HL Deb 03 April 1962 vol 239 cc140-65

1. An application for the grant of a pipe-line construction authorisation must be made to the Minister in writing and must—

(c) state whether or not the grant of any rights or the giving of any street works consents is requisite to enable the proposed pipe-line to be constructed and to be, during the period during which it may reasonably be expected to remain, inspected, maintained, adjusted, repaired and renewed and, if it be the case that the grant of any rights or the giving of any such consents is requisite for that purpose, specify the rights and consents the grant or giving of which is so requisite and state, with respect to each of them, whether the grant or giving thereof has been, or can be, obtained;

5.20 p.m.

LORD BURDEN moved, in Part I, paragraph 1 (c), after "street works consents" to insert "or the giving of any consents by any river board". The noble Lord said: Anyone with a knowledge of the work of river boards will be aware of the constant struggle which river boards have to prevent or minimise the evils arising from the pollution of our rivers by industrial wastes and matters of that kind. Many of these evils arise from the fact that it was not foreseen early enough that this pollution would occur. Now the river boards are very anxious that, in connection with this new development in transport—what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth has described and quite rightly described as a revolutionary development in transport—the mistakes which were made in the past during our industrial development, which have led to the shocking state of many of our rivers, should not be made worse by the ignoring of any of the statutory provisions or the by-laws of river boards in the construction of pipe-lines.

In effect, the Amendment brings the river boards right into the picture at the beginning instead of at some later stage. If one reflects upon it one will see that, unless they come in at the beginning, mistakes and trouble may easily arise. I am sure it will be to the advantage of both the Minister and the promoters of a pipe-line to get the matter properly cleared up, understood and worked to right from the outset of the plan of development. For these reasons, I beg to move the Amendment and trust the Minister will accept it.

Amendment moved— Page 38, line 20, after ("consents") insert (" or the giving of any consents by any river board ").—(Lord Burden.)


I can accept this Amendment in principle. I should like to look further at the exact wording, but this or something like it will be acceptable.


I am most grateful to the noble Lord, and with that assurance I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


Amendment No. 70 raises very much the same point as did Amendment No. 10, with which we dealt early last week. I was told then that No. 10 was unnecessary, and I should no doubt be told that this one is unnecessary. I therefore do not propose to move it.

5.23 p.m.


I beg to move this Amendment on behalf of my noble friend Lord Lucan. Paragraph 1 of Part I of the First Schedule sets out the matters which must be contained in an application for the grant of a pipe-line authorisation, and it sets out five different pieces of information. There seems to me to be an omission, and that is that the application contains no provision for information as to the kind of pipe which is to be constructed. The Amendment asks that the application should state to what recognised British standards the proposed pipe-line and its associated equipment is to be constructed". It may be that that is a little vague, and I am not sure whether or not the Amendment itself can stand up; but what I think is quite definite is that there ought to be some information supplied by the proposed undertaker as to what kind of a pipe-line he is proposing to lay. I therefore hope that the noble Lord, even if he does not accept the exact wording of this Amendment, will be able to ensure that some information of this kind is contained in the application. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 38, line 31, at end insert— (" ( ) state to what recognised British standards the proposed pipe-line and its associated equipment is to be constructed;")—(Lord Silkin.)


I am sorry to say —and the noble Lord has given me a lead for saying it—that the Amendment of itself would not, in fact, stand up. Perhaps he will not expect me to go further into it than that and will not mind if I go on more to the principle of the matter that he has raised. Of course, there cannot be any dispute about the desirability and the need to ensure that pipe-lines are constructed from the proper kind of material and in the proper kind of way, but the Bill already provides for that since the Minister is empowered to impose requirements as to the construction of pipe-lines, the method and the materials, and it would certainly be his intention, where standards of some kind existed, to impose them if they were appropriate. The question of the construction of a pipeline would normally come a little later than the original application, when there would be discussion between the applicant and one of the Minister's inspectors.

It would not make very much difference, even assuming that there were the necessary British standards, because every application would have to be examined in that way just the same in order to make certain that the standard, whatever it might be, was suitable for the actual operation that the pipe-line operator had in mind. I think that there is no need to alter that in the Bill. The Minister has power to make sure, and I do not think there is anything particularly to be gained from making it a necessity that the actual specification of the construction should be stated in the application.


I apologise to the Minister for my absence when the Amendment was called. I should like to say that I am disappointed with his reply. When I put down this Amendment there was more than one consideration in my mind. I thought it only natural and to be expected that, when somebody was applying for permission to build a pipe-line for a certain purpose, he would say what sort of pipe-line he was going to build. He is asked to say what it is proposed to convey in the proposed pipe-line. It matters a good deal whether it is to be milk or whether it is to be some explosive, some highly dangerous chemical; and so it seems the normal and natural thing that, in making an application of that sort, the proposer should state it.

