HL Deb 23 May 1968 vol 292 cc803-23

3.8 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Hughes.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The EARL OF LISTOWEL in the Chair.]

Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 [Construction etc. of public sewers and public sewage treatment works]:

LORD HUGHES moved, in subsection (1)(a), to leave out sub-paragraph (iii). The noble Lord said: I think it would be for the convenience of the Committee if I drew your Lordships' attention to the fact that Amendments Nos. 2, 13 and 14 are consequential on Amendment No. 1. The combined effect of these two Amendments to Clause 3, the first Amendment to Clause 58 and the proposed new clause is to ensure that any work carried out under the Bill by any person shall comply with the requirements of Sections 34 to 36 of the Coast Protection Act 1949. Briefly, these sections of the Coast Protection Act provide that, with certain exceptions, it is to be an offence for any person, without the consent of the Board of Trade, to carry our works, deposit material or remove materials from the seashore in such a manner that obstruction or danger to navigation is likely to be caused. The main part of the Amendment is the new clause; the other Amendments are essentially consequential. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 18, leave out from ("street") to end of line 21.—(Lord Hughes.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 2.

Amendment moved— Page 2, leave out lines 24 to 26.—(Lord Hughes.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 4 to 9 agreed to.

Clause 10:

Emptying of septic tanks

10.—(1) A local authority may pass a resolution whereby they elect to empty all septic tanks serving premises situated in their area or in any part thereof specified in the resolution, and where such a resolution has been passed and approved by the Secretary of State it shall he the duty of the authority, subject to subsection (2) below, to empty all septic tanks serving such premises, where it is reasonably practicable to do so, at reasonable intervals and at such convenient hours and times as they consider proper.


moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "may pass a resolution whereby they elect to", and insert "shall, where reasonable, at the request of the owner". The noble Lord said: I regret that there is a slight error in the drafting of this Amendment; a little more of the clause should have been deleted, but I think that the meaning is clear. It is not easy to argue that rates should be a payment for services rendered as there are anomalies which make rates in fact a form of taxation, but I feel that it is unjust that one should pay rates for a service and then have to pay for the service in addition. That is the effect of this clause as at present drafted. It does not matter whether a person is rich or poor, if one occupies one's own house and there is no public drainage system in the area—a common occurrence in rural areas—the drainage rate has to be paid and the cost of maintaining one's own drainage as well. This hits particularly hard in the rural areas, to the advantage of the more highly populated communities. It hits at areas with the least amenities to the advantage of those already better off.

I may be told that if my Amendment is accepted it will impose a heavy burden on the ratepayers. Indeed, a shilling on the Aberdeenshire rate has been mentioned. Speaking as a member of a county health committee and a finance committee, and as the owner of a large number of septic tanks, I am sure that these costs have been grossly exaggerated. Septic tanks do not require to be emptied every year and many go for a whole lifetime. If the drainage rates have to fall on the ratepayers as a whole then they must do so, although I do not agree with this. But it is wrong to put a part of the drainage costs on to the public rates and to leave the other part to be borne by individuals, in addition to paying rates. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has some personal sympathy with this view, as had some of the Government supporters in the Committee stage in another place, and I therefore hope that the noble Lord will accept the Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 10, leave out from ("authority") to ("empty") in line 11 and insert ("shall, where reasonable, at the request of the owner")—(Lord Burton.)


I should like to support my noble friend Lord Burton. I think this is a reasonable Amendment, and any danger is covered by the words "shall, where reasonable". We know that there are occasions when it would be very expen- sive for a local authority to undertake this work, but for a great many it would be a fairly simple thing to do; and I think it is a service which people who have not the advantage of being in a drainage area would welcome very much. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, will receive the Amendment with kindness.


The noble Lord, Lord Burton, has not in any way exaggerated my point of view when he says that I have a certain amount of sympathy with this proposal. I cannot claim to be the owner of any septic tanks in Scotland, but I am a user of one in a part of Scotland. I am certain that I shall not get any payment from the county council for its clearance, if and when it should be done. Like the noble Lord, I do not suppose that it will have to be cleared out every year. However, sympathy with a proposal and the ability to agree to its being inserted in legislation are two entirely different matters.

We started off on the basis that it would be the correct thing to make this a mandatory duty to be placed on local authorities, but it was made clear to us in the discussions with the county councils that this would impose an extremely difficult burden on local authorities and it would be much better that we should rely on their exercising their discretion in the matter. I must point out that rates are not a payment for services rendered. They are a form of taxation and it has never been accepted that taxation shall be paid only in direct relation to the reward which one gets from it.

