§ 3.5 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.
EARL ST. ALDWYN
My Lords, I have it in Command from Her Majesty the Queen to signify to the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Water Resources Bill, has consented to place Her Majesty's interest so far as it is concerned on behalf of the Crown, the Duchy of Lancaster and the Duchy of Cornwall at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.
THE MINISTER OF STATE, HOME OFFICE (EARL JELLICOE)
My Lords, I rise formally to move the Third Reading. I think that any debate which your Lordships may think necessary on the merits of the Bill might more appropriately take place on the later Motion, That the Bill do now pass, and that the Third Reading might deal solely with the Amendments on the Marshalled List. I beg to move that the Bill be read a third time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be read 3ª.—(Earl Jellicoe.)
§ On Question, Bill read 3ª.
§ Clause 17 [Gauges and records kept by other persons]:520
§ THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF HOUSING AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT (LORD HASTINGS)
My Lords, this Amendment continues an undertaking given orginally to the noble Lord, Lord Cawley, and as a result of further consideration of the matter it has been decided that gauges installed for temporary purposes are unlikely to produce information of value to the river authority and that there is no reason why prior notice of their installation and notice of the place where records, if any, are to be kept should be given to them. I beg to move.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 17, line 25, at end insert—
("Provided that this subsection shall not apply to any gauge which is removed at or before the end of the period of twenty-eight days beginning with the date on which it is installed.")—(Lord Hastings.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 24 [Exceptions from general restrictions]:
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, this Amendment and the next go together. The general purpose of them is to extend the exemptions from licensing afforded by Clause 24 in order to cover effectively abstractions made as part of or in consequence of land drainage, mining, engineering, building and similar operations and transfers of water in the course of or resulting from operations by navigation, conservancy and harbour authorities. The need for the Amendment arises because the provisions of subsections (3) and (4) of Clause 24 are in parts too restrictive as they stand. I beg to move.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 23, line 10, leave out from ("household") to first ("the") in line 16 and insert—
("(4) The restriction imposed by subsection (1) of the last preceding section does not apply to any abstraction of water from a source of supply—
(5) In the case of any abstraction of water from underground strata which falls within subsection (3) or subsection (4) of this section").—(Lord Hastings.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Page 23, line 22, leave out from ("to") to end of line 31 and insert ("any transfer of water from one inland water to another in the course of, or resulting from, any operations carried out by a navigation authority, harbour authority or conservancy authority in the performance of their functions as such an authority").—(Lord Hastings.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, this Amendment, which has been suggested by the Federation of British Industries, extends the exemption to work done for the purpose of testing fire fighting apparatus and anything done in the course of training and practice in the use of such apparatus. I beg to move.
Page 23, line 33, leave out from ("for") to end of line 34 and insert ("fire-fighting purposes (within the meaning of the Fire Services Act 1947) or for the purpose of testing apparatus used for those purposes or of training or practice in the use of such apparatus.").—(Lord Hastings.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 26 [Protected rights to abstract water]:
Page 25, line 6, leave out ("24 (3) (a) or 24 (3) (b)"') and insert ("or section 24 (3)").—(Lord Hastings.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 33 [Entitlement to licence of right]:
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, at the Report stage the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, put down a rather similar Amendment, which he did not in fact move because it was part of a group of five and we had the discussion on the first one. It appears that there is a case for making some provision to secure that an abstraction made in complete disregard of the licensing provisions of Clause 14 shall not entitle the person making such abstraction to a licence of right under 522 Clause 33. I therefore beg to move this Amendment.
Page 31, line 44, at end insert—
("(3) For the purposes of this section, and of sections 34 and 35 of this Act, no account shall be taken of any water abstracted in contravention of section 14(5) of the Water Act 1945 (which restricts the abstraction of underground water in areas to which that section is applied).").—(Lord Hastings.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 42 [Proposal by river authority to revoke or vary licence]:
Page 38, line 29, leave out ("authorises abstraction from") and insert ("relates to").—(Lord Hastings.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ EARL JELLICOE moved, after Clause 60 to insert the following new clause:
§ Special charges in respect of spray irrigation
§ ".—(1) Where a person (in this section referred to as 'the applicant') is for the time being the holder of a licence under this Act to abstract water, and in accordance with the provisions of the licence (in this section referred to as 'the relevant licence')—
- (a) the water is to be used on land of which the applicant is the occupier, and
- (b) the purposes for which water abstracted in pursuance of the licence is to be used consist of or include spray irrigation,
§ (2) During any period for which an agreement under this section is in force, charges shall be payable by the applicant to the river authority in respect of the relevant licence, in so far as it relates to water authorised to be abstracted and used on the relevant land, as follows, that is to say—
- (a) basic charges calculated in accordance with the agreement by reference to the quantity of water authorised to be so abstracted and used from time to time in pursuance of the licence, and
- (b) supplementary charges calculated in accordance with the agreement by reference to the quantity of water which is measured or assessed as being abstracted from time to time by or on behalf of the applicant from the source of supply to which the relevant licence relates for use on the relevant land.
§ (3) In determining whether to make an agreement with the applicant under this section, and 523 in determining the charges to be leviable under such an agreement, the river authority shall have regard to the extent to which, in any year within the period proposed to be specified in the agreement as the period for which it is made, the quantity of water referred to in paragraph (a) of the last preceding subsection is likely to exceed the quantity referred to in paragraph (b) of that subsection.
§ (4) The period specified in an agreement under this section as the period for which it is made shall mot be less than five years.
§ (5) An agreement under this section shall remain in force until the occurrence of whichever of the following events first occurs, that is to say—
- (a) the period specified in the agreement, as mentioned in the last preceding subsection, comes to an end;
- (b) the relevant licence expires or is revoked;
- (c) the applicant ceases to be the occupier of the relevant land, or, if he has previously ceased to be the occupier of a part or parts of that land, ceases to be the occupier of the remainder of it;
- (d) the agreement is terminated under the next following subsection.
§ (6) At any time while an agreement under this section is in force, the applicant may apply to the river authority to terminate the agreement; and if on any such application the river authority are satisfied that, by reason of any change of circumstances since the agreement was made, it ought to be terminated, the river authority may terminate the agreement, either unconditionally or subject to such conditions (whether as to any payment to be made by the applicant or otherwise) as the river authority and the applicant may agree.
§ (7) The provisions of subsections (3) to (5) of section 58 of this Act shall have effect in relation to applications and to the exercise of powers under this section as they have effect in relation to applications and to the exercise of powers under that section, as if in those provisions any reference to the making of an agreement or to the terms of an agreement included a reference to the termination of an agreement or to the conditions subject to which an agreement is to be terminated, as the case may be.
