§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Debate resumed on the Motion for Second Reading, moved on Tuesday last by the Lord Chairman of Committees.
VISCOUNT ST. DAVIDS
My Lords, if this Bill had come up at any other time I should have moved an Instruction to the Committee upstairs to remove from 83 the Bill mention of the closure of certain waterways. However, owing to the fact that this Bill has now come into such close contact with the major Bill whose Committee stage we have just been discussing, I believe that that would be the wrong thing for me to do, and that the proper thing for me to do this evening is to make a Second Reading speech, inform your Lordships of the purposes that I had intended to carry out, and also inform your Lordships that it may be necessary to do something at a later stage.
The point is quite simple. This Bill includes proposals for the closure and the removal of the statutory rights of navigation on a number of waterways. With a number of those proposals there can be no possible quarrel: some of the waterways concerned are so far gone and so far unable in these days to fulfil any possible purpose, that none of us should object. However, among these waterways there are a number which, when placed before the Redevelopment Committee appointed by the Minister, attracted that Committee's attention. The Committee, in fact, advised the Minister against closing them, on the ground that those particular waterways had a considerable amenity value to the public. And that, of course, is why I am addressing your Lordships on this Bill, which is a Private Bill. What is more, there are certain other waterways connected to those waterways which, though not particularly advised on in this matter by the Redevelopment Committee, might also be of use for redevelopment as working waterways by other bodies than the Transport Commission.
The position is quite simple. If we allow these waterways to be closed under the present proceedings, the Minister has said that certain of them will be kept open for pleasure traffic, although without their statutory rights of navigation. I think that is right. That may be possible in the case of certain waterways. In the case of certain other waterways which we also shall probably wish to try to keep open, the Minister has given no such assurance. At the time when the Redevelopment Committee sat there did not seem much hope that private organisations, trusts, the National Trust, or any other bodies, would come forward. I think 84 the noble Earl, Lord Albemarle, commented on that aspect earlier to-day during the discussions on the Transport Bill. But the position has since altered—this is a very rapidly altering position.
What has changed it all was the recent take-over by the National Trust of the Stratford-on-Avon Canal. Before that time public bodies, including the National Trust, were very frightened about taking over waterways, for one simple reason—the enormous cost of abandoning a waterway. To abandon a waterway to-day costs just about as much as digging one anew right from the start: it is a colossal sum. Even for a quite minor waterway the cost might well run to £100,000. If the National Trust, or any other body, took over a waterway and failed to run it, it would find that it had fallen heir to the very unpleasant legacy of having to pay this colossal sum to get the waterway properly closed. So, naturally, outside bodies were exceedingly chary about taking on any such liability.
However, the National Trust, moving forward with great care, through a five-year lease as a start, carried out that magnificent job of work on the Stratford-on-Avon canal, and now all those who love these inland waterways know that the job can be done, that it can be done safely, and that anybody who takes over such a waterway, provided there is adequate capitalisation and adequate care, can make a "go" of it. That is the entire difference; and it is a difference which has been made, one might say, over the last twelve months. The position now is that there are very large numbers of bodies which are prepared to take over waterways. The biggest single case now being considered, though not one of the waterways mentioned in this particular Bill, is, of course, the Kennet and Avon. That is a waterway over 100 miles long, with broad locks, which means that there are four lock gates to each lock, involving considerably greater expense than most of the small canals mentioned in this particular Bill, which are what are called narrow canals—in other words canals with only two small lock gates to each lock—requiring less than half the expenditure to put them right.
Your Lordships may wonder how on earth a trust can manage to hang on to 85 a waterway and make it pay when nobody else has managed to do so. I think the best thing I can do (and it will show the advantages of the procedure) is to quote three parallel cases—strangely enough, almost literally parallel—of three arms of the Grand Union Canal. One arm, the Buckingham arm, is among those intended to be abandoned under this Bill. A second was originally intended to be abandoned but owing to the activities of the Inland Waterways Association has revived, and now carries considerable pleasure and commercial traffic—note that, my Lords; commercial traffic. The third parallel arm is the Wendover arm, which was abandoned a number of years ago. It was not legally abandoned, because it was never actually a legal waterway: it was what is called a navigable water feeder. Those three arms of the Grand Union Canal run parallel with each other, not many miles apart.
