HL Deb 01 May 1962 vol 239 cc967-93

2.43 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time. In view of the fact that some Amendments have been tabled, it may be for the convenience of the House if we take the Motion for the Third Reading formally, then proceed to the Amendments, and finally have a general discussion about the issues raised by the Bill on the Motion that the Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3ª. — (Lord Mills.)

On Question, Bill read 3ª.

Clause 35 [Notification of change of ownership or use of pipe-line]:

LORD SHEPHERD moved to insert as a new subsection (1): ( ) If it becomes known to the owner of a pipe-line that a change is likely to occur in the ownership of the pipe-line or in the constitution of any body owning the pipe-line, he shall notify the Minister thereof, and thereupon the Minister may within three weeks inform the owner that the Minister intends, if the change takes place, to issue a direction forbidding further use of the pipe-line; and accordingly, if the change does take place, the Minister may within two weeks issue such a direction under his hand; and any person who uses the pipe-line thereafter shall be guilty of an offence and liable, on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding five hundred pounds; and, if the use continues after his conviction, he shall be guilty of a further offence and liable, in respect thereof, to a fine not exceeding twenty-five pounds for each day on which the use continues.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Amendment that stands in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Lindgren. May a noble Lord from this side of the House welcome the best wishes to our noble Leader; and also express the hope that he will remain with us to lead us with his usual vigour and tenacity? Would it be with the permission of the House that I should speak also to Amendment No. 2, which will be consequential, should the House feel fit to accept the first Amendment?

My Lords, we have had a long debate on this Bill in the Committee and Report stages. I think it will be agreed that considerable improvement has already been made, and I believe it will be found that, when the Bill goes to another place, further improvements will be made. Therefore I do not feel that I need to apologise for the fact that, at this very late stage, I should raise a new point in this Amendment; it was a point that I did raise, in the form of a question, on the Report stage. The Amendment in no way affects the general principle of the Bill. It seeks to give to the Minister special powers in relation to the transfer of ownership, powers which we on this side of the House feel are of importance.

It may be that in the early stages these pipe-lines, when they are constructed, will be in the ownership of petroleum companies; but they will in the future become an increasing form of transportation and many types of merchandise will be carried. And it may well be the case—in fact, I believe that plans are already afoot—that pipe-lines will be constructed and operated, not by petroleum companies, but by people who could be described as general transport operators. It is in respect of these operators that I would express some concern.

The Minister has power, at his discretion, to grant or refuse an application for permission to build a pipe-line. We presume that he would lay down exacting requirements, not only as to the standing of the applicant but also as to the technical ability of the applicant. and many other factors. Therefore, we presume, the Minister would grant a licence only to an organisation which he was thoroughly satisfied would carry out, with safety and efficiency, the operation of a pipe-line. The Minister, it is clear, does not intend that there should be a multitude of pipe-lines. In Clause 8 it is specifically provided that a pipe-line should be so constructed as to reduce the necessity for the construction of others. Therefore, we presume that a pipe-line operator who has succeeded in his application for building a pipe-line from, say, London to Glasgow, or from Glasgow to Liverpool, or wherever it may be, will assume a form of monopoly position, a position which, I think, will be proved to be an extremely profitable one.

We thus have the case that the Minister has to be satisfied as to the standing of the applicant, and that the organisation which has won its application will be in a semi-monopoly position. On the other hand, there is nothing in the Bill, as I see it, which requires that the Minister shall be so satisfied should there be a transfer of ownership of a pipe-line. All that is required in Clause 35 is that, where there is a change of ownership of a pipeline, the Minister shall be so informed within three weeks of the completion of the transfer. We on this side of the House—and I hope that it will be accepted also on the other side—feel that this is just not good enough. If the Minister has to be satisfied as to the builder and the operator of the pipeline, I should have thought that it would follow that the Minister himself should equally be satisfied with the new operator if a transfer were to take place, remembering the many factors involved, such as safety, particularly where pipelines are constructed through built-up areas.

My Amendment seeks to provide that, where the owner becomes aware that there is to be a change of ownership, the Minister shall be informed. Then, if the Minister is not satisfied with the transfer and the possible new owner, he will be able to forbid the future use of the pipe-line by the new owner. This is the only way in which we can give power to the Minister to prevent the transfer of ownership. In the Transport Bill, which will be before your Lordships' House shortly, the Minister is given power of direction, but obviously the Minister cannot be given such a power of direction when we are dealing with private owners. Therefore, the only thing we can do is to give the Minister power to withdraw a licence under which a pipe-line is operated, if he is not satisfied with the transfer to the proposed new operator.

I hope that the noble Lord will be able to accept the principle of the Amendment and that he finds the wording satisfactory. The noble Lord will remember that when he resisted an Amendment on inquiries into accidents, he said that national security might be involved. I should think that the question of national security is also valid with regard to the ownership of a pipeline. A monopoly position for the pipeline owner having been created, I do not think that he should be free to sell this valuable asset on the exchange, maybe to a foreign operator. I do not suppose that we could prevent the sale, but at least the Minister should have power to accept the transfer and, if not, he should have power to stop the operation of the pipe-line by the new owner. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 30, line 1, at beginning insert the said subsection.—(Lord Shepherd.)