Then, if you do not state it you can, I think, as the Minister told us at an earlier stage, rely on sub-paragraph (e), where it is lumped together with … such other (if any) particulars as may be described. That seems to be rather unsatisfactory and rather hard on the proposer. He will not know what information he is supposed to produce. Then, if you delay submitting this information until it is asked for, and wait until the Minister exercises his powers under Clause 20, is that not adding to the load of bureaucracy and creating unnecessary office work? The Minister has to consider the application, and then he has to write and ask the proposer of what material he is going to make his pipeline, so a considerable unnecessary addition to the burden of administration seems to be involved in this business.

Finally, I thought that without some mention such as this in this Schedule, the Government do not convey any sense of importance to the safety question. If there is no mention of it, or if it is merely brought in under another sub-paragraph, or merely asked for at a later stage, it seems to me an indication that the Government do not attach very great importance to the safety aspect of the proposal. In fact, it indicates to me that they regard it as a secondary consideration altogether, and for these reasons I am extremely disappointed that the Government cannot meet this proposal in any way.


I am sorry that the noble Earl is disappointed, because I thought I had been trying to explain to him that the Amendment, to a considerable extent, had been met. In the process of what he was saying, he said again, as noble Lords opposite have kept on saying, that the Government are paying no attention to safety, or very little regard to it, and he said that without having adduced to prove that statement one shred of evidence which I can find in any way convincing. It may be true that that is what noble Lords think; maybe it is the policy of the Opposition to think that; but they have not supported it very well, to my way of thinking. However, I do not want to argue about that point. I am concerned merely that the noble Lord should think that this matter is not as loosely covered as he apparently thinks is the case. The wording is: (e) contain such other (if any) particulars as may be prescribed. It gives the Minister a discretion, if he so wishes and finds necessary, during his consideration of pipe-line authorisations, to prescribe that the details shall be given, and he can do the same in any other respect. Therefore, that argument merely emphasises what I said before, and that is that the Minister is adequately empowered to deal with the point which the noble Lord has raised.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

5.33 p.m.


This Amendment follows on the part of the Schedule which deals with applications for a pipe-line, and I should like to suggest that, in addition to notice being served and publication given where the Minister directs that it should be given, it should at the same time be published in the London Gazette or the Edinburgh Gazette, as being a general publication whereby the British Waterworks Association and similar bodies can learn of the proposal to make a pipe-line. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 39, line 9, at end insert— (b) a like notice must be published by the applicant in the London Gazette and the Edinburgh Gazette or, in the case of an application relating solely to England and Wales or to Scotland, in the London Gazette or the Edinburgh Gazette as may be appropriate;").—(Lord Amulree.)


I think that the noble Lord's proposal, putting forward the fact that cross-country pipe-lines may differ from other comparable kinds of development, in that they may concern third parties outside the localities which are immediately affected, is a proposal of some merit. There are a number of people, other companies, for instance, who may wish to know about the proposal and national societies who may wish to safeguard amenity, and so on. Therefore, perhaps the noble Lord will be satisfied if I accept his Amendment in principle, and I will look at its drafting and its implications with a view to putting down a Government Amendment at a later stage.


I am very grateful to the noble Lord for meeting me so far, and I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


The Schedule says that a notice must be served upon every local planning authority, but I should like to have one served at the same time on the statutory water undertakers, because, for reasons I have given on more than one occasion in the past, these undertakings are particularly liable to pollution from pipe-lines. Therefore I feel it would give them rather more security if they could be informed by the applicant, and not merely have to rely on the Minister's hoping or expecting that they will be informed. I should like to know whether this proposal could be put in the Schedule in this form, and I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 39, line 11, after ("area") insert ("and on all statutory water undertakers within whose limits of supply").—(Lord Amulree.)


We had a certain amount of discussion on a point very similar to this in earlier Amendments, and I do not think I need detain your Lordships by repeating all the arguments. If I may summarise, your Lordships will recall that I argued that it was not desirable to include in a Schedule a list of statutory bodies and other people who are to be consulted, because such a list would be long, and would either have to include a number of people who might well not need to be consulted in a particular instance, or, alternatively, in certain circumstances, omit someone who needed to be consulted. It would be necessary to draw up a Schedule which would cover all possible people in all possible circumstances, and that would be an extremely difficult thing to do. The present position is that the Minister can direct that notices must be served on the appropriate people in the appropriate case. That is the way in which we feel it is better done. The noble Lord will remember that on Clause 34, which is the one which looks after the interests of statutory bodies, I earlier gave an undertaking to consider whether there is a case for giving them earlier notice of the construction of pipe-lines; and if the noble Lord feels that what he is putting forward could equally well come under that umbrella, I hope he will accept that and withdraw his Amendment.


I am grateful for what the noble Lord has said, and in view of the explanation he has made I think the point I have down in my Amendment will be covered. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.40 p.m.

VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS moved, in paragraph 3, to add to subparagraph(1): (c) A like notice must be served by the applicant on each owner, lessee and occupier of land on the route of the pipe-line proposed in the application.

The noble Viscount said: Whereas my noble friend Lord Amherst of Hackney said that he was satisfied that an Amendment upon the lines of the one which I am now moving is not necessary, I am afraid that I am not so sanguine about this.

My noble friend Lord Chesham has just said that there would be considerable difficulty in including in the Schedule a list of everybody who might at any time have to be given notice beforehand that a pipe-line construction authorisation was coming up to the Minister for his attention, and with that I entirely agree. On the other hand, I should have thought there was no doubt whatever that there are certain persons and bodies who must on every occasion be told when such an authorisation is to be considered, and in the first rank of these people, I consider, would be the landowners and occupiers of the land which will be affected by the pipe-line. I cannot see how anybody can possibly avoid that particular point; nor do I think that Her Majesty's Government have done so. Because, if I understood correctly what my noble friend told the Committee when your Lordships were discussing Clause 2 of the Bill, it is implicit in the drafting of the Bill that it should be a requirement that the proposed pipe-dine owner must seek out all owners and occupiers, and everybody else interested in the land, to find out whether or not they will be content to let the pipe go through their land. This is clearly so, and I think that paragraph 1 (c) of the First Schedule does, by inference, require a pipe-line owner to do so.

As the First Schedule will presumably be read by the general public, it passes my comprehension why, if Her Majesty's Government are going to require pipeline owners to tell the owners of the land before they go to the Minister for authorisation, this cannot be stated, in black and white, in the Bill. I do not understand 'why Her Majesty's Government insist upon relying on inferences to be drawn from a rather long and obscure sentence in a sub-paragraph, and why, if they intend that the owners should be told, it should not be stated in the Bill in clear English. However many reassurances we may have, I hope that my noble friend, who I am sure agrees with me in principle, will look at this again and see if this cannot be written out in a simple way, so that everybody can see what Her Majesty's Government intend.

Amendment moved— Page 39, line 13, at end insert the said subparagraph.—(Viscount Colville of Culross.)


I should like to second the Amendment moved by the noble Viscount. If one looks at the paragraph which he is seeking to amend, it says—and perhaps I may quote it: … there must be published by the applicant… a notice stating that application has been made to the Minister.… So far as I understand the word "published", it means "made generally known". Yet the paragraph goes on to describe a notice in the singular. Presumably that means a notice in some obscure legal jargon that the ordinary public—certainly I myself—do not understand, pat up at a town hall or published in the London Gazette. It appears that the Government are going to look into the Amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, but what is really required is a direct notice to everybody who may be affected by a pipe-line. Otherwise, the Bill, as at present drafted, seems to me to smack of bureaucratic arrogance. I think that that is the last impression the Minister or the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, would like to give, but that is the impression which I feel is given by the present wording. All an applicant has to do is to put up one notice somewhere, and to put another in an obscure column of a daily newspaper, or possibly in the London Gazette, which none of the general public reads. What is really required is an individual notice sent to everybody whose land will be affected. If you are going to have a pipe-line going through your back garden, the least you should expect is a courteously posted notice put through your letter box from the person who is going to do it. That. I think, is what should be provided for in the Bill.


This Amendment is exactly the same as Amendment No. 70, which again was similar to No. 10, put down by the noble Lord, Lord Amherst of Hackney, which I promised to look into. That examination is not yet complete, so I am not in a position either to accept or reject this Amendment. I hope that my noble friend will be willing to give us a little longer to decide this point.


While fully expecting that my noble friend will be willing to respond to the request that has been made, I hope that I may be allowed briefly to support my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross in the principle of his Amendment. It seems to me that, whatever might be the possibility of an owner or lessee of land ultimately hearing of the application, there would be great advantage in his hearing of it at a suitably early stage, perhaps at the same time as the Minister hears of it. My noble friend's Amendment has, prima facie, everything to support it, and therefore I very much hope that the consideration that is being given will lead to the result which I believe the Committee desire.


I am grateful to my noble friend, Lord Mills, and regret that I had forgotten that he said that this was a point he was going to look into. Of course, I entirely respond to the invitation he has issued to me. Nevertheless, I hope that, when he comes to look at it, he will find that there is some perfectly easy way of drafting this so that there can be no doubt whatever, both in this Schedule and in reference to local pipe-lines, under Clause 2, that, as my noble friend Lord Conesford said, the landowners, or the occupiers or lessees of the land, will know at the earliest possible stage what is proposed to be done to their land. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS moved, in paragraph 3, to add to subparagraph (1): ( ) A like notice shall be served on every council of a county, county borough, county district, metropolitan borough, town (in Scotland) and parish through which it is proposed that the pipe-line shall pass, and for the purposes of this sub-paragraph 'metropolitan borough' shall include the City of London.

