HL Deb 11 March 1958 vol 208 cc49-77

5.30 p.m.

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


My Lords, in moving that this House do resolve itself into Committee on this Bill I should like to offer your Lordships an apology. I hope that by so doing I am not trespassing in advance on the ground that the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, proposes to traverse on Thursday. My apology is this. Noble Lords who are particularly concerned with this Bill have complained hat Her Majesty's Government have not allowed sufficient time between the Second Reading and the Committee stage for them to consult with their friends in the country who are similarly interested. I apologise, and if I can I should like to make amends by promising here and now that we will allow plenty of time between the Committee and the Report stages to make up for our shortcomings at this stage of the Bill. I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Mancroft.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 1:

Obtaining supplies to meet drought

1.—(1) If the Minister is satisfied that by reason of an exceptional shortage of rain a serious deficiency of supplies of water in any locality exists or is threatened, he may, on the application of any statutory water undertakers who supply water in that locality, make an order containing such provisions for any of the following purposes as appear to him to be expedient with a view to meeting the deficiency, that is to say—

  1. (a)for authorising the undertakers, subject to any specified conditions or restrictions, to take water from any specified source for a period not exceeding six months, or
  2. (b)for suspending or modifying, subject to any specified conditions, and for a period not exceeding six months, any restriction or obligation to which the undertakers are subject as respects—
    1. (i) the taking of water from any source,
    2. (ii) the discharge of compensation water, or
    3. (iii) the filtration or other treatment of water.
and the Minister may include in the order such supplemental, incidental and consequential provisions as appear to him to be expedient for those purposes.

(5) In the exercise of his power to make orders under this section the Minister shall have regard to the interests of all persons concerned in the conservation or use of the water to which the order relates, whether for the purposes of agriculture, fisheries, industry or navigation, or for other purposes.


moved, in subsection (1) after "locality" to insert: "and after consultation with the appropriate river board". The noble Earl said: I believe it would be proper if at the outset I declare an interest. I have for many years been a director of one of the great statutory companies—the Bristol Water Works Company—and I declare that interest. I think it is inconceivable that there is any direct financial gain to me or them. I would preface my remarks on this particular Amendment by expressing my gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, for having stated, as he has, the difficulty in which some of us have been put owing to the shortage of time. It is obvious that on a technical Bill of this kind noble Lords who have to move Amendments and will want to speak on the Committee stage must consult with associations, boards and groups of people and there has been all too little time to do that. If, therefore, any of these Amendments which I shall propose are not perfect or not in the form in which they should be, that, although it is not an excuse, is the reason.

Noble Lords will see that I have a number of Amendments down in my name, and perhaps it would be wise if, in moving this first Amendment, I said that they really all follow a theme, and that the general theme is that river boards are not receiving, and in this Bill have not received, the mention or attention to which their importance and the statutory duties with which they are charged entitle them. After all, river boards are young bodies. They were born (if that is the correct term) only in 1948 and it may conceivably be that some Parliamentary draftsmen have not yet become fully aware of their existence and have, as it were, "dragged them in" at the end of a clause in a manner which is not commensurate with their dignity or what they have to do.

River boards are charged with statuory duties in connection with fisheries and pollution. The "clean river" policy, so obviously the right one, is now universally acknowledged to be the wise policy for our rivers, and I consider it to be of paramount importance under that policy that if the duties that fall upon river boards are properly to be carried out, they must be consulted when matters vitally affecting their rivers are proposed. We all know that the point and object of this Bill is to replace Defence Regulations by statutory powers, and in doing so we must be very careful that the new Statute is really complete and covers all the points it should.

I believe it is clearly desirable that before the Minister makes orders he should consult the appropriate river board with a view to obtaining their assistance in considering how water for domestic supplies can best be made available while restricting to a minimum the damage to the interests of that river board. In this connection I would point out that under Clause 1 (5) of the Bill the Minister has to have regard to the interests of all persons concerned in the conservation or use of the water to which the Order relates. Among those interests are fisheries. As it is the river boards who are concerned with fisheries, I submit that subsection (5) concedes the principle that the interests of river boards have to be taken into account. In these circumstances I consider that to enable the Minister to be fully aware of all the competing factors involved, he should be under a duty to consult the river boards concerned before making an order. Therefore I beg to move the first Amendment which stands in my name.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 9, after ("locality") insert ("and after consultation with the appropriate river hoard").—(Earl Waldegrave.)


May I say a word or two in support of the case so admirably put by the noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave? For some years I had the opportunity of serving on a catchment board which under the River Boards Act was merged in the new setup. No one who has had experience of the work of the river boards can have failed to be impressed, first, by the many hours of devoted service which members of those boards give to their work—service which receives little if any publicity and is in a very large measure its own reward; and secondly, by the fine staff of technical officers which the river boards have built up in connection with this work.

As the noble Earl has pointed out, the river boards ask only to be consulted in this matter. They recognise that the last word must be with the Minister; but surely, as their men are on the spot and know the problems arising in regard to pollution, trouble with fish and so on, and in view of the fact that they are the pollution and fisheries authority, it is not really asking too much that, prior to an order being made, the appropriate river board should be consulted, so that the Ministry may have the fullest possible information from the men on the ground. Please let us not have the argument that the "gentleman in Whitehall" really knows best. We have had that thrown at us from the other side many times. Now I throw it back to the noble Lord in charge of the Bill in the hope that he will give us the case for which we are asking.


I have spoken to your Lordships so often on the subject of pollution that I do not need to weary you again this afternoon. I wish only to say that I support this Amendment and Amendment No. 4 to be moved by the noble Earl.