My Lords, we have given very careful consideration to this Amendment, which has been put down following the consideration of the clause on Report stage. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, was good enough then to draw our attention to the points he has also made to-day. I can only say that there are so many points of policy bound up with this Amendment that further time is needed for its consideration. To give the Minister far-reaching powers to interfere with the sale and purchase of industrial property in this country could cause a great deal of anxiety and uncertainty. To illustrate this to your Lordships, it is clear that pipe-lines may be connected with factories, refineries and other kinds of industrial development and it can readily be seen that to allow the sale of the industrial installation and to refuse the sale of associated pipe-lines could give rise to difficulties. I think that this aspect of the matter is a very complicated one and acceptance of the Amendment could have far-reaching repercussions.

I hope your Lordships will agree that the matter is not a simple one and deserves further consideration. My right honourable friend the Minister of Power has assured me that this is just what it will have, although I cannot say at this stage what will be the outcome. I hope that, on reflection, the noble Lord will see that the matter does want further consideration and will be prepared to withdraw his Amendment.


My Lords, if I may speak by leave of the House, in view of the noble Lord's remarks I certainly will not press this Amendment. I wonder whether he could go so far as to say that the present provision where there is a transfer of ownership—I am thinking particularly of the trunk line operator—for the Minister to be informed three weeks after the transfer has taken place, will be amended so that the Minister will be informed prior to any transfer. I am sure that the noble Lord would appreciate that I am thinking of the trunk line operators with lines, perhaps, from London to Glasgow or Glasgow to Manchester, which go through private property, where there may be difficulty through accidents. Could the noble Lord go to that extent?


My Lords, I can appreciate the noble Lord's point. Of course, Clause 35 stipulates that everyone who is concerned with a pipe-line should be notified of a change of ownership. It also stipulates that the Minister should be informed, but that is merely for the purpose of registering the name of the new owner with whom the Minister would have to communicate. I see the point made by the noble Lord, but I should not like to be specific in reply. I think that the whole subject raised by this Amendment needs further consideration and the Minister has assured me that it will have it.


My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 38[Certain pipe-lines to be plant or machinery for rating purposes in England and Wales]:

LORD MERRIVALE moved, in subsection (1), to add to the proposed new paragraph 5: but also includes any premises, place or works, whether below ground or above ground, occupied and used for pumping or raising brine for the purpose of manufacture or sale from shafts, wells, springs, or mines.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, during Committee stage I sought to have this clause deleted from the Bill on the ground that it was more suitable for a rating and valuation Bill. The reason given by my noble friend Lord Mills for not accepting my Amendment was the necessity to reverse the effect of the decision by the Lands Tribunal in a recent Unilever case, so that large sums of rateable income should not be lost. I believe that those were the words of my noble friend. I should like to point out that between 1949 and 1956, due to decisions of the courts, such items as 'bakers' ovens, rotary cement kilns, and tilting furnaces, became rateable plant. Therefore, I think that it is fair to say that not all court decisions are detrimental to the Inland Revenue of this country. I think it is equally fair to say that it is unreasonable on the part of Her Majesty's Government to change the rules as the result of one unfavourable court decision.

I believe I am right in saying that supports and foundations for pipes, as well as the land or wayleave occupied by pipes, are rateable. But should the Government, on reflection, decide that this clause should stand part of the Bill, then I think two anomalies will arise. The first concerns pipes within the curtilage of non-factory premises; thus, for example, the pipes within an oil storage depôt will become rateable while pipes in an oil refinery will not. The second anomaly arises from the fact that a brine field is not a factory or a mine or quarry, as defined in the Factories Act, 1961, or the Mines and Quarries Act, 1954. I should also like to add that there is a precedent for this Amendment, and it may be found in Section 3 (4) of the Rating and Valuation (Apportionment) Act, 1928. I sincerely hope that this small Amendment, which will be beneficial to industry, will meet with the favour of Her Majesty's Government. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 31, line 40, at end insert the said words. —(Lord Merrivale.)


My Lords, I feel perhaps my noble friend Lord Merrivale will understand if I do not follow him entirely in discussing his views on the rating of pipe-lines generally, and if I confine myself rather more precisely to the actual terms of the Amendment he has put down. I do not think there is much question that the reason why the brine fields and pumping arrangements to which he has referred are left out of the exceptions to Clause 38 is that of a technicality. I do not think there is any doubt that their inclusion in the exceptions is perfectly justified, along with mines and quarries, factories and the like. It certainly meets the spirit of the clause that they should be included and, therefore, I should be very happy to accept the principle of my noble friend's Amendment. I would only ask whether he would agree to withdraw it to-day, because we are not quite certain about the method of drafting. We should like to have another look at that. If my noble friend would withdraw his Amendment now, I would undertake that it would be put down in a suitable form at a later stage.


My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend for his acceptance in principle at this late stage of the Bill in this House. I am only too happy to ask to withdraw the Amendment, on the undertaking that it will be moved in another place in a suitable form.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 42 [Obligation to restore agricultural land]:

LORD CHESHAM moved, in subsection (1), to leave out reasonably fit for use as agricultural land" and to substitute: fit for use for the purpose for which it was used immediately before the execution of the works was begun".