The noble Viscount said: This Amendment deals with a somewhat similar point, though not perhaps exactly the same. This Bill is intended to replace the procedure under which pipe-lines have hitherto been laid—that is to say, the Private Bill procedure in Parliament. There is no doubt that, under the Private Bill procedure, where a would-be pipe-line owner wishes to place a pipe-line in certain land, he would have to give notice to all the local authorities listed in this Amendment. Harking back to the point made by my noble friend Lord Chesham, I agree that it is impossible, and probably undesirable, to try to list all the people who, for one reason or another in any specific case, may need notice, and I am sure that it is right in any particular case to leave the Minister a residual power to specify extra people whom he thinks ought to have notification at an early stage.

None the less, I cannot imagine a cross-country pipe-line (and that is the matter with which this First Schedule deals) being laid in circumstances in which the local authorities would not be told as a matter of course in time to appear at any public inquiry under the First Schedule. That is what the Amendment seeks to ensure. Of course the local authority will be told if any land owned by them is affected, and I hope that they will be more specifically told when my noble friend Lord Mills has finished his consideration of the point I have just made. But even if they do not own any land, a local authority are certain to be interested in the route that a pipe is going to take through their area, and that applies from the county council, who, as local planning authority, will be told in any case, down to the parish council, who probably know all the small points of the countryside, like the position of wells, and so forth, which may be affected, and who in most cases will be very interested in having a say about the route of the pipe. These are the people who wish to be reassured that they will in any event be told in good time that the authorisation is being sought by a proposed pipe-line owner. I feel that, whatever my noble friend Lord Chesham may say, there is good reason for putting into this Bill the lists of local authorities that I have quoted, in addition to the local planning authority who are already included in the Schedule. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 39, line 13, at end insert the said subparagraph.—(Viscount Colville of Culross.)


I do not disagree with what the noble Viscount has had to say on this matter, but again I have to plead for time to consider it. I want to see what all this means. The addition of various authorities is proposed, and I should like to look at the whole problem. I see the force of what the noble Viscount says, and I think there is a good deal to be said for it. I am not accepting the Amendment at the moment, but I should like time to consider it further.


I thank my noble friend. I know that when he says that, the matter will be given the fullest consideration possible. Therefore I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


This Amendment has been put down to ensure that, should a statutory water undertaking object to a pipe-line, their objection should have as full consideration as the objection of a local planning authority would receive, from the point of view of a local inquiry. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 39, line 23, after ("area") insert ("or any statutory water undertakers within whose limits of supply").—(Lord Amulree.)


I am bound to admit that I thought this Amendment was consequential on the noble Lord's other Amendment. What I should like to do, if the noble Lord is agreeable, is to give this point the same consideration that I have already offered to give to the other point.


I am grateful to the noble Lord, and beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question: Whether the First Schedule shall be agreed to?

5.53 p.m.


I ask your Lordships' indulgence to raise on this question a matter of some importance. I apologise to your Lordships for the fact that when this Bill was read a second time in your Lordships' House, which would have been the proper time to raise this subject, I happened to be out of the country. Further, I did not have time to put down an Amendment on the two points in the First Schedule and a similar point in the Second Schedule that I want to raise, and if I had had the time I should not have done so, because what I really want is for the Minister to consider these points, which are of the utmost importance. I gave the Minister notice that I would raise them; I also took the liberty of giving the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor prior notice, and I am grateful to him for sparing the time to come in and listen to what I have to say.

My points have reference to the procedure of public inquiries that are going to be held in consequence of objections to the grant of a pipe-line construction under paragraph 4 of the First Schedule. Your Lordships will see that it there says that the Minister shall in no event grant the application without either causing a public inquiry to be held with respect to the objection and considering the report of the person who held it … In paragraph 4 of the Second Schedule there is similar wording dealing with the objection to a compulsory purchase order.

