§ 2.50 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (LORD MILLS)
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be read a second time. This measure owes its origin to the Parliamentary debate on the Esso Petroleum Company Bill which took place during the summer of 1960. The Select Committee which reported on that Bill in another place recommended that no further Private Bills should be passed for pipe-line development because the Private Bill procedure allowed insufficient opportunity for protecting the interests affected by this kind of development.
The Government took note of this criticism and my right honourable friend, the Minister of Power, announced just over a year ago that it had been decided to introduce general legislation, so that 113 public inquiries could be held into objections against pipe-line projects and that, when a pipe-line promoter was unable to obtain by private treaty the rights he needed for the purpose, the compulsory acquisition of land or rights should be subject to the approval of Parliament. The legislation would also be directed to the orderly development of pipe-lines in the national interest. The Government were then about to consult with various outside bodies about the form that the legislation should take. That consultation took place last summer, and the proposals circulated included provision for safety controls, in addition to the other matters to which I have alluded. The Government have prepared the measure which is now before your Lordships after taking into account the views then expressed by the wide range of bodies consulted.
As is stated in the Explanatory Memorandum, the four main objects of the Bill are: first, to enable the Government to control cross-country pipe-lines in the public interest; secondly, to give people wishing to construct pipe-lines a way of obtaining compulsorily the land or rights they need but cannot obtain by private treaty without having to promote Private Bills; thirdly, to enable the Government to control the construction, operation and maintenance of pipelines in the interest of safety; and, fourthly, to establish that pipe-lines in England and Wales are rateable. I should perhaps say that in the immediate future the kind of pipe-lines that we shall be dealing with will be for carrying crude oil, petroleum products and chemicals, but pipe-lines for carrying coal and other substances may well make their appearance later.
The Bill gives the Government power to exercise control over the development of cross-country pipe-lines, which under Clause 1 include all pipe-lines more than ten miles long. No cross-country pipeline may be built without the authorisation of the Minister, given after due inquiry—to which I shall come in a moment. We do not think it necessary to exercise this kind of control over pipelines not more than ten miles long, referred to in the Bill as "local pipelines", because it is the orderly growth of the long-distance network, as an alternative to the conventional forms of 114 transport, that we want to be able to ensure.
Local pipe-lines as a class will comprise many pipe-lines for conveying crude oil from the tanker berth to the refinery, or petroleum products from the berth to the main storage. In the chemical industry many pipe-lines for moving by-products or intermediate products from one chemical plant to another will fall within this class. Such pipelines will usually have little bearing on the development of pipe-lines generally or be of interest to anyone but the promoter. If local pipe-lines involve the grant of compulsory rights, they will of course be subject to the procedure for hearing objections, and the Minister's Orders will be subject to Special Parliamentary procedure, as I will shortly explain. Local pipe-lines will also require planning permission from the local planning authority. But unless there are special reasons for making an exception of any class of local pipe-lines under Clause 6, we have come to the conclusion that there is no point in requiring them to be subject to the Minister's authorisation. To do so would be an unnecessary interference with comparatively minor industrial development.
The Government's policy in controlling the development of cross-country pipe-lines is to allow private enterprise the greatest possible scope, while at the same time guarding against unnecessary pipe-lines. How this is done I will explain in a moment. Our view is that industry should be free to plan their long-distance pipe-lines in the way best suited to meet the needs of their business, subject to the Minister's general control, after hearing any representations about the project which may be put forward by other interests. In this way the Government will be able to learn by experience what the country's needs really are for this form of transport, and will be able to develop their policy on sound lines.
So far as cross-country pipe-lines are concerned, the Minister is to have complete discretion, under Clause 1 (2), whether or not to grant a pipe-line construction authorisation. He could, if he wished, decline to allow the application to proceed unless the route was altered to his satisfaction or unless a fresh scheme was submitted. Under Clause 8 115 he may make it a condition of his authorisation that a cross-country pipe-line should be constructed to a capacity that will accommodate other companies' traffic and thus avoid a multiplicity of pipe-lines where one would serve. Owners and occupiers of land would not then be unnecessarily disturbed. The Minister may in those circumstances impose on the pipe-line owner requirements at any time (and not merely at the time of construction) to ensure that other companies using the line are fairly treated. I should point out here that the same pipe-line can carry different products only to a limited extent. In the case of petroleum, the same line can carry a wide range of distillates but it cannot also carry crude oils and products containing residues such as fuel oil. In the case of chemicals the scope is even more limited.
Once the Minister decides that an application to construct a cross-country pipe-line should be allowed to proceed, the promoter has under the First Schedule to advertise the application and notify the local planning authority and anyone else whom the Minister may specify, such as the highway authorities, whose roads the pipe-line will intersect, the water undertakings who draw their supplies from the country where the pipeline will run, and any other public body or private person who, in the Minister's opinion, ought to have the opportunity to comment. Owners and occupiers of land on the proposed route will already have been notified before an application is made to the Minister.
If the local planning authority object, the Minister will be bound to hold a public inquiry into their objections. There will be no bar to a public inquiry in other cases, but the number and nature of objections may not always be such as to justify the trouble and expense of a public inquiry. In that event a less formal hearing is permissible. But if, as a result of hearing objections, the Minister considers that the route of the proposed pipe-line should be altered, he must give an opportunity for objections to the modified route to be held at a public inquiry. Otherwise, after considering the report of the inquiry, the Minister may give his authorisation or reject an application. In order that a pipe-line 116 promoter, who has to obtain the Minister's authorisation, may not have to go through the planning procedures as well, Clause 5 enables the Minister, on granting his authorisation, to direct at the same time that planning permission shall be deemed to be granted.
I now come to the question of compulsory acquisition of land and rights. The procedure under Clauses 9 and 10, and the Second Schedule, for the acquisition of land or rights compulsorily, provides a preferable alternative to the Private Bill procedure. When, as I have said, the Esso Bill was debated in another place, the Select Committee were instructed to consider whether the interest of land-owners could be protected by some kind of arrangement for hearing objections, on the lines of the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) Act, 1946. Finding that this was not wholly possible under the Standing Orders for Private Bills, the Committee came to the conclusion that, so far as pipe-lines were concerned, Private Bills were an unsatisfactory way of according compulsory powers.
The Second Schedule to the present Bill follows very closely the corresponding provisions of the Acquisition of Land Act. An application for a compulsory purchase or a compulsory rights order has to be advertised and individual notices have to be served on every owner and occupier of land concerned. There must be an inquiry into objections, and the Minister can make an order with or without modification, but with modification only if all parties consent. The order, when made, must be presented to Parliament for confirmation under special Parliamentary procedure, and in this respect the Bill goes a good deal further than the Acquisition of Land Act. That Act applies mainly to acquisition by public authorities, and confirmation by Parliament is required only in respect of certain special classes of land; but the present Bill requires it in all cases, because acquisition by public authorities will be the exception rather than the rule.
The advantages of this procedure are that, not only does it require every owner and occupier of land to be notified in addition to advertisement in the local press, but the Minister can have objections inquired into locally, and 117 ensure that the rights and wrongs of the case have been fully looked into before the matter reaches Parliament. This will save Parliament's time, while giving them an opportunity to intervene for the protection of private rights, if at the Parliamentary stage Petitions of objection or Amendments are received. It is worth noting that Clause 42 expressly allows the Minister to combine an inquiry into an application for pipeline construction authorisation, with an inquiry into an application for compulsory purchase or compulsory rights.
Both cross-country pipe-lines and local pipe-lines are subject to provisions for controlling pipe-line works where they intersect the other forms of linear development, such as roads or railways, or cross the waters of harbours. In these cases, the consent of the highway authority, the railway or the harbour authority has to be obtained and, if it is a road or a railway that is to be crossed, plans and sections have to be agreed. A glance at the map will show that in most parts of the country the most frequent crossings the pipe-line will meet will be those of roads and highways. Clause 14 of the Bill—
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, would the noble Lord forgive me for interrupting? I do not know whether he has finished the part of his speech which relates to compulsory purchase and compulsory rights. But I wonder whether he could make clear in what circumstances one would be used, and in what circumstances the other would be used. They seem to be interchangeable in the Bill.
§ LORD MILLS
My Lords, the procedure is the same. But compulsory purchase will be used where it is necessary to acquire land on which to put a boosting station, or something of that kind; whereas for the ordinary path of a pipe-line a compulsory right to put it there will be sufficient.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, in every case there will be some interference with the surface. Is it contemplated that in those cases there will be a purchase or a right; or will there be compensation to the owner for disturbance?
§ LORD SILKIN
No, my Lords. I want to be clear about the question of rights or purchase in the case I have mentioned. The noble Lord is explaining the Bill, and to me this is little vague. I wonder whether in a case where disturbance of the surface was involved he would regard that as a case for purchase or for rights.
§ LORD MILLS
My Lords, it would probably be a case for rights. But if the value of the land had been altered there would also be a claim for compensation.
§ LORD WILMOT of SELMESTON
My Lords, does that mean that a constructor might conceivably obtain rights to dig trenches and holes in other people's land without purchasing it?
§ LORD MILLS
That is just what it does mean, my Lords, and I should think that in most cases it will be obtained voluntarily by agreement without any question of compulsion coming into it.
I was dealing with the question of highway authorities. Clause 14 of the Bill, which sets out the principles on which highway authorities may give or withhold consent to road crossings, also has the effect of bringing into play the standard codes for street works contained in the Public Utilities Street Works Act of 1959. These ensure that before pipe-line works are carried out in a street (which includes a road or highway) both the highway authority and any bodies such as electricity boards, gas boards, water companies and the General Post Office (who may have pipes or cables in the street that will be affected) are given due warning. For the protection of the river boards, Section 31 of the Land Drainage Act, 1961, will apply. This forbids the building of any structure over a main drainage channel without the river board's consent.
The next feature of the Bill which I would mention is the safety controls which the Minister is empowered to exercise under Clause 20 at the time the pipe-line is constructed, and under Clause 23 in relation to operation and maintenance. At the time of construction the Minister may require works to be carried out in a particular way. He may also direct with what materials it is to be constructed, the type of components to be used and the depth at which the line is to be laid. These 119 powers will enable the Minister to safeguard other people's cables and apparatus which may be affected by the pipeline works and to ensure that pipe-lines do not interfere with ploughing and other agricultural operations. If the pipe-line owner fails to comply with the Minister's directions under Clause 20, the Minister may order him to remove the works or remedy the defect. In the last resort he may remove the lines or works himself. Under Clause 33, a pipe-line owner is required to notify the Minister of abandonment or disuse, and under Clause 24 the Minister may require him to take steps so that the pipe-line does not become a source of danger, particularly to water supplies which may be drawn from that area.
