HL Deb 02 July 1973 vol 344 cc40-103

4.10 p.m.

Report stage resumed.


My Lords, I should like to support my noble friend Baroness White on this Amendment, and I have a feeling that even in the term of life which the present Government have they might be grateful to us for it. I have studied this very useful document, this brief, or whatever we may call it—I do not quite know what it is. We have a Green Paper and a White Paper; I do not know what colour we call this one. Anyway, we are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, for letting us have his observations on this matter. As my noble friend has pointed out, it reveals something very significant, and I entirely agree with her. I think that what is reflected in this Paper, and indeed in the Bill itself, is the success of what I would almost call the conventional Departmental approach to people who have ideas. The fact that this is now being embodied in something which is supposed to be the liberation or the aggregation, or whatever it is, of Departments into something more constructive makes quite clear to me what has happened.

I have of course studied the Water Resources Board very carefully over the years and, like my noble friend Baroness White, I have a great deal of respect both for its integrity and for its frankness. It is obvious that what is being reflected in the present Bill is an antagonism towards people who have the honesty to stand up and say things in matters which are in fact too dangerous to be left to politicians—and I say this apropos what we are discussing. The water issues to-day are far beyond anything we can discuss in terms of conventional politics. We have had a Freedom from Hunger Campaign, and in my function as a Doomsday man I say that we shall one day have a Freedom from Thirst Campaign. I think the world at large will have to face this issue in terms which will take a great deal of imagination and a great deal of insight, and it will indeed affect this country in a very serious way.

Therefore, in asking your Lordships to insert the words, and to carry out or commission such planning and research as may be required adequately to fulfil such duties, in particular in relation to a national water policy;", I would simply point out that, so far as I can see from the papers and the Bills I have studied, any research or insights which can be valid at regional level are certainly not going to be valid in the kind of situation which we are going to confront presently and probably are confronting now. Indeed, from the point of view of the Water Resources Board we are confronting it now in terms of what in fact should be a national policy and, in that relationship, an international policy as well. I therefore think that perhaps the Ministers opposite might consider that we are doing them a service by giving them at least this Amendment, which will enable them within their own short lifetime to give effect to something which some Government presently will have to do, to provide what I regard, by and large, as a very effective approach to the problem.

4.13 p.m.


My Lords, this Amendment is dealing with the question of research to be carried out by the National Water Council. Your Lordships will be aware that we have at the present time a Water Resources Board, and that that Water Resources Board is being abolished. The Water Resources Board itself has issued reports at intervals, as my noble friend Lord Ritchie-Calder has just said, and in the last report they issued they stated that they were strongly of the opinion that there must remain a central research organisation. They stated this quite emphatically. In their introduction they said: Nothing has happened since 1970", when they made this statement, to cause us to modify our view that a national authority on these lines is needed". Now I know that it is the habit of Governments to ignore the opinions of those bodies which have been set up in order to do a job, and very often the better the body does its job the more likely it is that a Government will dislike its recommendations and wish to abolish it. But if this Board is to be abolished then we want to know exactly what is being proposed by the Government to replace the research activities of the Board. I do not know whether the Water Resources Board has been an ideal Board or not. Few Boards are. I do not know whether their research has been adequate. Research of this type rarely is adequate. But if we are going to abolish it, then surely we ought to know that something is being put in its place to do the job, not just as well as but better than the Board that is being abolished; otherwise, there is no sense in abolishing the Board.

Now we have this useful memorandum that the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, has distributed, and there are about three pages on the question of research. But I find it extremely difficult, in reading this document, to find a single sentence which defines what the new body, if it is set up —it is not mentioned in the Bill so far as I can see, but if a new body is set up —is going to do. We are told emphatically at one point that the new body, which is called the Water Research Centre (or will be called the Water Research Centre if it ever comes into being) is therefore based upon the form of a research association. This is an extraordinary statement to make, because the research association pattern is quite clearly defined, and as far as I can see there is nothing in the memorandum which lays out the organisation of this Water Research Centre in the same form as an industrial research association. I think it is not good enough at all for the Government to present a Bill and, in this Bill, to abolish the organisation which does centralised research, even if it does not do it well enough, and then to let us know in a casual way that something else is going to be created, and that even a name has been found for it. We are even told that it is to take the form of an industrial research association, but we are given no evidence at all that it is going to be an industrial research association.

An industrial research association is a body which is set up within an industry, usually where there is a large number of firms inside that industry, and where the industry, in its individual units, has not been able to carry on adequate research. Therefore, an industrial research association has been set up in order to get collaboration between a large number of these units, which units are normally concerned with a variety of activities. I have known a little about research associations. I was visitor to three of them at different times. For example, the Woollen Research Association, which I think is one of the oldest and one of the best known, has a large number of members covering the whole range of the woollen industry. This research association has done very good work indeed. Why? Because the different units knew that there was a need for research, but they had not the resources to do the work effectively themselves, and therefore, by making a central contribution, they were able to get the work done.

Does this really apply to water? It seems to me that there is no analogy at all. Take the case of the coal industry. It has no research association now. It used to have; there used to be the B.C.U.R.A., but it has disappeared, for the simple reason that the industry set up its own centre of research. Now it is suggested to us that under the Government's Bill the various regional authorities will be doing research and will have their research groups. If they do, is there any inducement for them to contribute in addition to a central organisation for doing research? It seems to me that there is no inducement. We are told in this Memorandum that other organisations will come in. What are these other other organisations? We are not told. We are told that there will be some others coming in. Will they be powerful, independent units, able to dominate the association, or will they be trivial organisations contributing practically nothing to it? We do not know.

I submit, my Lords, that this is an extremely unsatisfactory position. Water is not an unimportant resource; it is among the most important resources that we have. It is extremely important that it be properly used and that we get as much water as possible. I am not certain about the figure, but I believe that at present only 5 per cent. of our rainfall is actually collected and used. This is something, surely, which has to be investigated in a central way and not left for each region to do its own particular job. So, my Lords, I think it vital that the central organisation should be doing research; and since the Government are setting up a National Water Council and propose the abolition of the Water Resources Board, surely it is clear and obvious that they ought to ask the National Water Council to be responsible for seeing that proper research activities are maintained. Otherwise one is left with the suspicion that the Government are not interested in research in this matter.

4.23 p.m.


My Lords, until I heard the noble Baroness, Lady White, I thought that I not only appreciated all the arguments set out in the Paper which I was pleased to receive, but that I also accepted the force of most of them. I understand why it is necessary to have independent planning. I understand why independence should be a necessary characteristic of the Water Research Centre. I understand that the 10 regional authorities would have to settle their own problems and set their own priorities in research. I also recognise the fact that the Water Research Centre is not, as now defined, acceptable either to Scotland or to the Government of Northern Ireland; and equally, that there are a number of industrial participants who would be denied participation if something different were done.

At the same time, there were certain questions which I felt it necessary to ask, and, having listened with attention to the noble Baroness, Lady White, I now feel that I must put my doubts a little more strongly than perhaps I should otherwise have done. My first question is, essentially, what is the relation of the Central Water Planning Unit to the National Water Council? We are told that it has to be independent, and I shall come to the question of what we mean by independence in a moment. But then, as was pointed out by the noble Baroness, in paragraph 7 of the document we were sent we read that the Central Water Planning Unit will be limited to producing technical answers to problems it is asked to examine. My Lords, is this independence for a planning unit? Is this the way one encourages initiative in a body of men who are to be responsible for putting up alternative and updated plans for the formulation of a national water policy? Because nobody could for all time define the national water policy, as was said by the noble Baroness, Lady White, any more than one could define for all time the defence policy of this country.

If it does not initiate, how then is it independent? And if in fact it does what the National Water Council, or some other body, asks it to do, what is the responsibility of the National Water Council? I keep thinking in terms of my personal experience as a Government servant in the Ministry of Defence. There is a Secretary of State with responsibility, and he has advisers, military and civilian advisers. He has joint Chiefs of Staff. In my time they used to have, and I assume they still have, joint planners. The joint planners are meant to be independent in the sense that they have the knowledge to bring to bear at any given moment freely on problems which are of national import. But the responsibility is with the Chiefs of Staff to impart that information to the Secretary of State, and through him to the Cabinet—or so it was in my day.

Therefore, I come to the question: what do we mean by independence in this context? I would interpret it as the need to ensure that those people who are part of the Central Water Planning Unit do their work totally honestly and are not pushed round by political considerations, even though they may stray into the political field; and equally, that they can initiate, that they are not taking directions. If they are taking directions, we have to start differentiating between the question of independence, which I think can be assured, and that of responsibility. Because, as set out in this Paper, I do not see to whom the Central Water Planning Unit will be responsible. We are told that it has to be independent. We are given the reasons for the need for its independence, and that is why I should wish to interpret the word "independence" as different from what is implied here.

We are told what its staff will be and who its chairman will be. We are told where its members will come from. But what is the authority of the steering committee? This Paper does not tell me to whom the steering committee are responsible. I hope that if the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, is to reply he will give us some indication of where responsibility rests, because I, too, would urge that the word "independent" be interpreted in the sense that there are no constraints on the free expression of whatever genius resides in this Planning Unit in devising and keeping up to date a national water policy, and that responsibility is another matter.

I come to my second question, especially having heard the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady White: what is the relationship of the Central Water Planning Unit, which is now being set out slightly differently, with the Water Research Centre? Is an interchange of staff enough to make quite certain that the planners on the one hand and the research people on the other are reciprocally aware of each other's problems? In my experience this would not be the case. It is said here, and this is the defence as I understand it (I have had some talks outside your Lordships' House on these matters), that only a relatively small part of the water research now carried out is directly relevant to planning. Elsewhere I have read that it is something like 5 per cent. The figure here does not matter. The question whether it is relatively small does not matter. What matters is that the relatively small is absolutely critical to future investment policy. There can be no policy, no plan, made by people who are unaware of the technical possibilities which are coming up over the horizon.

I do not entirely agree with the noble Lord who spoke before me because I know what are to be the component parts of the Water Research Centre, as it is intended, in the same way that I know that the Water Resources Board never carried out research; it co-ordinated a certain kind of research of a planning variety, but it did not carry out laboratory research. What I am saying is that however widespread the day-to-day, bread and butter work carried out by the Water Research Association now, this does not in general matter to what future policy is likely to become. I would expect the Water Research Association to carry on this work as it does now. But unless an opportunity is given to scientists and engineers who are engaged in this field to exercise their imagination in planning and in the formulation of policy, we shall get what we deserve; and we would get another kind of thing if people who are engaged in the research function are allowed to contribute directly and intimately, and on a day-to-day basis, to the formulation of policy. This has applied throughout my experience in Whitehall.

I would say the same about the planners. If I were a member of a planning unit, I should like to be as up to date in what is happening in the technical field as I should, if I were a research man, wish to know what changes were likely to take place in the field of policy because—and I think I have said this before in your Lordships' House—I reject utterly the proposition that we can subdivide our administrative life into one set of people who know what questions to put and another set of people who know how to provide the answers. That does not happen in the real world. We may have got ourselves into this tangle, but I am afraid that this is not the way it will work out in practice.

I should like to know therefore whether anything can be done for the Water Research Centre which is on a par with what is now proposed about the Planning Unit—except, as I have said, that I do not know where responsibility rests for the Planning Unit. Why should not the same steering committee look after both bodies? Why should not the same steering committee, with an interchange of top personnel between the planners and the research people, be set up? I have been told that what is proposed now implies participation in the Water Research Association of a vast number of people who would not otherwise be able to get together. One hundred and fifty people do not constitute a committee—and I think the figure given me as the number of people involved now is 142. I do not believe for one second that one determines the policy of a research association or of any research body as though one is dealing with a company of shareholders, however much they may have a central interest in the results.

Then, finally, I come to the question which has been raised: what is the function of the National Water Council? I see it as a body which, as the Bill says quite plainly, has a duty to consider, and advise any Minister on any matter relating to the national policy for water, and so on—and we are discussing at the moment an Amendment to that particular clause. I do not see this job being done with co-ordination unless the Council has immediate access to the work of the regional authorities.

