HL Deb 11 December 1962 vol 245 cc547-670

3.8 p.m.

Order of the Day for the House to be again in 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 6 [Constitution of river authorities]:

LORD WISE moved, in subsection (3) (a), to omit "one" and substitute "two". The noble Lord said: I think it would be convenient to your Lordships if, in addition to this particular Amendment, we also discussed Amendments Nos. 12, 14, 15 and 16. They all refer to more or less the same matter in the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Hastings, suggested on Thursday that these Amendments tied up with an Amendment I then moved. That was not quite the case, although that was partly so. He refused to consider an increase of ten in the membership of a river authority, and I realise that my original Amendment had partly taken account of the additional membership which this present Amendment would cause if the Government accepted it.

The object of this Amendment, and of the others I have mentioned is very definite. It is to impose upon the Minister the duty to appoint at least two members in respect of each of the categories referred to in the subsection. Under the present wording, the Minister can limit his appointments to only one member in each case. That member must fit the qualification of possessing experience in land drainage, fisheries, agriculture, public water supply or industry other than agriculture. All these are extremely important parts of our national life, and it seems totally inadequate that they may have a representation of only five members between them, against a probable eleven or more representatives of county councils or county boroughs. In that respect, it is quite possible that borough and district councils will not be represented at all.

On Thursday last week the noble Lard, Lord Cornwallis, touched upon the inadequate direct representation of industry on the river authorities, and other noble Lords will no doubt put forward reasons for greater representation in respect of that and the other categories. I hope that such will be the case. Altering the minimum figure here from one to two representatives of these categories will increase the membership of authorities by five or less, and this slight increase may commend itself to the Minister, who thought that an additional ten members was too many. I have moved the Amendment with some brevity, and I hope the Minister will show even greater brevity land accept it in a very few words. I beg to move the first Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 4, fine 40, leave out ("one") and insert ("two").—(Lord Wise.)


Before the noble Lord replies to this Amendment, I am sure he will recall that when this series of Amendments was put on the Order Paper it was side by side another Amendment, to Clause 6 (1), which sought to vary the minimum number of members of any river authority from 21 to 31. I appreciate that that Amendment was rejected by the Minister, but if this series of Amendments were now to be accepted there would be very serious trouble with the constituent councils, who provide most of the revenue for drainage, flooding, fisheries and pollution work. That was never our intention. It would be a very bad start to what might ultimately Abe a good Bill.

I should like to ask the noble Lord two or three questions before concluding by not supporting this Amendment. For example, who will decide the number of members, between 21 and 31, on each river authority? Will the Minister decide, or will it be the existing river boards, who know more about the functions than anyone else, including the Minister? And, if it should be the Minister who has the final decision, what will happen if the existing river boards and the Minister disagree about the number of members required? I presume that the Minister will have the last word, but I should like to know from the noble Lord whether or not that is so.

I should also like to know what is meant by the words in subsection (2), "but not more than sufficient." Subsection (2) says: Such number of members of a river authority as is sufficient (but not more than sufficient) to constitute a majority of the total membership of the authority… shall be appointed. As I see it, the minimum number of members to be appointed on any river authority is 21. On the assumption that no Amendment is accepted to subsection (3) of Clause 6, there would be five members appointed by the Minister representing the various interests, leaving sixteen members for the constituent councils. We are all very anxious to know exactly why those words were imported, and I hope the noble Lord is going to enlighten us. With my noble friend Lord Wise, I should like to see reasonable representation of land drainage, fisheries, agriculture, water undertakers and industry, but certainly not at the expense of the constituent councils. For, after all, I repeat, it is they who provide most of the revenue for land drainage, fisheries, work against pollution and flooding and so forth. In the circumstances, the words I have just quoted seem to me to be utterly useless and redundant. Perhaps the noble Lord will tell us why they are there, or whether, contrary to our fairly clear conception of most things, we are very dim on this point as to why the words are imported into the Bill at all.


As the noble Lord, Lord Wise, said, this series of Amendments, Nos. 11, 12, 14, 15 and 16, is not directly consequential upon his previous Amendments relating to the total numbers on the river authorities, but it is, as he pointed out, indirectly consequential upon them; and, therefore, as the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Barnburgh, surmised, it would be very difficult for us to accept these Amendments not having accepted the others, which were withdrawn by the noble Lord, Lord Wise. There are, however, one or two misconceptions that I should like to correct at once.

The noble Lord, Lord Wise, seemed to think that because of the present wording of the clause, which says that at least one member for each of these five categories shall be appointed, there would, in certain circumstances, be only five members, and that the balance would be made up by members nominated by the constituent councils. That, of course, ties up with the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Barnburgh, as to what is meant by the words, "not more than sufficient". I think I referred to this point when I was replying to the previous Amendment last week. "Not more than sufficient" means that there will in fact be only a majority of one. Therefore the Committee will see that, in the case of the minimum-sized council of 21 members, there are bound to be ten nominated by the Minister. So that disposes of the possibility that there could be only one member for each of those five categories.

If we were to accept this Amendment, which says that there should be at least two members, then, when you come to a river authority of the smallest size—namely, 21 altogether—the ten members appointed by the Minister would choose themselves by virtue of this Amendment, were it accepted, because the Minister would be hound to appoint two of each, making up his full number of ten. I hope that is quite clear.




If this Amendment is accepted the Minister would have to nominate two members representing each of these five categories of persons. Five times two, according to my calculations, makes ten; and therefore there would be no scope for flexibility at all. There could be only ten.


I think the noble Lord has misunderstood my sotto voce interjection. I was perfectly clear that, if we multiplied five by two, we might reach ten. But what I was not clear about, and what I am still not clear about, is where the extra members are coming from to constitute a river authority if the constituent councils are going to have only eleven out of the twenty-one. Where are the other ten coming from?

3.20 p.m.


I am afraid I still do not understand what is puzzling the noble Lord. The ten are coming from nominees of the Minister, to represent agriculture, fisheries, drainage, public water supply and industry. If we accepted this Amendment they would each have two members, and that would make the ten. But the whole point, of course, is that there should be flexibility, and I hope it is not suggested by noble Lords opposite that there should always be the same number of members nominated by the Minister to represent each of the five interests. That is not the point of this clause at all. We must have flexibility to represent the interests in proportion to the predominance or otherwise of each interest in relation to each other in that particular river authority.

The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Barnburgh, may ask who will decide how the proportion of such interests is going to be made up. He will remember we passed an Amendment last week which lays the statutory obligation upon the Minister to consult with all interests in that area before deciding upon the numbers that will constitute the entire river authority—between 21 and 31 in all. It might well be 27, in which case there will be 14 appointed by the constituent councils and 13 by the Minister, and those 13 would be divided proportionately between the five interests I have mentioned after full consultation with them.

I hope it is clear that there will be all this consultation, and we hope that the interests will agree it is a fair proportion which is arrived at in each case; but naturally in the event of disagreement the Minister must decide. The noble Lord, Lord Wise, is interested in the river authority for East Suffolk and Norfolk and the present constitution of that river board (not the new authority) is, apart from the county council and county boroughs representatives, four members representing fishery interests and ten members representing drainage. In the new authority we have in addition to bring in industry, public water supply and agriculture; but, if we stick for the moment to drainage and fishery authorities, one might presume they would expect to keep the same sort of proportion to each other in the new authorities. Therefore the drainage interests might expect to have twice as many members as the fishery interests. If this Amendment is passed it would make it quite impossible. Therefore, in order to retain flexibility and also for the reasons I gave in rejecting the previous Amendment (that we want a reasonably small and compact body in which everybody will work together, not on behalf of their separate interests but on behalf of overall duties of the river authority) I must ask the House also to reject this series of Amendments.


I think I ought to say, before we depart from these Amendments, which I am not pressing and which my noble friend Lord Wise does not wish to press, that I am staggered to learn from the noble Lord this afternoon that he is going to restrict, through the words I quoted, the membership on river authorities to a majority of one while the constituent councils from whom these members will be drawn are responsible for almost all the revenue for drainage, pollution, flooding and fisheries. The others, until the Conservation Board gets into operation and starts spending money, will make a comparatively small contribution compared with that of the constituent councils. I should not be surprised if the noble Lord is not in very serious trouble when the county councils and borough councils really understand what is meant by those words.


I must disagree with the noble Lord. Precisely the opposite was argued last week by my noble friend. Lord Cornwallis, who pointed out that the public water supply interests and industrial interests after a preliminary period in some river authorities may find themselves, owing to the new functions of these river authorities, contributing more than the local authorities with their precepts. Therefore we have tried to strike a balance and we think we have done it right. Incidentally, I do not think the noble Lord who sits on the Front Bench beside Lord Williams of Barnburgh will agree with him on this Amendment.


There is one question I should like to ask the noble Lord. Who will be responsible for navigational matters apart from fisheries? Is it the fishery representative or not?


There is special provision in the Bill to appoint additional navigational members if it is necessary in certain circumstances.


In view of the explanation the Minister has given, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment. But my noble friend and I were on two different points. I was concerned at the back of my mind with the possible increase of five in the 21, making it 26. That would have covered the point of the noble Lord opposite that the Minister could add two or three or even only two of one particular section.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS moved, in subsection (3) (b), after "Minister" to insert: after consultation with any association or person appearing to him to represent a substantial fishery interest in the area of the authority,".

The noble Viscount said: If the Committee will allow me, I will move this Amendment on behalf of my noble friend the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry. It is, in fact, a comparatively short point but I believe it might be convenient if it were to be discussed with Amendment No. 19 which is down in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Wise, Lord Williams of Barnburgh and Lord De Ramsey. I will confine myself to the narrow aspect of the points which have been put down by the noble Duke, but broadly speaking it is the same set of circumstances as apply in the case of the other Amendment. Last time we were discussing this Bill, in answer to another Amendment which I moved, the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, was congratulating himself and the draftsmen of this Bill on the degree of consolidation they had achieved in it. He said that since it would have been inconvenient to refer backwards and forwards between this Bill and the River Board Act, 1948, they had incorporated as much as possible of the 1948 Act in this Bill and repealed the 1948 Act.

There is one thing, at any rate, which they have not reproduced which was in the 1948 Act. The purpose of this Amendment is that a proper consolidation should take place and the provision thought suitable in the case of river boards under the 1948 Act should also appear for the purpose of river authorities in this Bill. That provision is that before the Minister appoints to the river authority his one or more members who are qualified in respect of fisheries he should consult with any association or person appearing to him to represent a substantial fishery interest in the authority's area. This was a provision which appeared in Section 2 (2) (c) (ii) of the 1948 Act and it has proved to be convenient and most helpful. I think it would be a retrograde step if such prior consultation were not now to take place under this Bill. I see no reason why it should not. Whether or not that applies to the wider interests in which the noble Lord, Lord Wise, is concerned, I do not know; but it seems to me reasonable that such consultation should go on in the case of fisheries. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 43, after ("Minister") insert the said words.—(Viscount Colville of Culross.)


The noble Duke's Amendment, so ably moved by my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross, seeks, as he said, to include in the Bill consultative provisions on the lines of those included in the 1948 Act, and, arguing along those lines, I can sympathise with his point of view. But I think that he will agree that it would be difficult to separate fisheries from the other four interests and make consultation mandatory for fisheries and not for the other four. I should make it clear to my noble friend that the Ministers will consult representative associations of those interests before appointing people to the new authorities. The difficulty lies only in working out a provision to do this in this clause. Differing circumstances require different approaches and differing circumstances here, though they do not affect fisheries, do affect the provisions in the Bill.

The later Amendment, No. 19, which is being sponsored by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Barnburgh, and other noble Lords, would take this into account and require consultation on all five interests. In the past there has been formal consultation with various bodies. The Government's experience has been that a formal statutory consultation procedure may result in too much rigidity and publicity, and this has sometimes militated against securing the best man for the job. It is a difficulty which arises more particularly when consultation has to be with bodies which are very formally constituted and conduct their business in a formal way. On the other hand, where bodies which have to be consulted are less formal in their procedure and possibly more homogeneous in their character, the Government's experience has been rather different. In such circumstances, it has invariably turned out that appointments can be made which meet with the approval of both the Government and the body concerned.

The result is that the Government do not feel able to accept this Amendment providing for a formal consultation now that these new interests have been added to the others. As my noble friend Lord Jellicoe put it, in replying to the debate On Second Reading [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 244 (No. 12), col. 1093]: Let us by all means have informal consultation which everybody would desire, but I am sure that many noble Lords would grant, at least in certain respects, that as soon as all this gets unduly formalised then off we start to slide down the slippery slope which leads to the question of 'Buggin's turn'. I repeat, however, the assurance which I gave at the opening of my remarks. The Minister will carry out informal consultations with interests concerned in making appointments to river authorities—and since I know that Hansard does not employ italics in order to register emphasis, I should like to say that the word "will" is here emphasised. In so far as drainage and fisheries interests are affected, there will be no practical change from the procedure carried out under the 1948 Act, which, as my noble friend said, has worked so well.


I am sorry that I did not precede the noble Lord, for I wanted to say that there is a unity between the Amendment moved by the noble Viscount and Amendment No. 19. As I am not anxious to make two speeches on the one point—it is a big Bill and everybody wants to make progess—I should like to say that what was done in the 1948 Act, in saying that consultation would take place and embodying it in the Bill, met with a very large measure of success. I learn from authorities with whom I have had some consultation that there have been few disagreements throughout the fourteen years of the currency of the 1948 Act. I see no reason at all why the Government should not have repeated the words in the 1948 Act and, as the noble Viscount suggested, make a real consolidation, particularly since it has been generally satisfactory and fishery interests in particular were delighted when they realised that they were going to be consulted. So far as I know, they have not only been consulted but have recommended and chosen the best men for the job. In fact, the Act has worked so well that it has been unnoticed in the background. If the noble Viscount feels disposed to withdraw the present Amendment and support Amendment No. 19, I think that perhaps we could carry the Committee with us.


I had not intended to go altogether so far as the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Barnburgh, has suggested I should, because, to be honest, I see the difficulty which drafting for a wholesale adaptation of this consultative procedure might involve in this Bill. It is to be remarked that the duty of consultation in the 1948 Act is laid upon the Minister only in the case of fishery interests and it does not occur in the previous paragraph, where he is appointing a person to represent land drainage interests. I am not sure, therefore, that it would not be better to rely on the emphatic and secure assurance which my noble friend Lord St. Oswald has given us, that not only in the case of fisheries but in the other four categories as well the same sort of scale of consultation would go on between the Ministers and the relevant organisations under the Bill as went on under the old Act. In such circumstances, I am certainly inclined to withdraw my own Amendment. I think that I must wait and see how the noble Lord, Lord Wise, and his friends move their Amendment when it comes to the point. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

3.38 p.m.

LORD CHORLEY moved to add to subsection (3): (f) one or more members appointed by such body of persons as may be designated by the Minister as being specially concerned with the preservation of the amenity of the countryside".

The noble Lord said: As I pointed out on Second Reading, the amenities interests are not given any representation in this subsection. It has been pointed out more than once this afternoon that these specialised interests are given specific and definite representation on the new river authorities and I do not think that anybody feels that wrong, certainly not we in the amenities movement since, on the whole, our relations with most of these interests are cordial. But we do not feel that they can be left to look after the amenities point of view. Sometimes there is a distinct conflict between the two. As I have no doubt the Minister will point out in due course, there is an amenities clause of a general character in the Bill, but that I criticise for the rather weak way in which it is drafted. Even if strongly drafted, that clause would not obviate the necessity for having a definite amenities representative on these new and important organisations.

I appreciate that adding another is a difficulty, but it is a little one, if I may say so, and in modern life and in this country at the present time, natural beauty and amenities generally have become a matter of the greatest importance and at least on a par with the other interests which receive specific representation in this Bill. It so appears, no doubt in a less important context, in the case of the New Forest, which was the subject of a Bill, with which the Minister is no doubt familiar, regulating the position in the New Forest, in 1949, where in the very first section of the Act this problem of representing different interests is dealt with. We there have it provided, in Section 1 (c), that four verderers are to be appointed who shall hold office in accordance with the terms as therein set out, and they are to be appointed by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Forestry Commissioners, the local planning authority, and one by such body of persons as may be designated by the Minister as being specially concerned with the preservation of the amenity of the countryside. I suggest that this is a precedent which should be followed at the present time. There is hardily any area of England which does not contain sections of country of outstanding natural beauty, and some of our areas of natural beauty are among the most beautiful in the world. Surely the Government can see their way to follow the admirable precedent established in the New Forest Act, 1949, of agreeing that sufficient representation should be given to amenities in this case. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 7, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Chorley.)


I hope that the Government will give sympathetic consideration to the Amendment. Already large areas of the most beautiful country in the British Isles have been taken over as gathering grounds for water supplies. It is, of course, the intention of this Bill to make provision for a great increase in the demand for water, and that means a great increase in the areas that will have to be taken for gathering grounds. Therefore, I think it is of the utmost importance that when policy on this matter is being considered there should be adequate representation of the amenities interests. It is not always realised to what extent in some parts of the country the most beautiful areas are already occupied by the water authorities. In the Peak District, the constituency which I used to represent, as long ago as 1948 a map put before one of the sub-committees of the Central Advisory Water Committee showed that roughly one-third of that National Park was already covered by an uninterrupted mosaic of gathering grounds. I hope, therefore, that the Government will be sympathetic towards the Amendment which has been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Charley, and will take into account the great importance of considering the preservation of amenities.


I, too, should like to express the hope that the Government will give sympathetic attention to this Amendment. I would venture to suggest to your Lordships that it makes a great difference to the attitude of bodies of this kind if they have someone among their own membership who can speak with authority and knowledge on these aspects of their problem. It can no doubt be said that any authority will consider reports or representations which it may receive. But while that is true, it is also possible for an authority which is so minded to deal quite formally with representations it receives from outside. But if there is someone in contact with the problems and the particular administrative difficulties, then I think they are themselves helped to come to a more impartial and wider point of view which would have regard to all these important considerations to which attention has just been drawn.

I appreciate all the difficulties of increasing the number of members of these bodies. The point might perhaps be considered again in relation to the central authority. If there were someone who was able to bring these considerations prominently into account at the stage of approval or the shaping of a general plan, that might be another way of meeting the point. The important thing is that these considerations of the increase and change in population, and the growth in demand, which have been so rightly stressed, and which are going to be so much more important in their effect on the appearance of the countryside, should be brought into view at a sufficiently early stage.

I have had some experience in the past of problems of this sort, particularly in connection with the electricity industry, and I know only too well that when once the engineers have formulated their own ideas and precipitated their own plan, and it has been adopted by an authority, it is difficult to move them to change their point of view or to accept suggestions which they had not originally taken into account. But it can be done. I would venture again to say that in the case of the electricity industry, largely as a result of the Amendment which the noble Viscount, Lord Mills, accepted in his Bill some three or four years ago, the most valuable co-operation has been received on that very point; that is to say, bringing into consideration not only questions of amenity but all those questions of nature conservancy at an early stage before the promoting authority and their engineers have precipitated their own ideas. If there is consultation, though the result may not be fundamentally to alter the project, it can be, and has been, to modify considerably the way in which it is carried out, while still preserving its main objectives in the interests of the economy of the country and yet meeting many of the objections which those interested in amenities or nature conservancy would otherwise have to bring to bear.

I would just remind your Lordships of what was said on the Second Reading of the Bill by the noble Lord, Lord Fleck, who paid a remarkable tribute to the value which the industries with which he is connected attach to the intervention of the Nature Conservancy at an early stage in the formulation of his plans. I hope, therefore, that the Government, even if they cannot accept this Amendment in this particular connection as it stands, will give sympathetic consideration to the point which has been raised.

3.49 p.m.


I have noticed that there are quite a few Amendments down on the Marshalled List which bear directly or indirectly on this important question of amenity. As I said on Second Reading, we feel that the Bill, as drafted, affords adequate safeguards for amenity. But I would not be so bold as to claim that we have necessarily got this 100 per cent., and we shall certainly be glad to look at the various suggestions as we proceed with the consideration of the Bill.

I wonder whether it might be helpful if at this stage I were to attempt to outline, since there are a number of Amendments to come on this question of amenity, some general considerations which we have borne in mind in drafting the Bill. I know that we all want to make as much progress now with the Committee stage as possible, and this will take a little time, but it might be time which we will make up in the end if I try to outline our general standpoint here and now rather than let it come out in dribs and drabs as we come to particular Amendments on amenity. If there are to be new waterworks in areas of high rainfall, those areas are only too often identical with areas of great beauty. As the logic of the distribution of rainfall on these islands may in fact lead to that consequence, two things are of vital importance: we must in the first place choose the site which has the least harmful impact on landscape and other aspects of amenity and, having done so, we must secondly make certain that the resulting works are designed as well as possible.

I would straight away remind your Lordships—or reinforce the reminder which the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, has given—that so far as amenity in general is concerned, each river authority is to be under a duty (and that duty extends to the Minister and to the Water Resources Board) to take into account the effect of any of their proposals upon the natural beauty of the countryside and upon other matters customarily embraced in the general term "amenity". I think it is a pity if one underestimates the value of that clause. It will, of course, bite not only on the siting of works commissioned by a river authority, but also on the design and detail of any such works. So far as design is concerned, that, of course, is primarily to be achieved by employing good designers. There I would remind noble Lords that many water undertakings have been specifically required to employ landscape architects on reservoir schemes. I should like to assure noble Lords straight away that it is our intention that river authorities, who will be developers in this field of general water conservation, should be encouraged and, if necessary, required, to avail themselves of the same sort of specialised help.

May I now come back to the first requirement, the right choice of the site? This demands, of course, a detailed study of all the possible ways of meeting the particular demand for more water. This means weighing up and balancing all the information on each alternative, the pros and cons from both the water point of view and the amenity point of view. Of course, there is already in existence an organisation well equipped to deal with the amenity side of the job, the local planning authority, together with the planning system as a whole, but up to now we have not had an adequate organisation for dealing with the water side of the job for ascertaining and investigating all the possible alternatives from the water point of view. Your Lordships will recall that one of the criticisms levelled against Manchester last February was that they sought powers for Ullswater and Bannisdale without having adequately explored all the possible alternatives. But a water undertaking seeking a new source of water at a long distance from its own area is not at all well placed to make a really comprehensive study of all that is involved. They cannot be expected to have complete local knowledge. And then, of course, water undertakers are concerned only with one aspect of water management, the abstraction for the public supply.

In this Bill we are proposing to set up for the first time a new organisation, the river authority, which will be equipped and required to deal comprehensively with the water side of the problem. The creation of such an organisation, I suggest, would in itself lead to a strengthening of the defences for amenity. The planning authority responsible for amenity in all its aspects will now be able to deal with a body responsible for water in all its aspects. These two authorities together should be able to secure that water requirements and amenity requirements are married in the best possible way. I would therefore suggest that the best way for them to set about doing this work is to work closely together and not for either of them to try to do the other's job, as might tend to be the case if amenity representatives were included on the river authority, or if water representatives were included on the local planning authorities.

What I am accordingly proposing is that the right way of safeguarding amenity here is through the planning system, and that we should certainly think carefully before trying to establish a sort of parallel control of the river system within the river authorities themselves. It follows from this that if we accept that logic we should be confident that the planning system bites effectively on projects or proposals covered by this Bill, or resulting from this Bill, which would affect the countryside. I claim that that is in fact the case.