Having said that, I must go on to say that we want local authorities to undertake the duty of giving a service for emptying septic tanks. I believe that most county councils take this view, but with the reservation—and it is a reasonable one—that they should be allowed to extend the service as their financial circumstances permit and that they should be the judges of how quickly they can extend it. We feel obliged to attach considerable weight to that point of view.

When the Bill was being prepared we had wide-ranging discussions with the local authorities, and in particular with the county councils, and explored the question of costs, especially in those counties where a substantial rural population would have to be served. It is not a matter of calculations and wrong estimates, because I assure the noble Lord that we did not base our decision on one particular statement from the County Council of Aberdeenshire. In 1966 the counties involved together produced estimates of cost which in the aggregate—and we must remember that these came from people who knew perfectly well that they were not going to be called on to clear every tank every year—amounted to well over £300,000 a year, and that would add from 1s. to 1s. 6d. to the rates in those places. The noble Lord, Lord Burton, shakes his head, but I can assure him that these estimates are realistic and we took them into account in deciding what was a fair burden to place on the local authorities. The immediate impact of a duty to empty septic tanks would therefore be greater initially than the additional burden of providing sewerage under Clause 1 of the Bill. Moreover, it would fall on those authorities with the lowest rating resources.

It is for those reasons that we have not imposed in Clause 10 an unqualified duty on local authorities to empty septic tanks, and it is for these reasons that I ask your Lordships not to adopt the Amendment. This is essentially a matter of timing. With the cost of sewerage falling on the general county rate, no doubt county councils will be under pressure to extend their septic tank emptying services as quickly as they can, but it would be wrong to make this an unqualified statutory duty which would perforce begin to operate when the Bill is brought into effect, since this would impose on these rural county councils an immediate and in some cases unduly onerous financial burden.


I wonder whether the noble Lord would let us know what the position would be of a farmer who has sludging equipment to deal with farm waste and uses it for emptying his own septic tank. Do the local authority come along for a second time and empty it once more?


I have heard of the difficulty of trying to get quart out of a pint pot, but this is the first time I have been asked how to take the same thing out of a hole twice.


Who pays?


The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, said he felt it right that local authorities should exercise their discretion. We received the same answer on the Countryside (Scotland) Bill when we pointed out that local authorities would be the ones who would be most loth to pay. As a member of a finance committee I can assure the noble Lord that this is what has happened and is what will happen. The county councils will be very loth to undertake this extra task unless it is imposed upon them by the Bill. The noble Lord says that the Government will want them to undertake this service. Well, if they want them to undertake the service, why not write it into the Bill? This seems to be the whole argument. Furthermore, the cost he gave is £300,000 for Scotland as a whole, if it became compulsory everywhere. What I should like to ask is that it should be done only where it is reasonable, and I am sure that this will remove a large part of the cost. I cannot feel that the Amendment is in any way unreasonable, and it is not imposing an unqualified statutory duty upon the local authorities, as was suggested.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

Clause 10 agreed to.

Clause 11 agreed to.

Clause 12 [Rights of owners and occupiers to connect with and drain into public sewers etc.]:


With Amendment No. 4 I wish to speak also to Amendment No. 8. These are purely drafting Amendments which delete unnecessary words in Clauses 12(5) and 17(3). Each of these clauses provides for an appeal to the Secretary of State, and the words proposed to be deleted, in both instances, say that the Secretary of State's decision is to be final. The procedure for appeals to the Secretary of State is, however, laid down in Clause 51, and subsection (5) of that clause says that the decision of the Secretary of State on an appeal is to be final. It is therefore unnecessary to say so in Clauses 12 and 17. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 6, line 31, leave out from ("it") to end of line 33.—(Lord Hughes.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 12, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 13 agreed to.

Clause 14 [Direction by local authority as to manner of construction of works]:

LORD HUGHES moved in subsection (3) to leave out from the first "may" to "who" and insert "appeal to the Secretary of State". The noble Lord said: Amendments Nos. 5, 6 and 7 are all minor Amendments which will bring similar provisions of Clauses 12 and 14 more closely into line. Each of these clauses confers on a local authority powers of control to be exercised when someone proposes to connect a private sewer or drain to the public sewerage system, and the link between the clauses was more closely defined in Amendments that were made to Clause 14 in another place. Discrepancies between similar provisions of the two clauses are therefor undesirable.