We are seeking in this Bill to do something novel: that is, to give statutory authority to a private concern to acquire compulsorily rights over private property, and I feel that we should be most careful that the interests of the owners of property are properly safe-guarded. Nothing is said in the Bill as to the nature of these inquiries and how they are to be conducted. I am apprehensive as to the wording of paragraph 4 of the First Schedule and paragraph 4 of the Second Schedule, which is very narrowly drawn, in that it says that the inquiry is into the objection. The Franks Committee had something to say on this matter. In paragraph 271 of the Franks Committee Report it is stated: Although the statutory requirements are merely to hear and consider objections, it must surely be true that an objection cannot reasonably be considered as a thing in itself, in isolation from what is objected to. The consideration of objections thus involves the testing of an issue, though it must be remembered that it may be only a part of the issue which the Minister will ultimately have to determine. If so, then the case against which objections are raised should be presented and developed with sufficient detail and argument to permit the proper weighing of the one against the other. I want to ask the noble Lord, Lord Mills, if he will consult his noble colleague the Lord Chancellor, who now sits next to him, upon this very involved point. The Council on Tribunals have just issued a Report, which is in the Press to-day, on the Chalk-pit case and the question that was worrying your Lordships about additional evidence and the evaluation of evidence already given. I am not going to raise that issue now. What I propose to do is to draw your Lordships' attention to one of the things the Council say in this Report. They say in paragraph 3 (a): If the public is to have confidence in the procedure laid down by Parliament, it must be made clear that inquiries are not just an incident in the administrative process. I think that is most important. I do not expect the Minister to tell me at this juncture whether I am right or wrong, because this is an involved matter, but I have thought that these two paragraphs could be interpreted so as to reverse a procedure that is at present one of the accepted procedures of public inquiries, and reverse it in a manner against the interests of the landowner.

I know the noble and learned Viscount will agree with me here. An owner of land is entitled to enjoy its use, and he has a right to object to the proposals of a private company to take that use away from him. In other words, in my view the burden of proof as to whether the case has been made should be put upon the applicant. But it appears to me that in this Schedule the burden of proof is put upon the man who objects, which is surely wrong. If I may quote the Chalk-pit case—if it does not send a cold shudder down the backs of those now sitting on the Government Front Bench—I would point out that in that case the burden of proof was on the applicant who wanted to work the chalk, to prove that it was not against the amenities of those in the immediate vicinity. In other words, the burden of proof was upon the applicant, and that is just the reverse of what I see in paragraph 4 of the First and Second Schedules. It appears to me that the burden of proof lies upon the objector, whereas I think it should be upon the applicant.

What I should like to ask the Minister is this. The noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor is exceptionally busy at the present time producing new rules of procedure; and I, for one, do not envy him his task. But because of the Chalk-pit ease, because of the Ironstone case in North Oxfordshire, and because of one or two other things that have come to the Lord Chancellor's notice during consultation with the Council on Tribunals, a whole new set of rules of procedure is now being drawn up and it will eventually, we hope, come to your Lordships' House. We have had many debates upon that question and I do not intend to raise it now. But as this is a new departure, I want to ask the Minister 'whether or not the Lord Chancellor intends to consult the Council on Tribunals upon this very important matter in order to ensure that rules governing these public procedures are adequate.

I have not the legal knowledge involved and I do not know what the new rules of procedure are going to be. Of course, if the Lord Chancellor is going to make new rules, then I think I am right in saying that he is required by the Act to consult the Council on Tribunals. I would suggest to the noble and learned Viscount that he would be serving the public interest if he gave this matter some very careful thought. The Minister, whoever he may be, is compelled to have a public inquiry into objections unless he comes to the conclusion that a more simple process would be suitable. I should like to know at some time what is the line of demarcation between a matter of importance which necessitates having a public inquiry, and a matter of importance that can be settled by the visit of one of the Ministry's inspectors.

There is one other point. It is useless to deny that, as the Bill is now drafted, it is the Minister of Power who will appoint the inspector. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Mills, will not mind my saying that, in my opinion, public inquiries instituted by the Ministry of Power have not commended themselves wholly to the British public. I am going to suggest that an independent inspector appointed by the Lord Chancellor should be the one to hold a public inquiry of the nature that will be necessary under this Bill, because the results of that inquiry will be very serious for the objector, who will be a private individual. Under present procedure, in all the cases of the erection of supergrids, which concern the Ministry of Power, the applicant has at least been a State-owned concern: the applicant has been a nationalised industry.

This is not going to be a nationalised industry; this is going to be a private enterprise concern having statutory rights; and I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, who said that it could have the statutory right to a private monopoly. When I raised this question of independent inspectors when the Electricity Bill was debated—and the noble Lord, Lord Mills, will, I hope, recall with as much pleasure as I do those passages of arms which we had—the noble and learned Viscount said, "If I am going to appoint every inspector under the Town and Country Planning Act, then I shall have to appoint hundreds of them." That does not hold Rood in this case, because I should not think that the number of these cases would run into hundreds. It may in time —I do not know.

I will tell the noble Lord, Lord Mills, quite frankly one of the reasons which I did not state, but which attracted me to the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. The reason why the Minister responsible for the administration of this Bill, when it becomes an Act, should be the Minister of Transport is that the inspectors who are appointed under the Transport Act and the Road Traffic Act are all independent and are either barristers or solicitors, people learned in the law. I am going to tell the Committee that I cannot remember—my memory is perhaps at fault—when I was at the Ministry of Transport ever having disagreement voiced by anybody against the holding of a public inquiry under the Road Traffic Act. The decisions of the Minister were not agreed with in all cases, but everybody felt that he was getting a fair and square deal and being properly heard. I would not say that about the public inquiries that are being held by inspectors appointed by the Ministry of Power.