I walked up the Wendover arm when I went for a quiet winter walk, one weekend, along the ancient towpath, along several miles of this old Wendover arm. I can tell your Lordships what it is: it is a rubbish heap, many miles long, spread like an ugly smear across the countryside, not filled in, no use to anybody, a positive curse to agriculture being full of every kind of pest, both animal and vegetable. I just do not believe your Lordships want that kind of thing in the countryside. It is well worth while for any of your Lordships to go and take a look at it, to see what happens to a canal if it is abandoned and is not physically filled in, which is an expense much greater than abandonment.
The second arm, which is to the north of the Wendover arm, is the Aylesbury arm. This was intended to be abandoned a few years ago, but the Inland Waterways Association beat up a lot of enthusiasm for it. They held a big rally at Aylesbury, and the result has been miraculous. The traffic on the canal, before the Inland Waterways Association got busy on it, was nil for all the years for which I can find records in recent years. The present traffic on that waterway is over 1,500 tons a year and consists of coal, timber and bulk aluminium; all three trades are, I am glad to say, increasing. There is also a large hire cruiser base, with passenger cruisers and hire motor launches for 86 those who like to go for weekends on the waterways. I have seen these cruisers as far afield as Oxford, travelling not only the Aylesbury arm but also the main lines of the canal, and of course paying their fees and dues for so doing.
The branch which is mentioned in this Bill is the next one north, the Buckingham arm. The Buckingham arm was a water feeder for the Grand Union, and because it has gone out of action the Grand Union has had to build a pumping station and to keep that pumping station equipped. If the Buckingham arm were reopened it would have an immediate income from selling water to the Grand Union because the Grand Union would then be able to close this expensive pumping station. It would be much easier to reopen then either of the other two arms; and certainly much easier to keep in good condition than the Aylesbury arm, because the Aylesbury arm has sixteen locks in its eight miles of length, whereas the Buckingham arm has only two locks in the whole of its ten miles.
That waterway is in a superb position to be used by yachtsmen, leading straight on to the best part of the Grand Union north of the heavily locked section where the Grand Union crosses the great chalk downs, and it would have an immediate revenue from yacht basins at Buckingham and at Old Stratford, from houseboats in its length, from water fed to the Grand Union; and if the Inland Waterways Association did on it anything like the job they did at Aylesbury, it would also most likely have coming in cargoes of coal and possibly timber. There is absolutely no reason why, if that arm was put in good order, it should not be an immediate and lively little arm of the canal. It might cost a fair sum of money to put right if the job were done by the nationalised authority. Of course, that is the reason why they are abandoning it.
The enthusiasts who are working for the National Trust and the Inland Waterways Association are a completely different kettle of fish. As we now know from what happened to the Stratford Canal, if a waterway is handed over to them they descend upon it literally in their thousands—I think the figure is nearer tens of thousands—and, armed 87 with the quite surprising amount of capital equipment and heavy earth moving capacity which they now possess, they are quite capable of redigging ten miles of canal at a surprising speed, and a couple of locks would give them no trouble at all.
Here is a waterway which is being abandoned and which should not be abandoned. It ought to be kept as a statutory waterway and handed over to a trust. However, the machinery for handing over to a trust is at the moment most ineffective. It took the National Trust two years to negotiate over the Stratford-on-Avon Canal, partly because they had to have a private Act of Parliament to get the waterway handed over to them from British Waterways, and partly because they had a large amount of negotiation which did not in fact make any considerable difference to the end result.
I hope that when we return to the Committee stage which we have just left we may be able to remedy this. I have put down an Amendment to this Bill, which I shall not mention in detail because we shall be dealing with it later, but its purpose is to make easier the handing over of this kind of waterway from either the old British Waterways Authority or the new British Waterways Board. If that Amendment is passed it is probable, as I understand it, that the waterways which are mentioned in the present Bill may come under the new clause. I do not know if that is so. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, will be able to tell us when he replies.
VISCOUNT ST. DAVIDS
My Lords, certain waterways are being abandoned in the Bill which is now before us. We are hoping to insert a clause in the Transport Bill, which we were recently discussing and which we shall be discussing again, which will make certain of these abandonments unnecessary as it will be possible to use the machinery of that clause to take over these waterways. Perhaps the noble Lord will be able to tell us at the end of this debate whether, if we let matters go on this clause, we shall be able to take over the waterways which are to be acquired by 88 the Trust under the machinery of the new clause, if passed. That is the main point which has troubled those of us who prefer to see the waterways serve an active and useful purpose, and not simply become the kind of long, stretched-out rubbish heap of which I have seen too much and which I feel sure your Lordships do not wish to inflict upon the countryside.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ LORD CHESHAM
My Lords, first of all I am most grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord St. Davids for having recognised what is an undoubted and rather important fact—namely, that the work of the British Transport Commission, despite the fact that it is towards the end of its life organised as it is, must go on. I am most grateful that he has based his speech on that assumption, because it is necessary for the work to go on, as I shall presently show, to stop the financial rot, so to speak, and also so that there shall be powers ready for works which the new Board will have to undertake.
