§ 7.10 p.m.
§ LORD SANDFORD
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 Sandford.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The LORD JESSEL in the Chair.]1323
§ Clause 1 [Discharge of water by or by agreement with river authorities]:
LORD ILFORD moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 1, line 26, at end insert ("save that in its application to compensation under this subsection, the said subsection (5) shall have effect as if after the words "section 2" therein there were inserted the words "(other than subsection (3))"").
§ The noble Lord said: I think I can explain the purpose of this Amendment quite briefly. It is at first sight a complicated piece of draftsmanship and it does not become any more translucent when one looks through it. Clause 1 incorporates in the Bill a section of the Land Compensation Act 1961. The section incorporated includes a provision that only one expert witness shall be called in a case before the Lands Tribunal. There is a discretion in the Tribunal to allow more, but the rule stated in the Act is quite firm: there is only to be one expert witness at the trial.
§ When the question is the assessment of land value it may be that one expert witness is usually sufficient. The issues are not difficult and no doubt one can get on quite well with only one expert. This section is now being applied to quite different classes of persons, to water undertakings, river authorities and so forth. The subjects which arise in the disputed case in which those bodies are involved are really quite different from those arising on an assessment for compensation of land. They are quite different things. They involve different problems and many of them are of a highly scientific character. There are questions of water pollution and matters of that sort involving examination at some length of quite complicated and involved scientific problems. That being so, it seems that the Tribunal, if they are to give their decision properly, will require the assistance of more than one expert witness. I ask the Committee to leave out this provision, as the Amendment proposes, in order to allow more than one witness to be called if the parties consider the evidence of more than one witness is necessary. I beg to move.
§ LORD SANDFORD
If the situation was as the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, fears it to be I think there would indeed be 1324 grounds for this Amendment, but I am advised that his fears can reasonably easily be allayed. The purpose of the restriction—and there is a restriction on the number of expert witnesses in cases such as these—is to avoid unduly protracted hearings and unnecessary expense to the parties. But the Tribunal has discretion to allow more than one expert witness on each side, and it exercises this discretion when there is a case for doing so. Very often the parties reach agreement among themselves about the number of expert witnesses, and the normal practice on tribunals is to accept such agreements. As the noble Lord says, there may be a number of cases where the matters in dispute are highly technical and the Lands Tribunal already deal with a number of very technical cases in other fields. The purpose of giving them a discretion over the number of expert witnesses is to allow for such technical cases. So far as is known, there has been no complaint or difficulty over the way in which they exercise their discretion.
The cases brought under the present Bill are not likely to be very numerous and they will not necessarily be particularly technical, although some may be. I think noble Lords will agree that it would be really curious to take the matter out of the Tribunal's hands in this type of case while leaving it in their hands in every other type. Moreover, it would create definite anomalies; for while there would be no restrictions on the number of expert witnesses in cases under this Bill, there would continue to be restrictions on those brought under the 1963 Act. It is for those reasons that I would assure the noble Lord that his fears are groundless and that there is no need to incorporate this Amendment to secure what he wishes.
I quite expected the noble Lord speaking for the Government to say that, of course, the Tribunal had discretion and was always likely to exercise that discretion reasonably. But I think it really goes a little far to say that the position is all right under this Bill. If one turns to the actual section in the Land Compensation Act 1961, one sees that Section 2(3) quite specifically says:Not more than one expert witness on either side shall be heard unless the Lands Tribunal otherwise directs; except…1325 where there is a claim for minerals and so forth, and then it sets out the exceptions. This must mean that the Tribunal, following those directions under this clause will normally and in nearly every case allow only one expert witness. What we are asking for is not that there should automatically be more than one expert witness, but that the Tribunal should not be quite so rigidly bound as I feel that it now is—speaking not from a lawyer's point of view but in the plain sense of the words under the Act. I cannot see what harm there could be if our Amendment were accepted so that the Tribunal could have as many experts as necessary in a particular case.
§ LORD SANDFORD
I am sorry that I have not been able to reassure the noble Lord, but the Lands Tribunal deal with a number of cases at least as technical as these case and do exercise their discretion. Therefore the fears of both noble Lords are groundless on that score. Furthermore, if we accept this Amendment there would arise the anomaly that for the particular purposes of this Bill (which is only an amending Bill for the 1963 Act) we shall have introduced a further degree of discretion in the Lands Tribunals but shall have left the matter as it now stands in respect of the whole of the rest of the Bill. I think that noble Lords will agree that that would be a curious anomaly.
§ LORD KENNET
Noble Lords on this side of the House—both of them—have heard Lord Ilford's fears and the Government's attempt to allay them, and Lord Waldegrave's reassertion of those fears and the Government's renewed attempts to allay them. Speaking as I think I am, for this side, I am inclined to think that perhaps this restriction is one that might be got rid of, and we invite the Government to consider the matter again between now and a later stage to see whether this restriction, even if it is not always enforced, might not be done away with. On the point of anomalies, the noble Lord will agree that all democracy and all democratic law is a tissue of anomalies and none the worse for that.
§ LORD SANDFORD
Of course I can give the assurance that the restriction can be looked at and considered in a wider context, but I am sure that it would be 1326 a mistake to consider an Amendment in this very narrow context.
§ LORD ILFORD
My noble friend has not convinced me by his assurances, but in view of what he has said I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
EARL WALDEGRAVE moved Amendment No. 2:
Page 2, line 4, leave out ("(3)") and insert ("(4)").
§ The noble Earl said: With the permission of the Committee in moving Amendment No. 2, I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 3. I have some little embarrassment in moving these Amendments, because I have the honour to be the vice-president of the River Authorities Association and it might be thought by members of the river authorities that these Amendments (and also Amendment No. 6, which I hope to move later) are Amendments whose only origin can have been that the river authorities might be unreasonable or intransigent, or do things not in the public interest. Of course that is the furthest possible thought from my mind; I do not wish to feel that these Amendments are unduly critical of river authorities. But they would have the effect of removing from river authorities, for the purpose of agreements under this Bill, the absolute discretion that they enjoy at present under Section 81(3) of the 1963 Act. I am sure that the river authorities will normally use this discretion wisely, but when legislating I think it wise to do so as well for—shall we say?—the sinners as for the saints, although I am sure that the river authorities will normally be saints.
§ This absolute discretion could be thought to go much too far and to be too one-sided. It might be thought that it could be used either to secure conditions which are excessively unfavourable to the statutory water undertakers (in respect of which I declare an interest as I happen to be associated with statutory water undertakers) or to frustrate their intentions altogether. The new subsection would be a more reasonable provision than Section 81(3) of the Act. I would stress that there is a real apprehension here. We think that if the procedures in the Bill were to be followed, absolute discretion could lead to a situation in which 1327 a river authority might insist on including in an agreement provisions which appeared to them to be necessary or expedient; and there could be no redress for a statutory water undertaker who might regard such provisions as being far from necessary.