The noble Baroness, Lady Young, sent me a kind and informative letter adding to the information given to me when, on a previous occasion when this matter was being debated, I intervened to put a question. While this helps me a great deal, it does not, I am afraid, provide me with all the information that I want. I am told (I hope I have the noble Baroness's permission to quote from her letter) that, Subject to the terms of any directions which may be given by the Secretary of State it would be the responsibility of an individual water authority to decide whether to include any full-scale desalination plants in the plans and investment programmes required". In the same way, the Bill says quite plainly that, It shall be the responsibility of each water authority to make arrangements for the carrying out of research and related activities in respect of matters within the authority's functions". May I with respect point out that these two things—I use the first in illustration—would be an impossible responsibility to impose on any single regional water authority, because what any authority might do in this field would automatically affect other water authorities, and might even affect other matters which are outside the ambit of the responsibility either of the National Water Council or of the regional water authorities. For that reason, I believe it is essential to provide that the National Water Council have responsibility and a major voice in the co-ordination of the research done over the whole of this field. I say that not only because otherwise we might find there is unnecessary overlapping and a waste of resources, but because any single authority by itself might find itself forced to do things which will affect the well-being of other authorities.

These are early days, my Lords. I also heard the noble, Lord, Lord Sandford, say that the reason why these matters are not spelt out in the Bill is that we want to see which way the work actually gets done. I hope that an open mind will be kept about these matters, and that we are not setting up institutions in a rigorous way so that we will get them fixed into a kind of concrete and it becomes difficult to make any change. In short, I should like to be satisfied that the work of the Water Research Centre is co-ordinated by the same body that looks after the Central Water Planning Unit and I should like to know to whom the Central Planning Unit is responsible.

4.37 p.m.


My Lords, I am afraid the answer to Lord Zuckerman's principal question is 'that the Central Water Planning Unit is the creature of the Department of the Environment, and not of the National Water Council which is what we all want. The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, may deny that, but he knows as well as I do that this is where we all stick. The Department of the Environment have dug in their toes and they wish to have control here. The noble Baroness said she hoped other noble Lords would speak. I find it difficult to know what to add. I have looked at everything that was said in Committee —we argued this in every direction possible—and I have looked at the arguments I produced myself, and I can find nothing that I left out or anything that was left out by any other noble Lords. Sometimes arguments about what the National Water Council should do got tangled up with what the regional water authorities should do. Nevertheless, we were all around the same point: that the National Water Council is nothing if it is not more closely involved in planning and research than the Government intend it to be. Here we are with the Government having come up with this rather lame idea, in the face of all the advice that has been given to them from the scientific, amenity, land and farming aspects: everybody has said the same thing throughout, and the only answer they have come up with is this Central Water Planning Unit. This is a body, as has been said over and over again, that is going to be judge and jury in its own case and will put Ministers to embarrassment. It will be a body which, instead of being forward-looking and one which initiates policy, will be subservient to the Department and to Ministers. The noble Lord can get out of this position, to some extent, if he will accept the Amendment of the noble Baroness.


My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady White, touched on the subject of planning, and there is one point I should like to mention on the subject of public inquiries. If, for example, a new reservoir project gets to the stage of a public inquiry, it is likely at that stage, I should have thought, to have had some sort of unofficial blessing from the Central Water Planning Unit. In that case, is it not desirable, if not essential, that the inspector should not be an employee of the Department but someone who is independent, such as a judge or a Q.C.?


My Lords, once again I think the House will be grateful, as I am, to the noble Baroness for having given us the opportunity for a further debate on the important topic of the central national water bodies that will be operating under the new dispensation provided by this Bill. I should like to thank her for her two Amendments. I agree that it is certainly convenient to discuss them together but to speak briefly to the first one. I would also agree that at this particular point there is perhaps a good deal to be said for using the word "a" rather than the word "the", if by so doing we make it clear that the role of the National Water Council is at least as much concerned with formulation of a water policy as with giving advice on a policy which is already settled and established. I would confirm that that is the Government's intention.

What I should like to do is to take this Amendment away to see whether it is possible to accept it. The only reason for having some doubts about it is the possibility that there might be unforeseen and unwitting effects on the rest of the Bill where "the" water policy is perhaps what we want to talk about. I do not think we want to use the word "a" in every case. So perhaps I could say, in answer to Amendment No. 6, that if the noble Baroness would be good enough not to press it now I should like to take it away and consider it.

The noble Baroness went on to express her thanks for the paper which has been circulated since the last stage. I am glad that noble Lords have found it helpful and frank—because my intention in producing it was to show as clearly, frankly and candidly as possible the reasons behind the arrangements that the Government were proposing. If it has revealed things which were previously hidden from your Lordships' understanding, so much the better.


So much the worse!


No, my Lords; whether we agree or not, I think it is good that we should start with a clear understanding of what we are trying to do. The paper certainly set out to make clear that the Government share the views which have been generally expressed that the Water Resources Board has been a highly successful and valuable body. If this was not clear before, I am glad that we have been able to make it so now. There is no criticism in it and I hope there is no expression of professional jealousy on the part of the Department towards a highly successful board or any expressions of antagonism towards it. What has happened is that the Board has indeed had a successful period. The fact that it has made judgments which are described in the paper as being political is not the fault of the Board at all. I will not quarrel with the noble Baroness about the words, "political or value judgments". I think that is a point on which we agree. There are judgments to be made, some of which are purely professional and technical judgments which can be measured scientifically as a result of research; but there are others which go beyond the technical and which are involved in deciding precisely where to build a reservoir, and consideration as to whether it is a good thing to make incursions into a National Park, or, alternatively, to use up good farmland. These are judgments which go beyond those which a Water Research Centre or Water Planning Unit is primarily designed to take. This is what is meant here. It is not the fault of the Water Resources Board that their judgments have gone into that field: it is just a statement of fact.

The point I should like to stress is that, so far from looking at this as the abolition of the Water Resources Board, we must look on it as a point at which it is desirable, and indeed necessary, to extend its range of concern and to build upon its experience. A number of things have happened which make it quite certain that it cannot carry on exactly as it has in the past. A lot of regional planning which the Water Resources Board did before will now fall to regional water authorities. One of the reasons for setting them up is that they will be big enough to undertake this. It becomes absolutely essential to add considerations of quality to those of quantity, to which the Water Resources Board have been restricted in the past. There has also been the opportunity and the necessity to bring together a whole lot of activities in research under the Water Research Centre.

I was grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, for his comment that the paper had been helpful. I would have been happier still if there had been any indication in his remarks that he had read as far as paragraph 14, because if he had done so he would have seen that the bodies that are coming together under the Water Research Centre, which contains the already existing Water Research Association, the Water Pollution Research Laboratory, the development division of our own Directorate-General of Water in the Department and the technology division of the Water Resources Board. That is all set out there in some detail.


If the noble Lord will excuse me, I did read as far as that, but it did not seem to me that those bodies amounted to a research association. Essentially, that is a collection of certain existing bodies. A research association, as I understand it, is a body set up by industry with contributions from all the firms in the industry, and it is not just a case of bringing a number of existing laboratories together.


The Water Research Association is already in existence, and was created originally in the way to which the noble Lord referred—it was much approved of by the Report of my noble friend Lord Bessborough on the Water Research Centre. It is not something which is being created now ab initio as part of this devolution.

Perhaps this is the moment for me to comment to the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, who asked that the same steering committee for planning and research should be considered. Of course it has been, but I think he would agree, if he were to consider this particular set of national bodies very carefully, that it is not really feasible here because planning is something which has to be provided for the statutory bodies and for the regional water authorities in the first instance. But the research which is needed for them—and which of course they can commission—is also required for a whole lot of other people: the water industry, Scotland, Northern Ireland and also, we hope, countries and commissions outside the United Kingdom altogether. So this is the main reason for not being able to have precisely the same committee; and I will come on to the business of the links between them in a moment or two.


My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to intervene? I fully accept that point. That is not the point I was trying to make. My main concern is that by making those considerations overriding, we are separating people in the research field from people in the planning field. They are separated geographically and in every conceivable way. It is my experience, as I have said, that whether you are a planner or a researcher you will benefit by working together.


My Lords, I would absolutely agree with the noble Lord if the answer were just as I said, and we were doing nothing else about it. It is because we cannot have the same steering committee for each body that we have to make other arrangements. I will come to it in a moment.

I should like next to deal with the criticism, which I believe the noble Lord, Lord Henley, and others made, that the Central Water Planning Unit is somehow not as independent as the Water Resources Board. It is at least as independent as the Water Resources Board. It is composed of civil servants, as the Water Resources Board was, but it is more independent in that, so far from receiving its directions and instructions directly from the Department or the Secretary of State, as the noble Lord implied, there is a steering committee which is chaired by the Chairman of the National Water Council. It is not directly controlled by the Secretary of State. Several noble Lords were anxious that I should attempt to spell out more precisely of what its independence consisted. I do not think I can do better than put it in the way in which the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, expressed it. It is free and independent of political considerations in the way it sets about making technical assessments that will be needed in order to develop the national water plan. It can put forward, and will put forward, a whole set of options based on purely professional and technical considerations of what it is feasible to do in particular cases.

The next point of the many that were raised dealt with the interdependence of these bodies, and the way in which they will be related. The best thing I can do here is to draw on remarks which I may have used previously at an earlier stage, and I hope your Lordships will forgive me. In addition to being able to commission research directly, which is what the next Amendment specifically asks for, the National Water Council will have a voice in determining the general programme of work of the research centre in the following ways. The first is through the central role of the Council, with its representation on the steering committee of the Central Water Planning Unit and on the governing body of the Water Research Centre itself. The second is through the representation of the Water Research Centre on the steering committee of the Central Water Planning Unit, and probably through the representation of the Central Water Planning Unit on the Research Advisory Committee of the W.R.C. The third way is through the Central Water Planning Unit's placing contracts with the Water Research Centre for specific pieces of research. I hope that that goes some way to answering the noble Lord's anxieties on that score.

The steering committee of the Central Water Planning Unit will represent the views and consider the planning requirements as expressed by the regional water authorities, the National Water Council and the Government Departments, who will also be members of the steering committee. While I am mentioning the National Water Council, I should like to reassure the noble Baroness that there is no significance about the omission of the N.W.C. from paragraph 12 of this Paper, except in so far as it will have far fewer staff than any of the bodies that are mentioned. It could have been included but it is not really in the same class as the others so far as the interchange of staff is concerned.

Perhaps I may now follow the noble Baroness's invitation and consider her next Amendment at the same time as talking to this one. The question posed is: is there in practice anything that Amendment No. 7 would enable the National Water Council to do that it would not be able to do under the Bill as it is now drafted? In answer, I can say categorically that there is nothing under the Bill which would prevent it from doing what that Amendment would enable it to do. This is because of the wide terms in which its powers are drawn up in the Schedule. It gives the Council power to do anything, whether or not involving expenditure, that would enable it to carry out the functions assigned to it by Clause 4.

I think the noble Baroness introduced the analogy with the Nature Conservancy Council which we were discussing a little time ago. As a result, we decided to move into the powers of the Nature Conservancy Council something which was not already in the Bill. The powers to act in the way described in her Amendment are already there. We should prefer to stop short of adding that to the duties and functions of the National Water Council, for the cogent reasons which several noble Lords expressed when we were discussing this matter; namely, that there is a strong case for avoiding duplication and fragmentation in matters of research and that the balance of the argument comes in favour of leaving research as the primary function and duty of the Water Research Council, while giving powers to the National Water Council to do the things set out in the Amendment of the noble Baroness if it is necessary, and if the Council desires to do it. The powers are there, and I hope that, now that I have been able to explain the point, the noble Baroness will not feel it necessary to press Amendment No. 7.