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment, standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Mills, is put down in fulfilment of an undertaking which I gave on the Report stage. The provisions in the Bill relating to the restoration of agricultural land after a pipeline had been laid in it were criticised in Committee, on the ground that the words "reasonably fit for use as agricultural land" were too vague. We discussed the matter again on Report, when my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross put down a further Amendment; and so, come to that, did we. Your Lordships will probably remember that at the time I said I did not like either of them, and thought we could do better. This Amendment on the Marshalled List is the one that we believe meets the case. I think we were quite right to discuss this matter in some detail twice before, because it is obviously a point which is of great importance: land should be properly restored after it has been temporarily upset for the laying of a pipe-line.

Although the words "reasonably fit" are used in other Acts, and seem to work quite well, I recognise the point that they are probably a little on the vague side for what we have in mind. Therefore we have drafted the Amendment in the terms which your Lordships will see on the Marshalled list. I think this meets all the criticisms which were made and the various points which arose. I do not know whether or not I am in order in mentioning this, but my noble friend Lord Amherst of Hackney, who was interested in this point and who is unable to be in his place to-day, wrote to me and said he felt quite satisfied about it. I hope your Lordships will feel the same. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 33, line 38, leave out (" reasonably fit for use as agricultural land ") and insert the said new words.— (Lord Chesham.)


My Lords, I should like merely to say that I join with my noble friend Lord Amherst of Hackney in congratulating Her Majesty's Government on thinking of this new form of wording which seems to me to be entirely satisfactory. I am very pleased indeed to see it on the Order Paper.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Amendments (privilege) made.

3.8 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to Move that this Bill do now pass. Noble Lords will wish to have a general discussion on this Motion. I should first, however, like to take this opportunity to thank noble Lords for the care and attention which they have devoted to the Bill during all its stages. A large number of Amendments were put down at both the Committee stage and the Report stage, and we have had a full discussion both of the principles and of the detail of the Bill. The Government have tried so far as they could to meet the views expressed by noble Lords, and I am sure that the Amendments that have been made to the Bill to-day and in Commit tee and on Report have contributed much to its improvement.

There are certain matters which were raised earlier to which I or my noble friend Lord Chesham promised to give further consideration. Perhaps it would be helpful to the House if I referred to some of these now. I shall, of course, speak also at the close of the debate and shall then have an opportunity to reply to any further points made by other noble Lords.

First, the House may remember that I promised my noble friend Lord Merrivale that the Government would try to find a solution to the problems concerning the china clay industry arising from the Bill. We are still considering this and intend to move Amendments in another place. My noble friend also raised in Committee a point about improper disclosure of information by a civil servant. I have since ascertained that any such improper disclosure would render a civil servant liable to prosecution under the Official Secrets Act. No amendment to the Bill is therefore necessary.

The noble Earl, Lord Lucan, supported by the noble Lords, Lord Stonham and Lord Lindgren, wished the Minister to hold an inquiry under Clause 31 in all cases where a pipe-line accident resulted in loss of life. I have looked at this point again and I am convinced that there would be no advantage to be gained from such an Amendment. The present clause follows the precedent of the Mines and Quarries Act, 1954, and neither that Statute nor the Factories Act, 1961, lays down that there must always be an inquiry into fatal accidents. I see no reason for departing from precedent in this matter, and there is no likelihood of the Minister's turning a blind eye to any fatalities which may occur, or being reluctant to investigate at once the cause of any accident, where this has not already been sufficiently established, for example at a coroner's inquest.

I gave an assurance on Report to the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, that the Government would prepare a suitable Amendment that would enable the Minister to impose additional safety requirements in respect of pipe-lines already laid. A Government Amend ment to deal with this point is now being prepared. I am advised, however, that its drafting presents certain complications which will require time to resolve, and I have not felt it right to come forward with an Amendment at this stage. A suitable Amendment will therefore be moved in another place.

Finally, there were two points raised by my noble friend Lord Merrivale on what is now Clause 58, to which I might refer at this stage. I have sought further legal advice on the question whether the words "drain or sewer" would cover pipe-lines used for the disposal of trade effluents. The advice is that the words would cover such pipe-lines, and they are therefore excluded from the provisions of the Bill. The other point raised by my noble friend referred to the exclusion from the Bill of pipes used for agriculture, horticulture, scientific research or experimental purposes. No evidence was produced on the Report stage to show that agricultural or horticultural pipe-lines presented a real problem. If such evidence is produced later, the Government will be prepared to consider it. As to pipelines used for scientific research or experimental purposes, it would be wrong to accept any Amendment which had the effect of excluding such pipelines from all safety controls. particularly where there is a possibility that they may be sited on land to which the public have access. It can be accepted that special considerations may apply to pipe-lines situated within research stations and the like, but these cannot be very numerous and it would be a relatively simple matter for the Minister to arrange, where appropriate, for a shorter period of notice than 16 weeks to be given of the construction of such lines. Here again, however, if there is evidence that a real problem exists the Government will be prepared to consider it.