§ Under Part IV of the Act of 1963, which deals with licences to abstract or impound, in Sections 38 to 41 there is a right of appeal to the Minister which could be exercised either in the event of a refusal to grant a licence by a river authority, or in respect of conditions sought to be imposed by the authority; or, indeed, in the event of failure by a river authority to determine an application for a licence. I am not able to find anywhere such a right of appeal existing in connection with agreements under the Bill as drafted. Yet such agreements for discharges (that is what this Bill does: it brings forward machinery for dealing with discharges; whereas the principal Act seems to have dealt only with agreement for impounding and abstractions) may be quite as important to a statutory water undertaker as a licence to abstract or impound. The subsection which I now seek to add to the Bill would at least put the bodies on an equal footing when it came to negotiating the terms of an agreement, even though it would still not provide for a right of appeal to the Minister for arbitration. I very much hope, therefore, that the Government will be able to accept the Amendment and think-that this request is not unreasonable.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ LORD SANDFORD
I think it would be convenient to deal with both these Amendments together. Once again I hope to be able to assure the noble Earl that his fears about the disadvantage under which any statutory water undertaker who enters into this kind of agreement might be, are groundless. The words in the 1963 Act to which exception is being taken are:… as appear to the river authority necessary or expedient …",but it seems right to include them in the Act because, after all, the object of the Act, which this Bill amends, is to facilitate the performance of the river authorities' functions. In any case, the words in question are primarily declaratory. It 1328 certainly does not—and this is the first thing I should like to stress—confer any compulsory powers on the river authority. It does not put the authority in the position of being able to impose an agreement on a water undertaker. The river authority will consider the terms of any agreement proposed in the light of its statutory functions, but, equally, the statutory water undertaker will consider them in the light of its own interests; and no agreement, however hard the river authority may insist, will be concluded unless the terms of the agreement are acceptable to both sides. So I do not think it matters how much of a sinner the river authority may be; the saintly water undertaker is not in a position of having an agreement imposed on it against its will.
Furthermore, under Clause 1(4) noble Lords will see that there is a further safeguard; not just a right of appeal to the Minister but the fact that the Secretary of State's consent is required to any agreement arrived at under this clause. Therefore I think the Amendment is unnecessary, and the points which the noble Earl is anxious about and particularly wants to safeguard are in fact doubly safeguarded.
§ LORD KENNET
I think that the Government are wrong. The 1963 Act says that such agreement may contain such financial provisions as the river authority shall consider desirable and necessary. That means that if the authority does not consider a financial provision desirable or necessary, the agreement may not contain it. The Amendment gets rid of that and says that the agreement may contain financial provisions, whether or not they are considered necessary or desirable by either party to the agreement.
§ LORD ILFORD
The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, is right about this. It is always a desirable thing that when two people enter into negotiations they should do so on an equal footing, and that does not happen under this clause.
§ LORD SANDFORD
I agree that in a Bill amending an Act to do with the functions of river authorities there is bound to be a certain bias in favour of the river authorities, but the bias does not go anything like so far as the noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave, fears. It does 1329 not enable a river authority to impose an agreement on a statutory water undertaker against its will. So far from there being no appeal to the Minister, the agreement cannot be ratified and confirmed except with the Minister's consent. To that extent I believe that the fears of the noble Earl are not well-founded, though I would agree with what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
May I add a word? I understand the wish of my noble friend Lord Waldegrave to strengthen the standing of the water undertakers—for the moment discarding his hat as Vice-President of the Association of River Authorities, of which body I have the honour to be President, and therefore I wear only their hat. But when we are looking at this little amending Bill we must look at the broad purpose of the 1963 Act which is the present Act; and the broad purpose of that Act was to set up an authority to manage rivers. It is not possible to get satisfactory management of rivers, with all their diverse interests, unless one single authority is made responsible for doing it—and heaven knows! it is difficult enough then.
When setting up the river authorities under the 1963 Act Parliament had many long, complicated and very interesting debates, very much on this theme. Those particularly interested in water undertakers put forward ideas that water undertakers were the right bodies to do this, rather than the river boards which existed at that time. But, in the event, the Government of the day—and Parliament supported them; there was no Division and it was agreed on all sides—thought that this was the best solution, that it would be better, despite the acknowledged and great technical and commercial strength of the water undertakings, to make these new bodies, the river authorities, which broadly speaking were the old river boards with new powers and functions grafted on to them, responsible. I suggest that the basis of my noble friend's thought here is to strengthen the status of the water undertakings vis-à-vis the river authorities in this context. I should have thought that that was a mistake. By all means let us be sure that there are adequate safeguards, but for heaven's sake! do not weaken the 1330 responsibility or powers of the body which is ultimately responsible for managing the whole river. And only one body can do that.
That must be true of this Bill which is dealing with the discharge of water. One authority must be responsible for making up its mind, subject to the safeguards that are here, upon what is the best arrangement with regard to the discharge of water, in the interests of the abstractors, including all public water undertakings. Though I understand my noble friend's point, he is really opposing the philosophy of the 1963 Act in asking for this concession. I do not think that makes sense. I should have thought that, if anything, there were many more arguments for strengthening the position of the river authorities in order to carry out the big tasks they already have and the much bigger tasks which come on them every year in order to meet the demands of the nation for extra water.
Therefore I hope that the Committee will not be persuaded, even by the persuasive manner in which my noble friend presented his case, because I think that the substantial point made by my noble friend Lord Sandford, that at the end of the day the Minister's consent is required before: an agreement of this kind can become operative, is sufficient safeguard to make sure that no injustice is going to be done here. So I would most earnestly hope that my noble friend will hold his hand and say that there is force in the arguments which have been put to him.
I hope that your Lordships will not be burdened by a hat-changing operation between my noble friend and myself. I am now rather puzzled. When I introduced this Amendment, I was at pains to say that I was not doing so for the motives which my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford has imputed to me: that is. as a means of getting at the river authorities and strengthening the hands of the water undertakings. What I was trying to do. putting it in the simplest possible terms, was this. I was asking why, if it is right that there should be a power of appeal to the Minister if an undertaking cannot come to an agreement with a river authority on an impounding or abstraction, there is no such right of appeal to the Minister if they cannot get 1331 an agreement with the river authority for a discharge? In his reply my noble friend Lord Sandford said that there was a right of appeal to the Minister, but my noble friends have advised me that there is not. I suppose that it must come under Section 81 of the principal Act. If my noble friend can show me exactly where it comes, then he has exploded a good bomb under me and I should be much inclined to withdraw my Amendment.
§ LORD SANDFORD
I am afraid that either I did not make myself clear or my noble friend misunderstood me. I did not say that there was a right of appeal. So far from there being a right of appeal, there is the positive necessity for the Minister to give his consent to an agreement, which I should have thought is an even stronger safeguard from the point of view of the river authority.
I am still not happy about this matter and I wonder whether my noble friend can at least give an undertaking that he will consider it, and whether I may leave it open to come back to on Report stage.
§ LORD ILFORD
I cannot add much to what has already been said. I have had some difficulty in finding the provision for this appeal. It does not astonish me that my noble friend has come to the conclusion that in fact there is no appeal. That being so, I think that the best thing to do is to withdraw the Amendment and perhaps bring it forward again on Report stage.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ 7.36 p.m.