So I should like the Committee to be told something about the new rules envisaged for this type of inquiry: whether the noble and learned Viscount thinks that the rules that are being made now are adequate for the safeguard of the rights of the individual; whether he thinks that paragraph 4 of the First Schedule and paragraph 4 of the Second Schedule are too narrowly drawn, and whether they allow the scope envisaged and recommended by the Franks Committee in paragraph 271 of its Report.

If the noble Lord would like me to put down an Amendment on Report stage I will do so in order to allow him to express the view of the Government on this matter, but if he thinks some other way would be better, I am quite willing to fall in with his convenience. I thank the House for allowing me the indulgence to raise this point. I believe that it is one of extreme importance, and I am sure that the noble and learned Viscount, who has this matter very near to his heart, will not mind my raising this point for his consideration in the task he is at present undertaking.


My noble friend, Lord Mills, has asked me to say something at this stage and I am grateful to him for so doing. I am grateful to my noble friend, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, for giving me this opportunity of thanking the Council on Tribunals for the work that they have done on this point. As my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth said, the Report has appeared only to-day and will therefore require further consideration and consultation. But I should like not only to express my gratitude but also to express my sympathy with the approach of the Council on Tribunals. It is an important stage in the work in this field which the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, and I both have in our hearts, as well as in our minds.

I should like just to say one or two words on the points about which he has asked. Of course, we are working on the rules of procedure. He asked me whether, when they are completed, they would go to the Council on Tribunals. The answer is that they will, for their consideration; and I should like to assure him that we are well on with work on the rules of procedure.

With regard to the present procedure, I should like to consider very carefully and to consult others about the difficulty that my noble friend has raised on the onus of proof. I do not think it is conceivable that the Minister would decide whether or not to make an order on the narrow issue of onus of proof. The inspector first of all, and the Minister on consideration, would view the objection as a whole and with all its implications, and consider whether it was a bar to making the order. He has to consider the proposal and then the objection. But if my noble friend had in mind the sort or narrowly-balanced thing of saying that this issue is really decided by the fact that the onus of proof is on the objector and that on this narrowly-balanced issue he has failed to make out his case, I do not really think it would happen like that. I do not want to go further without consideration, but that is certainly my first view.

The other point that I should like my noble friend, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, to consider is this. He has been concerned—and I recognise the very reasonable grounds for his concern—with inquiries that finish with a final ministerial decision. The two cases that he mentioned finished that way. Of course, we are dealing here with the Special Parliamentary Procedure, Where the making of the Order is not the end of the day. If my noble friend would be kind enough to look at what I had to say on the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Conesford on Special Parliamentary Procedure, he will find that I referred to it as providing an appeal against the Minister's decision. Without debating it fully, I should be grateful if my noble friend would consider that point. It does add a new facet to the problems with which we have hitherto been dealing.

There were two other matters which my noble friend raised. The first was the line of demarcation between the public inquiry and the procedure under which a person may be appointed by the Minister to conduct a hearing. I do not think it will he possible to categorise matters as falling on one side of the line or the other, and I do not think that on reflection my noble friend would want this to be done. It would introduce a rigidity into the procedure which is the last thing that is wanted. But he will appreciate from his ministerial and other experience that there often arises something which is really just a minor point requiring explanation. If somebody can go down and the point is explained, that is the end of the matter. It is very useful to the people concerned and saves them expense which they would otherwise incur on elucidating the point. Again, I will consider and consult about his suggestion, but that is the sort of difference which one has in mind. On the other hand, there are hound to be border-line cases, and that is why I should like to consider that further.

The other point was the question of the inspectorate which my noble friend and I have discussed so often over the last four years. With regard to this Bill, my noble friend will appreciate that the inspectors to be appointed under Clause 39 of the Bill will for the most part be required to carry out safety functions and not to help with inquiries or hearings. I should like to leave the point like at the moment: that my right honourable friend has no desire to adopt a hard-and-fast rule on this matter. It might be, because of the subject-matter involved (and I hope I carry my noble friend with me in this), that it would be useful to appoint one of his engineering inspectors to hold inquiries into overhead electric lines and power stations. Again, it might be useful to borrow an inspector from the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. I remind my noble friend that although we do not go the whole way, I, through my staff, do take part in the appointment of these inspectors. He will remember that point.

Thirdly, my right honourable friend might well think the subject matter was one on which he should select someone adhoc—someone who is not connected with the Department, or who is retired, or who comes from outside the Civil Service altogether—and appoint him to deal with the inquiry. I can give my noble friend this comfort: that it would be quite possible, according to the subject matter, for the desire that he has expressed to-day to be followed.