The main effect of the Amendment will be to require my right honourable friend before making any order to consult with the appropriate river board. I would not for a moment detract from the power, efficiency or worth of the river boards, but I believe that this Amendment goes too wide. There will be some orders with which river boards need not be concerned at all—orders about filtration or other treatment of water or authorised abstractions from lakes, ponds and disused gravel pits which do not connect with a river. In so far as a river board are directly concerned with an order (and this may have escaped the memory of one or two noble Lords) they are already protected by the procedure in the First Schedule, which entitles them to receive notice and to make objections. It is desirable that their representations should be considered by the Minister together with those of other objectors, and it would be both unnecessary and time wasting to require that the Minister should consult them separately. I cannot, therefore, I am afraid, accept: his Amendment.

Some noble Lords have repeated arguments which were put forward on Second Reading about why at least statutory water undertakers should consult the river board before applying for an order. Water undertakers who rely on river abstractions for their supplies are normally, I think the Committee will agree, in close touch with the appropriate river board, and they may be expected to consult as a matter of course when a drought is threatened. After all, drought is the thing which we are talking about throughout this Bill. I believe I can give the noble Earl some comfort. I can give him an undertaking that my right honourable friend the Minister will consider putting some advice to water undertakers on this particular point in any circular which is sent out dealing with procedure under the Bill. I think in point of fact that will meet all the points which the noble Earl has made and will get over the difficulty of this Amendment, which would go far too widely. I see what the noble Earl is trying to do and I think that if he will accept that undertaking it will meet his difficulty completely.


I hope we are not going to step off on the wrong foot again in regard to this Bill, which is essentially a non-Party Bill, with a stonewalling from the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft. Please do not put these river boards simply in the position of objecting after they hear that an order is to be made. That is the essential point of the arguments which the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, has put to us they will have the opportunity of objecting. Surely an appropriate, responsible authority is entitled to more consideration than that from the Ministry in regard to matters which are of vital importance to it. But if the noble Lord will consider putting down an Amendment on Report stage which will give the river board the opportunity of being consulted when there is an order which is of vital importance so far as the work of the river board is concerned, then I am sure the noble Earl will look at the matter again. He will speak for himself; but I personally am not content simply to have this stonewalling on an Amendment right at the beginning of the Committee stage, without any offer of co-operation at all from the noble Lord.


And I am not content to be accused of stonewalling. I went to considerable lengths to tell my noble friend who is behind me that I would try to meet his point in a way that would meet with his complete satisfaction. If the noble Lord thinks that that is stonewalling, I can only think that he will be in for a shock later in his political career when he sees what stonewalling can be if we set our minds to it. I have offered my noble friend an attempt, by means of the advice we propose to send out, to meet his point completely. I told him. I hope in as conciliatory a way as I could, that the method he proposed for dealing with this matter is not the right way. I suggested an alternative way which I think will meet his point completely; and the noble Lord opposite has accused me of stonewalling. I will not accept that; but I hope that my noble friend Earl Waldegrave will accept the offer I made him.


I do not want to get involved in these very high-level matters, and I must tell the noble Lord opposite that I shall be happy to withdraw this Amendment on the assurance my noble friend has given me. If my Amendment went too far, he may also perhaps be justly accused of going a little too far in his rebuttal of it. He said that the Amendment went too far when it asked for river boards to be consulted in every case. My whole object this afternoon is to try to get the river boards on all fours with, and on the same basis as, local authorities. It must be that often local authorities are to have statutory notice given to them when they are not actually going to have anything to do with a particular case. They will have consultation and notice, and I should have liked the river boards to be on all fours with them. But after the assurance which has been given by the noble Lord I shall not press this Amendment at the moment.

Amendment, by leave, withdraw

5.46 p.m.


moved, after subsection (3) to insert: (4) Undertakers who execute works in pursuance of an order made under this section shall remove all such works immediately after the expiration of the period laid dawn in the order under paragraph (a) or (b) of subsection (1) of this section or where the period is extended by an order made under subsection (3) of section four of this Act, immediately after the end of the period as so extended and if the undertakers fail to remove all the works within a period of fourteen days after the expiration of the said period, or the said period as so extended, they shall, without prejudice to their civil liability, if any, to a person aggrieved, be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds in respect of each day on which the offence has been committed or is continued: Provided that this subsection shall not apply where the owner and lessee or occupier of any land in on or over which works are executed agrees in writing to the works remaining in on or over that land.

The noble Viscount said: Before I develop my argument on this Amendment, I should like to apologise in advance for any errors in procedure into which I may fall, and to seek the indulgence of the Committee, which I know they are always ready to give to those who speak here for the first time. I should like also to apologise to the noble Lord. Lord Mancroft, because I could not be here for the Second Reading of this Bill; but I have studied the Bill and the discussion on Second Reading, and I fully understand the view of Her Majesty's Government about the scope of the Bill. Lastly, I ought also to declare an interest as Chairman of the Port of London Authority, which, along with other port authorities, is of course very much concerned with the possible repercussions of orders made under the Bill.

May I first make a general observation which has some relevance to the various Amendments which I have put down? It seems to me that when we are converting emergency powers into permanent statutory powers, as the noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave, has said, we should take great care and seize the opportunity to examine very carefully the scope of the powers which we are proposing to give to the Minister, and consider whether it would be wise to introduce some checks upon those powers or to circumscribe them in some other way. It is in that spirit that I have drafted (with a good deal of assistance, because I am not much of an expert at it) the Amendments I have put down.