My Lords, may I interrupt? It appears that the noble Lord may be failing to observe the difference between importing into a Bill a duty (he used the word "duty" in referring to my noble friend's Amendment) and referring to the fact that the Bill is permissive, in the sense that the Water Council may do something as the Bill stands. There is a world of difference between an Act's saying, "You shall carry out this duty" and saying merely that there is nothing in the Act or the Bill to prevent a body doing something. It seemed to me that the noble Lord was not differentiating sufficiently between those two things.


I assure the noble Lord that I am. The whole thing hangs on that. If the noble Lord had heard our debates on the Nature Conservancy Bill he would have realised that it was hanging on this same issue. It is because I think it is important to give the National Water Council the powers to do what the noble Baroness's Amendment No. 7 would provide for, but not to go so far as making it part of the Council's statutory duties, that I should prefer to leave the Bill in that respect as it stands. I shall be glad to consider her Amendment No. 6.


My Lords, I will of course respond at once to the suggestion that I should not press Amendment No. 6, and I leave that for further consideration by the Government. It seems to me to be a sensible and intelligent Amendment. I can understand that the Government may wish to look at any consequentials in the Bill. But anybody with an objective mind who had listened to this debate—and particularly to the impressive and powerful speech of the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, who with his great experience knows what he is talking about in this field of the relationship between Government and research—would feel that the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, has not met the genuine anxieties of those who have been concerned ever since the beginning of our discussions with this matter of the relationships of the central bodies and in particular the rúle to be played by the National Water Council. He, frankly, did not in the least allay my anxieties as to the genuine independence of a body which was to be subject to a steering committee on which, as I understand it, members of the Government Departments were to sit as full members, not as assessors. I cannot see how one can say, therefore, that such a body can be independent. The noble Lord did not even refer to that. I would not wish to repeat the arguments that have been put so forcefully by the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, because they are on the Record, but I do not feel that the very searching questions put by the noble Lord were in the least adequately answered by the noble Lord, Lord Sandford.

Of course, I fully understand that in regard to Part II of Schedule 3, where the powers of the National Water Council are described, he can argue—it is a perfectly valid point—that the Council shall have power to do anything…which…is calculated to facilitate, or is conducive or incidental to, the discharge of any of their functions". But surely in legislating we want to be as sure as we can that any body which is set up under this Bill shall go further, as the noble Lord, Lord Brown, indicated. They merely have very wide and general powers; we want to give them an indication as to how we think they should exercise such powers. It is for those reasons that I wish to press Amendment No. 7. We must try to put it on the Record that we are not satisfied with the Government's concept on the relationship between planning and research or the relationship of either to the National Water Council. At the moment, at any rate, I can think of no better way of indicating our lack of conviction than by asking the House to support our Amendment No. 7.


My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down I might perhaps answer one of the points she made. Of course it is important to set down in the Bill as fully as we can the things we are sure about, but one of the things we are trying to do is to respond to the point that the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, was making. Here we are creating an entirely new set-up, regional water authorities and so forth. It is also

important to proceed with an open mind and to give ourselves a certain amount of flexibility to develop them. This is why we have ended up as we have.


My Lords, we are not on Committee stage, but, after all, the Amendment is carefully drafted so that the body would carry out or commission such planning and research as may be required adequately to fulfil such duties as are described. So there is a very wide flexibility there and room for manœuvre. We are not, in other words, tying down the Government, or the National Water Council, in the way in which, as I indicated, would have been so had an earlier Amendment at Committee stage been pressed.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 7.

Amendment moved— Page 6, line 43, at end insert ("and to carry out or commission such planning and research as may be required adequately to fulfil such duties, in particular in relation to a national water policy").—(Baroness White.)

5.4 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 7) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 56; Not-Contents, 70.

Amherst, E. Green way, L. Segal, L.
Archibald, L. Greenwood of Rossendale, L. Serota, B.
Arwyn, L. Hacking, L. Shackleton, L.
Bacon, B. Hale, L. Shepherd, L.
Beswick, L. Hanworth, V. Shinwell, L.
Blyton, L Henderson, L. Slater, L.
Brockway, L. Henley, L. Somers, L.
Brown, L. Hirshfield, L. Stocks, B.
Byers, L. Hood, V. Summerskill, B.
Champion, L. Ingleby, V. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Chorley, L Kennet, L. White, B.
Davies of Leek, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Wigg, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. McLeavy, L. Williamson, L.
Douglas of Barloch, L. Maelor, L. Winterbottom, L.
Fulton, L. Morris of Grasmere, L. Wise, L.
Gaitskell, B. Phillips, B. [Teller.] Wright of Ashton under Lyne, L.
Garner, L. Ritchie-Calder, L.
Garnsworthy, L. [Teller.] Sainsbury, L. Wynne-Jones, L.
George-Brown, L. St. Davids V. Zuckerman, L.
Aberdare, L. Balfour of Inchrye, L. Brecon, L.
Amory, V. Belhaven and Stenton, L. Brooke of Cumnor, L.
Atholl, D. Belstead, L. Brooke of Ystradfellte, B.
Auckland, L. Berkeley, B. Carrington, L.
Chesham, L. Harvey of Prestbury, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Coleraine, L. Hawke, L. Rankeillour, L.
Conesford, L. Hylton-Foster, B. Ruthven of Freeland, Ly.
Cottesloe, L. Inglewood, L. St. Aldwyn, E.
Courtown, E. Jessel, L. Sandford, L.
Craigavon, V. Killearn, L. Savile, L.
Daventry, V. Kinnaird, L. Selkirk, E.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Lauderdale, E. Sempill, Ly.
Derwent, L. Lothian, M. Shannon, E.
Drumalbyn, L. Lyell, L. Sharples, B.
Ebbisham, L. Mancroft, L. Strathclyde, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Merrivale, L. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Emmet of Amberley, B Milverton. L.
Falkland, V. Monck, V. Stratheden and Campbell, L.
Ferrers, E. Mottistone, L. Thomas, L.
Furness, V. Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.] Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, B.
Gowrie, E. Vivian, L.
Grenfell, L. Northchurch, B. Windlesham, L. (L. Privy Seal.)
Grimston of Westbury, L. Nugent of Guildford, L. Wynford, L.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.) Oakshott, L. Young, B.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

5.12 p.m.

LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 7A: Page 7. line 3, leave out ("planning") and insert ("their functions with respect to the preparation, review and provision of plans under section 23 below").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 7A and to suggest that it would be convenient for the House if we were to consider with it Amendment No. 27A, because they cover rather similar points. Amendment No. 7A to Clause 4 follows upon the addition of planning to research as functions of the water authorities, whose efficient performance the National Water Council has a particular duty to promote and to assist. This was the result of an Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Henley, at the beginning of the second day of the Committee stage, and at that time I withdrew an alternative Government Amendment, largely because we wanted to get on to a general discussion of the kind we have just had, but I indicated then that I should need to consider returning to the charge at this stage. Since then we have had further discussions with the draftsmen of this Bill, particularly in the light of what the noble Lord, Lord Henley, said in Committee, and these two Amendments are the result of that further discussion and further consideration. The noble Lord, Lord Henley, will correct me if I am wrong, but I think his argument was that the original Government Amendment would restrict the functions of the Council by referring to the planning functions of the water authorities as set out under Clause 23 of the Bill.


My Lords, it is Clause 23(9).


My Lords, if I may say so, I think that argument fails to take into consideration two points. The first is that the duties of the water authorities about planning are contained in Clause 23 and any reference to planning will therefore have to be read in the light of that clause, whether it is made explicit or implicit. Secondly, the words used would not have the effect of restricting the activities which the Council are empowered to undertake because they are merely selecting for special mention (as I think they must) the most important aspects of the general duty of the Council to promote and assist the efficient performance by water authorities of their functions. Nevertheless, we have sought to meet the noble Lord's point by using more general wording in Clause 4, while still making what we regard as the essential cross-reference to Clause 23, and also by dealing with a point which the noble Lord raised on the detailed drafting of Clause 23. At present this clause requires a water authority, in carrying out its planning functions, to consult with adjacent water authorities. The plans for a given water authority area, however, may have inter-relationships not merely with those of adjacent authorities but also with those of authorities further afield, and it does not take much imagination to see how easily that could happen. It is those points that Amendment No. 27A seeks to take account of by amending Clause 23 so that a water authority will be required to consult any other water authority about its duty. I hope that explanation sets out the purpose of these Amendments and serves to remind your Lordships how we carry forward a matter which was raised at the earlier stage but not carried through to its conclusion. I beg to move.


My Lords, so far as I can see, this Amendment meets my point. The original restriction which the noble Lord sought to put in his Amendment tied the activities of Clause 23(9), which in fact referred only to adjacent regional water authorities. It now refers not merely to Clause 23(9) but to the whole of Clause 23 and to that extent I think it will probably meet everything that I want. It also cuts out the words for an area or areas adjacent to that first mentioned authority", which was the specific point I raised. So that although in principle I still like my own words "and planning" tout court I am perfectly prepared to accept that the view of the Government draftsmen is that their version is better. Subject to any other noble Lord pointing out to me that I have made a mistake, thank the noble Lord for his Amendment.

5.17 p.m.

LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 8:

Page 7, line 31, at end insert— ("(5A) If the Council establish any such scheme as is mentioned in subsection (5)(d) above, they shall secure that the scheme is administered by a committee of the Council which includes among its members persons representing the interests of regional water boards and water development boards in Scotland and of the Ministry of Development in Northern Ireland.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lady Young, I beg to move Amendment No. 8. This is another Amendment which fulfils an undertaking I gave at an earlier stage of the Bill: that was the promise to consider the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Champion, on behalf of himself and the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, and to consider whether it would be possible to reassure any further the Scottish and the Northern Ireland water undertakings that their interest in the proposed scheme for testing and the certification of water fittings was safeguarded. I hope they will agree, or any noble Lord who is going to speak on their behalf will agree, that this does in fact achieve that end. I beg to move.


My Lords, my noble friend Lord Champion is attending a Select Committee meeting. Had he been present he would have expressed appreciation of the Amendment which the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, has just moved. It does indeed meet a point that he raised in Committee. He is satisfied that this point has been adequately met, and on his behalf I express appreciation.

Clause 6 [Water conservation]:

BARONESS YOUNG moved Amendment No. 9: Page 10, line 4, leave out ("other than a sub-committee)").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 9, which is concerned with a constitutional point. Under Clause 6, which is concerned with committees and sub-committees of regional water authorities, the Bill specifies that at least two-thirds of the members of a committee of the regional water authority must be members of the authority itself; the other one-third may be co-opted from somewhere else. This Amendment brings sub-committees into the same group so that two-thirds of any sub-committee would have to be members of the regional water authority, and one-third could be co-opted from anywhere else. The reason why this Amendment is introduced, as I am sure the House will recognise, is that when we discussed the purpose and functions of the regional water authorities it was to ensure the integration of all the services for which they would be responsible. As these are executive committees, it is considered to be the right principle that the majority of their members should be drawn from the regional water authority. I should like to make it quite clear that the same principle does not apply to the advisory committees under Clause 6(8), which may consist entirely of co-opted members if that is wished.

BARONESS YOUNG moved Amendment No. 9A: Page 10, line 24. leave out ("were") and insert ("and the Council were each").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment 9A. This is a tactical Amendment and its purpose is to enable the National Water Council to receive goods and services from local authorities, under the provisions of the Local Authorities (Goods and Services) Act 1970, by treating them as if they were a public body within the meaning of Section 1 of the 1970 Act.


My Lords, I beg to move Amendment 9B. This is a drafting Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 10, line 40, leave out ("replaced") and insert ("replace")—(Baroness Young.)

BARONESS YOUNG moved Amendment No. 9C: Page 10, line 42, after ("of") insert ("not more than").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this Amendment is concerned with the compulsory arrangements that will be made between regional water authorities and local authorities over central services in the next five years. The Government accepted an Amendment on Report stage in another place that the duration of such arrangements should be increased from not more than three years to five years. Since then it has been represented to my Department that the present requirement is too inflexible and that it is reasonable to expect that water authorities will be able to provide many of the services which would be covered by such an arrangement within the five years. It is to give this flexibility that this Amendment is moved. I beg to move.