I hope noble Lords have found it of value to have this indication of the further consideration given by the Government to points made in earlier discussion. Any further points which are made by noble Lords later I will, of course, try to answer when I reply to the debate. I beg to move.

Moved. That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Mills.)

3.15 p.m.


My Lords, as the noble Lord has said, the Bill has received very careful and thorough consideration by your Lordships—so thorough that, indeed, the Bill is considerably changed from what it was when it came into this House, a fact which prompts the first reflection that less than the usual credit for a Bill is reflected on the Departments who drafted it. It is surprising that so many matters that were not in the Bill have had to be suggested by Members of your Lordships' House who, as we well know, have never lost their amateur status; yet, giving only limited time and attention to the Bill, your Lordships have been able to remedy a number of quite serious omissions. One which comes to mind at once is the question of amenity, and it had only to be pointed out to the Minister that there was a lack in this respect for him to put a new clause into the Bill.

In a number of other matters the noble Lord and his colleagues have displayed a very reasonable and accommodating attitude to our suggestions. They have given concessions on quite a number of points. Points were raised by noble Lords opposite on the protection of the rights of individuals and points were raised at the suggestion of various statutory authorities—river boards, water undertakers, fire and police authorities—who suggested amendments to the Bill; and I must say that I find it surprising that those matters, as also the case of amenity, were not adequately thought of before the Bill was presented to Parliament.

Again, on matters of safety and safety precautions, quite a number of concessions were made, for which we are duly grateful. I must confess, however, that I am not altogether satisfied that the Minister has sufficient powers to safeguard this new developing network. I feel that one of the skills that to some extent is lacking in your Lordships' House is that of the mechanical and civil engineer, and I should have been much happier if I had heard qualified engineers saying that this Bill was entirely satisfactory. I have a suspicion that certain clauses could still be tightened up. In particular, I remain quite unconvinced by the Government arguments that it was better for the Minister to have power to give a notice to an individual in a particular case rather than that he should make regulations to be observed by all applicants for pipe-line authorisation. The argument for not making regulations, that this is a new method and to some extent there is a lack of experience in the operation of these things, is hard to accept. After all, every branch of industry is changing all the time. Regulations made under the Factories Acts and every other Act covering such subjects as mines, quarries and aviation, that are considered adequate one year will be out of date five years later. So I suggest that the Minister would be better armed if he took the power to make regulations and ensure safety.

There were concessions, and we are duly grateful for them. I should like to thank the Minister for accepting a suggestion that there should be retrospective power to correct faulty construction; he says that an Amendment will be moved in another place by the Government. But those are comparatively minor matters. On the main points of the Bill, we are sorry that the Government have been quite rigid all through. We think that the question of the "common carrier" obligation on owners of pipe-tines should be imposed. Your Lordships will remember that when the Bill was first introduced a leading article in The Times said: Pipe-line owners are thus being granted something of the status of public utilities. In particular they are being given the power to acquire compulsorily or extinguish other private persons' 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. The principle of this clause is therefore fully justified, that they may be required to pump other people's cargoes. The conception of the pipe-line network as a public service, as an essential part of the economic machinery of the country, seems to be altogether lacking. All the Government have done is to give the Minister certain limited negative powers to prevent duplication. They have called it orderly development, and perhaps they can claim that those words are justified. But we think they fall far short of what is needed in the present day and in face of this new development.

We believe that the network should be built up according to the needs of the country, and not according to the whims of those wishing to invest their capital. Because, after all, nobody is going to apply to the Minister for an authorisation unless he sees a profit in it. Whether laying that pipe-line will benefit British industry, ports, transport services, social environment, does not enter into it at all. We shall still depend purely on the individual operator out to make a profit; he is the person who will apply to the Minister. There is no power whatever for the Minister to stimulate pipe-line development in places where private enterprise does not want to put it. It is true that he can refuse authorisations where he does not want a pipe-line, but there is no means of stimulating development in the directions where it will do most good.

The Government would not accept the view that the existing transport system of the country should be empowered to extend its activities into this new field. We said that the transport services, which are already, we are told, entitled to lay and operate pipe-lines on their own land and to carry their own goods, should be entitled to perform their transport function in carrying whatever goods need carrying from one part of the country to another. It is a sad coincidence that just at the time when we are passing this Bill about this great new development in the field of transport we are to receive from another place a Bill which destroys the last remnants, after ten years of Tory Government, of the integrated national inland transport system which was set up fifteen years ago. I should only like to thank the Minister personally for his courtesy in replying and taking so much trouble over our points.

3.26 p.m.


My Lords, I should like first of all to express my thanks to my noble friend Lord Mills for kindly giving the various assurances he did with regard to the points I raised during the various stages of the Bill. My main concern has been that industry should not suffer unduly by this Bill in its day-to-day working. though I hope that throughout I was sufficiently conscious of the need to safeguard the interests of the land owner and the need to preserve amenities. I think I also well recognised the need for ensuring that there are in the Bill adequate safeguards with regard to the imposition of safety requirements; though on this aspect I still regret that the Minister should not have power to make regulations as and when required.