Two discrepancies require to be corrected. First, Clause 12(5) provides for an appeal to the Secretary of State where an owner of premises who has applied for permission to connect his private sewer or drain to the public system is aggrieved by the local authority's decision or by any conditions attaching to it. Under Clause 14(3), if he is ordered to construct a drain, private sewer or private sewage treatment works in a particular fashion, his appeal is to the sheriff. There should not be appeals to different authorities on different aspects of what might be essentially the same matter. We therefore propose that both appeals should lie to the Secretary of State, and the first two Amendments provide for this.

Secondly, there is a penalty not exceeding £25 under Clause 12(8) for making an unauthorised connection of a drain or private sewer to a public sewer or sewage treatment works, or altering a drain or private sewer without a necessary consent. Under Clause 14(6) the penalty for constructing a drain, private sewer or private sewage treatment works otherwise than in accordance with a direction of a local authority, is £50. The two offences are closely comparable, and we think that the penalty in both cases should be £25, which is the penalty under Clause 12(8). I beg to move.

Amendment moved£ Page 8, line 7, leave out from beginning to ("who") in line 8, and insert the said new words.


Is it not correct to say that the Association of County Councils desire that the appeal should go to the sheriff rather than to the Secretary of State? By this Amendment, are the Government not running contrary to the wishes of the Association of County Councils?


I had not thought from his previous Amendment that the noble Lord was terribly worried whether we went contrary to the wishes of the county councils or not, but in this case I have no reason to believe that the county councils will suffer any dismay from bringing the two provisions into line in the way we suggest.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 6.

Amendment moved— Page 8, leave out line 10.—(Lord Hughes.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 7.

Amendment moved— Page 8, line 34, leave out ("£50") and insert ("£25").—(Lord Hughes.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 14, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 15 agreed to.

Clause 16 [Vesting of sewers and other works in local authority]:

On Question, Whether Clause 16 shall stand part of the Bill?


I do not know whether the noble Lord will be able to answer a question which was brought to my attention only a few minutes before the House met and of which, therefore, I have not had time to give him proper notice, concerning any sewer, drain or pipe forming part of a private system on any trade premises. It would appear from the clause that this could be taken over without consultation by the local authority, and some people who are concerned with the management of factories are afraid that this might lower the capacity. I understand that this point has been discussed with the noble Lord's officials, but if he is not in a position to say anything about it now I should be glad to leave it to the Report stage.


I am grateful to the noble Earl for having given me notice, even though it was very brief. Fortunately it was the subject of discussions with the C.B.I. in which I have been involved. We considered whether it was necessary to insert any Amendment in the Bill to cover the point which they have raised, and decided after a fairly lengthy consideration that it was not necessary. We think that what the C.B.I. may fear is that an industrialist might lose the use of a sewer which he has provided or, as the noble Lord suggested, not get the full use from it that he had hitherto. In fact, there would be no question of a sewer passing to the local authority unless it connected with a public sewer. Even then, any restriction on the use of the sewer by an industrialist would call for a decision by the local authority under the provisions of Part II of the Bill dealing with trade effluent.

Any such decision would be subject to appeal to the Secretary of State. We came to the conclusion that this would provide an adequate safeguard against an unreasonable restriction of the use of an industrialist's sewer which might be taken by the local authority. It was for these reasons that we considered that what was in the Bill already provided an adequate safeguard, and came down against amending Clause 16.


I am grateful to the noble Lord for his explanation.

Clause 16 agreed to.

Clause 17 [Local authority may take over private sewage treatment works]:


I beg to move Amendment No. 8.

Amendment moved— Page 10, line 32, leave out from ("them") to end of line 33.—(Lord Hughes.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 17, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 18 [Expenses of local authorities and dissolution of drainage districts]:

3.30 p.m.

VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD moved, after subsection (5), to insert: () A Local Authority, where it is unlikely ever to be economically practical to provide a sewerage service to persons living in an area, may waive that portion of the rates represented by the sewerage rate.