§ (8) Where the relevant licence authorises water abstracted in pursuance of the licence to be used on the relevant land for purposes which include spray irrigation and other purposes,—
- (a) any agreement made under this section shall provide for apportioning, as between those purposes respectively, the quantity referred to in paragraph (a) and the quantity referred to in paragraph (b) of subsection (2) of this section;
- (b) subsection (2) of this section shall have effect as if in each of those paragraphs the reference to the quantity of water therein mentioned were a reference to so much of that quantity as in accordance with the agreement is opportioned to the purpose of spray irrigation;
- (c) in subsection (3) of this section any reference to either of those paragraphs shall be construed as a reference to that paragraph as modified by paragraph (b) of this subsection; and
- (d) subject to the provisions of this Part of this Act other than this section, charges shall be leviable in accordance with any charging scheme for the time being in force in respect of so much of the quantity referred to in paragraph (a) of subsection (2) of this section as in accordance with the agreement is apportioned to purposes other than spray irrigation.
§ (9) Subject to the last preceding subsection, where an agreement under this section is in force, then in so far as the relevant licence relates to water authorised to be abstracted and. used on the relevant land, the provisions of this section shall have effect notwithstanding anything contained in any other provision of this Part of this Act or in any charging scheme; but—
- (a) nothing in this section or in any agreement made thereunder shall affect the operation of any other provision of this Part of this Act or of any charging scheme in relation to a licence in so far as it authorises water abstracted in pursuance of the licence to be used on any land other than the relevant land, and
- (b) nothing in this section or in any such agreement shall affect the operation of section 55 of this Act.
§ (10) An application under subsection (1) of this section may be made by a person who has applied for, but is not yet the holder of, a licence under this Act to abstract water; and, in relation to an application so made or to an agreement made on such an application,—
- (a) the reference in that subsection to the provisions of the relevant licence shall be construed as a reference to the proposals contained in the application for a licence, and
- (b) any other reference in this section to the relevant licence shall be construed as a reference to any licence granted to the applicant in pursuance of the last-mentioned application or in pursuance of an appeal consequential upon the last-mentioned application.
§ (11) In this section 'the relevant land' means the land on which the relevant licence, as for the time being in force, authorises water abstracted in pursuance of the licence to be used for purposes which consist of or include spray irrigation, and 'year' means a period of twelve months beginning with the date on which an agreement under this section comes or is proposed to come into force or beginning with an anniversary of that date."
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, during the Report stage I said that we hoped to devise a scheme for an alternative charging system for the spray irrigator which would strike a reasonable balance between the requirements of that spray irrigator, the revenue of the river authority and the vagaries of our 525 charming climate. It is our belief that the scheme embodied in the new clause which I am now moving does strike that reasonable balance.
§ This is an important Amendment, and even at this late stage of the Bill I think your Lordships would expect me to say a few words on it. The essence of the new clause is that it enables a river authority to make an agreement with a spray irrigator providing that for a period specified in the agreement (which period is to be not less than five years) the charges payable in respect of the abstraction authorised by his licence shall be in two parts. The first would be a basic charge calculated by reference to the quantity authorised to be abstracted. The second part would be a supplementary charge calculated by reference to the quantity of water actually abstracted.
§ The spray irrigator, like the statutory undertaker, has become a familiar figure to your Lordships as a result of our discussions on this Bill. Consequently, the reasons for this Amendment will be apparent to you. The basic reason, of course, is due to the possibility—I think I would correct that and say the probability—that in many years a spray irrigator will in practice require very much less water than the maximum amount which he has obtained a licence to abstract and which will represent his need in a dry year. At an earlier stage of our discussion the noble Lord, Lord De Ramsey, who throughout has made such notable contributions to our consideration of this Bill, quoted figures to show that the average demand of the spray irrigator in the East Midlands over a period of five years might not exceed a half of the total peak demand for which he had sought a licence.
§ Moreover the fluctuations in demand are entirely outside the abstracter's control. They stem from the vagaries of what until this winter we thought was the temperate British climate. Spray irrigation needs are in fact inextricably linked with rainfall or the absence of it. That is why we considered that these new provisions should be quite clearly restricted to abstractions for that purpose—namely, spray irrigation. I would grant that there may well be other abstractions which vary with the weather. In hot weather we need more water to water our gardens, or to slake our thirsts with beer or 526 bitter lemon, and to make ice-cream or coca-cola. But in no case is the fluctuation of demand so extreme—from zero up to maximum peak—or so unpredictable as it is in the case of spray irrigation. Hence this new clause.
§ I do not propose to take your Lordships through the maze of its various subsections, but I should like to refer to one—namely, subsection (4). That subsection provides, subject to subsections (5) and (6), that any agreement must last at least five years. On Report the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Barn-burgh, suggested that we might settle for a three, rather than a five, year period. With, I suspect, his tongue in his cheek and with an old adage in his mind, he was kind enough to credit me with good intentions. As always, he was, of course, quite right; and perhaps I should just explain, given those good intentions, why we have opted for five years. This period has been chosen as the minimum period for an agreement in the belief that it will be fair to both licence-holder and river authority. A shorter period is likely to be much too short to produce anything approaching a reasonably representative experience of the English climate. Five years is also, I might mention, the period during which a charging scheme under this Bill ought to remain without amendment.
§ My Lords, the technique of spray irrigation is likely to become increasingly important in the future, at least in the drier parts of these Islands. It is our belief that the new clause should assist those who wish to increase agricultural productivity in this way. It is also our belief that it does no undue violence to the main structure of the charging system which we are writing into this Bill. I beg to move.
After Clause 60 insert the said new clause.—(Earl Jellicoe.)
§ 3.17 p.m.
§ LORD LINDGREN
My Lords, the noble Earl quite rightly called the attention of the House to the fact that this Amendment fulfils an undertaking which was given during Committee. Although the Amendment is long and complicated, I think it not unfair to paraphrase it, and to say that the real essence of the clause is in subsections (1) and (2). Subsection 527 (2) provides the new principle for charging. I think the House ought to face the fact that a basic charge is to be levied with reference to the amount of water authorised to be abstracted, and a supplementary charge on the actual amount of water abstracted. We had considerable discussion during the Committee stage on the charging scheme, and I submit that the fact that the Government feel that it is necessary to introduce the Amendment strengthens the case that I put to the Committee on a number of occasions, that there ought to be a new look at the charging scheme as a whole.
It is not unusual for Members who are in Opposition to twit the Government with changing their mind and breaking the principles which they have set down. I do not think it is unfair to paraphrase the general assumption which the Government have adopted during the whole of our Committee stage: first of all, that all abstracters must pay both in respect of past abstractions and future abstractions because all will benefit, and that there are no special dispensations. The second point on which they hung their policy was that the charge must be based upon the quantity authorised to be abstracted, since the river authority must plan on the basis of the maximum demand that can be made on the river, and the cost of any works that must be operated according to the maximum amount that any abstracter is entitled to take.