As regards building and other works, the scope and efficacy of existing planning controls are not affected by the Bill. The Bill expressly provides in Clause 67 (3) that nothing in the Bill is to be taken as authorising the carrying out of development without planning permission, where such planning permission is required under the planning Acts. Statutory water undertakers will require planning permission for development to precisely the same extent as they do now, and the new river authorities will require planning permission for water conservation works such as reservoirs, pumping stations and the rest. In addition, statutory water undertakers will in future, as at present, require an order under Section 23 of the Water Act. 1945.

Finally, noble Lords will not have failed to observe that a river authority, putting forward an order to secure compulsory powers to do works under Clause 63, will be obliged by the procedure under Schedule 5, paragraph 2, to serve notice on every local authority within whose area the works are to be done. And, by the definition in Clause 117, "local authority" includes joint planning boards such as are the planning authorities in two of our National Parks. Nor does the Bill in any way weaken the present controls over the acquisition of land by public bodies.

What about the level of water in our rivers, and the effect of that on the right to make particular abstractions? We are all aware of the crucial importance of this for amenity. I have in mind, for example, what was one of the most beautiful stretches of water in the world, the upper reaches of a river in the Dordogne in France. That has been quite ruined by a hydro-electric, scheme which has reduced the flow in that lovely river to a mere trickle. Noble Lords must be aware of examples closer to home. But under this Bill, as regards minimum acceptable flow, the river authority is required to serve notice of its draft proposals upon every local authority—and this again includes a joint planning board—whose area includes any inland water to which the statement "the minimum flow" applies. This will, I suggest, afford plenty of opportunity for making objections and for the holding of a public inquiry where that is necessary.

Again, minimum acceptable flows to be specified in the draft statements are to be determined, as stated in Clause 19 (5), having regard to the character of the river and its surroundings, a wording which is certainly intended to embrace amenity considerations of every sort. I see from a later Amendment on the Marshalled List which stands in the joint names of the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, and my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross, that there may be some doubt in their minds as to whether the importance of the minimum flows to amenity is fully recognised in that subsection as it is certainly intended to be. But that, of course, we can discuss when we get to it. In any event, it seems to me that at least here the terms of reference which will be given to each river authority in determining minimum acceptable flows, with all their possible consequences for amenity, and the procedure for dealing with the draft statements of those flows, fully safeguard amenity.

The general argument which I have been trying to advance can be summarised in three or four short propositions. First, the Government fully recognise the importance of amenities here in connection with this Bill, and we are fully seized in the context of this Bill of the great importance of doing all we can to preserve natural beauty. And I think that Clause 93 is a demonstration of that. Secondly, the general effect of this Bill—which is to establish for the first time a structure capable of dealing comprehensively with our water affairs in each river authority area—should in itself strengthen the defences of amenity. Thirdly, I suggest that we should basically seek to ensure that our existing planning system bites effectively on the provisions of this Bill rather than to import a sort of parallel amenity organisation within our system of water administration. Fourthly, I would claim that, generally speaking—although I grant that here and there, as we go through the Bill, there may be room for improvement—under the Bill our planning controls do in fact bite, and more effectively than in the past, on water matters.

In the light of those rather general considerations your Lordships may not be entirely surprised to learn that, sympathetic as I am to the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, and supported by my noble friend Lord Molson and the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, I am a little doubtful about this particular wording. But, apart from general doubts, I have two specific objections to it. In the first place it would have a damaging effect on the Minister's power to determine the corn-position of the river authorities. Unlike the other members appointed under Clause 6, subsection (3), the appointments desired by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, would be made not by the Minister but by a body to be designated by the Minister. I think that this in itself would be a quite invidious distinction. In fact, I think the Minister might find himself faced with a rather invidious choice in some cases in choosing between rival amenity bodies.

But there is a second specific difficulty. As the noble Lord's Amendment is worded, the Minister would not even be in a position, as he is with all the other categories, to prescribe the number of members to be appointed by the favoured body. That body, as the noble Lord's Amendment is drafted, would itself have discretion in this matter. They would be able to appoint one or two, or 20 or 2,000 members to a river authority. Let us assume that they restrained themselves and appointed only two. Let us remember that we have provided for a bare majority of local authority representation within each river authority. If we have the amenity members this means we shall either have to squeeze out some other ministerial appointments (and I do not think that that would commend itself, at least to a number of noble Lords in this House), or we should have further to enlarge the river authority. There are, I think, clear objections to both courses.

Those are the reasons both general and particular why I cannot advise your Lordships to accept this Amendment. I apologise for having taken so much time in trying to explain the general background against which we have considered this Amendment but I thought it might perhaps be useful at this stage to do so.


I am sure we shall all feel very grateful to the noble Earl for this very interesting exposition of the Government's point of view on these matters—certainly I personally am. It is very helpful and, up to a point, encouraging; but I am afraid only up to a very moderate point, because the noble Earl has not really met the arguments put forward not only by myself but also by the noble Lords, Lord Molson and Lord Hurcomb. I quite appreciate that he has some technical objections to the Amendment as it is at present on the Order Paper. It is taken from the New Forest Act, and in the New Forest Act the amenities society chosen by the Minister is, in effect, given the option of appointing a particular representative. I am sure we should not mind if the Minister were given the whole right to appoint an amenity representative, provided that this representative was clearly assigned for the purpose of watching amenity interests. I shall ask your Lordships to allow me to withdraw this Amendment to-day, in order that at the next stage I can put down another that is more in accordance with the noble Lord's criticism, which I think is valid to that extent. At that stage I may well ask your Lordships to decide whether it is not really a matter of substance which ought to be put into the Bill.

I should like to take the opportunity of going a little further, and to suggest to the noble Earl that, so far as meeting criticism, particularly that of the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, is concerned, he has not faced up to it at all. The noble Earl talks, in effect, of having two parallel watchdogs for amenities, the new authority and the planning authority, and he says that the planning authority has the teeth because under Section 63 (I think it is) no actual development can take place unless it is brought before the planning authority. This is perfectly true. But that, of course, is just what the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, is trying to persuade him is not the Tight way of doing this sort of thing; because if you have once reached the stage where the technical people have spent much time, trouble and money in working out plans it is very difficult to shift them.

The noble Earl himself has already been in office as a Minister long enough to know—and all of us who have had any sort of position in Government, particularly as heads of Government departments, like the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, who speaks with a great deal of authority on these problems and has given specific illustrations from his own experience, know—that it is really second best to bring in at a late stage a planning authority when, if it had been brought in at the early stages, around the table when these things are hammered out in the first place, some improvements could have been obtained which would [have carried the whole thing forward on a proper basis. I suggest that the provisions in this Bill do not make adequate allowances for dealing with these matters lat this stage, and I therefore hope that the noble Earl, who is very sensitive to the needs of protecting natural beauty and the other amenities in these circumstances, will feel, on second thoughts, that he can go rather further than he has been able to go this afternoon. In all the circumstances, I ask your Lordships' leave to withdraw this Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.9 p.m.


This is a very simple Amendment. So far as I can see, there is nothing in the Bill at present to prevent a Minister from appointing a Cornishman, shall we say, to a North Country or North of England river authority. As noble Lords know, local knowledge is important, and a man with local knowledge is far more likely to look after the requirements for water and also the amenities of the countryside than a man who has not got that knowledge. I hope the Government will be able to accept this Amendment, and I beg move.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 12, at end insert ("in the area of the river authority in respect of which the appointment is to be made").—(Lord Grenfell.)


To adopt a restriction of this nature would be to run the risk of depriving a river authority quite unnecessarily of a valuable member. Ministers making appointments to river authorities will be very anxious to secure the best possible members for the purposes of that particular body, and it can be said that Ministers will attach great importance to knowldege of matters within the area of the particular authority. But it is not only knowledge of matters within the area that is relevant. Industrial water problems, for example, are not specially characterised by area, and it would be unwise to preclude the possibility of appointing a person with appropriate qualifications in the industrial field merely because he had gathered that experience in the area of the next river authority.

My noble friend Lord Grenfell is worried that the Minister might appoint a Cornishman to a river authority in the North or East Anglia, but the probability of that is virtually nil. Obviously, residence must have something to do with the matter from the point of view of practicability and attending meetings. It may well be that somebody has recently moved into the area who is qualified in respect not only of industry but other respects, having gained his experience outside that area, and it would be a thousand pities if he were not available to the Minister to be appointed to that particular river authority within whose borders or near whose borders he is living. Therefore, I hope the noble Lord will appreciate that although we sympathise with what his aims are, in point of fact he might be obtaining the very opposite from what he desires by pressing this Amendment and if it were accepted. Therefore I would advise the Committee that we cannot accept this Amendment for the vary practical and logical reasons given.


I understand the difficulty in which the Minister is placed. I hope the river authorities will as far as possible engage local men who know the local troubles and difficulties. I do not intend to press this Amendment and I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD WISE moved, after subsection (4), to insert— ( ) Before appointing any member of a river authority under subsection (3) of this section the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food or the Minister (as the case may be) shall consult with such persons, or bodies representative of persons, concerned as they consider it appropriate to consult.

The noble Lord said, This is an Amendment on consultation. It was mentioned by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, but he referred to it only in regard to fishing; this particular Amendment is all-embracing of the five different categories of membership to be appointed by the Minister. We realise that the Minister said a few days ago, in dealing with a more or less similar Amendment of his own in regard to the constitution of the river authorities, that the Government were prepared to put that Amendment into the Bill formally, but they remained convinced that it would be a mistake to formalise consultation over the choice of particular members of a particular river authority. We accept that, but we are anxious that consultation should take place, informally if you like, with bodies who do represent specialist opinion and specialist experience on matters contained in these five categories. I hope that the Government may be able to give us the assurance that consultation will take place at every possible opportunity. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 12, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Wise.)


I am in a slight difficulty here, in that I had asked if it would be agreeable to take this Amendment together with No. 13 which was moved earlier. I asked the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Barnburgh, who was within striking distance of the Dispatch Box, and I thought he was going to be the spokesman on (the present Amendment. I naturally do not want to repeat the whole speech I made on that occasion, but the assurance I gave, which I think, in view of what the noble Lord has said, will perhaps satisfy him, was that Ministers will carry out informal consultations with the interests concerned in making appointments to river authorities. I had earlier argued the difficulty of putting this actually into the Bill but had given a verbal assurance and emphasised that such consultations would be carried out; and I judge that that is what the noble Lord really wants.


The noble Lord must know that we wanted something more than a promise. We wanted the words embodied in the Bill, so that all the various interests would know that, when the time came for a person to be chosen to represent that industry or service, or whatever it might be, at least they would be consulted, and we should almost inevitably have the right person. I am sorry that the noble Lord does not feel he can do in 1962 what I had the courage to do in 1948 and which turned out a real success. I am sorry that he is not following my very good lead.


I cannot really accept the implication that we are refusing to do exactly what the noble Lord did then. He is implying that this Amendment would merely repeat exactly what he did then. But of course what this Amendment proposes was not done in the 1948 Act to the same extent, and did not involve comparable bodies. The river boards, for instance, were not concerned in matters of water conservation, which will now require the membership of those qualified in respect of public water supply to industry other than agriculture, whose presence will be required and is allowed for on the river authorities. So I think he is perhaps being slightly mischievous in suggesting that we are refusing to repeat exactly what he did on that occasion.


I think the Government might accept this Amendment. It has been the general principle always, on either side of the House, to say, "Why not put it in the Bill?" I kept saying it from the other side of the House when the Labour Government were introducing their nationalisation Bills, and exactly the same thing was said to me from the Labour side when I was piloting a number of Bills through this House. I think the words are so reasonable. It is not that the Ministers have to consult a certain number of people laid down; they have to consult only such representatives of persons and bodies as they—that is the brace of Ministers—think it appropriate to consult. What wider latitude could they have? I am sure that these Ministers would carry out an undertaking, but we are legislating here for all time on these water authorities, and I think that we ought to insist on Ministers' carrying out reasonable consultations such as the noble Lord opposite has proposed. Why cannot the Government accept this Amendment?


Before the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, spoke, I was thinking about getting up and asking Ministers on the Front Bench to think again on this subject. I cannot think it would do any harm to put in these words.


I think my undertaking that this form of consultation will be carried out is as far as I can go. Again, it seemed to me that my noble friend Lord Swinton was suggesting that all we are being asked to do is exactly what the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Barnburgh, did in 1948. It is not so. It would involve other bodies, and we think that the obligation to consult a far greater number of formal bodies working in a formal way would, in fact, slow down the choice of the representative and would not be likely to give the best results.


With great respect to the Minister, who says that he would have to consult a number of people whom it would be a waste of time to consult, he has only to consult the representatives of the authorities whom he thinks it appropriate to consult. That limits it a great deal. I am now getting a little suspicious about this matter. This seems to be a good instance of the gentleman or lady in Whitehall knowing best. It is all right for noble Lords on the Front Bench to say that they will do this, but I do not know that one can say that of their permanent officials. I have more than a great respect for permanent officials. I know that quite a number of Ministers have considerable fear of them. I am not at all sure that when the permanent official says, "We should not bother to consult with these people; let us appoint so and so", that will not be done. But if a Minister is able to say to the Permanent Secretary, "Look here, it is in the Bill; I must consult some people on this", then one is on safe ground. I hope that the Government will promise to reconsider this matter. This is a long Bill, and there are over 140 Amendments to be dealt with. We all want to make progress; we are all in favour of the principle of the Bill. But, if I may respectfully say so, it is not the best way of getting a Bill through the House to refuse to accept what are reasonable Amendments, put forward on merit from all quarters of the House.


In a last word, I do not want either to detain the Committee or to make the Minister less happy than he was a moment or two ago. It is true that the Amendment goes slightly further than subsection (2) of Clause 2 of the 1948 Act, which imposed the obligation to consult any person who was likely to represent land drainage or fisheries. I agree with the noble Lord that this Bill is a slight extension, in that now one would have to consult those associated with agriculture—that should not be difficult; those concerned with water supply—that ought not to be difficult; and those interested in general industry—that ought not to be a terrifying responsibility. However, I hope that the words of the noble Earl who has just spoken will be thought over again, and that at least the Minister will tell us to-day that between now and another stage serious consideration will be given to doing what all noble Lords think ought to be done now.


I cannot accept that this is only a small extension, because we think that if this were put in the Bill, quite a large number of authorities and bodies would expect to be consulted compared with those who had to be consulted under the noble Lord's Bill. The river board area which I have in mind as one example is the Yorkshire Ouse. The noble Lord must also have it in mind, because we both live in the same area. That, for instance, has nine land drainage representatives and four fisheries representatives. The land drainage representatives are appointed after consultation with the Northern Branch of the Association of Drainage Authorities. That consists of almost one half of the country. So the land drainage representatives require consultation with one body for nearly half the river board areas in the country. The four fisheries representatives in this particular area are appointed after consultation with two bodies—the Yorkshire Ouse Consultative Association and the Esk Consultative Association—only two bodies need to be consulted. However, rather than that my own innocent attitude to this Amendment should excite suspicion, I will certainly undertake to look at it again.


I thank noble Lords opposite for their great assistance in regard to this Amendment, and on the assurance which has been given by the Minister that he will have a further look at this point, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.26 p.m.

LORD CAWLEY moved to add at end of subsection (5): and for the purposes of this subsection special circumstances shall be deemed to exist in the case of any river authority of which the area is a combination of river board areas".

The noble Lord said: If special circumstances exist, the Ministers have an unfettered discretion to appoint more than 31 members to the river authority. This Amendment does not seek to affect that unfettered discretion in any way; it seeks to give the Minister some guidance as to one of the meanings which the words "special circumstances" have, the words being rather difficult to interpret. They are, one might almost say, a lawyer's delight. Certain of the potential victims of amalgamation are much afraid that special circumstances do not cover the mere process of amalgamation.

The first pair of authorities who are afraid are the Lancashire and Cumberland authorities. They are afraid from the point of view of fisheries. There are now 14 fishery representatives in this rather large combined area in which fisheries are extremely important, and, of course, local knowledge is also important. They expect that in the normal process of amalgamation these representatives will be reduced to about three, which number they think is inadequate. Of course, this Amendment will not force the Ministers to appoint more than three representatives, but it will give them power, if they see fit, to appoint those representatives. Similarly, with the Nene and Welland amalgamation: in this case fisheries are not important—there are merely coarse fish in those rivers. But most of the rates in this area are spent on the Fens, where, of course, land drainage is extremely important, and the land drainage authorities, when the amalgamation takes place, will be reduced from about fourteen to about five. This Amendment will make it clear to the Ministers, if they see fit, and only if they see fit, that they may appoint more than 31 members to deal with the drastic reduction of land drainage members Which has come about through pure amalgamation. I think that this Amendment ought to be acceptable, because it is merely a question of interpretation, and it in no way alters the absolute discretion of the Ministers. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 19, at end insert the said words.—(Lord Cawley.)


The Bill follows the White Paper in this clause, Clause 6 (5), where it says that by reason of special circumstances in a particular river authority area, more than 31 members may be specified in the order constituting the authority. The circumstances in which more than 31 members will be justifiable will not emerge in detail until the task of constituting the authorities is in hand. Broadly speaking, the need will arise where the range of interests in the area cannot adequately be covered within a total of 31 members. But it is a question of range and diversity, and not of mere size. In general, the Government consider that 31 members will be sufficient to man the river authorities proposed. There may be local reasons why more should be provided for, and factors resulting from amalgamation will obviously be taken into account. But although as the result of amalgamation some of the river authorities will be larger than all but the largest river board areas others of the new areas will still he relatively small and compact. It will be unsound, therefore, to admit of amalgamation as invariably producing conditions which require more than the standard number of members on the authority. I am sure the noble Lord appreciates that the aim is to keep the numbers down to the minimum practicable in all the circumstances.

We can, of course, go over the argument of the Proudman Committee again and again, and we struck a balance between a small river authority of 10 to 15 members and a large one of some 31 members. I think it is accepted that the aim is to keep the average down and not to increase where unnecessary. But in respect of the numbers, I again repeat—and I hope that I do not irritate noble Lords in doing so, but this tends to be overlooked all the time—that there is statutory consultation in respect of the total number of every river authority. As a result of that consultation it will quite clearly emerge whether it is impossible to satisfy the necessities and requirements of any particular interest within the given numbers of 31. It will be the maximum size of a river authority, allowing 15 members to be appointed by the Minister. If within those 15 it is not possible to give every interest a proportional and sufficient representation, then the Minister, after these consultations, will be able to decide to increase the number.

But, if I may say so, I do not think that this Amendment adds anything either to the consultative process or to the Minister's power; because I notice the noble Lord said that he was leaving it purely in the discretion of the Minister—, not that the Minister shall act if these special circumstances, including amalgamations of river boards, are present, but that even in the case of an amalgamation he may consider the special circumstance only if he sees fit to do so. So the Amendment is not really adding anything to what the Minister will be doing, because he will be taking into consideration the amalgamation and the possibility of representing all the interests sufficiently. Therefore I ask the noble Lord to withdraw this Amendment. I was going to ask him to do so on the ground that it would tie the Minister's hands unnecessarily. But, in view of his remark that it would still be discretionary, I would ask him to withdraw it on the grounds that the Amendment is altogether unnecessary.


I am very glad to hear that the Ministry's lawyers are so satisfied that they know what "special circumstances" means. If that is so, I will, of course, withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.34 p.m.

LORD CHORLEY moved to add to subsection (7): or a joint planning board established under section 2 (2) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1962 as the local planning authority for a united district any part of which is comprised in the area of the river authority".

The noble Lord said: As your Lordships are aware, there is no special provision for including in the new river authorities representatives of local planning authorities. Of course, most of the planning authorities will in fact be represented because members of the local authorities themselves, of which the local planning committees are just a part, make up a very substantial part of the personnel of all these new authorities. Therefore, in a way the local planning committees will be represented on the new authorities.

But there are two important cases which the noble Earl has mentioned, where the local authorities have ceased to be planning authorities in certain very Important areas of the country. Those are the cases where joint planning boards have been established under the National Parks Act. The noble Lord specifically referred to the one in the Peak District and the other in the Lake District. There is no part of the country where it is more important that the local planning authority should be represented on the new river authority than in those two areas, which, as the noble Earl said, are two of the areas of outstanding beauty in the country—areas of very great importance from the amenity point of view. Such representation would appear not only right and proper, but indeed, essential if we are to get these discusions going at the early stage to which the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, referred; that is, at a time when the local planning authority can take a really effective part in this.

I understood from the general observations of the noble Earl that he felt this was a most important matter, but he seemed to think that it would suffice if they were brought in at a later stage. We are not in agreement on that. After all, the local authorities themselves are brought in from the beginning, and undoubtedly it is on the planning side that they are, if not basically, at any rate to a very large extent, interested. I have already drawn your Lordships' attention to the fact that in the New Forest Act (and this point the noble Earl did not take up in his reply) there is not only an amenity interest representation but also a planning interest. There was specific representation among the four people who were appointed verderers. The importance of getting the planning authority on to this sort of organisation was very much appreciated by the framers of the New Forest Act. I suggest that that is a very useful precedent to us, which we should consider very carefully, and I think that we might very well follow it on this occasion.

This Amendment would include the two joint boards. It is just possible, I suppose, that others might be established in the future. There might be one in North Wales—that appears to be a possibility, though perhaps not a very real one. If this Amendment were accepted, it would not mean a great deal, from the point of view of altering the composition of the river authorities as already planned in the Bill as it stands. I hope, therefore, that the noble Earl will be able to see his way to accept this Amendment, which I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 24, at end insert the said words.—(Lord Chorley)


During his speech on Second Reading the noble Lord suggested that, as the. Bill is drafted at present, these boards would not be represented on the new river authorities, and that that was a serious weakness in the Bill as it stands. I must differ from the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, here; and in so doing I hope that no one will take my words as in any way reflecting on these two joint boards, of whose excellent work I have a certain amount of personal knowledge.

My deeper reason for not being able to recommend acceptance of this Amendment to your Lordships is basically the same reason as I advanced in support of the noble Lord's earlier amenity Amendment. I believe that the Bill as drafted pays due regard to amenity; that the really important thing is to ensure that the important decisions flowing from this Act are going to be subject to an effective planning mechanism, which is provided for in the Bill; and that it is neither necessary nor desirable to try to set up some parallel mechanism, built into the constitution of the river authority itself, to reinforce these defences. I would also remind noble Lords that, where national parks are concerned, it is accepted, certainly by the Government, that special criteria of amenity within their confines should apply, and that specific projects must be judged against those criteria.

Apart from those rather general reservations about the noble Lord's Amendment, I see other difficulties. The major justification for local authority representation on river authorities is that much of the income of those authorities is going to be raised by precept on the local authorities concerned. Logically, of course, that would lead to the rating authorities being represented as such. But my noble friend Lord Hastings ex- plained on Second Reading why we had decided to depart from that idea and to provide, in the case of river authorities, as in the case of river boards, that the members should be appointed by the councils of counties and county boroughs, who are in fact the "constituent" authorities for the purpose of Clause 6.

But if it is intended—and this is certainly how I tread the noble Lord's Amendment—that the joint planning boards, like the constituent councils, should be represented on the river authorities, having regard to their appropriate penny rate products—and that, of course, is the basis of local authority representation written into the Bill—this could be done only at the expense of the county and the county borough councils within those river authority areas. The joint planning boards have no independent financial resources. As noble Lords know, they obtain their income by precepting upon the counties and the county boroughs, and the contribution which they would be required to make, as a consequence of the river authority precepts, would have to be met by the very councils at whose expense they would be represented on the river authorities. I suggest that that is a real difficulty, and it might very well be—in fact I should have thought would be—resented as being an unfair consequence.

