HL Deb 06 December 1962 vol 245 cc330-79

3.26 p.m.

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

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Earl Jellicoe.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD AILWYN in the Chair.]

Clause 1, agreed to.

Clause 2 [Meaning of "water resources"]:

THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF HOUSING AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT (LORD HASTINGS) moved, in subsection (3), to leave out "shall be disregarded" and insert "does not constitute a source of supply". The noble Lord said: I beg to move the Amendment standing in the names of Lord Jellicoe and myself. The effect of Clause 2 at present is to put those lakes, ponds or reservoirs which do not discharge into any other inland water (which may include pumped storage reservoirs of quite large dimensions, as well as the farmer's small private reservoir or the water undertaking's service reservoir) right outside the scope of the Bill. It is correct that water contained in these should not be within the "water resources" of the river authority area, and that the taking of water from them should not be susceptible to control as an abstraction under the Bill.

But there are other matters in the Bill, notably Clause 73 (Provision for recreational facilities at reservoirs) and Clause 74 (Agreements for facilitating the performance of the functions of river authorities) which ought to be available where this defined type of lake, pond or reservoir is concerned, particularly if it is a reservoir which has been made by the river authority itself for a water conservation purpose. The making of the Amendment will enable this to be so, although it will still secure the exclusion of these particular waters from the scope of the hydrometric schemes, from the control of abstraction, and from related provisions contained in the Bill. This is really quite a simple Amendment and I hope the Committee will give its approval.

Amendment moved—

Page 3, line 5, leave out ("shall be disregarded") and insert ("does not constitute a source of supply").—(Lord Hastings.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 3:

Establishment of river authorities

3.—(1) The Ministers shall, as soon as practicable after the passing of this Act, by order establish authorities, to be called "river authorities".

(2) The names of the river authorities established by virtue of this section shall be those specified in the second column of Schedule 1 to this Act; and the area for which any such river authority is so established shall be an area consisting of the river board area, or combination of river board areas, specified in relation to that river authority in the third column of that Schedule.

EARL JELLICOE moved, in subsection (1), after "Act", to insert: and after consultation with such persons, or bodies representative of persons, as they consider appropriate". The noble Lord said: During the Second Reading of this Bill, a number of noble Lords argued that those interests which would be effected by the work of river authorities should have an opportunity of expressing their views about the composition of the authorities before Ministers had come to any firm decisions upon this and embodied such decisions in an order made under Clause 3 of this Bill. As I assured noble Lords during our Second Reading debate we have always had it in mind informally to consult with those concerned before the new authorities are set up. Such consultation would cover, in our view, important matters like the size of the authority—whether it should be a small authority, with not less than 21 members, or a large authority, with not more than 31 members—whether, in the case of a particular authority, the "special circumstances" foreseen in subsection (5) of Clause 6 dictated a membership above this higher figure of 31—and matters like the precise weighting of the members with particular qualifications to be appointed by Ministers under subsection (3) of Clause 6—and so on.

We were impressed during Second Reading with the pretty strong and general feeling voiced in the House that this procedure for consultation on the constitution of the authorities should be definitely written into the Bill. That is why I am proposing this Amendment. It will, in fact, require Ministers to consult before making an order, in just the same way as they are already obliged under Clause 10 of the Bill to consult before drafting an order altering the area of a river authority. Perhaps, to avoid any possible misunderstanding, I should make it quite clear at this stage—as my noble friend Lord St. Oswald will no doubt spell out later, in replying to Amendment No. 19 on the Marshalled List—that although we are proposing to write this requirement for consultation over the setting up—the constitution—of the authority formally into the Bill, we remain convinced that it would be a mistake to formalise consultation over the choice of particular members of a particular river authority.

I realise that the Amendment, which I now commend to your Lordships, may not go quite so far as some noble Lords (for example, the noble Lord, Lord De Ramsey) might wish. He would like, if I read Amendment No. 6 correctly, not only to lay formally upon us this requirement for consultation, but also to lay upon us a requirement to institute a very elaborate draft order procedure. I would suggest that if Ministers consult, as they will now, formally and statutorily, be obliged to, prior to the drafting of the order constituting the authority, they will be able to take full and proper account of the views of those concerned when they make the order and that the draft order procedure would then be otiose and unnecessarily time-consuming. As I note, however, that the noble Lord is also associated with the immediately following Amendment—which is in almost identical terms to that which I am now moving—I hope that not only he but noble Lords generally will feel that the machinery for consultation we are now proposing, is both reasonable and sound. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 12, after ("Act") insert ("and after consultation with such persons, or bodies representative of persons, as they consider appropriate")—(Earl Jellicoe.)


While we are very grateful to the noble Earl for having gone so far with regard to consultation, having followed the wisdom of the 1948 Act, for which a noble Lord whose name I would not dare to mention was responsible, I regret that the noble Earl falls short in respect of further consultation where individuals are concerned. Our experience from 1948 has been that although consultation there perhaps caused some delay in the early days, thanks to the consultation those bodies who were greatly afraid that they would be ignored—fisheries, in particular, and there are a large number of them—were not only satisfied that the then Government, but also presumably the Government that succeeded them, were in earnest in seeing that the right type of person was appointed to these river boards. The noble Earl has given us warning that he has gone only halfway. I hope that he will think again, for even if there is some small delay in the early stages, it pays very large dividends over the years. I think that I can say to the noble Earl that, because consultation was real and satisfying, there have been very few appeals during the past fourteen years. Nevertheless, we are grateful to the noble Earl for his first step. We thank him for having gone so far in following the wise decisions taken in 1948.


In thanking the noble Earl for having gone as far as he has done, I should like to tell him that there is considerable feeling about possible reductions in the number of river authorities. Some think that they should be much fewer in number and others think that localities should not be neglected in their small units. I hope that the Government will go thoroughly into the question of local knowledge before any river board is abolished, because that probably is more important than the fact that the number of authorities may be one greater or one fewer.


I have listened very carefully to what the anonymous noble Lord sitting opposite had to say. We shall have an opportunity later on (I hope perhaps to-day, so that we can earn the extra day before Christmas which the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition held out as a promise to us) of debating the question of consultation regarding the appointment of particular individuals to a particular authority; but, of course, I can assure the noble Lord here and now that in that matter we certainly propose consultation. I think that all that is between us here is whether that consultation should be formal and statutory, but it is certainly intended that there should be full consultation. Perhaps we could leave this point to a little later on. I can also assure my noble friend Lord Cornwallis that in this question of consultation regarding the constitution of river authorities it is proposed to pay due heed to the local interests and local expertise which are available. It is certainly intended that consultation should be both deep and wide, covering the local authorities, the fishery interests, the land drainage interests, the farming community and, naturally, the water undertakings, and also the industrial interests. I cannot think offhand of any interests, who would have a real concern with the constitution of these new authorities, whom we would leave out. So I can assure my noble friend that it is our intention that this consultation should be not only statutory and formal, but also real.


Before the Amendment is put, as the noble Earl mentioned local authorities, I take it that although we agree to this wide consultation to which this Amendment refers this will in no way impair the position that the local authorities' representatives are to have a majority, even if only a bare majority, on the river authority. That position will be maintained?


I can, of course, give the noble Lord that assurance straight away. It is written into the Bill and is in no wise affected by this Amendment.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD WILLIAMS OF BARNBURGH had given Notice of an Amendment, after subsection (1), to insert— ( ) Before making an order under the foregoing subsection, the Ministers shall consult with such persons, or bodies representative of persons concerned, as they consider it appropriate to consult.

The noble Lord said: Having approved the previous Amendment, I think there is little or no point in submitting this further Amendment, which in 26 words would do what 15 words were doing in the previous Amendment. However, we shall come back to the point on Clause 6, where again it is a question of consultation, and we shall still regard it as fairly important, not because of theory, but in the light of practice and experience over the last fourteen years. I do not propose to move this Amendment.

3.41 p.m.

THE EARL OF BESSBOROUGH moved to leave out subsection (2) and insert— (2) The boundaries of the river authorities established by virtue of this section shall correspond with those comprising the present river board areas.

The noble Earl said: It was the intention of my noble friend Lord Woolton to move this Amendment himself. However, his doctor has wisely refused to allow him to leave the sunshine of Sussex for this rather dangerous London smog. I hope, therefore, that your Lordships will be indulgent to me in presenting his arguments at very short notice. I need not assure your Lordships that it was not my noble friend's desire, nor is it my intention, to embarrass the Government in any way in putting forward this Amendment. However, we feel strongly in this matter, and I consider that I should at the outset reiterate the remarks made by my noble friend in this House on November 22 about the provision proposed in the Bill for the amalgamation of river boards. May I say that in principle we are both against this amalgamation? We believe it to be misconceived, specifically in respect of the Sussex boards, and uneconomic, and we feel that we must persist in our opposition to it.

The Proudman Committee over a period of six or seven years gave most careful consideration to the subject, and the amalgamation proposed in the Bill has not the authority of that important Committee, who in paragraph 104 of their Report deliberately refused to deal with the designation of river board authorities. Clause 10 of the Bill, as your Lordships know, makes provision for the alteration of areas and the designation of new areas. Such alteration or designation would be made by statutory instruments after the holding of a local inquiry at which objections by interested bodies or persons could be put forward to an inspector whose duty it would be to report on them to the Minister concerned. Your Lordships will agree that that is a reasonable way in which to deal with such proposals. But it will be observed that in Clause 3 of the Bill there is no provision for such a local inquiry in respect of those areas for which the Bill makes provision for amalgamation. It is the view of my noble friend that the Government are taking arbitrary powers in this matter. They are depriving those who could object to their action of any avenues of redress except through Parliamentary action. I beg your Lordships' protection for them.