LORD MOLSON moved Amendment No. 4:
After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause:
§ Orders authorising construction of works and discharge of water
§ ".Any order made under section 67 of the principal Act authorising the carrying out in a National Park or in an area designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty of engineering or building operations for the purpose of or in connection with the discharge of water of such a nature or size as will have a materially adverse effect on the natural beauty of the countryside or on flora, fauna or geological or physiographical features of 1332 special interest shall be subject to special parliamentary procedure and any question as to whether the engineering or building operations to be authorised by the order fall within the terms of this subsection shall be determined by the Minister after consultation with the Countryside Commission and his decision shall be final."
§ The noble Lord said: On Second Reading I pointed out that the Water Resources Act 1963 had effectively but, I thought perhaps inadvertently, removed a valuable safeguard which amenity interests had previously enjoyed, and I indicated that I should move Amendments at Committee stage to restore the safeguard. Where Her Majesty's Government are seeking to repair an oversight in the drafting of the Bill by the Parliamentary draftsman, I thought they might be tolerant in looking at an Amendment which I moved, where perhaps there was an oversight on my part in not quite realising what we had lost under the drafting of the 1963 Act.
§ The Act of 1963 substitutes a licensing system for the provisions of Section 23 of the Act of 1945 enabling orders to be made to authorise the compulsory acquisition of water rights. Having made this substitution of procedure, the Act of 1963 repealed those provisions of Section 23 of the 1945 Act and consequently those of the Water Act 1948 enabling orders containing those provisions to be made subject to special Parliamentary procedure. The Amendment I am now moving seeks to restore the availability of special Parliamentary procedure in the case of these orders.
§ If your Lordships will allow me to take advantage of the flexibility of the procedure of the House, I should like to speak both to this Amendment and to my subsequent Amendment, explaining the differences between them and why I prefer the first and hope that your Lordships will accept it, but also stating why, on the principle that half a loaf is better than no bread, if the first Amendment is not acceptable, I should propose to move the second.
§ As your Lordships are aware, the special Parliamentary procedure is a system by which a Joint Committee of both Houses, sitting upstairs, with the advantage of counsel and expert witnesses, with examination and cross-examination, where maps and diagrams can be pro- 1333 duced, finds it is possible to explore exactly the problems which are raised. This procedure, which dates from 1945, was largely designed for the express purpose of Water Orders. It was explained by Mr. Morrison in another place that it was with a special view to the Water Act of 1945 that this special Parliamentary procedure was introduced. It has the great advantage that not only has it the machinery for going into the merits of a complicated technical system of this kind, but the Joint Committee is able to amend the Order. I hope therefore that it will appear reasonable that in the case of Orders of this kind, which before 1963 would have been subject to special Parliamentary procedure, this procedure should be restored. If that is not acceptable, then I should be disposed to move my second Amendment, which provides that Orders of this kind should come within the section of the Act of 1963 which provides that such an Order may be annulled by an adverse vote in either House.
§ The first Amendment is confined entirely to National Parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty. In the case of the second Amendment, where it is a rougher bludgeon which it is proposed to use, and one which I am sure would be very much less effective, I am proposing that it should be of general application. It is surely wrong that in a matter of this importance Parliament should not retain in its own hands the ultimate authority for deciding whether an Order, which may be of great importance and affect a large area of great beauty and of interest to the country as a whole, should be dealt with by the Minister, based no doubt on the findings of an inspector—although, as we were reminded last night, the views of the Minister may differ from those of the inspector. Surely it is wrong that Parliament should abandon completely its control.
§ The reason why I prefer the special Parliamentary procedure which was devised for this special purpose is that annulment by the Negative Resolution procedure is such a clumsy weapon. It is a clumsy weapon for a number of reasons. In the first place, in a matter of this kind, where it is important to advance technical arguments and to prove facts, it does not lend itself to debate on the Floor of the House. Allegations 1334 may be made and contradicted, and it is quite impossible for the House as a whole to form any informed opinion as to which of the two technical arguments is right. In the second place, there is no chance of amendment: it is a matter of either accepting or rejecting the Order. When it is a matter of rejecting an Order which has been put forward by a responsible body, and has been approved by the Minister, or saying that it should be thrown out and that the whole thing must begin again from square one, naturally any responsible legislative body is reluctant to throw the Order out.
§ Finally—and this is argumentum ab dominos—your Lordships normally decide that you will not throw out an Order that has been passed by another place. There have been two exceptions to that convention. One was when the noble Earl, Lord Longford, sought to throw out an Order relating to the Prison Commissioners; and the other was when the Conservative Opposition sought to throw out (and succeeded) an Order in relation to Rhodesia. But apart from those two exceptional cases, which perhaps we should not normally wish to treat as precedents, your Lordships are not disposed to throw out any Order of this kind.
§ Therefore, although it may be advantageous for the sake of constitutional propriety to retain a power of this kind, as would be done under my second Amendment, it certainly would not be the effective and precise instrument that would be provided by my first Amendment, providing for the Special Parliamentary Procedure to apply. For those reasons, I beg to move the first Amendment standing in my name.
§ LORD SANDFORD
It may be convenient if, with the agreement of the Committee, I intervene briefly at this stage to make three small points. First, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Molson, that it is convenient to take the two Amendments together. Secondly, I would mention that I am not absolutely certain that the Amendment that has actually been moved falls entirely within the scope of this Bill, which has to do with the discharge of waters, because it also refers to works in connection with water undertakings. The third, and most 1335 important, point I would make is that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has considerable sympathy with what the noble Lord is seeking to achieve here, and I feel reasonably certain that, if not at this stage then at a later stage, it will be possible to go some way towards meeting him. But before indicating more precisely what I mean by that, I should like to hear what other noble Lords have to say.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
I have listened with great interest to my noble friend Lord Molson moving his Amendment, and indeed discussing both his new clauses. I say at once that I sympathise with his general wish that these important and very sensitive issues should be able to find their way before Parliament. Therefore I am with him in principle. I am doubtful about his first new clause relating to Special Parliamentary Procedure. I thing it is rather an elaborate procedure, and I presume that that is why it has been so little used. It has one specific disadvantage, which I imagine would be the same as the disadvantage of the Private Bill procedure. The Private Bill procedure, as the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, will remember with a certain trauma, has been much used in recent years in order to promote these developments required by river authorities, either acting on their own or jointly as water undertakings, because of the defect in the 1963 Act which this amending Bill now sets out to cure.
I am advised—and I believe it is correct advice—that where the Private Bill procedure is used it is impossible for the Minister to order a public local inquiry, because Parliament would consider that the Private Bill procedure, with its very full machinery for providing for petitioners to appear before Committees in both Houses, had given sufficient opportunity for objection to the petition. My experience, in so far as I have been dealing with one of these major water conservation schemes, is that, so far as the people affected by the development are concerned, what they want above all is a public local inquiry to which they can go, without any cost, without any inconvenience to themselves, in order to express their views, and their objections to the proposal. This means much more to 1336 them than any opportunity to come before a Committee here, either on a Private Bill or, for the same reasons, a special Committee set up under the Special Parliamentary Procedure.