BARONESS YOUNG moved Amendment No. 9D:

Page 11, line 5, leave out from beginning to ("are") in line 7 and insert— ("(12) An existing local authority who between the passing of this Act and 1st April 1974 discharge functions transferred by this Act to a water authority or, where that local authority is abolished by the 1972 Act, the local authority or one of the local authorities who replace the abolished authority may require the water authority to enter into an agreement under section 1(1) of the said Act of 1970 with the requiring authority for a period of not more than five years from that date, and it shall be the duty of the water authority to enter into such an agreement, unless it is determined by the Secretary of State that the requirement is unreasonable having regard to the circumstances of the existing local authority immediately before that date and the operation of any enactment which comes into force on that date. (13) If an authority who have required another authority, and an authority who have been required, to enter into an agreement under subsection (11) or (12) above.")

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this Amendment meets the undertaking I gave on Committee stage to the noble Lord, Lord Champion. The noble Lord was concerned about the short-term transitional problems that will confront local authorities in the next five years, and the effect of this Amendment is to place upon a water authority an obligation to continue for up to five years to provide goods and services to a local authority which, between the passing of the Bill and April 1, 1974, is discharging functions transferred to the water authority. I beg to move.


My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Champion I would say that we are much appreciative of this Amendment. There were apprehensions, I know, and, so far as I can understand it, I think this Amendment will serve to meet those fears as to possible difficulties.


My Lords, this is a drafting Amendment. Its purpose is to create two clauses out of one very long one. The first, subsections (1) to (9), deals with the internal arrangements of a water authority and the second, subsections (10) to (13), deals with the arrangements between a water authority and a local authority. I beg to move Amendment No. 9E.

Amendment moved— Divide Clause 6 into two clauses, the first consisting of subsections (1) to (9) and the second consisting of subsections (10) to (13).—(Baroness Young.)

Clause 10 [Water supply]:

BARONESS YOUNG moved Amendment No. 10: Page 13, line 3, leave out subsection (2).

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 10, and to speak at the same time to Amendments Nos. 11 and 12. These Amendments are in response to an undertaking given at the Committee stage in another place, to consider the widening of the proposed duty of water authorities to supply water otherwise than in pipes to those parts of their areas where there are houses or schools but no piped water supply, and to cover areas where there are offices, factories, caravans or camping sites, but no schools or houses. The Government have consulted the local authority associations and the British Water Works Association who have shown that although it would be undesirable to refer to offices, factories, caravans or camping sites specifically, the proposed duty could be generalised to cover any premises where the local authority notify the water authority that there is a danger to the public health because the present water supply is insufficient or unwholesome. The term "premises" is wide enough to cover a camping site or a caravan site, and any dispute there might be as to either the insufficiency or unwholesomeness of the water supply, or whether it could cause a danger to health, would be determined by the Secretary of State. I beg to move.


My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 11.

Amendment moved—

Page 13, line 23, at end insert— ("(3A) Where the following conditions are satisfied, that is to say—

  1. (a) a local authority notify a water authority that the supply of water to specified premises in the local authority's area is insufficient or unwholesome to the extent of causing a danger to health; and
  2. (b) a supply of wholesome water by the water authority for domestic purposes is required for those premises and it is not practicable to provide such a supply in pipes, but is practicable to provide such a supply otherwise, at a reasonable cost;
it shall be the duty of the water authority to provide a supply of wholesome water otherwise than in pipes for domestic purposes to, or within a reasonable distance of, those premises. (3B) Any dispute between the local authority and the water authority as to the insufficiency or unwholesomeness of any supply of water or whether it causes a danger to health shall be determined by the Secretary of State.")—(Baroness Young.)


, My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 12:

Amendment moved— Page 13, line 24 leave out from ("subsection") to ("can") in line 25 and insert ("(3A) above whether or not any description of supply of water".)—(Baroness Young.)


My Lords, this is a drafting Amendment. I beg to move Amendment No. 13.

Amendment moved— Page 13, line 32, leave out second ("to") and insert ("and").—(Baroness Young.)

BARONESS YOUNG moved Amendment No. 14:

Page 13, line 41, at beginning insert— ("The following provisions shall have effect with respect to the supply of water— (a)")

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 14, and to speak to Amendments Nos. 15 and 16. I take these three Amendments together; the first and the third are drafting Amendments made necessary by the second Amendment. These are legal provisions and govern the supply of water. They are complicated because they differ with different water authorities. Representations have been made to my Department by certain statutory water undertakers who are supplying water under local Acts which impose lesser obligations than those in Parts VII and IX of Schedule 3 to the Water Act 1945. The difference lies in the pressure at which water is to be maintained in the mains. The process of identifying these areas, discovering whether it is possible for the new obligations to be met, and if so taking steps to see that they are met, could be a lengthy one. Consequently it may be necessary to exclude certain new obligations from parts of a water authority's area by orders under Clause 32(2) of the Bill. If this Amendment is carried, the resulting subsection would be unwieldy. The first and third Amendments divide it into three paragraphs, the first dealing with the meaning to be attached to the expression "statutory water undertakers" in Sections 27, 36 and 37 of the Act of 1945, the second dealing with application of Parts VII and IX of Schedule 3 to that Act, and the third dealing with the meaning to be attached to the expression "statutory water undertaker" in those Parts. I beg to move.


I beg to move Amendment No. 15.

Amendment moved—

Page 13, line 44, leave out ("and") and insert— ("(b) subject to any provision to the contrary contained in any instrument made under or by virtue of this Act,").—(Baroness Young.)


I beg to move Amendment No. 16.

Amendment moved— Page 14, line 1, leave out from ("by") to ("references") in line 2 and insert ("or under any other enactment; and (c)").—(Baroness Young.)


My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 17. This Amendment and the following one are both drafting Amendments.

Amendment moved— Page 14, line 5, leave out ("(1)").—(Baroness Young.,)


I beg to move Amendment No. 18.

Amendment moved— Page 14, line 6, leave out from ("vary") to end of line 7 and insert ("the boundary between two water authority areas").—(Baroness Young.)

Clause 11 [Supply of Water by statutory water companies on behalf of water authorities]:

5.33 p.m.

BARONESS YOUNG moved Amendment No. 19: Page 14, line 22, after ("1973 ") insert ("or such later date as the Secretary of State may authorise in the case of that authority generally or in any particular case").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 19, and I would speak to No. 23 at the same time. These two Amendments specify the date by which a water authority must send to a statutory water company and a relevant authority for sewerage purposes draft arrangements for the discharge of functions, and the date is given as November 1, 1973. This matter was debated during the Committee stage in another place. Amendments were moved that would have deleted the date from the Bill. The Government undertook to reconsider this date should it later transpire that this was impracticable. It is clear that water authorities will have to work quickly, when they are set up, to get together all the various arrangements that will be required for the transfer of functions on April 1, 1974. In the particular case of arrangements under Clauses 11 and 15, model agreements are being prepared by the Department in consultation with the local authority associations and the Water Companies Association. In view of this preparatory work, November 1, 1973 is not regarded as impracticable in ordinary circumstances. Nor do the Amendments imply that it is. The present Amendments provide for a later date to be specified for the sending of draft arrangements if unforeseen circumstances arise which prevent this target date from being met. It therefore provides more flexibility in the date for the arrangements. I beg to move.


My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 20. This is a drafting Amendment. I spoke to an Amendment at Committee stage, and I indicated then that the drafting might be not quite right. This is the correction of it.

Amendment moved— Page 15, line 13, at end insert ("and to the need to provide for any contributions which they may lawfully carry to any reserve fund or contingency fund to make good depreciation (in so far as provision therefor is not made by any such fund as aforesaid) and to meet all other costs, charges and expenses properly chargeable to revenue").—(Baroness Young.)


My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 21, and I will speak to Nos. 22, 28, 29 and 64. These are all drafting Amendments; they are designed to explain more clearly the relationship of the statutory water companies to the planning function of water authorities under Clause 23.

Amendment moved— Page 15, line 23, leave out ("5").—(Baroness Young.)


My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 22.

Amendment moved— Page 15, line 24, leave out ("surveys").—(Baroness Young.)

Clause 15 [Arrangements for discharge of sewerage functions]:


My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 23.

Amendment moved— Page 19, line 40, after ("1973") insert ("or such later date as the Secretary of State may authorise in the case of that authority generally or in any particular case").—(Baroness Young.)

Clause 16 [Requisitioning of sewers for domestic purposes]:


My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 24, which is a drafting Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 22, line 39, leave out from ("If") to end of line 40 and insert ("the conditions mentioned in subsection (2), (3) or (4) above are satisfied and the water authority").—(Baroness Young.)

Clause 20 [Recreation]:

5.39 p.m.

LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 25:

Page 27, line 5, at end insert— ("(4A) Where the Secretary of State makes an order under section 23 of the Water Act 1945 or section 67 of the Water Resources Act 1963 authorising a water authority to carry out works for or in connection with the construction or operation of a reservoir in England or conferring compulsory powers for that purpose on a water authority, and it appears to him that the works to be carried out may permanently affect the area in which they are' situated and are not primarily intended to benefit the inhabitants of that area, he may include in the order provision with respect to facilities for recreation or other leisure-time occupation for the benefit of those inhabitants.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 25. At an earlier stage an Amendment was moved by the noble Lord, Lord Henley, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Lonsdale, asking that similar provision should be made throughout England of a duty laid upon the Welsh Authority to carry out works for the benefit of an area in which a reservoir or other similar construction was being undertaken. I undertook to consider the matter with a view perhaps to providing a power in the rest of England corresponding to that duty in Wales.

The Amendment that I am now proposing deals with the matter by providing a power for the Secretary of State, at his discretion, to impose and confer a duty upon a regional water authority in England. I hope your Lordships will agree that this is perhaps the most apt way of meeting the point. There are certainly a number of places in England in which the situation is very similar to that which pertains over most of Wales. One thinks particularly of the Lake District and the Peak District, which already have a number of reservoirs and where, if there were any more, it would be useful to be able to invoke this power. I think your Lordships will agree that the conditions which prevail there do not prevail over the whole of England, and to have a power vested in the Secretary of State to impose a duty on regional water authorities in particular cases at his discretion is perhaps the best way of meeting the point. I beg to move.


My Lords, I should like to repeat what I said at the Committee stage when this matter was raised: that provided the mandatory duty remains so far as Wales is concerned, we of course would have not the slightest objection to some crumbs of comfort coming in the way of any English area which might be similarly affected. I agree with the noble Lord that, so far as I can judge, this Amendment is satisfactory from the English point of view in that it confers a power on the Secretary of State if the circumstances seem to warrant it without making it absolutely essential. I am delighted that, for once, the Government's political sense so far as the difference between England and Wales is concerned has been rather more acute than it has sometimes been in the past.


My Lords, once again I thank the noble Lord. I am not quite sure why England should not be put on an equal footing with Wales. I agree that it is not necessary over the whole of England, but it is certainly necessary over the whole of Wales. The noble Baroness says "Absolutely"—well I will accept that, but could the noble Lord explain to me whether there is any settled reason other than putting England on a different basis?


My Lords, we were discussing a little while ago the nature of the various judgments that had to be made here. There are technical judgments and there are political judgments, and I think that most of the House will agree that there are political judgments here.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord for clarification? I am sure it is my fault for not having understood him. I understood him to say that this Amendment was giving the Secretary of State the power to impose a duty. Is that so, or is it only authorising, and therefore giving a power to do what is set out in the printed paper? It may not be important, but I read this as meaning that it was the right of the Secretary of State to enable this to be done in any part of England. Perhaps I misunderstood the noble Lord. I thought he said it enabled the Secretary of State to impose the duty.