The noble Lord referred to the New Forest Act precedent, and I regret that I did not cover this point in answer to his first Amendment. I would suggest that the New Forest Act is somewhat suigeneris—rather a special case. The New Forest Act was concerned with the management, as I understand it, of a specific and very limited area of country, all of which, so far as I know, is of very high amenity value. The appointments, which the noble Lord mentioned as being specifically provided for in the Act, were clearly pertaining to the whole of the works in which that particular body was going to take part. But the situation is not the same, I suggest, for the whole range of functions, and indeed for the territory, with which the river authorities will be dealing and covering. But that said, I would repeat that I believe the very important and legitimate interests of these two admirable joint boards are already safeguarded tinder the Bill. I do not believe that the Amendment, if accepted, would strengthen those safe-guards, and it would, moreover create unfairness to the counties and county boroughs concerned. For those reasons, I hope that the noble Lord will not wish to press the Amendment.

Before I conclude, may I add just a couple of points? The noble Lard, Lord Chorley, referred to the fact that it would be quite possible for the members of the joint planning boards concerned to find their place in these river authorities as members of their county councils. That seems to me the best way around this particular problem. I believe (though here I speak subject to correction) that in the case of same river boards this is already the case. But I certainly do not see why this should not, in practice, result from the Bill. It seems to me the sensible and logical thing to happen. It is certainly a process which should be encouraged by the authorities concerned. This is a matter that could come out in the consultation regarding the constitution of the authorities which is now written into the Bill.

In that particular consultation it might well be suggested—and I think it would be very desirable—that the joint planning board representation should be covered in the local authority representation, the same people representing the two at one and the same time on the river authority. I think that that is a practical way of going about the matter, and I should have thought that that desirable objective would be quite easy to obtain.

But I also agree that it is important, especially in the national parks, that we should strengthen any amenity defences or close any amenity gaps which we think may be open. So far as the national parks are concerned, I should be very glad to consider whether an arrangement could be worked out, for inclusion in the Bill, to secure that certain classes of applications for licences under the Bill, thought to involve particular risk to amenity, might in national park areas be brought specially to the notice of the local planning authority concerned by the river authority. I think that such a provision could be written into the Bill without any great difficulty, and I should be very glad between now and Report stage to consider putting down an Amendment to that effect.

I grant at once that there is already provision in the Bill for licences to be advertised, and that might be thought to cover this position. But we all know the sort of thing that can happen: things slip through more or less unnoticed. I believe that it might well be desirable, especially in the national park areas, to try to find a more watertight arrangement by which the joint boards, who are the planning authorities, would know straight away of anything of this nature affecting their interests. That would avoid slips, and I think it might mean that they would become aware more quickly than they would do under the Bill as it stands of developments affecting their interests. I should be very glad to consider bringing forward an Amendment of that sort. But as to the specific Amendment proposed by the noble Lord, I feel that it is open to the objections I have indicated.

4.49 p.m.


I should like to thank my noble friend for what he has said in reply to this Amendment. I had been disposed to support the Amendment, but we have had from the Government an offer of co-operation and help which I think may well work better than the proposal put forward by the noble Lord. I should like to see whether I understand exactly what the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, has in mind. Perhaps I might take an example with which I am familiar, and with which the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, is also familiar, because he is President of an amenity society much concerned with the High Peak. There one has a number of reservoirs and sources of water supply to a large number of towns, all of which have their gathering grounds in the Pennine range around Kinder Scout.

If I understand the noble Earl's argument aright, it is this: that if the river authority desires to increase the supply of water from there, they will have to obtain planning permission from the joint planning board, and he feels that the planning considerations are better preserved by having the two different authorities for this, the river authority, seeking further supplies of water, and the joint planning board, having the right to refuse planning permission, rather than seeking to dilute the membership of the river authority by the introduction of people who are primarily concerned with amenity rather than with water.

I am impressed by that argument, but I was also very much impressed by the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb. Speaking with immense experience of these matters, both as the permanent head of a Government Department in the past and also as the head of, I think it was, the Electricity Generating Board—


The Transport Commission.


I think it was also electricity; but it all shows how extremely wide his experience is. He did urge upon your Lordships that it was desirable, in order to avoid a head-on collision between authorities of this kind, that there should be preliminary discussion at an earlier stage. Once either a Government Department or a board has committed itself to a certain policy, it is extremely reluctant to scrap that policy and adopt a different one as a result of representations from another, and perhaps a rival, authority. I was not quite sure whether the idea of having individual members of the board representing another kind of interest would be effective for the purpose that he had in mind. After all, in all the early stages these things are prepared by the permanent officials and the engineers, and it is only at a fairly late stage that the members of the board, who meet perhaps once a quarter or once a month, become aware of exactly what is going on.

I am therefore all the more attracted by what the noble Earl the Minister of State has said in his proposals: that we should have an Amendment put down by the Government which will have the effect of ensuring consultation between these different interests at an earlier stage, and that that should be, so to speak, upon an official basis. I think that the noble Earl has gone a long way to meet the points that we had in mind, and we shall look forward very much to seeing the Amendment put down by the Government which will give effect to what I think is an admirable suggestion.


I am not sure that I go quite as far as the noble Lord who has just resumed his seat in giving the Minister an alpha-plus, but at any rate I certainly give him a beta, because he has, I think, made a proposal which could be carried rather further than, as I understand it, he proposes to carry it. Because if this can be done in areas where there is a joint planning hoard, why should it not be done in all cases? I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Molson, is right, dotting the i's and crossing the t's of what the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, said earlier on, that the sooner the planning authority is brought into this business the better. If the noble Earl's Amendment could go so far as to indicate that at an early stage these matters should be brought to the notice of the local planning authority, even before the representatives appointed by the county council itself get to know about them, that would, I think, be a very useful innovation.

Naturally, in the circumstances, I do not wish to press this Amendment this afternoon. I shall look forward to the noble Earl's proposed Amendment with very great interest. And I should like to assure him that we are very grateful to him for at any rate going so far as to meet the real point which is involved in this Amendment. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD JESSEL moved to leave out Clause 6. The noble Lord said: The object of this Amendment is merely to repeat a point I made in my speech on the Second Reading of this Bill, and the point is that industry is still not happy about the constitution of the river authorities. As the noble Lord, Lard Cornwallis, pointed out last Thursday, industry is the largest single user of water. He also pointed out that it has no parent Minister, and under this clause it is to get only one or more members as the Ministers think fit. As I see it, any addition. is to be balanced by added local authority members.

I much prefer the suggestion put forward in the White Paper of April, 1962, which recommended a body not exceeding 24 members, of which half would be appointed by local authorities and half nominated by Ministers in consultation with other interests concerned, to include persons with experience and knowledge of industry. Even the Minority Report in the Final Report of the Proud-man Committee stresses—and here I quote: …that a proper balance of representation is important and in particular that it is right that an effective majority of members should come from those bodies providing the major portion of the revenue. Surely it must be right that the basis of membership of a river authority should be related, first, to the use of water, and, secondly, to the financial contribution to the river authority. I submit that the existing clause does not reflect these principles, and I therefore feel that a new clause is required.

The noble Earl, Lard Jellicoe, will no doubt argue that his Amendment last Thursday (Amendment No. 2, I think it was), which was an Amendment to Clause 3, subsection (1), and which provided for consultation with interested parties far the establishment of river authorities, is sufficient protection for industry; but I do not think it goes far enough. I should like to see a clause with something much more positive in regard to industrial representation. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Leave out Clause 6.—(Lord Jessel.)


If I may say so with great respect, this Amendment which is put forward by my noble friend Lord Jessel is what is known as a wrecking Amendment; but in view of the moderate way in which he has put it forward, and his opening words, I do not believe he actually intends to use it as such. Its effect would be to delete from the Bill the Whole of Clause 6, which prescribes the constitution of rivet authorities, while leaving in it Clauses 7 and 8, which contain supplementary provisions relating to constitution. Therefore it would make a nonsense of the provisions of the Bill relating to membership of river authorities; and, unless the noble Lord moved at a later stage to insert a new clause, the constitution of the river authorities would be left to the Ministers to determine without any guidance from Parliament as to size and character.

The provisions of Clauses 6, 7 and 8 follow the proposals outlined in para- graphs 29 to 34 of the White Paper. There are three main reasons for rejecting the majority proposals of the Proud-man Commission for bodies of 10 to 15 members, which proposals were supported by the noble Lard and industry. The reasons are these. Land drainage income will continue to be raised by precept on local authorities; that is a rate will be paid; and while that is so there must be local representation. While the Majority Report of the Proudman Committee did not rule out local authority members, there can be no adequate representation for the local authorities on a body of 10 to 15 members.

It is true that in due course income from charges far licensed abstracters might well equal or even exceed that from precept, but there is a real difference, which industry overlooks, between a charge for a benefit (that is, a right to abstract and an assurance of abstraction) and a rate which is levied on all ratepayers irrespective of benefit. Given no escape from a large element of finance from the rates, river authorities must have mare of the character of a local authority than a board of directors; and the latter would, moreover, not really be appropriate to discharge the whole range of functions Which include, in addition to water conservation, land drainage, fisheries and the prevention of pollution.

The quota of Ministerial members will be divided between the various interests concerned according to the circumstances of the area. It is not quite fair to suggest that there will be a solitary industrialist on an authority hostile to industrial needs. In an urban area—and industry is concentrated in urban areas—there will be urban local authority members and public water supply interests, each of whom will probably share the industrialists' outlook. The composition of the authority will reflect the character and needs of the area. I do not think there is very much more I can say to the noble Lord. I know his objection and we have tried to meet it by moving the Amendment which he referred to. We believe industry will not be overlooked. It will have sufficient representation; and in the larger authorities, which presumably would be where there are larger rates and which are industrial urban areas, out of the 15 members appointed by the Minister one might well conceive of at least one-third, possibly even more, representing industry. I cannot commit my Minister or myself in that respect but one can conceive a situation where comparatively few of the fifteen would be representing agriculture, fisheries and drainage; the bulk would be representing industry and public water supplies. We have had attempts, far from reducing the number of members of the river authority, to increase them in order to get extra representation for other interests. Really I think some of the previous Amendments which we have rejected contradict the Amendment which the noble Lord is now moving.

Therefore, I hope he will feel that the Government intend to keep the right balance and to satisfy all the interests it needs to satisfy in order to make a success of the new river authorities. I would end by quoting from what was said by my noble friend Lord Waldegrave in the Second Reading debate. He said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 244 (No. 12) col. 1036]: I believe that it is absolutely essential that the various interests work together and do not take up positions and light for their own existing rights. That is why a middle position, a compromise position, a proper balance, is so essential … this is … not the time to go out and buy hatchets with the feeling that this Bill means that those interests must defend themselves against their great rivals". The Government entirely agree with my noble friend's words and I hope my noble friend Lord Jessel will withdraw his Amendment.


I thank the noble Lord for this reply. Of course I had no intention of making this a wrecking Amendment, but I wanted to elucidate a little the views on the representation of industry. I am heartened by the words the noble Lord used when he said that possibly in appropriate areas one-third of the 15 members nominated by the Minister could be representative of industry, and I will remember that. In view of what he has said, I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 6 agreed to.

Clause 7 agreed to.

LORD LINDGREN had given notice of his intention to move, after Clause 7, to insert a new clause. The noble Lord said: When discussing the Amendment to Clause 6 on Thursday last I indicated that this Amendment was really consequential upon the insertion we made at the end of subsection (2). I only take the opportunity, as an Amendment of mine is on the Order Paper, to do what I would have done on Thursday had there been time; that is, to thank the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, for his observations at the end. I appreciate that they were brief because of the Royal Commission which was to follow but they were appreciated and I can assure him that those associated with water undertakings will make themselves available to him and his collegues for consultation if they require it. With the permission of the Committee, my Amendment will not be moved.


We shall look forward to having some discussions on this matter.

5.8 p.m.

LORD WISE moved, after subsection (4), to Insert: ( ) Where the whole or any part of the Sea Fisheries District of a Sea Fisheries Committee established under the Sea Fisheries Regulation Act 1888 is comprised in the area or areas of a river authority or river authorities, the Sea Fisheries Committee shall appoint one additional member of that river authority or (as the case may be) of each of those river authorities".

The noble Lord said: We now proceed to a different method of appointment of members of the river authorities. The Amendment which I wish to move, a new subsection at the end of line 35, page 7, is as shown on the Marshalled List. Clause 8 deals with the appointment of additional members to river authorities. It provides, among other things, for one additional member to be appointed by the National Coal Board to each of two authorities. The Minister of Transport can also appoint one member in certain circumstances when the Question of navigation comes before him. The Minister of Agriculture can also appoint not more than two additional members to represent occupiers of chargeable hereditaments in an area where a drainage charge has been raised and levied on such occupiers.

My Amendment seeks to add the Sea Fisheries Committees to those who have the privilege of appointing additional members. I understand that in the past the river boards had the right to appoint representatives on the Sea Fisheries Committees, but that right was not reciprocal and there was no right on the part of the river boards to accept members of the Sea Fisheries Committees on their committees. I base my suggestion in this matter partly on the Report of the Bledisloe Committee. The question of representation of the sea fisheries on river boards was dealt with by the Bledisloe, Committee and at the end of paragraph 207 of their Report, they said: We consider however that there is a good case for the Sea Fisheries Committee to be given representation on any river board exercising jurisdiction in their area and recommend that provision should be made for the appointment by them of an additional member to each river board for this purpose. Another paragraph in their Report says: The Association's case is applicable to the proposed new river authorities on the same grounds and to the same extent as it was to river boards, since the new authorities will have, under Clause 5 (1) (a) of the Bill as it is before us at the present time, precisely the same powers as the boards have in relation to fisheries. Clause 6 (3) (b) of the Bill empowers the Minister of Agriculture to appoint one or more members to represent fisheries, but that clause does not differ substantially from the current procedure in respect of river boards which, as I have said, the Bledisloe Committee think should be amended.

This matter has already been referred to the Minister of Agriculture by the Sea Fisheries Committee and the Minister's reply is that, in view of the new water conservation responsibilities of river authorities, fishing representation would be reduced. That is what we want to avoid, if possible. The Minister's reply added that there is no question, therefore, of introducing an Amendment. Surely that sentence was out of order, because it must be in the power of this House and of the House of Commons to raise a question and, if possible, amend the Bill. I think that it was rather premature on the part of the Ministry officials to suggest that there is no question—it is very definite—of introducing an Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 7, line 35, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Wise.)


I fully appreciate the motives that have led the noble Lord to move this Amendment. The idea behind this comes from a recommendation of the Bledisloe, Committee, as the noble Lord said, and at first sight it seems right that as river boards are represented on Sea Fisheries Committees, Sea Fisheries Committees ought also to be represented on river boards and in due course on the river authorities that are going to replace them. But while I have every sympathy with this Amendment and appreciate the work done by the Sea Fisheries Committees in regulating inshore fisheries, I am afraid that I must ask the Committee to resist the Amendment.

Sea Fisheries Committees are not directly concerned with salmon and fresh water fishing. It is true that some inshore fishermen fish for salmon and also for white fish and herring. They come under the Sea Fisheries regulations or under the river boards regulations according to which fish they are attempting, to outwit. It is also true that both bodies may have some interest in the control of pollution in tidal waters. Be that as it may, it does not necessitate representation. If we were to give representation to every body which has a peripheral interest in the activities of the new water authorities. we should be faced with large-sized bodies. I am sure that the Committee agree with the general proposition that we should have small and relatively compact authorities. If that is to be so, we cannot make an exception for one organisation.

Furthermore, I hope that the noble Lord will appreciate that in addition to one more member under the Amendment, this increase would need to be offset by an increase in the number of local authority members so as to maintain the latter in the majority required by Clause 6 (2). I must also point out that the interests of the Sea Fisheries Committees are much less than the interests of salmon and fresh water fishermen themselves. Any decision of a river hoard which affects sea fishermen will certainly affect river fishermen much more. Moreover, there are many different kinds of fishermen whose activities are regulated by the river boards.

It may be difficult enough to accommodate representatives with knowledge of all these types on the new river authorities, even without the need for accommodating the representative affected by the new functions. It would be seen as intolerable to those interests to see sea fisheries representatives on the new authorities while there were, for example, no game fishermen, no course fishermen and no netsmen on the authorities. Perhaps I should tell the Committee that the National Association of Salmon Netsmen have written and said that they did not in the least like the Bledisloe Committee's recommendation that sea fisheries committees' representatives might normally represent them.

I hope that I have given the Committee sufficient reason to reject the Amendment, if the noble Lord should feel like pressing it, which I hope he will not do. However, I would say finally that the river authorities and the sea fisheries committees must work closely together in matters of common interest and the Minister will remind the new authorities, when they come into operation, of the desirability of keeping the committees informed of any action which they may have in mind which is likely to be of interest. He will also suggest that, in forming their various committees, they should bear in mind the possibilities of co-opting people from bodies such as the Sea Fisheries Committee, which have a certain though small field of common interest.


But does the noble Lord think this is sufficiently flexible to allow a river authority to appoint a person here and there, in view of the fact that, according to the noble Lord's reply to me earlier in the afternoon, the constituent councils under Clause 6 have only a maximum of one of a majority?


I am not quite getting the noble Lord's point here. The passage in what I have just said, to which he is referring, was that a sea fisheries representative would have to be offset by a local authority representative in order to maintain the majority, which the noble Lord considers small enough.


There is the margin between 21 and 31 members.


There is, but within that margin it may be that other interests will expect to be represented and press for representation. The aim is—and I think that the majority of the Committee are behind this aim—to keep the authorities as compact as possible.


Yes, but I still think that the noble Lord is congratulating himself and his right honourable friend the Minister too soon in suggesting that the small river authority, with all their present obligations and the addition of water conservation responsibilities, and with the subcommittees they will have to appoint, if they are going to fulfil their duties and functions, as we hope they will, will be best. By making the authority too small the noble Lord may find ultimately that they have made a mistake in that direction.


The subcommittees will naturally play their part and enable a small committee to get its work done. But the whole philosophy behind this part of the Bill is to keep the river authorities small rather than flabby.


Does the noble Lord suggest that river boards in the past, with their 40 members, have been flabby?


No. I am not suggesting that at all; I know well that the opposite is the case. But it has been considered and argued (and I do not think noble Lords would want me to argue it again) that these authorities should be even more compact in proportion to what they have to do than the river boards.


I am afraid I cannot enter into the conversations which have taken place since I was addressing your Lordships last, but in view of the final remarks of the noble Lord in regard to my proposal, in which I found some encouragement in regard to consultation, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 8 agreed to.

Clause 9 [Areas of river authorities for purposes of transferred functions]:


This Amendment is entirely a matter of drafting. Schedule 2 (paragraphs 1 to 4) to the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) Act, 1951, made adaptations of the River Boards Act, 1948, for the purposes of the 1951 Act. These paragraphs will now be spent in relation to the 1948 Act which is to be repealed, but provision relating to the area of the river authority for prevention of pollution functions is necessary. It is more convenient to make this in the clause dealing with areas, as the Amendment proposes, than by intricate adaptation of the Schedule to the 1951 Act. The content of the Amendment is virtually re-enactment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 8, line 15, at end insert— ("( ) For the purposes of the functions of a river authority relating to river pollution, the area of the authority shall include those tidal waters and parts of the sea adjoining the coast of the river authority area to which any of the provisions of the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) Act 1951 for the time being apply by virtue of an order made, or having effect as if made, under section 6 of that Act, in so far as those waters and parts of the sea are not included in the river authority area apart from this subsection.").—(Lord St. Oswald.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 9, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 10 agreed to.

Clause 11 [Maps of river authority areas]:

5.22 p.m.


This is also a drafting Amendment. By virtue of Clause 3 (4) (a) the river authorities will not begin to discharge their new or transferred functions until the "second appointed day". Between the "first appointed day" (when the authorities come into existence) and the "second appointed day" they will be deciding on such matters as procedure, location of offices, appointment of any additional staff likely to be required over and above staff to be inherited from river boards. Until they begin to discharge functions there will be no need of a map of their area to be on deposit for public inspection. Accordingly, this Amendment pro- vides that the Ministers are to send the map on or as soon as practicable after the second appointed day. I do not think there will be any difference of opinion on this. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 9, line 6, leave out from beginning to ("appointed") and insert ("On or as soon as practicable after the second").—(Lord St. Oswald.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


This is another drafting Amendment, which is necessary to achieve consistency with the reference to "second appointed day" in line 24. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 9, line 16, leave out from beginning to ("appointed") and insert ("On or as soon as practicable after the second").—(Lord St. Oswald)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


This is a further drafting Amendment. As the clause stands, the Minister of Agriculture is under no obligation to do anything with any map of main river which he may approve under subsection (4). The new subsection (5) in this Amendment requires him to send it to the river authority concerned who are required by the new subsection (7) of this Amendment to keep it available for public inspection at their offices. The new subsection (6) in the Amendment replaces the existing subsection (5) and reproduces in slightly amended form, but without major change in substance. Section 6 (3) of the River Boards Act, 1948, dealing with the power of the Minister of Agriculture to vary the map of main river. The subsection then provides that, having varied the map, or having decided not to vary it, the Minister of Agriculture must send the map back to the river authority. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 10, line 18, leave out from beginning to ("shall") in line 27 and insert— ("(5) The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food shall send to the river authority any map prepared by him under subsection (3) of this section, in the form in which the map is approved under the last preceding subsection. (6) A river authority may apply to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for the variation of any map sent to them under this section (otherwise than under subsection (1) thereof) and for that purpose shall send the map to that Minister; and on any such application that Minister—

  1. (a) may vary the map, whether in accordance with the proposals contained in the application or otherwise, after giving notice of his intention to do so in such manner as he thinks best adapted for informing persons affected, and after considering any objections made to him;
  2. (b) if he varies it, shall as soon as practicable send to the river authority either the map as varied or a new map prepared by him in substitution for it;
  3. (c) if he determines not to vary the map, shall as soon as practicable send it back to the river authority.
(7) Subject to the last preceding subsection, any map sent to a river authority under this section, except a map which has been superseded by a subsequent map sent there under").—(Lord St. Oswald.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


This is another drafting amendment which recasts the existing provisions of subsection (7), partly in consequence of other Government Amendments. I should however, mention one point. The original subsection (7) continued a reference to the Documentary Evidence Acts 1868 to 1895. In doing so it followed Section 6 (4) of the River Boards Act. 1948. Now that the river authority will hold the original maps prepared by the Ministers or the Minister of Agriculture (instead of copies of those maps, as is the case with maps under Section 6) the question of applying the Documentary Evidence Acts needs to be reconsidered. If, thereafter, it seems necessary or advisable to do so opportunity will be sought to include a reference to the Acts in this subsection at a later stage of the proceedings on the Bill. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 10, line 31, leave out from ("map") to end of line 40 and insert which in accordance with the last preceding subsection is required to be kept at the principal office of a river authority—

  1. (a) if it is a map sent under subsection (1) of this section, shall be conclusive evidence for all purposes as to the boundaries of the river authority area, and
  2. (b) in any other case, shall (in the form in which the map is for the time being in force) be conclusive evidence for all purposes as to what is the main river").—(Lord St. Oswald.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 11, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 12:

Establishment and principal functions of Water Resources Board

12.—(1) There shall be established a Board, to be called the "Water Resources Board", which shall come into existence on such day as may be appointed by order made by the Minister.