Clauses 25 to 29 empower the Minister to have encroachments removed from the route of a pipe-line. This is necessary so that the pipe-line owner may continue to have access to the line for maintenance and repair and so that the pipe-line may not be damaged by a building or structure on top of it. Spoil and refuse may have to be removed if dumped on the route of the line, because some kinds of refuse—ashes, for example —could create an acid solution when rainwater drains through them, and when this reaches the pipe-line, if the wrapping of the pipe-line should happen to have been damaged, corrosion and leakage will occur. These clauses are, in principle, based on the precedent of Section 16 of the Land Powers (Defence) Act, 1958, which applies to Government oil pipe-lines, but the detailed procedure in the Bill for demolition of building follows similar provisions in the Housing Act, 1957.
Under Clause 34, the Minister can require a pipe-line owner to have a scheme ready for immediately informing the police, fire services, water undertakers and other public authorities in the event of a leaking pipe-line. If a pipe-line is carrying motor spirit, for example, a leak may be dangerous, both because the liquid is highly inflammable and also because it would be liable to contaminate water supplies. Prompt action has therefore to be taken so that the public authorities concerned may do whatever is necessary in the circumstances. Clause 30 of the Bill requires that certain serious pipe-line accidents 120 shall be reported to the Minister, who can set up a court of inquiry under Clause 31. Under Clause 31, the Minister has power to appoint inspectors to assist him in the execution of the Bill. They are likely to be required mostly for the purpose of the Minister's functions regarding safety and related matters.
Having so far outlined how the Bill provides for the control of pipe-line development, compulsory rights and safety, I should say a word or two about compensation. So far as compulsory rights are concerned, Clause 11 follows closely the corresponding provisions for Government oil pipe-lines in Section 18 of the Land Powers (Defence) Act, 1958. When a compulsory right over land is granted, the owner can claim compensation for any consequent depreciation in the value of the land. This would ordinarily be determined by taking the difference between the market values before and after. Compensation for compulsory acquisition of land will be determined, as in all other cases, by the Land Compensation Act, 1961. Under that Act, the value is taken to be what the property would fetch if offered by a willing seller on the open market; and prospects of future development within defined limits are a permissible element in the calculation.
Damage to property caused by the operation of a pipe-line in pursuance of a compulsory right is, under Clause 11, to be made good by the owner of a pipeline without requiring proof of negligence. Here again, the Bill follows closely Section 18 of the Land Powers (Defence) Act. Where the rights are conferred by private treaty, owners and occupiers of land should obtain no less favourable terms in their agreements. If they find any difficulty, they have only to object, and the pipe-line promoter will have to apply for a compulsory rights order.
Certain lengths of pipe-line are not subject to control under the Bill because they are constructed and operated by various authorities having special functions and duties under their own Statutes, and with their own powers of compulsory acquisition. Government oil pipe-lines, for example, are governed by the Land Powers (Defence) Act; gas boards, electricity boards and the 121 Atomic Energy Authority under the relevant Acts which set them up; and water undertakings by the Water Acts. Railway pipe-lines, which are used in connection with railway activities will, for the same reason, not be controlled by the Bill. But if the railways construct pipe-lines as a general means of transport, the Bill will apply. It will likewise apply to any pipe-lines the Coal Board may build, because their powers of compulsory acquisition are strictly limited, and they would otherwise have no alternative but to promote legislation if they needed to acquire compulsory rights. The controls under the Bill are obviously inappropriate for domestic pipes and pipes wholly within factories, mines, docks, and building sites, and these are likewise excluded.
The liability of pipe-lines in England and Wales to be assessed to rates is laid down in Clause 38. The need for this clause arises because, although pipelines had always been regarded as rateable under Section 24 of the Rating and Valuation Act, 1925, the Lands Tribunal, in deciding a recent appeal case, came to the conclusion that pipelines could not be assessed to rates under that section. There is no reason why pipe-lines should not pay rates, and Clause 38 repairs the defect in the law; otherwise a substantial amount of rate income would be lost. The 1925 Act does not apply to Scotland, and the rateability of pipelines in Scotland is not in question.
The interests affected by general legislation about any linear development like pipe-lines are bound to be diverse and sometimes conflicting. It is therefore too much to hope that the Bill in its entirety will be equally welcome to everybody. The Government, however, believe that it strikes a fair balance between all interests concerned, while providing an instrument to control future pipe-line development without excessive interference in details. I therefore beg to move that your Lordships give it a Second Reading.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Mills.)
§ 3.22 p.m.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, we are all grateful to the Minister without Portfolio for the 122 thorough and detailed manner in which he has described the provisions of this not unimportant Bill. The things he did not deal with were some matters of policy, and possible alternative ways of dealing with the matter, to which I shall refer; but he has given us an exposition that makes clear what is the meaning and the purpose of the Bill. I am not clear myself why, as stated by the noble Lord, there should be at any rate a substantial exemption in the case of pipe-lines of less than ten miles. They can be a serious proposition, possibly causing a serious interference with existing rights in the countryside, and I should have thought that ten miles is rather a considerable length to leave out of the full provisions of the Bill as presented to us. Indeed, on reading the Bill it becomes increasingly apparent that this is not a Bill which itself gets things done. This is an enabling Bill to enable other people to apply to get things done, and in that respect it is somewhat exceptional that it should be merely an enabling Bill for this purpose.
The Minister has explained that the Bill would be operated by the Minister of Power, and I must say that I and my noble friends are a little mystified as to why the appropriate Minister should be the Minister of Power. If the pipe-lines were exclusively concerned with oil for locomotive purposes there might have been something to be said for that, though I still think that it is not a conclusive argument. But, as I understand it, these pipe-lines may be used for quite a variety of purpose, not only for liquids, but in many cases for solids as well. Therefore, these pipe-lines are a means of transportation: that is the essential characteristic of the proposed pipe-lines. They will compete in that respect with the railways and commercial road transport—and I do not say that there is necessarily any sin in that aspect of competition. The pipe-lines may represent a considerable economy in the transportation of certain commodities; but, as it is a Bill which deals with transportation, and as it has repercussions on the railways and on commercial road transport, I myself should have thought that it was more appropriate for the Ministry of Transport to be in charge of the operation of the Bill.
My Lords, it may be said that the Minister of Transport has a great deal 123 to do at present, especially when he adds to his necessary official labours his numerous public appearances, with an attendance of photographers and reporters, to which he must devote a considerable amount of time. I am sure he enjoys every minute of it. Far be it for me to try to interfere with the Minister's pleasure, but that is the only reason I can see why the Bill does not go to the Minister of Transport. It is true that the Minister of Power has probably a lighter task of work, though not an inconsiderable one; but perhaps, when the Minister comes to reply, we can be told why the operation of the Bill has gone to the Minister of Power and not to the Minister of Transport, because this is really wholly a matter of transportation of one thing and another.
My Lords, may I apologise to the House? I have to leave the House about four o'clock, but I will come back as soon as I can. An appointment has cropped up which I cannot very well get out of, but I will do my best to come back. I do not like to take on these jobs and then not go through with them, but the time factor has made it inevitable.
There are some points which I should like to raise about the fundamental policy of the Bill. I have before me a memorandum—which on the whole, I think, accepts the Bill—circulated by Trunk Pipelines, Limited. I presume they are a company formed in anticipation of the passage of the Bill, or, if not, they would themselves have promoted private legislation; but I think they will be content to sail under the Bill, especially in view of the Minister's exposition. This memorandum says:The quid pro quofor this "—that is, the concessions—should be that they operate in the general public interest, and not primarily for the purpose of reaping a profit.Then it goes on to describe the pipe-line as a public utility, which undoubtedly it is.
It has long been a general practice in our country that public utilities are eligible to be operated by public authority. It is true that the railways had a long run before they came under public ownership. If railways are properly described as public utilities (which 124 I suppose they are), then it is a good thing for the railways that they were taken over by the public; otherwise, the poor shareholders would have been bankrupt by now. They would not have been getting any interest at all, and, indeed, the community is not getting much by way of financial return from the publicly-owned concern; but, as I say, the shareholders would have been bankrupt if the railways had not been taken over. However, that is by the way.
My Lords, take the City of Birmingham when it had a substantial and pretty permanent Conservative majority on the municipality. The "big noise" in the early days was Joseph Chamberlain; and a great municipal job he did. And so did Neville Chamberlain, too. They had a settled Conservative doctrine that all public utilities—water, tramways, gas, electricity—were to be owned by the municipal Corporation of the County Borough of Birmingham; and, to summit all, they achieved the amazing decision, under the advice of Mr. Neville Chamberlain, to operate a municipal bank. They invaded the holy of holies, the banking system. What was good enough for the Corporation of Birmingham when it was Conservative surely ought to be good enough for my noble friend opposite—for the noble Lord opposite: I referred to him as "my noble friend" because he used to work for me, and I cannot quite get out of the habit. Why should the modern Conservative Party be more Right-Wing than were Joseph Chamberlain and Neville Chamberlain?
I should have thought that, if ever there was a public utility which will be of vital interest to the whole country and which will concern a wide variety of sections of the community, as is contemplated by the Bill, it is the provision of pipe-lines. I think that a prima facie case exists for some form of public operation, public authority and public ownership. There is just as much a case here as there is for the highways of our country, which are publicly owned and operated by an alliance between the Ministry of Transport and the highway authorities. Nobody would dream of renting out highways to private contractors, with an elaborate scheme of ministerial approval, orders and what-not. It seems to me that these pipe-lines are in the nature of highways, because they 125 will do work which otherwise would be done by railways or road transport. Surely, therefore, there is a case for some principle of public ownership and operation to be applied.
I am a reasonable sort of man and I am not dogmatic as to how it should be done. I do not say that it should be done in a particular way, and there are a variety of ways in which it could be done. It could be done by direct State departmental management and administration. I think that perhaps we have all got into a mood of thinking that public concerns have always to be public corporations. I have had a lot to do with the philosophy of public corporations, starting with my London Passenger Transport Bill in 1931. I had a hard fight to convert the Labour Party to that idea, but having converted them, I cannot stop them. They are in the mood that everything has to be a public corporation.
When electricity and gas were nationalised, and the Bills were dealt with very ably by my right honourable friend Mr. Shinwell, for the Labour Government, I thought there was something to be said for direct departmental administration, rather than by a public corporation. Maybe my noble friends do not agree with me. But I do not want us to become slaves of one particular form of public ownership. The Post Office is run by a State department and it has not done badly. The postmen—the Union of Post Office Workers and the Post Office Engineering Union —have their grievances, but it is a pretty good show.