On the Report stage I again twitted the noble Earl with the fact that he had broken that principle in respect to canals, concerning which special arrangements were made. The new clause for spray irrigators breaks down not only the first principle on which the Government have hung their charges scheme, but also the second principle, that charges are to be based upon the amount of water abstracted.
There appears to be no good reason why the principle of charging according to the abstraction authorised should not be broken down. If there is sound reason, then surely there is no necessity for this alternative method of charging to be restricted to spray irrigators. I do not object to their having this special facility, but I suggest that there is no basic reason why it should be restricted to them. For 528 example, there are water undertakers who make peak demands at certain times of the year who will be bound to obtain licences on the basis of their maximum abstraction. It is difficult to understand why spray irrigators should be treated differently from other abstracters.
The new clause tabled by the Government again raises the question whether the whole charging scheme should not be revised. The suggested clause rather goes against the principle of the Report of the Central Advisory Water Sub-Committee on water charges which for a considerable period was chaired by the present Minister and, after he became a Minister, Mr. John Cochran took over from him. I would draw the attention of the noble Earl to Chapter IX of that Report under the heading "Water used for other purposes", paragraphs 55 and 56. The whole basis of that chapter is the fact that, when resources are low, these special abstracters are generally required, in order that demand should be able to be met, to undertake considerable work in the way of conservation. If the abstraction is going to take place when resources are low and if they have to provide the works in order to get the necessary reserves to meet that period, it is fair and reasonable, I think, that those who demand the creation of a reserve should pay for that reserve to be created. The fact that they do not want it when resources are plentiful applies to many other people. The Water Resources Advisory Committee Report refers to boarding-house keepers at the seaside, to canning factories and others. The same principle could apply all the way through. The real point is that this is giving a special feature to agriculture and to spray irrigation.
§ 3.22 p.m.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, one can understand that the inflexibility of Clause 56 (2) has led Her Majesty's Government to propose this new clause, involving a new principle with a two-part charging scheme. But why, as the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren asked, should it be available only to one class of abstracter? I recognise that the needs of spray irrigation are great, but so are the needs of certain users in industry—I have in mind the amount of cooling water that is used. Although this statement may not accord with what my 529 noble friend Lord Jellicoe said, I think it was said in the course of a symposium which took place in London last year that the needs of spray irrigation in, say, 20 years would equal those of industry and the water undertakers. It therefore seems that there will be extensive demand, and that in the years to come the needs of spray irrigation on the question of quantity will be in keeping with those of industry.
I would therefore ask my noble friend when he comes to reply—because I should like to have this on record—whether Her Majesty's Government would be prepared to have another look at this, as was suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, so that these provisions could be extended to other users of water in order to provide an equitable measure of relief in appropriate circumstances where the actual quantity is less than the authorised quantity, thus avoiding hardship to other abstracters. One can appreciate that spray irrigators may have had cause to complain of hardship before this clause was introduced, but other users might well be in a similar position.
§ 3.24 p.m.
§ LORD WILLIAMS OF BARNBURGH
My Lords, there is just one point to which neither the noble Earl nor my noble friend referred, and which, I think, must have prompted the noble Earl to produce this new clause. I, personally, welcome it for at least one reason, and that is that the Bill, as now drafted, gives the supplier of water the right, on appropriate occasions, to reduce the quantity of water already decided upon and bargained for, when there is a long period of dry weather. It would not be convenient for the water supplier to continue to allow the maximum to be taken by a number of sprays in large fields during that sort of period. I think everybody would agree that the supplier must have the right to limit quantities taken by those large sprays; it is right that the supplier should have the power upon such occasions to limit the quantity of water taken.
It is equally fair that if the man is denied the right to take the quantity of water originally bargained for, he ought not to have to pay the maximum amount of charge. This new clause at all events takes care of that. Although, there may 530 be genuine substance in my noble friend's case that this is changing the principle, it would be grossly unfair to leave these suppliers in a position where they could enter into a bargain with a sprayer for him to take so much water for five years and then, on occasions when it suits the supplier, could cut off the supplies because the season is a dry one. In all, therefore, I think the clause is well-merited, and I congratulate the noble Earl upon having produced it.
My Lords, I argued at some length during our Committee stage why we felt the principle should be maintained that the charging system as a whole should be based on the principle that the charge should be levied on the quantity of water authorised to be abstracted rather than on quantities actually abstracted or on some two-tier system as embodied in the present Amendment. I personally still feel convinced that in general that principle is right and should be maintained, because if we go over to a system of charging on quantities actually abstracted, or to a two-tier system over the whole field, we shall, in my view, be making the position of the new river authorities almost impossible. They will have no firm basis upon which to plan, because they will be quite uncertain of what their revenue in general is going to be.
I must say that I am a little surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, and the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, have taken exception to the Amendment which I have just moved. I am surprised because I did foreshadow at Report stage what is now in this Amendment, and, so far as I can remember, there was no protest during our Report stage along the lines we have just heard. I do not wish to make too much of that point, but I did give due notice of the main lines of the Amendment which I have just moved.
That Amendment, of course, is the result of our attention to the arguments which I think were very powerfully deployed by the noble Lord, Lord De Ramsey, on behalf of the very special position of the spray irrigator. I tried to show, in introducing this Amendment, why we thought the spray irrigator did in fact stand in a very special position in this respect, in that with no other 531 abstracter is the variation between what he is authorised to abstract and what he may abstract so extreme or so unpredictable as it is in the case of the spray irrigator. I claimed that there were good reasons, which I still think remain, why an exception to this general principle should be made on behalf of the spray irrigator. I would also point out, if I may, in amplification of what the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Barnburgh, has said, that so far as I know no other abstracter is in the specially unfavourable position of the spray irrigator, as shown in subsection (2) of Clause 44, in that he may have the quantity which he is authorised to draw cut off in times of drought. That does not apply to other types of abstracters.
All that said, my Lords, I would merely add, without in any way wishing to tie the hands of my colleagues in another place, and without holding out any promise whatsoever that we shall depart from the principle of charging embodied in the Bill as it now stands, that I hope your Lordships will agree to this Amendment with my assurance that, subject to those two conditions, we shall of course examine the points which have been made by the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, and my noble friend Lord Merrivale.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 78 [Reserve funds of river authorities]:
Page 70. line 33, leave out ("(d)") and insert ("(e)").—(Lord Hastings.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 97 [Protection of duty of statutory water undertakers to supply water for domestic purposes]:
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, the next three Amendments go together, and your Lordships will notice that Nos. 11 and 12 are consequential upon No. 10. The purpose of that Amendment is to give effect to my acceptance in principle of an Amendment put down at the Report stage by the noble Lord, 532 Lord Lindgren, and my noble friend Lord Sinclair of Cleeve. I beg to move.