The noble Viscount said: I beg to move Amendment No. 9 on behalf of my noble friend Lord Stonehaven, who has asked me to apologise for his unavoidable absence and to move the Amendment for him. This is a very mild Amendment, and I shall be very disappointed if the Government do not accept it. Its object is to enable local authorities to refrain from imposing an injustice, or, at any rate, what my noble friend and I consider an injustice, on certain ratepayers. I personally deplore the proposal to abolish drainage districts and transfer the local authority drainage costs to public expenditure. Be that as it may the point is that as this Bill is drawn, irrespective of whether you provide your own drainage, you are to pay a sewage rate; in other words, you are to pay for other people's drainage, irrespective of the fact that you go to the expense of providing your own.

In the part of Scotland I know best, the drainage we have is merely piped into the sea or the nearest river. Even if one has a septic tank there is no road to it, and it would be quite impracticable for the local authority to send the standard type of vehicle that they send to empty septic tanks, because the vehicle could not get near the septic tank. This Amendment provides that the local authority may waive that portion of the rate represented in a sewerage rate. They do not have to waive it, but if they are fair-minded, as I think on the whole most local authorities are, they may waive it. I should just like to reiterate that it seems wrong that where one provides one's own drainage one should be rated for drainage costs. After all, this does not apply to the consumption of water; you pay to a certain extent for the water that you use. Why should not the same system apply to drainage? If you provide your own drainage, why should you pay for other people's drainage? With those words, and in the hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, will be fair-minded, as I know he always is, or I am sure certainly tries to be, I beg leave to move this Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 12, line 7, at end insert the said subsection.—(Viscount Massereene and Ferrard.)


I have already asked the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, about this point. I think there is a slight discrepancy in the Explanatory Memorandum as to councils being charged approximately £100,000 a time in regard to rates and the provisions of Clause 18(3). We in Haddington have a population of 7,000. We get the rate support grant, which will bring our rates up another 1s. But would it be possible to have a specific grant? I know that most councils would like a specific grant for their water systems.


May I first of all deal with the Amendment? I am trying to be fair-minded. In fact, although the noble Viscount does not realise it, what he was asking me to do was to stop being fair-minded, because if one is fair-minded one must reject the Amendment. I hope to produce reasons which will satisfy your Lordships that that is a perfectly tenable point of view. First of all, the Amendment is based on the assumption to which I have already referred: that the payment of rates is a payment for services rendered. Rates are not sums extracted for services rendered; rates are local taxation, and sometimes people throw out councils because they do not think they are getting general value for the rates which are levied. And that, of course, they are perfectly entitled to do. But no one has ever suggested that at any given time what an individual ratepayer is going to receive in return for the rates which he pays is going to balance up in value with the services which he receives in return. Some people receive a great deal more from the rates than they ever pay for, and some people receive a great deal less. It will always be so in any system of local taxation, in no matter what way it may be changed.

Perhaps I can give some explanation of what we are trying to do in Clause 18. The clause, as the noble Viscount has said, abolishes special drainage districts. We take the view that they are now an anachronism, a legacy from a time when services were provided by parish councils, and an obstacle to the improvement of sewerage services because there is a disincentive to county councils to extend such services outside the special districts. On the Amendment which the noble Lord, Lord Burton, moved earlier, we were in agreement that what we wanted the local authorities to do was to provide the service, not to provide them with reasons for not doing it. We came to the conclusion that a continuance of special drainage districts was a most decided disincentive against spreading a service throughout the county.

In Clause 1 of the Bill we oblige local authorities to provide sewers, where reasonable, throughout their areas, and in Clause 10 we empower local authorities to empty septic tanks throughout their areas. It would be quite illogical to preserve artificial areas within counties with an implication that sewerage need not be provided outside them. I think it follows from this argument that we should have similar objections to any form of differential rating which assumed that, for an indefinite period into the future, there would be sizeable areas of counties, or sizeable numbers of people, who will receive no sewerage service. Clause 18 therefore provides far the whole cost of sewerage in counties to fall on the general county rate. The transition from existing to future arrangements may be spread over a period of up to seven years, provided for in Clause 18(4).

There is a tendency to regard Clause 18 as far more revolutionary than in fact it is. The cost of sewerage is not at present borne entirely by people who receive a service from the local authority. The cost is split three ways. There is a sizeable contribution from the national Exchequer, which may amount to 60 per cent. or more of the cost of the service. Secondly, that part of the cost which is borne on the rates is in most counties already divided between special district rates and the general rate, from which there is statutory power under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1947 to subsidise special district rates. The subsidy is seldom less than one-third of the rate-borne expenditure, and there are a number of counties in which it is substantially more than one-half. Therefore, while the Bill provides for the whole rate-borne part of the cost to fall on the general rates, this merely carries an existing tendency a stage further, and it is accompanied by a clear incentive to the local authority to provide a service to match.