Another way of running the pipe-lines would be by public corporation. Perhaps it might be thought that it would be better to keep them out of Parliamentary politics, though this Government have done a number of things about corporations that have landed them in Parliamentary politics, sometimes in a bad way. Another way would be to make them part of the British Transport Commission. Let the Commission run them, not necessarily through the railway boards, but possibly by a separate board within the framework of the Commission. I invite the Government to give consideration to these suggestions.
I think that there is this advantage in public ownership. The operation of this 126 Bill and the coming of pipe-lines depend upon some private concern taking the initiative. That means that they will naturally consider: is this an easy profit-maker? I am not against people getting a reasonable profit for their labours, and I am not against the State getting a profit. I do not like public concerns to lose money, though sometimes that cannot be avoided. But the private operator is bound to look at it in that way and want to have things pretty safe before he looks at it. The Bill relies on a private individual or company taking the initiative; and if they do not do so, there will be no pipe-line to operate, perhaps in an area and for a purpose which make it highly desirable.
Further, as the noble Lord has mentioned. there are considerable powers in the Bill for the Minister of Power to stipulate this and that regulation, and if we are to have private undertakings running what will be arteries of the nation, just as much as the transport system, it is inevitable that there will be a great deal of bureaucratic interference with these undertakings, which cannot avoid becoming geographical monopolies. They must be, otherwise we should have undertakings falling over each other, and there would be too many pipe-lines about. If we have private enterprise, with its major motive of achieving commercial profit and its monopolistic tendencies, it is bound to be the case that the State will impose upon them a large number of bureaucratic stipulations, regulations and controls. This means that the Minister of Power (if he is to be the appropriate Minister under the law) will have a busy time making stipulations; the pipe-line undertakings will have an irritating time with all the regulations that will be landed upon them; and I should think that the Ministry will spend as much time in laying down stipulations and supervising these pipe-lines as it would take them to run the whole show themselves.
It seems to me a foolish thing that the Government have not given adequate consideration to making these pipe-lines a public concern of some sort. I am surprised that the Minister Without Portfolio did not mention the point as a 127 possible way of doing it and then explain, if he so desired, why the Government did not take the view that that would be the wisest course. However, he will have an opportunity of giving us an explanation on that point, from the Governmental point of view, when he comes to reply.
Another point that has to be considered is the fact that the Government propose that the decision of the Minister on such questions as the siting of pipelines—though the local planning authorities can be heard—is to be taken automatically as a town planning consent, as if the consent had been given by a local planning authority. So that the Minister is going to usurp the planning functions of the county and the county borough. This Goverment, starting with Mr. Brooke, and going on to his less experienced successor, have been boasting that in the Local Government Act, 1948, they took steps for the purpose of lessening State interference with local authorities. That is a principle which I welcome, as an old local government man, and one who has had experience, in the case of a famous bridge, of defying the Government and Parliament when they wanted to interfere with us as to what sort of bridge we should build —and our objection succeeded. In the case of the London Scheme, which we shall be debating to-morrow, the Government are arguing that they are seeking to lessen State interference with local government. But at the same moment as the Government boast that they are seeking to lessen State interference in local government, they introduce a Bill which gives complete power to the Minister of Power to overrule the statutory responsibilities and functions of the local planning authority. That seems to me to be a bit doubtful, and, if I may say so, a bit "hot".
There is another point that I think ought to be considered. What is going to happen about these highly important pipe-lines if we should have a national emergency—and I am thinking particularly of the 'horrible possibility of a war. No end of mischief could be done to these pipes by enemy agents, or possibly by an enemy from the air. There are two points that I should like to raise. First, is the covering of the pipes sufficiently protective that it would not be 128 upset, at any rate by what has come to be termed, in extraordinary language, as a conventional bomb? Would it withstand such an explosion? For a hydrogen bomb, I cannot answer. Secondly, ought not the Bill to provide that in the case of an emergency the Government reserve the right to take these things over into direct State administration and protection? There is nothing in the Bill about this.
It may be said that inevitably, if, unfortunately, we should have another war, at the beginning of that war, as at the beginning of the last, an Emergency Powers Bill would be brought forward (I have no doubt that it is already in draft it should be) and Parliament would quickly pass it. But, in the new circumstances, another war (which Heaven forbid!) would be likely to break out without a declaration of war and without any previous intimation; and it might in those circumstances, set Parliament a very difficult task, to pass an Emergency Powers Bill. I should have thought, therefore, that there ought to be in the Bill powers for the Government to take over these concerns, quite apart from the fact that I think the Government ought to have a hand in this matter all the way along, by way of some public ownership and some form of public administration.
I gather from this Memorandum from Trunk Pipelines, Limited, to which I have referred, that they are willing to make arrangements—in fact, I think they have actually made some arrangements—with the British Transport Commission. They say:However, the Company feels that in principle the right which, in their Agreement with the Company, the British Transport Commission have reserved to participate financially, is appropriate.That is good, so far as it goes. I think it is right that the British Transport Commission should be in it; and if there is money to be made, I hope they will get their full share—they need it. I do not see anything in this Bill that will enable the Transport Commission to participate in investing in such a concern, or entering into a partnership and joint management of it, but I find in the Transport Bill, which I gather is now before a Standing Committee of another place, under a guillotine, that, in 129 fact such powers are contained in Clause 12 (1). That says:Subject to this section, the Boards shall have power"—that refers to the Transport Boards, of course—
The Minister did not mention that Clause 12 (1) (a) of the Transport Bill proposes a specific power to the British Transport Commission to construct and operate pipe-lines in Great Britain. The matter is 'not mentioned in the Bill we are discussing to-day, but I should have thought that something would need to go into the Bill, in order to regularise the point. Or is it the intention of the Government that the British Transport Commission should be encouraged to go in for construction and management of pipe-lines on their own responsibility? If that should be so, it is one of my alternatives. But, knowing the Government, as I do, for good or ill, I find it difficult to believe that that is what they mean. Perhaps the noble Lord will be good enough to tell us about that when he comes to reply. Under the Transport Bill the British Transport Commission can construct and operate pipe-lines in Great Britain, or they may enter into transactions with other persons for so doing, which, indeed, is what is contemplated by Trunk Pipelines, Limited.
- "(a) to construct and operate pipe-lines in Great Britain; and
- (b) to enter into transactions with other persons for the construction or operation by those other persons of pipe-lines on land in Great Britain belonging to the Board."
I do not know that I need say any more about the Bill. It is an interesting Bill on an interesting and most important subject. This is the beginning of a new age of transport by underground—and by that I do not mean the Tube or the District Railway. It is key transport, and it may well become increasingly important as the years pass. There may, indeed, be, for example, international connections between us and France, where they have made considerable progress. I hope that the points I have made on behalf of my noble friends will be given understanding and not unsympathetic consideration by the Government. We are not proposing to divide on this Bill, but no doubt we shall put down Amendments for the Committee stage, and I hope that they also may receive your Lordships' sympathetic consideration.
§ 3.48 p.m.
§ LORD AMULREE
My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord who has just spoken that this is indeed a most interesting Bill, of a type which we have not had come before us previously. I should like to join with him, too, in thanking the noble Lord who moved the Second Reading of the Bill for the extremely simple and easy way in which he explained its rather complicated purpose. Obviously there must be enormous advantages to be obtained from transporting goods of all sorts underground. One thing about which I am particularly pleased is that we may not in future find the roads of this country blocked or taken up by these enormous transport carriers, transporting petrol and fuel oil. It is far better that that should, if possible, be transported underground. Therefore, from the point of the road user the Bill will be of great value.
The same thing applies to the railways, I think, although they will probably like to do some of the transporting themselves. I think the idea put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, that the railways might be allowed to share in the pipe-lines scheme, is one well worthy of consideration, and might well, indeed, bring some money into the coffers of the British Transport Commission. But these are not the points that I proposed to raise.
There is one item which appears to be omitted from the Bill which causes me a certain amount of worry. I refer to the possible danger to domestic water supplies which may occur under this Bill. The Minister has told us that under Clause 34 the local water undertaking shall be informed if something goes wrong with a pipe-line, if there is a burst or a leak. But I am not sure whether that is enough. Here I must declare an interest in the matter, for I am one of the directors of a water company in the Home Counties which draws its supply from wells and bore-holes in chalk. As your Lordships know, chalk can be extremely porous, both because of the nature of the chalk itself and because it contains fissures from which water can be drawn quite a long way from the source.
One would have liked to see something in the Bill about the necessity for 131 consultation with the local water undertaking, the local health authority, or possibly with the Ministry of Health, before the construction of pipe-lines was undertaken. I entirely agree that there is a certain amount of protection—in fact, quite a lot—given to water undertakings by the various Water Acts, but, somehow, when things fall between two Acts of Parliament they sometimes tend to go wrong, and one would have liked to see something of that sort in the Bill we are discussing this afternoon.
The pollution of water for drinking purposes by petrol or fuel oil can be extremely serious. By that, I do not mean necessarily serious to health, but it can make the water pumped from the wells which have been contaminated quite unpotable for a good long time, because it makes it taste so unpleasant. It will not poison people, but it makes the water repulsive to taste. Sometimes it takes several months before the supply can be properly restored. One example occurred in 1960, where the water was drawn from a limestone catchment, which is very porous. By some mischance a quantity of petrol was allowed to get upon the catchment area, which very quickly got into the well from which the water was drawn. From January 19 it took until April 12 before the water from that well could be used for human consumption again. During that time about 30 or 40 million gallons of water needed to be pumped to waste, which gives some indication of the danger that can occur.
May I quote two examples from the undertaking with which I am concerned? On two occasions some fuel oil got into one of the wells, but did not go out to supply. The amount of oil which got in was very small but it took four, five or even six days before the well could be used again. In the meantime, a large amount of water needed to be pumped to waste. One knows quite well that pipes can burst or leak, and there is no more reason why they should not burst or leak if they contain fuel oil than if they contain water for drinking purposes. I think that, before this Bill came along, in one or two Private Bills where pipelines were mentioned, the British Water Works Association managed to get some provision put into the Bill whereby the water undertakers were consulted and 132 there was rather more protection than is given in this Bill. I merely raise that point to ask whether the Minister would consider putting something into the Bill before it comes back to the House again to cover this important point. I have explained to the Minister that, unfortunately, it may be necessary for me to leave the House before he comes to reply, but whether I am here or not I hope it will be possible for him to deal with this point.
§ 3.55 p.m.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
My Lords, we are all indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Mills, for his clear exposition of this interesting Bill. It is interesting because it gives powers for the compulsory purchase of private property to a private company without Private Bill procedure. From the authorities I have consulted, I cannot find that such powers have been given to other than a statutory undertaking hitherto. So I suggest that the questions to which your Lordships should address yourselves for a few moments are whether this is desirable in the way the Bill proposes, both from the standpoint of the tendency to increase the powers of government at the centre and give more powers to the Minister and, secondly, from the standpoint of the interests of those affected by the possible application of this Bill, for the rights of objectors are certainly diminished under the Statutory Orders (Special Procedure) Act, 1945. There are certain other provisions by which they are diminished. I will mention these in a moment, and I suggest that the House should watch them in Committee.