§ Amendments moved—
Page 86, line 41, leave out from ("provide") to end of line 42 and insert ("supplies of water to which this section applies.
(2) This section applies to the following supplies of water, that is to say—
Page 86, line 43, leave out ("the preceding subsection") and insert ("subsection (1) of this section")
Page 87, line 13, leave out from ("provide") to end of line 14 and insert ("supplies of water to which this section applies").—(Lord Hastings.)
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.
§ Clause 111 [Validity of decisions of Minister and proceedings relating thereto]:
My Lords, this Amendment is consequential upon Amendment No. 8, which your Lordships approved a moment or two ago. I beg to move.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 98, line 17, at end insert—
("(5) Any reference in this section to section 58 (4) of this Act shall be construed as including a reference to the said section 58 (4) as applied by any other provision of this Act.")—(Earl Jellicoe.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 120 [Provisions as to Rivers Esk and Tweed]:
My Lords, this Amendment and the following Amendment are linked, and I suggest that they might conveniently be taken together. Clause 120 deals with the application of the Bill to the two major Border rivers, the Esk and the Tweed. Subsection (3) (b) of Clause 120 says that the provisions of the Bill relating to the new functions of the river authorities are not to apply to so much of any inland water asis part of the River Esk at a point where either of the banks of that river is in Scotland.There are other tributaries of that river which also need to be dealt with, and 533 there is also the River Sark, part of which is bisected along its length by the boundary between England and Scotland. These Amendments extend Clause 120 (3) (b) to cover these other rivers. I beg to move.
§ Amendments moved—
Page 104, line 16, after ("Esk") insert ("or of the River Sark or of any tributary stream of the River Esk or the River Sark")
Page 104, line 17, leave out ("that river") and insert ("either of those rivers or of any such tributary stream").—(Earl Jellicoe)
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.
§ Clause 126 [Interpretation]:
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, Amendments Nos. 16, 17 and 18 are simply a question of inserting in the Interpretation Clause the necessary definitions of conservancy, harbour and navigational authorities, these terms having been inserted in many places during the Report stage. I beg to move.
§ Amendments moved—
Page 109, line 41, at end insert—
("'conservancy authority' means a person or body of persons (whether corporate or unincorporate) having a duty or power imposed or conferred by or under an enactment to conserve, maintain or improve the navigation of a tidal water, and not being a navigation authority or a harbour authority.")
Page 110, line 8, at end insert—
("'harbour authority' means a person or body of persons (whether corporate or unincorporate) who, not being a navigation authority, is or are a harbour authority as defined by section 3 (5) of the Oil in Navigable Waters Act 1955.")
Page 110, line 47, at end insert—
("'navigation authority' means a person or body of persons (whether corporate or unincorporate) having a duty or power imposed or conferred by or under an enactment to manage or maintain a canal, whether navigable or not, or to manage or maintain an inland navigation other than a canal, whether natural or artificial and whether tidal or not.")—(Lord Hastings.)
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.
§ An Amendment (privilege) made.
§ 3.38 p.m.
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass. I do not intend to delay your Lordships very long, for I believe that most noble Lords will feel that after the twelve days which we have spent in examining and amending the Water Resources Bill it is hardly necessary to indulge in a lengthy discourse. There are, however, 534 two matters which I should like to mention. First, I would refer to a few of the changes which have been made in the Bill as a result of your Lordships' efforts. Secondly, I want to say a further word about the charging schemes under the Bill which have caused a certain amount of anxiety in some quarters, as we have heard again this afternoon. Your Lordships will remember that a promise was given during the Report stage that something more specific would be said at Third Reading about the sort of charges that were likely to be made by river authorities in the performance of their new functions.
During our discussions great attention was very properly paid to the role of the Water Resources Board. Although the House accepted the Government's advice that the duties of the Board should not be extended to cover the transferred functions of a river authority, the Government have acceded to demands that the Board should be concerned with securing the proper use of water resources, with economy in the use of water, with questions of quality as well as quantity and, where appropriate, with the de-salting of water as a means of augmenting resources. The Government are confident that the Water Resources Board can, under the Bill as amended, become the forward-looking, energetic and effective central authority on which so much stress has been laid.
Noble Lords who have taken a particular interest in the problem of amenity—that is, a very large proportion of your Lordships' House—have, I believe, been very largely satisfied by the Amendments which have been made to the Bill in order to safeguard the natural beauty of the countryside. A number of Amendments have been made to meet the legitimate requirements of the farming community and of those concerned with land drainage. Only a few moments ago an Amendment was inserted into the Bill to help solve the special problems, in relation to charges, of those farmers who need to abstract water for spray irrigation.
Several points raised by those noble Lords interested in statutory water undertakers have been met, with consequent improvements in the Bill, and in particular the Government have done their best to allay the anxieties of water undertakers 535 in so far as their statutory obligations for the public supply are concerned. We also claim that the interests of industry are well protected in the structure of the Bill, but certain points bearing upon its operation have been raised here and in consultation outside. To some of these—for example, the manner of settling the terms of licences of right—industry attaches very great importance, and they merit, and are receiving, the closest consideration. It is recognised that the whole enterprise of an industrial abstracter may depend upon the same continuance of present supplies. Further consideration of this particular problem is likely to be given in another place, as well as of other matters outstanding which have not finally been resolved in your Lordships' House.
Now, my Lords, I will turn to this question of charges, and will give some figures which I hope may be useful. It may be helpful if I preface what I have to say on this by reminding your Lordships that four main classes of expenditure are likely to be incurred by river authorities on their new functions. First will be expenditure on day-to-day management—the hydrometric work, the running of the licensing system and, of course, the establishment costs. Next will come small-scale conservation works—small improvements and maintenance works, installation of gauges, observation boreholes and the like. The third class of expenditure will be in respect of major conservation works, reservoirs, aqueducts and the working of schemes for artificial recharge of underground aquifers. Finally, something must be allowed for building up the reserve and replacement funds for which this Bill provides.
Now the river authorities will not be undertaking major works without some clear evidence of need and a clear indication of who is to benefit. The cost of them will, so far as possible, be apportioned among those who so benefit. It is, I am sure, generally accepted by the major users of water, whether it be industry or the public water supply undertakers, that such an apportionment is the right way of proceeding. They would not object to carrying their proper share of the cost of necessary works of this sort, as they would have to do, directly or 536 indirectly, if there were no river authority in the picture.