This Amendment, No. 2, is aimed, as your Lordships will see, at only one thing: to ensure that temporary works which are executed to meet an emergency are removed after the period of the emergency has passed. Under subsection (3) of this clause an order may authorise works to be executed; but although the order authorises emergency measures for a period of only up to six months, which can be then extended by a further order to twelve months, nothing is said about removing the works. I fully appreciate that in many cases the works will be inherently of a temporary nature, portable pumps and so on, which would naturally be removed when the emergency was over. But I should think there must also be cases where the works are of a more permanent nature, involving brickwork Or masonry, culverts, bridges and the like; and it seems to me that in that case the Committee ought to consider whether it is not right to have some provision for those works to be removed.

Of course, it may be in some cases that the owners or occupiers of the land will be well content to leave these more Or less permanent works where they are—I will not say against another emergency, because, clearly, if another emergency of the same kind is anticipated that would take the case rather outside this Bill and bring it to something under which the water undertakers should exercise their ordinary powers. But, for instance, it might be that it would create more disturbance to the land to remove the works than to leave them. In that case owners or occupiers may, be very willing that they should be left, and a proviso to that effect has been included in the Amendment.

There surely will still remain cases where undertakers ought to remove works, and that is the whole object of this clause. When I consulted the friends who helped me with the drafting, I was sorry to find that we had created a new offence, because I think that that was something none of us liked to do. At the time we could not see how else we could make the removal of these works effective compulsorily. It has occurred to me since that perhaps it could be done by giving to the owners or occupiers the right, when the emergency was over and if the works were not removed, to remove them themselves and recover the costs front the water undertaker. Then we should not create an offence or introduce any system of fines

It has been suggested that there is no reason for putting this clause in the Bill, because the requirement to remove works that have been erected for an emergency could be written into the order in appropriate cases. We have tried carefully to see how that can be done, and I must confess that we really cannot see it. The first idea is to bring it within the words coming at the end of Clause 1 (1): …the Minister may include in the order such supplemental, incidental and consequential provisions as appear to him to be expedient for those purposes. I cannot see how an order to remove works at the end of an emergency can be expedient for the purpose of either abstracting water or suspending or modifying specified conditions, and it seems to me that an order that included such a provision might well be challenged.

I thought that perhaps it could be brought into subsection (3) (a), which provides that an order may authorise the undertakers for that purpose to enter upon any specified land and to occupy and use the land to such extent and in such manner as may be requisite for the execution and maintenance of the works. Again I am defeated, because once the emergency has expired undertakers will have no further right to enter upon occupied or used land and maintain works, but there is nothing that says that they have to remove them. If it is the intention that in all appropriate cases the undertaker should be required to remove works, then I suggest that the way to do it is to make that perfectly clear in the wording of the Bill, by accepting either this Amendment or some other appropriate Amendment that will have the same effect. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After subsection (3) insert the said new subsection.—(Viscount Simon.)


My first and pleasing task is to congratulate the noble Viscount upon his maiden speech in your Lordships' House. No man is really willing to hold a candle to the sun, and that would be my position with regard to the noble Viscount, whose clear lucidity must remind your Lordships forcibly of his noble father. I hope that the Government will be able to accept, if not this Amendment then a modified Amendment, because I can imagine nothing more hard to bear than the long continued presence of works that are no longer necessary and interfere with a man's own enjoyment of his property.

5.55 p.m.


I should like to add my congratulations to those of Lord Saltoun to the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, on his maiden speech. It is a particularly pleasant duty to me. I think that the noble Viscount knows of my great affection and respect for his noble father, who actually proposed my health at my wedding. The noble Viscount brings not only a distinguished name but also a distinguished office to our deliberations, and I hope that we shall hear from him on many future occasions, not always on a subject so specialised and recherché as that which we are now discussing.

I wish that I were able wholeheartedly to accept the first Amendment which the noble Viscount has moved in your Lordships' House. I can go some way—in fact, a long way—to meet him, but we cannot accept this Amendment; and I think he has guessed why. I do not like the creation of this new and important offence. I would suggest to the noble Viscount that in the great majority of cases the removal of works is most unlikely to be a real or practical difficulty. Experience of what has been done under the Defence Regulations since the war (and this matter has been looked at fairly carefully), shows that the most likely use of these powers will be to authorise pumps and other plant to be taken on to land. Very little, if any, constructional work will need to be carried out, and I imagine that the undertakers will be only too keen to remove their plant when the need for it to be kept there has come to an end. But if, in a particular case, more elaborate works are to be carried out, it is preferable that precise terms of the removal conditions should be considered by the Minister and then embodied in the order. I think that that is the right way to do it.

The noble Viscount doubts whether we can do it in that way. It is open to question, but I am advised that it can be done, as he suggested, under the power in Clause 1 (1) to include in an order "supplemental, incidental and consequential provisions". A similar discretionary power was found to be satisfactory in the Water Supplies Act. 1934, and at the moment my right honourable friend does not see the need to include a mandatory provision in the Bill. What I can do, therefore, is to give the noble Viscount the undertaking that we will include removal conditions in any order where they are shown to be desirable.

The noble Viscount has raised the question of whether the power to make supplementary provisions is wide enough to include removal conditions. I am advised that the Bill as drafted is adequate for the purpose, but if the noble Viscount is not happy about this point I will give him the further undertaking to look at the wording again before Report stage to make certain that I am right. I see exactly what he wants to do, and I think that on the whole the way I am suggesting will achieve his object in a tidier and less ponderous manner than by creating the offence which he has included in his draft. I hope that the noble Viscount will withdraw his Amendment on my giving him this double undertaking: first, that we will include removal conditions in any order where they are shown to be desirable; and secondly, that we will have another look at the wording to make certain that we are right and that what the noble Viscount wants can, in point of fact, be done.


The noble Lord has referred to the war. One has heard cases of people setting up business with abandoned equipment left by undertakers and collected after the war, and his illustration really does not bear out his argument. I think that the noble Lord might consider that.