I do not know—but no doubt others better informed will know—exactly what the rules are with regard to a special Committee set up in this way. I suspect that they are probably the same as they are for the Private Bill procedure, where a petitioner must establish a specific status before he can appear. This means that local people who dislike a proposed development because they feel it would spoil the local amenity, and have a big effect on their lives, have no status at all. This has been a great disappointment to many people who wished to appear in connection with the Private Bills that we had in the last Session. I am not speaking about the merits of their objections: I am simply stating a fact. Then there is the second objection to the Parliamentary procedure on Private Bills, which I suspect applies here, and that is that a petitioner can only appear by counsel. This is extremely expensive and, therefore, does not meet the needs of the average citizen a fraction as well as the public local inquiry.
So far as the river authority are concerned, when they promote a scheme of this kind they will normally welcome a public local inquiry. They are promoting a scheme which they know will benefit the community, and they are only too glad to have the opportunity to appear at a local inquiry to explain their scheme in detail, to answer any questions and deal with any objections. In fact, this is just what they want to do. The great problem is to try to explain to everybody exactly what the promoters of a scheme are trying to do. So I welcome the procedure which will flow out of this Amendment, which will make it possible for these water conservation developments to be made by order, when the Minister may order a public local inquiry. And, I do not doubt that in almost every case he will order such inquiries, because that will meet the needs of the average citizen rather better than the Parliamentary procedure.
Coming to my noble friend Lord Molson's "second barrel"—his second new clause—I am in sympathy with this. 1337 My experience is that it is a positive help to be able to tell local people who are worried that at the end of the day, after the public local inquiry has been held, an order will be subject to Parliamentary approval; that Parliament may have a say in the matter. This is an attractive scheme, although I do not say that all my friends in the river authority world agree with me. But on the whole it is an advantage, because I am quite certain we have to do everything possible, both at Parliamentary and at local level, to explain what we are doing with these schemes, to explain what the necessities and benefits are, in order to carry reasonable public opinion with us. There are bound to be some objectors; but we have to stand up to them and convince people that the balance of advantage is to go ahead with these schemes.
So, in principle, I am in favour of my noble friend's second Amendment. I understand, however, that there are certain difficulties in the Ministry concerned that the application of this principle might be extended to the mass of other orders which the department in the Ministry has to make. It seems to me that it may be necessary—and no doubt my noble friend will be telling us about this—to restrict this Negative Resolution procedure to developments in National Parks, and not to apply it to all orders coming under Clause 1. But as I have said, I am in broad sympathy with my noble friend's intention—I think it is right in principle—and I should be prepared to support my noble friend Lord Sandford if he wishes to make some concession on these lines. I think it would be for the general benefit of Parliament and everybody.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ LORD MOLSON
If your Lordships will bear with me again, I should like to elaborate just a little further about this procedure. I am naturally gratified that the Parliamentary Secretary has expressed a certain measure of sympathy and that my noble friend Lord Nugent also has expressed broad sympathy. Perhaps, therefore, I may set the matter out in greater detail, since there is reasonable prospect of my persuading your Lordships to accept one or other of these Amendments.
I venture to disagree with my noble friend Lord Nugent when he says that 1338 Special Parliamentary Procedure has not proved a satisfactory method of proceeding. It was prepared by the Conservative Government at the end of the last war, and it was passed by the Labour Government, with Mr. Herbert Morrison, as he then was, making the speech in which he explained the procedure. He set the matter out in full. He explained that originally the only way in which a statutory undertaker had been able to obtain these powers was by promoting a Private Bill. It was because this was a cumbrous and costly procedure that the Provisional Order procedure was introduced. Mr. Morrison said:To take the Provisional Order procedure first,"—that is before he came to the new proposals—I think it will be generally agreed that it is slow, cumbersome and expensive."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 18/10/45; col. 1376.]It was less slow, cumbersome and expensive than the Private Bill procedure. The only reason that there had been so many Private Bills after the introduction, first of Provisional Order procedure and then, in trying to produce something cheaper, more expeditious and efficient, the Special Parliamentary Procedure, is that owing to a number of oversights—matters, for example, relating to common land and, in the case of this Bill, to discharge of water—it has not been possible to avoid using Private Bill procedure. There is no doubt at all that Special Parliamentary Procedure is much more expeditious and cheaper than proceeding either by a Private Bill or by a Provisional Order. One main feature is that instead of there being Committees in both Houses going into the matter, under Special Parliamentary Procedure it is dealt with by a single Joint Committee of both Houses.
It is because this (to use a modern expression) streamlined procedure was designed to give reasonable facilities to water undertakers and, subsequently, river authorities to do what is required without any unnecessary obstruction or delay that it was introduced. I hope and believe that it will prove to be effective for that purpose. But, as was made quite plain by Mr. Herbert Morrison and by Viscount Kilmuir, then Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, they had devised this procedure in order that Parliament should 1339 retain an ultimate control and that that control should be exercised by means of a Joint Committee of both Houses, able to go into the matter in a careful and scientific way, with the help of counsel and expert witnesses, instead of its being merely debated on the Floor of the House. In the case of the other place, which can and does sometimes throw out an Order of this kind, Mr. Morrison explained the difficulties very frankly and plainly. He said:The classical objection … is that it puts the burden on a Private Member of keeping a House, getting his friends to stay there, and introducing a Motion for Annulment in a House which is tired after Government business and wants to get home. That is a fair point which we have to recognise.Sir David Maxwell Fyfe concurred in those difficulties, and they both agreed that the procedure of having an Annulment carried by a Private Member in another place late at night after Government business is over imposes an almost intolerable burden upon him. Sir David Maxwell Fyfe carried the same argument further—and this of course applies equally in this House—by saying:The other point which can fairly be made is that it is difficult for a Private Member to work up the requisite technical knowledge which may well be involved.Those are two of the main reasons why the Special Parliamentary Procedure is a far more effective and efficient and fair way of dealing with this matter, rather than asking a legislative body such as your Lordships' House to listen to a number of speeches contradicting each other and then coming to a conclusion upon an extremely difficult and technical matter. It is for that reason that I believe that this Special Parliamentary Procedure which was devised for this purpose is the suitable one for your Lordships to introduce in an Amendment to this Bill.
§ LORD KENNET
I should like to divide what I have to say into two parts: first of all, the relative merits of the Special Parliamentary Procedure and the Negative Resolution Procedure of a Motion for Annulment; and secondly, if either of these is desirable, in what parts of the country, and what sorts of parts of the country, should they be applicable. On the first point, I must with great defer- 1340 ence and regret differ from the noble Lord, Lord Molson, because it seems to me that the reasons he was advancing in favour of having Special Parliamentary Procedure and the Committee of Inquiry were reasons which hold good only if there has not been a prior public local inquiry—this is the first inquiry into the matter. It seems to me that, if the Minister has held a public local inquiry, received his inspector's report and taken his provisional decision, there is no point in Parliament holding another prolonged, detailed and technical inquiry in London into the matter. Let the Members of both Houses read the inspector's report. If they are interested they will. Therefore, I plump for the Negative Resolution procedure, and I think that even if it is late at night, if people are interested enough they will show that interest; and it is of course no less trouble to read a Select Committee's report than to read an inspector's report.