Would the noble and learned Viscount mind if I asked him one question which is now in my mind? There can be two inquiries: the first about the order to invade the man's land, and to give the applicant the right he seeks; and the second—and it may be the same objector in both—into the application for a compulsory purchase order. Is it envisaged, or am I stretching my imagination too far, that it could be the same inspector or the same Department appointing the inspector to both inquiries? Because if so, what hope has the man who has lost the first case of doing anything other than losing the second one?


Obviously, as the noble Lord has said, it is not envisaged that the same subject should be examined twice: but frankly, I had not applied my mind to the subtle piece of cross-examination to which he has just subjected me. But I am sure I can say that the desire would be that the objector should have fair play; and that would weigh in the circumstances.

But the point I was really making was that at the moment, so far as the inquiries are concerned, there are really three possibilities. First a technical inspector might be appointed to deal with a technical subject; secondly it might be right to borrow someone from the Ministry of Housing and Local Government in certain other circumstances and in other circumstances again to appoint an independent inspector. I thought my noble friend would be comforted by that, because it means that what he has fought for stalwartly would, in certain cases, come to pass. I have tried to deal with the points. If I have not dealt with them fully I hope that my noble friend will forgive me. I finish, as I began, by thanking him for raising an interesting point which will be fully considered.


I am very grateful to the noble and learned Viscount for going as far as he has done. Might I ask this?—I know that he will acquiesce. Will he consider, when he has the time—because I know that I sprang some of this on him, although I did give him a broad outline of what I was going to raise—my suggestion that in matters of this kind, as we are starting on a new project, he should consult the Council on Tribunals to see Whether they have any views upon What the procedure should be in these particular cases? Because these inquiries will be entirely different from the run of public inquiries that we have had since the Franks Committee Report. If the noble and learned Viscount would do that, I should be most grateful.

6.24 p.m.


Before the noble and learned Viscount replies, while I hope I shall not strain your Lordships' patience, I should like to elaborate that point slightly. It seems to me that, while we are discussing public inquiries under the First Schedule of this Bill, there may very well be a considerable practical difficulty arising. It is true that before the matter comes to an inquiry at all the Minister will have given some sort of sanction that there is no matter of public principle against the authorisation which is sought. But I do not understand that at that stage the Minister will have decided upon the merits of the particular case. Therefore the point which the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, has raised on the burden of proof is going to be of some practical importance, because, as paragraph 4 of the First Schedule stands at the moment, it looks as though the person who would start at the public inquiry would be hte objector. This seems to me to be entirely wrong.

In the first place, the objector will know nothing whatever of the project which is proposed, and secondly, if, as I hope, the Minister has not made up his mind on the merits of the case, it should be for the would-be pipe-line owner to promote his whole case and not merely that part of it to which the objector is going to refer. Therefore, it does seem to me that the procedure at an inquiry under this Schedule should be quite different from that under a planning inquiry, for example, where there has already been a refusal and the inspector is hearing an appeal. The pipeline owner himself should start by justifying the proposals he is putting forward. And not only that: there should be some such system as there is in planning inquiries, under circular 9 of 1958, issued by the Minister of Housing and Local Government, which would give the objector, in advance of the inquiry, an outline of the case the promoter is putting forward. Otherwise, the objector will have no notion whatever of the case he has to meet, and indeed he will have only the faintest clue about what the pipe-line owner is proposing to do. I believe that at these inquiries it should be for the private company—which, after all, is going to be given compulsory powers for its own commercial benefit—to justify its proposals before the local inquiry under the First Schedule, and then at the second stage for the objector to come along with his objection. I am sure it should be in that order. If my noble and learned friend could consider that also, I should be very grateful.


Of course I will consider that, but I must warn my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross against driving too far, in these matters, the analogy of a case in court. It is an interesting part of my functions that on the one side I am constantly pressed to make it as like a court as possible; on the other hand, when I ventured to suggest that a pending inquiry should be treated like a case that was pending in court, I was equally severely attacked, not only in this House but in the public Press. Therefore my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross will see that there is a balance to be struck here, and I think I should want to look very carefully at the information the objector had, and the procedure by which that is given to him, as well as at the points made by my noble friend. However, I will consider them, because I am most anxious, as are all your Lordships, that this procedure should be made as fair and open and sound as it possibly can be.

May I just give a footnote to my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth which I had not in mind when I was speaking before? If he will look at Clause 42 (3) of the Bill, he will see that it is contemplated that the two matters of which he spoke may be dealt with at the same inquiry, because it is provided that that would not be a ground which would vitiate the proceedings. I thought that it would be useful for him to look that up. I will consider these questions. We are all anxious that inquiries should be of the highest possible standard; but we are equally anxious (I think I can speak for my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross as a member of the Bar, as I speak for myself as Lord Chancellor) that a slavish following of court procedure shall not hold up the matter and make the treatment of it too rigid.


I am most grateful to the noble and learned Viscount.