It may be argued that the present river boards representing such areas have had an opportunity of making their own representations to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. But there is no comparison in effectiveness with a local inquiry, where the whole of the facts can be brought out and a considered judgment made. I submit to your Lordships, therefore, that the various interests concerned in such areas are by these proposals being deprived of the opportunity of presenting their case against amalgamation.

Our friends in West Sussex have urged me to bring to your Lordships' notice their considered opinion that there is no justification for an amalgamation of the East Sussex and West Sussex river board areas. They consider that the administration of these two areas as one unit would lead to considerably higher administrative costs whilst producing less efficient working. Will not this, in fact, entail the coming into operation of another of Professor Parkinson's laws? The work of my friends in Sussex in this matter has already received commendation from the officials of the Government Departments concerned.

The sole reason put forward by the Minister of Housing and Local Government for the amalgamation of these two boards is that they form one hydrological unit and that only by the creation of this unit will there be enough water conservation work to justify the employment of specially qualified staff. It may, indeed, be true that the two areas have similar geographical and meteorological conditions, and that their water conservation problems may also be similar, but the two areas do not fall into one natural unit. Indeed, in the case of Sussex, the composition is the reverse. In the whole area the flow of surface water in all the river basins is from North to South: there is no East to West flow. Underground the water flow is similar. Reference to well levels reveals that there is an underground hump at Brighton dividing the two areas, showing that there is no flow of water between them. Therefore, on technical as well as other grounds, no advantage accrues from considering the two areas as one whole. Rarely can a hump have been considered an economic asset.

On the advice which my noble friend and I have received, we are convinced that the new water conservation work that will arise as a result of the new functions to be conferred upon the river authorities will require the employment of a qualified staff in each area, and the proposed amalgamation would neither reduce the number of staff required nor provide any advantage in the quality of the staff needed. So far as water conservation is concerned, therefore, the important new functions relating to water conservation would not be prejudiced by the remaining separate of these two areas. On the other hand, these new authorities will still be charged with the duty of looking after land drainage, coast defences, fisheries and the prevention of pollution. These functions require local interest and personal contact and they would be materially affected by any falling back in the standards achieved in the two existing areas. These standards have been achieved by working the two areas as separate units, and we believe that only in that way can they be worked efficiently and economically.

The two areas comprise 80 miles of coast land, traversing six individual catchment areas, with the large urban conurbation of Brighton and Hove in approximately the centre. It falls naturally into two units, and the two separate organisations would have to remain as area organisations in the separate areas of East Sussex and West Sussex and would be staffed substantially to the same standard and extent. Many of your Lordships who live in the County of Sussex will readily understand the difficulty of East to West road communications, which are very limited, and travel by road, particularly during holiday months, can be very slow. Even if the new headquarters were to be established centrally between the two areas, the time of officers spent in traversing such an elongated area would be extremely wasteful.

The effect of the proposed amalgamation would be to establish, on top of this present organisation, a higher tier in the shape of a central headquarters staff. The headquarters—this third tier of the administration—would be called the Brighton hump, and characterise, if I may say so, the folly of Parliament in providing unnecessary, costly and complicated official machinery. It is estimated that the additional cost of this would be at least £50,000 a year. It would be a complete waste of money which would fall entirely upon the local ratepayers. If the two areas are left for administration purposes as at present this waste will be avoided. The river systems in both boards' areas, discharging as they do into the Channel, provide each board with a heavy responsibility for the protection of the many outfalls of the main rivers, and for sea defences protecting low-lying land. The work involved is of such character that it is imperative, on the ground of both economy and safety, that only an officer with chief officer status and responsibility can decide the extent of the immediate action necessary, particularly in the winter period when an emergency arises. Timely and reliable action in this respect can avoid incurring many thousands of pounds worth of work and, in some instances, avoid loss of life.

I hope I have convinced some of your Lordships that this Bill should be amended so that no express provision is made for any particular amalgamations, thus ensuring that there is no inequitable treatment as between those areas that are being amalgamated expressly by the terms of the Bill and those areas that may be amalgamated after the Bill has received the Royal Assent, leaving all questions of amalgamation to be dealt with under Clause 10 of the Bill. This does not mean that amalgamations may not in certain cases ultimately take place, but it means that the areas would be amalgamated only after a local inquiry has been held. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 14, leave out subsection (2) and insert the said new subsection.—(The Earl of Bessborough.)

3.52 p.m.


I rise not to make a speech but on a point of order, to ask for an explanation which I think would greatly facilitate our deliberations. I should like to ask the Minister in charge of the Bill, or the Chairman or the noble Earl who moved this Amendment, what would be the effect of this Amendment if it were either carried or rejected. There is the Schedule to which we shall ultimately come, which sets out all the boards who are to be amalgamated. I say at once that I and, I think, a great many other noble Lords on all sides of the Committee—the noble Lords, Lord Williams of Barnburgh and Lord Morrison of Lambeth, and many of us—take the strongest possible exception to amalgamations which are set out in the Schedule. We should certainly wish to debate that. I will be quite frank with my noble friend. As at present advised, I would certainly ask the Committee to divide on this matter.

As I read this Amendment, it strikes out the operative part of this clause. As the clause stands, it says that after the passage of the Act the river boards which are set out in the second column of the Schedule would be turned, some by themselves and some amalgamated with others, into river authorities. If we dislike that, as we do, then I should have imagined that the right time to argue, debate and divide upon it would be when we came to the Schedule. As I read the Amendment which my noble friend has put down, he would strike out the operative words of this clause and we should be left in the air. We should then have a clause which said that in every case river boards will be created only after there has been an inquiry. If we divided on that, and the Government defeated the Amendment or accepted it, we should then be precluded, when we came to the Schedule, from dividing. I say at once that it is for the House and not for the Minister, or even the inquiry, to decide all these vital matters. We shall be precluded from taking a Division on a succession of Amendments on the details of the Schedule. I think the Minister would greatly help the Committee if he could tell us where we are.


I do not know whether the Minister would like to reply to that particular question, but I should have thought that this was a debatable issue with which we could deal in the course of the discussion on this Amendment. My own view, for what it is worth, is that this Amendment as it stands on the Order Paper is far wider than the particular arguments that were put forward by the noble Earl. He was directing himself almost entirely to the particular question of East Sussex and West Sussex, and on that issue I have no particular views at this moment. I should like to deal with that when we come to the Schedule. But on the general question I hope the Government will stand firm.

I want to let the Committee into a little secret. We on this side of the House are not entirely in agreement. Some of us would like to stick to the recommendation of the Proudman Committee and limit the number of river authorities to some fourteen, fifteen or thereabouts, and others would like to let the Bill remain as it stands. But I imagine that none of us would want to go back to the existing state of affairs when there is a very large number of river authorities. Since that is the form of the Amendment, I may say a word on it. Whatever arguments were put forward in favour of it, I thought they were not strictly relevant to the Amendment, because the noble Earl has no right to speak for other boards which are being amalgamated. He is speaking entirely for East Sussex and West Sussex.

On the general question, there is difficulty. One difficulty is that practically every river board which exists to-day has a vested interest in remaining as it is. Everybody likes to paddle his own canoe, and these boards do not like joining with other authorities. We have this problem, and we shall be facing it when we come to consider London government. We are facing it even on the Common Market. Those who are opposed to our entry into the European Community are putting forward exactly that sort of argument, among others. But this is a question which has been carefully considered by a Committee set up by a Minister, the Proudman Committee. They have sat for many years and have worked out a plan after, I imagine, the most scientific hydrological and other investigations. The Committee consisted of men highly qualified to know what they are talking about. They have come to this conclusion. While I should be the last to suggest that a Government must slavishly follow the recommendations of any Committee, however eminent its members and however long they have sat, nevertheless we must pay some respect to the recommendations of the Committee and not lightly disregard them.

The argument which the noble Earl put forward is an argument for every single river board to come forward and say, "Oh, yes, but not in our case." In my view, there are many justifications for reducing the number of river boards. Personally, I should like to reduce it still further, but we have not put down an Amendment to that effect. Perhaps it would have been desirable if we had, but I take it that we are now having a general discussion on the number of river authorities that are to be set up; and perhaps that would be the equivalent of dis cussing a specific Amendment for reducing the number. As a compromise I suppose I should be prepared to accept what is in the Bill, though I should very much have liked to reduce the number. If the Minister indicates that he would welcome an Amendment at a further stage of the Bill reducing the number I can promise him that it will be forthcoming, although I cannot promise that it will be acceptable to all my friend on this side of the Committee.


I do not wish to delay the noble Lord, but there is, of course, an Amendment down in the name of my noble friend Lord Jessel which does, in fact, substantially reduce the number.


That is quite right. I had for a moment forgotten that, but I am aware of it, and there is a schedule, too, setting out exactly how he would do it. In that case perhaps I may have a word to say in support when his Amendment is moved. But the general case for reducing the number is that we are looking at this question afresh. We hope that we are not going to be bound by what has existed for some time. If we were bound by that there would be no particular need for a Bill at all except for the creation of a Water Resources Board. But we are looking at the subject afresh and are trying to improve the position; and when the noble Earl puts forward the case that under the Bill there would be no reduction in the number of specialised persons, technologists and so on, required, I would absolutely disagree with him. I think, inevitably, there is bound to be an economy in the number of persons employed, particularly technologists.