I am happy to accept the undertakings which the noble Lord has given me in regard to this matter. I am particularly glad that he will examine carefully the wording to make certain that supplementary provisions which provide for the removal of works cannot be challenged as not coming within the clause. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.0 p.m.


moved to add to subsection (5): and shall not authorise the undertakers to enter upon or to occupy any operational land of a navigation authority unless the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation certifies that such entry or occupation will not interfere with the efficient carrying on of the undertaking of the navigation authority.

The noble Viscount said: The object of this Amendment is to ensure that entry upon, or occupation of, operational land of a navigation authority shall be made only on the issue of a certificate from the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (who, of course, is the Minister concerned with our ports) certifying that the efficient carrying on of the port will not be prejudiced.

I can quite see that this is a difficult Amendment for the noble Lord to accept. I admit that under the provisions of the Bill notice has to be given by the undertaker and that a navigation authority has the same right as anybody else to raise objection. I equally see that the Minister is bound to have regard to the interests of all the parties. But it seems to me that the efficient working of our ports is so vital that we must be careful about the exercise of these powers; and I suggest that the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation and his advisers, who are in close touch with the problems of the ports, are in a much better position to judge of what would adversely affect them than the Minister of Housing and Local Government and his advisers. No delay need be incurred under this procedure, because the appropriate certificate could easily be obtained within the period of notice of seven days. What I am asking for seems to me really a minimum safeguard.

I should like to call the attention of the Committee to Section 93 of the Water Act, 1935, in which, in not entirely dissimilar circumstances, protection is given to navigation authorities, to river boards and to the railway companies (I presume that that now means the British Transport Commission), and works which interfere with them may not be undertaken without their consent. I am not asking for as much as that: all I ask is that in a matter of this great importance—namely, the continued efficient operation of our ports—the decision as to whether or not this is prejudiced by any proposal should rest with the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation.

I am not aware whether or not this is a unique provision, but it will not be a unique provision if Her Majesty's Government successfully pilot through Parliament the Opencast Coal Bill, because in that Bill, in admittedly different but, I think, analogous circumstances, the Minister of Power cannot make a compulsory purchase order affecting land occupied by various statutory authorities without a certificate from the appropriate Minister; and in the case of ports, as I say, the appropriate Minister is the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation. I am sure that the Minister of Housing and Local Government will, as he is bound to do, pay proper regard to the interests of all concerned and weigh them carefully; but is he really in a position to assess the effect of interference on the operations of a navigation authority? Would it not be better, in a matter of this great importance, that the responsibility should be laid on the Minister who is most familiar with the problems of our ports? I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 42, at end insert the said words.—(Viscount Simon.)


As the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, foretold, I am not in a position to accept this Amendment in the way he has drafted it. I am afraid that it goes a good deal further than we should be able to accept. I see his difficulty, however, and I am in agreement with some of the fears he expresses. Let me see if I can meet any of them. The operational land with which we are concerned is land held by the authority for the purpose of carrying on their undertaking. It is unlikely, I should have thought, that the water undertakers would want to enter on to such land; but if they did, they would have to give notice to the navigation authority under the procedure for making the orders which is set out in the First Schedule to the Bill. The authority would then have the right to be heard by the Minister, and any necessary restrictions on entry could be embodied in the order, or the order could be amended or rejected.

This is as far as I can go. I will now give the noble Viscount my assurance that my right honourable friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government will always consult the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation before reaching a decision which affects a navigation authority. I think, therefore, it is unnecessary to have a provision in the Bill requiring one Minister to get another Minister's consent. Moreover (though I should like to take legal advice on this point: I was listening carefully to what my noble friend said), I believe not only that it is unnecessary, but that, in the circumstances, it would be unconstitutional to put into the Bill what my noble friend wants. I cannot believe that any noble Lord bearing the name of Simon would like anything unconstitutional to go into a Bill. However, I take my noble friend's point. I think the procedure I am suggesting will meet it completely, and I hope he will accept the suggestions I have made.


I am grateful to the noble Lord for having gone as far as he has to meet me on what I agree was a rather hopeless task. I am interested to hear what he said about the unconstitutional nature of what is proposed. I seem to remember a story about the sovereignty of Parliament. But there is also, as I think, the analogous case in the Opencast Coal Bill. However, I do not propose to pursue the question. I am satisfied that the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation will be consulted in all these cases. I should have preferred, in a matter of such importance, that that Minister could have the last word, but I have no doubt that the Minister of Housing and Local Government will pay due regard to what the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation says. In those circumstances, I gladly accept that assurance and bag leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.7 p.m.


moved to add to subsection (5): "(including in particular the prevention of pollution)." The noble Earl said: In Clause 1 (5) of the Bill certain interests are specified. The subsection says: In the exercise of his power to make orders under this section the Minster shall have regard to the interests of all persons concerned in the conservation or use of the water to which the order relates, whether for the purposes of agriculture, fisheries, industry or navigation or for other purposes. Your Lordships may think it splitting hairs if we say that one of the interests which we feel should be specified in this clause is the prevention of pollution. That is the statutory duty with which the river boards are charged, and for the life of me I cannot understand why it has not been included in this clause of the Bill. I believe that since 1955, when this Bill was first departmentally discussed, the river boards have pressed that this point should be included. I am sorry to say that when the Bill comes to be printed we find that those representations have not been listened to at all. I suggest that this Amendment could do no possible harm—indeed, it could do good. It is designed to ensure that this question of preventing pollution will and must be one of the matters to be taken into consideration by the Minister when he makes these emergency orders. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 42, at end insert the said words.—(Earl Waldegrave.)


I should like to support the case put by the noble Earl. Like many of your Lordships I have had the opportunity of reading a series of pamphlets issued some years ago by the Field Sports Society which gave a description of the horrifying and sickening conditions arising from pollution in a number of our rivers. Since then, to my own knowledge from a perusal of the reports of the River Boards Association, the river boards have been tackling, to the utmost of their ability but against tremendous odds, the problem of pollution from factories and other sources. Now we say to the Government: "Please, in a time of emergency, let pollution be one of the factors considered in connection with any order. Please, after these years of effort on the part of the river boards to bring about a better state of affairs in our rivers, so far as pollution is concerned, do not handicap them in their work, but realise the tremendous effort that they have been making and encourage them by accepting this Amendment." I beg to support the Amendment.


The words of this Amendment which I particularly like are, "including in particular." I shall listen with fascinated attention to the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, to see whether he is able to give us the reasons why Her Majesty's Government do not wish to prevent pollution.


The noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, will be disappointed to hear that I do not propose to fascinate him this evening. In other words, I hope that I shall give satisfaction by accepting this Amendment in principle, if not actually in form. It is not acceptable in its present form, but it touches on a point which I agree needs to be looked into. The reason for not accepting to-day is an entirely technical one. The prevention of pollution can hardly be said to be a purpose for which water is conserved or used. On the other hand, I agree that the taking of water out of the stream so as to reduce the flow may have an effect on the state of pollution of the stream, and is a matter to which the Minister ought to have regard when making an order. So far as the fishery interests of river boards are concerned, they are already covered by the clause as drafted. But I quite agree with my noble friend that it may be desirable to add a requirement that the Minister should also have regard to public health interests. I am therefore prepared to give my noble friend Lord Waldegrave an assurance that we will, between now and Report, consider this point to see whether we can put down an Amendment which will meet the good point he has made.


It would be most ungracious if I did other than at once withdraw this Amendment after the point that we tried to make has been so generously met by the noble Lord. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave withdrawn.

6.13 p.m.


moved, after subsection 8, to insert: (9) The Minister shall not make an order under this section to amend the provisions of section one hundred and sixty-two of the Thames Conservancy Act, 1932 (which gives the Metropolitan Water Board power to extract water from the Thames subject to certain restrictions) or of any Act or order for the time being in force amending the same.

The noble Viscount said: This is a different type of Amendment. I think the purpose of it is quite plain—to leave undisturbed the present arrangements which govern the extraction of water from the River Thames by the Metropolitan Water Board. I realise that it is difficult in a Public Act of this kind to make a specific exception, but this problem of the extraction of water from the Thames for use in London is an extremely complicated problem and quite a unique one.

Section 162 of the Thames Conservancy Act, to which the Amendment refers, provides that the Metropolitan Water Board shall not abstract any water from the Thames when the flow of water over Teddington Weir is below 170 million gallons a day, or so as to reduce the flow below that figure. To give the Committee some idea of the picture, I would mention that the mean flow—that is, the average daily flow—fluctuates from year to year, and is about 400 million gallons a day against the 170 million gallons limit. But it is an astonishingly variable factor. In times of spate it has gone up as high as 8,000 million gallons, and one day in the last fortnight it exceeded 6,000 million gallons.

In the Thames Conservancy Act Section 167 makes provision for this figure of 170 million gallons to be reduced in an emergency by orders made jointly by the Minister—it would now be the Minister of Housing and Local Government—and by the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation. From time to time, emergency orders were made under Section 167. It was then found by the parties concerned—that is, the Thames Conservancy, the Metropolitan Water Board and the Port of London Authority—that it was rather inconvenient to have orders made from time to time and varied, and, as a result, two more or less permanent orders were made under the Water Act, 1945. One of these orders covers the period from February to May, and the other the period from June to January each year. During the early period, February to May, when in the ordinary course there is always plenty of water flowing down, the flow may be reduced to 90 million gallons a day. This order has not been frequently implemented, but it does help the Metropolitan Water Board to fill up their reservoirs at a time when there is plenty of water available.

During the second period, the long period, June to January, the order is an extraordinarily complicated one, and I hope the Committee will not expect me to explain it because I should be quite incapable of doing so, and you cannot understand it unless you have a chart or graph, of which I have seen a copy, with lines all over it, which determines in some ingenious way the amount of water that can be extracted by relation to the amount in the reservoirs at any one time or the amount of the flow over Teddington Weir. The effect of this is that, in extreme emergencies of drought, the flow can be reduced to 50 million gallons a day. Of course, in an extreme drought the flow may even go below that figure (it has been, I believe, just under 20 million gallons) and then the Metropolitan Water Board cannot extract any water at all.

The position is that, after full consultation with all the parties concerned. an extremely complicated formula has been agreed. It has worked well and smoothly for a number of years, and I think all concerned with it—the Thames Conservancy, the Metropolitan Water Board and the Port of London Authority—do not wish to see it disturbed. I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord will be able to accept this Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 26, at end insert the said new subsection.—(Viscount Simon.)


The noble Viscount has told us that the graph is complicated. Fortunately, the purpose of his Amendment is clear: it is to secure that no order should be made under the Bill to alter the amount of water which the Metropolitan Water Board are authorised to abstract from the Thames. As my noble friend Lord Simon has told us, Section 162 of the Thames Conservancy Act, 1932, lays down the detailed conditions for abstractions by the Metropolitan Water Board. These conditions have recently been amended, after discussion with all the interests concerned, by two orders under the Water Act, 1945. These orders provide a formula for varying the Board's abstractions according to the flow over Teddington Weir and the amount of water in the Board's reservoirs.

It is unlikely that any further alteration to the Board's powers will be needed, but if it did become necessary the Thames Conservancy Act, 1932, provides its own machinery for making emergency orders. That is in Section 167. I can therefore accept the intention of the noble Viscount's Amendment, but I am afraid the wording will need to be looked at, as an Amendment to the Thames Conservancy Act is not the only way in which an order under the Water Bill could be used to increase the Board's authorised abstraction from the Thames. I can therefore give my noble friend Lord Simon an undertaking that we will look at this matter carefully and put down a Government Amendment to meet his point on the Report stage of the Bill.


I am obliged to the noble Lord. In those circumstances, of course, I would ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 [Supplying water by temporary means during a drought]

VISCOUNT SIMON moved, after subsection (2) to insert: (3) An order under this section—

  1. (a) shall not authorise the undertakers, except with the consent of the navigation authority, to erect, set up or maintain standpipes or water tanks—
    1. (i) in any street belonging to and repairable by any navigation authority; or
    2. (ii) so as to obstruct the access to or exit from any dock, wharf or other work of a navigation authority;
  2. (b) any consent required by this subsection shall not be unreasonably withheld, but may be given subject to any reasonable conditions;
  3. (c) any dispute between the undertakers and a navigation authority as to whether consent is unreasonably withheld or is given subject to reasonable conditions shall be referred to and determined by the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation."

The noble Viscount said: This Amendment seeks to give protection to navigation authorities—and it may well be that some other public utilities would like to come under the same umbrella—as regards the obstruction of streets or the approaches to wharves or docks by the erection of stand-pipes or water tanks. I think it possible that the noble Lord in charge of the Bill will tell me that it is unlikely in an emergency of this kind that any stand-pipes or water tanks would be put in the approaches to wharves. I agree it is not probable, but because it is unlikely I do not think it is wrong to make provision against those very few cases where a water undertaker might wish to do this.

I would remind noble Lords that in looking at a matter of this kind one does not want to look solely at a port like Liverpool or London. There are ports a long way inland up some navigable rivers which are really in country districts, and they might be affected by provisions of this kind. I would point out to the Committee that there is in fact a similar provision to this in Section 5 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1953, which deals with the erection of bus shelters, and there is the same provision in the corresponding Scottish Bill which is now before Parliament, the Local Government (Omnibus Shelters and Queue Barriers) (Scotland) Bill. In both those measures there is provision for the consent of navigation authorities and other public undertakers to be obtained before obstructions are put in streets for which they are responsible. It seems to me an eminently sensible arrangement, and I should rather hope that this would be a check upon the inadvertent use of an order which might quite unwittingly cause damage to other interests. It is an arrangement which perhaps the noble Lord would be willing to accept.

I apologise that something seems to have gone wrong with the drafting. Paragraphs (b) and (c) clearly do not link up with the preamble of the subsection. I think the small (a) in brackets should be deleted and (b) and (c) should be replaced by (4) and (5). Subject to that amendment I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 17, at end insert the said new subsection.—(Viscount Simon.)


If I might dot an "i" for the noble Viscount, I would remind the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, that the Port of Glasgow particularly is very much inland and might be much in need of a provision of this kind. I once gave in your Lordships' House the result of the disastrous effect of not obtaining proper consents under the war regulations, and it was such a horrible case with such horrible results that the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Simon's father, thought I was exaggerating and said it was dreadful. I was not exaggerating a bit, and therefore I think some clause of this sort is very necessary.


There are, as my noble friend Lord Simon says, many important interests which could be affected if the water undertakers were stupid about siting stand-pipes and emergency water tanks—fire stations, bus depôts, hospitals, and so on. I do not think it is really necessary to single out navigation authorities for special protection. The noble Viscount, Lord Simon, more or less hinted at that. I should have thought that this was really a matter which could be safely left to the common sense of the water undertakers. I do not think it is necessary to go to quite the lengths the noble Viscount wants. So far as land in the ownership of the navigation authority is concerned, they are, under the First Schedule, entitled to notice and will be able to make representations to the Minister. A parallel procedure which provided for disputes to be settled by the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation would be out of keeping with the need for speed which is the essence of the whole procedure of the Bill. I would ask the noble Viscount to be good enough to think this matter over. I am prepared to talk it over with him. I would ask him to think over whether leaving it to the good sense of the water undertakers would not really in this case meet his purpose.


I appreciate what the noble Lord has said. I do not wish to imply that the water undertakers would be stupid, but I think it is conceivable they might be ignorant of the effect of putting, tanks or stand-pipes in some particular position. It would be quite easy, of course, for the navigation authority to make representations; but one knows that when a statutory undertaker has set his mind to do something it is often difficult to persuade him against it. I will, however, take away the noble Lord's words of wisdom and cull them over in my mind, and I may take the opportunity later of coming to consult the noble Lord about it.


Before the noble Viscount withdraws his Amendment, may I remind the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, that it is just the fact that it is an emergency that makes people careless and rather rough. It was an emergency that caused the disaster to which I was referring.


I will bear that point in mind also before I come to discuss the matter with the noble Lord. I would ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 agreed to.

6.27 p.m.

EARL WALDEGRAVE moved, after Clause 2, to insert the following new clause:

Restrictions on irrigation

".—(1) If the Minister is satisfied that by reason of an exceptional shortage of rain, a serious deficiency of supplies of water in any locality exists or is threatened he may on the application of the appropriate river board make an order containing such provisions as appear to him to be expedient for enabling the river board to regulate and, if necessary, to prohibit the abstraction of water from any watercourse in the locality by means of pumps or other similar apparatus for the purpose of irrigation and the Minister may include in the order such supplemental incidental and consequential provisions as appear to him to be expedient for those purposes.