(2) The Water Resources Board shall be charged with the duty of advising river authorities with respect to the performance of their new functions, and of advising the Minister with respect to the performance of his functions under section 1 of the Water Act 1945, as extended by section 1 of this Act, and with respect to such other matters (if any) as may be referred to the Board by the Minister.

(3) Without prejudice to the last preceding subsection, it shall be the duty of the Water Resources Board—

5.29 p.m.

LORD CHAMPION moved, in subsection (2), to leave out "new". The noble Lord said: I am sure that no one regrets more than I do that my noble friend Lord Silkin is not here to move this extremely important Amendment. I am sorry that he is ill, and even more sorry that I have to move the Amendment, because I am sure I shall do it inadequately. This appears to be a quite simple Amendment, but it would have great consequences if accepted by the Government or carried by the Committee. It seems to me that neither the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, nor the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, dealt on Second Reading with the restriction on the Water Resources Board who will have a duty to advise river authorities only on their new functions.

Many noble Lords referred to this aspect in the Second Reading debate, and there was some reference to the general powers of the Central Authority during the debate on the White Paper which we held some time ago. Both noble Lords who spoke for the Government on that occasion rightly stressed the fact that the Bill provides for a much more powerful Board than was originally envisaged in the White Paper. They have improved upon their statements at that time by the inclusion of the powers that are now to be given to the Water Resources Board, and it is a much more powerful body. But I am still in the dark as to why the Government have decided to exclude from the functions of the Board the important aspects of land drainage, flood control and pollution. I agree that we want the Water Resources Board to be interfering in matters which clearly could best be decided locally by the river authority concerned. But land drainage and flood control are so intimately bound up with conservation that it is quite impossible to separate them.

Naturally, in approaching a Bill of this sort, during the past few weeks one has read many expert opinions on the matter—and I have read quite a few in these last few weeks. Every report that I have read, from the Heneage Committee's Report onwards, have stressed the relationship of flood control, land drainage and water conservation. The Heneage Committee set up a technical panel to consider the effect on land drainage as a contributory cause of floods, on the one hand, and water shortages, on the other. The Report, it is true, makes it quite clear that these aspects of their work are inseparable. Their recommendations, however, were inconclusive, but chiefly—and "chiefly", as I understand it, is the operative word here—through the lack of observational data.

The Report of the Welsh Water Committee refers time after time to the necessity far regulating reservoirs for flood control and water conservation. The Proudman Committee, to which we have all referred from time to time in Committee and at the Second Reading stage of this Bill, says: The proper management and development of these resources involve physical works of different sorts and also control of abstractions and of the quantity and quality of the water returned. At the same time land drainage and flood control works need to be designed as far as practicable to complement the operation of conservation measures. The last expert opinion to which I shall refer is that which I find in this galley "pull" of the Symposium from the Civil Engineers' Conference, which was held on water conservation. They say: No flood control works are contrary to the principles of conservation and most schemes will be beneficial but it is most important that a broad view be taken in assessing the overall benefits of flood control measures in relation to their capital costs. I am sure we shall all agree to that. They go on to say: Each proposal should be judged on the wider basis of the national rather than the local benefit. It is those last words, "the national rather than the local benefit", that one must stress in this connection. All the experts say, so it seems to me, that you cannot drain land without an effect on flood control; and you cannot control floods without regulating reservoirs and the like to conserve the water which would otherwise flow wastefully to the sea.

The noble Lord, Lord Hastings, in introducing this Bill, said that the Board has a key rôle in planning the development of water resources. I think it ought to have that key role. But if it has, then surely we ought not to hamstring it by confining it to advising on the new functions of the river authorities. I think this is a very great mistake. If we do that and carry out the proposals as now embodied in the Bill, I can see many squabbles in the future as between the Water Resources Board and the river authorities who will have to do their job under this Bill when it becomes an Act—squabbles as to what is new and what is old in their functions. I regard this Bill, and particularly the inclusion of the Water Resources Board, as a very grand conception, but I would warn the Minister, or advise him, or ask him, not to mar it at the outset by limiting too closely the duties and functions of the Water Resources Board. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 11, line 1, leave out ("new").—(Lord Champion.)


I can easily understand the philosophy behind this Amendment. At first sight it seems logical that the Water Resources Board should advise on all matters affecting water. It is, as the noble Lord, Lord Champion, has pointed out, so often supposed that conserving water and preventing flooding go hand in hand. Sometimes they may. But it is like trying to kill two birds with one stone—it seldom comes off.

That, however, is not the main reason why I oppose this Amendment. I oppose it because I do not think that land drainage properly comes within the scope of the Water Resources Board. No doubt there are large-scale drainage and flood protection schemes—the Great Ouse is an outstanding example. Nevertheless, land drainage is a matter requiring local knowledge. It is often effected not by means of far-ranging schemes, but by the combined effects of a large number of smaller ones. It is doubtful whether the Water Resources Board would offer useful advice on such schemes or, indeed, whether the giving of such advice by the Board would be a proper use of its time and talents. If I am correct, then this would only be adding more machinery in order to get land drainage schemes through, with no benefit to them. Already these schemes have to be vetted by the Agricultural Land Service, as well as by the land drainage divisions of the Ministry of Agriculture. That causes considerable delays. I hope that we shall not do anything this evening to add to those delays.

Again, the function of the Water Resources Board is a national function, and one of its main duties may be to advise on the transfer of water from one authority to another. But flood water cannot be transferred from one area to another. Broadly speaking, flood water must go the way nature intended, and the areas of the old river boards and of the new river authorities have been drawn so that they form natural catchment areas, or combinations of catchment areas. The problem of draining a river authority area is, therefore, essentially a local problem peculiar to each area. As to fisheries, this position seems to be much the same as with land drainage. The problem is to deal with the fisheries in each river separately. To sum up, land drainage and fisheries present local problems which must be dealt with within each separate area. They are not suitable for being dealt with on a national scale and, therefore, there is really no proper scope for the advice of the Water Resources Board.

5.40 p.m.


I should like to support the Amendment which has been so ably moved by the noble Lord, Lord Champion. He put up all the arguments for the Amendment and there is only one point I should like to emphasise. As he said, water conservation and all the other functions of a river authority are intimately interwoven, and there may well be cases where there is a real conflict of interests between the Water Resources Board and the river authority. It seems to me that the Water Resources Board, with their responsibility for looking at the problem as a whole, may come to a river authority and say, "We think you ought to be able to supply and conserve more water". The river authority may well reply, "We, in our opinion, do not think we can". The reason may be that there are pollution problems or all sorts of other problems. It seems to me that in that case the Water Resources Board—which is a fairly toothless animal in any case; it can only advise—should be in a position to give advice to the river authority on how they could overcome this problem.

That raises the whole question of what sort of body the Water Resources Board is to be. Is it to be concerned entirely with the conservation of water, or is it to be qualified to look at the problem as a whole?—the question of conservation, of drainage, and, in particular, of pollution, which, of course, is the thing which comes under the same Minister. The Water Resources Board ought to be able to look at them as a whole, but as the Bill stands, it cannot really do that. At least, if it does that, it still cannot advise the river authorities. I also feel that the Board should have people on it who are qualified to look at all the aspects of a function of a river, and if there are people of that sort on the Board then it seems to me they should be in a position to give advice. After all, the Board is not giving direction; it is purely giving advice to a river authority.


May I intervene briefly to underline a point which the noble Lord, Lard Amherst of Hackney, mentioned, as it seems to me a very important one in this matter? It really depends on what the Water Resources Board is supposed to do. If it is solely a matter of conservation and of the new activities of the river authorities, it is hand to see how it can do its job properly, because it must have an overall view of all the water questions over the whole country; the questions of conservation as well as the question of disposal. But if it is not allowed to give any advice to the river authorities on matters of drainage, but can give them advice only on matters of conservation, then clearly it will not have in its makeup, on its staff, people who understand the drainage side of the question, which, as the noble Lord, Lard De Ramsey allowed, is a very important part of the whole water question. Therefore we shall find that the Water Resources Board is set up with people who are concerned to look at only one, if a major aspect, of this whole matter.

If, on the other hand, this Amendment is adopted, the Water Resources Board will have added responsibility and will, therefore, have to look at the overall picture and not just at one section of it. Unless it is given these advisory duties, as has been pointed out, I do not see that it will ever be able to fulfil the function which I think the Government and all noble Lords would like it to fulfil, of being the overall advisory body on water questions. For that reason, if for no other, I hope that this Amendment will be adopted.

5.45 p.m.


I wonder whether it would be helpful if at this stage I said something about what is in the Government's mind here. First, however, I should like to echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Champion, in expressing regret that his noble friend Lord Silkin was not moving this Amendment this evening. I should also like to say that I listened with close attention to the careful and serious speech by the noble Lord on this matter, rightly so because It is an important one. If your Lordships approve this Amendment you will, of course, be making a marked change in the principle underlying this Bill. Let us be quite clear about this at the outset. That may be right or may be wrong, but you will be making a very significant change in the whole principle which underlies this Bill.

Its acceptance, as noble Lords have said, would have the effect of making the Water Resource's Board responsible not only for conservation, as we have proposed—and let us not for one moment belittle the importance of conservation. It is important now and that particular aspect of the Water Resources Board's responsibility is going to be a great deal more important in 10, 15, 20 Or 30 years' time. In fact, it is going to be a matter of vital national importance with which they are charged. The effect, therefore, will be to extend those responsibilities from this very important matter of conservation to advising river authorities on land drainage, flood prevention, fisheries administration and the prevention of pollution. The Government's view on this was stated quite plainly in paragraph 52 of the White Paper last year. May I just, since it was briefly stated, read the relevant extract? The sphere of the central authority will be water conservation only. The other main functions of river authorities—land drainage, prevention of pollution and fisheries administration—are local in character and produce problems which can in general be solved within the individual river basin. When we debated the White Paper last May, at some length (and I recall it pretty well myself), this view was not, so far as I can recall, queried. In any event, the Government still take the view that the reasoning and conclusion in the White Paper are valid. In our view, the Water Resources Board should be required to advise river authorities only with respect to the performance of the authorities' new but quite vital function of conservation. The movers of the Amendment seek to extend this advisory responsibility vis-à-vis the new river authorities to include the existing functions of the river boards. I think therefore that my first task should be to run through those functions and see whether that is logical and right or not.

So far as land drainage and flood protection are concerned, I would argue that the need to undertake works in one river basin does not in itself give rise to the need for such works being undertaken in another river basin, save, where one such river basin is tributary to another, and in that case both basins are likely to be within the same river authority's area in any case. We are building the river authorities upon units of area which are of proven validity for land drainage purposes, and land drainage is essentially a local function, as the noble Lord, Lord De Ramsey, stressed. That is why, as noble Lords who are familiar with the work of river boards well know, the promotion of land drainage schemes is not a matter in which the central authority, which in this case is the Ministry of Agriculture, normally needs to take the lead. The need for them is felt locally and the initiative for them comes locally. I would grant at the same time—and here I would go along with the noble Lord, Lord Champion, and the noble Lord, Lord Amherst of Hackney—that the Board will inevitably in its work touch upon land drainage and flood protection and might very well have an interest in schemes, for example, to increase the rate of run-off from a particular area.

In developing techniques of river management and control, even with the function of conservation in mind, the Board will be bound in some instances to impinge on matters of land drainage and flood protection. That, I would certainly concede. But I would stress that the engineering works required for water conservation are usually only partially compatible in both time and place with those required for flood control, and this was recognised perfectly frankly in the Proudman Committee's Report. I will just read lone sentence from paragraph 50 of that Report: In general the engineering works required for water conservation and for flood control are only partially compatible in time and place. But again in the development of management and control techniques the advantages of flood forecasting are clearly there.

Nevertheless, although I would acknowledge that there is bound to be some interchange of ideas and some cross fertilisation of ideas between those working on water conservation and those concerned with flood protection, this does not in my view, and in the Government's view, imply that there is a case for imposing on the Water Resources Board the duty of advising river authorities with respect to the performance of their land drainage functions, which would, of course, be the effect of the acceptance of this Amendment. I would rather argue that those functions are part and parcel of an efficient agricultural industry, and impinge in fact in great detail not only on the functions of internal drainage boards but even upon the activities of individual farmers.

I would also argue it is not really appropriate that a Board of the nature of the Water Resources Board, concentrating, as we think they should be, on the planning and supervision of the conservation of water on a national scale, should be required—and I underline required—as this Amendment would require them, to advise on the discharge of the day-to-day local land drainage functions of the river authorities. I would agree that if the Board were concerned with a big conservation scheme Which had obvious implications from the viewpoint of flood protection, they should be able to lay those implications frankly before the river authorities concerned, but there is nothing in the Bill to prevent them from so doing, and nothing to stop them from advising the river authorities in that sort of case.

What the Amendment would do would be to lay a requirement on the Water Resources Board to advise the river authorities on land drainage and flood prevention measures; there would be a definite requirement, and such advice could well intrude on purely local and purely day-to-day matters. I feel that, generally speaking, advice on land drainage is best left to the central authority with the organisation and the resources to handle it, in this case my right honourable friend, the Minister of Agriculture, and that there is really no valid ground for the interposition of the Water Resources Board between the executive land drainage authorities and that Minister. I am sure that this division of responsibility best corresponds with the present division of responsibility between the two Departments concerned, the Ministry of Housing and the Ministry of Agriculture. I am sure, too, that the noble Lord's Amendment interposing this new tier of responsibility between the river authority and the Ministry of Agriculture in these matters would not commend itself at any rate to many of the agricultural interests affected thereby. I am equally certain that the same is likely to apply so far as fisheries are concerned.

Could I now turn to another function, an old function, using this phraseology, water pollution. Here again, I should like to grant straight away that quality of water as well as quantity is an element in water conservation policy. I have noted the very widely held and expressed view among industrialists and water undertakers and others, that the Board should have some responsibility relating to pollution because of that interconnection between quantity and quality. But I think there is here perhaps some misapprehension among those who urge that prevention of pollution, a transferred function under Clause 5 (1) (c), should not be left outside the range of the new Board's sphere of action. Perhaps it might serve to allay possible misapprehensions if I were to make two points quite plain. The first is that we fully recognise—and here I come back to what I have just said—that the Board in discharging their conservation responsibilities must have regard to quality as well as quantity. That is perfectly obvious, so obvious that I personally see no need to spell it out further in the Bill. But that is quite a different matter, I would submit, from requiring the Board to advise river authorities on, and exercise direct and day-to-day supervision over, the discharge of their existing prevention of pollution powers.

Secondly, I would draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that, under Clause 12, subsection (2), of the Bill, the Board are already charged (and this is perfectly clear) with the duty of advising the Minister—and here I quote the words of the clause: with respect to such other matters (if any) as may be referred to them by the Minister ". In this context, "the Minister" means my right honourable friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government. Furthermore, I would draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that the Minister is empowered, by Clause 95, to give directions to river authorities in relation to, among other things, their prevention of pollution functions. It will therefore be quite easy for him to obtain advice from the Board on the broad problems concerning the quality of water if he so wishes, and to see that effect is given to any advice which he obtains from the Board and accepts. It seems to me that these two clauses, Clauses 12 and 95, read in conjunction should meet at least this part of the argument deployed by noble Lords.

I am convinced that it would be a mistake to place this absolute and binding requirement on the Board to advise the new authorities over the whole range of the river boards' existing functions. But at the same time I hope that I have made it clear that we fully recognise the connection between conservation and flood prevention, on the one hand, and between conservation and the provision of water of the right quality, on the other hand. Moreover, I can see no reason why, with the Bill as drafted at present, the Board should be inhibited when it so wishes from advising river authorities on flood prevention and matters relating to the quality of water when these are obviously part and parcel of water conservation policy. Again, in discharging their important research responsibilities, the Board will obviously wish to bear this close connection between conservation and these two other matters very much in mind.

To sum up, the Water Resources Board will be equipped to discharge the functions for which it is being set up. It is not the toothless animal which my noble friend Lord Amherst of Hackney has stigmatised it as being, and I hope that I shall be able to show him that this is not so when we come to the next Amendment. It will be equipped to plan and supervise the conservation of water on a national scale, to encourage and assist river authorities in the discharge of their functions relating to water conservation and to stimulate them, and also the other agencies concerned, in the discharge of those functions. But I think it would be a grave mistake to deflect the Board from this main and vital task, and to place a statutory obligation on it to advise river authorities to discharge functions like land drainage, fisheries and the prevention of pollution which they are perfectly capable of discharging themselves.

In emphasising this, I must again make it plain that where, in the judgment of the Board, action of a particular nature or in a particular direction is required in the interest of conservation—and this affects land drainage, flood prevention, pollution and indeed, I suppose, fisheries—then the Board will of course be able to have its right and proper say. Nevertheless, I cannot advise your Lordships to accept an Amendment which would take the Board's eye off the main ball, water conservation, and necessarily, as I at least see it, involve it in the day-to-day affairs of the new river authorities and in matters which those authorities are, in my view, quite competent to deal with by themselves.


Before my noble friend sits down, may I ask him, to facilitate my own peace of mind, why these facets of compensation water and minimum flow cannot be interacted between river authorities and the Water Resources Board? It seems to me that they cannot be separated. I do not think we want to make the Water Resources Board advise too much; it will be quite busy enough, and we do not want any more direction from above in order to get on with our work. I cannot see why compensation water and minimum flow are not interacted, and are not one and the same thing, so that they ought to be looked at as one thing. Does the noble Earl see my point? Somehow, I think that they cannot be separated and remain just compensation water and minimum flow.


I think I follow my noble friend's point. It is not my view (and I am speaking subject to correction in saying this) that these two matters are separated in the Bill. But I should like to come back to that point with my noble friend at another time.

6.7 p.m.


One of the happy things that I have noted in your Lordships' House is that no Panty need always be unanimous. Sometimes that is a most helpful thing for the whole nation. I call to mind, for instance, yesterday. I think that my noble friend is to be congratulated upon moving the Amendment, if only to receive from the noble Earl his explanation as to how much out of place such an Amendment would be. For my part, I confess that I have disagreed in Parliament with my noble friend, perhaps for the first time since we were Minister and Parliamentary Secretary, and were together like Siamese twins.

This Amendment is a rather extraordinary one, and whilst I know that my noble friend is well meaning, I cannot help but agree with the noble Lord, Lord De Ramsey, when he suggests that drainage is a local rather than a national question. I have in mind an area in What was my own Parliamentary Division for 37 years, where we were having constant floods, with from 600 to 800 people being flooded out of their homes for seven or eight weeks. This happened three times in two years. This called loudly for a great drainage scheme on the part of the nation. With the best will in the world, and thinking in terms of the best seven members of the conservation board being the best seven in the country, I cannot see any contribution they could have made, any help they could have given to the Great Ouse Catchment Board from 1930 onwards, or to the river board who continued the catchment board's work. Yet this is exactly what this Amendment calls for.

The Water Conservation Board is to consist of seven persons—seven wise men, I hope! But if Schedule 1 to this Bill is not amended there will be 26 river authorities, and the Amendment asks that these seven wise men should not only deal with the major problem tackled by this measure, to conserve water, but Should teach the river authorities who have been in existence since 1930, first as catchment boards and then as river boards, and who are now to become river authorities; but the new seven persons making up the membership of the Water Conservation Board are to be advised to do, and almost to insist upon doing, the work that the river boards have been doing up till now. I do not think it is possible for them to do this. I referred to the scheme in my own Parliamentary Division where floods were constant, where it was merely a question of widening and deepening a river for fifteen or twenty miles. The Water Conservation Board would not have been interested in such a scheme. But the catchment board and river board had to be Interested in it: and it cost over £2 million before they found the real remedy and completed the scheme. There may be similar schemes in other parts of the country—I do not know. But what I feel is that if we gave the Water Conservation Board the power to advise the river authorities on their functions, as distinct from water conservation, we should be dividing their activities over such a wide area that water conservation would be lost in the process.

With the best will in the world, while I should like to support my noble friend who has moved this Amendment, if, having been responsible for supporting the Drainage Bill, 1930, and having established the River Boards Act, 1948, I were to sit here and by my silence imply that the river boards have failed in their job and need seven wise men—the Water Conservation Board—to tell them how to do it, I should feel very small indeed. I felt that I just had to say those few words, because it is perfectly legitimate for Members on these Benches, as well as those on the other Benches, to divide on odd occasions, and when there is a division invariably it is a case of where the minority are right. I feel that this is the case at this moment, where I am in a minority of one but also feel that I am right.


We are grateful to the Minister of State for the very logical argument he put forward, but it seems to me there are certain weaknesses in the case he has submitted to the Committee. First, he did not explain the impossibility of the isolation of advice on conservation, redistribution and augmentation of water resources from the functions of land drainage, pollution prevention and fisheries which the river authorities will take over from the river boards.

Secondly, he said that this made a marked change in the Bill. I rather doubt whether it does make such a marked change as the Minister thought. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Barnburgh, who spoke just now rather dealt with the point in the same way as the Minister of State: that is to say, in some confusion between the executive functions of the river authorities and the advisory functions of the Water Resources Board. The Water Resources Board would be responsible for advising, but there is no question that that Board would be taking over the executive functions of the river authorities in respect of those particular activities which we are debating in this Committee. There is no obligation upon those responsible for the execution or land drainage works, for the prevention of pollution, and for fisheries to take the advice which is given them by the Water Resources Board. That is given to them to accept or reject as they so wish, and such advice would be given having regard to the broad national picture, as the Water Resources Board sees it, which would then be applied (or not applied) in respect of the local works which the river authorities will be responsible for executing.

Then I thought that the Minister rather gave away the case when he said that there is nothing to prevent the Water Resources Board's advice from being given, and he gave as an example, in respect of conservation, where there was some particular aspect locally upon which the Minister felt the Water Resources Board should give advice. In fact, the Minister admitted that there would be an overlap in the frontiers of advice and of executive duty of the Water Resources Board on the one hand, and of the river authorities on the other. What the Minister has said is "Ah! but the Minister responsible could go to the Water Resources Board and ask them for their advice. Then when the Minister has got that advice he would send it to the river authority." It seems a rather round about way of doing something which could be done much more simply if what I would term the optional acceptance or rejection of advice given by the Water Resources Board as proposed in this Amendment were in fact in operation. I think the Minister was making very heavy weather when he said that it was making a marked and fundamental change. I hone he will think this matter over, because it is a very interesting and fundamental point in the Bill. I trust that the points I have submitted to him will at any rate have his consideration.


I do not know whether the Minister will intervene again, but I think it would help your Lordships if he did not fall into the same trap as the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Barnburgh, fell into when he consistently called this authority the Water Conservation Board". It is known as the Water Resources Board, and I think the confusion arose because, in opposing the Amendment, the Minister rather went out of his way to play into the hands of the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Barnburgh, in giving the Board a new title. In the Bill it is the Water Resources Board, and that is its title. It may have been in the original White Paper that it was to be solely concerned with conservation, but much water has flowed under the bridge since then and we have had a great deal more time to consider what this Bill is about. I beg leave to doubt whether this Water Resources Board, which we had all hoped was to be a sort of general planning staff for the whole complex water resources of this country, is to be confined solely and absolutely to the details of conservation.