But, even more, I should imagine that the real case for this reduction is that the Bill contemplates a considerable transfer of water from one area to another, and possibly there may be a surplus of water in one part of Sussex and a shortage in another. This reduction would facilitate the transfer of water from one area to another and, to that extent, apart from the technological advantage, it has that advantage. It is certainly going to be a very difficult process to get this transfer going as between one river authority and another, and the more we can facilitate that process by having larger authorities the better. So I hope that the Minister will on this Amendment stand firm, but later on, when we come to discuss Lord Jessel's Amendment, I hope he will be susceptible to discussion on that.


I am not quite sure whether, as this is rather an important technical point, the noble Earl is going to deal with it immediately. If he is, I would reserve my remarks, because I want to speak to the more general matters raised by the noble Earl moving the Amendment.

4.3 p.m.


If the noble Lord will permit me, I will intervene very briefly here to try to deal with the technical point of my noble friend, Lord Swinton, and answer it to the best of my ability. I will then give way again to the noble Lord, Lord Chorley.

As I understand it, the effect of the Amendment which my noble friend Lord Bessborough has moved would be to strike out the reference to Schedule 1 which lists the areas of the new river authorities to be established at the outset, including the amalgamation of the existing river board areas which it is proposed should be made. That, I understand, would be its first effect. It would, however, have another consequence, and that would be that to secure any of the amalgamation of areas at present proposed by the Bill, the Minister would have to proceed by order under Clause 10, as my noble friend made clear. I think that on the specific point which was troubling my noble friend I can give him a perfectly satisfactory assurance, and that is that if for one reason or another your Lordships decide not to approve this Amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Bessborough, there will, of course, be plenty of opportunity when we get to Schedule 1, which will then still permit discussion on Brighton's hump and all the other little humps.


It seems to me that is very important, and in the circumstances I think that the noble Earl would probably wish to withdraw this Amendment, but he has raised matters of some general importance which are deserving of careful consideration. In the Second Reading I pointed out that these proposed amalgamations have been put down without the opportunity being given to the existing river boards and the local authorities which are involved in these matters of really effective consideration of the proposed new areas. It is a matter of general import. The noble Earl who moved the Amendment takes the same kind of view, and what I think he is trying to establish is that these matters should, in fact, be discussed in public. That can be done only at a local inquiry.

It is all very well, as my noble friend Lord Silkin has said, to point out that a very expert Committee has been discussing this matter for years, but it does not necessarily follow that the most efficient area is the right area unless it may be seen by the people who are concerned with these things to be the right area. The trouble is that the Proudman Committee has been discussing these questions behind closed doors and other people who are interested have not been given the opportunity of knowing what the arguments are and taking any steps to deal with them. That seems to me to be the real weakness in the situation which the noble Lord is trying to get at.

I do not know about the two Sussex boards, but I do know something about the Cumberland and Lancashire one. I do not want to go into that problem, because it would be better to deal with it at a later stage, but it seems to me that it is very important indeed that these people who have been doing this job of work should be able to know the arguments and to make them, so to speak, in public. I do not think it is quite good enough to adopt the attitude that because an expert Committee has come to this conclusion we are therefore bound by that decision.


I am sure that my noble friend would like to be fair to the argument I put forward, as he always is, but I did not say that we are bound by it. I said we have to pay great respect to it and not lightly disregard it.


We have not really had a chance of knowing what their arguments are; that is my point. They are not the only people who are interested in these things, and no doubt the noble Lord is quite right in saying that the existing river boards have, in a sense, acquired a vested interest in these matters. But a number of them have been doing their jobs very well indeed, and they know about the situation in their own particular part of the country in a way which even the Proudman Committee may not have known. After all, it was a body sitting, in effect, centrally and very often considering the evidence at secondhand. I should have thought, regarding some of the difficulties, such as the one referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin—that if there is a drought In one part of the country it cannot under present arrangements be met, but could be met by a larger area—that there are other ways of getting over problems of that kind.

In connection with the fire service, of which I have had a great deal of experience, there was a real difficulty, but that difficulty has now been overcome without amalgamating fire services beyond a certain point. The fire service in a great county borough must now go to the assistance of some other county borough in, say, Lancashire (where I know about the situation) in a way which it was not previously under obligation to adopt. I should not have thought that there was any particular difficulty in making provision to enable one water authority to get the assistance of another in a situation of peculiar drought which affected one part of an area which needed water from another. I do not think that considerations of that kind really, so to speak, make it mandatory on us to go through with these large amalgamations without the matter being brought out into the light of day so that it can be effectively argued, not only by the experts but by the people on the spot who are very vitally affected by decisions of this sort.


I should have thought that my noble friend's Amendment is a very good one in that it really puts the onus ultimately on the Minister, after further discussion with all these authorities and a public inquiry, to arrange the final set-up. I have not enormous faith in amalgamation in the administrative set-up as arranged by debate in Parliament. We all of us probably have different views on these different amalgamations, and I should have thought that by proceeding with the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Bessborough we put the matter where it should be, which is in the hands of the Minister after discussion and public inquiry into all these particular matters. My noble friend has instanced the cases of East and West Sussex, and has done it admirably, and that is only one of them. My noble friend Lord Jessel has down a similar Amendment that proposes to amalgamate Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and the Sussexes.

I should have thought there might be a case for Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, and West Sussex, but not East Sussex, because East Sussex and West Sussex are two different places, as he pointed out, and the effect of amalgamating just those two will inevitably be the necessity of setting up an entirely new headquarters away from the headquarters of either County Council. We cannot run East Sussex water from Lewes or West Sussex water from Chichester. Therefore, some entirely new office will have to be set up, leading to a great deal of extra expense. That particular amalgamation seems to me a very glaring case of wrong approach to the matter. There we have a strip of land twenty miles deep and eighty miles long containing five or six rivers proposed to be put under one board. I should have thought the operative dimension was the length of the coast line. Eighty miles of coast line drained by rivers seems to me too large a length to be looked after by one board. If there were an eighty mile depth and twenty mile width on the coast line that would be a very different proposition. I suggest to my noble friend the Minister that he is going to have great trouble over all these Schedules, and it would save him a lot of time and trouble in the end if he accepted my noble friend's Amendment.


On a point of order, I should like to know where we stand. Are we going to continue discussing amalgamation of Fast and West Sussex on this Amendment or, as suggested by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, to discuss each of these individual amalgamations where necessary on the Schedule?


On a further point of order, we have to discuss the Amendment which is before the Committee on the Marshalled list.


May I point out one thing which might show a different view of this? On page 107, Schedule 3 shows how you can avoid setting up extra staffs by treating each of the existing river boards in their own well-understood local functions which they know so well—the distances the members have to travel being right—as committees of the bigger area. The bigger area is only going to do the redistribution, augmenting and so forth. The area ought to be big because where water has to be transferred you do not know where you will have to go; nor do you know geologically what is under ground. You have to have a big area which might consist of all the aquifers which may be there in addition to the surface water. Schedule 3 seems to me to make it possible to satisfy people like the noble Earl, Lord Woolton, and the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough.


I wonder whether it might be helpful if I intervened at this stage. I am sure that we all very much regret that my noble friend Lord Woolton is not able to take part in our Committee stage to-day. Nevertheless, I think we must also agree that the waters of Sussex have found a number of doughty champions in his place, not least my noble friend Lord Bessborough. I think—and here I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Chorley—that this Amendment raises a matter of general importance, and I myself am very glad that the noble Earl has ventilated this particular question at an early stage in our discussion.

I was not quite certain in listening to my noble friend whether he was really in his heart opposed to most amalgamations as such. I must confess I rather got that impression, and if so, of course, the whole weight of informed opinion in this matter is dead against him. My noble friend Lord Bessborough quoted what the Proudman Committee stated; he quoted, in fact, paragraph 104 of the Committee's Report: We do not consider ourselves equipped to designate the areas of river authorities. But I should like to read what the Proudman Committee said in the immediately succeeding sentences: Not every existing river board area need, we think, be administered as a separate conservation area, but for the purpose of river authorities some review of river board areas is likely to be the sensible course. (The legislative framework should, we suggest, allow of this at the outset, bearing in mind geographical as well as topographical considerations, and permit of subsequent modifications.) That is precisely what we are providing far in Clause 3 of this Bill.

Again, in our debate on the White Paper last May and during our debate on Second Reading and again to-day, from the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and my noble friend Lord Albemarle we have heard clearly stated the reasons for some amalgamations being necessary. Indeed, some noble Lords in both our previous debates—in fact, I think the majority of noble Lords who spoke—pressed for more amalgamations and smaller and fewer river boards than are now set out in Schedule 1; and of course the Amendment to Schedule 1 which stands in the name of my noble friend Lord Jessel crystallises that point of view. I would grant that my noble friend may not be totally opposed to any amalgamations, but the consequence of his Amendment is that in securing any of the amalgamations of areas proposed by the Bill Ministers would have to proceed by order under the Clause 10 procedure. This, I think, is what the noble Lord wants and what other noble Lords may want.