The capital cost of these large-scale works can be very high; but it should be understood that the works most likely to be built by river authorities—river regulating reservoirs—make water available at an extremely low cost per thousand gallons. Thus, the Tryweryn dam will cost about £2½ million—with another £500,000 to be added on account of associated and ancillary works. For an expenditure of something over £3 million, Liverpool Corporation will be able to abstract 65 million gallons a day from the River Dee just above Chester at a cost of something like 1½d. per thousand gallons. This is not, of course, the cost to consumers, for the water must be pumped 25 miles from the point of abstraction to Liverpool and treated, before being put into public supply. But it shows the low cost of making the water available by river regulating works.
Take another case: the reservoir to be constructed under the Clywedog Reservoir Joint Authority Bill, which was being discussed in your Lordships' House a few days ago. If approved, this proposed reservoir will cost about £4½ million. It will regulate the flow of the River Severn, and will enable an additional 100 million gallons per day to be taken from the Severn at various points along its course by the participating authorities. Costs at the point of abstraction will range from less than a ½d. to 1¼d. per thousand gallons. By any standards this is cheap water, and the price should be no deterrent to anyone whose needs are to be met by a river regulating scheme. Of course, the figures that I quote relate to steady abstraction throughout the year. Spasmodic reliance on the reservoir in dry times only would mean a greater cost per thousand gallons taken. So much for major works.
That leaves three other sorts of expenditure—day-to-day running costs, minor works, and contributions to reserve and replacement funds—to be carried by the general charging schemes under the Bill. The level of charges likely to be necessary under such schemes is a matter of keen interest to noble Lords and to those who will be affected by the operation of the Bill. If this statement is somewhat lengthy, I hope that noble 537 Lords will excuse it, because I think the House is very interested in this particular matter. It is not possible at this stage to be precise about the amount of expenditure for purposes other than major works, as requirements will vary from one river authority to another, for each has different problems to meet. But, making allowance for these widely different circumstances, annual expenditure of river authorities other than that on major works may well rise after a time, when a water conservation effort has developed on a pretty substantial scale, to something in the range of £65,000 to £150,000 a year. That is the best estimate we can make at the moment.
In the same way, it is not possible at this stage—six years before charging schemes come into force—to be categoric about charges for any particular abstraction in any particular area, but some broad conclusions can be drawn from the available material. Such material as there is to give a lead has all been carefully examined by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. It consists primarily of the Hydrological Surveys conducted by the Ministry, but also includes information about industrial water use collected under the ægis of the Central Advisory Water Committee, and in other contexts of the Ministry's work. Let us assume expenditure of the order I have just mentioned as having to be carried by the general charges: then, for surface water, charges ranging from a fraction of a penny per thousand gallons for water taken and returned virtually undiminished in quantity and quality, to a few pence for water entirely consumed, would suffice. For water from natural reserves underground, an appropriate charge would be of the order of a farthing to a halfpenny per thousand gallons. It will cost more, of course, where steps have to be taken to boost the underground reserves by artificial means.
I think it will be helpful if I illustrate what these charges mean in total sums paid by individual abstracters. Two million gallons per day at a halfpenny per 1,000 gallons would amount to £1,500 per year. At one-tenth of a penny, it would be £300 per year. A brewery taking, say, 400,000 gallons per day from underground, none of which is returned to the source, would pay, at a farthing per thousand gallons, about £150 a year. A water undertaking taking 7 million 538 gallons per day for consumption within the area of the river authority would pay, at a penny per thousand gallons, about £10,500 annually. These figures are illustrative only. But if applied to the Severn area or the Essex Rivers area, for each of which there already exists a Hydrological Survey, charges of this order would produce an income adequate to carry an annual expenditure to be incurred by a river authority of well over £100,000.
This charge of one penny per thousand gallons for river water can be set in perspective by referring to an actual example of charges for the taking of such water—from the Thames. Payments are made to the Thames Conservancy by the Metropolitan Water Board and by other statutory water undertakings amounting altogether to £300,000 per year. This represents a charge of between six-tenths of a penny and one and three-tenths pence for every thousand gallons, according to the abstraction in question.
My Lords, I do not claim great precision for any of the estimates of future expenditure which I have given, nor do I say that the levels of charges which I have foreshadowed as providing adequate income for the river authorities' new functions are more than an illustration of what the position may be. Nevertheless, I hope that they will be reassuring to those who have regarded the future in this respect with a good deal of pessimism. I do not think it can justifiably be said that charges of this sort will be so burdensome as to price water conservation, or the abstracter's products, out of the market. Equally there is no doubt that expenditure of this order must be met if the management of our water resources is to function on a sound basis. That is all I have to say about the charging scheme.
All in all, my Lords, I believe that this Bill is a good Bill and a fair Bill, and moreover, I also believe that it will prove to be an effective Bill. If your Lordships agree that this is so, then, for my part, I have no hesitation in sharing the credit, which I believe may be claimed by Her Majesty's Government, with your Lordships' House and in particular with those noble Lords in all quarters of the House who have worked so hard, so constructively, and with such good will in order to make an already good Bill an even 539 better one. And, if I may, I should like, before sitting down, to thank the two noble Lords who with myself formed the Government team; my noble friend, Lord St. Oswald, for his valuable support in matters agricultural; and my noble friend, Lord Jellicoe, without whose inspiring leadership, I freely confess, I should have at times felt very lost. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Hastings.)
§ 3.51 p.m.
§ LORD LINDGREN
My Lords, the Bill emerges at the Third Reading in principle, fundamentally, as it reached this House. One does not complain too much about that because, after all, the Government are the Government and it is their right to make decisions, but we have had considerable discussion and a large number of Amendments have been placed on the Order Paper. It would therefore be churlish not to appreciate the fact that many of those Amendments have been accepted in principle by the Government and given effect to in Amendments which they have subsequently placed on the Order Paper. From this side of the House I would express our appreciation to the Ministers who have been in charge of the Bill, not only for their courtesy, which, of course, we have come to expect from them, but for the manner in which they have dealt with Amendments.
Fundamentally we are legislators. We consider legislation. We are not practical people who are giving effect to that legislation in the field. Sometimes it has been pointed out to me by those who have the responsibility in the outside world that they have some difficulty in understanding what Ministers and Parliament meant when they brought legislation before the House. The detailed discussions in Parliament, and sometimes the detailed opposition that has been made by Ministers against Amendments, have meant that those who have the responsibility for administering this Bill will be far clearer about the Government's intentions than they otherwise would have been. This leads to a far more effective administration of this Bill.