The second main object of the Bill is defined in the Explanatory Memorandum asto enable a person wishing to construct a cross-country pipe-line or a local pipe-line to obtain compulsorily the land and rights he needs without having to promote a private Bill.I suggest to your Lordships that that is by no means the object which the Select Committee on the Esso Bill had in recommending Government legislation. It is true that the Report of the Select Committee of another place on the Esso Petroleum Company Bill said:They wish, however, to make it clear that they have. within the Private Bill procedure, been unable to give the full protection offered by the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) Act, 1946. For this reason they 133 are convinced that Private Bill procedure is not the best way of safeguarding the interests of owners, lessees and occupiers where a pipeline is to be constructed.That is quite true; but the object of the recommendation of the Select Committee was to improve the safeguards of the interests of those who might be affected. I think one should ask whether the provisions of the Bill, as proposed by Her Majesty's Government, in fact do this. I would also remind your Lordships that your Lordships' Select Committee made no such recommendation as the Select Committee of another place.
There are one or two points I should like to mention to your Lordships. The First Schedule of the Bill requires a pipeline applicant to notify only people whom the Minister may specify. That is a diminished right as compared to the Private Bill procedure, the Standing Orders for which require the promoter to notify all land owners, tenants and occupiers. I cannot quite understand the reason why an applicant for a pipe-line should not be required to take this minimum amount of trouble. In any case, how is the Minister to know whom he is to specify?
The next point I would suggest to the Minister for consideration is that local pipe-lines are not even subject to this requirement—and, as my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth said, a local pipe-line (that is, one under ten miles), can indeed be quite a major project—although a pipe-line up to ten miles in length can be scheduled by the Minister to have to undergo, as it were, the provisions relating to a main pipe-line. The First Schedule requires a public inquiry only where a local planning authority has objected to a cross-country pipe-line and a less formal hearing where the objectors are not planning authorities. I find it difficult to see what is gained by this. It may be very unfair to groups of residents, since, at an informal hearing, I do not assume they wilt be able to cross-examine the applicants' witnesses. I personally, and perhaps other noble Lords, should like to hear something more about this new procedure of less formal hearings. I think it is something which both Houses of Parliament are entitled to know about in much fuller detail from the Executive.
Another point is that Special Parliamentary procedure is proposed to be 134 applied. I admit it applies only to compulsory purchase; but an owner will be negotiating with a private company under duress, under the threat of compulsory powers. Always the negotiating company can say to him: "If you do not agree with my proposition, in the final event I will apply for compulsory purchase powers". I do not defend in any way any attempt by an owner of property to hold up to ransom those who are about to undertake this work, but I do defend the freedom of private citizens from a threat by a private company to take over their property from the advantage of the position given them under this Bill as it stands.
It is, of course, true that under the Special Parliamentary procedure an objector can petition; but, if he petitions he has only one shot, as there is a Joint Select Committee of both Houses; whereas under Private Bill procedure an objector can go first to one Select Committee and then to the other. Moreover, Special Parliamentary procedure does not really give him the freedom of objection which the Private Bill procedure does. I would remind the House of a ruling in this connection given in another place by Mr. Speaker, when he said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 649 (No. 16), col. 1076]:On a Statutory Order of this kind, one thing we cannot discuss is alternative means of obtaining the same object.That really, under this procedure, cuts away the ground from any person who is objecting.
My mind turns to possible alternative provisions in the event of an irreconcilable difference between the purchaser and the prospective vendor as to what is a fair price. I think it is worth consideration by Her Majesty's Government as to whether there should not be some reasonable arbitration provisions on this particular point which might be simple and effective. My Lords, while not opposing the Bill, I have tried to put these points before your Lordships and I hope that your Lordships will agree that they are points worth watching from the standpoint of the interests of the individual citizen and his freedom and from the standpoint also of giving ever greater powers to the Executive. I hope we shall come back to these questions during the Committee and later stages of this Bill.
§ 4.5 p.m.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, I think that it is interesting that we should be considering this measure exactly one hundred years after a Mr. L. Hutchinson of New York laid the first pipe-line. This pipe-line was a short one indeed and ran from Tarr Farm Wells to the nearby refinery and subsequently was extended a few miles to run to the nearest railway. I would add that initially this pipe-line was not successful. However, that two-inch diameter pipe-line was the forerunner of hundreds of thousands of miles of trunk pipe-lines which are now situated around the world for the conveying of crude oil, petroleum products and natural gas.
For instance, France has 1,345 miles of pipe-line for the distribution of the natural gas from Lacq, which is in south-west France, and there is a pipeline for crude oil which runs from Parentis, also in the south-west of France, to Bec d'Ambes, at the mouth of the Dordogne, north of Bordeaux. This pipe-line serves to supply the Esso refinery there and its total length is in the region of 53 miles. Finally, with regard to the French pipe-lines, there is a further pipe-line for petroleum products which runs from Havre to the Paris area for a total distance of 152 miles. I particularly mention this pipe-line for I understand that a group in this country are proposing to apply, under Clause 1, for a pipe-line construction authorisation for a similar pipe-line for the conveyance of clean oil products, to run from Canvey Island to 'the Birmingham area, a total distance of 178 miles. As this pipe-line and similar ones will be serving a number of users, I think and trust that the Minister will, when considering such applications, give serious consideration to future forecasts with regard to the demand for using such a pipe-line, especially with regard to its diameter, therefore its capacity, bearing in mind, of course, the need for an economic charge per ton mile to be made for the conveyance of the product.
The Havre-Paris pipe-line has a ten-inch diameter pipe and, in view of Clause 23 (1) (b), it may interest your Lordships to know that pressures do not exceed 995 lb. per square inch, while in the Paris area the pressure is limited to around 426 lb. per square inch. Thus, this pipe-line has a yearly capacity of 136 2,200,000 tons with an 8,000-hour usage per year; that is, considering usage around eleven months.
To pass from technical considerations to the question of the general public interest, I think it is interesting that such a pipe-line was considered to be a public utility according to French Law No. 1060 of August 2, 1949. Here I should like to recall some of the words which were written in the editorial article of The Times on March 1 of this year:Pipe-line owners are being granted something of the status of public utilities. In particular, they are being given the power, subject to various limitations, to acquire compulsorily or extinguish other private person's rights. The quid pro quo for this should be that they operate in the general public interest and not primarily for the purpose of reaping a profit.Therefore, I feel we must make quite sure that these private persons' rights are properly protected and that these people do not come off any worse than they would do under Private Bill procedure. I do not propose to develop that point any more, because my noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye has covered the ground very effectively and persuasively as to the merits or demerits of Special Parliamentary procedure as against Private Bill procedure.
Clause 8, I feel, requires careful scrutiny, too. On the one hand, there is the pipe-line owner who purely for technical considerations—I stress, for technical considerations—may find it very difficult to comply with the directives of the Minister's notice. Take for instance the case of the china clay industry. Their products are of one specified class, but there are about one hundred different qualities of the same specific gravity, so that a low-grade product of one producer could mix quite well in the pipe-line with a high-grade product of another producer, as it is of the same specific gravity. But then if one considers the case of the petroleum industry and the dispatching of various grades of clean products, the same difficulties would not arise.
To illustrate this point, I should like again, if I may, to refer to the Havre—Paris pipe-line, where multi-user operation is in force and is very satisfactorily carried out by careful planning of despatching, including—and this is very important—the adoption of a definite cycle or sequence of products in the pipe-line. 137 It may be, therefore, that in view of the technical and the operational aspects involved such arrangements may possibly be better arrived at by a mutual agreement than as suggested under Clause 8—in saying that, I mean mutual agreement between the parties or the various users who might be concerned in the future. I feel, too, that it may well be that such agreement could possibly be reached before the application was made. On the other hand, I agree that there is a strong case whenever—and I stress this—it is technically and economically practical for the Minister to insist on a multi-user principle in the general public interest. But if it is possible to achieve agreement with the various users I must say I would opt for that system in preference to a ministerial directive.
Further with regard to the provisions of Clause 8, I feel that a fine of £20 per day if an operator does not comply with a ministerial requirement is indeed a very low figure when one comes to think that tens of thousands of gallons daily would be involved. That is why I feel that a maximum sum of £20 may not be a disincentive to non-compliance with the Minister's requirements.
With regard to short pipe-lines, under Clause 2, if they are of ten-mile length or less sixteen weeks' notice must be given to the Minister before work can start. Although it does state that the Minister may allow a shorter period in a particular case, I feel that for very short lengths—that is, for instance, half mile lengths—such notification should not be necessary. It may well be that such short lengths may be purely factory links or links between chemical plants where a portion of the pipe-line would be just outside the curtilage of one factory. In other words, it could possibly be a very short pipe-line which would link up two factory sites which were in close proximity. Or, on the other hand, it may be a short extention to a pipe-line used for conveying minerals from a mine or a quarry to nearby premises for treatment or adaptation for sale, or for the conveyance of brine from the brine field to the salt extraction works.
The serving of notices and counter notices which may have to be served too may take up a number of months and in such cases could cause unwarranted dislocation to industrial processes. At 138 the moment, so far as the minerals industry is concerned, such matters are effectively and satisfactorily dealt with under the Mines (Work Facilities and Support) Act, 1923. Clause 47 will, therefore, have the effect of doing away with a system which works perfectly, and will involve mineral undertakings in a dual procedure and in having to deal with extra tribunals; that is, if they have to have recourse to the provisions of Clause 10 regarding rights over land. They may also be involved in Special Parliamentary procedure, apart altogether from possibly having to go to the High Court to acquire lands for mineral development for which planning permission has already been granted. I feel that in cases like these there can well be involved a duplication of effort and paper work. For the moment the High Court can consider all aspects of an application for the development of land which has minerals, even if it also implies the construction of a pipe-line. Therefore, I hope that, possibly at later stages of the Bill, Her Majesty's Government will consider that certain industries may not come under the provisions of this Bill. I should like to stress that under the 1923 Act, to which I referred earlier, all the rights of a landowner are fully protected both by the courts and the local planning authority, and by the Minister of Housing and Local Government.
As I think it is fairly certain that pipelines will be increasingly carrying products which have nothing to do with fuel and power, I should like to have seen inserted in the Bill some sort of reference to the Minister of Power, in appropriate cases, having to consult with the Minister of Housing and Local Government (for I would say that he is the one most au faitwith the question of the compulsory acquisition of land) and also, as the case may be, with the President of the Board of Trade. I feel that such consultations would be beneficial in both directions. I would stress, too, because I think that the china clay industry has particular problems, that the Minister of Housing and Local Government should be consulted, and that the industry should be mentioned in the Bill, for the Minister is the one most aware of the problems of that particular industry.