It was argued, for example, by the noble Earl, Lord Woolton, at Second Reading that this was the procedure provided for in the 1948 Act, when the original river boards were established, and that this is a precedent which we should now be wise to follow in setting up the new river authorities. As I tried to explain on Second Reading, the situation dealt with in this Bill is quite different from that dealt with in the 1948 Act. The 1948 Act set up entirely new authorities, river boards, to deal with land drainage, fisheries and control of river pollution. Previously, these functions had been discharged by a number of different bodies covering a variety of areas, and in some parts of the country these functions were not discharged at all. The determination of areas for river boards was therefore a major operation. There was no existing pattern which could be adopted, either as it stood or, possibly, with some slight modifications. For the present Bill, on the other hand, we have a readymade pattern, that of the existing river board areas. This pattern is known to be absolutely suitable, so far as I know, for the transferred functions—the land drainage, pollution and fisheries functions which will be inherited by the new river authorities from the river boards.

What is needed is some adjustment for the new function of conservation, and in the First Schedule the Bill makes a relatively slight adjustment (some noble Lords would no doubt say that it is too slight) of the 26 areas, and all but six correspond exactly to the existing river board areas. In those circumstances, it seemed to us best to set out the proposed areas in the Bill itself so that Parliament could decide. One advantage of this procedure is that it enables Parliament fully to discuss how many areas there should be, and what those areas should be, and to discuss that at the outset.

I think it is quite clear from the Amendment standing in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, and the noble Lord, Lord Henley; from what the noble Earl, Lord Woolton, told us on Second Reading; from what we have heard now, and from what my noble friend Lord Swinton has said, that noble Lords propose to take full advantage of the opportunity of discussing the proposed areas as set out in the First Schedule. I personally cannot see anything arbitrary about that procedure. That, I think, was the adjective employed by my noble friend Lord Bessborough in describing it. Of course we do not propose to act in an arbitrary manner here. The very Amendment which I introduced a short time ago, formally providing for prior consultation about the constitution of the river authorities, surely shows that we wish to take full account of local opinion and have no intention of riding roughshod over local opinion.

I would suggest, too, that another advantage of the simpler procedure which is incorporated in the Bill, as compared with the elaborate procedure into which the noble Lord's Amendment would force us, is that it would enable the new authorities to be set up much more quickly than if we followed that elaborate procedure. I would remind noble Lords that in our debate last February on the Manchester Corporation Bill my noble friend Lord Woolton was among many noble Lords who called for urgent action by the Government to tackle this problem of water on a national scale. To quote his own words [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 237; col. 264]: It is not a White Paper that we want; it is action. Now, when we propose action, it would seem to me, at least, that he and his friend's wish to delay action; because if we adopt the procedure which my noble friend Lord Bessborough is suggesting we should, in fact, effectively delay the setting up of these important new river authorities, possibly for quite a considerable time.

I should again like to make it crystal clear that there is nothing particularly novel in the procedure which we are proposing in this Bill. One precedent, for example, is provided by the Land Drainage Act, 1930, which set out in a Schedule the areas for which catchment boards were to be established. I would urge upon my noble friend that he is wrong if he is opposed to amalgamation in principle. I would urge that there are considerable practical advantages in the procedure for amalgamation embodied in the Bill as it now stands. For those reasons I trust that my noble friend will not press his Amendment. In expressing that wish, I can repeat my assurance that there will be plenty of opportunity for discussion in Committee on the proposals for amalgamation as set out in Schedule 1, including the proposal affecting Sussex. Indeed, ever since the banns for these various marriages were published in the White Paper, a great deal of discussion and correspondence has been going on between the river boards and the Departments concerned. I can merely repeat that no one who has asked for a meeting with either of the two Ministries concerned has been refused a meeting. That, of course, is quite right.

The arguments have, I think, been pretty fully ventilated, but when we come to the First Schedule there will be plenty of opportunity for ventilating them again and going over this ground fully. I can therefore assure my noble friend that he will not be selling Sussex or the Sussex river boards, down any river if Clause 3 is allowed to remain as it stands. The men of Sussex, as well as Lord Henley's men of the North, will be able to fight again on this matter on the First Schedule, if we come to it, even if we decide not to adopt this Amendment.

4.27 p.m.


Might I just put this point to the noble Earl? When we have to discuss these matters on the First Schedule we just argue about them. We cannot have the evidence in the way that it can be brought forward at an inquiry. The value of the local inquiry is that the evidence is given and is cross-examined to, and it may or may not stand. That, I think, has a considerable advantage over the argumentation process in which people just advance categorical statements on either side, and, in the end, we have just to vote on them, having heard no cross-examination of the effective kind which I should like to see.


All I would recall, if I may, to the noble Lord is that last February, when we were discussing the Manchester Corporation Bill, some people thought it was a good thing to allow that Bill to go to a Select Committee so that all this detail and evidence could come out. But that did not deter the House from taking a decision which may well have been right; and I think there will in fact be plenty of opportunity of reaching on the Floor of this House, in discussing the First Schedule, a pretty fair decision an the proposed amalgamations.


I am, of course, in a rather awkward and delicate position in this matter, since my noble friend Lord Woolton is not here. But he has told me that I must use my own judgment in the matter. I know that, like Lord Chorley, he sets great store by a local public inquiry. Whereas I am to some extent considerably reassured by what my noble friend Lord Jellicoe has said, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, that there still will not be a sort of open local public inquiry. As I say, I am not opposed to amalgamations in principle—and in the case of Sussex alone I feel that there ought to be a local inquiry. I agree that it is difficult to legislate for one county alone, but I think that, on the whole, my noble friend would say that in view of the Government's assurances, and on condition that he will naturally have a right to raise the matter again on Report, and that it is to be further discussed in regard to the First Schedule, he would be agreeable to my withdrawing this Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


This Amendment is a paving Amendment. I think the noble Earl has already given me a lead as to how we should tackle this matter. This Amendment is linked with No. 131, which also stands in my name and contains the substance of my Amendment, and also with the consequential Amendments which follow Nos. 133 and 134. In view of what the noble Earl has just said, and in view of the fact that your Lordships will not want to hear redeployed the arguments I have to make when we come to the First Schedule, I take it that the position is now that I should at this stage withdraw this Amendment No. 5, in view of the assurance that has been given that we shall come back to it when we come to the Schedules. In the circumstances, therefore, am I right in withdrawing my Amendment at this stage, after formally moving it?

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 18, after ("areas") insert ("or parts thereof")—(Lord Henley.)


I am most grateful to the noble Lord. As I have just pointed out, I am sure that it is best to consider the detailed justification for the proposed areas of the new authorities when we reach the First Schedule—and I hope that our journey there will not be too long delayed. I realise that if we were to accept the noble Lord's Amendment to the First Schedule we should need to make corresponding adjustments to Clause 3 of the Bill. But this alone would not be sufficient. For example, I am advised that extensive modification to Part IX of the Bill relating to transfer of staff and associated matters would also be necessary to provide for the instance where we decide to split a river board area in order to give part to one river authority and part to another. I can assure the noble Lord and other noble Lords that if changes are made to the First Schedule which lead to a splitting of existing river boards, then we shall not only be able but very willing to come back and deal at a later stage of the Bill with the necessary consequential Amendments.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


Amendment No. 6 which stands in my name was designed virtually to achieve the same thing as the third Amendment on the list. Therefore, the remarks of the noble Lord, Lard of Barnburgh, apply equally to this Amendment. I should like to thank the noble Earl for largely meeting the point, and to say that I shall not move the Amendment.

Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 4:

General duty of river authorities in relation to water resources

4. Without prejudice to any other functions assigned or transferred to them by or under this Act, it shall be the duty of each river authority, as from the second appointed day, to take all such action as they may from time to time consider necessary or expedient, or as they may be directed to take by virtue of this Act, for the purpose of conserving, re-distributing or otherwise augmenting water resources in their area, of securing the proper use of water resources in their area, or of transferring any such resources to the area of another river authority.

4.33 p.m.

VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS moved, after the first "area" to insert: of maintaining or restoring the wholesomeness of water resources in their area". The noble Viscount said: My noble friend the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensbury is unavoidably prevented from being in your Lordships' House this afternoon, and he has asked me to move this Amendment on his behalf. I willingly do so because, when I looked into it, it seemed to me to disclose a very unfortunate state of affairs in this important part of the Bill, which sets out, in Clause 4, the general duty of the river authorities in relation to water resources and then, in Clause 5, transfers to river authorities the functions of river boards.

The Amendment standing in the name of the noble Duke would, as I understand it, reincorporate into this Bill some words which appeared in the legislation affecting the powers and duties of the old river boards, mainly with reference to their powers to prevent pollution. It is clear from the words which the noble Duke put down in this Amendment that he was attempting to emphasise this part of their duties. I have no doubt that my noble friend, Lord Jellicoe, when he replies, will say that it is quite unnecessary to put in these words because this is covered by Clause 5 (1), which says. As from the second appointed day all the functions which … were exercisable by river boards by virtue of— (a) section 4 of the River Boards Act 1948"— which referred, among other things, to river pollution— … shall be transferred to the river authorities established under this Act. That is all very well, but in fact, of course, by the Eleventh Schedule to this Bill the River Boards Act is being repealed. Therefore, in the normal course of events, when it comes to anybody looking up the duties and functions of river boards with reference to pollution, unless he looks at some old Statute Book he will not find the River Boards Act at all. I go further than that because, even if he does find the River Boards Act, Section 4 is not going to do him any good, since all it does is to refer to: Section sixty-nine of the Public Health Act, 1875, the Rivers Pollution Prevention Act, 1876, and any enactment relating, to river pollution contained in a local Act or statutory order … It does not seem to me that anyone is going to get very far in tracing references to pollution.