VISCOUNT ST. DAVIDS
My Lords, will the noble Lord permit me to interrupt him? I have always said, both in this debate and in others, that the best possible thing for these waterways is for them to remain in the possession of those who hold them now, and for them to be improved and developed there; and everything that I and my friends wish to do is for the assistance of the present Board, to make it easier and more profitable to carry out their duties.
§ LORD CHESHAM
My Lords, I quite recognise the sincerity of the noble Viscount's motives and those of his friends. It is a matter upon which, as he himself well knows, there is some division of opinion as to which is the best way to proceed.
Whilst his motives are undoubtedly excellent, I think that there must perhaps be another point of view as well; and he has, in my opinion, done well to accord it recognition in his speech. I am very grateful to him that he should have done so. I had been rather wondering what he was going to say, because, in a way, this is rather a strange occasion, in that your Lordships are having a debate on the Second Reading 89 of a Private Bill. I looked up what Erskine May had to say about it. I found, on page 1008, that it is unusual for the Second Reading of a Private Bill to be debated in the Lords, for I saw these words:Where a debate does take place, however, the House has in recent years invariably upheld the principle that the decision of the Committee on the Bill should not be prejudiced by discussion on Second Reading, unless the House has come to the opinion that, whatever the local circumstances may be, the powers conferred by the Bill should not be allowed to the promoter".Well, the noble Viscount apparently has been unusual. I do not think he would claim—and I certainly did not understand him to say—that he was trying to persuade the House that there were powers that should not be allowed to the promoter. He had various comments about the situation, but he did not say that.
The first thing I say, therefore, is that there is no reason to suppose that the Committee who will examine this Bill will be prejudiced by anything that is said in this House. Equally, there is no reason for me to adduce any argument at all against anything of that nature that the noble Viscount might have put forward. But, my Lords, I will now step aside from the formality of the Bill, and since we are all here, spend a few minutes being as unusual as the noble Viscount himself—particularly in view of something he said earlier in the afternoon which is rather appropriate to certain remarks he has made. He did, of course, mention a number of canals (which, of course, are nothing to do with the Bill, as he realises) in order to illustrate a point, but I think I must, to emphasise my points, just mention one or two of them that are in the Bill.
The first point is that the proposals for the closure under Clause 16 of all the waterways set out in the Second Schedule to the Bill, have been approved by the Minister of Transport. We must remember, too, that Clause 16 is permissive and not compulsory. The Minister's approval follows consideration of schemes for the future redevelopment of canals by the Redevelopment Committee, about which the noble Viscount told us. In reply to the noble Lord, I am going to tall, as quickly as I can, the story of this matter. At the same time I should like to use it to 90 refute What he said earlier in the afternoon on the subject—what I think he called the horrifying way in which my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport was going against the recommendations of the Advisory Committee.
My Lords, in the first place, with the exception of four lengths all the nineteen lengths listed in the Second Schedule (except the last, which is not a canal at all, but an entrance to a dock) were recommended for closure. So that is not a very big step in the wrong direction. The 1959 White Paper envisaged that there would be considerable assistance, both financial and otherwise, from people who would benefit from redevelopment schemes. The noble Lord touched on that and mentioned the Stratford-on-Avon Canal, about which we have heard before this afternoon; and I agree that a very fine job is being done. But so far, as he also said, that is the only one. In the course of carrying out their comprehensive investigations into canals which are due for closure under this Bill—that is to say, closure to navigation—no other case was found in which anyone was willing to come forward With positive financial proposals to take them over. The noble Viscount told us about that and explained that that was a year ago or more, and that now the situation was different. That may well be.