My Lords, if I may speak again, with the leave of the House, I was condensing the actual position. The Secretary of State has power to make orders under the Water Act 1945, Section 23 and the Water Resources Act 1963, Section 67. It is under these that he would include in the orders the kind of provision we are talking about. This Amendment has the additional merit that the particular proposal which the Secretary of State incorporates in the order will be before the public local inquiry which will almost certainly take place if the building of a reservoir is involved, and which will be followed now also by some Parliamentary procedure if that reservoir is in a National park. I think this Amendment will ensure all the necessary provisions.

LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 25A: Divide Clause 20 into two clauses, the first consisting of subsections (1) to (4A) and the second consisting of subsections (5) to (10).").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, perhaps I may just reiterate what has already just been said; namely, that we are talking about the words at the bottom of page 4 of the Marshalled list: Divide Clause 20 into two clauses". This in fact is an editing Amendment and I think speaks for itself. I beg to move.


My Lords, we are entirely satisfied. This divides the English and the Welsh interests satisfactorily.

Clause 22 [Water Space Amenity Commission]:

LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 26: Page 29, line 5, after ("State") insert (",after consultation with the Countryside Commission, the English Tourist Board and either the Sports Council or an organisation prescribed for the purposes of subsection (2)(c) above, on the formulation, promotion and execution of the national policy for water so far as relating to recreation and amenity in England; ((aa) to advise").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lady Young, I beg to move Amendment No. 26 and to speak to the succeeding Amendment No. 27, which is a consequential and drafting Amendment. These two Amendments together fulfil another undertaking that I gave the Committee in reply to the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Byers, which sought to secure a national policy for the development of facilities for water-based recreation—something which was recommended in our own Select Committee on Sport and Recreation. The effect of the Amendment will be to impose on the Water Space Amenity Commissioners a statutory duty to advise the Secretary of State, who already under Clause 1 has a duty to promote and secure the effective execution of a national policy, to advise him on the formulation, promotion and execution of a national policy for water so far as it relates to recreation and amenity in England. The point we had to safeguard was that that should not be done other than after consultation with the Sports Council, the Countryside Commission and the English Tourist Board who inevitably had overlapping responsibilities in this field. My Lords, I beg to move.

LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 27:

Amendment moved— Page 29, line 7, leave out from ("as") to end and insert ("so relating ").—(Lord Sandford.)

Clause 23 [Periodical reviews, plans and programmes]:


I beg to move Amendment No. 27A, which we considered when we were dealing with No. 7A.

Amendment moved— Page 29, line 37, leave out from ("authorities") to end of line 38 and insert ("likely to be affected by the matters mentioned below").—(Lord Sandford.)


beg to move Amendment No. 28, and to speak to No. 29. These Amendments were considered when my noble friend moved Amendment No. 21 to Clause 11.

Amendment moved—

Page 30, line 15, at end insert— ("(1A) Where a statutory water company are supplying water in a water authority area, the water authority may require that company—

  1. (a) to carry out a survey of the existing consumption of and demand for water supplies in the part of the water authority area within their limits of supply;
  2. (b) to prepare an estimate of the future water supply requirements of that part of the area;
  3. (c) to formulate proposals for meeting the existing or future water supply requirements 74 of that part of the area, including proposals for the joint use with any other statutory water undertakers of any existing or proposed new source of water supply; and
  4. (d) to submit a report on any of the matters mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (c) above to the water authority within such time as the authority may specify.").—(Lord Sandford.)


I beg to move Amendment No. 29:

Amendment moved— Page 31, line 4, leave out from ("shall") to ("to") in line 5 and insert ("take account of any operations proposed under subsection (1A) above").—(Lord Sandford.)

5.47 p.m.

BARONESS YOUNG moved Amendment No. 30:

After Clause 25 insert the following new clause:

Superannuation of employees of statutory water undertakers

".—(1) Statutory water undertakers may establish and administer pension schemes and pension funds in the interests of persons who are or have been employed by them, and may pay pensions, allowances and gratuities to or in respect of such persons or enter into and carry into effect agreements or arrangements with any other person for securing or preserving pension rights for any such persons.

(2) It shall be the duty of all statutory water companies, by participating in a scheme for or in respect of persons who are or have been employed by any such company, to secure benefits in respect of their service after their entry into the scheme not less in amount than the corresponding benefits for employees and former employees of water authorities in the standard water authority scheme and on terms (including terms as to the transferability of benefits) not less favourable to the persons entitled to the benefits than the terms of that scheme; and in this section "standard water company scheme" means a scheme under this subsection and "standard water authority scheme" means a scheme designated by an order under subsection (3) below.

(3) The Secretary of State may by order—

  1. (a) designate any scheme made for or in respect of employees and former employees of water authorities (including in particular a scheme contained in regulations under section 7 of the Superannuation Act 1972) as the standard water authority scheme;
  2. (b) designate a corporation to manage the standard water company scheme; and
  3. (c) prescribe a date before which any person who is in the employment of a statutory water company on 31st March 1974 and intends to remain in the employment of such 75 a company after that date, and for whom on that date superannuation arrangements will be in operation, may opt that the standard water company scheme shall not apply to him.

(4) A person who has exercised the option conferred by subsection (3)(c) above may revoke it at any time after 31st March 1974.

(5) Every employee of a statutory water company who is eligible for membership of the standard water company scheme shall be a member of that scheme unless he has exercised the option conferred by subsection (3)(c) above and has not revoked it.

(6) Any question whether the terms of the standard water company scheme are less favourable than the terms of the standard water authority scheme shall be determined by the Secretary of State.

(7) The powers conferred on statutory water undertakers by this section are without prejudice to any of their other powers."

The noble Baroness said: I beg to move Amendment No. 30, and with it I would take No. 37. These two Amendments introduce a new clause which is very important and is concerned with superannuation. As this is the first time this matter has been raised in the course of discussions on this Bill, it might be helpful if I gave some information about the general background and how the arrangement will in fact affect the employees of water authorities.

My Lords, in January, 1972, the Government issued a consultation paper entitled, Safeguards for Staff. Many comments were received which advocated the introduction of an overall superannuation clause for the water industry. Among the supporters were the local authority associations, the Association of River Authorities, the National Association of Local Government Officers and the Institute of Municipal Treasurers and Accountants. Further views on the subject were obtained in reply to the consultation paper on economics and finance issued in April, 1972, and the majority or those who did comment felt that if there was to be a scheme for the staff of water authorities this should be either the Local Government Superannuation Scheme or an adaptation of it. Opinion on the responsibility for running the scheme was divided between those who favoured the National Water Council and those who favoured the water authorities' running their own funds.

After full and careful consideration it has been decided that the Local Government Superannuation Scheme should apply to employees of water authorities and the National Water Council, and that all these employees should be within a fund administered by the National Water Council. This will be provided for in the draft regulation under Section 7 of the Superannuation Act 1972, in relation to the Local Government Superannuation Scheme which the Department of the Environment will be circulating shortly for comment and which will be designed to come into operation on April 1, 1974. This will ensure that there are superannuation arrangements fully operative on that date, and that the water industry has the freedom of investment management associated with a relatively large fund.

The other point that was made on the consultation document concerned the mobility of staff between water companies and water authorities. In commenting on this point the Institute of Municipal Treasurers and Accountants, the Institution of Water Engineers and the British Waterworks Association all made the point that mobility of staff throughout the water industry would be greatly helped if appropriate superannuation arrangements could be made for the staff of companies. Independently of these consultations but in the context of the reorganisation of water services, several branches of NALGO expressed the concern of members at the lack of full transfer of pension rights between water companies and water authorities.

The Department of the Environment approached the Water Companies Association on this subject, and the Association agreed to commission consultants to report on the future superannuation arrangements for their employees. Following this report the Association have decided to set up a central superannuation fund for the employees of water companies, and they have agreed that this should incorporate terms which are not less favourable than those applying to employees of water authorities, and so permit full transfer-abilities of superannuation rights, and full mobility of staff, between water companies and water authorities. As water authority employees will be within the Local Government Superannuation Scheme, this will mean that the terms applying to company employees will be not less favourable than those of the local government scheme.

May I now say a few words in detail about the clause. Subsection (2) of the new clause places a duty on all statutory water companies to participate in a scheme of the kind described above, which is referred to in the clause as the "standard water company scheme". The benefits under this scheme will not be less in amount, and are to be given on terms not less favourable, than those in the standard water authority scheme. The advantage of this formula is that it will ensure that the standard water company scheme keeps pace with any future improvements in the arrangements applying to water authority employees.

Subsection (3) gives the Secretary of State power to designate by order a body to manage the standard water company scheme (it is intended that this should be a trust corporation which will be formed by the Water Companies Association), and to prescribe what is to be regarded as the standard water authority scheme for this purpose, and this will, in practice, be the Local Government Superannuation Scheme. It also empowers him to prescribe a date by which a company employee may choose, if he so wishes, to remain in his existing superannuation scheme, rather than transfer (with his accrued pension rights) to the standard water company scheme. Subsection (4) gives an employee who has opted to remain in his existing scheme the right to transfer to the standard scheme at any time after March 31, 1974. Subsection (5) provides that every company employee who is eligible for membership of the standard scheme is to be a member of that scheme unless he has opted to remain in his existing scheme. Subsection (6) gives the Secretary of State power to determine any question as to whether the terms of the standard water company scheme are less favourable than the terms of the standard water authority scheme.

I have taken a little time to explain this, but it is a matter of great concern to the staff and it will now be on the Record for them to consult. We hope that we have achieved a satisfactory arrangement for all the employees. I beg to move.


My Lords, the noble Baroness was at some considerable pains to explain the meaning of this clause, and gave us a detailed explanation such as will enable us to appreciate fully what is being done. I should like to say that we on this side welcome the clause. The way the noble Baroness has presented the case clearly shows the great concern the staff have had about this matter. Indeed, there has been concern on the part of those who speak for them. I think that the Amendment does all that we could ask should be done. I am sure that it will be received with considerable appreciation. There is a great deal I should like to have said, but I do not wish to take up the time of the House unduly. However, I think it right and proper that appreciation should be expressed.

Clause 27 [Water charges]:

5.55 p.m.

LORD DAVIES OF LEEK moved Amendment No. 30A: Page 35, line 7, at end insert ("Provided that this subsection shall not apply to water supply and sewerage functions").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, with permission, and to expedite the work of the House, I should like to move Amendment No. 30A to Clause 27, and speak to Amendments Nos. 30B, 30C, 33A, 33E, and 52A, and I will leave in the lap of the gods until later Amendment No. 50C. The noble Baroness, or the noble Lord, who is to reply will know from what happened at Committee stage in the other place the nub of the argument that is put forward here. As a young man and a youngster I was interested in the Taf-fechan Water Board, who themselves were unanimous in their belief that the water supply should be treated as a public health service. While it is almost platitudinous to say it, it nevertheless seems necessary to reiterate all the time that water supply, even in this sophisticated age, is still one of the most important public health functions and one of the most important necessities of mankind.

What in these Amendments I am trying to do is to elicit some further information about the method of the payment that is to be made to take the place of the subsidies that were hitherto given. The Government propose that the administration of sewerage and sewage disposal will be transferred to the new regional water authorities, but do not clarify really what the position will be. My Amendments may not be thought to be absolutely vital, but nevertheless the costs will probably be met, or could be met, by a precept. If the water authorities inflict upon the consumer the lost charges they are going to incur there will be quite an effect in some places on the cost of living and even on the cost of attracting industry, and it will be a new feature in the whole water consumption system.

Let us take the Taf-fechan Water Board area alone. In 1972–73, the cost of water supply and disposal in that area was over £2 million, of which the rate resources grant covered one-half. In other words, 50 per cent. of the cost of the services was met indirectly by central Government, through the rate resources grant. I want to know how this cost will be made up, because I am still a little befogged. Under my Amendment to Clause 28, a water authority will still wish to charge for a water supply for non-domestic services. We had a long discussion about this point earlier, and it would be unfair to hammer it out for another ten minutes now. Nevertheless, sewerage functions are not covered, so the position of authorities such as Taf-fechan must be made clear. The feeling behind my Amendment to Clause 29 is that there should be no charge at all. In fact other people, in addition to those in Taf-fechan, feel that the whole water problem could, strangely enough, be met by a Treasury grant for the entire water supply of the country. It might come directly through universal taxation.