139 Finally, with regard to the safety provisions which are written into the Bill in Clauses 20 to 24, and particularly in Clause 23, the Minister is given arbitrary powers, by notice to be served on the persons concerned to comply with requirements which the Bill fails to specify in detail. I should have thought that such safety requirements would be better specified from time to time in the form of regulations. With those few reservations and comments I sincerely believe that this Bill should be given a Second Reading, for it will provide a cheap and effective means of conveyance for a variety of liquids and solids in liquid suspension.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ LORD LINDGREN
My Lords, after the excellent speech of my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth I almost withdrew my name from the list of speakers, because there was little left to be said, so far as I was concerned. The only point left to me the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, took away from me with his quotation from The Times of March 1. There is no need for tedious repetition; therefore, I intend only to emphasise from these Benches the point of view of the need for public control or public operation of this form of transport. As the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, has so eloquently pointed out, it is not a new form of transport, but it is a developing form. It may not develop so much in this country, as this is a small island and the distances involved are not so great; but there is not the slightest doubt that when developed it will form a better and cheaper form of transport for many types of goods.
Though your Lordships will be aware of my bias in favour of railways, I am not so biased as not to admit that transport ought to be provided by the vehicle that is most suited to the traffic to be carried and the distance it has to travel, irrespective of whether it be by road, rail, inland waterway or by this new method of transport, the pipe-line. But we have to face the fact that the existing forms of surface transport are bound to suffer as the result of the new development of the pipe-line; and because of that I feel that existing forms of transport should have the opportunity of utilising the pipe-line for the carriage of the traffic which they are otherwise 140 bound to lose. I am old enough to remember the change in the fortunes of the railways arising from the development of road transport. The position of the railways, pre-war and post-war, would have been much different had there been closer co-ordination between road and rail transport.
Reference has been made by my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth to Clause 12 of the Transport Bill, which is now in the Committee stage in another place. May I further call the attention of the noble Lord who is to reply to the debate to the fact that, in regard to the general laying of pipe-lines, the inland waterways and railways already own the land and provide a good line of communications without need to disturb other landlords. It would seem to me, in the light of the fact that the railways, in particular, are a charge on the State at the present time, that, irrespective of the Transport Bill which is now in another place, or of the activities of Dr. Beeching and the rest, the railways standing on their own will always be a charge. I never see them as a viable industry on their own operation. Therefore surely the sensible thing to do is to tie up with them this new form of transport, thus enabling it to have the advantages of the capital that is already there, in the land, and of the experience the railways already have as a carrier, and allow them to undertake the larger portion of this new form of transport.
Reference has been made, too, to highways. The highways of this country are already overcrowded. All the motoring organisations suggest that in a few years' time they will be much more overcrowded. Highway development is a very heavy cost upon the State; trunk roads cause the expenditure of the Ministry of Transport to rise year by year. As I understand the Bill, the pipeline is likely to be left to the private company; and the private company, of course, will risk its capital only if it is going to make a profit. One does not blame the company: it is there to make a profit; and those who put up the money for the company would not provide it if they were not going to get a return on it. But the fact remains that we are spending millions upon millions of pounds on the improvement and construction of roads in a country in which 141 agricultural land is very scarce. I think I might say—although this is not connected with this debate—that arterial roads, trunk roads, and so on, eat up far more agricultural land than does housing for the ordinary working class in this country, and there is not the necessity for high density as there is with housing. If we can have this capital expenditure on roads, why can we not have the same capital expenditure on canals and railways so that the existing systems can be developed, and perhaps leading to a lesser charge on the taxpayers?
My last point is perhaps a point of agreement with the Government. Reference has been made to Clause 8, which deals with compulsory purchase, and the use of this Bill in preference to the Private Bill procedure. I agree with the Government that this is a far better way of dealing with this matter than by the Private Bill procedure. The Private Bill procedure is very costly. If the service is essential for trade, industry and commerce, those who are going to provide it ought not to be put to considerable expenditure, when the only people who really benefit are the lawyers and those associated with the legal profession. If there is any money to spare, I would rather see it going on the provision of transport facilities than lining the pockets of the lawyers. Therefore, on Clause 8 I entirely support the Government.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, this is a complicated measure, and my noble friend Lord Mills, in his admirably lucid speech, has. I think, put us all in his debt, because we at least know where to look for the various provisions and have an idea of what they mean. As my noble friend Lord Mills pointed out, this Government legislation is a sequel to the proceedings in another place on the Esso Petroleum Company Bill, and I am in complete agreement, as indeed I think we all are, with one remark made by the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren: that this matter should be dealt with by public legislation. That was indeed the conclusion of the Select Committee in another place.
I wish, in a brief speech, to make one general observation and then to call attention to a few apparent omissions in 142 the Bill. My general observation strongly reinforces the point already made by my noble friend, Lord Balfour of Inchrye. The Select Committee of Another place that so carefully considered the Esso Petroleum Company Bill undoubtedly came to the conclusion that Private Bill legislation was inappropriate and that public legislation was required, because they wished to increase the safeguards of owners, lessees and occupiers of land affected. That was their stated object. My first general observation and criticism of this Bill is that, unless we are rather careful to amend it in Commitee, the protection given to the owners and occupiers of land affected by this Bill will be much less than was afforded to them by Private Bill procedure. In so far as that is true, we are certainly not meeting the desire of the Select Committee.
My noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye quoted a passage from the penultimate paragraph of the Special Report of the Select Committee. Perhaps I might supplement his quotation by quoting the final paragraph:They therefore recommend that no further Private Bills for the construction of pipe-lines should be passed by the House. They were attracted by the idea that such measures should be authorised by Provisional Order. They commend to the House for consideration that a public inquiry should be held before the Order is made and the Order itself should be confirmed by a Provisional Order Bill:That was the conclusion of the Select Committee. I am not so far pre-judging things as to say that the Government may not have excellent reasons for now proposing a different procedure; but I think it is right to point out how very far this Bill is from meeting the suggestion of the Select Committee of another place. For that reason I could have wished that this Bill had been introduced in another place, because there are many Members there to whom these problems, through recent experience, are familiar.
Under this Bill the sole protection of the owners and occupiers of land from a decision of a Minister will be the Special Parliamentary procedure. I hope it will not be thought that I am assuming that the Minister—whatever political Party he belonged to—would not do his best to do justice and to serve the public interest, but I think it is a good principle of legislation that we give to private 143 individuals whose property and rights are going to be affected safeguards against the uncontrolled action of Ministers. It is quite obvious that under the Private Bill procedure, with all its disadvantages—which I have admitted—in this sphere of activity, the person whose land is adversely affected by the compulsory acquisition either of the land or of rights in land, has the chance of having his case considered by Parliament.
Under this Bill as it stands, where there is a matter of controversy there will be a public inquiry. But, of course, the Minister is not bound by Statute to take any notice of the public inquiry. The conclusion of the public inquiry is in no way binding on the Minister, and there are plenty of examples where the Minister has not agreed with the conclusion of the public inquiry. The only ultimate protection, therefore, will be this Special Parliamentary procedure, and, in the view of many of us, it is doubtful if that will be sufficient.
I now come to what seem to me to be curious omissions from the Bill. I can see no mention at all of what principles those wishing to construct pipelines, either cross-country or local, should observe. In the document that has been circulated to us, to which the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, referred, Trunk Pipelines Limited said that they proposed to obtain the rights they needed, for constructing the pipeline they desired to construct, almost entirely from the British Transport Commission and the North Thames Gas Board; in one case, I think, by easement, and in both by voluntary agreement. No doubt many of the schemes will be designed to interfere as little as possible with a multitude of owners and to avoid wide interference with property, but there is nothing in the Bill which says that the promoter of one of these pipe-lines should observe any principle of that kind. I should have thought there might be a case for putting in a clause to the effect that the promoter should endeavour to do as little injury as possible to private interests and to amenities. After all, we are familiar with clauses of that type in a good deal of public utility legislation, and it is a little curious that the Bill contains no general clause of that kind at all.
144 Then, again, is it necessary that the property which can be compulsorily acquired under Clause 9—I am not now dealing with compulsory rights—should be absolutely unlimited? For instance, is it necessary that dwelling-houses should be acquired? I do not suppose for one moment that it is the intention of those who drafted this Bill, or of the Government, that dwelling-houses should be compulsorily acquired, but I can see nothing in the clause which prevents it. It seems to me not impossible that there might be some limitations on what can be compulsorily acquired, which would provide some reassurance and would do no serious damage.
I thought there was another curious omission, although here I may be quite wrong. On first reading the Bill, I thought there was no adequate protection in the event of the explosion of one of these pipes. There are a good many provisions designed to secure safety, but at first reading I admit that I did not find any perfectly clear-cut clause saying that there was an absolute right to compensation in the event of injury caused by an accident to one of these pipe-lines. However, it may be that it is intended to secure this result and to provide for it by Clause 11 (2) of the Bill.
Here is a dangerous thing being brought on land, which is not naturally there, and if the contents escaped or exploded you would desire—irrespective of negligence—that the injured person should have redress. That is what is known as the rule in Rylands v. Fletcher, and I think it would be the general desire that that should apply. From what the Minister said in his speech, I think that Clause 11 (2) is intended to have that effect, but, if that is so, I hope that the draftsmanship will be carefully considered, because it seems to me that the opening wordsWhere in the exercise of any right conferred by a compulsory rights order a person suffers loss by reason of damage.….are inappropriate. Of course, the person who suffers loss is not the person exercising the right. If it means that, as a result of the right's being exercised, or as a result of one of these pipes being in use, damage is suffered, then I think that the clause will require redrafting. While I am dealing with damage, and 145 although I do not know quite how substantial all these undertakers and constructors of pipe-lines will be, I think consideration should be given to whether they should not be obliged compulsorily to insure against the risk.
I think there is a good deal which may need amendment in the Schedules. I decided not to deal with that matter at all this afternoon, because I had the strong hope that my noble friend, Lord Colville of Culross, would himself be present to deal with some of those points, as I very much hope he will in Committee, since his professional experience is both more relevant and far more recent than mine.