Coming now to the question, "In what parts of the country should it be done?" I think we have here, if the Government were to accept the idea of the Negative Resolution procedure of a Motion for the Annulment, a procedure whereby Parliament may simply tell the Minister that in its opinion he got it wrong. We had an example yesterday of an issue in another field where this might have been the case; I do not know whether it would have been or not. I have in mind a case where the Minister, after reading his inspector's report, takes into account the balancing factors. Let us, for instance, take Dartmoor. There is, let us say, an enormous reservoir bang in the middle of Dartmoor. It could be that the inspector would say, "No. This thing is going to look too horrible. It will ruin our National Park. So the people of Plymouth and surrounding parts must get their water by another means, which they can although it will be a lot more expensive." Then let us say that the Minister says, "No. The inspector is wrong. Cheapness is all and to hell with beauty! We shall have the reservoir in Dartmoor." It could then well be that one or both Houses of Parliament would simply think the Minister had his priorities upside-down and would wish, quite shortly and sharply after a simple debate, to reverse that decision and knock the Minister down. This I could 1341 well imagine, and this would be provided for by Negative Resolution procedure.
On the question whether this procedure should be, as the noble Lord, Lord Molson, proposes, country-wide (that is the second part of his Amendment), or as the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, proposes only in National Parks—and I was very interested to hear that Lord Nugent, who as we know is the keeper of the conscience of ideals and ambitions of the Association of River Authorities, accepts this; this I think is good news for all people who love the beauty of the country—is a difficult question to determine. I will wait to hear what the Government have to say on this; I hope that they have something to say.
I would suggest that perhaps it would not be right to confine it to National Parks. Because what if it is a site of special scientific interest—S.S.S.I.; what if it is an area of outstanding natural beauty—A.O.N.B.; what if it is V.H.L., or whatever very high landscape value is called? There are so many of these gradations, each of which is entitled to consideration more than one would extend to the whole of white land in the country. I therefore propose tentatively, and subject to what the Government have to say at this stage or later, that it might be best to have a Motion for Annulment procedure in National Parks, A.O.N.Bs, sites of special scientific interest, high landscape value areas, and possibly other special parts of the country which I do not have in my mind at the moment; but not absolutely countrywide.
§ LORD ILFORD
I should not like to appear as the only person who is not in broad sympathy with the proposal of my noble friend Lord Molson. I do not propose to enter into a detailed discussion on what has been proposed. All I desire to say is that, whatever procedure is ultimately adopted, there is no doubt that the procedure under which water undertakings obtain their powers to-day is urgently in need of revision. What these procedures should be I would not care to say, but I am quite sure that the time has come when we must get rid of some of the difficulties that water undertakers experience in obtaining essential powers to do their job.
§ 8.6 p.m.
§ LORD SANDFORD
It has been extremely helpful to have the views of so many noble Lords on this particular point, and particularly noble Lords whose interests are so germane to this matter. It is a difficult matter to decide exactly where to draw the line. But I think we must start from the point that since the 1963 Act the intention—the frustrated intention, but the intention—has been to proceed by means of public local inquiries to secure what the river authorities require for the discharge of their functions. I think that by and large there is general satisfaction with this intention. If it had not been so frustrated by the omission which we are trying to correct we should be able to judge that better. But on the whole I should have thought that these are technical matters which are best settled at a public local inquiry where models and maps and so on can be deployed and all and sundry can become involved.
That is not to say that the Special Parliamentary Procedure, which has been advocated so eloquently by my noble friend Lord Molson, is not a good deal less cumbersome than the whole Private Bill procedure. But, though it is less cumbersome than that, I believe it is open to much of the same objections as a Private Bill, particularly from the point of view of those whose opinions are of so much value now; namely, bodies such as the Council for the Preservation of Rural England and objectors who want to object on grounds of amenity and who have not unlimited resources to enable them to engage counsel and so on, which is necessary in using Special Parliamentary Procedure. It is not as expensive as Private Bill procedure; but it is expensive; it is time-consuming, and when compared with the procedures of a public local inquiry it is inconvenient, and particularly inconvenient to people who have to come to defend causes in, say, the Yorkshire Moors or Exmoor or Dartmoor. It still means that objectors and Promoters have to incur considerable expense and spend time presenting their case in London, instead of in the locality affected. For that reason, I join with the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, and the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, in feeling that, within the context of a public local inquiry, and on the assumption that the whole procedure is going to begin with a public local 1343 inquiry, the Special Parliamentary Procedure, although it was an advantage in its time, is no longer the most apt.
For that reason, I come down very much in favour of the Negative Resolution procedure, because when that has been preceded by a public local inquiry it is not open to the same criticisms as is the Special Parliamentary Procedure. Compared with the Special Parliamentary Procedure, a Negative Resolution procedure debate is not a duplication of what went before but complements it. The public local inquiry is complementary to the debate in Parliament. At the public local inquiry there is an opportunity to deal in considerable detail and quite informally with all the issues involved: maps are produced, models are shown and it is held in the locality that is most affected by the proposal. All and sundry can come forward as well as those objectors who have a particular standing in the case. There is an opportunity to make adjustments, to consider the conditions, and so on. Everybody is able to state his views; it is done in the locality, with local publicity.
If we have the Negative Resolution procedure there is the further procedure which is entirely complementary to that. There is the debate up here in the capital, in Parliament. At that point the broader issues can be debated, deployed by the Secretary of State and his spokesman in this House; the issues can be rehearsed again within their national context on the Floor of the House with maximum national publicity and—I should have thought that this was tremendously important—at no cost whatever to the Promoters or the objectors. It is for that reason that I come down quite strongly and firmly in favour of the Negative Resolution procedure.
I now come to the extent and the area to which, if we decide in that way, this should be applied. Here I would agree that it is difficult to come to the right judgment. I think what the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, said about this indicates the difficulties, and for that reason I would agree with the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, that considering everything it would be better to go for the National Parks and draw the line there. If we do not draw the line there we shall go into a long tradition of areas of outstanding 1344 natural beauty, landscape of high quality, green belts, areas of special scientific interest, and so on. Furthermore, it then raises the question in rather a marked degree that if this is all right for water undertakings, what about other kinds of undertakings which affect areas of outstanding natural beauty? Then, I think your Lordships will agree, we should have driven the thin end of the wedge fairly well in, and the whole thing might fall into disrepute.
§ LORD KENNET
I think it would help the Committee very much if the noble Lord would say what sort of other undertakings proceeding by Order he has in mind.
§ LORD SANDFORD
Highways, electricity pylons—a whole range of things. How many proceed by Orders precisely similar to the one we are considering I should not like to say without advice, but that is the kind of thing we have in mind. Another reason for sticking to National Parks in this particular case is that I really do believe that they are the areas which, by their very nature, are the ones most affected. I think that without exception they are uplands, where the rainfalls and the rivers rise, and this is the point where the conflict almost always will be. By confining ourselves to these clearly defined areas, I do not think we shall let many cases of water undertakings that should be considered by this procedure fall outside the net. I think this will include the great majority of them.