I would not of course deny that, especially in the early years following the coming into operation of the Bill, there will be ratepayers who will pay increased general rates and who will not yet have received a sewerage service. I cannot, however, accept that they should pay rates only in respect of services they receive. This is a perfectly correct principle in relation to commodities like groceries, or gas, electricity or water, where it is accepted that people pay for what they get, but in the field of rating the correct comparison is surely with national taxation. A car owner on a Hebridean island, who has no intention of travelling to the mainland, is not permitted to contract out of paying taxes for the upkeep of motorways. Rates are in the same position.

Therefore I would say that the Amendment errs, in the first place, in proceeding on the assumption that those who do not receive a particular service are entitled to be relieved of paying rates towards the provision of that service. Secondly, the Amendment would tend to defeat one of the main objects of the Bill in that it would provide local authorities with a disincentive to expand their existing services. We do not want a county council to be able to draw a line beyond which they do not intend to provide sewerage, and to salve their consciences by relieving a few people of a fraction of their rates. They should be providing the service, and we must also bear in mind the substantial contribution from the national Exchequer which is intended to help them to do so.

Finally, I think it would be difficult to operate the exemption which is embodied in the Amendment. The local authority, in order to be able to waive the payment of rates, would have to be satisfied that it is unlikely ever to be economically practicable to provide a sewerage service to persons living in an area, and in this context a sewerage service would mean the emptying of septic tanks. I doubt whether it is possible for any local authority with a clear conscience ever to say that they are going to be in the position that they will never be able economically to provide either one part of the service or the other.

I have spoken at some length on this matter, because I recognise that there has been a good deal of opposition to this clause of the Bill, and I think your Lordships are entitled to a full explanation of our reasons for including it. But I believe that a great deal of the feeling against the clause has stemmed from ignorance of the fact that it merely extends a principle which in many cases is already more than half way conceded. It is not breaking new ground at all. For these reasons I must ask your Lordships not to accept this Amendment.

3.43 p.m.


The noble Lord seems to have put forward excellent arguments for starting a North of Scotland Sewerage Board, which would collect accounts only to the extent that their particular sewers were used. This would seem to be a far fairer system, but I recognise that there are difficulties in it. Seriously, would the noble Lord not agree that many of these difficulties could be resolved if the assessors, in their next quinquennial valuation, were to disregard the advantage of having sewers, where those sewers have been provided privately? Thereby the reduction in the rateable value of the houses and premises concerned would come to much the same as the advantage that the houses and premises have at the moment by not being in special sewerage districts.


I should like to answer that point, and also I must apologise to the noble Earl, Lord Mar, for not having dealt with the point which he made. I confess at once that I am not aware of all the mysteries in which county and city assessors involve themselves in deciding what the rateable value of a property shall be. It may well be that the point made by the noble Duke is one which they could quite properly take into consideration indeed, it may well he one which they already take into consideration. Beyond that, I am afraid I cannot go at this moment.

However, not only for the purpose of being able to inform the noble Duke, but for the purpose of informing myself I should like to make some inquiries in order to ascertain this position. While I cannot undertake to do so during the passage of this Bill through your Lordships' House, I will undertake to have a look at it and to let the noble Duke know the answer. It may well be that in the light of the information I am able to obtain he would find it desirable to put a Question before your Lordships' House, so that if he felt the information was likely to be of interest to anybody else it could be shared by the rest of your Lordships.

Perhaps I may now come to the point made by the noble Earl, Lord Mar. I think he is referring to grants under Section 1 of the Rural Water Supplies and Sewerage Act 1944. Under this Act the Secretary of State is empowered to grant aid local authority expenditure for sewerage and sewage disposal in a rural locality. Grants can be made only where the work is consequential on the provision of a supply of piped water to a locality. The 1944 Act was intended to improve the water service, and consequential disposal of sewage in rural areas where the cost would otherwise have been a prohibitive charge on the rates. In defining a rural locality we have excluded any burgh with a population of more than 3,000. This is necessarily an arbitrary figure, but I think that our experience of the working of the Act over more than 20 years suggests that the standard is not unrealistic. There is provision under Section 7 of the Local Employment Act 1960 whereby the Secretary of State may grant-aid basic local services, including the provision of sewerage and sewage disposal facilities, where the work is closely related to the provision of employment in the district. There is no population test in relation to this grant, but it is not paid in relation to work which is not so closely and directly related.