Furthermore, Clause 5 of this Bill has caught up with the times, because since the passing of the River Boards Act, 1948, there (has been a perfect plethora of river board legislation, including at least three Acts in ten years. They are intended to be contained, I suppose, in Clause 5 (1) (c), which refers to: any statutory provision not contained in that Act …"— that is the Rivers Boards Act, 1948. That may certainly include the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) Act, but goodness knows what else it includes as well! I do not see how, as this is at present drafted, anybody can discover what are the functions and duties of river boards. A formidable number of other Acts are also being repealed. I am sure that they contain powers for the old river boards to prevent pollution, but, as I say, they are now being repealed as well. Would it not be better to set out in much greater detail in these important clauses of this Bill what the river authorities are intended to do, so that one does not have to go through a first, second, third and fourth, stage of research into Acts referring to other Acts under which orders and regulations have been made? Let us have set out in quite clear, lucid terms just what these authorities are meant to do.

I am sorry to have become so heated on this, but, as your Lordships may have gathered earlier this afternoon, I have been having my own private attempt at a little piece of statutory consolidation, and it has seemed to me that in this sort of exercise it makes much better sense if one uses plain language rather than obscure references. I hope your Lordships will forgive me for attaching this harangue to the noble Duke's Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 7, after ("area") insert the said words.—(Viscount Colville of Culross.)


I see that no other noble Lord wishes to cross swords with my noble friend behind me who has so ably moved this Amendment on behalf of the noble Duke. But I can assure my noble friend that the matter is not really so confusing as he has deliberately tried to make it. And he is quite right in assuming that I am going to say that this Amendment is quite unnecessary. Clause 4 makes it the duty of each river authority to take all such action as they may from time to time consider necessary or expedient or as they may be directed to take by virtue of this Act for the purposes mentioned in the clause. To those purposes the noble Duke wishes to add the words he has put down in his Amendment: of maintaining or restoring the wholesomeness of water resources in their area". This would mean that river authorities would be under a duty to take "action" to maintain or restore the wholesomeness of water in both inland waters and in underground strata. I have said that the Amendment is unnecessary, but I can go further and say that, to the extent that "action" might be construed as meaning the execution of works, it is undesirable.

By virtue of Section 1 (1) of the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) Act, 1951—and now I regret I am going to have to mention a number of Acts which, perhaps, were not mentioned by my noble friend behind me—it is the function of each river board to enforce that Act (with which must be read the Clean Rivers (Estuaries and Tidal Waters) Act, 1960, and the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) Act, 1961). The long title of the Act of 1951 declares it to be An Act to make new provision for maintaining or restoring the wholesomeness of the rivers and other inland or coastal waters of England and Wales … —the exact words used by the noble Duke. The means of achieving these objectives is not works by river boards, which duty the Amendment would put upon the river authorities. The Acts include provisions making it a criminal offence to make discharges of trade or sewage effluents without their consent. The onus of carrying out works to render effluents harmless is placed on the discharger, not on the river board. Therefore, it should not be placed on the river authority, but on those who discharge the effluent. This function of river boards is transferred to river authorities, as my noble friend assumed quite rightly, not by Clause 5 (1) (a), which does not enter into it at all, but by Clause 5 (1) (c), and will be one of their "transferred functions".

As regards water in underground strata. Clauses 68 to 70 make provision for the prevention of pollution of such water, by providing that the discharge of effluents and polluting matter into such strata by means of a borehole or similar work will require the consent of the river authority. As in the case of inland waters, the onus of preventing pollution is placed upon the discharger. Finally, river authorities are empowered by Clause 72 to make by-laws for the protection of any water, whether in reservoirs owned or operated by them, or in underground strata from which they are authorised to abstract water.

Therefore, I put it to my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross that really the Bill lays quite specific duties upon the river authorities, by means of their transferred functions and, in addition, by means of Clauses 68 to 70 and Clause 72, that this point is really fully safeguarded. Therefore we do not wish to accept this Amendment and put unnecessary phrases into this clause. If at any stage we find it possible to make some amplification by adding words, perhaps in some Schedule or something of that nature, we could consider it, but we feel that it is unnecessary to specify further in Clause 4, in relation to the duties of the river authorities, because if once we begin doing that we may find it necessary to specify a lot of other material as well.


I should like to be quite clear as to exactly what is the answer to this Amendment. At one stage I thought the answer was that the maintaining or restoring of the wholesomeness of water was the function of some other body; that the wording of this Amendment would involve the river authorities in carrying out actual works which would not be their function but the function of the other bodies to which the noble Lord has referred. On the other hand, the noble Lord is encouraging the noble Viscount to put down Amendments, or to consider forms of words, which would in fact further describe the functions of the river authorities, which seems to me rather inconsistent. If the noble Lord stands on his first argument, that the actual duties that are laid down in the Amendment would not be the function of the river authorities, I quite understand that. What I do not understand is why he is encouraging the noble Viscount to put down further Amendments.


I am sorry the noble Lord misunderstood what I said. Of course, these are the functions of the river authorities and they have full powers under their transferred functions, because these functions are already being carried out very efficiently by the existing river boards. Therefore, the river authorities will have the same functions. But it is not the function of the river boards, nor will it be the function of the river authorities, actually to execute works to prevent pollution, because it is incumbent upon the people who are offending in this respect, the dischargers, to execute those works. Therefore we cannot accept this Amendment to make it a duty of the river authority to execute works. We say that it is definitely both unnecessary and undesirable to have these words in Clause 4. We do not think it is necessary to amplify the point in any part of the Bill; we should merely regard sympathetically any attempt on the part of my noble friend to do so if he thought it might be appropriate in any part of any Schedule. But we do not think it is necessary, in any case, and we ask the Committee to reject it definitely in Clause 4, because it is not the duty of the river boards to execute works and they have the full, necessary powers as it is.


I had understood the noble Lord quite correctly. That is what I understood him to say: that this would impose upon the river authorities duties which he does not wish to impose on them under this Bill, because they are already being carried out by other authorities. That is the answer to the Amendment. I do not follow, then, what other words he wants or suggests would be possible—that is all.


I do not want any other words.


I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Hastings, and I see the narrow point upon which he is suggesting that your Lordships should reject this Amendment. From my memory of the Acts to which he referred, it is a good point. I would not therefore press this Amendment.

I am, however, a little surprised at my noble friend for suggesting that it is the duty either of myself or of any other Member of your Lordships' House to make sense out of a Bill which is introduced by the Department for whom he is speaking. It would not have been necessary for the noble Duke to put down, or for myself to move, any reference to wholesomeness of water had it not been for the fact that the transferred functions of the new river authorities under Clause 5 are so unbelievably obscure that it had not come to the attention of any of us that the wholesomeness of the water was, in fact, one of those transferred powers. The plea that I would therefore make—and perhaps I strictly ought to do it on the Motion that Clause 5 stand part, but if your Lordships will forgive me I will finish it now—is that the noble Lord really should look again at the drafting of that particular part of Clause 5 (1), because I do not see why it should be necessary on purpose, apparently, to Legislate for obscurity. Surely, it would be very much better if the powers and functions which these authorities are intended to exercise could be clearly and readily discernible by anybody who turned up this very comprehensive Act, as I have no doubt it will soon become. Would the noble Lord be prepared to look again a little further, so that the matter may be put down correctly by his own Department, rather than incompletely by myself?

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


In that case I will still reserve the position and raise this point again on the Question that Clause 5 stand part of the Bill.


I am sorry that I was not quick enough. I was going to reply to the noble Lord's plea. But I am bound to say that I think he is making rather heavy weather of it, and we quite deny that this Bill is obscure. But in view of his plea we will look at this point again. Of course, it cannot be done now, but there is plenty of time. When we come to Clause 5 on the second round, so to speak, on Report stage, if there anyhing we can do to make things clearer we will do it. But we do not believe that it is obscure. A great deal of consolidation has gone into this Bill, and a great deal has been repeated in the River Boards Act and other Acts. These other Acts have been repealed rather than have a mass of legislation by reference, and that very point was brought up on Second Reading. If the consolidation has not made it clear to my noble friend, I can only regret it.

Clause 4 agreed to.

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clause 6:

Constitution of river authorities


(3) The remainder of the members of a river authority (other than additional members) shall consist of the following, that is to say—

  1. (a) one or more members appointed by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food as being qualified in respect of land drainage;
  2. (b) one or more members appointed by that Minister as being qualified in respect of fisheries;

(4) In the last preceding subsection "qualified", in relation to any subject mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (e) of that subsection, means qualified as having had experience of, and shown capacity in, or otherwise as having special knowledge of, matters relating to that subject.

(5) If in the case of a particular river authority it appears to the Ministers that, by reason of special circumstances, the number of members of the authority, other than additional members, ought to exceed thirty-one, the order establishing the authority may provide that the number of members of the authority (excluding additional members) shall be such number, greater than thirty-one, as may be specified in the order.

4.50 p.m.

LORD WISE moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "twenty-one" and to insert "thirty-one". The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 8 but to speak also on Amendment No. 9, which I think can be taken together as they both refer to the wording of subsection (1) of Clause 6. These two Amendments seek to increase the membership of the river authorities by adding ten to the minimum and the maximum numbers.


Might I just ask the noble Lord if he would include Amendments Nos. 20 and 21 as well? I think they are on exactly the same point.