I should not wish to take up too much of your Lordships' time at this stage, but in reply I should like to say this—and I hope my noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye will forgive me if I do not follow all the points he has made, as I should like a chance of considering the arguments he has advanced on this Amendment, and indeed those of other noble Lords. It seems to me there is a clear and logical distinction between conservation and these other matters. One is that conservation is essentially a national matter involving the transfer of large amounts of water, and they are going to be increasingly large in the future, from one part of the country to another, and from one river authority to another. That demands, in our view, fully comprehensive national planning. The logical distinction I would make is that the existing powers of the river boards and their existing functions are essentially local and can be discharged, as in the past, perfectly properly within the confines of their river basins. I think there is a logical distinction there.

The other point—I hope I am not making a debating point here in reply to my noble friend—is his query whether acceptance of this Amendment would involve a fundamental change in the whole concept. I can assure him that, as I see it, it would; and he himself said that this was a fundamental matter. If it is a fundamental matter, surely, if we are going to accept the views of those who think this is a fundamental matter, we are making a fundamental change. I am sure noble Lords will not wish me to go into great length at this stage, but I do see great force in the view put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Barnburgh, that what we are really accepting here, if we accept this Amendment, is that the seven wise men should teach their twenty-six elderly and respectable grandmothers how to drain their eggs.


I think this debate has proved how right it was to put this Amendment down. It has indeed been a very satisfying debate from many points of view. I must admit straight away that I was sorry to find the noble Lord, Lord De Ramsey, against me in this matter. I regard him as something of an expert, and were I in a more harsh debating chamber I could say, "Well, what is one expert among so many—the many that I have quoted?" I think that all the experts I have read are against him in this matter. I do not think the point he made about the transfer of flood water from one area to another, saying that it would be largely the job of the Water Resources Board to try to ensure such transfer, has very much validity, because, surely, if you are going to control floods you are hound to have regulating reservoirs, and if you have regulating reservoirs you can then transfer the water in such reservoirs from one area to another.

I must say how deeply disappointed I was to find the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Barnburgh, against me. As he so rightly said, we were for some time inseparable twins inside the Ministry. I think he also said that we agreed on every point. I agreed with him, I must admit, because his knowledge of the subject was so much greater than my own that I could not do anything other; his mastery was complete in this connection.

I honestly think that in his reply the noble Earl has met most of the points that I had. He has made it clear that there is bound to be an interchange of ideas between the Water Resources Board and the river authorities, on all the things that appear to be excluded by this clause as it now stands. Indeed, his whole speech has made that perfectly clear. The only difficulty that remains, as I see it, is that under the Bill as drafted it will always be for the river authorities to say to the Water Resource's Board, if they touch on anything outside conservation, "This is our function. Keep out! Keep away from this. This is our function and we do not want your meddling", although it might well be the case, as the noble Earl said, that the advice of the Water Resources Board would be very good indeed. I do not want to detain your Lordships too long on these points of reply, because, having regard to the excellent debate and the assurances of the noble Earl, I am now going to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.23 p.m.

LORD LINDGREN moved, in subsection (2), after "functions" to insert: and, where necessary, of securing the performance of those functions by giving such directions to river authorities as the Board consider expedient,". The noble Lord said: This is perhaps a very fitting Amendment, following the excellent discussion we have had on the previous Amendment. The purpose of the Amendment is to enlarge the powers of the Water Resources Board, which we have been talking about, and to enable that Board to give directions to the river authorities where such directions are considered necessary.

In Clause 12 there is a long list of duties of the Water Resources Board. Later, when we come to Clause 16, we find that the Water Resources Board is given a certain limited power of direction to require the river authorities to do certain things; in particular, to provide information to enable the Board to assess the water resources of the country and the likely demand for water. Thus the Water Resources Board has the powers and the duty to build up a national picture of water resources, which was referred to by the noble Earl in his reply just now. The Board also has the duty to plan on a national basis. Unfortunately, from my point of view, although it has the power to build up a picture and is required to plan, there is nothing in the Bill to give the Board the power to put the plan into effect. To my mind this is a fundamental weakness in the Bill. Local water authorities for many years, because of the difficulties they experienced over a period of time, have urged the setting up of a Water Resources Board as a key to the national planning of water resources. It must he accepted that the present Bill does not provide a strong enough central body, which I should have thought was the body desired by those associated with the water supply industry. If I may say so, looking back on the debate on the White Paper in April last, many noble Lords made very much the same point. To borrow a phrase that was used on the previous Amendment, this Amendment is intended to give teeth to the Water Resources Board, so that when it has its plan it will have the authority to put that plan into effect. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 11, line 1, after ("functions") insert the said words.—(Lord Lindgren.)


In the remarks that were made on the previous Amendment I thought I detected in some quarters an almost ready acceptance of the inevitability of this Water Resources Board's functions being completely or almost completely advisory. I hope that is not the case. In the debate on the White Paper last May, and also in the Second Reading debate, a number of noble Lords made it clear that they felt very strongly that the Water Resources Board should have some functions beyond the strictly advisory functions. As the noble Lord, Lord Amherst of Hackney, said earlier, at present it looks like rather a toothless animal. I hope that the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, as he has promised, will be able to reassure us that there are more teeth there than we can see at a glance.

I believe that this Amendment touches on a cardinal point of the declared purpose of this Bill—the declared purpose to set up a new system of managing the water resources of England and Wales; a system of management. We have, of course, the river authorities with a responsibility, in the first place, for direct action in the field of conservation; and, secondly, responsibility for the transferred functions of the river boards. In that latter connection, may I say that I hope that, when those authorities are set up, some way will be found, by a system of co-opting on to sub-committees and without making the river authorities themselves too large, of preserving to those river authorities, however large their respective areas may be, experience and knowledge that has found expression in the admirable work done by the river hoards throughout the country. I do not think that is necessarily at all inconsistent with a small river authority.

So we come then to this Water Resources Board. Here it is surely obvious that its primary duty, that of helping to secure that the best use is made of the water resources available, involves the formulation of a plan on a national scale; and, for maximum efficiency in local conservation and for the best use of the country's resources, it will surely be necessary to provide for coordination between the lines on which the river authorities set about their own job and this overall plan formulated in the light of the hydrological surveys and the information about existing and prospective demands for water which will be assembled. The Proudman Committee made it abundantly clear. The White Paper seemed to accept the argument yet shied away from it, and saw some objections to the Central Authority (as it was then called) having any executive powers at all.

In the debate last May I think there was considerable support for the view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, that the Central Authority should not be purely advisory and should have some executive powers; and in reply to that debate the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, after explaining why the Government had come down on the side of a body of primarily an advisory character, said—and I hope he will not mind my quoting him [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 240, col. 1040]: We believe that in this wide field the new central body will in fact have a crucial rôle to play, and because of my right honourable friend's appellate responsibilities it is also desirable that what I would term promotional' work should be separated as much as possible from my Ministry. For that reason we envisage the proposed central authority as being the expert body responsible for seeing that there is a broad and consistent approach to water conservation and for planning and co-ordinating conservation measures on the national scale". "Co-ordinating conservation measures on the national scale" does seem to me to imply something more than the advisory functions described herein. Therefore, I think there is great weight in the arguments used by the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, in moving this Amendment. I find it disappointing that in the Bill, and particularly in this clause, there is no reference whatever to promotional functions or to co-ordination, and the only reference to planning, I think, is in paragraph (e), where it is said that it will be the duty of the Water Resources Board to encourage and assist river authorities in the formulation of such plans as the Board think necessary for augmenting water resources in a river authority area by transferring water from another river authority area; ". It is true, I think—I am sure the noble Earl will elaborate this—that paragraph (a) might be held to mean that the Board should formulate an overall plan, because it could hardly give the advice that it is there required to give without having done so. But if that is so, would it not be possible, and indeed wise, to say so specifically; and would it not also be wise to specify the co-ordinating function? The whole emphasis in this Clause 12 is, I am afraid, on the advisory function. If the Government take the view that the literal interpretation of the Amendment which has been moved is inconvenient, embarrassing, and might even be held to suggest, taken literally, that it gave the Water Resources Board a direct responsibility for the efficiency of the river authorities (which I am sure is not the intention at all), could they not, in considering whether or not the substance or the general purpose of this Amendment could be accepted, find some form of words to give effect to that and, at the same time, give this Water Resources Board more power within such limits of authority as may from time to time be delegated to it by the Minister?

6.35 p.m.


I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, for the thoughtful way (I hope he will not think it impertinent of me to say so) in Which he has moved this Amendment, and I think the Committee as a whole must also be in the debt of my noble friend Lord Sinclair of Cleeve for his remarks on this important aspect of the Water Resources Board's functions and responsibilities; and I can assure my noble friend that I never mind being quoted. I will come back to the quotation, if I may, in a few moments.

As I understand it, the Amendment would write into the Bill a power for the Water Resources Board to give directions to the river authorities as to the performance of their new functions (and, if the noble Lord had his way, it would be the old functions as well), their water conservation functions, the directions being such as the Water Resources Board consider expedient. I think that the Amendment disregards the fact that, under the unamended Bill, the Board will possess powers to give directions to river authorities—namely, those in connection with, first, the provision of information (Clause 12, subsection (4)); secondly, the form and content of hydrometric schemes (Clause 15, subsection (3))—not unimportant given our dearth of hydrometric knowledge in this matter; thirdly, the provision of information obtained under hydrometric schemes (Clause 16, subsection (1)); and, fourthly, the formulation of proposals to investigate the presence of water in any underground strata (Clause 18, subsection (1)). Those powers are consistent with the Government's views of the nature of the Board—


I am very sorry to interrupt the noble Earl, but those references are very important. Would he kindly repeat the first one?


Clause 12 (4), Clause 15 (3), Clause 16 (1) and Clause 18 (1). Those powers are consistent with our view of the nature of the Board and with the proper discharge of its intelligence functions, and, of course, those directive powers which I have been talking about really bite on this intelligence function. The Amendment, on the other hand, in proposing to confer on the Board a general power to give directions to the river authorities, runs contrary to the Government's considered view of the proper chain of responsibility which, under this Bill, we should be attempting to create.

I must, if I may, again refer back to a fundamental point which I tried to make, not only in our debate on the White Paper but also on Second Reading. That point is that if you consider that the Minister in this matter should remain basically accountable to Parliament, then you cannot have a Board with fully executive powers. If you concede that, then it is right that the Minister should answer first-hand for any directions given to river authorities other than those which I have mentioned, and which I think do fall into a somewhat special category. But if you accept this it does not mean, I would urge, either that no action will follow so far as the Board is concerned or that the Board will not be able to discharge its proper responsibilities.

I know that my noble friend Lord Hastings has already done so on Second Reading, but I should like again, if I might, to draw your Lordships' atten- tion to the fact that the Bill already contains a quite definite and clear-cut provision in Clause 14, subsection (1) (c), which makes it a duty for every river authority to formulate proposals for action on the lines laid down by the Water Resources Board under Clause 12. As I see it, that is absolutely clear cut—those two clauses, 14 (1) (c) and 12, read in conjunction. I think I can assure my noble friend Lord Albemarle that, since Clause 14 (1) (c) covers Clause 12, if he will direct his eyes to Clause 12 (3) (c) he will find that that covers parts 3 and 4, and part 3 deals with the question of minimal flow, about which he asked me. Moreover, by virtue of Clause 14 (3) the general duty imposed upon the river authority by Clause 4 to take all such action includes the duty of taking action to carry out the proposals they are under obligation to make to the Water Resources Board. The river authority, therefore, cannot evade the issue when it is a question of doing something within its sphere of responsibility required by the Water Resources Board—particularly when it is recalled that the whole business is backed up by the more general power of direction in Clause 95 of the Bill. I apologise for springing all these clauses upon the Committee at short notice, but I can assure the Committee that the Minister will stand ready to use this power conferred by Clause 95 of the Bill, if enacted, to secure the execution of a national policy for water, which is what we are all basically after.

The noble Lord, Lord Sinclair of Cleeve, in quoting me, referred to what I said during our debate on the White Paper about the separation of the appellate functions and the promotional functions under this general umbrella. If you read Clauses 12 and 14 (1) (c) together you will see that they confer, taken together, promotional powers in the sphere of water conservation upon the Water Resources Board. What I said about the Bill's embodying a broad and consistent approach towards conservation and the desirability of co-ordinating conservation matters on the national scale is precisely what we intend to do. I would not retreat one inch from that, because that is precisely what we are intending to do. It may be we have not succeeded, but it is our intention. I think in those two clauses, read in conjunction, it can be seen that not only does the Minister have sharp teeth in the execution of the policy, but the Board's teeth though I would grant they may be limited, are not false ones.


My noble friend has referred to various powers existing in various parts of the Bill, but it is difficult to follow precisely how these would work in practice. Could he give a practical illustration of how in future some of these powers will work? That is what exercises some of us. Suppose a great city like Manchester finds itself short of water in ten or fifteen years' time. What means will be taken to enable a valley in North-West England or Wales to be drowned in order to supply further water for Manchester? Who would do it? Who would pay for it, and how? A practical illustration like that would convey a great deal more to my mind than these odd references to paragraphs in the Bill.


Before the Minister replies, may I say I would not agree with the noble Lord who has just sat down. These odd references to paragraphs are very important. I think I ventured to interrupt the Minister in order to get them right. These powers the Minister quoted and the explanation of the conjunction between certain paragraphs will go a very long way to help those of us who want to see this general planning staff, this Water Resources Board, fully able to carry out its functions. After hearing the noble Earl's reply I, for one, felt very much happier. There are two speeches which must be read in conjunction in considering this point; the speech the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, made now and the speech he made in May. He detracts from neither. I believe we have gone a long way this evening, but I still think that the thought put forward by my noble friend, Lord Sinclair of Cleeve, may be of use when we are considering this Bill at a later stage, and I hope the noble Earl will not close his mind entirely to it.

Apart from the executive powers that the Water Resources Board has in the various clauses mentioned by the Minister, it may be right that there should be, somewhere in the Bill, a specific right of the Minister to delegate certain specific functions within limits, from time to time, to this Water Resources Board. There can be no delegation except where it is established in the Bill. I think delegation has to be established specifically always. It may be that not only in the four clauses the Minister mentioned but somewhere in the Bill there should be something which gives slightly wider powers to the Minister to delegate specific functions under due safeguards to this Board.


I thank the noble Earl for the care with which he has dealt with my obvious misapprehensions. I should like to explain that in reading this Bill, and particularly Clause 14, I must confess that the directional powers which the Water Resources Board were to have seemed to be related more to powers to acquire information rather than to power to secure action on the plan formulated on the basis of this information.


Is my noble friend going to reply to this specific point: how a big city will get water from an area when its own river board area is without it?


I was hoping my noble friend was going to let me off. I will do my best and I speak subject to correction; but this is the way I think it will go. Manchester is a very good example. Manchester, like many other industrial conurbations, is going to have an increasingly great thirst. This is the sort of thing we as a nation have to plan for. What I think will happen under the provisions of this Bill, broadly speaking, is that when this sort of need is seen to be developing there will at once be consultations between everybody concerned. A lot of that consultation will be more or less obligatory. Where a scheme, say in Manchester—but let us not take Manchester; let us think of some less thirsty place, say Newcastle; indeed, it may be safer ground. If Newcastle sees it is going to need a great deal more water it will approach the river authority and its officials will speak to the experts of the river authority, stating what their need is. Since, when the need is very great, there will almost inevitably be a need for inter-regional transfer of water, the river authority will put that straight away to the Water Resources Board. If it is a very large-scale plan, the Water Resources Board may straight away refer the matter to the Minister and he will call in the final scheme. But this matter would get into the machine at once and the Water Resources Board, who would have the national picture, would grapple with the problem and would be able to require the river authority to submit proposals on how it should be tackled. Broadly speaking that is how it would be dealt with.


We acre now talking about adjoining or distant river authorities. Who is going to finance the works, because they lie out of the area of the original city or town?


As my noble friend knows, from his intense perusal of this Bill, the works are financed within the river authority concerned, but when there is a transfer, then the beneficiaries will be required to pay.


I want to ask about the size of the problem. This looks like reference to the Water Resources Board instead of initiation by the Board, which I want to be a semi-independent body, able to give us a clear-cut blueprint of the resources within the country, so that other people can read their reports and see where they came in. I so fear that these overburdened seven people will always be referred to by the 26 authorities and will be left with no time to make out that big blueprint we all have been wanting.


I would thank the noble Earl for the courteous way in which he has dealt with the Amendment, but I do not think that it has been dealt with satisfactorily. If we take the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, on which he gave a real poser to the Minister, the noble Earl replied that, having looked at it, the Board would require the river authority to submit proposals to them. Even if the river authority has a supply of water and submits proposals, there is no power in the Bill to require the river authority to supply. To my mind the only saving grace is a statement by the noble Earl, which he made on Second Reading in reply to a point I made, that a local authority or statutory undertaker would still have power to promote a Bill. I thought that that power would be lost under this Bill. But it seems that, in the end, Manchester and Newcastle have to go to the Water Resources Board, which has power of direction for promoting a Bill, and Parliament will have to decide.

I think that the noble Earl has really made out the case for the Amendment because, as the noble Lord, Lord Sinclair of Cleeve, said, all the powers to which the noble Earl referred are really powers of investigation. They are intelligence functions. And the Minister hides behind the right of Parliament, through the Minister, to have executive power. We do not have it in other things. After all, water is a commodity essential to public health, industry and agriculture. So is electricity. Yet we set up a Central Electricity Board with power of production and power to direct smaller units in distribution. If it is possible to have central powers in regard to electricity, when we have a Minister of Fuel and Power, I do not think that the Minister of Housing and Local Government is losing any of his dignity, standing or status if he is not in fact the final arbiter in executive power and in answering to Parliament.

The noble Earl referred to Clause 14 (1) (c), which says: to formulate proposals as to action to be taken by the river authority (whether by way of executing works or securing the execution of works by other persons … et cetera. But nothing is said there about power to do anything if they take no notice. We have all been associated with organisations, in which people at the top have given instructions and found that they have not been carried out. Sometimes it has been a good thing. But there are no real teeth in this, except that the Water Resources Board cart finally go to the Minister and say, "The river authority has been asked to do this, that or the other. They have not carried out our request. Will you instruct them to do it?" Is that not really making an extra tier in the chain of command? A little earlier the noble Earl was decrying the setting up of extra cogs in the wheel of the machine.

I think that this Amendment would be a great advantage to the Board and would relieve the Minister and the Ministry of a number of difficult tasks. I think, too, that it would save Parliamentary time, by not requiring what I think will otherwise be required in particular instances, such as Manchester—I may say that they are short of water now; it is not merely the case that they will be in twelve years' time, as mentioned—and that is, the promotion of a Bill. I think that that is unsatisfactory if we are going to set up a Water Resources Board which is going to survey the whole country, make a plan of resources and likely demand, sand channel the supply where it is required. Like other organisations, they must have the power of direction. But in the light of the attitude of the noble Earl in charge of the Bill, I can do nothing but reluctantly withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD AMHERST OF HACKNEY had given notice of his intention to move in subsection (2), to Heave out "Minister" (where that word last occurs), and to substitute "Ministers". The noble Lord said: This Amendment would allow the Minister of Agriculture to refer matters to the Water Resources Board. It would have been much more important had my last Amendment been proved to widen the powers of the Board, and it will be important if several other Amendments are carried; but probably it would be better for me not to move the Amendment but, if the other Amendments are passed, to reinstate it on the Marshalled List.


I think that this Amendment is consequential on the previous Amendments, but in the light of what my noble friend has just said, I can give him the assurance that, if this Amendment is required because of subsequent Amendments, there is plenty of time to come back to it at a later stage of the Bill.

7.0 p.m.

LORD MOLSON moved in subsection (3), after paragraph (e) to insert: ( ) to advise the Minister on measures for ensuring economy in the use of water ".

The noble Lord said: In reply to a previous Amendment, my noble friend the Minister of State referred to it as being a great disadvantage of that Amendment that it would make a fundamental change in the principle of the Bill. I should like to begin, therefore, by trying to show that there is nothing inconsistent with the general line of development if the additional responsibility involved by this Amendment is imposed upon the Water Resources Board. If we begin with the White Paper, we find in paragraph 7 that the sub-committee had its terms of reference extended in order to consider whether there are any substantial economies in the use or cost of water which could be made without reduction in standards. As a result of the inquiry that they then undertook, the sub-committee found as follows: Finally they recommended the setting up of a separate central authority, accountable to the Minister of Housing and Local Government, to promote an active policy for the conservation and proper use of water resources.

Then we find at page 11 that the Government, having considered this Report, decided to set up a central authority, and the White Paper states: They thought that the main functions of this authority should be: to promote an active water conservation policy and secure its execution by river authorities … to initiate, where necessary, schemes of works, especially schemes for the transfer of water between the areas of river authorities. Clearly, if there is to be a scheme for transferring water from one area to another area, it is necessary that it should be shown that that water is really required and is not asked for merely because it is being wasted. If we have a national water policy, then it is in the national interest that there should be no waste of water, even if it may be the case that there are some parts of this country which are so happily placed that they have plenty of water, even if they are wasting it.

In paragraph 50 the Government come to their final conclusion, and they say: The right course in the Government's view is to establish an expert body responsible for ensuring that there is a broad and consistent approach to water conservation problems and for planning conservation measures on a national basis. It appears to me from these four extracts, which show how the Government came to their decision to set up a Water Resources Board, that they did intend that there should be a national policy and that water should be conserved. It seems to me quite clear that the word "conserve" not only means acquiring as much water from the rivers and hills as possible, but conserving the water even after it has been brought into, so to speak, captivity by the water authorities. Therefore, it seems to me quite logical that if the Water Resources Board are being asked to consider what the requirements of water are, and to make recommendations as to how that water is to be obtained, it should also be part of their responsibility to ensure that none of that water is avoidably wasted.

There are a great many economies which can be made—I believe that is generally common ground among all those who are concerned with the use of water. It was in the first place a previous Minister of Housing and Local Government who told me that he thought the greatest wastage of water in this country was by leaks from the mains belonging to the statutory water undertakers; and he told me that there was a great difference between the efficiency of some water undertakers and others in that particular matter. Recently electrical inventions have enabled a water authority to detect when there is a leak, and, therefore, there is really no reason why the less efficient water undertakers should not be brought up to the standard of efficiency of the best.

There are many cases where industries consuming vast quantities of water can cleanse that water and use it a second and a third time. There was a case of that kind in my own erstwhile constituency. There was a firm of food packers which required a tremendous amount of water, and the local authority found that it would not be possible for them to continue to meet the increasing demands of this expanding concern with all the water for which they were asking, and they indicated that they would have to make a substantial charge for that water. It probably would have required the construction of a new reservoir. As a result of that, the firm got down to the problem and found it was possible to purify the water and to continue to use it time and again in their industrial processes. That was to the advantage not only of the local authority, who avoided great capital expenditure, but also of the firm itself.

Then, there are many possible economies, with some of which I concerned myself when I was at the Ministry of Works. The Building Research Station has established that there is no need for tanks of more than 2 gallons for water closets. Yet you find in a great many parts of the country that they are still installing closets with a far greater capacity than that. Similarly in the case of office buildings, there is not the slightest need for urinals to continue to flush all through the night when the buildings are not in use. Matters of this kind involve the saving of 50 per cent. of the water consumed at the present time, and it means the saving of thousands of gallons of water. It is found that there is an immense economy in the use of sprinkler taps, instead of having washing bowls, where people first clean them and then use them for washing their hands, and then, if they are considerate to the next person, use further water to wash them out. I give these examples to indicate what an immense scope there is for economy in the use of water.

I feel absolutely sure your Lordships will agree that it we are going to pass legislation of this kind (and we are all in favour of the principle of it) which is going to result in an immense increase in the amount of water available for the people of this country, for our industries and for our agriculture, that water should not be unnecessarily wasted. It is not only a matter of the saving of money, although I am not ashamed of that. When we consider the large areas of beautiful country which have been submerged under reservoirs, surely we are entitled to say that if that is going to be done in the case of further valleys we must be sure that the water is needed.

Here is this central authority which is given these wide powers of advice. We have heard from the Government spokesmen what importance they attach to the advice that it gives. It is the intention that there shall be a national policy. If there is a national policy for the conservation of water, that should surely include the conservation of water by the avoidance of waste. I believe it to be entirely consistent with all that has been said by the Government about the Water Resources Board that it should be given this additional responsibility. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 11, line 40, at end insert the said paragraph.—(Lord Molson.)


In rising to support my noble friend, may I first of all apologise to the Minister if I leave before he has completed his reply. There are one or two small points I should like to make in support of my noble friend, for instance with regard to such places as buildings on farms on an estate. May I say as regards my own house that I should not like to say that it is not a sinner in this respect, nor, for that matter, are other cottages and farms on the estate. There is, however, one point to which I am sure my noble friend will give consideration, together with his agricultural noble friends, and that is the question of water on farms. If there could be some way of controlling what might amount to quite a bit of waste on farms (I may be quite a sinner myself; I say that straight away) it would be very helpful. I realise that there may be a great deal of difficulty on this point, but perhaps he would like to discuss it with his noble friends.


I shall detain your Lordships only for a few moments, because my noble friend has already stated the case for this Amendment in such cogent terms that little requires to be added to them. I should like to say that I do not think the Minister will have much difficulty in ensuring that the statutory water undertakers make use of the methods of water conservation, the detection of leaks in their mains, and so forth, of which my noble friend spoke.

Wastage by industry is a rather different proposition, and I think my noble friend was quite right in saying that there is, not unnaturally, a tendency in industry not to adopt means which are available for reconditioning—if I may use that expression—the water that they have used, and using it a second time, a third time, or even a fourth lime. It may be that the noble Earl is going to say that the Water Resources Board does not require these powers, and that the powers he has are already sufficient to ensure that due measures of economy are observed. But that may well be so in the case of the statutory undertakers.

I am rather doubtful whether the Board have adequate powers to go to an industrial consumer and recommend that he adopt these methods of water conservation of which my noble friend spoke. It is for that reason that I hope the noble Earl will be able to say that this proposed Amendment would be a useful addition to the powers of the Water Resources Board, and would enable them to do something Which it is at least doubtful Whether they can do under the powers at present comprised in the Bill.


Since my noble friend Lord Buckinghamshire has mentioned that he will have to leave, perhaps I could deal straight away with the minor point which he made in the course of his remarks regarding the possible waste of water on farms. My noble friend Lord St. Oswald has told me that he will gladly undertake to look into that point forthwith.


Thank you very much.


The acceptance of this Amendment would mean; that the Board would be required—and I dwell on the word "required"—to advise my right honourable friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government on measures for ensuring economy in the use of water. As Clause 12 makes clear, the main purpose of the Water Resources Board—and I think we have bad a certain amount of discussion on that particular purpose already this evening—will be to plain from the national point of view the development of the country's water resources. I would straight away grant that that means, of course, planning conservation.

I would also straight away accept the view that economy is an important side of the conservation coin. Economy in the use of water might well have the effect of deferring the need, for example, for further extensive works of water conservation—works which can sometimes, as my noble friend Lord Molson said, do much to mar attractive countryside, although sometimes they do not. Economy could, therefore, be an important facet in the proper husbandry of the nation's water resources, and that, of course, is what we all want. It is quite clear that we shall need to find and to bring, into supply much more extensive supplies of water in the coming decades than we have now, and it is quite clear that it is therefore only sensible to plan to use as economically as possible the resources we have at present, and the resources which we shall bring into supply. All that I grant straight away.

At the same time, I suggest it is wise to recognise that if one is going to proffer expert and worthwhile advice on measures for ensuring economy—and that is what the Amendment does; it is the responsibility for advising the Minister which my noble friend would lay on the Water Resources Board—the persons advising must be really experienced, not only in all aspects of water conservation but in its use for all purposes by water supply undertakings, by agriculture, and last, but not least, by industry. The technical problems involved in the industrial use of water are, as my noble friend Lord Ilford said, many and varied. My real point about expertise in this field is this. My short experience here has been to convince me that one cannot do a great deal effectively about economy in the use of water unless one is in very close and continuous touch with consumers. For example, if one is going to be able effectively to persuade an industrialist to economise on water, one needs to know a great deal about the processes for which he uses water. I think that was a difficulty which the Proudman Committee themselves, in considering this matter, came up against.

As I see it, and as we envisage them at present, neither the members nor the staff of the Board are likely to be in close and continuous touch with the main consumers. That is not to deny the importance of ensuring a proper economy in the use of water. There is undoubtedly a fruitful field for exploration here, and I remember what the noble Lord, Lord Fleck, said on this matter during our Second Reading debate, apart from what noble Lords have now said in Committee.

But, in addition to industry, statutory water undertakings and agriculturists will be very much concerned here; and, on the whole, in the Government's view this is more a matter to be pursued by my right honourable friend the Minister for Housing and Local Government itself rather than have this statutory responsibility specifically laid on the Board. I would suggest that on the whole the Ministry are best placed on advising and dealing with this matter of economy, because they are, in fact, in direct touch with the undertakers, and it is through action by the undertakers industrialists industrialists that effective economy is most likely to be achieved.

All that said, I would again grant that it would be wrong for the Board to divorce itself from the question of economy, which is obviously linked with conservation. When they are dealing with conservation matters which have an economy aspect I have no doubt that they will present their views both to river authorities and to the Minister. Moreover, I think it very probable that when the Board are set up they may well feel—I personally hope they will feel—that more research needs to be undertaken in this field and that they will help to Spark that research. Again, I would remind noble Lords that under Clause 12 (2), my right honourable friend has power—which I am sure he will use—to refer other matters, apart from conservation, to the Board for advice; and I think there need be no fear at all in minds of noble Lords that the provisions of this Bill are generous enough in that respect to embrace economy.

Those are the general considerations which lead me to have doubts whether we should be right to accept this Amendment, although I hope that in what I have said the movers may find I have gone at least some way to meet their very proper concern about this matter. Frankly, for those reasons—because I doubt whether the Board are really equipped, whether they will stand close enough in to the actual consumers, and whether they are really in a position to take the place which the Ministry have in this matter—I am on the whole inclined to doubt whether this would be a duty which we should specifically lay upon the Board as the noble Lord is suggesting.


The reply of my noble friend has been so sympathetic and he has so fully accepted my general lines of argument that I feel it is strange he cannot go a little further and undertake to incorporate something dealing with this matter in the Bill. He wholly accepts the importance of economy and he agrees that it is part of conservation, and that is the responsibility of the Water Resources Board. He also has no doubt that the Minister, on suitable occasions, will seek the advice of the Water Resources Board upon the subject. Yet he holds back from accepting my Amendment, and he did not even offer to consider putting down something in a different form for the Report Stage of this Bill. I think it is extremely important to incorporate in the terms of this Bill the importance of effecting adequate economies in the use of water.

I wholly accept what my noble friend has said, that, as regards small matters of economy by the domestic consumer, and so on, they would not be a suitable matter for the Water Resources Board; but would it not be appropriate for them to observe, say, that the consumption of water per head in the North of England is much greater or much less than it is in the South of England—that it is very much greater in one area than it is in another—and insist on inquiries as to why there is this great discrepancy? Of course, there may be some extremely good reason why; and there may be other reasons; but, surely, when we are having a national water policy there should be a responsibility imposed upon the Water Resources Board to make sure that what they are planning as the future development of the resources of the country shall not be less than is required if all reasonable economies are incorporated.

Following this just one stage further, I should like to invite my noble friend's attention to subsection (4) of this clause, which shows that it is contemplated that this Board shall have a staff. It is not for these people to give advice upon matters of detail about sprinkler taps and so on; that is not what I had in mind, although I gave that as one of the examples among thousands. We agree that economies should be effected. But it said that … the Board may, and shall if so required by any Minister, carry out such research, make such enquiries and submit such reports as the Board may consider necessary … or as the Minister in question may require; and for the purposes of their functions … give directions requiring any river authority to furnish the Board with such information relating to water resources in the area of the river authority as may be specified in the directions. It seems to me that it is clear from the Bill that they are intended to deal with broad matters of strategy over the country as a whole; that they are given specific powers to call upon the river authorities to make the investigations and give the information they call for. I feel that what my noble friend has said about the view of the Government does not justify the rejection without any further thought of the Amendment that I have moved. I hope that the Minister will be prepared to consider the matter again before the Report stage. If not, I shall be disposed to put down an Amendment of some kind in order to raise this matter again; and I think that in the speech that he has made this afternoon I shall find some extremely persuasive arguments to put before your Lordships.


My noble friend has rather frightened me by his last words. I listened attentively to what he said in moving his Amendment and also in elaborating it in his supplementary. I do not think it would be in the spirit of our discussion which we have had so far on this Bill in Committee if I were to appear unduly rigid but I do not think that I can advise your Lordships to accept the paragraph as it stands. There are difficulties, but I will not trouble your Lordships with the technical, or possible technical, difficulties; but if it is the general feeling of the Committee—and I sense that it may be—that we should accept the principle of my noble friend's Amendment—which is, as I understand it, that the Board should be expressly required or asked to advise on economy—I do not think that I should wish to dissuade the Committee. Even then, however, I should not like to be committed to the wording of the noble Lord's Amendment as it stands. In all the circumstances, and in the light of what he has said, I should like to avail myself of the opportunity which he has given me of thinking this matter over again between now and the Report stage, with a view possibly to putting down an Amendment myself.


I am most grateful to my noble friend, and in view of the assurance he has given I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I think it is time for our supper; and in view of that I beg to move that the Committee adjourns until 8.30.

Moved, That the Committee do now adjourn.—(Earl Jellicoe.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended at half past seven o'clock until half past eight o'clock.]

LORD MOLSON moved to add to subsection (3): ("( ) to advise the Minister and river authorities on the measures to be taken on gathering ground to permit the greatest measure of access by the public consistent with the prevention of pollution of the water".

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 37. We are fortunate that in 1948 the Central Advisory Water Committee set up a gathering grounds sub-committee to go into the whole question of how far it was necessary in the interests of public health to avoid farming and human access to the gathering. grounds. In paragraph 11 of their Report they say: Many undertakers have in the past fifty years spent large sums in the acquisition of extensive tracts of gathering ground. Some have attempted not merely to control, but entirely to prevent, public access and agriculture on their moorlands. They go on, in paragraph 43, to say what are the really effective defences in order to ensure that the water that that comes to the towns, for drinking, among other purposes, should be adequately pure.

There are four methods of purification: first, to eliminate potential sources of pollution of raw water; secondly, long storage; thirdly, filtration, and fourthly, chlorination. The three illnesses which are waterborne and against which it is necessary for them to take precautions are described in paragraph 16 and thereafter. They discuss these matters and how far it is necessary to have these four defences, and they say that it would not be satisfactory to have only one. But then, in paragraph 35, they say: It is a commonplace of history and of natural history that over-developed defences might stifle the life they are designed to protect; and it would not be in the national interest if, dissatisfied with effective practical security against typhoid the water industry were to pursue theoretical perfection in this one field of public health, at the cost of seriously limiting facilities for healthy exercise and the reproduction of wholesome food. Then, after considering the whole matter and hearing evidence from a great many local authorities and doctors, they arrive, in paragraph 51, at their conclusions—this is an authoritative Sub-Committee, and I think that the Government accept their general conclusions: The principle which we suggest should be followed in the control of gathering grounds is that the water entering the reservoir should be kept free from gross pollution, that the reservoir itself, and in some cases feeder streams, should be so protected as to prevent any fresh sources of pollution entering it directly, and that between the reservoir and the consumer there should be efficient filtration and sterilisation. That is their conclusion.

Then they refer to well-known, large and important water authorities which have followed that line and where it has been found satisfactory: The adequacy of these lines of defence is, we consider, sufficiently demonstrated by the experience of the Bristol Water Company, the Corby Water Company, Leicester Corporation and many medium sized users of lowland impounded water who not only provide a pure and wholesome supply in fact, but are reasonably satisfied with the conditions under which they do it and are confident of their ability to maintain their good record without undue anxiety. There are other famous local authorities which follow the same line—Sheffield, for example. Their representatives gave evidence before the Committee on the special point, and they said: Whatever pollution may enter the reservoirs due to the presence on the gathering grounds of small parties of pedestrians is not regarded as serious in view of

  1. (a) the normal purifying effect of storage in large reservoirs,
  2. (b) the filtration by slow sand or pressure filters;
  3. (c) sterilisation,
which all Sheffield water receives. Such pollution is infinitesimal compared with the pollution that many undertakings drawing supplies from large rivers have to face. Bristol takes the same line: Access to gathering grounds under proper control of such matters as rest centres, fire precautions, etc., should not be discouraged. That is in contrast with what was then the view of Manchester, when their Water Engineer said: For various reasons a limited degree of access must be tolerated, but the risk of pollution becomes progressively less the more we approach the ideal of total exclusion.

Having reviewed the whole matter in Appendix II, this Committee proceed to set out the existing practice of water undertakers, and anyone who looks at it will see that it varies from complete freedom of access to total prohibition. In their final summary, after giving their considered findings upon the matter, the Committee say: Subject to the foregoing recommendations— and I need not weary your Lordships with what they are: they are perfectly clearly set out— there is no reason to exclude the public from gathering grounds as such.

The policy of this Bill is to ensure that we have a national water policy. We know that there is going to be a greatly increased demand for water. We know that, as a result of that, it will be necessary for greatly increased areas to be acquired for this purpose. What my Amendment seeks to do is to ensure that the Water Resources Board considers and gives advice as to what should be done, in order to allow the maximum of public access to these gathering grounds, while ensuring reasonable purity of the water.

It is quite anomalous that all these years after this authoritative Committee has taken expert advice upon the subject, there should still be a wide disparity between the policies followed by different water authorities. If it is the intention to have a national water policy, if Parliament is going to set up a Water Resources Board, it should surely be one of the responsibilities of that Board to ensure that the maximum amount of access is allowed to these great gathering grounds, consistent with the maintenance of purity of water. There is no justification any longer for certain authorities to have old-fashioned obscurantist ideas as to what should be done. There are thoroughly reputable local water undertakings which are allowing access by the public, subject to reasonable restrictions, and surely we ought to make certain that that practice shall be extended over the whole country. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 12, line 3, at end insert the said new paragraph.—(Lord Molson.)

8.42 p.m.


The arguments put forward by my noble friend are so cogent and so overwhelming that it behoves me to say very little here. But, first of all, I would say that, on second thoughts, I rather wish we had left out the last portion of our Amendment, from the word "consistent" to "water" at the end, because I think it perhaps puts an undue emphasis on this idea that access pollutes water. My noble friend has emphasised that this is going to be a growing question, and I think we should take every opportunity of re-emphasising that because we are legislating now for generations ahead, and within the next century I have little doubt that large parts of the heavy rainfall areas of this country will be catchment areas for water for the big cities.

The Bill provides a certain amount of safeguards for what are called amenities. There are two sorts of amenities. There is the amenity of the beautiful scenery, which can be admired from the road and so on, and there is the further amenity of the actual access to the ground itself. Of these, I place much more emphasis on the access. The water authorities will be able to make by-laws, under Clause 72, to deny in a varying degree the access of the public to these areas. I understand that all by-laws of this nature are subject to the approval of the Minister, but perhaps my noble friend who is in charge of the Bill will confirm that. At any rate, it takes a strong Minister to turn down by-laws put up to him ostensibly on the ground of maintaining the purity of the water. As my noble friend has emphasised, it is very much the case that there are two schools of thought in this matter, and any Minister who is not a strong Minister will always play for safety and tend to accept the safest possible interpretation of pollution. I may remind the Committee that water, even if polluted, speedily becomes unpolluted. You have only to take the course of the River Ganges, alternating as it does between burning ghauts, bathing ghauts and drinking water to realise that. A few miles of passage over the gravels is alleged to make the water perfectly pure in spite of the bodies, and so on, that have been in it.

If there were some way by which one could ensure that the by-laws were made by Parliament rather than by local authorities, one would feel that the general public would have better protection, because in my humble opinion—I may be wrong here—local authorities tend to be much more abitrary than the Minister. The Minister always has Parliament on his tail, whereas local authorities have not quite the same pressure of public opinion upon them. I hope that my noble friend in charge of the Bill will be able to reassure us on this matter, because it is one which I believe is going to be extremely important for our children and our grandchildren.


In this connection, I wonder whether the Minister will bear in mind that most harmless, clean and most pleasant of amenities, the sailing of dinghies on reservoirs and lakes.


I wonder whether I may point out to the Minister—I do not quite know if it comes within this category, but it seems to—that nowhere have the words "wholesome water" been defined. It has been left to any medical officer of a local authority to say whether or not he thinks it is wholesome water. Having regard to the future, I think we had better have that defined. Secondly, it has not been laid down that there should be a ratio of effluent to dry-weather flow. When our rivers get very low, we want to safeguard the position; to know that there is an official definition of the ratio of effluent to dry-weather flow.

Thirdly, may I point out, on this question of health, that in Australian rivers, for instance, the amount of sodium chloride is never allowed to exceed a thousand parts per million, and generally the view is that it should not exceed five hundred parts per million. Here is a fact which I quote from the Report of the Water Research Association and which I think we ought to register some time during this debate: that human consumption of water adds directly to the chloride content. The average sewage effluent contains about eighty parts per million more chloride than the water consumed to produce it—and, furthermore, conventional cleaning does not remove it. Therefore, on the lower stretches of a river you may have several eighty parts per million added together until, at the end of the river, there is too great a number of parts per million of chloride. I am very sorry to introduce this matter now, and I do not even know whether it arises at this point.


My noble friend has touched on a subject which is rather close to my own heart. I personally have long felt that as a result of, possibly, unscientific and rather Victorian inhibitions, or possibly through a failure on the part of water undertakers in the past to provide proper purification facilities—and that failure may have been very understandable, for these are expensive facilities—or for one reason or another, we have not been making proper use of what is a tremendous potential amenity advantage to this country: that is, the whole system of reservoirs which exists in this country. I know very well that in certain cases very good use is made of reservoirs for recreational purposes. For instance, the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, will possibly be aware of a big new reservoir north of Northampton which provides one of the best sailing clubs for the whole of the Midlands. That is the type of amenity of which advantage can be taken, given proper purification and proper precautions on these reservoirs. We should seek to use this potential recreational facility to the best advantage for everybody concerned, and this is an objective I certainly share with my noble friend.

I would agree that we do not in all cases at the moment take full advantage of the potential of these reservoirs, and that in certain cases, for one reason or another, there may be unnecessary restriction on access for not only the gathering ground but also the reservoirs themselves. But having said that, I hope the noble Lord will agree with me that here I am not apart from him in objective. What I am not quite certain is whether I can go along with his specific requirement of the responsibilities which he wishes to place on the Water Resources Board. May I explain why? I arm sure that most noble Lords will recognise that it is primarily the statutory water undertakers who are in the first instance affected here. I would have thought that they were really much more concerned, or likely to be more concerned, than the river authorities. For example, the river authorities are more likely to be developers of regulating reservoirs used not for direct supply to the consumer but for discharging water to rivers for abstraction and treatment lower down in the course.

Accordingly, I would suggest that the interest of river authorities in preventing the pollution of water in the reservoir, and therefore restricting public access, is not nearly so acute as that of the water undertakings. I would suggest that this associated question of restricting access to gathering grounds is not therefore likely to be a major matter of direct concern for the river authorities or for the Water Resources Board. I would have thought the Board will be concerned more with the contribution that particular reservoirs can make to its overall schemes of conservation than to this important but subsidiary matter of public access. That is one reason why I am doubtful whether the particular method suggested by my noble friend of making progress in this matter—and I agree progress should be made—is the right one.

Another reason, I think, is that my right honourable friend already has at hand an instrument for making progress here which is eminently suitable for that purpose—namely, the Minister's Central Advisory Water Committee. I would have thought that in its terms of reference, in its past work, its record and, indeed, in its constitution, as it were, the Central Advisory Water Committee is eminently suitable for the task of advising the Minister in this matter.

As my noble friend said, the Committee did, in fact, produce in 1948 the Report from which he quoted on access to gathering grounds. Since then, there have been, I think, notable advances in the scientific treatment of water. The National Parks have been established and I know the importance to the Peak National Park, with which my noble friend is intimately connected, which the freeing of access to the Longdendale reservoir is going to mean. An increasingly large number of our citizens are finding their recreation in the more mountainous areas of our country, which by their nature are the places where reservoirs are sited or are likely to be sited.

May I also inform your Lordships that work is already in hand to review the technical aspects of this particular problem? Moreover, my right honourable friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government has it in mind to discuss with the Central Advisory Water Committee, at a meeting which he hopes to fix early in the New Year, the desirability of a further investigation of this matter. My noble friend will recall that the Central Advisory Water Committee last looked at it in a thorough way in 1948, and my right honourable friend is now considering whether it would not be desirable to ask them to have a further look at it.

In those circumstances, I would suggest that there is already a forum in which advice can be gathered and then given to my right honourable friend, that this is a tried and useful forum and that the Board would probably be the least appropriate forum. However, if at any time the position should change, there is absolutely no reason why, using the mechanism of Clause 12(2) of the Bill, the Minister should not decide to lay this additional responsibility upon the Water Resources Board. But since the Central Advisory Water Committee is just as likely in the near future to be again seized of this matter, I suggest that this moment would not be the time to lay (this additional responsibility upon the Water Resources Board.


I am impressed by my noble friend's arguments, the more so because he began by saying that he is entirely sympathetic to the objective I have in mind. I recognise that under subsection (2) the Minister can ask for the advice of the Water Resources Board on this or on any other matter. At the same time, I am bound to say that when this authoritative Committee, sometimes called the Heneage Committee, because Colonel Heneage was Chairman of it, had made these very definite recommendations, after bearing the scientific evidence on the matter, it is quite extraordinary that six years later, when the Pennine Way was being organised, the Manchester Corporation, which has always been one of the most obscurantist of water authorities, should have sought to oppose the Pennine Way simply on the ground of pollution. When the official witness turned up and opposed it in the terms that he did, it was obvious that there are water authorities who are so completely obsessed with old Victorian notions of pollution, which have been shown scientifically to have no relation at all to actual medical dangers, that I feel something more ought to be done.

I do not feel disposed to press this matter any further, in view of the sympathetic reply that the Minister has given. I am glad to know that his right honourable friend has this matter in mind, and I should not wish to press unduly that this particular line of approach should be adopted at the present moment. I confess that I should like to see this incorporated in the Bill, but in view of the fact that under this clause it is possible for the Minister at any time to ask for advice from the Water Resources Board upon the subject, and that he is quite obviously extremely interested in the matter, I accept the explanation given by my noble friend and ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.