Granting the success of the Stratford Canal and the National Trust effort, I wish I could share his optimism that that can successfully be done over hundreds of miles of canal. Perhaps he is right, but one wants to see, so to speak, the colour of the money first—I only observe that in passing. The proposed closure under the Bill is closure to navigation only, which does not necessarily mean that the canals cannot in fact be retained or restored for pleasure boating or any other such purpose if it proves to be desirable. It will not prevent any of the bodies of the kind the noble Lord mentioned from negotiating agreements with the Board to take them over on the lines that he indicated. They could take them over either under existing statutory provisions or under the clause he proposes to move in the Transport Bill later on, if it is accepted. They could take them over either way.
VISCOUNT ST. DAVIDS
My Lords, may I put one minor point? Any body which takes over one of these waterways is almost certain to wish to reopen it to commercial navigation as well as pleasure. The Stratford-on-Avon Canal is actually being re-equipped to open for commercial navigation as well as pleasure; and I assume that any other waterway which reopens will almost certainly wish to open for the same purposes, if only for budgetary reasons. In point of fact, there is a considerable traffic demand, of a minor character, on several of these waterways.
§ LORD CHESHAM
That seems to be a hurdle we shall have to take when we come to it, because the fact that there is some possibility of commercial traffic on a short length of canal does not justify overriding the present position which, confined to the canals in the Bill alone, is one in which they are running at a loss of £35,000 a year. The redevelopment proposals—that is, for closure to navigation—will result in a considerable saving on future maintenance bills, which I think is only fair to the taxpayer. This will also, of course, reduce the burden to the new Board when it takes over.
Coming back to the point of the ad visory committee and my right honourable friend——
§ LORD AIREDALE
My Lords, before the noble Lord comes to that point, may I ask whether when he talks about powers of closure for navigation he means commercial navigation? He went on to say that there might still be possibilities of pleasure boating. But, surely, pleasure boating is just as much navigation as any other kind of boating. Is he drawing a distinction between the two?
§ LORD CHESHAM
Yes, I am drawing such a distinction. I am coming on to a point in a moment which I hope will help the noble Lord and will make it a little clearer to him. Just at this moment I should like to go back to my right honourable friend in regard to the redevelopment committee. It is an advisory committee; it has no executive function. The executive function, the responsibility, rests squarely on the Minister; and the ownership duties and 92 other functions and obligations rest squarely with the British Transport Commission. On these particular closures, which will do as well as any other for an example, the only important differences of view between the Minister and the Committee have arisen on the Chesterfield Canal and the Old Stratford cut of the Grand Union, the Buckingham arm, which the noble Viscount told us about. The Committee made qualified proposals in these cases that the two sections should remain open to navigation, but the Minister considered that these were unnecessary.
On the Chesterfield Canal, the Committee proposed that 20 miles of it should be closed immediately: they include a collapsed tunnel, dried-up sections, and goodness knows what. They proposed to retain 25 miles for navigation and to restore it for pleasure boating at what would have been considerable cost. It would have cost £24,000 more than the present Commission's proposals and an additional £2,000 a year to maintain. The Minister did not feel able on financial grounds to approve that proposal at the present time, and I do not think that you could really quarrel with that as being a horrifying disregard of the Committee's recommendations. He decided, therefore, that formal closure was justified; but, as I said, that does not rule out the possibility of restoration for pleasure boating because, in view of the Committee's recommendation, the Minister has asked the Commission to maintain the 25 miles section in the condition in which it now is, until future possibilities can be seen and its future can be better worked out. The Commission have given the Minister an assurance that they will do so. So I do not think noble Lords could say that there is anything very criminal there.
My Lords, on the Buckingham arm, which the noble Viscount told us about, the Committee recommended a waiting period to see whether the possible demand for pleasure boating justified the cost of restoration. As the noble Viscount said, the canal is unnavigable now, and I think I am right in saying it is dried up for part of the year.
§ LORD CHESHAM
It would therefore be unreasonable to leave the Commission, and the new Board in due course, with a duty, which would be very costly, to maintain this length in a fit state for commercial navigation. But this is another case where the Minister, in view of the possible demand, has made a similar request to the Commission, who have given a similar assurance that they will maintain it in the condition in which it now is, until they can see the future more clearly. I do not want to be too long, but I have two more cases here which are very similar.
VISCOUNT ST. DAVIDS
My Lords, there is one question on the Buckingham arm which I should like to ask. A considerable main road has been put across this canal at low level. The present position, as I understand it, is that although the road is technically illegal, in that it has blocked the navigation of a waterway, yet it exists on a kind of permit by which it may be removed or heightened if the waterway is required for navigation. If the waterway is being kept in the same condition as it now is, will that permit remain in position and in force, and will it in fact be revocable should the waterway be handed over to other authorities, in spite of the legal abandonment of the canal?