And possibly—I do not know whether he considers them consequential—even Nos. 11, 12, 14, 15 and 16; or would he like to speak to those separately?


I would rather speak to No. 11 separately. At any rate, we can include Nos. 20 and 21 in what I have to say now. It is apparent from the Amendments which are already in the Marshalled List that various bodies which are interested in this Bill wish to be considered for representation on the river authorities. Although at first sight it may be considered that an increase in the number of the membership may tend to make them unwieldy or unworkable—as a matter of fact, that is the view I previously held myself, but since representation has been made to me I have changed my mind—I think there is a case for additional membership of the various authorities. It is clear, I think, that heavy duties will devolve upon the river authorities and that they must divide their membership into various committees and sub-committees. I think the Minister has recognised that by Schedule 3, paragraph 13, sub-paragraph (2) on page 108, which deals with the question of the appointment of outside members to various committees except the Finance Committee.

It will be noted that in Clause 6 (2), it is provided that a majority of the total membership, excluding additional members as may be appointed under Clause 8, shall be appointed by or on behalf of all the constituent councils". Now it is laid down in the Bill, in Clause 6 (7), that "constituent council" means the council of a county or county borough any part of which is comprised in the area of the river authority". There does not seem to be any reference to the numerical limits of the majority of members who are appointed by the particular river authorities except that they should have a majority. It may be a smaller number over 50 per cent. or it may be larger; and in an authority of 21 or 31, under the Bill as it now stands provision is made for other persons, qualified in accordance with the five categories which appear later in Clause 6 (3), to be appointed.

It will be noted that it is provided in Clause 6 (5) that, by order, the Minister concerned can add to the minimum and maximum numbers respectively in special cases, but it would seem to be desirable that the statutory numbers should be increased by amendment of the Bill. In that case, additions contingent on the special circumstances under which the Minister can apparently add to the numbers could still be made without any detriment at all. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will be able to accept this Amendment and increase the minimum number to 31 and the maximum number to 41. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 27, leave out ("twenty-one") and insert ("thirty-one").—(Lord Wise.)


I do not wish to follow up the Amendment completely, because there is another side to this question of the appointment to a river authority to which I should like to draw attention. I do not think that industry is quite getting its fair share of what it should have in these various authorities. The clause provides: A river authority shall consist of not less than twenty-one members and … not more than thirty-one members", that there must be a majority of local authorities (and I gather that the Amendment wants to make quite certain that that is so) and that the remaining members are to be appointed by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (and I suppose "the Minister" means also the Minister of Housing and Local Government), one of whom is to represent industry.

I believe, though I have no authority to say so, that the Federation of British Industries feel very strongly that this Bill should be amended to ensure beyond doubt that industry is adequately represented on these various river authorities. I wonder whether it is realised that the quantity of water that is taken by industry from private sources, which, of course, will become chargeable under this Bill when it is passed, is equal to the total supply made available for all purposes by statutory water undertakers, and that it amounts to about 2,000 million gallons per day. And that is excluding abstractions by nationalised industries. It is therefore considered by those of us in industry that the basis of membership on the river authorities should be commensurate in some way with the use of the water in a particular area.

Then you notice that everybody else seems to have a foster father of some kind. Agriculture, fisheries and land drainage have a parent, the housing people have a parent, and so on. Industry, apparently, has no parent, but it is to be represented by the Minister in charge of public water supply. It seems to me that the President of the Board of Trade might possibly have been brought in here to look after the interests of industry. Then he could have been consulted, possibly, regarding the appointment of those people—I know it says "one or more"—to represent industry. I do not think it is ever realised nowadays that if industry does not provide the money there will be nothing with which to pay the salaries of the river authorities or anything else, and that applies to Members of Parliament and even to the money that we are paid when we come to attend your Lordships' House. Therefore, I most emphatically ask the noble Lord whether he can in any way make certain that the needs of industry, the interests of industry and the wisdom of industry are thoroughly represented on these river authorities.


I think that perhaps in a few words I could add my contribution to the discussion on this Amendment without delaying the Committee. If this Bill was designed to reduce the obligations of the river authority, then one could understand that there should be a smaller number of members than we had on our river board; but as the obligations of the river authority are bound to be increased once the conservation board gets into action and starts to direct the river authority what they must do about the conservation of water, and so forth, then it must be perfectly clear to your Lordships that the number of members on any one of the river authorities ought to be at least adequate for the purpose and for the function that authority have to perform.

Your Lordships will understand from one clause here that local authorities must have slightly over 50 per cent. of the total membership, and if the membership of the river authority is to be too small, then obviously it is going to be a full-time job for representatives of local authorities. I do not think that would be reasonable. I do not think it would be good either. Representatives of local authorities, with the rest, over the past fourteen years have done a first-class job of work. There have been few complaints from Northumberland to Cornwall, and I do not think there will be in future, so long as the manpower is there and available to do the task for which they are appointed. I agree with my noble friend Lord Wise that perhaps the figure of 31 would be more nearly right than the figure of 21 embodied in the Bill. I appreciate, of course, that there are to be additional members, but I am not sure that that will fill the breach. Therefore I hope the noble Lord in charge of the Bill will carefully consider the increased obligations and duties to be imposed on the river authorities before finally closing his ears to this argument.

I feel that instead of a decrease in their duties and obligations they are going to have a very sizeable increase if the Bill is to achieve the purpose which we all have in mind. There needs to be a manpower sufficient not only for a committee for finance and a committee for general purposes but for all the necessary sub-committees, to ensure that the job is done effectively. Because I feel that, I am glad to support the Amendment moved by my noble friend.


Just now I pointed out that it is a question of into how many areas you divide England. If this Bill eventualy lays down fourteen main sub-divisions of England, the number of sub-committees which these larger areas will then have to appoint will have to be sufficient to do the work—as pointed out by the noble Lord opposite. I have been on a river board for a great number of years and I know we certainly ought to be given a minimum of 31. I do not know whether we need go to 41 but we jolly well need 31 for each committee or sub-committee of the larger area which may eventually be agreed.

5.4 p.m.


This Amendment, put forward in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Wise, Lord Williams of Barnburgh and Lord De Ramsey, is working over the arguments which were gone into very thoroughly by the Proud-man Committee itself and were considered equally thoroughly by Her Majesty's Government who gave their answer to the problem in paragraph 16 of the White Paper. Your Lordships will remember that the Proudman Committee was divided on this very point of the size of river authorities. The majority, consisting of the Chairman and nine others, favoured small boards of not more than ten or fifteen members: whereas six members of the sub-committee (of whom my noble friend Lord Malmesbury was one) favoured river authorities with a maximum of 40 members. This is roughly the same size as river boards, which have, on average, just on or under 30 members each, and nine of which have 40 or 41 members.

In the White Paper the Government agreed substantially with the majority view that the theory of small and compact boards was very attractive and might well lead to great efficiency. On the other hand, they came to the conclusion that sufficient representation of local authorities was necessary, the important point being that it will be the local authorities upon whom the river authorities will precept for income to defray their expenses for land drainage, prevention of river pollution and fisheries—that is to say, the transferred functions. If sufficient representation of local authorities was to be achieved a membership of 10 to 15 would not be sufficient if, at the same time, it was to be possible for the river authorities to cover adequately the other interests contributing to their income and affected by their activities. These are interests such as fishing, agriculture, industry, land drainage and water supply.

It must also be remembered that the river authorities will have to carry out new functions, not merely transferred functions. Therefore, there must be, first, sufficient members to do that and, secondly, sufficient representation of all those interested. For these reasons the Government decided on the present suggested number of between 21 and 31 members save where exceptional circumstances demanded a somewhat larger number—and the noble Lord, Lord Wise, recognised the fact that there can be special circumstances in which the Government can appoint more than 31 people. The Government thought that the figures now proposed in the Bill would give the right balance between the divided opinions of the members of the Proudman Committee. I think that it would be greatly against the view of some people—especially, so far as I can remember, the statutory water undertakers and industry, except in so far as their own representation is concerned—that these authorities should have a larger membership. The Bill gives effect to our proposals not only in Clause 6 but also in Clauses 7 and 8 as well. The Amendments now proposed would have the effect of making every river authority larger than the average size of the river boards of to-day.

The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Barnburgh, said that there were larger responsibilities, and suggested that there should be larger representation. But I put it to the noble Lord that is really a misconception of what we require out of these new river authorities who have their new functions as well as their transferred functions. If we have the present suggested range of between 21 and 31 members we should be able to keep the size of most authorities down to somewhere between 25 and 30. As soon as we reach a range of 31 to 41 it will be difficult to keep it below 35, and in some cases it will get as high as 50, when we take into account certain areas with special interests for navigation, drainage charges, National Coal Board and so on. And after there had been added the number of local authority members necessary to maintain their majority, the total could be as much as 50. This would be unsuitable for the discharge of the functions for which the river authorities will be responsible.

The Government feel strongly that the need is for an authority all of whose members are knowledgeable about or experienced in the problems with which they will be dealing. An authority with members interested only in one single aspect of the work is not what is wanted. The smaller the membership, the greater the possibility of creating that sense of general responsibility for all the interrelated functions of the authority which is desired. The authorities are intended to be working bodies, not debating assemblies for a variety of conflicting interests and, therefore, smallness will be a virtue of these river authorities. Many speakers during the Second Reading debate recognised that fact.