One point which has not been made is that we may have a different sort of energy in a very short time. When we get a national or a European energy policy, we shall have to know how to deal with atomic waste. The great difficulty with atomic energy at present is in dealing with the pollution and the waste, but whatever progress we make will depend upon a vast water supply. That is why, during the discussions in Committee, I agreed with my noble friend on this side who said that we ought to be exploring the possibility of a water grid. Far from our canals being allowed to become derelict, they should be used for water supplies. Consequently, it may be better policy to look to the Treasury to meet the charges.

Schedule 7 contains a number of Amendments to the Water Act 1945. That Act provides for charging water rates, but it seems to me that it has not been repealed and one of my Amendments draws attention to that fact. The whole purpose of this series of Amendments is to draw attention to what some of us consider to be a rather draconic approach to the future financing of water supplies. We should link the whole question of water research and its cost—I have not spoken on the research side, because of the time factor—to an intelligent energy policy, because in the next 25 years we shall certainly have to look to atomic energy and massive supplies of water will be needed.

Those of us who know the Taf-fechan area would therefore like to know how the Government expect to meet these charges, which could have a bad effect on the attraction of industry and on the cost of living in intermediate or regional areas which need aid. Most of the other arguments are well known, so I shall take up no more of your Lordships' time. I shall listen with interest to what the noble Baroness has to say, so that I may carry the glad tidings to the Taf-fechan Water Board. My Lords, I beg to move.


My Lords, my noble friend Lord Davies of Leek has made a very strong case for the changes, but not perhaps for any assurances which the noble Baroness might be prepared to give him. He has made out a case for changing the whole charging policy in the Bill from charges for water to precepting, which is a method very much preferred by the authorities that he has mentioned, and, in particular, by the Taf-fechan authority. That is an authority which I know particularly well, because it covers the area in which I live. I can understand very well their fear that the result of this Bill will be to relieve the Exchequer of the amount of grants paid to authorities in those poor areas, to cover the cost of sewerage and to assist them on the resources side, and that having saved the Exchequer these amounts the burden of meeting the cost of sewerage and sewage disposal will be placed upon the water users in the area. This will mean a heavy burden of charge on people living in these poor areas. Because of their poverty, these areas have been selected to receive a greater amount of grant than is paid throughout the whole of the rest of the country.

I can see the difficulty here. This Bill is based on charges for water, to meet the cost of the whole system from the collection of the water to its final discharge into the sea. I must admit that I should have put down this Amendment in Committee, but for the fact that it seemed to me to be a little outside the Long Title of the Bill, and although it is true that one can amend the Long Title of a Bill I am sure that the Government are bound to stick to what they have decided in this connection. I rather fear that the noble Baroness will say just that. But before she does, I am bound to say in support of the Taf-fechan Water Board and those other authorities which will be hard hit by this change, that I hope it will be possible to give this matter further thought. Having said that, I recognise the difficulty which the noble Baroness is in and I am sure that my noble friend will listen very attentively to what she has to say.


My Lords, may I say that on one point I take a different view from that of the noble Lord, Lord Champion. I should have thought that this was an occasion for reassurances from my noble friend, instead of for the rather drastic change in procedure which the noble Lord, Lord Davies, has outlined. I should have thought it was very difficult, against the background of the whole Bill and the mechanism set up in it, to envisage going back to precepts to local authorities. But having said that, I hope my noble friend will give the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, the assurances which will enable him to travel rapidly back to Wales again and to indulge in the consumption of many pints of the delicious water which is no doubt produced there.

6.10 p.m.


My Lords, it is with considerable trepidation that I rise to speak not only on finance but on a matter to do with Wales. The noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, has explained the purpose of his Amendments; and, if I have understood the noble Lord, Lord Champion, aright, I think he recognizes that it would be very difficult for the Government to accept these Amendments as they stand. The fact is that they would completely change the basis of the finance that the Government have proposed under this Bill. Not only that, but we think that they would introduce even greater inequalities between local authorities and their ratepayers, and between different classes of consumers, than there is at the moment, and that is not something which we should wish to increase.

I recognise that the specific point that the noble Lord has raised—and the noble Lord, Lord Champion, has also raised it —is on the question of the present resources element of the rate support grant which is given to the poorer authorities, and of course the consequential attraction by way of precept for the poorer authorities, and that this makes up the deficiencies which they have at the moment. I hope I can give the noble Lord some assurance on this point. It is recognised that there will be many changes in the incidence and levels of charges in 1974–75. These will be partly the result of local government reorganisation and the shifting of responsibilities from local authorities and changes in local government finance, as well as the consequences of water reorganisation. Ministers in both Houses have given assurances that in taking a decision about the appropriate level of Exchequer grant to local authorities after reorganisation, the Government will take full account, not only of local government expenditure but also of the fact that in the future ratepayers will be paying directly for same water services that are at present paid for by local authorities from rates or rate support grants. I am glad to reiterate that assurance, and I hope it will go some way to meet the fears of the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek.


My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for those interesting and hopeful words, understanding fully what kind of commitment she has made. Consequently, I think it would be wise for me now, with the leave of the House, to withdraw the Amendments that I was so kindly allowed to speak to en bloc.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn

Clause 28 [Charges schemes]:

BARONESS YOUNG moved Amendment No. 31: Page 35, line 29, leave out ("and (5)") and insert ("to (5A)").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I should like to move Amendment No. 31 and also to speak to both Amendment No. 32 and Amendment No. 33 at the same time; but with the leave of the House I should like to make another point before I do so. I think I should at this stage tell the House of the conclusions that we have reached on a point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady White, about what is now Clause 30(2). I am sure that the noble Baroness will recall that at Committee stage she thought that it should be mandatory for the Secretary of State to make regulations with respect to metering before any water authority began to meter supplies to houses in any part of its area. My noble friend Lord Colville accepted this principle and said that we should be prepared to meet the noble Baroness's suggestion by proposing an Amendment to Clause 30(2) to require regulations to be made by April 1, 1976. I think everyone recognised that there was no particular significance about that date, but it was virtually certain that there would be no extension of the metering of supplies to houses, or indeed any other substantial change in the charging structure, before that date; and, on the other hand, the two years would be sufficient time for drafting regulations and for consulting about them.

We have run into a difficulty. We are advised by the draftsman that satisfactory action against the Secretary of State in the courts to enforce such an obligation would not be possible, so an Amendment on those lines would be meaningless. We have, however, considered this matter, and I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady White, wilt be prepared in these circumstances to accept my assurance that we shall make regulations within the next two years—and these would of course be subject to Negative Resolution procedure—and certainly that we shall make them before there is any significant extension of domestic metering. I hope the noble Baroness will feel that this assurance meets her point. I wished to explain that before moving my Amendments. If she would like to comment, I will sit down at this point, but I move the first of these Amendments so that she can comment on that matter first. I beg to move.


My Lords, I am greatly obliged to the noble Baroness for her explanation. I was looking rather anxiously at the Marshalled List to see what was going to appear, as I was obviously not wishing at this stage to put anything down on behalf of the Opposition until we saw what the Government's decisions were. As we have been having various starred Amendments one hoped that a star might arise on this part of the horizon, too. I suppose from what the noble Baroness says, as she has taken advice, that possibly there is no way to include this provision in statutory form. We shall have to consider very carefully what she has said, but she will recall that the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, also felt that we needed some assurances on this matter. The difficulty is that if it is not in the Statute one cannot bind one's successors, and so forth. But if she will allow me to consult with our advisers and with my noble friends, I think that at the moment all I can do is to thank her for her explanation and say we will look at it with great care.


My Lords, with the leave of the House perhaps I may thank the noble Baroness, Lady White, for leaving the position like that. If I may now speak to the Amendments, the first of which I moved formally at the beginning, these are virtually drafting Amendments, and Amendments Nos. 31, 32 and 33 should be taken together. Clause 28(3) gives the water authorities a permissive power to fix their charges by reference to such criteria and to adopt any system for the calculation of their amount which seems to them appropriate. The power is subject to any directions that the Secretary of State may give after consultation with the National Water Council. As originally drafted, the subsection seemed to give the authorities a wide measure of discretion in deciding whether to comply with these directions or not. There should in fact be no doubt that any directions of the Secretary of State on charging policy should be mandatory, and these Amendments achieve that.

BARONESS YOUNG: My Lords, I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 35, line 32, leave out from ("appropriate") to end of line 35.—(Baroness Young.)


My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 33.

Amendment moved—

Page 36, line 2, at end insert— ("(5A) The Secretary of State may, after consultation with the Council, give all or any of the water authorities directions as to the criteria to be applied or the system to be adopted by them under subsection (3) above and in giving a direction under this subsection the Secretary of State shall have regard to the provisions of subsections (4) and (5) above."). —(Baroness Young.)

Clause 29 [Charges Schemes]:

6.20 p.m.

BARONESS YOUNG moved Amendment No. 33B: Page 36, line 34, leave out from ("may") to end of fine 36 and insert ("give directions to all water authorities or any particular water authority as to the services, facilities or rights for which provision is to be made in a charges scheme").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is a drafting Amendment. As originally drafted, the provision could be taken to mean that the directions of the Secretary of State could apply to the actual levels of charges fixed by water authorities if the charges were incorporated in a charges scheme. However, the Government have already said that Ministers should not concern themselves with detailed levels of water charges and should confine their powers of direction to matters of broad policy on charging and the formulation of tariffs for the authorities. I beg to move.

Clause 31 [Abolition of existing central and local bodies]:

BARONESS YOUNG moved Amendments Nos. 33C and 33D: Page 39, line 16, at end insert ("and joint committees of sewerage authorities existing immediately before the passing of this Act"). Page 39, line 18, leave out from ("Act") to end of line 20 and insert ("(continuation of existing joint boards and committees) shall not apply to bodies which cease to exist by virtue of this section").

The noble Baroness said: I beg to move Amendments Nos. 33C and 33D together. They are drafting Amendments. The first adds joint committees of local authorities for sewerage and sewage disposal purposes to the list of bodies abolished by the Bill. The second is a drafting Amendment to the provision which disapplies Section 263 of the Local Government Act 1972.

6.20 p.m.

THE EARL OF KINNOULL moved Amendment No. 33L: After Clause 32 insert the following new clause:

Isle of Wight

" . The Secretary of State may, on the joint application of the Southern Water Authority and the Isle of Wight County Council, make an order providing for the exercise as respects the Isle of Wight of functions corresponding to any of those transferred from the Isle of Wight River and Water Authority to the Southern Water Authority by this Act."

The noble Earl said: My Lords, the House may recall that during the Committee stage of this Bill I moved an Amendment similar in character to the one now before the House. At that time, other noble Lords supported the Amendment in its general purpose. Eventually my noble friend undertook to look again at the Isle of Wight case to see whether, within the framework of the Bill, the special situation of the Isle of Wight could be written into the Bill as a sub-authority to the Southern Water Authority.

This undertaking was received gratefully by the Isle of Wight authorities because they fear that although under Clause 6 something similar to sub-authority status could be set up, their future is very uncertain. The Southern Water Authority could well take a view that an advisory body will be all that is necessary in the case of the Isle of Wight. What the Isle of Wight authorities want —and I believe they have a good case, which I tried to deploy in Committee and do not wish to inflict again on your Lordships—is an executive body to be set up on the island with its own office and not just an advisory body.

There is a second purpose in moving this Amendment, and that is to ask my noble friend to be good enough to correct an impression given in Committee that the Isle of Wight authorities' past record on sewage treatment is somewhat laggardly, it was something that my noble friend said—and I will quote his words: The sewerage of the Isle of Wight very much needs to be done better, more quickly and by a much larger authority". My noble friend went on to cite 23 out-falls at present discharging untreated sewage directly into the Solent. To say the least, these comments were a little wounding to the Isle of Wight authorities. I understand that they have written to a number of noble Lords on this matter.