In general, those are the observations I wish to make. I have one general criticism: that the Bill, as at present drafted, gives less protection than I am sure the Select Committee of the House of Commons desired to the owners and occupiers affected. For that reason, I am certain that the more trouble we take on the Committee stage of the Bill, the more welcome will be our labours to another place. I wish to conclude with a final plea to Her Majesty's Government. I hope they will very carefully consider the points made in the debate this afternoon and, if they think there is something in them, I hope we shall not be confined to drafting our own Amendments in the Committee stage, but that we shall find some Government Amendments designed to improve the Bill and to meet some of the points that have been raised.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ LORD AMHERST OF HACKNEY
My Lords, I think you will all agree that the importance of this Bill has been emphasised by all speakers. Therefore, I do not propose to go into that side in any detail. However, I should like to make one or two general and rather disjointed comments on the Bill. My general feeling about this measure is that it gives a great deal of new power, but I am not quite so happy that it imposes the corresponding duties and safeguards. As regards the duties, I feel that an important aspect is that, when a company comes for authority to build a pipe-line, it should prove that it is in the public interest that this should be done. They are going to get great new powers; they are going to be able to take their 146 lines compulsorily across the countryside. It is obviously going to be burdensome to a large number of people, and I feel that it should be a minimum requirement that they should prove to the Minister that it is in the public interest; but, so far as I can see, in the Bill as it now stands there is no guidance given to the Minister on how he should base his decisions.
Secondly, if we are to avoid unduly the burden of too many lines going across the countryside, we must obviously have orderly planning. This means making as much use as possible of existing way-leaves, and also of the principle of the common carrier. There is no doubt that, under Clause 8 of the Bill, the Minister has the power to insist on the common carrier principle; and if, when somebody comes to apply for permission to put down a pipe-line, he is satisfied that somebody else will want to build a pipeline close to it, then he can take certain action and perhaps make the first line larger in order that it may take the product of the second person who wishes to send goods along it. On the other hand, there is no obligation on him to find out what the future needs will be. If he is going to carry out his obligations under this Bill as we should like him to carry them out, then I feel he must have some means of finding out what the future needs for pipe-lines are going to be as soon as the Bill is passed, and be in a position to keep himself continually informed of the situation.
So much for the duties: now I come to the question of the safeguards. As to the procedure, I myself feel that anybody who is likely to be affected should have the right to be heard at a public inquiry. At the moment, there is of necessity a public inquiry only if the planning authority objects to the plan for the line; and that, I feel, is not enough. Then there is the question of Parliamentary procedure, which has been fully dealt with by the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye.
The next point concerns the protection of the owners' interest in the land. Although in Clauses 20 to 24 the Bill deals with the safety of pipe-lines, it does not provide otherwise for safeguards to protect the interests of owners and occupiers affected by the works. In 1960, the Esso Company, and, in 1961, the 147 Shell-mex and B.P. Company, gave extensive written undertakings to both the National Farmers' Union and the Country Landowners' Association in respect of pipe-lines, and these undertakings not only guaranteed certain minimum payments in return for way-leave rights but laid down a code of protective safeguards concerning the depths of the pipe and the reinstatement of the land, drains and fencing—in fact, a whole multitude of detailed protection. It is the feeling of those authorities that, either in a Schedule to the Bill or by some Regulations made under the Bill, there should be laid down what I might call a minimum code of behaviour to be followed by somebody wishing to lay a pipe-line, and which would become standard practice. The Minister could, in certain cases, add to or subtract from that code, but there it would be approved by Parliament. At the moment, the Minister has powers to make Regulations in each case as he wishes, but one feels the safeguard should be rather stronger than that.
Another point which I wish just to mention is the question of the payment for rights and compensation. This is dealt with in Clause 11, but it does not appear from the Bill what payment, if any, promoters must make for the rights they acquire. Clause 11 lays obligations on the pipe-line promoters to pay full compensation for all loss and damage sustained, and for depreciation in the value of the land—that, the noble Lord, Lord Mills, referred to—but makes no reference to the duty to make realistic payments for the right to enter on the land and to lay pipes. Such payments, I feel, should be recognised, and they have been recognised by all the promoters of pipe-lines in the past. One does not want to feel that, by introducing the element of compulsion (which I am sure, in the last resort, is necessary), we should put people in a worse position than they are in at the moment.
Another point as to compensation that has been provided in the past is that both the pipe-line promoters that I have mentioned, I think, have given a protection regarding compensation in the future. Suppose a field is at the moment a grass field and somebody lays a pipe across it. An area of, I think, about 20 feet is sterilised from the point of view either 148 of building over it or of putting anything else over it. When the field is a grass field, it has a certain value. If, at a later stage, that field becomes suitable for, say, building development, the nuisance value and the loss in value through having that sterilised strip becomes very much greater. Certainly, up to the present the promoters of pipe-lines have agreed that they will be liable to reopen the question of compensation in the future.
There are only two other small points to which I should like to refer. The first is in Clause 4, which provides for the removal of works in certain circumstances. So far as I can gather (although I may have misread it), there is no provision for any compensation to the owners of the land. My second point is on the question of maintenance and repair. So far as I can see, this Bill contains no clause to indemnify the owner or occupier against claims arising from damage from pipe-lines on his land; nor are pipe-line promoters made liable for unlawful nuisance. These are all small and disjointed points, but I hope that, when it comes to the Committee stage, the noble Lord, Lord Mills, will listen sympathetically if we try to put forward one or two Amendments. But, generally speaking, I support the Bill.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, I should like to add a few words to what has been said in this debate. I think it is obvious that we require a national pipe-line system in the public interest. This Bill does not seem to me to have been adequately thought out, and I felt in strong agreement with the observations which fell from my noble friends Lord Morrison of Lambeth and Lord Lindgren: that the present Government seem to be incapable of organising matters of this type on a national basis. It seems to me that we are in grave danger of repeating the events of the kind which happened in the last century, when railway lines were allowed to proliferate all over the country without any real regard to the scientific and logical development of the railway system.
As Lord Conesford has pointed out, there is really nothing in the way of directive principles laid down in the Bill; and, as Lord Morrison of Lambeth so 149 cogently observed, no real thought seems to have been given as to who is the most appropriate Minister to control this new development. I should have thought that, clearly, in the interests of a national pipe-grid system of the kind needed, the noble Lord was right when he said that the Minister of Transport is much more concerned in the matter, and that if the problem is worked out on a logical and scientific basis it will be closely connected with the roads system of the country. When new roads like the M.1 are constructed, the opportunity should be taken to construct the necessary pipe-line at the same time. I should have thought that was obvious and common sense.
There is also a clear interest on the part of the Board of Trade in these matters which is in no way reflected in the Bill, and an even clearer interest by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, which, in so far as we have a planning Ministry, is the planning Ministry. More than one of your Lordships this afternoon have referred to the importance of the planning angle in this matter; indeed, this appears here and there, in an almost incoherent way, in the provisions of the Bill itself. The Minister of Housing and Local Government is, in effect, concerned with the surface development of the land, and the part he has been given in connection with the transmission of electricity, particularly from the point of view of the preservation of the beauties of the countryside and of the amenities generally, makes it clear beyond peradventure, I should have thought, that he should be playing a very important part, if not the basic part, in the control of this proposed pipe-lines system. But that certainly is not provided in the Bill. There is a good deal of feeling among some, at any rate, of the local authority associations that this is a very grave mistake, and a feeling that, even at this stage, it would be advisable for the Government to think again as to the position of the Minister of Housing and Local Government in this matter.
There are, in my view, a number of other very grave deficiencies in this Bill. While no doubt it appears from the clauses of the Bill that the intention is that these pipe-lines should, on the whole, run underground, so far as I have been able to read the Bill (it may be 150 that I have overlooked something) there is no clause in the Bill which insists that they shall be put underground. It is all very well for Ministers to come along and say: "Of course, that will be looked after administratively". But that is not good enough. Before long we shall undoubtedly have cases put up to the Minister that it would be very much cheaper to carry one of these enormous great pipes across some valley, in effect on stilts, than to put it underground through a piece of terrain which is rocky, and where great expense would be incurred. The overlooking of an elementary and important point of this kind seems to me quite symptomatic of the haste and lack of careful thought which has been given by the Government to the provisions of this Bill.
That may have been an oversight, but the failure to have any amenities clause in this Bill certainly cannot be an oversight, because it has been proposed in this House by the very Minister with whom there was a great discussion over the amenities section in the Electricity Act, 1957—Section 37. He will remember it just as well as I do, because he was very much concerned in it. I should have thought that it was perfectly obvious that a Section 37 type of clause is essential in this Bill, because amenities are a very important aspect of this matter. Again, so far as I can see, that is just not provided for in the clauses of this Bill, and one would not imagine that any instructions had been given to the Parliamentary draftsman about the importance of amenities in connection with these pipe-lines going across the countryside. I should like to give the Minister notice that, at the Committee stage of the Bill, I will do my best to have the equivalent of Section 37 of the Electricity Act, 1957, inserted into this Bill.
In much the same sort of way the Bill makes no provision in respect of safeguards for these short local pipe-lines of the kind which, it is true, do appear, up to a point, in connection with cross-country pipe-lines. This again may be a matter which can be put right at the Committee stage; but the fact that in the Bill as it stands this point, and so many of the other points to which attention has been drawn this afternoon by noble Lords, have not been provided for seems to me to show that this Bill has 151 not really been properly thought out, and that when it comes to the Committee stage it will require a great deal of work on the part of your Lordships.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
My Lords, the noble Lord, the Minister will have realised from what has been said that there are a number of points in regard to this Bill about which many of your Lordships are uneasy. There are points large and small, but most of them have a good deal of importance. My noble friend Lord Chorley quite rightly mentioned the amenities question. We assume that these pipe-lines are to be buried (I hope the Minister will assure us on that point) and, when they are buried, once the work is done there will be very little above ground to give offence or to cause a nuisance. There are a few pumping stations, I believe, along the route, and there are the terminal stations at both ends; but the amenities question must be the responsibility of the promoters of these pipelines who obtain the Minister's authorisation.
Then there were the points raised by the noble Lords, Lord Conesford and Lord Balfour of Inchrye—extremely important points affecting the rights of the individual. The noble Lord said one thing which gave me some anxiety. Unless I misunderstood him, he seemed to imply, when talking about public inquiries, that it would depend upon the number of objections whether or not a public inquiry was thought necessary. I wonder if that is really so, or whether, as I should have thought, the procedure would be the same as with an opposed Private Bill, when even one objector is sufficient to cause the Bill to be thoroughly examined before a competent body. Surely when notices are sent out by the promoters they should be sent to any individuals who might be affected and not only to local planning authorities.
One or two points in the Bill caught my eye. I notice that on the question of safety there are provisions for the maintenance and repair of the pipe-lines and for the mode of their construction. But I see nothing in the Bill giving the Minister power to impose safety regulations on the operations of the pipe-lines. 152 There is nothing, for example, whereby he can impose a limit on the pressure at which the apparatus is to work: and, after all, pounds per square inch is a vital element in safety.