With regard to short pipe-lines, I still feel that Her Majesty's Government have shown an insufficient awareness of the number which are already in existence. They do not appear to wish to recognise that industry is already well and truly cognisant of the safety problems involved in the conveyance of things through pipe-lines, and already well knows which is the weakest link in the chain; and that would apply equally to pipe-lines. It is inconceivable that industry should take less care of a pipe-line passing just outside a factory fence for a short distance. For instance, to illustrate my point regarding the number of short pipe-lines in existence and industry's knowledge regarding the varied application of high safety standards, I should like to mention that one firm alone already operates 179 short pipelines, and these are just outside factory premises. Eighty-eight of them are less than 25 yards long, and 30 of them are between a quarter of a mile and one mile in length. Those pipe-lines convey over 30 organic and inorganic chemicals. The organic chemicals are nearly all liquids, and the inorganic chemicals are gases, liquids and a few slurries.

In conclusion, I should like to ask Her Majesty's Government whether, under conditions such as I have just mentioned, it would not be preferable to give to the highly qualified Factories Inspectorate, to which I referred in the previous debate, the task of inspecting such short pipe-lines or factory links just outside factory premises. With those few remarks I should again like to thank both the noble Lord, Lord Mills, and the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, for their kindness during this debate, though at times we have not always agreed.

3.32 p.m.


My Lords, your Lordships will remember that throughout the Committee and Report stages of this Bill I have concentrated my interest on attempting to safeguard, so far as it is possible, the interests of the ordinary citizen whose property and rights can be taken away from him statutorily at the instance of another private individual. Undoubtedly this is another excursion into the vast field of administrative law into which we have tended to drift for the last fifteen or twenty years.

I venture this afternoon to address your Lordships for a brief while on these particular points at the invitation of the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack, because he, I know, has been as worried as I am about these specific points, and on the second day of the Report stage he invited your Lordships in general and myself in particular to give consideration to the points he had put forward in reply to mine. If I was unhappy before I had given consideration to the points of the noble and learned Viscount, I am doubly unhappy now; and I think that this would be the time to express the reasons for that unhappiness, before this Bill leaves your Lordships' House and goes to another place. I quite appreciate that the timetable has been very congested and the points which were discussed by the noble and learned Viscount and myself, and, incidentally by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, are so important, that the noble and learned Viscount has not had the time to give them that weight of consideration which I think he would desire.

May I briefly refresh your Lordships' minds on the point at issue? My complaint was on the narrowness of the terms of reference upon which an inquiry could be set up into an objection to an authorisation of a pipe-line. That is referred to in the fourth paragraph of the First Schedule. I was fearful that the terms of reference would be limited to inquiry into the objection, and your Lordships will remember that I said that this offended against paragraph 271 of the Franks Committee Report, which specifically stated that an inquiry could not properly inquire into an objection unless it inquired also into the wider field as to why the objection had been made and what was objected to. The noble and learned Viscount said that he could not think that a Minister would restrict the inquiry into something of such a narrow character.

The next point that I argued was as to where lay the burden of proof. Was it upon the applicant for an authorisation to lay pipe-lines through someone else's land? Was it for him to make his case that it was of national importance that he should have the authorisation? Or was it for the objector to take on the burden of proving that he should not? If so, how was the objector to be armed? Speaking for the Government, on the last day of the Report stage, the noble and learned Viscount said —and this is the reason why I am even more disturbed (I quote from column 816 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of April 17): We feel that the Bill has a clear purpose, which is that pipe-lines will be created. If that is taken as the purpose of this Bill, I think that the first point your Lordships have to consider is this: how do you approach an application for authorisation? Should that be approached with an onus on the applicant, or, if the purpose of the Bill is to be carried out, should one not approach it on the basis that, up to the point, and only up to the point at which you run into using compulsory powers either for purchase or a right, you will give the authorisation unless an objection is clear? I am deliberately stating the problem, because I think it is important at that stage. Surely the ordinary interpretation of those words is that the objector has to bear the burden of proof against the application, and that the applicant is not called upon to bear the burden of proof of his own case. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack nods his head in agreement.

The noble and learned Viscount went on to say: My noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth will understand that I emphasise again and again the words ' at that stage ', because once you come to the second stage, when you are going to infringe the rights of the individual, then different considerations apply. My contention is that once you have put upon the objector the burden of proof, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred the second stage will never arise, because, if I may use the same expression as I used to your Lordships on that occasion, at that point the pass has been sold. If an authorisation has been given by the Minister in the first instance under the First Schedule, what chance has the objector of winning any case before the second inquiry, which is, if it is necessary to have one, for an objection against compulsory acquisition? That Is what disturbs me.

My Lords, I will quote again what the Council on Tribunals said in their memorandum in regard to the procedure adopted in the Chalk-Pit case: If the public is to have confidence in the procedure laid down by Parliament, it must be made clear that inquiries are not just an incident in the administrative process. Here, my Lords, we have an inquiry set up by the Minister of Power, and the Minister has already given his consent in principle for the applicant to proceed. The inquiry is held, not by an independent inspector—although the noble and learned Viscount said that he did not rule out an independent inspector—but by an inspector from the Ministry of Power, Whose duty it is to see that the policy of the Minister of Power is carried out. I cannot for one moment think that such a procedure as is laid down in this Bill, and as stated by the noble and learned Viscount, can in any way line up with the fundamental principle of openness, fairness and impartiality, enunciated by the Franks Committee and the Government. The noble and learned Viscount has given an edict of Government policy: it is the policy of the Government to see that these pipe-lines are laid. Therefore, the bias—if there is one—must be in favour of carrying out Government policy. That is the meaning his words convey.