That being so, and if your Lordships agree with me, what I suggest is this. If the noble Lord, Lord Molson, will agree to withdraw his two Amendments, with which we all have considerable sympathy but on particular points of which we are in disagreement, I will undertake that between now and the next stage I will have these matters reconsidered, and will bring forward an Amendment which will secure that orders to do with discharges from reservoirs in National Parks should be subject to the Negative Resolution procedure. That is the broad intention which I should like to leave with your Lordships. It will have to be considered and looked at in detail. There may be some slight adjustment, but that is the intention which I should like to carry away as the result of this debate.
§ 8.15 p.m.
Perhaps I may say one thing before the noble Lord sits down. What he has said has been most helpful and most interesting, but do we understand that the noble Lord is quite clear that he must limit his help in this regard to National Parks? We are not now dealing, under this Bill, with impounding and abstraction, but with discharge; and it might well be that the discharge to which objection might be taken, or which ought to fall under this Negative Resolution procedure, would be well downstream outside the National Park, but in an A.O.N.B.—an area of outstanding natural beauty. I should have hoped that he would at least have left the door open for further debate on a future occasion (because there are not many noble Lords present to-night), so that we could at least reconsider whether it should be confined to National Parks or whether some specified addition to National Parks, such as A.O.N.Bs and S.S.S.Is. could be included.
§ LORD SANDFORD
I should have hoped that the assurance and undertaking I have given would be enough for tonight. The kind of detail which the noble Lord has mentioned is just the kind of detail that needs to be looked into with great care. We are taking a step of some significance, and we are attaching it to a Bill which is only an amendment to the main Bill; so we must proceed with caution. I wanted to indicate in my reply how much sympathy my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has with the broad intention of the Amendments which have been put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Molson. Having said that, I hope I shall be able to persuade him to withdraw these Amendments.
§ VISCOUNT INGLEBY
I should like to say just a word, if I may. I am not entirely happy about excluding places other than National Parks. I have a great love for them and care for them, but in terms of human hardship the hardship involved in making a new reservoir may be greater outside the National Park. So far as my part of the world in North Yorkshire is concerned, there are two reservoirs under consideration at the present time, Farndale and Hellifield. Farndale is in a National Park and Hellifield is not, and it may be that in human terms 1346 of hardship to farmers there would be perhaps greater hardship to have it at Hellifield than at Farndale.
I am given to understand, on the authority of the Chairman of the Water Resources Board, that surface reservoirs are a dying breed, though we have to have them for the next ten years in order to buy time for an investigation into less damaging means of supplying water. And here, if I may, I would congratulate the Thames Conservancy on their researches into the underground reserves in their area. I very much hope that these investigations will prove helpful elsewhere. For the reasons I have given, I am not entirely happy about confining the Negative Resolution procedure to National Parks. If these surface reservoirs are a dying breed, I think they ought to be prayed against very hard everywhere.
§ LORD MOLSON
I am most appreciative of the response that all your Lordships have made to my Amendments. I regard the sympathetic attitude of the Government as being an extremely good augury. The flexibility of your Lordships' procedure has enabled us to have a broad discussion such as would have been completely impossible in another place. I trust that your Lordships will bear with me if I indicate that there is still a broader matter which I hope the Government will consider, in consultation with us, before the Report stage of this Bill. I have had down for a long time, under "No Day Named," a MotionThat a Select Committee be appointed to consider how far and in what manner matters of public policy should be allowed to affect the consideration of Private Bills in Parliament.And the words "Private Bills" do not in that connotation exclude Provisional Order Procedure or Special Parliamentary Procedure.
The Lord Chairman of Committees, on the advice of the authorities of this House, has expressed a good deal of concern at the limited opportunities that exist under Private Bill procedure for broader interests to be represented. There is, I think I can say, general dissatisfaction among informed people with the existing procedure on Private Bills. In the case of public inquiries one comes up against very great technical difficulties. It is only possible in a very general way to oppose 1347 a Bill that Smith's land should be acquired for a reservoir on the ground that Jones' land is more suitable, because it is more or less res inter alios acta, as regards a Private Bill, which is in fact an application by one subject to Parliament to grant him rights which otherwise he could not acquire.
In the last Town and Country Planning Act a new procedure was devised, called the planning commission inquiry, and I have had correspondence with the late Minister of Housing and Local Government as to how far this wider kind of procedure would enable broader matters to be taken into account than are permissible under the procedure of a local public inquiry.
Therefore, while welcoming very much the friendly and sympathetic response which the Government have given to my proposals, I hope that they will be willing to discuss with all those people who are interested, including the authorities of this House with experience of Parliamentary procedure in the matter of Private Bills, what can be done in order to ensure that all interests, including the national interest, can be fully expressed when inquiries are taking place. I apologise for referring to this matter. It is very closely connected indeed with what we have been discussing. I gladly withdraw my Amendment, on the understanding that we can have discussions with the Government, I hope on these broad matters, and try to reach a satisfactory arrangement, not only on this particular issue but on this broader matter of procedure. I ask your Lordships' permission to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
EARL WALDEGRAVE rose to move Amendment No. 6:
After Clause 1, insert the following new clause:
§ Discharge of water by statutory water undertakers
§ ".—(1) On the application of any statutory water undertakers the Minister may with the agreement of any river authority appearing to him to be affected, make an order authorising the undertakers to discharge water in like manner and subject to such conditions as are specified in the preceding section in relation to an order made on the application of a river authority.
§ THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (LORD AILWYN)
I think I should point out that Amendment No. 6 should have been starred on the Marshalled List.
It should have been starred because the Amendment has been slightly amended, not because it is a new one. If I had got on better with my Amendment No. 2 I should not have had to trouble your Lordships with this one. It is still on the same point, but as we have to go through the Bill in the order of the clauses I had to move the other one first. I now come to this one, which is moved for the same reasons and about the same point as the one I moved earlier.
If we refer to Clause 1, line 4, of this Bill we see that the Ministermay on the application of the authority make an order authorising …The authority there is the river authority, but my Amendment says:On the application of any statutory water undertakers"—as well, of course, as the authority—the Minister, may …Again, I have to envisage, if the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, will forgive me, the very unlikely event of there being such a thing as an intransigent or unreasonable river authority. If such an unfortunate thing should occur as that such an authority should come into existence, it could, as I see it, simply not be inclined to come to an agreement with a statutory water undertaking. It simply would not take any action at all. Nothing could compel this hypothetical authority to come to an agreement for this discharge.
Therefore I beg to move this Amendment to the Bill, which inserts a clause which says (though it does not spell it out, this is the reason) that in those circumstances a statutory water undertaker would have the right to make an application direct to the Minister. Then the Minister, in agreement with the river authority—and that is what caused the star on the Amendment, because we added the words "with the agreement of any river authority" whereas the original Amendment had said "after consulting 1349 the river authority"—would have the right to allow the order to be made on the application of the statutory water undertaker, because the river authority had, for some reason best known to itself, perhaps because it had got out of the bed the wrong side, refused to make an application itself. I beg to move.
