("1953") and insert ("1955")

Fourth Schedule, page 94, line 35, leave out ("Bay")

Fourth Schedule, page 94, line 36, leave out ("Bay")

Fourth Schedule, page 94, line 38, leave out line 38.

Fourth Schedule, page 94, line 39, after ("Waterworks") insert ("Company")

Fourth Schedule, page 94, line 44, leave out ("1922") and insert ("1902")

Page 95, leave out lines 1 to 5 and insert ("So much of section 7 (Limits of Act comprising the Gas and Water Districts) of the Canterbury Gas and Water Act, 1866 as describes the Water District ' and the following provisions of that Act (except so far as they relate to works for the supply of gas) namely").—(The Earl of Drogheda.)


My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(The Earl of Drogheda.)

On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.