Before my noble friend withdraws the Amendment—and it is a bad quid pro quo for his kindness in this respect—I should like to put a slight gloss on what he said about the attitude of the Manchester Corporation in this matter. It is not for me to fight Manchester's battles, but I feel that the facts at present are quite important here, as I am sure my noble friend will recognise, because they show that times change. I understand that Manchester Corporation are now taking steps which will mean that access will be freed to the gathering grounds which feed into Longdendale Reservoir system, and that will, I think, free access to something like one-third of the whole area of the Peak National Park. Secondly, as my noble friend may not be aware, but it is a fact, they are also contemplating steps to free access to Thirlmere in the Lake District. So there is an improvement in this respect.


With your Lordships' permission, I should like to say this. I am grateful to my noble friend for mentioning that. The last thing I wish is to be unappreciative of what is being done, and I was really relying upon all that has happened in the past in the case of the Manchester Corporation. It all tends to show that there is hope that we may have a national policy in this matter which will be in line with modern scientific thought.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

9.3 p.m.

On Question, Whether Clause 12 shall stand part of the Bill?


I wish to raise one matter which I believe to be of considerable importance and which has not yet been mentioned in these debates. I am sure that all members of the Committee are aware of the scientific progress that is being made in the recovery of fresh water from the sea. This is a most important matter. I had occasion to discover how important it was ten months ago when I had the honour and delight of being associated with my friend the late Lord Birkett in opposition to the Manchester Bill dealing with Ullswater. In my speech on that occasion, in winding up on behalf of those who supported Lord Birkett's Motion, I pointed out for how short a time Manchester would obtain relief even if they got everything for which they were then seeking. I quoted a spokesman of the Manchester water undertaking, who said that within a few years they would have to deal with this problem by taking water from the sea. I think it is a matter of general knowledge among those who study these matters that within a comparatively short period it may become of vital importance to make progress in this sphere. In the long run that is certain, and I think in the not very long run.

What I would say about that on this Bill is this, and here I think I may have the support of noble Lords in all sections of the Committee. The Minister and the Water Resources Board certainly ought to be thinking of this problem. They certainly ought to be devoting themselves to making progress in this sphere. Let me explain briefly to the Minister why I fear that this clause as it stands will not impose the duty required. The Minister may well agree with what I desire end he may say: "Of course we desire that the Minister under this Bill, and this Board, should think of this problem. But why do you suppose that they will not do it under the Bill as now drawn?" Let me tell him the grounds of my fear. If he will turn to Clause 117 (1), and to a passage which he will find on page 98 of the Bill, he will find these words: 'Water resources has the meaning assigned to it by section 2 of this Act. That sends us back to Clause 2 of this Bill. Now Clause 2 quite clearly does not include sea water, because it says in this act 'water resources' … means water for the time being contained in any source of supply in that area … and then the vital words are these: … that is to say—(a) so much of any inland water … and (b) any underground strata in that area. But it does not appear to include sea water. Therefore, my noble friend will see that not only is there no express mention of sea water in the clause we are considering, but implied mention also appears to be negatived by the fact that the expression "water resources" does not include the sea.

Let me go on to say—because I am, I suppose, a rather cautious lawyer—that it might be conceivably argued that you would be "augmenting" water resources, as defined, if you obtained fresh water from the sea. All I can say, without guessing the legal advice that may be given by skilled Parliamentary draftsmen, is that I believe the Committee will generally agree with me that we should put the matter beyond all doubt by making the matter clear in express terms in this clause. I must now confess that my criticism, probably does not apply only to this clause. It probably will also require a consequential Amendment to Clause 1 of the Bill where the Minister's functions are dealt with.

I only gave my noble friend, who has shown such exemplary mastery of this Bill at all stages, notice of my point quite a short time ago. It would be quite unfair to ask for a detailed answer at this moment. What I do hope from him is that he should say that it certainly is the desire of the Minister that both he and the Water Resources Board should be under a duty to study this problem and to experiment, and should undertake that at a later stage of the Bill, if he is so advised, as I am confident that he will be, that the words in the Bill at present do not secure that object, he will introduce the necessary Amendments.

9.10 p.m.


I recognise the importance of this subject, which, of course, my noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye dealt with at some not inappropriate length during our Second Reading debate, and I am also most grateful to my noble friend Lord Conesford that he found time over a half bottle of claret a few moments ago to give me a little warning of his intention. I think he has given me just enough warning, but I am not certain, because I think the clause as it stands does give the Minister the necessary powers.

My noble friend took us on a slight point-to-point—or should I say"clauseto-clause"—through the Bill just now, and I am afraid I must repeat the dose. We start with the clause with which we are dealing, Clause 12 (3) (a), where it is laid down that the duty of the Water Resources Board shall be to consider in what way action needs to be taken for the purposes of conserving, redistributing or otherwise augmenting water resources, either in England and Wales generally or in relation to any particular river authority area,". I would agree with my noble friend that that in itself is not sufficient, but I am not relying on that for although I am not a lawyer I am going to be suitably cautious. I would then go to Clause 2 (1) on page 2, where my noble friend will find that water resources include inland waters and also water in underground strata. From there I suggest we jump to Clause 117 (1) on page 96, two pages before my noble friend's page, where he will find that inland water includes tidal waters within a given river authority area. So, as I am advised—and I will make no bones that I have sought advice on this—the Water Resources Board can recommend action to de-salinise water, whether in tidal waters or from saline bore holes.

Jumping back to Clause 12 (4), we find that the research power which is incorporated in that clause is in connection with any matters referred to in Clause 12 (3), and, I gather, also extends to this matter of de-salinisation. I think, therefore, that technically the Bill does provide what my noble friend is quite rightly after. In any event, I can assure him that my right honourable friend will certainly expect the Water Resources Board to keep abreast of the latest techniques in this vastly important matter of desalination—and I have no doubt at all that it is going to be an increasingly important matter. How much experimental or research work it does itself will, I think, depend on how this particular subject is handled and parcelled out between the various national research organisations by the co-ordinating hand of the existing Inter-Departmental Committee on Hydrological Research. I think that in general the Water Resources Board's umbrella will extend over this matter of salt water, but I should not like to rely upon rather a snap answer to my noble friend on this; I should like to have a chance tomorrow of looking in more detail at what he has said.


I am most grateful to my noble friend. If that is his idea of a snap answer on a legal point, I tremble to think what a lawyer he would have made if he had devoted his mind to that subject.

Clause 12 agreed to.

Clause 13:

Constitution of Water Resources Board

13.—(1) The members of the Water Resources Board, of whom there shall be not more than seven, shall be appointed by the Minister, and he shall appoint one of them to be chairman and one to be deputy chairman.

9.15 p.m.

LORD CAWLEY moved to leave out subsection (1) and insert (1) The Water Resources Board shall consist of not less than seven members, of whom two shall be appointed by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and of whom the remainder shall be appointed by the Minister who shall appoint one of the members of the Board to be Chairman and one to be Deputy Chairman.

The noble Lord said: The more I look at this Amendment the less likely I think it is to be accepted. Nevertheless, I will move it to test Her Majesty's Government's attitude towards some representation of agriculture on the Water Resources Board. At the present moment the Water Resources Board is made up of water engineers. The obtaining of water is, of course, extremely tied up with agriculture. The Water Resources Board is entrusted with the task of finding water, and it could easily advise, in an extreme case; "The way to get water is to put a dam across the entrance of this extremely rich fertile valley; then, of course, you get your water". In my submission, if there were some representation of agriculture that sort of mistake would not be perpetrated. I fear that these technical men may easily lose sight of the tremendous damage they might do to agricultural interests. I assume that their advice would be overruled at a later date, but would it not be much better to have some form of check on the Water Resources Board so that it would not indulge in a large quantity of useless research? I beg to move this Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 12, line 19, leave out subsection (1) and insert the said new subsection.—(Lord Cawley.)


There is nothing much that I can say to give greater encouragement to my noble friend than he feels at the moment. Noble Lords have already discussed the powers and composition of the Water Resources Board. The present proposal, as he has said, is that two members of the Board should be appointed by the Minister of Agriculture. Had Amendment No. 33 been pressed to a Division and won, my reply would have had to be rather more cautious, because of course the whole situation would have been changed. Amendment No. 33 would have interposed the Water Resources Board between the river authorities and the Minister of Agriculture in questions affecting land drainage and fisheries. As it is, questions affecting land drainage and fisheries can be, and will be, referred by the river authorities to my right honourable friend, just as they always have been by the river boards.

Moreover, as the debate has already shown, the members of the Board will require to be specially chosen, having regard to the skills and expertise required; and undoubtedly, and quite unprejudiced by anything I have said, there should be represented on the Board someone able to consider matters affecting agriculture and fisheries. But we must remember that the Water Resources Board is a body reporting to, and advising, the Minister of Housing, and it is reasonable, therefore, that the members should be appointed by him.

I think it would be wrong to go further than this because if two members were appointed presumably to reflect the interests of farming, land drainage or fisheries it would be only reasonable to make appointments to reflect other interests affected by the work of river authorities. There would be such pressure from all kinds of interests that the Water Resources Board would become far too large, or we think it would be far too large, for the efficient conduct of business. On this point the noble Earl, Lord Malmesbury, as a former member of the Proudman Sub-Committee, said during the debate on Second Reading [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 244 (No. 12), col. 1066] that this small number, that is to say, seven, would, I believe, make for administrative efficiency, and that must be all important … I know that there have been ideas that the Water Resources Board should be more representative, but I would say that the river authorities themselves are fully representative. I hope that noble Lords will agree that it would be detrimental to throw the membership of the Board open to bids from particular interests.

On the particular point of my noble friend fearing as to what might be done through an action or a decision of the Water Resources Board, I would remind him that of course it would have to be done with the agreement of the river authority, and on the river authority all interests are in fact represented.


I am most grateful to the noble Lord for his reply. I now see what the position is and beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

9.22 p.m.

LORD CHAMPION moved, in subsection (1), after "seven" to insert" to be drawn from both England and Wales". The noble Lord said: Here I return to a point that I have made previously, and particularly on Second Reading—namely, that it would be much more satisfactory to Wales if the words that I propose were included in the Bill, and that Wales should not have to rely on a ministerial assurance. In his speech on Second Reading the noble Earl said that, "The rain in Spain may fall mainly on the plain", but that in Britain it tends to fall upon the Celtic fringe. His memory of My Fair Lady and his meteorological observations I would say are exact—they do, in fact, meet the point precisely. I would also think that it is true that his experience of life, and clearly his obviously close knowledge of musical comedy, has shown him that the best way to get what you want is to woo, and not to push on ahead. He must surely have perceived this and will think that there is something in it.

I do not think that those who live in the Welsh part of the Celtic fringe and have read in the White Paper that the Welsh Advisory Water Committee is in jeopardy, will feel that they are being wooed in respect of the water that falls upon them. I think that some amends could be made by the inclusion of my words in the Bill. There is nothing new in recognising Wales in Acts of Parliament. We have recently passed a Transport Act which made special provision for a Welsh Committee though I forget the name of it for the moment. We have also made provision for a Minister of State for Welsh Affairs in this House. Indeed, he was sitting here a short time ago, and I rather hoped he would remain, so that I might call him in aid on this matter and that he might give me active support.

I do not want to labour this point too much; I talked about it at some little length on Second Reading. But I would most strongly advise the Minister to accept these simple words, and to please a fairly large section of Welsh opinion in this important matter of getting the right atmosphere to ensure that the water that does fall there may be made available for the people of what might be starving England in relation to water. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 12, line 20, after ("seven") insert ("to he drawn from both England and Wales").(Lord Champion.)


I sincerely hope that the Government will not accept this Amendment, for the very reasons the Government put forward for the rejection of the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Grenfell, No. 18. It would be unfair to restrict the choice. A Minister has to find the best people, and sometimes the best people come from Scotland—even to govern the affairs of England and Wales. Therefore I sincerely hope no such restriction will be put on the Minister. Perhaps we may well see a Scotsman giving a contribution to this subject, as Scotland has to so many other subjects South of the Border.


I find myself rather exposed, as it were, between these two Celtic fires, but I am afraid that I must assure my noble friend that I am not unsympathetic to the purpose behind Lord Champion's Amendment. I do not think he really needs the support of my noble friend Lord Brecon, though I am sure it would have been added had the sought it. It is, indeed, highly important, in view of the importance of Wales, of Welsh water, and indeed of Welsh susceptibilities, that Wales should not only have a say but be seen to have a say on this Board. That was why, on Second Reading, in response to the point made by the noble Lord, I said, as he mentioned, that I could assure him I had no doubt that at least one member would be a Welshman.

I must confess, however, that I am not at all happy about the effect of the noble Lord's Amendment as at present drafted. His intention, presumably, is that at least one member of the Board should be drawn from Wales. But what does "drawn from Wales" mean? Does it imply that at least one member must be resident in Wales, which was I think the point to which my noble friend was alluding; or that there must be at least one Welshman on the Board? Or would a member be "drawn from Wales" if he were to be a Welshman not at the time of his appointment resident in Wales? Greatly daring, could I ask the noble Lord where Monmouth comes in?


Do not ask me that. I would not answer it.


I can further assure the noble Lord that it is the Government's intention to include a Welshman among the members of the board. As I have said, I also assured the noble Lord on Second Reading that this was the case, and I am glad to be able to do so again. Ideally, it would be highly desirable that that person not only should be knowledgeable in one of the special forms of expertise which we think should find its place among the limited number of members of the board, but should also have a full knowledge of the special water problems of Wales, which we recognise. Whether or not such a member would be found within the Principality itself remains to be seen, and I think it would be unfortunate if the Bill were to debar the appointment of an otherwise eminently suitable Welshman merely because of his temporary or unfortunate residence elsewhere.

I would therefore ask the noble Lord if he could see his way to withdraw his Amendment. In so doing, I can assure him that we agree with him on the substance of this point, and that all I am doubtful about is the wording he has proposed. I suggest to him that he might consider withdrawing his Amendment, on the understanding that we will see whether we can produce a suitable and watertight Amendment to cover this point, and the difficulties which I have mentioned, when we come back to this clause on Report stage.


I am most grateful to the noble Earl for that reply: he holds out a wonderful promise to me. He rather twitted me, if I may use that word. upon the drafting of my Amendment; be said that he did not know what it meant. Perhaps I ought to remind him that I took those words directly out of the White Paper for which he must have been partly responsible. But I will not continue in this vein as the hour is late. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

9.31 p.m.

LORD LINDGREN moved, after subsection (1), to insert: ( ) Two or more of the members of the Board shall be persons having had experience of, and shown capacity in, or otherwise having special knowledge of, matters relating to public water supply.

The noble Lord said: This, too, is an Amendment in regard to the seven wise men whose appointment is provided for in Clause 13. Though it provides for the appointment of these people to the Water Resources Board, at least so far as I can see there is nothing in the clause to indicate what would qualify a member for the Board. The purpose of this Amendment is to ensure that at least two out of the seven shall have experience and specialised knowledge in matters relating to public water supply.

The Water Resources Board will be concerned—and this was emphasised by the defeat of a previous Amendment this afternoon—with the new functions of the river authorities. It will therefore be concerned, as we have already stated, with the planning of the water resources of the country. The new Board will therefore be concerned with the provision of public water supplies as a major part of its work, and it would therefore appear to be only correct that there should at least be persons on it who have specialised knowledge in regard to it. This Amendment suggests in a modest way that two of those members: should be so qualified. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 12, line 22, at end insert the said subsection.— (Lord Lindgren.)


I hope the noble Earl, when he comes to reply, will treat this Amendment with sympathy. He may recall that in the famous debate on the White Paper in May, my noble friend Lord Sinclair of Cleeve, who unfortunately has now had to leave the Committee, went into some detail about suggestions as to how the Water Resources Board should be composed. If I may remind your Lordships very briefly of what was said at that time, the noble Lord suggested [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 240, col. 1104], that we should probably require a scientist with hydrological experience". That was one person. The next person he suggested was someone with experience of large-scale industrial operation". He thought another person should have practical experience of the problems of the supply and distribution of water". Then there should be an agriculturist … and a member with outside—that is extra-Departmental—financial experience". I think that when the noble Earl came to reply to that debate in May, he was not unsympathetic to the careful thought that had been given at that time to the sort of constitution this Board should have. I wonder whether it would be too much to ask that the noble Earl, in applying his mind to and replying to this Amendment, which has been very tersely and clearly introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, should perhaps give us a little indication of how he feels in this matter. I think that at this stage of our discussions we should rather like to know what he has in mind for the expertise that should be represented on this Water Resources Board. I think it would help us if he could do that now, perhaps, in reply to this Amendment.


May I at once respond to my noble friend's invitation to give the Committee some idea of how our present thinking runs on the constitution of the Water Resources Board, and how the membership of seven members should be split up? He referred to the remarks of my noble friend Lord Sinclair of Cleeve during our debate on the White Paper. During that debate, as my noble friend said, Lord Sinclair of Cleeve outlined the six forms of expertise (I think there were six) which he felt should be represented and should find their part on the Water Resources Board.

I think the simplest thing for me to say is that on this point we agree with my noble friend Lord Sinclair of Cleeve. We feel that the forms of expertise which he mentioned are precisely those which should find their place within the Water Resources Board; and they include, as my noble friend has mentioned, an intimate knowledge in matters of water supply, industry and questions of finance. I can assure him that we recognise, as obviously we must, that an intimate knowledge of the water supply industry and water supply undertakings must be one of the forms of expertise which should find their place within the Water Resources Board. As I think I mentioned myself in replying to the debate on Second Reading, it was not perhaps entirely coincidental that, while my noble friend Lord Sinclair of Cleeve suggested that there should be six special forms of expertise, we have provided for a Water Resources Board of seven members. What we have in mind is six special forms and a Chairman.

Now may I turn to the precise Amendment which the noble Lord has moved? As I see it, if an Amendment of this kind were to be accepted we should be faced immediately with similar demands from all the other interests who would inevitably press us that they should similarly be represented on the Board. In that case, I do not see how we could logically avoid providing similar representation on the Water Resources Board for, say, the agricultural interest, the fisheries interest, the industrial interest and so on. I should have thought that that would undermine our concept of what sort of Board this should be, and the way it should be constituted; because immediately, if one were to do that (and I think this would follow almost as night follows day) the Board would become an entirely representative Board.

Now this idea of a representative Water Resources Board runs quite contrary to our conception of it. As I have indicated, we have very close sympathy with the ideas which my noble friend Lord Sinclair of Cleeve produced before us during our debate in May, but, basically, it is our hope and our intention to create a Board which should be fully capable of taking the decisions required in planning and overseeing the execution of a really national water conservation policy. I think that that means that there really cannot be any question of "dishing out" the seats on the Board among the interests concerned. If we were to do so, I think it would be calculated to lead to a Board which would, in fact, do little more than dispute about the treatment of those particular interests.

Moreover, it seems improbable that the affected interests could be embraced within the compass of a Board not exceeding seven members. If the water undertakers have two, then I can see the way to eight or ten almost immediately. The Government attach really prime importance to this idea of a small and expert Water Resources Board, and I, for one, would be most unwilling to see us depart from that principle. It is central not only to our concept but also to the concept of the Proudman Committee, as I read the Proudman Committee Report. What we want is a small, strong and effective Board. Above all, we wish to avoid what I might call a council of delegates. I am sure that if we accept this Amendment we are starting down a slope which would lead inevitably to a weak Board.

And since I, for one, wish to avoid that, I cannot advise your Lordships to accept the noble Lord's Amendment, although I fully recognise—and if I do not the Government do—the great importance this Board will have for the statutory water undertakers. I recognise, as the Government do, that the statutory water undertakers have a crucial position, because they have a statutory obligation to supply water to the domestic consumers. Perhaps I can assure the noble Lord Who moved the Amendment so clearly if I repeat to him what my noble friend Lord Hastings said during the first Committee day [OFFICIAL REPORT, col. 378, Thursday, December 6]: We are thinking about this question of the statutory obligation. It is our aim to help and we shall think about it. Those words were not lightly used. We are thinking how we can introduce into the Bill some way of setting out the special position in which the statutory water undertakers find themselves. But, that said, I cannot advise the Committee to accept this Amendment.


Before the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, speaks, may I say one word? In reading out the quotation from Hansard—and this is simply for the Record—of Lord Sinclair of Cleeve's speech, I started in the wrong column, so that if noble Lords read it they will see that I have mentioned only five expertises. The first one which I left out—and it is almost the most important—is that of a civil engineer with experience of constructional work. I though that, for the Record, I should put that right. I would add that I am wholly satisfied by the arguments Which the noble Earl has deployed, and I am interested to note that one of the reasons he gives for rejecting this Amendment is that he does not want to weaken the Water Resources Board. That is very important, and I am most impressed by that argument.


May I assure the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, from this side of the House that we are 100 per cent. with him that this Board should not became a representative Board. We agree that it would then cease to be the effective instrument for planning that we hope it will be. In view of his assurance that the general principle as outlined by Lord Sinclair of Cleeve will be generally accepted by the Government, I most willingly withdraw the Amendment.


Before the noble Lord withdraws the Amendment may I say that I apologise if I was misusing his argument. I took him to mean that he did in a certain way desire the Board to be representative, but I understand that is not the case.


It was a question of knowledge and experience; not representation.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

9.45 p.m.

LORD MOLSON moved, after subsection (1) to insert: ( ) One member of the Board shall be appointed by the Minister after consulting the National Parks Commission".

The noble Lord said: The noble Lord, Lord Chorley, had a long-standing engagement and was unable to remain here to move this Amendment, which I beg to move on his behalf. My noble friend the Minister of State has said several times this afternoon how much concerned the Government are to ensure that amenity interests should be taken fully into consideration. We recognise that already a large part of the most beautiful parts of our country is used as gathering grounds and we all realise that, as a result of the passing of this Bill, the area used for that purpose is going to be greatly increased.

It is common ground amongst us all that it should be possible for great areas of wild and rugged beauty to be preserved by doing so, but this requires care and attention. We have been assured that the Government will try to make certain that developments take place in this way. The National Parks Commission are not only responsible for the National Parks but, under the Act of 1949, they are given a general advisory sphere in regard to access to the countryside and the general preservation of beauty. Surely it would be appropriate that on this Water Resources Board, which is intended to co-ordinate the general policy in all parts of the country, there should be a representative of the National Parks Commission. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 12, line 22, at end insert the said new subsection.—(Lord Molson.)


The Amendment does not in terms require a separate amenity member of the Board, but I think that in practice it is likely that the Minister would find it necessary to appoint such a person as an addition to those having the skills and background more directly connected with the work of the Board which we have touched on in the previous Amendment. I have found myself saying more than once this afternoon to noble Lords that, whilst I had sympathy with the purpose behind their Amendments, I did not feel able to recommend your Lordships to accept them, and I am afraid that this is very much the position in which I find myself with regard to my noble friend's Amendment.

May I tell your Lordships why I am not particularly enamoured of it? My first reason is one which will be familiar to your Lordships. We want a really effective Board, and in our view this means a small and compact group. If we accept the noble Lord's argument that a seat on the Board should be reserved for this type of person, we are again starting down the road that will lead to a larger Board; and, to some extent, the acceptance of this Amendment would weaken the argument against what I have termed a representative Board.