It has been pointed out by these authorities that their programme on improving the treatment of sewage was blocked by the central Government for over nine years by the refusal of Ministers to grant tidal water orders. They point out that they had lodged before the Minister some weeks ago an application for some five tidal water orders, and they have in the pipeline a programme over the next seven years of improvement to sewerage costing some £5 million. This is not a bad record. Lastly, their untreated sewage discharged into the Solent is a mere drop in the ocean compared with what is done by the Hampshire authorities. I am sure that my noble friend Lord Sandford's words were not intended to be offensive. Nevertheless, it may be an opportunity to my noble friend to restore any damaged relations and to put the Record straight.

My noble friend Lady Young has had a chance of looking at the Isle of Wight case and I hope that she will be able to say that the Isle of Wight case can be written into the Bill; or, if not, will be able to give an undertaking that the Government will specifically encourage the Southern Water Authority to set up under Clause 6 not just an advisory committee for the Isle of Wight but an executive committee with its own office on the island to look after the special problems and needs of the Island.


My Lords. I thought that the noble Earl presented quite a good case at Committee stage. This afternoon he has again deployed a very good argument and made the best of the case that is to be presented on behalf of the Isle of Wight. May I say that I can understand the resentment on the Island to which he referred. I am certain that what was said from the Front Bench opposite made a considerable impression on everybody who was listening in that debate. It may have accounted for a feeling that the Government case was stronger than the noble Earl is prepared to accept and the people living on the Island are prepared to accept. It is true that some of us have received literature from the Island. At least they are aware of what was said; and it seems to me they show an anxiety to get matters put right.

I think that what is good about this Amendment is that the matter can proceed only if there is agreement between the Southern Water Authority and the Isle of Wight County Council. That being so, if the Government were minded to accept this Amendment, it is something that could be pursued steadily and it need not come into operation until there was satisfaction that any problem with regard to disposal of sewage into the Solent was going to be dealt with effectively. The case as presented finds understanding on this side, and one appreciates the feeling of the people on the Island that, having been given county council status, they should be given as much opportunity as possible to look after their own affairs. When the noble Baroness replies, I hope that she will be able to indicate that the Government are prepared to look at this sympathetically.


My Lords, I should like briefly to support the remarks of my noble friend Lord Kinnoull and the noble Lord, Lord Champion—


My noble friend is indeed a champion. I am a lesser man.


I humbly ask the noble Lord's forgiveness. What is most important about this is that the difficulty of administering anything in the Island from the mainland (which was given great rein in discussion in this House at the time of the local Government Act) applies to practically anything of this nature. I hope very much that the Government will give careful consideration to the plea of my noble friend that there should be some arrangement by which executive power under the terms of Clause 6 could be devolved upon the Island. What form this executive power should take is not the key point. To leave the Island with a mere advisory function in this connection would not be quite good enough for the practical administration of the supervision of the water in the Island.


My Lords, I should like to support this Amendment. I think it will be helpful to the water authority to be enabled to do this; for 99 per cent. of the decisions that will need to be made about the Island will not affect anybody else. It only an advisory committee is set up, it means that everything from the Island will have to go forward to the mainland authorities—which is going to occupy a great deal of time and cause a great many travel difficulties. Also I think it is bound to have some effect on the many schemes now in the pipeline and which will be held up if they have to go to a central authority which is detached from the Island. The schemes do not affect anybody except the islanders.


. My Lords, the pleas of the Isle of Wight in the world of local government are well known to me and they are always very persuasive and engaging. I am not surprised to hear them put again to-day so eloquently by my noble friend Lord Kinnoull. It seems to me that it would be contrary to the whole concept of the Bill, which is trying to set up a national structure for the water industry and to make a strong and effective national structure which will deliver the goods in terms of future water supplies and the cleanliness of our rivers, if the Isle of Wight were to be granted this special status of a separate executive authority. Pleas could be made for other parts of the country. It is true that the Bill is reaching an advanced stage in its legislative process, but there is still time for the noble Baroness, Lady White, to put down an Amendment in terms of Anglesey, a very attractive island standing on its own and able to look after itself. Why should not Anglesey be given its own show?


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, will appreciate that there is a bridge between Anglesey and the mainland, which is not the case with the Isle of Wight.


My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for reminding me of the presence of the bridge, but the water does not run across that bridge, nor does the sewage. It is not beyond the bounds of imagination to imagine other areas of the country for which a similar plea could be put up. I should have thought that this would be a dangerous precedent when the general philosophy of the Bill is to sot up a strong and comprehensive national structure. So much for precedent, my Lords. When you come to functions there are certain intrinsic considerations. There is still an important point in respect of sewage. However much the pollution of the Solent may be due to Hampshire rather than to the Isle of Wight, there is a share of interest in that to some extent both the communities are bound to put sewage and effluent into the Solent. Therefore it is very desirable that they should be managed by the same authority.

My Lords, there is a third point relating to staff which I think very important in the general context of this Bill. There is a desperate shortage of really competent staff. There are not the competent, qualified staff to go round to cater for a separate authority to be set up, with a separate manager highly competent and able to do the kind of job we shall be asking of him in future, for such a small independent unit. It will be difficult enough effectively to staff the new management units in the sewage disposal section, even in the comprehensive structure of the ten regional water authorities. To some extent this is true generally in respect of water management. There is an acute shortage of really competent professional staff and as soon as separate executive authorities are set up men who are fully capable of being leaders responsible only to their authorities must be appointed. I suggest that it would be a mistake to start fragmenting a comprehensive national structure at this stage. I earnestly hope that my noble friends will not press this point again, however deeply their sympathies may be engaged, because I think it is going completely contrary to the whole concept of the Bill.


My Lords, I hope that my noble friend Lady Young will not be too greatly influenced by the words of my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford, who seemed to think that it was impossible to achieve a strong and efficient organisation in this country without creating very large areas. I have heard my noble friend supporting the heresy of "the bigger the better" on other occasions. But England is a small country and there are great variations in it. I would have thought it would be a mistake to try to impose the same plan equally on all parts of the country, quoting the sort of arguments that we have heard advanced over and over again from the Front Bench during the discussions on this Bill. I certainly would not want to fragment the whole organisation, but I think that where there is a reason we should not shut our minds to the genuine exception and if there are to be exceptions I think that the Isle of Wight is one which deserves great consideration.


My Lords, my only excuse for speaking is that I did advocate it, and I was delighted when the Government agreed, to making an exception for the Isle of Wight in respect of local government. But, looking at the matter objectively, I must confess that it is exceedingly difficult to agree with the noble Lord who said that 99 per cent. of the decisions in this area would concern only the Isle of Wight. I may have misunderstood the noble Lord, but I think he said that. It is true only in one sense, that the decisions that need taking on the spot will be far better taken on the spot in the island by those who live there. But the effect of the decisions taken concerning the island of course affect the Solent and other parts of the country in exactly the same way as those taken in Hampshire must affect the Isle of Wight. Therefore, in general, I should have thought it most unfortunate if the wise decision of the Government on local government for the Isle of Wight was used to persuade them to make a last minute decision in favour of an exception for the Island in this Bill.


My Lords, since we had a somewhat similar debate on Committee stage, the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, and some of his colleagues have been to see me and that is the reason we have discussed this matter at considerable length and why I am replying to-day. I should like at once to clear up any misunderstanding there may be about the Government view regarding the Isle of Wight. What my noble friend Lord Sandford said was that although there were 23 discharges of sewage into the sea, there were not 23 discharges of sewage into the Solent. We do not want to denigrate what the Isle of Wight has done, and we recognise that a number of schemes are in preparation, including one for a new sewage disposal plant to serve Cowes and Newport.

The general point which has been made throughout this debate is that one of the purposes of the Bill is to deal with sewage disposal and pollution, which are major matters calling for large and powerful authorities who will have the financial resources as well as professional advisers to deal with the problem. From what has been said by noble Lords who have spoken, we all recognise that the Isle of Wight is unique. But the words of Lord Nugent of Guildford have explained once again very clearly the purpose of the Bill and the function of the regional water authorities, and I was very glad to hear the support of the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud. It might help the Isle of Wight to consider again all the possibilities that are open to them to put their point of view in the new regional water authority. In the first place they will have two members on the authority, one representing the county council and the other the two new districts. As I think I said to the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, when we discussed this matter, if I may speak from personal experience, I think that two effective local government members can make a big difference on a committee of the size with which they will be dealing. Besides this, there will be the provision in Clause 6(8) for local advisory committees, and of course there is no reason why there should not be such a committee for the Isle of Wight.

Under Clause 15 there are provisions for the executive control of the island's sewerage (as distinct from sewage disposal) which will devolve upon the two new district authorities on the island. Clause 19 provides for local land drainage committees which also are to exercise executive powers, and although this is a matter for the Minister of Agriculture there will almost certainly be one for the Isle of Wight. There are also the provisions in Clause 6 for executive committees to be set up by a regional water authority, although, as my noble friend Lord Kinnoull recognises, two-thirds of such committees must be members of the regional water authority in question. Finally, Clause 6(10) enables water authorities to make arrangements with local authorities for the provision by one authority to another of any administrative, professional or technical services.

My Lords, I have elaborated all these points at some length because I hope that those who have the interests of the Isle of Wight particularly at heart will recognise that there are a good many provisions in this Bill which will help such a place as the Isle of Wight, and the Bill does provide a framework of co-operation between a water authority and local authorities.

A great many people have, I know, expressed real concern about this, and I should like to say to my noble friend Lord Kinnoull that either I or my honourable friend Mr. Griffiths would be prepared to write to the chairman of the Southern Water Authority drawing his attention to what has been said in Parliament. We cannot of course pre-empt the decisions that he might make, but we can draw his attention to the concern about the Isle of Wight which has been expressed in this House. I hope with that undertaking, and with the explanations I have given, the noble Earl will feel able to withdraw his Amendment.


My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friends who have supported the general purpose of this Amendment, and to the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, whose words were very welcome. I would say to my noble friend Lord Nugent, whose experience one admires and appreciates very much, as the mentor in the sense of this Bill, that one understands that this proposal would be contrary to the Bill and might cause a dangerous precedent, but the case one was trying to put over was that the Isle of Wight was a special case, as the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, recognised in regard to local government. The purpose in moving the Amendment was not to press it. As my noble friend has said, we have had a meeting on this matter, for which we are grateful, as also we are for her patience. We are grateful, too, for her undertaking that the Government will draw attention to the points that have been made in Parliament over the case of the Isle of Wight; and, with that assurance, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 1 [Regional water authority areas]:

6.43 p.m.

LORD INGLEWOOD moved Amendment No. 33F: Page 45, line 6, leave out ("Cumberland").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 33F and, in order to save your Lordships' time, I should like to speak to Amendments Nos. 33G and 33H at the same time. Ministers are fully aware of the great dissatisfaction that has been shown with the boundaries of the North-Westorn Water Authority as drawn in the Bill. There is the obvious disadvantage of putting together the not inconsiderable area of the Lake District National Park, with its smaller population and larger water resources, with the Southern part of the area, thickly populated, with a much larger population, and its big industrial interests, so giving the industrial consuming end of the area a permanent and overwhelming majority of members of the new authority drawn from the local authorities. That needs no further explanation.

Here I would submit that it is a mistake to adhere to the principle that the new areas in order to be strong and efficient, as Ministers and others keep repeating, must necessarily include both producing and consuming interests, although in many cases I am sure that that would be an advantage, in particular if they are closely interlocking. But in this case there is much to be said against putting the two together. There is a clear geographical boundary, a narrow neck, between the two parts the rural Northern part, which includes the National Park, and the industrial areas to the South.