On Question, First Schedule agreed to.

Second Schedule [Applications for Grant of Compulsory Purchase Orders and Compulsory Rights Orders—Part 1: Applications for Grant of Compulsory Purchase Orders]:

6.31 p.m.

LORD FARINGDON had given Notice of two Amendments to paragraph 7 (1), the first being after "statutory undertakers" to insert "either". The noble Lord said: This, and the next Amendment, deal with the same point. This Schedule deals with applications for the granting of compulsory purchase orders. Paragraph 7 lays down the conditions under which the Minister may approve of compulsory purchase orders for the acquisition of land belonging to statutory undertakers and held by them for the purpose of their undertaking. The local authorities are also statutory undertakers, and it may be that many, if not all of them, hold land which might not be considered to be strictly land held by them for the purpose of their undertaking, though it is nevertheless held for the purpose of their statutory function. I have in mind, for example, old people's homes or children's homes or something of that sort, which it seems to me might not be considered to be held directly for the purpose of their statutory undertaking. It may be that I can be reassured on this point. If not, I think there is something which Her Majesty's Government should look into. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 42, line 32, after ("undertakers") insert ("either").—(Lord Faringdon.)


Again, the noble Lord will not be surprised to know that frankly I am not too keen to accept his Amendment, because I had not thought that the situation that he described, in fact, arose. I had thought that when sub-paragraph (2) of paragraph 7 of the Second Schedule, where a statutory undertaker is defined, was taken into consideration, it would be seen that the extra words, "for the purpose of carrying out its statutory functions", were included in the words in the Bill "for the purpose of undertakings"; therefore I did not think that the noble Lord's Amendment was necessary. But in view of what he has said, if he would be content to withdraw the Amendment I should like to look into the matter, to make sure whether or not what he suspects is in fact the case. If some action were needed we could no doubt take it; but for the moment I should like to look into the matter to see exactly what are the implications.


I thank the noble Lord very much for his assurance, which completely satisfies me. I wanted to be sure. With the consent of the Committee I will withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether the Second Schedule shall be agreed to?


I apologise for detaining the Committee yet again, but I hope that you will allow me briefly to draw attention to the procedure under this Schedule. I want particularly to refer to sub-paragraph (2). If I might run through at great speed the procedure that is laid down in this Bill for the granting of a pipe-line authorisation and compulsory purchase order afterwards, it starts with the Minister's approval in outline—or his veto on grounds of public principle—of the authorisation, before anything else happens. If he does not veto it, it can go to a public inquiry, when the general route of the line is decided upon in the light of any possible objection. Thereafter, compulsory powers are available to the promoters, and in due course, leaving out one stage at the moment, they can come to another public inquiry for the purpose of their particular order; and finally, any objector who has not been satisfied at that stage can come to your Lordships and another place by the Special Parliamentary Procedure.

However, as the Bill at present stands, after the Minister has authorised the thing in principle, and after he has agreed on the route, and on all the other major points has given his authorisation, he is then given another veto power before the compulsory purchase order comes to a local inquiry. I cannot understand what on earth is the point of this. It seems to me that it will give no extra power whatever. I cannot understand what purpose he can possibly have in turning down a compulsory purchase order when he has already given a grant after a full inquiry; and I cannot see what extra protection it can possibly give to the landowner, who, after all, has had one inquiry and is about to have another upon which he can, if he succeeds, convince the Minister to refuse the compulsory purchase order. And at the end he can still come to Parliament. Therefore, to give such a ministerial power of veto seems to me to be quite useless. It may be that I have missed something of great importance in these provisions which will explain the whole thing. If that is so, I apologise to the Committee for raising it. But I should like an explanation from my noble friend.


The noble Viscount has perhaps not appreciated the fact that in the case of a cross-country line a promoter will normally apply simultaneously for an authorisation and any compulsory powers that may be needed to carry it out. If the Minister rejects the authorisation out of hand, he should also be empowered to reject an application for compulsory powers without first having to go through the whole procedure of objection and public inquiry.

It should also be remembered that in the case of local pipe-lines there will be no authorisation of a route by the Minister, but merely an application to the local planning authority for planning permission. Promoters may nevertheless seek compulsory powers under Clauses 9 or 10 of the Bill. As these pipeline promoters will be private companies, it is reasonable that the Minister should be able to reject out of hand an application for compulsory powers, if he is not satisfied that a sufficient case has been made out. The position can be distinguished from that of statutory undertakers who are carrying out a public duty. Generally, the power given to the Minister under the Second Schedule to reject an application out of hand is a substantial safeguard to the landowner which will save him the trouble and expense of objecting to applications.


I am very grateful to my noble friend. I hope he will allow me to study what he has said in Hansard, so that I may understand its full implications, and perhaps, if necessary, raise it at a later stage.

Second Schedule agreed to.

Third Schedule: