§ 3.17 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
My Lords, this Bill will remove an anomaly in water legislation. A cardinal point in the Government's water policy is the regrouping of water undertakings into larger and stronger units. Amalgamations may be brought about in two ways, either by an order of the Minister of Housing and Local Government, under Section 9 of the Water Act, 1945, or by the promotion of a Bill in Parliament. On amalgamation certain employees may lose pay, or perhaps lose their jobs altogether. Section 44 of the Water Act, 1945, entitles officers and servants who are adversely affected by orders made under the Act to claim compensation, broadly speaking, under the compensation code laid down in the Local Government Act, 1933. But since about 1946, Parliament has approved a more up-to-date code, and when regrouping has taken place by Bill it was the practice until last Session for Parliament to approve only the later compensation code in Bills. Thus the code of compensation applicable to the amalgamation of water undertakings varied according to whether it was carried out by Bill, or by order by the Minister.
This situation was thrown into relief when four Bills with overlapping provisions relating to regrouping, in the Thames Valley were being considered in the last Session of Parliament. Two of the Bills contained the post-war compensation code, and the other two sought to have the old code applied. The Government therefore decided to introduce legislation to repeal the provisions of the 1945 Act which apply to the prewar code of compensation and to substitute for it a power to enable the Minister to make regulations governing compensation, which would follow a post-war pattern.
This Bill, which applies also to Scotland, gives effect to that decision. It does not deal with the detailed calculation 1161 of compensation, it simply gives the Ministers concerned powers to make regulations which will embody the code of compensation. This follows precedents given by other post-war Acts providing for compensation, such as (to quote only two) The River Boards Act, 1948, and, more recently, the Local Government Act, 1958. Before the regulations are made, they will, like those under the Local Government Act, 1958, be the subject of consultation with the various interests concerned. My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Earl Waldegrave.)
§ LORD BURDEN
My Lords, speaking for those on these Benches, I can say that we welcome this Bill but I want to say just two things. First, one has to remember that the new code of 1946, I believe, resulted in a worsening of the 1933 conditions. The noble Earl disagrees, but the people concerned rather think that that was the case. The second point is that I am very glad to receive the assurance that before the draft regulations are laid they will be discussed with the staff associations representing the people concerned.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.