Another reason for avoiding undue rigidity is that when we get a chairman of the Board he may well have his own ideas of other members. I would assume that, one way or another, they would not be far away from those of my noble friend Lord Sinclair of Cleeve, but we want to have some freedom to go along with his advice. I would also say that to accept this Amendment would be a departure from our established practice. I do not say that this is an absolutely clinching reason for not accepting the Amendment, but I think it is worth recalling that there is no statutory obligation to consult the National Parks Commission or to appoint an amenity member in the case of any of the Boards which manage the nationalised industries. This applies, too, for example, to the Central Electricity Generating Board, the British Waterways Board and, I understand, the other boards to be established under the Transport Act, 1962.

Admittedly, as the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, pointed out on Second Reading, that distinguished architect and planner Sir William Holford serves on the Central Electricity Generating Board—although I should mention that the noble Lord was wrong in saying that amenity representation on that Board was a statutory requirement; as I understand it, it is not. But, in any event, the Central Electricity Generating Board is a fully executive body and it is constantly building power stations, nuclear and otherwise. The Water Resources Board, on the other hand, will not normally be building reservoirs, although it will be doing it in the case, which I hope will be rare, of a default by a river authority. So I do not think the skill of an architect is relevant to its work as it is obviously relevant to the work of the Central Electricity Generating Board.

I should not be arguing against this Amendment if I felt the amenity defences in the Bill were weak. I have tried to show on previous Amendments touching, on amenity that I did not think this was the case. But having said that, I would be the first to recognise that the activities of the Board will have considerable significance for amenity, because it will be responsible for planning the major strategy of the development of our water resources and sooner or later this is bound to mean new works in areas of high landscape value.

I should like to come back to the argument I used before. Surely the best safeguard for amenity is to ensure that those appointed by Parliament to be the custodians of amenity, the National Parks Commission and the local planning authorities (and I recognise that the National Parks Commission's writ runs further than the National Parks themselves) are told about water projects at the formative stage. If this is done, they can influence schemes right from the start. So far as the Water Resources Board is concerned, effective consultation with the National Parks Commission at a sufficiently early stage is really essentially what is needed, and this can be secured as the Bill stands at present by a direction of the Minister to the Board under Clause 95 (3). In view of those considerations, some general and some particular, I do not think I can advise noble Lords to accept this Amendment, and I trust that my noble friend, who has had some success with Amendments this evening, will not press it.


I am most grateful to my noble friend for his sympathetic reply. I recognise that he and the Government for whom he speaks fully appreciate the importance and the merit of considerations that we have put forward. As regards this Amendment, I have been deputising for the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, and no doubt he will read what the noble Earl has said and will consider whether he will want to take the matter any further on the Report stage. So far as I am concerned, I am grateful to my noble friend for having repeated what he said on the earlier Amendment, and I feel it may well be that if we withdraw these various Amendments we have moved, on the assurances given by the Government, we shall find that we obtain something much more valuable than that which we have lost. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 13 agreed to.

Clause 14 [Periodical surveys]:

LORD GRENFELL moved, in subsection (1) (b), after "demand" to insert: during a period of not less than twenty years from the date of the estimate". The noble Lord said: Clause 14 (1) reads: It shall be the duty of each river authority, as soon as practicable after the second appointed day … (b) to prepare an estimate of the future demand … and so on. I put down this Amendment because I felt that the word "future" is so uncertain in its length that a demand for 20 years would make certain that river authorities could look at least that distance ahead. It is possible that the period of 20 years may be arguable, but I feel sure that the river authorities should have some guiding light to work on in their proceedings. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 13, line 36, after ("demand") insert ("during a period of not less than twenty years from the date of the estimate")—(Lord Grenfell.)


I rise to support this Amendment. It appears to be much better to have a finite period than an infinite period. We want to get some knowledge of the overall demand for water. It would be disastrous if one authority interpreted the future as five years, another as fifteen years, and a third as 20 years. We should get an overall estimate of the water.


I am sorry that my noble friend Lord Grenfell has had to wait to such a late hour in order to move this Amendment. I am particularly sorry because I am afraid that I have to ask the Committee to reject it. I am even more sorry because the reason for doing so is that we do not believe that it would improve the Bill; indeed, it might in some respects prove a handicap. I will give the reason why. The river authority is under a duty to prepare an estimate of the future demand for the supply of water from the resources of the area. The Minister, the Water Resources Board, and the river authorities themselves, will want to look as far forward as they can in estimating demand and formulating proposals to meet it.

Now I come to the point made by my noble friend Lord Cawley, that it would be disastrous if the time factor were different in respect of different river authorities. In fact that is not so, because what is possible in respect of forward estimating will vary from one river authority to another. To put a minimum requirement of 20 years could be unrealistic in some areas, and would bring no improvement in the quality of estimates made. What I mean by the "quality of estimates" is that it is no use doing guesswork; and in some areas it will not be easy to estimate forward for as much as 20 years, whereas there could be a high degree of certainty in estimating, say for ten years or even fifteen years. In other areas, however, it may be possible to estimate not only for 20 years but even further ahead; and it would be unfortunate to foster any impression that 20 years is a period of special significance, or that in all cases it is always enough. With that explanation, I hope that my noble friends behind me will realise that there is no special value in this period of 20 years, and that the absence of any particular time factor put into the Bill does not mean that the estimates for a period sufficiently far ahead will not be made. As I say, it will vary from area to area and the Water Resources Board will, in fact, be able to gain a very good idea of the national resources overall for a sufficiently long period ahead.


I am not quite happy with the Minister's reply. The Bill, as drafted, says to prepare an estimate of the future demand". If you turn over the page, subsection (2) says that those estimates shall be reviewed at intervals of not more than seven years. It seems to me very vague that the noble Lord should just say "future demand". The noble Lord used the words "no use for guesswork". Equally, vagueness is no good. Suppose a particular authority interpreted "the future" as being five years ahead, it would then be completely meaningless to say at the end of seven years that it would have to be reviewed, because, in fact, it would automatically be reviewed at the end of the period which they considered "the future". Therefore, I think that between now and the Report stage the Government might consider whether they should tidy up the Bill in another place in order to get some sort of rule as to the broad time on which estimates should be made—certainly not less than seven years if, in turn, they make it compulsory that there should be a review every seven years. I trust I make the point; and if my noble friend withdraws the Amendment, perhaps between now and Report that particular drafting question could be settled.


May I please say just a word? If your Lordships read the literature of past Committees you will see they point out that when the dry years of 1933, 1958 and 1959 came, certain public authorities, because they had no justification for using their ratepayers' money in loans beyond a certain point, had run too fine altogether and found themselves, and therefore their water users, in a tight place. That situation really ought to be altered. It ought to be made possible for the public authorities not to deserve that rebuke which was given from the centre as to their attitude in not looking sufficiently far ahead for their water users' comfort. It is really absolutely necessary to have at least a seven-year period put into the Bill, and for this reason. The Proudman Committee did not dare go beyond 1965, and we are almost there now. The Welsh Water Committee used the year 1990, which sounds rather distant. But, on the basis of growing demand for water and increasing use of everything else because of increasing prosperity, they found that a 2.3 per cent. annual increase for the first years was the tale; and the Welsh Advisory Water Committee also, anticipating even greater prosperity, found that up to 1960 the annual increase would be 2.4 per cent. Therefore, I feel that we must ask the Government kindly to put in a seven-year period as being the very least that we can look forward to in making arrangements.


I fully appreciate the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, and supported by the noble Earl, Lord Albemarle. Of course the fact that there are to be reviews every seven years is in itself, I think, an assurance that estimates ahead must be for at least that period or still further ahead. But of course I am perfectly willing to consider this point of detail, which is a drafting point, between now and Report stage, and see whether we can put in something to improve it in that respect. At the same time I do not think that noble Lords need worry that there is any danger of underestimating the time factor. Of course, the whole purpose of the Bill is to ensure that public authorities will not run short of water in the future, and the conservation part of the Bill is designed specially for that purpose, for the Water Resources Board to supervise the whole operation. I do not think there is any danger of these fears being realised in the case of any single river authority, but I will look at that drafting point and see whether there is something we can put in: to satisfy noble Lords.


I am most grateful to my noble friends who have supported me in this Amendment and also to my noble friend the Minister who has agreed to look at it again from the drafting point of view, and with that I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 14 agreed to.

Clause 15 agreed to.

Clause 16 [Information obtained in pursuance of hydrometric schemes]:

10.3 p.m.


This is a drafting Amendment only. The intention is that this information should be freely available to the internal drainage boards, which have a responsibility distinct from the river board now and the river authority to come in respect of their own internal drainage district. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 16, line 23, after ("and") insert ("internal").—(Lord Hastings.)

On question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 16 agreed to.

Clause 17 [Gauges and records kept by other persons]:

10.9 p.m.

LORD CAWLEY moved, in subsection (1), after "instal" to insert: "otherwise than for a temporary purpose". The noble Lord said: This Amendment is to prevent this clause from becoming a polluters' charter. I am instructed that it is frequently necessary for pollution measurement to put up a temporary gauge. The gauge takes two or three days to set up, readings are taken, and it can be removed within a week. If this clause becomes law as it stands, this type of gauge will be covered, and before such a gauge can be set up three months' notice must be given to the river authority. During that period polluters can pollute and the person who is attempting to prevent them and to get evidence against them cannot get his evidence. There is another good reason for this. These temporary gauges put up for about a week are often used to discover whether effluent may safely be put into a river. They are put up and then removed. I think it would be putting an undue burden on somebody who wanted to discover that fact to have to give three months' notice before he could set up a gauge. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 16, line 31, after ("instal") insert ("otherwise than for a temporary purpose"). —(Lord Cawley.)


This Amendment would exempt from the provisions of subsection (1) any person proposing to install gauges for a temporary purpose. The Amendment gives rise to the question what is a temporary purpose, and even though the requirements of subsection (1) would not apply, subsection (2) would still entitle the river authority to inspect any records kept by the person exempted from the requirements of subsection (1). I am not quite clear even now what is the precise purpose behind my noble friend's Amendment. He described the Bill as it is as a polluters' charter. I was unable to follow his reasoning in that respect, but I will go on to say that I thought perhaps he had in mind gauges used by fishermen to assess the depth or flow of a river. It has been suggested by the Ministry of Agriculture that the clause should not apply to ordinary fishermen's gauges, and consideration is being given to this.

Therefore, I will invite the noble Lord to withdraw this Amendment on the understanding that we will consider the possibility of excluding fishermen's gauges and any other gauges to be installed for not more than 28 days (he was talking in terms of only three or four days in a week) from the provisions of the whole clause. Subsection (2) as wall as subsection (1) will be considered between now and the Report stage. I am sorry that I have not followed the noble Lord's argument on polluters, but we are ready to insert an Amendment that will exempt fishermen's and certain temporary gauges from the operation of the clause.


May I just make it clear whether "temporary gauges" means those gauges which are erected for the purpose of checking pollution or dilution of effluent? They are erected at short notice and a reading is taken and the possibility of action for pollution passes by—it is lost. The noble Lord speaks of three months, and of fishermen's gauges and certain others. I hope that he will take into consideration the arguments which my friend and I have put forward.


I do understand the purpose of it. I am afraid that I must have been slow before. I understand now, and I am sure those will be taken into consideration.


I am most grateful to the noble Lord, and I gladly withdraw this Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD CAWLEY moved, in subsection (1) (b), after "months" to insert: "or such less period as the river authority may allow". The noble Lord said: My noble friend Lord Colville of Culross having been called away, I am moving this Amendment on his behalf. Again I am instructed that there are certain simple gauges which take the form of posts with rings round them and that sort of thing. My noble friend considers that possibly three months is too long a notice to be given, and that the river authorities should be allowed to reduce that period in respect of these simple gauges. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 16, line 35 after ("months") insert the said words.—(Lord Cawley.)


The purpose of this subsection as at present drafted is to enable the river authority to obtain benefit from, and to avoid duplication of, measuring work being done by others. The intention behind the Amendment is to allow a person giving notice to start work before the three months' period has expired, if the river authorities are agreeable. This is reasonable enough. As amended, however, paragraph (a) of the subsection would make rather difficult reading, and therefore I suggest that the noble Lord may like to withdraw his Amendment on the understanding that a suitable Government Amendment will be introduced at a later stage of this Bill.


I am most grateful to the noble Lord, and again I am glad to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 17 agreed to.

Clause 18 agreed to.

Clause 19 [Minimum acceptable flows]:

10.15 p.m.

LORD DE RAMSEY moved in subsection (2), to leave out "Minister" and insert "Ministers". The noble Lord said: If the Committee will agree, in moving the Amendment to Clause 19 I will include those consequential Amendments standing in my name to Clauses 20, 21 and 22 and to Schedule 6.


Might I ask the noble Lord how many that would be?


There are thirteen Amendments. If that is the Committee's pleasure, I will explain the effect of this first Amendment, which is to make the Minister of Agriculture a joint authority with the Minister of Housing and Local Government in confirming schemes submitted by river authorities to fix minimum flows. There is an inevitable conflict of interest in fixing these minimum flows between, on the one hand, the water extractors, including agriculture, and fisheries, pollution and land drainage interests, on the other. It is obvious why fisheries and pollution interests are vitally concerned, though the land drainage interests are not quite so obvious. It might be supposed that, provided that the water is got rid of, the land drainage interests would not mind where it went, so long as, as G. K. Chesterton said, it did not get into the wine. The reason is that the river outfalls, upon which the whole drainage system depends, must be kept properly covered.

It seems to me that, once it is granted that the minimum flows are a vital land drainage and fisheries matter—and that cannot be denied—then it follows that the Minister of Agriculture should have a say in fixing it. It might be argued that since land drainage and fisheries are represented in the new authorities, it is not necessary that there should be any further protection. I cannot agree. The new authorities will be smaller than the old ones, and therefore the land drainage and fishery representatives will be fewer. In some cases in the more industrial areas there may be very few indeed. I am not complaining of this. I accept the compromise as to the numbers the Government have put forward, but I think that my acceptance of this compromise entitles me to argue that the diminished representation of land drainage and fisheries entails a logical consequence: protection by the Minister for which I am now asking.

It may be pointed out to me that invariably Government Departments consult each other. I am sure that is so, but on this point I must say, without hesitation, that those interested in land drainage and fisheries would not feel that a mere assurance as to consultation would be sufficient. Indeed, I do not know how the Minister of Agriculture is properly to continue his statutory responsibilities for land drainage and fisheries if one of the most vital aspects is handed over to another Minister. It is true that this might give rise to similar claims in other instances, and that if they were all acceded to it would add to the burden of administration. But surely each case must be considered on its merits.

The Minister has to approve of every draft statement on minimum flows, and I am certain that in the early life of these new authorities he will have to deal with a number of appeals. The land drainage and fishery interests will have to adjust themselves and appreciate that it is not necessary to object on principle to every extraction authorised and every minimum flow fixed. In any case, some of their objections will have to be turned down. I should have thought that the Minister of Housing and Local Government would be glad to share the odium, with the Minister to whom those interests look for support. I believe, therefore, that not only is it right to substitute "Ministers" for "Minister", but that it will make for smoother working in practice. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 17, line 44, leave out ("Minister") and insert ("Ministers").—(Lord De Ramsey.)


I must apologise to the noble Lord for interrupting him when he started to move his Amendment, but I was anxious to know how many Amendments we were covering in our discussions this evening. I must confess that I was a little disappointed to learn that there were only thirteen. I thought that there might possibly be 32, and I had been in hopes that we might bag the lot in one fell swoop. That, of course, has removed to some extent the temptation I might otherwise have been under, to accept the whole lot lock, stock and barrel.

As I understand this first Amendment, its purpose is to associate the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food with the Minister of Housing and Local Government for all purposes where the Bill imposes on my right honourable friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government any functions relating to statements of minimum acceptable flows. The noble Lord, Lord De Ramsey, of whose knowledge in these matters we are all aware, argued that the determination of minimum acceptable flows was a matter of vital concern to land drainage, and that as these are functions with which the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is concerned, the Minister should be associated in determining matters of that kind. I grant that land drainage and fisheries are both considerations which need to be taken into account here, but I think that the thirteen Amendments, which the noble Lord has tabled, overlook two facts at least. First, subsection (5) of Clause 19 expressly requires river authorities to have regard to the needs of land drainage and fisheries. Secondly, the immediately preceding subsection, subsection (4), provides for prior consultation between the river authority itself, the major land drainage authority in the area, and the internal drainage boards; and, of course, the river authority will also be the fishery authority for that area.

The noble Lord said he felt that in certain areas, especially the more urban or industrial areas, drainage interests would not be adequately represented, or at any rate not represented very numerously, on river authorities. But as I see it, it is simply inconceivable that the river authority would not pay due regard to the requirements of two of their own functions—and highly important functions. It might also be argued (I do not think the noble Lord did argue it) that since my right honourable friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government has statutory responsibilities for public water supply he may tend to favour the abstracting and the prevention of pollution interests at the expense of the land drainage and agricultural interests. But I would remind noble Lords, that the Minister of Housing and Local Government is also answerable to Parliament for all legislation dealing with river pollution, the series of Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) Acts.

Moreover, questions of prescribed flow are already determined by the Minister alt present, and the considerations to which he must have regard, which are set out in Section 26, subsection (5), of the Act of 1945, are very similar to those in Clause 19 (5); and I do not think that anybody has suggested that in discharging his present powers the Minister has disregarded all other interests but those of the statutory water undertakers. In effect, I would suggest that the Minister of Housing and Local Government is already exercising, off his own bat, functions identical in character to those imposed upon him by Clause 19.

I do not wish to lean too heavily on the argument that in the best of all possible Governments there is bound to be first-rate consultation between Ministries, but I would assure the noble Lord that, whatever we decide on this series of Amendments, if we decide to leave the clause unamended there is bound to be full and effective inter-Departmental consultation on the statements of minimum acceptable flows, as of course there is at the present time on orders under Section 26 of the Water Act, 1945. All extraction Orders are directed to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, but they consult always and automatically with the Ministry of Agriculture on these Orders —that is accepted as absolutely axiomatic—as they would on all matters of principle affecting Clause 19 statements.

Moreover, I see one considerable disadvantage with at least twenty or so of the Amendments, and that is that they seem to be quite burdensome, because many of them—for example, a great many of those in Schedule 6—deal with matters which seem to me essentially not of principle but of procedure. I should be sorry to think of the time the objector would waste in having to direct his objections to both Ministers if we adopted the noble Lord's recommendations for all the procedural matters covered in Schedule 6. I would suggest that, in that respect at least, the requirement which would be laid on objectors would be extremely burdensome, unnecessary and antediluvian. In all the circumstances, while I do not wish to be dogmatic on this point, I feel that there are considerations which may lead the Committee to feel that the clause is best left unamended.

10.29 p.m.


I presume that it is for the convenience of the Committee that in considering Lord De Ramsey's Amendment No. 46 we should also consider, because it is virtually to the same effect, Amendment No. 47, which belongs to the noble Lords, Lord Jessel and Lord Amherst of Hackney, for it may well be that, while rejecting the series of Amendments moved by the noble Lord, Lord De Ramsey, the Government will feel much more willing shortly to accept Amendment No. 47.

The Minister based his argument very largely on the fact that under subsection (5) of Clause 19 the river authorities have need to safeguard the agricultural, drainage and fishery interests. It is not the definition of what the river boards are required to do so much as the certainty of implementation that we are concerned with. The noble Lord touched upon the misgivings that many of us have that certain river boards will, in their constitution, be swamped by their industrial and urban interests, and therefore, if that be the case, their interpretation of powers under subsection (5) will, in fact, be very different from the interpretation of that of another river board where the balance between agriculture, fisheries and urban and industrial interests is much more evenly arrived at. As the amount of water left in the rivers, especially in times of drought, is vital to agriculture and to fisheries, it seems that there is a very solid case that the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food should be linked in consultation with the Minister of Housing and Local Government in order to ensure that the interests of what is still the greatest single industry in the country should be adequately safeguarded. It seems to me the Government could lose nothing by considering sympathetically Amendment No. 47, and in such sympathetic consideration they would be going a very long way to reassure agriculture and fishery interests who have these misgivings.


As we are apparently now discussing the two Amendments together, may I say a word on Amendment No. 47? I had not intended to move it till later because it covers a much narrower point than the Amendment under consideration. Amendment 47 applies only when there is a dispute between the Water Resources Board and a river authority. I feel there is a very strong case that when the case is referred for decision to the Minister, he should not decide until he has consulted the Minister of Agriculture.


I think the minimum acceptable flow is obviously one of the most important features of the Bill, and this Amendment put down to Clause 19 recognises that. The reflection of that importance is appearing in the various contributions which are being made and the various Amendments set down to it. I think misgivings are felt in more than one quarter that, in view of the composition of the river authorities, composed no doubt in some cases mainly by representatives of county councils, there may be a bias against industry and in favour of the farming industry. Certainly misgivings exist that there will be overweight on one side. I think an indication that the variety of possibly conflicting interests may have to be reconciled is given in subsection (4) of this clause, under which the river authority have to consult with various other interests; and we have not only the fishing and land drainage considerations, important as they may be, but maybe, in some cases, vital interests of factories or power stations, or navigational interests.

In all these cases, the interests of two or more of these may be conflicting, and it is not clear from the Bill how such conflicts are going to be resolved, certainly not by every interest being represented on the river authority. So I would say that to give any other Ministry an equal say with the Ministry of Housing and Local Government in these matters is opening the door to a great deal of dissatisfaction. After all, why not have the Ministry of Fuel and Power, where the interests of electricity generating stations come in, or the Ministry of Transport, where there are navigational interests? I think the noble Earl made his case and I hope that neither this Amendment nor the subsequent one will be passed.


Perhaps I should say that the Minister of Transport is brought in and joined with the Minister in certain circumstances. Naturally, I am disappointed that the noble Earl has not looked more favourably on this Amendment, but at this late hour I will certainly not repeat any of the arguments. I felt it was a strong case and there appeared to be some support in the Committee, though I must admit that I was not quite sure which Amendment was receiving support. In the circumstances, I should wish to reserve my position at Report stage, and beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

10.40 p.m.


We have discussed the main point of this Amendment, but I should like to make one other remark. I feel that on this particular Amendment the case has been made out by the Minister himself, who has said several times that consultation between the two Departments was axiomatic. Where there is a dispute between the Board and a river authority, and as the Minister of Agriculture is responsible for many of the functions of the river authority, this is one of the cases where consultation certainly ought to take place, and I feel that it should be in the Bill. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 17, line 44, after ("may") insert ("after consultation with the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food").—(Lord Amherst of Hackney.)


It is late and this is not altogether an easy subject in which we are involved. I had some sympathy with what the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, said in that respect, although not necessarily accepting his particular arguments. I think there may be a balance of interests affected here, and perhaps it might be a mistake if we rushed a decision on this point at this late hour. I would suggest that if my noble friend would consent to withdraw his Amendment now—and really my proposition covers the 32 Amendments of the noble Lord, Lord De Ramsey—I will look again at this whole problem. Perhaps we can discuss it further and more thoroughly later on the Committee stage on a suitable Amendment, or on the Report stage. I suggest that we should not embark on a long discussion this evening.


I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


The next Amendment was one of the consequential Amendments, and I will not now move it.


We have had quite a bite at the Bill today and I should like to thank noble Lords very much for the spirit in which they have attacked it. In the circumstances, I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved, That the House do now resume.—(Earl Jellicoe.)

On Question, Motion agreed to, and House resumed accordingly.