The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Barnburgh, was rather worried about these authorities being overworked, if they did not have enough numbers, and not able to do their job, but, of course, they will need and have a full-time expert staff, technical and administrative, which should be capable of dealing with day-to-day business under the guidance of, and in accordance with the policy of, the authority. Therefore, I do not think that he really need worry on that score.

The noble Lord, Lord Wise, was uncertain as to the extent of the majority that council members would have, but I think that the intention is quite clear from Clause 6 (2), where it says that: Such number of members of a river authority as is sufficient (but not more than sufficient) to constitute a majority.…". In other words, it is designed to have a majority of one and of only one. Therefore, I hope that noble Lords will realise that Her Majesty's Government have to stand on this point, because they have taken a middle position between two conflicting opinions. I think that there are other noble Lords—I do not know whether they are in the House at the moment—who take a different line from that of the noble Lords who have put down this Amendment.

In regard to the fears of my noble friend Lord Cornwallis, if he will forgive me for saying so, I think that his point about the special interests of industry arises more suitably on the further Amendments of noble Lords opposite asking for an increase from one to two in the number of representatives to be appointed by the Minister, and I would rather go into this matter at greater length on these Amendments. But I would remind my noble friend and other noble Lords that we have passed our own Amendment No. 2, which places a statutory obligation on the Minister to consult, in respect of the numbers on river authorities before it ever comes to the nomination of individuals, so that everybody, industry included, will have an opportunity to give their views—and sufficient weight will be given to them—on the constitution of the authority. Therefore, I hope that the Committee will agree that the Government are right to stick to these numbers, which we feel sure are just about right, from the point of view of both sufficient representation and the efficient carrying out of the work that has to be done.


I am sorry that the noble Lord cannot accept this Amendment. I was hoping that, having made a good start this afternoon, the Government would follow it up. But I do not want to delay the Committee and, in view of what has been said, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.15 p.m.

LORD LINDGREN moved, after subsection (2), to insert: ( ) Such number of members of a river authority as is sufficient to represent adequately the interests of statutory water undertakers shall, subject to the provisions of section (Statutory water undertakers members of river authorities) of this Act, be appointed by the statutory water undertakers whose limits of supply are wholly or partly comprised in the area of the river authority or who have the right to abstract water from a source of supply within the area of the authority.

The noble Lord said: If it is convenient to the noble Lords in charge of the Bill, perhaps we could deal with Amendment No. 25, to Clause 7, which goes with this one. The noble Lords in charge of the Bill have been stonewalling, and so far have not conceded much, but from the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, on the last Amendment, in which he pointed out, quite rightly, that local authorities will have added functions and greater responsibilities under the Bill, it would seem that those who will have these added functions and greater responsibilities are entitled to representation on the river authorities. And the purpose of this Amendment is to secure for statutory water undertakers representation on the river authorities.

Clause 6 provides that the majority of the members of an authority are to represent the constituent councils, while the remainder of the members are to be appointed by the Minister. In paragraph 16 of the White Paper which preceded this Bill, it was suggested that, as much of the river authorities' income, particularly for their land drainage functions, will be raised by precept upon local authorities, these authorities have a strong claim to be represented on the river authorities. It is true that, at the time the White Paper was published, it was suggested that the representation should be of district councils, but in the Bill the representation is to be from county councils and county boroughs, and I think that this is an improvement. But the principle of no taxation without representation still holds good.

As the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, mentioned in speaking on the previous Amendment, the precepts levied on local authorities are in regard to existing functions of river authorities. The new function of water conservation is to be financed by charges to be levied on abstracters. No doubt where substantial works of water conservation are necessary, statutory water undertakers will be called upon to finance a substantial proportion of these works. Therefore, in these circumstances, it is right that there should be provision in Clause 6 to enable statutory water undertakers to have direct representation upon the river authorities.

I would agree that it is impossible to lay down hard and fast rules on the representation of these undertakers on all river authorities. In some areas, there will be very little in the way of conservation for the river authority to do and therefore the representation may need to be only quite nominal, but, in certain areas, the interests of the statutory water undertakers will clearly be of paramount importance. Where major conservation works are to be done the statutory water undertakers must, I suggest, be represented on the river authority, because they will be expected to find a substantial proportion of the funds.

In the interests of flexibility, the Amendment proposes that the number of members to be appointed by the statutory water undertakers shall be of such a number as is sufficient to represent adequately the interests of the water undertakers. That number will be determined by the Ministers when they make the Order setting up the river authority. As opposed to the previous Amendments which we have been discussing, this Amendment does not propose to increase the total number of members of a river board. As has been mentioned, Clause 6 provides that the number is not to be fewer than 21, and under the provisions of Clause 6 a river authority with a minimum number of 21 members would draw eleven of those members from the constituent councils. Room for representatives appointed by statutory water undertakers could be found within the ten remaining seats on the river authority.

It is appreciated that Clause 6 already provides for one or more members to be appointed by the Minister of Housing and Local Government as being qualified in respect of water supply. The Amendment does not propose any alteration to this, because no doubt the Minister would consider that, taking into account his overall responsibilities for public water supply, he ought to maintain liaison with the new river authorities by way of right to appoint one or more members. That is, of course, no substitute for direct representation in the area by the statutory water undertakers as the Amendment proposes.

It is not considered that the proposed Amendment would in any way over-represent the public water supply. Indeed, there is a strong argument that Clause 6 does not provide adequate representation for the interests concerned with the new functions of the river authorities. The river boards were set up by the River Boards Act, 1948, when my noble friend Lord Williams of Barnburgh was the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and they were constituted on the basis of a majority of members appointed by the county councils and the county boroughs and the remainder by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; and we have heard from my noble friend how efficiently those river boards have worked up to the present time.

The new river authorities are to be constituted on virtually the same basis, with the addition of one or two members to be appointed by the Minister of Housing and Local Government as qualified in respect of public water supply and industry other than agriculture. As we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Cornwallis, this afternoon he is disturbed that industrial representation is not greater than it is. Thus, compared with the old river boards, the new river authorities are to be charged with the new functions—and conservation could be a major part of their work—and these new functions are to be covered by the appointment of one or two members by the Minister of Housing and Local Government. For this reason, I suggest it is essential to strengthen the representation in respect of the new functions of the river authorities, and in this respect it seems wise and equitable to provide direct representation by the statutory water undertakers.

It is generally recognised (indeed, the White Paper made the point) that the case of the statutory water undertakers will require special attention by the river authorities; and the White Paper, in paragraph 35, said that the earmarking of resources to meet those needs will be a vital part of the work of the river authorities. In the terms of the White Paper, therefore, it is essential to ensure that there is a fruitful co-operation between these bodies locally.

The proposal of the Amendment is to ensure that there is at least one representative of a statutory water undertaker on each river authority, who will be of considerable assistance not only to the water authorities but also to the river authorities. He will provide the link which will be essential if these bodies are to co-operate well together. Moreover, the work of conservation on the scale now envisaged will in a way be new to the river authorities. Before, river authorities, rather than conserving their water, were concerned, because of the possibility of flooding, with getting it away to the sea. The experience of water authorities in the field of conservation will be, I suggest, invaluable to the river authorities.

Thus, if I may briefly sum up, the Amendment seeks to do two things. First, it seeks to do justice to the statutory water undertakers and to provide for their representation on the river authorities where they will be required to provide money for the work of the river authorities. Secondly, it seeks to provide effective liaison between the river authorities and the statutory water undertakers so that the general scheme of the Bill may have an enhanced prospect of success for the benefit of the public as a whole. The Amendment is a simple and practical improvement to the Bill. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 36 at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Lindgren.)


I hope that the noble Lord who is going to reply will be able to go some way at least in meeting the points that have been put by the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, in moving this Amendment. As the noble Lord has said, this Amendment is based, in the first place, upon an attempt to place the statutory water undertakers in a similar position to that of councils of counties and the county boroughs, who will enjoy special representation based upon the fact that they will be responsible for providing the finance for a large part of the work which these new river authorities will have to undertake. As the noble Lord pointed out in moving the Amendment, the same is true of the statutory water undertakers. The powers of the new river authorities to precept on the local authorities are restricted to those sums which will be required for meeting the cost of the transferred func- tions. Their new functions will be financed entirely by contributions made by the abstracters.

Of course, the public statutory undertakers will in many cases, and, I would submit, in most cases, be the principal extractors, and the cost of new works will therefore rest upon them. That being so, there seems to be no reason why they should not be placed in the same position as the local authorities. That is all this Amendment is asking. It may be that there will be cases where the statutory water undertaker is not the principal abstracter on the river. There may be, as has been pointed out this afternoon, an industrial abstracter who may well take more water than the statutory undertaker. The Amendment provides for that. It provides that the statutory undertakers should have a representation which is sufficient to represent their interests, and if their interest is small then the representation itself will be small. On the other hand, if the statutory undertaker is the major abstracter on the river, then his representation ought to be appropriate to the responsibilities he carries and the responsibility he will have towards the new river authorities. That is the basis upon which this Amendment proceeds.

It may well be that the noble Earl, when he comes to reply, will rely on the power of the Minister to appoint members of the Boards who are representatives, or who can be regarded as representatives, of public supply. I should have thought that that was not really a satisfactory way of dealing with this situation. The paramount consideration in this matter is that these new river authorities should enjoy the confidence of the statutory undertakers. I should have thought that it was most essential in the early stage of their life that they have the full confidence and support of the statutory undertakers. If the statutory undertakers are placed in no better position than the other interests in the river, it is at least doubtful whether the river authorities will enjoy their confidence to the same degree as they would if they were given the special representation for which this Amendment asks. I would ask the noble Lord to bear that point in mind in dealing with this proposal.