May I bring to your Lordships' notice the inquiry into the working of ironstone in North Oxfordshire, which was the subject of a debate in your Lordships' House? At the inquiry learned counsel for the applicant opened his case before the inspector by saying that he did not intend to bring any evidence; that this was really outside the jurisdiction of the court of inquiry because the Iron and Steel Board had produced a report in which they said that the policy was to use home-produced ore; and that, as that Report had been laid before Parliament and nobody had rejected it, it had ipso facto become Government policy. This was entirely wrong and was contradicted by other counsel appearing at the inquiry. But the Minister of Power has in recent weeks made a statement that it is now definite Government policy that home-produced ore should be mined.

I wonder, my Lords, whether that will be used in future to prejudice the proper hearing of any subsequent inquiry after objection has been made, as was made in the North Oxfordshire case which I have just cited. Will the noble and learned Viscount's words that I have just quoted be used in future against an objector who is objecting to something which is Government policy? Is the burden of proof now to fall upon the individual citizen's shoulders to show, in the specific case to which he is objecting, that it is not in the public interest? In regard to the rules which the noble and learned Viscount is going to frame or which he said are passing between his Department and the Council on Tribunals, I think he said that if it were found they did not fit the various cases he would have them amended or altered. My Lords, can an official of a Government Department be called at one of these inquiries to give evidence about whether or not this is in the national interest? Because in regard to all these cases held under the First Schedule of this Bill, at some time or another the question is sure to be asked: "What is in the public interest?".

These are some of the things that disquiet me. I hope that they will receive still further consideration by the noble and learned Viscount. The position of the ordinary common-or-garden citizen, if I may call him that, under this Bill is appalling. He will be fighting against people of great substance, people with plenty of money. Who is going to look after his interests? Not the Government: not the Department concerned. There is only one body that exists to safeguard the interests of the ordinary citizen, and that is the Council on Tribunals. If the Council on Tribunals can see that the ordinary citizen's interests are safeguarded by the rules which the noble and learned Viscount has said he would prefer to specific provision written into the Bill, then I myself shall, in the end, be satisfied.

I do not expect the noble Lord the Minister to reply to these points, but I thought it was my duty to raise them. All I would ask the Minister, Lord Mills is this: will he, in his reply, give me an assurance that the particular points I have raised will receive very careful and close consideration by the Department which he represents, in conjunction with the noble and learned Viscount, during the passage of this Bill to another place, so that when it comes back here we may he able to have some satisfaction upon them?

3.47 p.m.


My Lords, there is no doubt that this Bill has been greatly improved in its passage through the House, but I think it should be pointed out that this is in large measure due to the initiative taken by my noble friend Lord Silkin, supported by noble Lords in all parts of the House, to secure more time in order to allow proper consideration for the Bill. I feel that this should be emphasised for our job is not to despatch Bills as expeditiously as possible, but to deal with the business as efficiently as possible.

In common with other noble Lords and Ladies, I took a brief part in a television programme on Friday evening, and we all had to listen to one of my honourable friends from another place complaining that he had to spend four months on the Copyright Bill because we had done our job so very badly, or had not done it at all. As he was the last to speak there was no opportunity for any comment to be made upon that, or on the fact that we here get more than the occasional "no ball" and wide "from another place, and that Parliament, without the Lords, would be like cricket without a wicketkeeper. But I think we can say that, because we have spent more time on this Bill a proper job has been done, and that on this occasion there ought not to be any complaint on that score.

There is another thing that I think should be said on this Bill, and that is that it has increased in stature and importance in the eyes of your Lordships and in the eyes of the public. That, I think, is due, at least in some measure, to the fact that the Government underestimated its importance, or certainly underestimated its potentialities; indeed, I think they still do, because whatever improvements have been made—and there are many—the Bill still contains at least two fundamental weaknesses, from our point of view, which have been vigorously pointed out from this side of the House, particularly by my noble friend Lord Lucan. The first is that the Bill, when it becomes an Act, will be administered by the Minister of Power, instead of by the Minister of Transport. My objection to that is in no way related to my estimate of the respective virtues of those Ministers, nor of their Departments. It is because it reveals a fundamental misconception of the potentialities of this Bill, and also, because the use of pipe-lines is not clearly seen as a new, possibly dynamic, means of transport.

I know that the noble Lord, Lord Mills, has told us, quite truly, that the experts reside temporarily in the Ministry of Power, and that at some later stage they can be transferred to another Department, if it is thought proper and expedient. But surely the time is now, and we should not have to mess about in this way. If it be easy to transfer later, it will be just as easy to transfer the experts now from one room to another in Whitehall. There is absolutely no argument against that at all, and I hope—although it is too late for us to do anything about it—that the change will be made in another place, and that the fact that it was not made here will not be laid at our door.