(2) The provisions of the First Schedule to this Act shall have effect in relation to the procedure to be followed in connection with the making of orders under this section subject to the following modifications:—

  1. (a) references to the area of the river board applying for the order shall be substituted for references to the limits of supply of the applicants; and
  2. (b) notice of the application for the order shall be served on every local authority whose areas lies wholly or partly in the locality to which the order relates and on no other person.

(3) If any person contravenes any provisions of an order made under this section he shall be deemed to be guilty of an offence under the Water Act, 1945:

Provided that nothing in this section shall be construed as prohibiting, or restricting the abstraction of water for domestic purposes."

The noble Earl said: I confess to feeling some diffidence in moving this new clause, not only because of the comparatively late hour but also because of the fact that what we are asking for here is a new control, which is something that must not be asked for lightly.

I am one of those who greatly admire the facility and grace with which the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, changes his hat. He speaks for such a varied number of Departments and never seems to let the interests of those Departments in any way be lost sight of. I myself in this matter am not clad in one hat only. I see its importance from the point of view of the river boards and the water undertakers, but first and foremost my first love must be agriculture. Here is a new agricultural technique, this new mobile irrigation which has come—and come to stay. But I think there is no doubt that at some time or other Parliament will have to consider this matter, and it occurred to me that this was a proper moment on which it might be considered, perhaps almost for the first time in Parliament. I am not sanguine enough to believe that noble Lords will be able to accept this new clause as it stands, but I feel that this is an opportunity to consider a matter which will have to be considered sooner or later.

What is the problem? The problem is that this new technique of agricultural irrigation has been developed whereby farmers who are riparian owners put into the rivers or water courses, be they main rivers or only minor tributaries, modern high-powered pumps which will pump up to 3,000 gallons an hour, or more, with which to irrigate the crops growing on their land. This is not only done, as one might suppose, in the more and districts of the Eastern Counties; it is even done quite considerably by the modern farmer in the Western districts where we grow grass, because it is just these succulent green crops that suffer most when a severe drought occurs.

Let us consider what is likely to be the problem involved. We have a statutory flow of compensation water going down a river, being released from some reservoir. We shall have these emergency powers in the hands of the Minister, once this Bill, which permits the temporary reduction, after due notice and so on, of this statutory compensation flow, has reached the Statute Book. But it is conceivable that the whole exercise will be brought to naught because there will be no water in the river, or far less than the statutory amount which should be there, because, just at this time of sudden and unprecedented drought, the wily agricultural contractor has moved into the area with his mobile pumps and his portable apparatus, and large quantities of water are being abstracted from the river.

The whole basis of any river policy must be "fair shares". There are these enormous numbers of uses to which water has to be put—domestic use; water for human consumption; industrial water; water for agriculture; navigation; fisheries; prevention of pollution by dilution and a number of other causes, all of which are largely controlled by Statute. There is the most careful draftsmanship going into all these new Statutes. Then, in the middle of all this, along comes a new idea, something that is quite a new thing to the established Department—agricultural irrigation, which makes, or may make, a nonsense of the whole thing. Therefore, I feel that we must give consideration to this problem. I shall be happy to be advised by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, on what is the proper way. I am not prepared to press this particular new clause, but it seems to me that it is a way in which this matter should be raised and considered. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 2, insert the said new clause.—(Earl Waldegrave.)


The fact that this new clause has been put down at the instance of the River Boards Association is, I think, an indication of the broad-minded manner in which the Association looks at problems of this kind. After all, those of us who know the composition of the river boards will be aware that agricultural interests—I will not say predominate but, at any rate, are largely represented on the river boards; and if, as the noble Earl has explained, this clause were rigidly interpreted, it might strike a severe blow at some agricultural interests. On the other hand, I suppose one can argue that the uncontrolled abstraction of water during times of acute shortage is a matter which ought seriously to be considered, and that one interest alone should not have the opportunity of looking after its own particular side of the problem. It seems to me that that is the essence of this proposed new clause, and what we should like is some guidance from the Minister in dealing with this problem. As the noble Earl has said, the new clause is not one which we propose to press, but we should like the problem to be looked at and to receive some guidance from the Ministry.


Before the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, answers, there is a point I should like to make. First of all, I must declare an interest—namely, membership of the Metropolitan Water Board. Having regard, as the noble Lord admitted at the outset of these proceedings, to the short time available between Second Reading and the Committee stage (I gather that appropriate facilities will be available to us between now and the Report stage) I must say frankly that I have not had sufficient time to consult the Metropolitan Water Board as to what the effect of this proposed new clause may be. The noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave, has indicated that it really introduces a new policy—far-reaching, apparently touching all aspects of the use of water. In those circumstances, it seems clear that we must have time to consider the implications of this new clause. Of course, the Minister will be best able to say, but having regard to the fact that the proposals would affect almost every use of water I should have thought that this Bill, which deals with a limited aspect of water supplies, was clearly not the appropriate place for this matter to be dealt with. No doubt the Minister can give us some guidance on that point.


I think that if I were to accept this new clause the three noble Lords who have spoken to the Amendment would be three most startled noble Lords because, of course, it goes right outside the scope of the Bill. After all, this is a Bill to enable statutory water undertakers to meet deficiences in the supply of water. There is nothing in the new clause linking the proposed restrictions to areas where the rivers are used or are likely to be used for public water supplies. I am afraid, therefore, that I cannot possibly accept the Amendment in its present form.