§ LORD SANDFORD
I am afraid I cannot be as helpful as I should like to be to the noble Earl, for rather different reasons from those which inhibited me to begin with. Discharges—this is what we are concerned with in this Bill—from works owned by statutory water undertakers can already be authorised under Clause 1. Under subsection (4) a river authority and a statutory water undertaker may enter into an agreement providing for such discharges, and by virtue of subsection (5) the order obtained by the river authority under subsection (1) may operate to authorise the agreed discharges. The main purpose of this Bill and the main purpose of the Act it amends is to facilitate the performance by river authorities of their water conservation functions, and the suggested clause seeks to give statutory water undertakers a power to discharge water irrespective of that purpose and appears, therefore, in the first place, to be outside the scope of the Bill. At the very least, it would, if passed, involve an Amendment to the Long Title by the insertion of the words "and by statutory water undertakers" after the words "river authorities".
But even if this clause were to be amended to bring it within the scope of the Bill so that it merely provided another means of authorising discharges which could be authorised under Clause 1 as it stands, I think it would be undesirable. The reason why the Bill confines the right to apply for an order to river authorities is that they were established in order to secure the comprehensive management of water resources within the whole of their area. They already control abstractions of water under the 1963 Act, and giving another type of body the power to apply direct to the Secretary of State for an authorisation to discharge water would, I believe, substantially derogate from the responsibility of the river authorities for the comprehensive management of the water resources in their area.
1350 One result would be disagreements as to who should apply for an order in a given case, with resultant delays. We have already been into the question of the desirable provision in the Bill for securing agreement, and I made it plain that there is no power in the Bill to enable a river authority to impose an agreement on a water undertaker. I have explained that there is a safeguard that such agreements must be with the consent of the Secretary of State, and so on. This Amendment, if agreed to, would result in disagreements as to who should apply for orders for discharges. It is for that reason that I would advise your Lordships not to accept this Amendment.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
May I add one point to the excellent reply which my noble friend Lord Sand-ford has just made? It is this. I wonder whether my noble friend Lord Walde-grave has really focused his mind on the reasons for these discharges. Why should a water undertaking want to make a discharge into the river? What would be its purpose? Does it want to empty its reservoir? What does it want to do? A river authority wants to make a discharge into a river in order to amplify the flow of the river, so as to provide for the various abstractors at a time when the natural flow is low. That is part of the general responsibility of river authorities to manage the river in the interests of all abstractors.
Although I understand, and do not complain about, the wish of my noble friend Lord Waldegrave to put water undertakings on the same basis as river authorities, it really is slightly unreal in this context. Why on earth should a water undertaking want to empty its reservoir into a river? Surely there should be only one body that should try to manage the river in the general interests of everybody, and that should be the river authority. Does my noble friend wish to intervene?
Yes, my Lords; as my noble friend has asked me a question I should like to answer it. Why should a river authority not wish to come to an agreement with the water undertaking about a discharge? That is the point. The sort of thing they might not wish to agree to a discharge about is, 1351 for example, if alkaline water was turning to acid water, or vice versa, and affecting the fishery interests or something like that. I do not know whether that is likely or possible.
I told your Lordships that I would much prefer to have achieved acceptance of the previous Amendments rather than this one. I do not propose to press this Amendment. It was, in my view, a sort of stop-gap. If only we could have the same powers and rights in any difficulties we have with the river authorities over discharges as we do in impoundings, we should be perfectly happy. But as my advisers and the water undertakers read the Bill, they feel—and we shall examine in Hansard what the noble Lord has said—that where matters of discharges are concerned, which is what this Bill is about, we have not the rights of appeal to the Minister, if we cannot reach agreement, as we have in impoundings and abstractions. We do not see the logic of that.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
I thank my noble friend for his further eludication of his point. But his Amendment is asking for powers for the water undertaking to make application to the Minister to make a discharge. I still ask the question: what on earth would they want to make a discharge for? Why a river authority want to make one is quite obvious. They want to make it in order to amplify the natural flow of the river at a time of low flood, to meet the needs of the various abstractors. But why should a water undertaking want to empty their reservoir into the river? This really is unreal.
The water undertaking would wish to make the discharge into the river in order to abstract lower down. They have a regulating reservoir. They discharge from that reservoir into the river and abstract from the river to take it into supply. This is the coming method. My noble friend said that the surface reservoir might be a dying thing, but I think that is a long way ahead. Certainly the regulating reservoir is much more likely. It is much more on the tapis. When you regulate waters in the uplands you then release them into the rivers further down and abstract from 1352 the river further down. Discharges of this sort are vital to a water undertaking for the purpose of abstraction later on.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
That, of course, is absolutely right. But these regulating reservoirs will normally be built by the river authority, and not by the water undertaking. My noble friend has really got this thing wrong. Of course the principle that he is enunciating is perfectly right, but all the schemes that are now coming forward—there are a number in the pipeline for just this purpose—are being promoted by the river undertakings. One or two in the last year or two have been jointly promoted by river authorities and water undertakings together. It has been a valuable thing to do jointly. It shows that the interests are complementary and that they must work together. But my noble friend's implication that water undertakings are normally going to be operating river regulating reservoirs I should have thought was completely false.
Looking at the further point that my noble friend asked—namely, why should these discharges not be subjected to the same safeguard and the same rights of appeal as the powers for impounding—I should have thought that a simple answer was that river authorities are not going to be able to make discharges unless they have already impounded water in some way. That is the crucial point, and quite rightly the 1963 Act has these safeguards. But I should have thought that my noble friend is here asking on behalf of the water undertakings for something which does not have great substance in reality. I cannot see why water undertakings would normally want to do this. I am glad to hear that my noble friend is not going to press his Amendment. There is no competition between river authorities and water undertakings. I think that a friendly, complementary relationship is growing up. River authorities fully understand that it is their job in some way or other to provide the extra water that water undertakings want, and they want to do this in the closest possible co-operation with water undertakings. But I do not see how this particular Amendment would in any way further that desire.
§ LORD KENNET
When the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, comes to sum up the debate on this Amendment, I wonder 1353 whether he could tell us when we can expect the Report of the Central Advisory Water Council on the overall reform of the water industry.
§ LORD SANDFORD
That, if I may say so, was a helpful intervention, because although I cannot give a categorical answer to it, I may say that the review that has already been going on and will be brought to a focus by that Report will enable a number of these issues to be discussed and considered at considerable length in what I should think to be a much more appropriate context than the present one.
I have indicated that I do not propose to press this Amendment. I beg leave to withdraw it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 8.40 p.m.
LORD ILFORD moved Amendment No. 7.
After Clause 1, insert the following new clause:
§ Agreements for transfer of water from one area to another.
§ ".—(1 ) Agreements may with the consent of the Minister be made between any two or more river authorities with respect to the transfer of water from the area of one such authority to the area of another such authority.
§ (2) Agreements under this section may contain such incidental and consequential provisions (including provisions of a financial character and with respect to the construction of works) as the Minister may approve.
§ (3) The Schedule to this Act shall have effect in relation to applications and orders under this section as if any reference to the discharge of water were a reference to the transfer of water as aforesaid."