Another point arises in the Fourth Schedule. The first paragraph gives a right "to erect or lay electric cables in the land" along which a pipe-line is being laid, for the purposes of signalling and controlling the pipe-line system. Does that entail a right to erect electric cables above ground? Surely, if the authorisation is to lay a pipe-line underground, the ancillary right to run an electric cable should also involve burying it without having anything above ground.
To my mind, however, the more serious objection can be taken to the Bill on general grounds. With great respect, it seems to me that the Government have not grasped what this is all about. This is the beginning of a revolution in the means of transport. They tell us that they wish to promote an orderly growth of a long-distance network. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Amherst of Hackney, asked, what information have the Government got that will tell them what sort of network is wanted? Who is collecting the information on which the Government can base their ideas of where pipe-lines are needed? Who knows what the demand for fuel is going to be in every one of dozens of industrial areas in this country? It seems to me that this Bill ought to recognise the fact that no planning can take place without intelligence, without information; and there should be means at the Minister's hand for him to collect this information.
In introducing the Bill, the noble Lord, Lord Mills, said that the Government wish to allow private enterprise maximum scope, and that private individuals who wish to promote a pipe-line should have the freedom to acquire means to meet the needs of their business. This conveys the idea of a private concern obtaining authority to put in a piece of equipment for its own business. There has been pretty general agreement among the noble Lords who have spoken this afternoon that this is a means of transport and, as such, an addition to the capital equipment of the country in the transport field. The mere fact that the duties of operating the 153 system are not given to the Minister of Transport seems to me to betray a misunderstanding of the whole thing.
The Government must be aware of the developments on the Continent of Europe and elsewhere in the world. They must know of the pipe-line that has been in operation for nearly ten years between Havre and Paris, 150 miles long, conveying 1½ to 2 million tons of crude oil and petroleum products, as I think they are called, from the refineries to distribution points. There are pipe-lines in operation from Wilhelmshaven and Rotterdam to Cologne, and there are pipe-lines under construction from Marseilles to Strasbourg and the Rhine, from Genoa into Switzerland, and from Venice into South Germany and to Vienna. These are large-scale developments in transport which are having enormous effects on the existing means of transport. On the Rhine, for example, some of the shipping traffic is being taken away, while in turn other traffic is accruing to the Rhine shipping. But the pipe-line is completely revolutionising the pattern of transport in the whole of Northern and Western Europe. This is not to mention what is going on behind the Iron Curtain, where a pipeline is being built to take oil from the Volga to the Eastern European countries and has already reached Bratislava.
In this country, the Government wish to see an orderly development of pipelines by allowing the maximum scope to private enterprise. I fail to see how the two are in any way compatible. As my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth said, what private firm is going to invest huge capital sums in anything except what will bring in a profit? No matter what development the Government would like to see, say, in industrial areas, stimulating industry in one area or in several areas, under this Bill the Minister has no power to exercise any positive influence. The Government can exercise negative influence in the way of preventing duplication and overlapping and unnecessary investment, and that is all to the good. But there is a lack of recognition in regard to industrial planning. We have heard that the Conservative Government have become deathbed converts to industrial planning and economic planning, and 154 yet they have thrown away the opportunity they had in this Bill and forsworn the power to influence positively industrial development. In the field of ownership and control, my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth explained that we believe that, in a public utility of such far-reaching importance and influence, it is essential that the Government should have overriding powers.
My noble friend mentioned two or three alternative methods of exercising Government control, but one he did not mention is that adopted by the French in the Le Havre-Paris pipe-line. There ten or twelve years ago they set up a company, the shareholders being the French State and organisations under the control of the State and private petroleum companies. There you have; what might be called a consortium of owners. I believe that the French State have a 51 per cent. holding, in partnership with private enterprise. I offer that to the Minister as another thought. I must tell the noble Lord that, apart from the detailed matters, we consider the lack of recognition of public ownership in this new transport is something to be criticised most strongly, and we will try to alter it in Committee
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ LORD MILLS
My Lords, I think we have had a useful debate on the Second 'Reading of this Bill, and I have benefited greatly from what noble Lords have had to say. In replying to the individual matters put forward, I do so with a very open mind. There will be time between now and the Committee stage to consider the many important matters raised, and I can assure noble Lords that they will be considered.
The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, who explained that he could not be present when I replied, raised two important questions, among others. He first of all questioned whether the Minister responsible should not be the Minister of Transport, and wondered why the Minister of Power had been selected. (The answer is that the Minister of Power is concerned with the major industries that are presently making use of pipelines—for example, the oil industry; and he is also responsible for the coal, gas and electricity industries, in which many of the problems are similar. But we should certainly be prepared to consider 155 the argument he put forward: there is a good deal of force in the suggestion that the responsible Minister might well be (and may eventually be) the Minister of Transport. But I am sure we should all like first to be better acquainted with this new method of transporting materials—and, after all, in this country it is a comparatively new method. A change in Ministerial responsibility, if we desired to make one, would not be difficult: it can always be made by means of an Order in Council under the Ministers of the Crown (Transfer of‡Functions) Act, 1946. The matter will continue under examination, and I have in mind what the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, and other noble Lords have had to say on the subject.
The noble Lord questioned the fundamental policy of the Bill, as other noble Lords have also done, and in effect suggested that the Government should enter the field as a monopoly developer and operator of pipe-lines for commercial use.
§ LORD MILLS
I note the noble Earl's interjection. Such a solution at this stage—I think it is far too early—would commit the Government to the prospect of a continued and sizeable capital expenditure, virtually for the benefit of private concerns. Such a conception would seem to be quite out of proportion to the dimensions of the problem, at any rate in the foreseeable future. As my right honourable friend, the Minister of Power, said in another place during the discussion of the Trunk Pipelines Bill, it seems sensible that we should leave largely to the initiative of private enterprise the development of the pipe-line system, provided that there is public control on a recognised plan and pattern. My answer to the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, is that in the view of the Government it is far better to let industry develop the pipelines they require, while at the same time exercising the kind of Government control and supervision which is contained in this Bill.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS BOROUGH
My Lords, does that include Government initiation in dealing with such an extraordinarily wide 156 development as is likely to take place in this new form of transportation? Where will the initiation come from—just from odd private groups likely to compete against each other? If we are to get our economy on a sound basis, will it not require more initiation by the Government than we have had over these last ten years?
§ LORD MILLS
My Lords, the reply to that is that a Minister is being appointed under this Bill to look after this development of pipe-lines. He has to control the development, and he has to look after the national interest and see what is necessary in the national interest. Nothing is excluded, but the Government see no sense at this point in spending millions of pounds of public money in promoting what are for the moment the interests of private industry.
§ LORD WOLVERTON
My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether it will be under the Minister of Power, or will he be a separate Minister altogether?
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS BOROUGH
My Lords, I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Mills, will not mind my pressing him on this point. I was impressed by his analysis of the economic situation before Christmas, when one of his two main points was the extent to which this country had got into its difficulties about balance of payments and financial restriction because we had used far too much of our home resources for the purposes of the home market. It seems to me that the great thing about developing this new form of transportation will be in connection with the costs of industry, especially in relation to export in a competitive market. I should have thought that it would be to the country's benefit that we should have some Government initiation in this matter.
§ LORD MILLS
Some Government initiation comes from knowledge; some should not be lightly embarked upon. We should not say, "It is a grand thing to do; let us build pipe-lines everywhere", without knowing what is needed or what is necessary for industry. The kind of control envisaged in the Bill will enable the Minister responsible, 157 his Department and the other public Departments concerned to get knowledge of this subject—the knowledge which is necessary before you go in for initiation on a grand scale.
The noble Lord said that, under this Bill, the Minister was usurping the functioning of the planning authority, simply because there is deemed to be planning permission once the line has been settled. But that is not so. Notice has to be given to every planning authority; and every planning authority has a right to object; and every objection must be heard at a public hearing. The noble Lord also referred to the British Transport Commission and their rights under the Transport Bill. That point has been foreseen. One noble Lord said that following the line of the railways and the waterways was a good method of avoiding disturbance, and could be of benefit to the British Transport Commission. But the Bill provides that, where the British Transport Commission, either alone or in conjunction with someone else, wish to put down a pipe-line, if it is for their own use then they are at liberty to do so; but if it is not for their own use and if it is the case merely that a pipe-line is going to be laid along their land, then they have to get the authority of the Minister in the same way as anybody else does.
The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, mentioned the question of a national emergency and asked: would the covering of the pipe be sufficient against an attack? I am afraid I cannot answer a general question of that kind. One of the responsibilities of the Minister is to take care that the national interest is protected. That does not mean to say that he must insist that pipelines have to be laid at such a depth that whatever attack came about they would be immune. The noble Lord complained that there was nothing in the Bill to allow the Government to take over any pipe-line system—
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS BOROUGH
My Lords, may I ask a question about the point the Minister has just left? I am sorry to interrupt him again. The question of defence in such matters as this is very important. It is true that in general circumstances of wit- an Emergency Powers Act is passed and carried into effect. A large part of 158 the old Emergency Powers Act has been demoted section by section as Parliament has decided. But when it comes to deal with a problem like this, you ought to have a look ahead for what kind of conditions there may be. Where will your authority be for dealing with these things? Are you going to leave it alone until a war, which none of us wants, conies about, and then find you have to do it all over again?
§ LORD MILLS
I think the noble Viscount has misunderstood me. I said it is for the Minister to look after the national interest—and surely this is a point of national interest. But I should not like to convey the impression that it is possible, or desirable, in all cases to put pipe-lines at such a depth that they would be immune from any kind of attack. We have all, unfortunately, had experience of what can be done, even in the kind of war we went through in 1940, and the damage which was clone to water mains, pipe-lines and that kind of thing. Obviously, it is a matter which the Minister will have in mind.
I should like to say at this point that, when one is considering the question of pipe-lines and the laying of pipe-lines in this country, we cannot generalise about them, because they may convey very different materials. Each case has to be looked at on its own merits. That is why the Bill is framed in this way, so that the Minister has to examine an application and either give permission or refuse it.
§ LORD MILLS
No, it is not patchwork, with all respect. The noble Lord, Lord Amulree, who I am glad to see is here, referred to the danger to water supplies. That has been prominently in mind right through the drafting of this Bill. Water undertakers are protected by being on the list of those who must be informed when a leak occurs. They are also on the list of those who will be advised of the proposal to lay a pipe-line. Clause 24, for example, empowers the Minister to see that abandoned pipe-lines are rendered safe, so that they may not be a source of danger to water supplies. Under Clause 20 the Minister has power to order that pipe-lines should be constructed in a particular way or of particular materials, depending upon what 159 the pipe-line is going to carry, in order to protect the interests of water undertakers and others. Under Clause 23 requirements can also be imposed regarding both the operation and the maintenance of the pipe-lines. So I can assure the noble Lord that the point which he made so effectively in regard to the danger to water supplies has not in any way been overlooked.