The noble Earl has mentioned the difficulties about the provision of sewerage at Haddington. The existing sewage treatment works there are not 100 per cent. effective and there is pollution of the river Tyne. The Lothians River Purification Board are requiring the town council to produce a standard of effluent which would require new sewage treatment works costing, as the noble Earl has said, in the neighbourhood of £100,000. The Minister of State received a deputation from the town council and he made it clear to them that there is no prospect of special financial assistance from the Government towards these works, and that they are not eligible for grant under either of the Acts mentioned above. However, there is provision in the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) (Scotland) Acts for the town council to appeal to the Secretary of State against the conditions that the River Purification Board seek to impose. It is for the council to decide whether they wish to take advantage of this right of appeal. So far, they have not done so.


I thank the noble Lord for what he has said. I think the position at the moment is that the assessors usually take account only of whether or not there is adequate drainage, and not of who provides the drainage concerned. This is obviously right at the moment, because if it is provided by the local authority the chances are that you are in a special drainage district and therefore pay the extra in your rates. But when this Bill becomes law the assessors should differentiate between the drainage provided by local authorities and that provided by private individuals, and they should assess the latter at a lower rate. I should have thought that an easy way of achieving this might be for the Secretary of State to send a circular to the assessors to this effect.


I would like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, for the time he has taken and the trouble he has gone to in explaining the Government's position in regard to this matter. At the same time, I think many of us, while accepting, as I do, the noble Lord's statement that rates are a measure of taxation, will feel that it is hard luck on people that they should be taxed twice for the same thing—because that is what it comes to.

The noble Lord has said that it should be practicable (I think he said something like this) for the local authorities, the county councils, to provide sewerage in the great majority of places, but that there are some places at which it is absolutely impracticable to provide any sewerage system whatever. The noble Lord knows as well as I do, as we served on the same Board, that it is quite impracticable to provide electricity in many places in the Highlands; it is quite impracticable to provide a drainage system in these places for the county council. One has to rely on a private system. Why the wretched fellow in these distant parts should have to provide his own sewerage system and also pay tax to provide one for people living in towns and villages I do not understand. It does not seem to me that such a man is getting a fair deal, and I am sure that this is the opinion of a great many noble Lords who are aware of the situation.


If I may briefly answer that point, the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, knows that I find great difficulty in disagreeing with him on many occasions, and this is one of them. The fact remains that what we are doing in this Amendment is to say that a local authority will relieve people of rates where it is not going to be practicable for "donkeys' ages" ahead to provide a sewerage service, and I have pointed out that the emptying of septic tanks is part of a sewerage service. There must be some places in the country where even the emptying of a septic tank would be impracticable except at extraordinary expense, but there will be few such places, and it would be quite wrong to include in the Bill something which would give an authority who did not want to do anything a reason for putting off the extension of the service, when what the Bill is primarily aiming to do is to give as many people as possible a service at minimum cost. I think if this Amendment were made it would be unworkable, because there is practically no authority in the country who could certify, in the terms laid down by the Amendment, that it was not a practicable proposition to provide a sewerage service of one kind or another.


I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, for the great deal of time he has taken on this Amendment and for his explanation. I would also thank my noble friends on this side for supporting the Amendment, and of course I heartily agree with them. I still stick to my point, that it is wrong, as my noble friends Lord Strathclyde and the Duke of Atholl have pointed out, that ratepayers should have to pay for a service which they do not receive. The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, made the point that perhaps in ten or twenty years' time the local authority may be able to provide a drainage service to these ratepayers. Of course, if they can provide it in ten or twenty years they can then charge the ratepayers in those areas accordingly.

I appreciate what the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, said about rates coming under general taxation, but at the same time I think that it is wrong. I believe that at some period, and I hope it will be soon, the law on this matter ought to be altered. I should also like to point out, before asking leave to withdraw the Amendment, that in my Amendment all I say is "may waive"; it is entirely up to the local authorities. If they want to charge the full rate they can do it. It is really a very mild Amendment. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 18 agreed to.

Clauses 19 to 28 agreed to.

Clause 29 [Decision on application]:


This is a minor drafting Amendment which puts the reference from the singular into the plural. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 17, line 30, leave out from ("such") to ("as") in line 31 and insert ("inspection chambers or manholes").—(Lord Hughes.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 29, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 30 to 40 agreed to.