§ LORD CHESHAM
My Lords, I think that that is rather too fast a ball for me to be able to play straight back to the noble Viscount without notice. I will certainly look into the matter and let him know what the position is, but I cannot give him the detail offhand. Without quoting two more cases of a similar nature, because I do not want to take up the time of the House, I think I have rather cleared my right honourable friend of what the noble Viscount said about him.
I have one more point that I want to mention before I finish; and that is that the noble Viscount said that it was very much more expensive to close a canal than to restore it for navigation. I am bound to say, with the greatest respect to the noble Viscount, that that is really quite untrue. It is true (and this is where an important distinction arises, in which the noble Viscount will be interested) that if you are going to eliminate a canal, it may well be—because elimination means an expensive 94 process of filling it in, and so on; it simply goes out of existence—that that can be very expensive indeed. There I would agree. But it is quite untrue to say that it is much cheaper to restore a canal than it is to close it to navigation, because that need not cost anything very much at all. That means merely that it does not have to be kept up to the same standard.
§ LORD CHESHAM
That is another question. I am referring to the question of cost, which is what the noble Viscount referred to. It may become a rubbish heap, but that is another question. There are really three things. One, is closure to navigation, which possibly means that you then convert the canal into a water channel or something of that nature. It costs money to maintain, but it costs much less money, and certainly a great deal less money to put in some weirs and things like that, than to renew all the locks. In fact, it is normally very much cheaper to do that with it than it is to restore it to full navigation.
Abandonment is another matter, be cause there is a difference between the two. The noble Viscount mentioned abandonment in the case of the Bucking ham arm. But, of course, the proposal is not to abandon it: it is to close it to navigation, which is a very different thing—abandonment means just letting it sit there and fall to pieces—and a very inexpensive process it is, because the maintenance costs are very low. I just wanted to make the distinction, be cause not very many are eliminated, or have been so far, and that is the only case where it could be cheaper to restore it. I just wanted to make that point before I finished. Otherwise, my Lords, I think that this is something——
THE EARL OF ARRAN
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt, but I was wondering whether it was seriously proposed to leave a series of disconnected duckponds if, on the one hand, the waterway is not to be completely open to navigation or, on the other hand, is not to be entirely filled up. It is proposed to leave a lot of morasses with grass and rubble in between. "Discon- 95 nected duckponds" is the phrase which has been used to me.
§ LORD CHESHAM
My Lords, I do not want to go again into the whole argument on this matter. I have certainly dealt with certain specialist aspects of it, such as cost, and I have not tried to discuss the other matters. I would only say to the noble Earl, very briefly, that if he must describe it in that way, then he must. But if we are to accept that, then I should think that perhaps even that might be better than leaving a series of connected duckponds, which cost the taxpayer about £750,000 to keep there. But perhaps that will be an argument for another day.
§ LORD CHESHAM
My Lords, I think that, all in all, we can safely leave this Bill to the attention of the Committee which will examine it.
§ 7.37 p.m.
My Lords, when I moved the Second Reading of this Bill I did not accompany it by any kind of speech, so perhaps I might say a very few words to reply to this debate. In listening to this interesting debate I have had to remind myself more than once exactly what we are here for this evening. We are here, I might remind the House, to decide whether this Private Bill should or should not be allowed to go upstairs and be looked at by a Select Committee. I would remind the House again (because I have done so on other Bills) that the question of whether a Private Bill should be read a second time is very different from a similar question dealing with a Public Bill. I think it is constitutionally correct to say that, by giving a Second Reading to a Private Bill, all that the House is really doing is to commit the Bill to a Committee upstairs to examine it. It is not, as is the case with a Public Bill, agreeing to the broad principles of the Bill.
My Lords, I hope it is not unfair if I say that, in listening to this debate, it seemed to me that we have been using this Private Bill to discuss some very general points which might apply throughout the country. It is perfectly true that in the Second Schedule to this Bill there is a list of nineteen waterways 96 which it is proposed to close in part or in whole. But, still, that does not by any means cover the whole country. I hope the noble Viscount will forgive me if I suggest that we really must be careful to distinguish between, on the one hand, the real question that we are debating to-night, and, on the other hand, the broad principles of whether waterways should or should not be closed. I believe that those who have listened to him will have a great deal of sympathy with the noble Viscount in what he has said about these broad principles—and, if I may say so, on another occasion he might get a great deal of support. But I am not on that account going to ask the House to withhold giving a Second Reading to the Bill so that it may be committed to a Select Committee.