The other point of fundamental weakness is the fact that under this Bill British Railways are handicapped in the efforts that they otherwise could and would have made. My noble friend Lord Lucan pointed to the fact that the Minister has no power to stimulate development where it will do most good. If British Railways had been given, in the appropriate clause of the Bill, the power for which we asked, they would have been able to stimulate action and development where it would have done most good. It seems to me extraordinary, seeing that in a few months' time we shall be hearing the Minister of Transport disclose that second main lines on the railways are to be closed down altogether—perhaps London to Exeter; London to Birmingham, or other places where two main lines exist —that we should not have had the foresight to think that they would, and indeed must, be the most economical and suitable agencies for new pipe-lines, sometimes over long distances. If we had had the proper powers in the Bill for the proper authority, then there would have been no difficulty later on, and I think it would have given a new impetus to the railways which, with all their sufferings, are at present suffering most of all from a low morale. It would have been a great thing if they could have been singled out as one of the main agents for this new development.

I think, too, that the noble Lord, Lord Mills, revealed that the Government have not realised sufficiently that this is a new and largely unknown element, when he indicated just now that the Government had decided not to accede to our request for an automatic inquiry in the event of a death arising from a pipe-line. He cited the Mines and Quarries Act and the Factories Act. He may know, but I confess that I do not know, all the kinds of dangers which will arise when various commodities are sent through pipe-lines—some which we have not yet thought of. But I do know that it will almost certainly be found that the conditions are not similar to those existing in mines and quarries, or in any factory of which I know. Certainly, the dangers in mines and quarries and in factories are to those who work in them. The dangers in pipe-lines will be to citizens throughout the country who are near them. I think that that was something which should have been conceded, but, again, it reveals a misconception of the possibilities and potentialities of this new method of transport. My Lords, I feel that the time we have taken on this Bill has been very well spent and I am grateful that we have had as much time as we have. I think that a good job has been done.

3.55 p.m.


My Lords, I had not intended to speak, particularly as I was not able to take part in the Report stage, but I have been instigated by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, to say a word on the very interesting observations that he has made. Before doing so, I should like to associate myself with my noble friends, and with the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, by saying how much this Bill has been improved in the course of its progress through this House.

I would take this opportunity, now that the noble Earl, Lord St. Aldwyn, is here, to ask him whether he would send a message to the Government saying that, in the case of these difficult and controversial Bills, we really ought to get them here earlier if we are to receive them in the first place. We are criticised, as my noble friend Lord Stonham has said, because we sometimes do not do our job properly—and I would be the first to admit it—"we" meaning not only Private Members but also the Government. The reason is that we have to do our work in a great hurry. We are all amateurs, most of us have other occupations, and most of us do not have the advantages of the Government in drafting Amendments and in carrying out research, so we ought to be given ample time. If this Bill had been presented to the House at a very much earlier stage in the Session, I can assure the House that we should have made a far better job of it, and we should not have had the unpleasantness which at times we have had, arising from the pressure under which this Bill was being carried through.

I want to say a word to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth. He has constituted himself the champion, as he says, of the private citizen, and I think that is a very worthy cause. He has studied the Franks Committee Report. I think he regards it almost as a Holy Writ: not one single word, comma or dot must be omitted from that Report; it must be carried out absolutely in its entirety. Well, that is very nice, but, with respect, and speaking as an old friend, I do think that he is making rather heavy weather of the procedure under this Bill.

I myself have always taken the view in connection with planning applications—and I would say the same about other forms of application for consent—that prima facie the citizen who makes an application is entitled to have his application granted. In a case like pipe-lines, where there is a Statute actually passed, he is even more entitled to have his application granted prima facie, unless there is good reason to the contrary. If anyone comes forward and objects, and establishes that there is good reason to the contrary, then it is the duty of the Minister to refuse; but otherwise I think the bias should be in favour of granting the application. As I say, I think that should be the position with regard to all applications that are made by a private citizen, and if the noble Lord has the private citizen's interests in mind, surely he must also have regard to the position of the person who makes the application who also, presumably, is a private citizen.

The imposition of planning controls or other forms of administrative controls can be justified in a system of private enterprise only on the ground that control is necessary and that an action which the citizen wishes to take is against the public interest: but that has to be established. Therefore, I would not complain that the objector has to make his case. It is not for me to answer for the Government's intentions, but those would be my views.

The noble Lord makes the second point that, once the objection has been overruled, there may be a second inquiry on the question of compulsory acquisition and the objector's position is prejudiced—the noble Lord said, to the extent of 99 per cent.—by the fact that the application has been granted in the first instance. My Lords, I would not accept that at all, not if the inquiries are properly conducted, as I have every confidence they will be. The first inquiry is on the question whether it is against the public interest that the pipeline should be laid, and that is a definite, clear question which can be considered on its merits. The second inquiry is on the point as to how far the interests of the private citizen, the individual, are going to be affected.