Clause 41 [Breaking open of streets, etc.]:

3.57 p.m.


This Amendment is consequential on one which was made in another place. Clause 12(7) of the Bill originally required the local authority to do any work under Clause 12 which involved breaking open a street. However, the Bill was amended to leave the local authority with a discretion—and not a duty—to undertake any work which involves breaking open a street, and a private person may therefore undertake such work. It therefore seems right that the provisions of Clause 41, relating to the breaking open of streets, should apply equally to local authorities and private persons doing such work, and not solely to local authorities. Private persons breaking open streets will have powers to do the necessary work, will be liable to pay compensation for any damage that they do, and will be subject to the provisions of the Public Utilities Street Works Act 1950, which regulates the relations between, on the one hand, highway and street authorities and, on the other, statutory undertakers who place apparatus in streets— for example, water, gas and electricity undertakings and the General Post Office. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 23, line 8, after ("authority") insert ("or other person").—(Lord Hughes.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 41, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 42 to 44 agreed to.

Clause 45 [Production of plans and furnishing of information to authorities]:

LORD HUGHES moved, in subsection (1)(a), after "without" to insert "unreasonable". The noble Lord said: Under Clause 45(1) (a) a local authority can require an owner or occupier of land to produce to them plans of a sewer or drain, situated on or under the land, which empties, or is intended to empty into a public sewer or sewage treatment works. The owner or occupier is not obliged to produce plans unless he already possesses them or is able to obtain them without expense to himself. The effect of this Amendment is that he could be required to produce plans which he can obtain without "unreasonable" expense to himself. As paragraph (a) is now, unfortunately, faultily drafted, it could be held that an owner or occupier could not be required to obtain plans if this involved any expense to himself at all, even if it was only the cost of writing or telephoning to a place at which the plans were available—for instance at a builder's office. It is not the intention that owners and occupiers should be obliged to prepare elaborate plans, at great cost to themselves, but it seems equally undesirable that they should be able to withhold information which could be ob- tained by them at trifling cost. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 24, line 8, after ("without" insert ("unreasonable").—(Lord Hughes.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 45, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 46 to 55 agreed to.

LORD HUGHES moved, after Clause 55, to insert the following new clause:

Saving for Coast Protection Act 1949

". Nothing in this Act shall affect the application to any operation of sections 34 to 36 of the Coast Protection Act 1949 (restriction of works detrimental to navigation)."

The noble Lord said: This is the new clause upon which I have already spoken. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

After Clause 55 insert the said new clause.—(Lord Hughes.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clauses 56 to 57 agreed to.

Clause 58 [Interpretation]:


I have already spoken to this Amendment, which I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 31, line 1, at end insert— (""land" includes land covered with water and any interest or right in or over land").(Lord Hughes.)

On Question, .Amendment agreed to.

LORD HUGHES moved in subsection (2) to leave out "pumps" and insert: pumping stations, storm water overflow pipes, outfall pipes".

The noble Lord said: Amendments Nos. 15 and 16 are related. Subsection (2) of this clause lists certain installations, which may be necessary to the operation of a drain, sewer or sewage treatment works, which are to be regarded as part of the drain, sewer or works as the case may The two Amendments, which give effect to suggestions by the Association of County Councils in Scotland are intended for clarification. In line 26 we substitute "pumping station" for "pump", because I am informed that the word "pump" may not adequately describe the whole pumping installation on a drain or sewer. Secondly, we provide that an outfall pipe from a sewage treatment works is not to be regarded as part of the treatment works. An outfall pipe in fact has the characteristics of a sewer, and it seems reasonable that it should come under the provisions of the Bill relating to the construction, maintenance, and so on of sewers. Finally, the Amendment makes it clear that a storm water overflow pipe may be regarded as a sewer, and not as part of sewage treatment works. A storm water overflow is a kind of safety valve. When a main sewer is so swollen with rainwater that the sewage treatment works cannot handle the volume, the storm water overflow pipe diverts the surplus past the sewage treatment works to reserve tanks or to the river. Again, it is essentially a sewer, and it is appropriate that the provisions of the Bill relating to sewers should apply to it. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 32, line 26, leave out ("pumps") and insert the said words.—(Lord Hughes.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 16.

Amendment moved— Page 32, line 30, leave out ("and outfall pipes").—(Lord Hughes.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 58, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clauses and Schedule agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with Amendments.