Let me say this, however. The control of abstraction from rivers in order to safeguard river board interests is a matter which the River Boards Association has been pressing vigorously for some time. Statutory water undertakers cannot abstract water from rivers, either temporarily or permanently, without an order of the Minister. Any control of other abstractions would involve restricting the Common Law rights of riparian owners and is not a step which could lightly be undertaken. I am certain that the noble Lord, Lord Latham, appreciates that point. It is, however, under consideration in the Department of my right honourable friend, as a result of representations made by the River Boards Association; but I do not think it would be right, even if it were within the scope of the Bill, to make such a fundamental alteration in a minor Bill such as the one we are at present considering. However, if my noble friend Lord Waldegrave can give me some evidence that there are rivers where a control on the lines of the new clause would help to produce water supplies in an emergency, I should of course be happy to consider it.

I am doubtful how far any new power is needed to control abstraction of water specifically for irrigation. A riparian owner has a Common Law right to use water from a river so long as he returns it to the river substantially unaltered in quantity and quality. Irrigation by overhead sprays, as now practised, does not leave any water to be returned to the river. The River Boards Association, may, therefore, like to consider the point that if a riparian owner abstracts so much water for irrigation as to injure the interests of owners lower down the stream, he is liable to proceedings at Common Law. Perhaps my noble friend Lord Waldegrave would like to turn these points over in his mind, and perhaps we might have some discussions to see if we can help him and his friends in any way in regard to this very real problem. I am afraid that I cannot possibly accept this Amendment. Nor is it much good my offering the noble Lord a re-draft, because the principle goes right outside the Bill, and I believe that we should be letting ourselves in for a great deal of trouble if we were to widen the scope of the measure at this stage. I am sorry that I cannot give the noble Lord more assistance than that, but such assistance as I can give, I offer him.


I must, of course, accept that statement, which is quite as far as I expected the noble Lord to be able to go. If, as was implied by what the noble Lord said, this Amendment is badly drafted, I hope that he will accept our apologies—perhaps that was partly due to the hurry in which all this was done. I am sure that we have here a problem which will have to be tackled. I am no lawyer but I cannot doubt that the obtaining of an injunction, under Common Law, for injurious action is a lengthy process. If we are to try to do that in the middle of an emergency operation in drought we may come into difficulties.

Before withdrawing my Amendment, with the permission of the Committee, I should like to make clear my position from the point of view of the agricultural interest. Noble Lords who know me well will know that I have no wish to hamper or restrict agricultural development—in fact the whole of my intention is opposite. But I feel that it is not the kindest thing one can do to the agricultural industry to allow them to develop without control and without any kind of regulation, so that a system, just when it has got going, may have to be stopped. I feel that it is much better to deal with possible dangers in advance, before they arise. That is what I hope will be done. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, for saying that he will look into this point, though not in connection with this particular Bill. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3:

Revocation of Defence Regulations 50A and 56

(2) Any order under either of the said Regulations which is in force immediately before the coming into operation of this section shall, unless previously revoked by an order of the Minister under this section, continue to apply as if the Regulation had not been revoked until the thirty-first day of March, nineteen hundred and sixty, and the provisions of Regulation 50A concerning compensation shall continue to apply in relation to any order under that Regulation.

EARL WALDEGRAVE moved, in subsection (2), to leave out "until the thirty-first day of March, nineteen hundred and sixty." The noble Earl said: With the Committee's permission, perhaps I may speak on Amendments Nos. 8 and 9 together. Here the real point is the six months' orders. I understand that under the present Bill these emergency orders will normally have a currency of six months, but if I have correctly read the clauses which I now seek to amend, they have the effect of extending existing orders for this increased period—up to March 31, 1960. That has two effects which I cannot believe were intended. It has the effect of gratuitously extending orders that are already limited, for no particular reason that I can see. It also has the effect of doing what I am sure Her Majesty's Government have no wish to do—as it were, subsidising inefficiency.

We heard on Second Reading the point—a good one—that these emergency powers, which would be granted only in circumstances of exceptional shortage of rain, were not to be used as a means of letting water undertakings have exceptional powers when they themselves had not used sufficient foresight to provide for water in abnormal conditions. There are now in existence orders which have to do with charges and matters other than exceptional shortages of water and I realise that those must be, continued until some date. I appreciate that the words connected with the date must be in the Bill, and presumably somewhere in this clause; but I suggest that the proper place to put them is as I now wish to move. The effect of what I am now moving is that we shall not then automatically and gratuitously extend orders on variations or reductions of compensation flow. We shall not let these matters run on for more than the six months which is provided for under the Bill, but, if my suggested Amendments are adopted, we shall cover the point of other orders—charge orders and so on—which must be allowed to continue. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 39, leave out from ("revoked") to ("and") in line 40.—(Earl Waldegrave.)


When I first saw these two Amendments, Nos. 8 and 9, on the Order Paper, I presumed that the noble Earl had put them down because he and his friends thought that the subsection as drafted could possibly be held to continue all existing orders in force until March 31, 1960—even those which include a provision to bring them to an end before that date. The noble Earl has now confirmed that point. I am advised that there is no doubt about the effect of the subsection as drafted, but, in any case, I am afraid that the wording of the noble Earl's Amendment will not do, because apparently it would have the effect of bringing to an end at March 31, 1960, the provisions of Regulation 50A concerning compensation; and there may well be some claims which cannot be settled or even made until after that date. Possibly the noble Earl may have overlooked that point. In any case, though I am advised (and I believe well advised) on that point, if the noble Earl will withdraw his Amendment, which I could not accept in any case, I will look at the wording again, now that I have reassured myself in my mind as to what was worrying the noble Earl, to see whether the point is a sound one and whether we can do something to ease it.


That is quite satisfactory, and on that understanding I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 [Interpretation]


had given notice of an Amendment to insert in subsection (1): 'operational land' has the meaning given to that expression, as respects England and Wales by the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, and as respects Scotland by the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act, 1947.

The noble Viscount said: This Amendment is consequential to others which the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, is unable to accept and therefore I will not move it.

Clause 4 agreed to.