§ The noble Lord said: I hope that the Minister is going to give me this Amendment. Its intention is to make it possible for agreements to be made between two or more river authorities in respect of the transfer of water from the area of one authority into the area of another. I understand that the Minister considers that provision is already made for this in the Bill, and that this clause is unnecessary. If that is his view, I suggest to him that it is better to be certain about these things than to speculate. We sometimes get surprises when a Statute comes to be construed, and we might get one here. If there is any doubt about the ability to make these transfers, then surely it ought to be cleared up now by 1354 adopting this clause in which we try to deal with it.
§ These transfer agreements are of growing importance. Water is transferred from one part of the area to another for the purpose of amplifying the natural flow. Indeed, the transfer is a matter which requires a good deal of attention, because it happens that in some places water from one area will not mix satisfactorily with water from another, and the consequence of trying to mix the two waters is deleterious. Here the mixing would take place only by agreement between the parties, and I think we can assume that the operation of transfer would not be followed by any undesirable circumstances. I beg to move.
§ LORD SANDFORD
I am grateful to the noble Lord for setting out the purpose of his Amendment. In so far as it seeks to empower river authorities to enter into agreements with one another, I assure him that it is unnecessary. It is implicit in the duty of a river authority under Section 4 of the Actto take all such action as they may … consider necessary or expedient … for the purposeThis includes the transferring of water resources to the area of another river authority. For that they can enter into an agreement with other authorities. They can also carry out operations in the area of other river authorities, and under the terms of the present Bill they could be empowered to make discharges in the areas of other river authorities.
In so far as this Amendment seeks to make agreement between the river authorities subject to the Secretary of State's approval, I think it is undesirable; and it also runs counter to the Government's general policy of relaxing central Government controls. On the other hand, I appreciate that there may be anxiety about the effect that such an agreement may have on the licensed abstractors in a giver river authority's area who have to meet the authority's expenditure through its charging scheme. From that point of view, I should say that there is already a safeguard on this point, in that the charging scheme is subject to the Secretary of State's approval, and there is normally a public inquiry. I hope that, with those assurances and those explanations, the noble Lord will not feel 1355 it necessary to press this particular Amendment.
§ LORD ILFORD
I still think that the Minister would have been wiser to make quite sure about this and to insert this clause. If he prefers to take a different course I shall not press the Amendment, and I ask leave to withdraw it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2 [Supplemental]:
LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 8:
Page 2, line 20, at end insert ("and 'public authority' includes any company authorised by a local enactment to supply water.")
§ The noble Lord said: This is in the nature of a technical Amendment. It deals with the doubt which has been expressed as to whether the term "public authority" is adequate to cover all statutory water undertakers. It clearly covers those undertakers who are local authorities, or joint boards of local authorities, but it arguably does not cover, or might be thought not to cover, the substantial number, amounting to almost a quarter of the total of water suppliers, who are statutory companies supplying water under local Acts and paying dividends to their shareholders. The present Amendment is designed to put this matter beyond doubt by including in the term "public authority" statutory water companies of that kind as they are defined in Section 59(1) of the Water Act 1945. I beg to move.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD SANDFORD moved Amendments Nos. 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13:
§ Page 2, line 35, leave out ("and 132(4)") and insert (", 132(4) and 133(1)")
§ Page 2,line 37, leave out ("and")
§ Page 2,line 38, after ("property") insert ("and the repeal and adaptation of local enactments")
§ Page 2,line 39, at end insert ("and as if in section 133(1), so far as it relates to this Act, the reference to the second appointed day were a reference to the date of the passing of this Act.")
§ Page 2,line 40, leave out from beginning to ("section") in line 6 on page 3 and insert ("(4) The power to make orders conferred by the preceding section shall be exercisable by statutory instrument, and an order under that")1356
§ The noble Lord said: With the agreement of the Committee I should like to suggest that Amendments Nos. 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13, which all hang together, should be taken together. The object of these Amendments is to replace Clause 2(4) by an adaptation of Section 133(1) of the Water Resources Act 1963. Clause 2(4) was designed to enable the Minister to secure a uniform code for authorising discharges by river authorities by repealing previous river authority Private Acts. It has been realised that it may also be desirable in the future to repeal, or to modify, the provisions of area enactments governing the nature of the actual discharges themselves. For example, there might be a discharge from an existing reservoir which ought to be harmonised with a discharge from a new source authorised under the Bill we are now considering. Similar situations, for example affecting pre-1963 abstraction provisions in the area enactments to conditions in licences issued by river authorities, are dealt with by orders under Section 133(1) of the 1963 Act. But Section 133(1) only applies to things done under that Act and not to things done under this Bill, and only to enactments passed, or made, before the coming into force of the 1963 Act.
§ These Amendments, therefore, do the following things: they apply Section 133(1) of this Bill, and for that purpose we are using Amendments 9, 10 and 11; secondly, they update its application to enactments made, or passed, before this Bill comes into effect, and for that purpose we use Amendment No. 12. It deletes subsection (4) of Clause 2, and subsection (5)(a), which made Orders under subsection (4) subject to the Negative Resolution procedure, but which is now unnecessary because Orders under Section 133(1) are already made subject to the Negative Resolution procedure by the 1963 Act. Finally, it redrafts what is left of subsection (5), that is to say, the opening words of subsection (5) and paragraph (b). I hope that explanation is sufficient for your Lordships. I beg to move.
§ LORD KENNET
In order to save everybody the need to have recourse to a computer to-morrow morning when they get Hansard, may I put to the noble Lord what I think that adds up to in layman's language, and then he can say 1357 whether it is right? Does it mean that these Amendments will allow the Minister, by Order, to repeal any part of a local Act passed before this day which appears to him to conflict with the Bill now before the Committee, and that such Orders will be subject to the Negative Resolution procedure?
§ LORD SANDFORD
Yes. I think that is a very good way of summarising the whole situation. We are relying on the fact that orders made under Section 113(1) are already made subject to the Negative Resolution procedure, so we do not need to make that provision in the Bill now before us. The general effect of all these Amendments together is to enable the Minister to harmonise the effects under the previous enactment and under this enactment.
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.
§ Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 3 agreed to.
§ Schedule [Orders authorising discharge of water]:
EARL WALDEGRAVE moved Amendment No. 14:
Page 4, line 9, leave out ("stratum") and insert ("strata").
§ The noble Earl said: All the way through the 1963 Act the word "strata" is used, and in the interpretation Section, Section 135, there is reference to "underground strata". Perhaps it is a little pedantic to say this, but the word "stratum" is now beginning to be used. I beg to move.
§ LORD SANDFORD
I do not know about being pedantic. I should have thought it was ungrammatical to use the word "strata", because it is quite clear in this part of the Bill that the singular is needed. There are cases at the beginning of the Bill where the plural or the singular would have been correct—for instance, in line 11 on page 1, which refers to "any inland water or underground strata "—but in this case it is quite clear that the singular is called for. On the whole, I should prefer to be grammatical, even at the expense of being pedantic.
§ LORD KENNET
I think there is more to it than that, because the Amendment would mean that if there were only one 1358 underground stratum which might be affected, there was no need for public advertisement. There would have to be two, before the duty to advertise publicly fell upon the river authority.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Schedule agreed to.
§ House resumed: Bill reported with the Amendments.