There is, however, one point on which I am still fundamentally in opposition to the Government, and that is the reference 540 made by the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, to the Water Resources Board. I am still uncertain (as are many of my colleagues on this side of the House and as are, I think, most of those associated with water—the statutory water undertakers or those in industry) as to whether or not the Water Resources Board will have sufficient power to do the job that they really ought to do. The river authorities have been given some very real and extended powers and I take the view that many of those powers ought to have been centralised in the Water Resources Board.
Perhaps I may give one example. At the moment the control of underground water supplies lies with the Minister of Housing and Local Government under Section 14 of the 1945 Water Act. Under this Bill, of course, it goes to the river boards in the area and the central authority no longer exists. The control of water resources strictly within the river authority area is doubtless adequate for local problems. But the vital question to my mind is how water is to be moved from one river basin to another. This is clearly one of the major problems which face a country such as ours in which we have a very heavy concentration of population and where, in fact, we have a wet side and a dry side. Unfortunately it is true (though perhaps I should not have said "unfortunately") that in many of the drier areas we have great concentrations of population such as we have in South-East England. Therefore, this complete freedom of movement from one river authority to another is essential if we are to get fluidity of supplies and the maximum supplies available in the area in which the water is required. I think it is a major policy matter, or should be one, in dealing with national water resources.
In any event, I take the view that we shall have to have a grid for water supply in exactly the same way as we have a grid for electricity supply. To my mind, that is the only way in which we are likely to get the heavy flow of water from where it is to where it is required. It is my view that it is not easy to see how that is to come about under this Bill. It may well be, in practice, that the Water Resources Board will be able to plan for the conveyance of water, but it is doubtful under the Bill, as I see it, whether they will 541 have the power to ensure that their plan is given effect. Having said that, I must, at least, admit that the establishment of the Water Resources Board is a very big step forward. It is a welcome step forward, although it does not go as far as I and my colleagues should like. Much will depend on the chairman and members of the Board itself. If they are strong, then they are perhaps likely to give themselves the "teeth" which the Bill does not have.
For a while I was associated with the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and I know, of course, that as a centralised Ministry they had control of water resources and supply in this country for very many years. It seems to me that there will be a tendency on the part of the Minister not to give up that long-held authority which they have had over water resources and not to hand it over to the statutory water undertakings.
There is another practical problem, I believe, so far as this Bill is concerned: while it deals with supply and distribution, we have not under this Bill dealt with the problem of economy in the use of water. Perhaps the weather of the last few weeks has brought to many people in this country the realisation of how valuable water is, because of the effect of the weather on the availability of their water supplies. But I think much more could be done, not only in water conservation, but in getting ready for the problems of a dry summer and the availability of supplies in areas of concentrated population and problems of the reduction in the waste of water. The noble Lord, Lord Hastings, referred to the cost of water. It is so cheap that I have a strong suspicion that industry considers that it is not necessary for it to be as economical in its use as it could and should be. It is not a question of cheapness but of the availability of supply, and it behoves all sections of the community to be economical in the use of water.
Industry could do much by the re-use of water, and I am certain that the statutory water undertakings would be only too pleased for industry to consult with their experts in order to obtain an improvement here. This is equally true of agriculture and of domestic consumption. Would is be daring of me to suggest that our plumbing system is antiquated? We have only to think of the past few weeks to be reminded of this. There 542 ought to be a review not only of the plumbing system but also of its protection: because many hundreds of thousands of gallons of water have been lost over the past few weeks as a result of inadequate plumbing protection. We should also look at the bye-laws governing public health, which were established under that wonderful Act—wonderful for the period—the Public Health Act, 1875. We have gone a long way since then, but in many areas the general regulations have not been amended since they were first put into force. I think that we ought to look at these in order to see whether we can reduce the use of water, without affecting public health in any way, by the elimination of tanks in roofs and unnecessary flushing tanks in lavatories, which we have in some parts of the country.
In accepting this Bill on Third Reading, I think that it has been improved. I should have liked to see it a much stronger Bill, but because of the general problems confronting the Government, they have been a little afraid of their shadows and they have not had the courage to do the things they ought to have done. But I conclude by expressing our deep appreciation of the manner in which the Bill has been handled by the Ministers in charge, and of the concessions they have made to us, which I hope will improve the Bill and lessen the work which will be necessary for the House of Commons to do.
§ 4.4 p.m.
§ LORD SINCLAIR OF CLEEVE
My Lords, while I endorse wholeheartedly most of what the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, has said, there are one or two other aspects of the two cardinal points in his remarks—namely, organisation and charging—to which I should like to refer briefly. At the outset, however, I must refer to the Water Resources Board. I listened carefully to the statement made by the noble Lord, Lord Hastings. Anything I say, I am afraid, must be conditioned by my study of it, but I hope that I do not sound churlish when I say that I was not altogether reassured by what he said in that regard. If I heard him aright, he stressed the fact that the Water Resources Board would be an effective, forward-looking instrument. I am afraid that one of the criticisms some of us have had is that I there is too much emphasis on the forward-looking 543 and too little on the power to act.
I feel that the Water Resources Board should be able to ensure that the broad plan, as approved by the Minister, is efficiently and economically carried out. When it comes to the problem of the transfer of water from one river authority area to another, for the Board merely to have power, under Clause 12 (3)… to encourage and assist river authorities in the formulation of such plansis not sufficient. It would seem that, without waiting for fresh legislation, it would be a great help if there could be written into this Bill, without in any way derogating from the authority of the Minister, power for the Board, acting under the Minister, to co-ordinate the action of the river authorities in regard to their new functions. In that connection, I must confess that I am still convinced that the fewer river authorities, within reason, there are, the better will be the organisation and the more efficient its working.
The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, in the discussion in Committee of Schedule 1, gave a full explanation of the reasons why the Government, at this point of time, did not wish to go further in the direction of amalgamating river board areas than is proposed in the Bill as it stands. This very important question will no doubt he further debated in another place, but let me take this opportunity, for the record, of adding my support to the arguments adduced in the first instance by the Proudman Committee and supplemented by several noble Lords in speaking on this Bill, that the number of river authorities should be substantially reduced below that specified in the Bill as it stands. I may be wrong in this, but I believe that a good deal of the opposition raised to the merging of the areas of two or more river boards into one river authority rests on a belief that in such cases the boards themselves will be merged. I cannot see that happening in any little sense, because the important work the river boards do will still have to be done and it can be done on a river board basis and, one would have thought, desirably only by people who have been doing it and have the local knowledge and experience. They may 544 be co-ordinated by the river authority and surely they can in some way be represented on that authority.