Lord Balfour of Inchrye in a very interesting speech, which was full of matter for consideration, rather questioned whether the powers were adequate to protect those who might have land affected either by compulsory purchase or compulsory rights. I would draw attention to the fact that before an application comes to the Minister it will be necessary that all people, either land-lords or tenants, who will be affected shall already have been approached. Where there is any objection there will be a public inquiry in practically all cases. It is true that the Minister has the power to have a less formal inquiry on the spot. That was found necessary in the case of the Electricity Acts, because there are sometimes quite trivial objections, and it would not be appropriate or wise to order a public inquiry when the only objections are obviously trivial ones. But where the planning authority or the man concerned with the land raises an objection, a public inquiry can be asked for and is provided for in this Bill. It is true, as the noble Lord said, that there is always a question of negotiating under duress, the duress being of course the compulsory power; but the occupier of the land can always refuse wayleave and have a public inquiry. He has too the protection of the Special Parliamentary procedure.
Several noble Lords commented on the Special procedure, but that was gone into very carefully, and has been debated in your Lordships' House. As your Lordships know, the Government recently completed a careful inquiry into the work of Special Parliamentary procedure and on August 1 last year a statement was made by my noble and learned friend the Lord President of the Council and Minister for Science announcing the reseult of the inquiry. As he then pointed out, the great majority of orders to which Special Parliamentary procedure applies are orders the purpose of which is the 160 application to local circumstances of a general policy formulated within a framework laid down by Parliament. Compulsory purchase orders and compulsory rights orders under Clauses 9 and 10 of this Bill are obviously in this class. The Statutory Order (Special Procedure) Act, 1945, was passed with this type of order in view. In order to provide a procedure speedier and cheaper for promoters and opponents of orders within the Provisional Order Procedure and which would at the same time enable general issues to be considered in the appropriate place, on the Floor of the House, the 1945 Act, providing as it does for local inquiry by the Minister and the hearing of objections before an order is made for submission to Parliament, is, I submit, particularly appropriate to the kind of orders which will be made under this Bill.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
My Lords, could I just ask the noble Lord whether he would be so good as to answer one question? I do not want to argue the matter at all, but he was good enough to say that he would look at the points which have been made in respect of a short pipe-line up to ten miles in length. Does this procedure apply only if the Minister so consents? Am I not right in saying that a citizen has no prescriptive right unless the Minister so consents in regard to that short pipe-line?
§ LORD MILLS
In respect of a short pipe-line, the procedure applies if there is an objection and, as a result, there has to be a compulsory purchase or right.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS BOROUGH
My Lords, I really should like to understand this point, because it seems to me that earlier the Minister was saying that we did not want to be tied down by a procedure which would necessarily entail a public inquiry if the reasons given against the scheme were only trivial. I think those were the sort of words used. It passed through my mind as I was listening then. I do not know what the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, has in his mind, but in many of our Statutes we provide for a public inquiry because of the necessity to preserve a citizens rights. For example, a year or so ago, at the request 161 of a workman, I went to represent him —he is a local friend—in a public inquiry because the planning authority refused him the right to have a garage built alongside his semi-detached rural cottage, and that would affect the question whether or not he had the right to enter the main road. There was nobody at the public inquiry but the parties concerned. But he got justice, whichever way the verdict went; and preserving the citizen's right is what I am after.
§ LORD MILLS
I can assure the House that under this Bill the citizen's rights are very fully preserved. There is provision for public inquiry if somebody objects. Very often it is possible to combine both the public inquiry for the plan of the route and the public inquiry for the objectors, too. I was merely referring to the fact that, if the Minister gets a frivolous objection (which Ministers do get at times), it is sometimes easier, better and wiser for the Minister to send his inspector there and dispose of that frivolous objection. These things do happen. It is well known under the Electricity procedures, of which I have personal knowledge. But there is no thought of denying the citizen any right which he should have. This Special Parliamentary procedure protects a man against whom a compulsory order is made in a better way than does either the Private Bill procedure or the Provisional Order procedure, which is now largely abandoned. But, as I told my noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye, I will very gladly consider with my right honourable friend the Minister what he has had to say on the subject, which was of great interest and was fair comment. I will also consider what he had to say about arbitration, but I think I shall find that, so far as compensation is concerned, there is an established procedure in all acquisition of land. That needs to be settled in many other kinds of case besides these.
The noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, asked that we should have regard to the needs of other users by specifying size and pressure, and so on. All that is provided for in the Bill. He also drew our attention to the china clay industry. Representations have been received from that industry and from other industries, and they are at present in the 162 process of being very carefully examined.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
May I interrupt my noble friend? What I thought I said was that I should like the Minister to give careful consideration, when considering an application and the diameter of a pipe, to what would be the possible future use, or the possible forecast of use, for some specific pipe-line. That is what I meant to say.
§ LORD MILLS
That I well understand. I look upon that as part of the duties of my right honourable friend in examining whether he should give the authorisation in the form asked or in some other form which he considers necessary in the general interest.
The noble Lord referred to Clause 8 and said it was preferable to obtain agreement amongst the various users. If they are there at the same time, that is obviously the right way to do it; but sometimes the Minister will have to take into account what may be coming along and not what is there. The noble Lord felt that the penalty prescribed in Clause 8 was insufficient and that it ought to be increased. I cannot give him a reply on that point now, but it will have attention. Then he thought that, in regard to local pipe-lines, sixteen weeks for notification under Clause 2 might be too long. If he reads that clause again, he will find that there is power for the Minister to specify such shorter period as he may think necessary in a particular case.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord again, but if he is leaving the question of local pipelines may I explain that what I asked was that consideration should be given to excluding very short pipe lengths—for instance, half a mile—from the provisions of this Bill. In other words, in such cases notification to the Minister should not be required. Such a pipeline may be purely for the conveyance, for instance, of brine from the brine-fields to the salt extraction plant; or it may be purely a link between one factory and another a very short distance away.
§ LORD MILLS
I think there should be notification to the Minister, but the Minister would not do anything. The planning authority would have to be 163 consulted as soon as the pipe goes outside the land of the person laying it, and very often when it is inside his own land.
The noble Lord asked that there should be some sort of reference in the Bill to The Minister's having to consult with the Minister of Housing and Local Government and with the President of the Board of Trade, because of their interests. It is never possible to put in a Bill provision for consultation between Ministers. It is the Government collectively who are responsible, and they have to see to it that any necessary consultations take place. In fact, at this very moment consultation is going on between the Ministry of Power and the Board of Trade about china clay, which was a point raised by the noble Lord. That sort of consultation is the ordinary business of government and it is not appropriate to require it in a Bill.
The noble Lord also referred to the question of safety provisions. There is power in the Bill for the Minister to issue safety regulations. Here again, of course, one has to keep in mind that what those regulations should be depends very much upon the type of pipeline and what it is carrying, and that is why it is not possible to issue a standard code. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, rose in his place, although he wanted only to endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, had already said. But it gave him a chance to point out the help which pipe-lines could be to the railways and waterways, and he warned us against lining the pockets of lawyers.
The noble Lord, Lord Conesford, I was glad to note, agreed that it was right to deal with this matter by public legislation. But he also took the line that the protection for those who are to have their lands purchased, or against whom rights will be applied, is less than under the Private Bill procedure. I should like to talk to the noble Lord about that, because I should like to make it clear, on behalf of my right honourable friend and the Government, that we do want this problem to be fully ventilated so that one can be satisfied that everything that can be done is being done.
164 The noble Lord tabled a number of omissions from the Bill. The first one seems to me to have much to commend it, because it was also mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Lucan; that is, a clause to ensure that operators and people seeking to put down pipe-lines should do as little damage as possible to land and amenities. I think that that is well worth our looking into. He also referred to property compulsorily acquired under Clause 9, to the damage by explosion, dealt with in Clause 11 (2), and to whether a pipe-line owner or operator should be obliged compulsorily to insure against such risk. All those matters I will look into.
My noble friend Lord Amherst of Hackney said that this Bill gave great powers to the Minister. But he was not quite sure that it spelt out the Minister's duties and the necessary safeguards; he felt that among his duties the Minister should be satisfied that a pipe-line is in the public interest. He added that there was at present no obligation on the Minister to find out what future needs might be. But the whole object of bringing this under the Minister is that these matters will be continuously examined.
The noble Lord also detailed certain safeguards. He talked about Special Parliamentary procedure. He said that the Esso Company had given certain undertakings to the National Farmers' Union and the Country Landowners' Association with a minimum code of behaviour, as he described it. Again I have tried to point out to your Lordships that so much depends upon the nature of the pipe-line and of the materials that it is intended to carry that it would be impossible to lay down a minimum code of behaviour. Regulations in each individual case are more appropriate. He then asked me whether there was any compensation for the right to enter the land and lay pipes. That is provided for in the Bill; I will let the noble Lord know the particular clause. But as pipe-lines may go on for many years—they might go on for ever—it is probable that that would be met by a lump sum payment and not by an annual rent.
I followed with great interest the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, because he was so downright in what he had to 165 say. He said there was nothing properly thought out, and that Lord Morrison of Lambeth had said that the Government had not given thought as to who should be the Minister in charge. I did not understand the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, to say anything of the sort. He said that in his view it ought to be the Minister of Transport.
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, the noble Lord must have misunderstood me. What I said was that the Government did not give sufficient thought to this matter, and I agree with my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth that the Minister of Transport would be the most appropriate Minister.
§ LORD MILLS
My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will read his Hansard tomorrow to see what he did say. He was forthright and downright in his criticism in regard to lack of thought on the part of the Government. He did, however, suggest—I thank him for it—that we should look at Section 37 of the Electricity Act, 1957, dealing with amenities. The noble Earl, Lord Lucan, also stressed the question of amenities. I think that is necessary. He suggested that a public inquiry should be held if there was but one objection. I would agree with him on that point provided the objection is a valid one. He referred to the question of safety and maintenance and repair, and thought that there ought to be regulations as to pressure. He will find that the power is there to make regulations as to pressure and the form of maintenance and repair.
He asked me if in connection with electrical works it was understood that the cable also would be underground. I cannot answer that question now, but I will let the noble Earl know. He asked as to who is getting together the information which is necessary to plan and develop properly any system of pipe-line. That, of course, is the job of the Minister who is entrusted with the carrying 166 out of this Bill. I would not at all quarrel with his statement that this adds to the capital equipment of the country. Of course it does, whether it is in public or private hands. He also made a reference to foreign pipe-lines. I am most grateful for the suggestions that have been put forward in our discussion on this Bill, and I will see that they get the attention they deserve.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.