It may be that, however much the laying of a pipe-line is in the public interest, the injury to the citizen is so great that it cannot be compensated for by a mere sum of money. In such a case, it would be the duty of the Minister to uphold the objection of the citizen against compulsory purchase, and to refuse to make the order; and I do not understand why the two positions should be contradictory. A Minister can quite well say that it is the right thing to have a pipe-line, and to make an authorisation, but he can later on say, "If the only way in Which you can lay this pipeline is by damaging the interests of a particular objector to such an extent that he cannot be compensated by a payment of money, I cannot allow you to lay it in this particular position ". I would hope that the Minister would be able to take up both positions without being charged with inconsistency. As I say, my Lords, it is not my business to reply to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, or to give him assurances, but I thought it might be as well if I stated What I conceive the position to be, and I should be very grateful if the noble Lord, Lord Mills, could say whether he takes my view or not.

4.4 p.m.


My Lords, I think we have had a very full and interesting debate, as indeed we have at every stage of this Bill. The noble Earl, Lord Lucan, seemed to regret that it had been possible for so many Amendments to be made by noble Lords and that therefore the Ministry had not done its job when the Bill was presented in the form in which it was to your Lordships' House. I do not think there is any cause for regret: I think there is cause for congratulation. It is something we ought to expect when the combined wisdom and experience of your Lordships lead to many improvements in a Bill of this character. I think we must remember that, however well staffed Government Departments are, they cannot represent every kind of experience. In your Lordships' House there are noble Lords who have had a very wide experience indeed, and I should expect that when a complicated Bill of this kind comes to your Lordships' House many Amendments are put forward and many are accepted.

I detected in the noble Earl's remarks that he had some feeling against any individual benefiting from the existence of a pipe-line. But, after all, we have benefited as a country very greatly from the individual operator who was out to make a profit. That motive has been the cause of great advances in this country. The noble Earl also referred to the question of making Regulations of general application, as against notices to individuals. The difficulty about Regulations in a matter of this kind is that it is not clear that they could be sufficiently precise to be capable of enforcement; and, on balance, we have decided to rule them out for the present.


My Lords, may I just interrupt the noble Lord? I thought that the case made was that there should be power taken in the Bill to make Regulations when the Minister saw sufficiently clearly that Regulations could be made. The Bill contains no power to make Regulation's at all; that was the criticism.


My Lords, I am quite aware of that. If the Bill contained powers to make Regulations there would then be great pressure upon the Minister to make Regulations. I am sure the noble Lord is sufficiently experienced to appreciate that. My noble friend Lord Merrivale made the same point, and I must give him the same answer. He also referred to this question of local pipelines round factory premises, and suggested again that it would be preferable to give factory inspectors the job of inspecting them. But I do not think that it is necessary to give anybody that job. The duty lies upon the Minister to see that certain requirements are carried out, and the whole thing can be easily dealt with administratively. The noble Lord also referred to his efforts to safeguard the position of landowners, and I think he has carried out that task very well.

Then the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, gave us a very interesting address, for which he was congratulated by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin—congratulated for his researches if not for the views he expressed. I think I have no difficulty in giving the noble Lord the assurances for which he asked. My noble and learned friend sitting on the Woolsack will have in mind the points he raised, and also the points put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, in considering the rules of procedure for inquiries which are now being evolved; and will at the same time, no doubt, have regard to the question of Inspectors, which the noble Lord also mentioned. I said that I thought there would be no difficulty in giving the noble Lord the assurance for which he asked specifically, that careful consideration would be given by the Minister, in conjunction with my noble and learned friend, to the points he has put forward.

The chief point of the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, was that the Government had not considered or had underestimated the potential importance of pipe-lines and had a fundamental misconception of the potentialities of this Bill. I can assure the noble Lord that he is quite wrong. From the beginning the Government have realised the importance of and the need for these developments: that is why your Lordships have this Bill before you now. The noble Lord also said that British Railways had been handicapped by this Bill, but they are not handicapped by the Bill in any particular. I think perhaps the noble Lord is referring to the Transport Bill, which he may already have read. Certain powers are given to British Railways in that Bill, and I have no doubt that we shall be discussing that point in due course.


My Lords, will the noble Lord be kind enough to allow me to intervene? What I did say was that the question of handicapping British Railways in this Bill means that they have not been granted the powers that we on this side of the House think they ought to have with regard to pipe-lines. We are all aware, of course, as the noble Lord has pointed out, that there is nothing in this Bill to prevent British Railways from having a pipe-line; but it is a very different thing from the much wider powers for which we asked.


My Lords, I think the noble Lord will find in the Transport Bill that certain powers are given to the Railways which go as far as we think they should. They will not be devoid of powers. They will be able to use any land they control, or which they mainly control, for the purpose of a pipe-line. It may be that the noble Lord will take a different view when he has read that Bill.

With regard to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, I should like to say that we missed him at the Report Stage. We regret that he was not there; I am sure he would have added to the value of our deliberations. So far as the shortage of time is concerned, to which he referred and about which the views of your Lordships' House were clearly expressed, that was entirely due to the difficult problems of drafting which arose—problems perhaps more difficult than was expected. I can only apologise to the noble Lord: we shall do out best to see that in future in other matters there is ample time. I admitted earlier that there was some shortage of time over this Bill. The noble Lord also gave his views on the speech by Lord Lucas of Chilworth. I am sure he does not expect me to take sides in that matter. I have already said that the views of both noble Lords will be taken into account in the further consideration which will be given to these problems. I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate.

On Question, Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.