As has been said before, the authority could well have three committees—a water conservation committee, a river boards committee and a finance committee. It would seem to be a good thing if such matters were determined so far as possible in the light of experience. That was one of the reasons —there may be others, but with time so short I will not develop them now—why I have always felt that it would make sense if the Government could be persuaded not to institute all the river authorities on the same day but for there to be an interval of one year, or perhaps two, between the instituting of the first batch and the instituting of the last. I do not think there would be any great difficulty, because in the meantime the preparation of the hydrometric scheme, the assessment of minimum flow, and so on, could well be done by the river boards in areas where river authorities had not been established.
As regards charging schemes, here again I look forward to an opportunity to study what the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, said, but, by and large, he seemed to indicate that the Government subscribed to the principle, which many of us feel to be vital, that the cost of new works should be predominantly, and if possible wholly, borne by those who directly benefit. I hope I am right in saying that. It is most important, and we were glad to hear it. On that basis, as I think the noble Lord indicated, the standing charges of the river authority should not be a very significant sum per 1,000 gallons.
There are two aspects of this to which I might refer. Many of the key works we are talking about, which arise particularly in these charging schemes for implementing a direct abstraction, will be a duplication or extension of works that have previously been executed by the abstracter, whether it be a statutory water undertaking or an industrial firm. The work has to be approved by the river authority, whether it arises from the authority's initiation or at the request of the abstracter. But the abstracter is vitally interested in the cost of the resultant supply. The river authority is obviously interested in having the work done as economically and 545 efficiently as possible. Therefore, I submit that the authority should not, merely as a matter of principle, undertake work that can be done better by the abstracter himself. There may be a danger (I do not suggest that this will happen) that river authorities will build up unnecessarily large staffs to do the planning and supervising work that could be carried out by the abstracter.
My last point relates to simplification and, therefore, economy arising on the inclusion in the charging schemes (as they will have to be included) of the costs of transferring from one river authority's area to another. That transfer can be arranged only with the approval of the Water Resources Board and the river authorities concerned. But assuming the necessary approvals have been given, in so far as the transfer is related to the particular need, then the charge should be agreed between the abstracter in question and the river authority in the area from which the water comes.
In many cases the arrangements for defraying the cost could well be made on the basis of a bulk supply contract directly negotiated, on the one hand, by the supply authorities in the receiving area, and, on the other, by the river authority in the area from which the water comes. In that way the cost of the necessary works in both areas would be covered and would be borne by those receiving the water. Neither in the receiving area nor in the area from which the water comes would the river authorities have to spread the cost of those new works over all users, whether or not they benefited directly from the work. That may seem to be a point of detail, but I think it illustrates a procedure that is not covered in the Bill, as it stands, and might well prove both simple and economic. In conclusion, may I add my tribute to the courtesy with which the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, and the noble Lords, Lord Hastings and Lord St. Oswald, have listened to and, so far as possible, dealt with the many points of detail raised on the Committee stage?
§ 4.14 p.m.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, in view of the Motion on the Order Paper to be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, I propose to be brief, and first of all I would convey the regrets of my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross 546 that he cannot be here to-day. He has asked me to thank the Government on his behalf for so kindly meeting his points with regard to amenity questions. I should like to take up one point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, regarding the need for economy in the use of water by industry. I agree with that. But I think I am right in saying that industry is very conscious of this necessity and, so far as certain applications are concerned, water is re-used or re-circulated as much as forty times. I think one can say, therefore, that there is economy in industry.
Before this Bill leaves for another place, I should like to stress that, so far as industry is concerned, there have been practically no changes in regard to minimum acceptable flows, licensing, charging schemes and consultations. This makes me feel that industry in this context definitely has not a parent Minister. I was sorry to see the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, leave his place a short time ago, because I was hoping he would pass this view on to his right honourable friend the President of the Board of Trade. On February 12 [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 246 (No. 38), col. 900] my noble friend Lord Hastings said, in reply to an Amendment put down by my noble friend Lord Albemarle—and I believe he reiterated the assurance to-day—that the noble Earl could be assured that the Minister of Housing and Local Government would make adequate provision to look after the interests of industrial water users.
My noble friend Lord Hastings also said on that occasion that his right honourable friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government had consulted with the President of the Board of Trade regarding the appointment of an appropriate representative, and the result of their discussion was that it was felt that somebody not familiar with industry in general, but more concerned with the use of industrial water, would be the more suitable nominee. It is my humble contention that the Board of Trade should be brought into these further discussions. If I understood my noble friend aright when he spoke this afternoon, he said that there were to be further discussions on the question of industrial water, but I did not hear him say that they would be with the Board of Trade. I think it has become increasingly clear that industry in this context requires a parent Minister 547 to fight for its rights and also with a view to obtaining concessions similar to those made to statutory water undertakers and to agriculture.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
There seems to be every indication that industry will pay the piper but will have little to say about the tune. For instance, appeals on minimum acceptable flows, should there be any objection on the part of statutory agricultural bodies are now to go jointly to the Minister of Housing and Local Government and to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. I think this shows to what extent parent Ministers can influence a Government decision.
Industry's biggest immediate problem is still in connection with licences of right and the safeguarding of the abstraction of water to the same extent as in the past. Therefore I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Hastings for having elucidated a little this question of charges to industry. I feel, however, like my noble friend Lord Sinclair of Cleeve, that it is something which industry will have to study carefully on reading Hansard. There is a feeling within industry that in effect the Minister of Housing and Local Government still does not have the necessary information on this question of the industrial use of water, having regard to the complexity of the problems involved. That is why it is felt that the President of the Board of Trade would be a highly satisfactory person to bring into this question.
For the Record, I should like to rectify a statement I made on February 14 last [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 246 (No. 40), col. 1069] regarding the amount of water used by industry in America per ton of finished steel. I said that the figure was 600,000 gallons, when it should have been 60,000 gallons. I apologise for that, but it was due to a typographical error in the information supplied me and not to any fault of mine. However, I think one should remember that Belgian industry uses over double that amount. I am saying that because I feel it stresses the fact that the relationship between water consumption and weight of similar products is not simple and affects costs. Also on that day I quoted the figure of 548 one penny per thousand gallons. That would seem to be the average figure mentioned to-day by my noble friend Lord Hastings. If one takes into account present consumption by industry at that cost, it would represent approximately a figure of £3 million per annum to industry, which is not insignificant. My Lords, those are the few remarks I wish to make on this Motion, and I should like to thank my noble friends for the kindness they have shown and also for the way in which they have tried to meet, so far as they could, the points put to them by Back-Benchers on this side of the House.