In another place the Government recently showed reluctance to amend these boundaries, and so in your Lordships' House at the Committee stage my noble friend Lord Rochdale moved an Amendment which attempted to improve the position in another way: that was to increase the representatives from the local authorities in the Northern half of the area, with its thinner population and the special interests of the National Park. I think I am right in saying that there is a precedent for weighting an authority in this way. I supported my noble friend Lord Rochdale in that debate, and during the course of it both he and I said that we should have preferred to see the area cut into two; that is to say, a Lake District or Cumbria in the North as a separate district and I would not admit that this is parochialism, because the North has so little in common with the Southern half, and if not changed it will leave this area far from being an equal partnership. We all know that relations over the years between the Northern and Southern parts of the North-West of England have not been good, and I am not going to quote anything this evening which might be taken to make them worse.

There was no very warm response from the Government to my noble friend's Amendment and later a letter was sent to my noble friend, and the Minister very courteously sent me a copy. Again, it amounted to no warm response, but rather to a reiteration of what the Government are pleased to call the safeguards which are built into the Bill. Hence, I feel it was a natural thing to put down this Amendment at the Report stage in an effort to achieve what people in the Lake District, and not least the county council and the river authority, want. They feel that what I am proposing is the better solution. It is not just myself, or myself and my friends, but the responsible authorities of the district who would like to see the solution that I propose. They maintain that there are ample resources in the district, as the recent successful administration of the existing river authority has shown.

It is worth recalling that when the 1963 Water Resources Bill was drafted, it included a provision for a larger area very similar to what is now proposed in this Bill. The same old arguments about size contributing to strength and efficiency were used over and over again, convincing bureaucrats, perhaps, but few others. Finally, I am glad to say, Ministers saw the strength of the argument on the other side. I am sure we will be told now that a change would upset the advanced stage of planning. But surely it is better to get things right now rather than to have a wrong solution and then buttress it with so-called safeguards. In 1963—and this is a very good precedent—the then Government at a late stage saw the light and agreed to an Amendment on the same lines as that which I am now proposing, and I know of no argument ever being put forward to show that the smaller area which has been responsible for our water resources over the last ten years has in any way been inefficient, unpublicspirited or short of resources, either financial or of manpower. Therefore I hope that the Government this evening will advise the House to accept this Amendment, just as the Minister in 1963 advised another place to accept a similar Amendment at a similar stage of the previous Bill, if they do not do this and if later damage is done to the Lake District, as I fear it could be, we shall then know at whose door the blame must be laid. I appreciate that there are safeguards in this Bill, but I would submit that accepting safeguards is not the same thing as putting the position right now, which is a much more certain and much less laborious way of achieving what we all want to see.

6.50 p.m.


My Lords, it is perfectly true that at a late stage in the passage of the 1963 Bill Amendments such as my noble friend has described were made. It is also true to say that those who had been engaged in the management of water resources in the area have been regretting the Amendment ever since. The areas proposed—


My Lords, may I interrupt my noble friend for a moment? I hope I shall not do so again. The river authority support my Amendment.


My Lords, I was just coming to that. The areas proposed in the present Amendment might have been all right for the river authorities in 1963, but that does not mean it will be right for the regional water authorities with a much larger range of functions and in the designing of which it is necessary to take account not only of river basins and other similar natural features but also the major man-made water conservation systems—which in this case mean the extensive dams and aqueducts of the Manchester Corporation which, whether we like it or not, are there already. I am afraid I cannot recommend to the House the acceptance of this particular Amendment, but I should like to set before the House the background against which the matter needs to be judged and which has been improved in three particular respects. First of all, there is the undertaking given by my honourable friend in the Standing Committee in another place, that the Secretary of State, in considering his own appointments for this particular water authority (and the same applies to a number of other water authorities), will have particular regard to the amenities of the Lake District and the recreational features that need to be specially considered in this context. If I may say so, I think that is a much better way of redressing the balance, as my noble friend would put it, in favour of these particular interests in Cumbria.

To make the kind of exception which his noble friend was asking us to make in the earlier form of Amendment would be to do something quite different from anything which is done in the composition of the other regional water authorities. Several of them are in much the same case as the Lake District is in relation to the other authorities making up the North West Water Authority. There is also the firm assurance, which I am glad to repeat, that the Secretary of State will have regard to this special situation when he comes to making his own appointments. The second one I have mentioned before, though not in this context: namely, that, unlike what my noble friend would regard as the bad old days when the Manchester Corporation did a number of things—or sought to do a number of things—in the Lake District to which your Lordships' House in particular took exception the position now is that any proposal for a reservoir there, for instance, would have to go before a public local inquiry and in addition any order would be subject to a Parliamentary procedure as well, following the provisions incorporated in the Water Resources Act 1971. The third point—and this is a new one—is the one which we have just incorporated in the Bill in Amendment No. 25, which I moved a little while ago. This would provide for the Secretary of State to incorporate in the Order authorising a new reservoir a duty upon the regional water authority to make such other provision for the benefit of the area as he might see fit. That proposal itself would also be before a public local inquiry.

I do not quarrel with the use by my noble friend of the word "safeguards" because that is an apt description of what we are talking about; but the fact that these are there now and that these assurances have been given, I think does go to meet the fears and anxieties which my noble friends have been expressing. I should like to recommend to the House that they meet these points in a better way either than the present Amendment or that put down by the noble Lord's noble friend previously. We are now leaving intact the framework and the balance which is incorporated in the Bill for all the regional water authorities, and I hope I have shown that the fears for Cumbria and the Lake District are fully met. I hope that with those assurances, which I have expressed in a letter to my noble friend and to the noble Viscount, Lord Rochdale, but have not had the opportunity previously of putting to the House as a whole, my noble friend will feel able to withdraw his Amendment.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

6.58 p.m.

LORD PEDDIE moved Amendment No. 33J: Page 45. line 25, leave out from beginning to end of line 27.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move this Amendment and should like to take this opportunity of thanking my noble friend Baroness White for the effective way in which she presented the case and outlined the strong objections which the Kent River Authority had on the grounds of land drainage, water resources, pollution control and water supply organisations. Since then a fairly long document has been received from the noble Baroness, Lady Young. This, I regret to say, I have not yet had the opportunity of studying in the detail it deserves. Therefore I should welcome any amplification or further comment upon this matter, following upon the discussion which took place at Committee stage.


My Lords, before answering this Amendment, may I say that I understand it has been agreed between the usual channels that after this Amendment has been dealt with we should adjourn the consideration of this Report stage and move on to the next business.


My Lords, we have not been consulted on this proposal.


My Lords, I am glad I have mentioned the point. Perhaps the usual channels will confirm the message I have received, and I suggest that meanwhile we continue with our consideration of this Amendment.


My Lords, would the noble Lord tell us when we shall be returning to this Report stage?


My Lords, it is suggested that we should adjourn the consideration of this Report and deal with other business; and after that come back to this Bill.


In other words, the noble Lord intends that we should come back to it this evening at some unspecified time?


My Lords, that is my understanding of what had been arranged, but perhaps the usual channels, now that the matter has been raised, can consider the exact arrangement that has been made, if my understanding is not correct.


My Lords, before my noble friend goes on to deal with these Amendments, may I say that we are all interested in what the usual channels have arranged, apart from the Water Bill. I wonder whether the noble Lord can tell us when we are to return to this Bill?


My Lords, my understanding of a message which was conveyed to me a few moments ago was that we should adjourn consideration of this Report stage after this Amendment, at about seven o'clock, which is about the time now, and deal with the remaining business on the Order Paper; and when that was finished return to the consideration of this Report.


My Lords, that means that those of us who are engaged in the consideration of this Bill will have to wait until we do not know when, because already consideration at the Report stage has gone beyond the time which it was indicated it would take. We have no guarantee at all. I wonder whether the noble Lord could be more helpful than he has been.

7.0 p.m.


My Lords, it would be a great convenience, if our business is to be adjourned, to have an idea when we should resume. It seems to me a rather bad precedent to break consideration of a Bill for other business without any assurance on when we are to resume.


And, my Lords, without any dinner being provided, as I understand it.


My Lords, I was aware of the disadvantages of this course, but it is not my job to arrange the business of the House. I am just conveying to noble Lords what my understanding of the arrangements is. If we can discuss the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, for a little while, which fortunately could run to two or three pages of foolscap, perhaps we shall arrive at a satisfactory solution to the way business is to be conducted.


My Lords, why not let us have the vote now and then honour would be satisfied all round.


My Lords, the Amendment before the House may not involve a vote; it involves an exposition by me of the reasons why the boundaries of the Kent River Authority are what they are in the Bill rather than what the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, might like.


My Lords, may I raise this further point about the conduct of business? We are near the end of the Report stage on this Bill and I wonder whether it would be for the convenience of the House to finish it before going on to other business.


My Lords, I am sure it would be for the convenience of those at present concerned with the Bill, but that may not be the only consideration.

The matter before us is how the boundary between the Thames Water Authority and the Southern Water Authority should be drawn. The issue was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, at the earlier stage. He was not able to remain to take part in the debate which followed. His Amendment was moved by the noble Baroness, Lady White, and in view of the hour we had then reached it was agreed that I should not deal with the matter at great length, but that I should write at great length to the noble Lord, which I have done. Unless it is necessary for me to keep speaking, I propose to deal fairly briefly with the issue, because I think that is still the wish of the House and the noble Lord.

The fact of the matter is that it is surface watersheds which primarily determine the boundaries between the new regional water authorities and not administrative boundaries, which have arisen for different reasons, between statutory water undertakers or any other bodies concerned with water. It is also the intention of the Government not to follow this particular guiding principle if it causes unnecessary disruption, and provision has been made in the Bill for exceptions to be applied, as they will be in this case. The main point I would make in answer to the noble Lord is that the Metropolitan Water Board lies wholly within the area of the Thames Water Authority. Its supplies into Kent involve more than twice the amount of water of the authorities with which he is particularly concerned: the Seven-oaks, Tonbridge and Mid-Kent water companies. But land drainage and flood protection, the other additional functions of regional water authorities, need to have different boundaries from those required for the other functions of these authorities; but exceptions in both those cases can and will be made under Clause 2(3).

There is the further factor in this case where the management of water resources involves the effective management of the chalk and green sand aquifers. The aquifers cannot be divided for management purposes by their very nature, but arrangements can be made for their joint management under Clause 6(1) and that will be done in that case. Those factors being taken into account, the view of the Government is that the balance of arguments is in favour of the boundaries set out in the Bill which have been modified since it was first introduced in a number of minor ways as the result of further consideration which the matter has had. I hope that explanation will satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, and the rest of the House.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that explanation which, along with the documentation, will be closely studied. I apologise for the length of time it has taken, but I am certain it has been due to circumstances that have been outside my control and probably that of the noble Lord opposite. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


My Lords, it would be for the convenience of the House if we could clear up the point about the break. My understanding is that through the usual channels agreement has been reached that we shall break for one hour to take the next two pieces of business and resume the Report stage of the Bill at five minutes past eight.


That, my Lords, is provided we have the firm assurance that we will resume again at five minutes past eight; and if my noble friend is happy with that, we shall be willing to acquiesce.


My Lords, I have just heard the noble Baroness refer to two items of business; fortunately I have responsibility for only one. So far as tboat is concerned, with the cooperation of everybody on the other side of the House, I shall be happy to attempt to get the business through in one hour.


My Lords, I am sorry that there has been a slight misunderstanding here. If it is agreed, we shall adjourn for one hour and then come back on the Water Bill again in one hour's time. I hope that will allow time for Lord Mottistone's Bill, and also for the Bill of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, to be dealt with. I believe that the Third Reading should not take very long.


The Motion is, That the House do now adjourn until eight o'clock.




My Lords, the Motion before the House is, That consideration of the Report on the Water Bill should now be adjourned.


My Lords, on a point of clarification, as I understood it the noble Earl suggested that we might take the Domicile Bill after the Employment Agencies Bill before we resumed on the Water Bill. Was that understanding correct?


That is correct, my Lords. I understand that it is not intended that there should be discussion on the Third Reading and presumably it wilt be formal and will take a matter of seconds rather than minutes.


My Lords, perhaps it would help if I moved once again, That the consideration of the Report of the Water Bill should be adjourned in order that we may proceed with the next business.

Moved, That the consideration of the Report of the Water Bill be now adjourned.—(Lord Sandford.)