I hope very much that the noble Lord will be able to go some way, at least, in the direction of meeting the wishes of the statutory undertakers. After all, they have a very special interest—an interest which is not paralleled by anybody else. They have placed upon them the obligation of public water supply, and it is very important that the sources from which they draw the supplies which are passed on to the public are assured to them. I should have thought that, for that reason alone, the position of the statutory undertakers ought to be particularly safeguarded in their relation with the new river authorities.


Could the noble Lord explain how his Amendment affects Clause 6 (3) (d)?—because that refers to: one or more members appointed by the Minister as being qualified in respect of public water supply … Does that not do exactly what the noble Lord is asking?—I gather that it does not.


May I intervene for one moment here? I have strong sympathy with this Amendment. I think it is not going too far to say that the Bill, as it stands fails adequately to recognise the special position of the statutory undertakers in so far as that derives from their statutory obligations. I think the noble Lord who moved the Amendment referred to paragraphs 35, 36 and 37 of the White Paper, all of them indicating a recognition at that time by the Government of that special position. We had hoped to secure that that recognition was translated in some way into the Bill, but I do not think that it is adequately translated into the Bill. This Amendment, as I see it, is the first of a series designed in their appropriate places to secure that recognition.

I am not sure that I should find it easy to go to the stake, so to speak, for the principle of giving the statutory undertakers the right to appoint, as the Amendment suggests. I think my fears on that point would be largely alleviated if the consultation to which the noble Earl referred, at the beginning of the debate on Clause 2, were in this particular case to be effective consultation with the statutory undertakers in the area in question as to their adequate representation on the particular river authority. On that basis, I think the substance of this Amendment would be adequately safeguarded.

I do not want in any way to suggest that "appointment" is going too far, but I conceive some difficulties in it. I imagine that other interests would want to be effectively consulted in regard to their (adequate representation. But here, I suggest, there is a special case for ensuring specifically that the statutory water undertakers in the area in question are consulted about the representation which will be adequate for the purpose. May I say, in passing (I hope this is not out of order) that there is a later Amendment, No. 137, which refers to Clause 6. This Amendment provides, I hope, for effective alternative representation in cases where the representation on the river authority of a particular interest is confined to not more than one member.


At the end of the introduction of this Amendment by the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, I think he said that he was asking for two things: justice for the statutory water undertakers, and adequate representation. It is the belief of the Government that we are giving justice to the undertakers and providing adequate representation. Certainly it is our wish to do so—let there be no mistake about that. It seems to me that the major difference between those noble Lords who have spoken and the Government is that the noble Lords—as the noble Lord, Lord Sinclair of Cleeve, has pointed out—wish to appoint their own representatives. I will come to that a little later. In Clause 6(3)(d) there is representation of one or more members laid down specifically for representatives of public water supply. As a result of our Amendment earlier this afternoon—


I am sorry to interrupt, but perhaps it will save time if I do so as we go along. Subsection (3)(d) is the one to which my noble friend Lord Silkin referred. It does not provide for representatives. It provides for the appointment by the Minister of a person knowledgeable in public water supply. I know quite a number of such people. Consulting engineers, for instance, are extremely knowledgeable in water supply, but they are in no way direct representatives or a direct contact, apart from giving professional advice to water undertakers.

5.40 p.m.


I understand the noble Lord's point. In point of fact there will be a person or persons appointed for the purposes of public water supply to safeguard those interests. And, of course, as a result of our Government Amendment it is going to be done in respect of the numbers appointed after thorough consultation. I give a complete assurance to my noble friend Lord Sinclair of Cleeve that that consultation will be made with statutory water undertakers interested in the area, as it will be made with the representatives of all other interests in any particular river authority area. This statutory obligation for the numbers to be appointed to represent those public water supply interests will exist. So far as the numbers go, I think that answers the purpose of the new clause Amendment No. 25, which is proposed consequential upon this Amendment. It provides simply, I think, that the number should be specified in the order, and it will, in fact, be specified in the order, after consultation.

The other point which strikes me very forcibly was made quite clear by the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, who said straight out that he wanted to place statutory water undertakers in a similar position to the county councils; and I had that impression also from the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren. He made great play with the financial contribution that was likely to be made by statutory water undertakers. It was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, that the transferred functions would be paid for by precept by the local ratepayers but the new functions would be paid for by abstracters. But there is a very big difference between the two, because, of course, the county councils represent all the ratepayers, so that everybody in the river authority area, whether or not he benefits directly from the work of the river authority, will have to pay the rates levied as a result of the precepts. But in respect of the new functions, of course, the abstracters are paying for direct benefits and that is a very substantial difference. I hope that noble Lords will take that point.

To get back to the main argument, however, the members of the river authority other than those elected by local authorities are to be ministerial appointments. The objective is to secure a constitution which fairly reflects the needs and problems of the river authority area and members who have appropriate knowledge and experience. This is essentially a matter to be dealt with by selection of individuals by the Ministers, rather than left to selection by the statutory water undertakings. If it were so left the biggest of the water undertakings would tend to appropriate the nominations. The new clause, possibly in an endeavour to meet this point, provides that the order under Clause 3 establishing the authority is to make provisions "as to the method of appointment". This would, in turn, present difficulties, and whatever method was selected might well leave the water undertakers with a sense of grievance and still provide no guarantee that the best man would be appointed.

The Minister particularly wishes to be able to secure when making the appointment of persons qualified in respect of public water supply that he obtains people with a wide knowledge of the range of water supply problems to be encountered in the area of the river authority. For example, the Minister may wish to appoint an officer from a statutory water company. By virtue of Government Amendment No. 2, as I have said, there will be consultation before the number of public water supply members to be appointed to any river authority is decided by the Minister. But in making the actual appointments the Minister will no doubt wish to take, and will take, local soundings. But the way in which he does so ought to be for him to decide.

My noble friend Lord Jellicoe mentioned earlier this afternoon that we intend to stand on the necessity of the Minister making the appointments without statutory consultation. But there will be informal consultation, and that undertaking will be given again in due course. Therefore, a river authority constituted in the balanced and comprehensive way which Ministers require cannot be secured by any means other than ministerial appointments. The whole trouble about the first Amendment is that it interposes the statutory water undertakers between the county council, representative of the ratepayers, and the Ministers, representative of the taxpayers. Moreover, if the statutory water undertakers are going to require that they should appoint their own nominees, there can be no reason why every other body should not require the same thing: the National Farmers' Union, for example; internal drainage boards; the big industries, or the F.B.I. in the area. They would all require to nominate their own people. I hope that noble Lords will realise that it is very difficult to give them priority over other interests in this respect of appointment.

I do not wish in any way to ignore what has been said, especially in regard to the words of the noble Lord, Lard Sinclair of Cleve, when he referred to the statutory obligations not being sufficiently recognised, and, of course, the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, referred to the words of the White Paper in which the Government make it quite clear that the earmarking of resources for statutory water undertakers is vital. The river authorities must take cognisance of this fact, and there is no intention to ignore those obligations or to make it more difficult for statutory water undertakings to fulfil them. That, obviously, is not the purpose of the Bill. We want to help as much as possible, but in this particular respect we feel we cannot help the statutory water undertakings in so far as they want to appoint their own people, although we feel that full consideration will be given, and must be given, to the number of members who will be representing public water supply.

For instance, the noble Lord referred to at least one. He made it clear that he meant a representative, not somebody appointed in authority; but, of course, there will always be at least one, because it is a statutory obligation. In certain areas, however, where the undertakings have a predominant position in the community, it may well be that in any ministerial roll of nominees amounting to 15 (which would be the maximum number for any single river authority) they might have three or four. There is no reason to suppose they are always going to be limited to one. Full consideration will be given, after full consultation, and the only thing we draw the line at in this particular clause, and this particular Amendment, is the proposal that the water undertakers should appoint their own nominees. We must insist that the Minister should do it, after full consultation as to the number to be appointed and after informal consultation as to the individual persons.


In view of what is to fallow very shortly I shall be extremely brief, not because I do not have a reply to the noble Lord but in view of the exigencies of the duties before us in other spheres. But I should like to make it quite clear that my noble friend Lord Ilford and myself never in any way wanted to put statutory water undertakings in a better position than the local authorities. We appreciate—and I think I said so—that they have a majority; but they have it by right because they have provided the finance for the previous functions of the river board. Now the new river authorities are to have added functions, and one added function is that of water conservation, which is vitally important to the water undertaker. Therefore, he should have representation.

I would point out to the noble Lord (and perhaps he will think about it between now, and when we meet again) that there is no other group of people in the same position as the statutory water undertaker—I say that with all respect to the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Barnburgh. A farmer is not forced to farm; an industrialist is not forced to carry on his business. But there is a statutory obligation on a water undertaker to provide the public with the necessary water supply. What is more, he can be taken to law if in fact he does not carry out that obligation. In view of the exigencies of the House's duties, I will withdraw the Amendment, but I would leave the noble Lord under no delusion; in fact I am very disappointed indeed, and I hope he will look at this matter from the point of view of the statutory duties which are placed on the water undertaker.


I would say one word only. We are thinking about this question of the statutory obligation. It is our aim to help and we will think about it, and we shall be ready to discuss this matter another time.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

House adjourned during pleasure.

House resumed.