§ 4.23 p.m.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, on the Question, That the Bill do now pass, I wish to draw attention to the legislative process in which this House, together with another place, plays an important part. It is not widely realised, I suspect, that the process of amendment of Parliamentary Bills is never ending. Before ever a Bill sees the light of day it may be that, within the Department, it goes through ten, twenty or even more editions before being presented to Parliament. The Civil Service, the Ministers concerned, and particularly that little-known public servant, the Parliamentary draftsman, to whom our country and Parliament, in particular, are enormously indebted for the work they do behind the scenes without public knowledge, do work of very great value. The Bill comes to one of the Houses of Parliament, where it has a Second Reading, a Committee stage, which may be heavy or light, a Report stage and a Third Reading. In your Lordships' House Amendments are eligible (as we have seen to-day), even sometimes of substance, on the Third Reading of the Bill. Therefore, it is a long process.
The point to which I wish to draw attention is that some people object to there being two Houses of Parliament. They believe their views are progressive, and I quite understand their feelings. But if there were not two Houses of Parliament, the output of legislation would inevitably be much less than it is. From some points of view that would be a good thing. I have some views about this Session. I could easily eliminate at any rate one great measure. When I was Leader of the House of Commons. 549 one of things which impressed me was that if there were no Second Chamber—which we call the House of Lords—then that great programme of legislative output could never have been achieved. While we have been considering the Water Resources Bill here, another place has been considering other Bills, one of them, unhappily, drawn from the same curious Government Department as this Bill. So two Bills from the same Department are before Parliament at the same time. Work is being done down the corridor, and work is being done here. That is a great economy tin the use of time.
May I pay my respects and compliments to my noble friend Lord Lindgren for the considerable amount of work he has put into the Bill, on Committee and Report stages in particular, assisted as he has been by my noble friends Lord Williams of Barnburgh and Lord Champion? The Ministers themselves, of course, have had a hard time wrestling with their briefs and arguments that have been advanced. It has meant an enormous amount of work. I should like to point out that if there were no Second Chamber the legislative process would be more difficult. If this House, with all its perfections—and, let me add, its imperfections—did not exist (it is not perfect, and I should like to see some composition changes: I do not want changes in its powers, because it has its virtues) the capacity to handle Bills and tidy them up would be greatly curtailed. This Bill will go to the House of Commons in a relatively tidy shape, so far as we know. It will not prevent further Amendments being made, but an enormous amount of the work has already been done.
If we had not this Second Chamber we should have to invent another stage, if not two more stages, in the House of Commons, in order to get the necessary detailed examination of Bills; because it is very important that Bills should be word perfect before they become Acts of Parliament, otherwise there could be all sorts of trouble in the courts; as we have seen, an enormous amount of examination has to be made. I would say, therefore, that this institution is time-saving. It is a good Chamber at revision, and it does the work in a businesslike way.
550 I have never forgotten a Road Traffic Bill which I, as Minister of Transport, introduced in another place in 1930. They took four months on Committee stage and there were columns of argument on the same Amendment, principally with the aim of obstructing not that Bill but a Bill which was coming after it. When that Bill came here, what impressed me was that the late Lord Russell, who was my Parliamentary Secretary, would get up and resist an Amendment moved in about half a column of Hansard. In answer to the Amendment he would get up and say. "My Lords, this Amendment really will not do," and in about a quarter of column of Hansard would tell the House why. Almost certainly the noble Lord who moved the Amendment would get up and say, "My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw." It did me good to see that going on at this speed. They nearly killed me in another place on that Bill, whereas here it went with expedition. As I say the House of Lords is a timesaving institution. It contributes to the perfect drafting and wording of Bills; and so, to quote the words of Sir Alan Herbert, in his play Big Ben:There's a lot to be said for the Lords!
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I intervene for a short time this afternoon. Those of us who were particularly concerned with the Amendments in connection with the preservation of natural beauty felt that we had received more concessions on this Bill than we have ever previously had, and the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, agreed to express our appreciation. It is true that the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, has apologised for his inability to be here, but as I have been very much concerned with this problem I felt that I should like to mention the matter specifically on behalf particularly of those noble Lords who have been concerned with it. I did not think earlier that I should be able to get here in time.
The noble Lord, Lord Hastings, referred to the Amendments which the Government had put down in answer to the pressure on them, and indicated that they regarded the Amendments as a very important part of the improvements 551 which have been effected in the Bill. Certainly we feel strongly that that is so. It is not long since these Bills used to come up with no provision for amenity clauses or anything of the kind. I am very glad to see here to-day the noble Viscount, Lord Mills, who helped us on the first occasion, not many years ago, with the Electricity Act. When the Transport Bill came up it was singularly deficient, and this Bill also was far from being as good as it might have been.
Noble Lords in all parts of the House are now very sensitive to these matters, and we have been gratified at the amount of support we have been getting, and also to find the growing sensitivity of the Government in regard to these matters. We can only hope that this sensitivity will increase as time goes on, because these matters are now very much more in the eyes of the public than they were a short time ago, and it is essential that Parliament should take them in hand. My noble friend and leader in past times has just referred to the valuable work which can be done in many ways in this House in connection with these Bills, and this is one particular side which can perhaps be particularly well undertaken here. I hope your Lordships will forgive me for making these few observations at this stage of the Bill and for again expressing our sincere gratitude, particularly to the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, who we know has these matters very much at heart, and who we feel deserves perhaps a particular pat on the back for the interest which he has taken and the help he has given to us.
§ 4.33 p.m.
My Lords, I am sure you will now wish to cast this Bill off down the river on its voyage to another place without further ado, and I therefore propose to duck the closing salvoes of noble Lords regarding such various matters as the strength of the Water Resources Board, a national water grid, water economy, the number of river authorities, the staggering of their birthdays, the future charging system, the effect of this Bill on industry, the bicameral system of Government, flushing tanks and toilets and so on. However, I am sure that my colleagues in another place will wish to give due attention to those remarks.
However, before we take final leave 552 of this stage of the Bill, I wish just to endorse what my noble friend Lord Hastings has said. This is not a dramatic measure. Nevertheless, it is a necessary and important one, and I would claim that its importance has been fully reflected in the very thorough attention which it has received during its passage through your Lordships' House. I am personally very grateful to my noble colleagues, to my noble friend Lord St. Oswald and to my noble friend Lord Hastings, for all they have done to keep the Bill, with its virtues, and me, without mine, unblemished and on the rails. I am also most grateful to those noble Lords—Lords Labour, Lords Liberal, Lords Tory, Lords neuter, Lords industrial, Lords bucolic, and, last but not least, the Lordly undertakers in this House—who have contributed so much to our discussions on this often technical but never dry subject.
I should also like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, and other noble Lords for their very generous remarks to-day. In concluding I would say two things: first, how particularly grateful I and my colleagues are to the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, who has led for the Labour Opposition on this Bill, for the constructive, informed and sometimes valid criticisms which he has brought to bear throughout; and secondly, that I would endorse very warmly the wise words which have just fallen from the lips of the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth.
§ On Question, Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.