I am not here to advocate the policy of the Promoters of the Bill—that is not my function—but perhaps I might just mention, strictly factually, a few details about the Bill, simply because I did not do so when I moved the Second Reading. This is a Bill which has already passed through another place, but in this House there are eight Petitions against the Bill, which shows that it is opposed to a considerable degree and that it will have to be gone into very thoroughly by a Select Committee. Your Lordships can therefore rest assured that the controversial points about this Bill will not be overlooked.
Of those eight Petitions, so far as I can see, three only deal with the closing of waterways. They are the Petitions of the West Riding County Council, which is objecting to the clauses dealing with the Chesterfield Canal; of the Derbyshire County Council, which objects to the closing of the Erewash Canal; and the Manchester Corporation, which objects to the closing of the Ashton Canal. Of those three, again so far as I can see, the only Petition against the Bill which objects outright to the Closing for navigation purposes of one of these waterways is that of the Derbyshire County Council, which is opposed to the closing of the Erewash Canal. In the other two cases the opposition is not so much to the cessation of navigation but proceeds on more or less the same lines as the noble Viscount did and deals with the consequences that may ensue from the absence of the Promoters' obligations on 97 these two waterways. The other waterway which the noble Viscount mentioned frequently, the Buckingham arm, is, so far as I can see, not objected to at all by way of Petition against this Bill. At least, I can find no mention of it in any of the Petitions, although, of course, it is one of the canals mentioned in the Second Schedule as being one to be closed.
My Lords, I think there is nothing more I need say, but if I may, I will end, as I began, by asking the House to remember, in spite of the eloquence of the noble Viscount, that what we are really here for tonight is to decide a very simple question: should this Private Bill be given a Second Reading to enable it to be discussed by a Committee? The noble Viscount introduced certain matters dealing with a Public Bill. Of course, I have no function in that matter, but I would suggest to the House, if I may respectfully do so, that it is a mistake to mix up these two things. It is a mistake, I think—if this is what the noble Viscount is trying to do—to try to use a Private Bill to air objections to a Public Bill. I hope I am not being in any way unfair in suggesting that.
VISCOUNT ST. DAVIDS
My Lords, I think the noble Lord is slightly mistaken in this matter. I did not want to use this Bill to air any matters on the other Bill. It is simply that, because the two Bills have come forward so close together, proceedings which would otherwise have been taken in this Bill have become unnecessary, or, if they are necessary, they may have to be brought at a later stage when we know what is in fact happening on the other Bill.
I am glad the noble Viscount said that, because it illustrates the point I was trying to make: the fact that these two Bills come so close together should not be a reason for withholding a Second Reading from this Bill. Therefore, I now proceed to ask your Lordships not to withhold a Second Reading from this Bill. I have already moved that we grant it a Second Reading.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees. I think that what he has suggested is the right course. The tabling at rather short notice of the Second Reading on a day that was for us rather difficult parliamentary led to a little misunderstanding at the start. I must apologise to my moble friend, because I have been away attending a rather important part of a Committee for a couple of hours. I hope the Bill will now be given a Second Reading, but, in view of what the noble Lord Chairman has said about the Petitions against it, we can assure my noble friend that there will be ample opportunity, if required, to consider the effect of those Petitions on the mind of the Select Committee, and to raise the matter again on Third Reading. I should think that, on that understanding, my noble friend would be satisfied.
May I just say a word about that, my Lords, if I may speak again? The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, will appreciate that there is not such a great deal of time to deal with this Bill before the Summer Recess, and it is strenuously opposed. Therefore, it is reasonable to suppose that the Committee stage will take a considerable time. The Whitsun Recess is upon us; and, when one counts them up, one realises there are not many weeks to August. If I allowed too short a time in putting down this Bill for Second Reading, I apologise, but there were reasons for it. If I may say so, I think that my function is to find time to enable any Private Bill to be passed if it is the wish of the House that it should, and not to allow a Private Bill to fail because of lack of time; and it is sometimes quite a delicate matter to fit them all in during the short time available.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a and committed to a Select Committee.
§ House adjourned at twelve minutes before eight o'clock.