HL Deb 11 June 1973 vol 343 cc374-6

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a. (The Earl of Listowel.)


My Lords, before the matter is put to the House and before it goes "on the nod", may I draw your Lordships' attention to one or two matters of principle which have been raised by this seemingly inoffensive Bill? It might even be helpful to the Select Committee if their attention were drawn to the significance of it.

First, this Bill involves two nationalised industries: one, the British. Transport Docks Board, who are the Promoters, and the other the British Waterways Board, who are petitioning against it, supported by private enterprise in the shape of the Hull Chamber of Commerce and Shipping. The object of the Bill is to abolish the system known as "free override" on the Humber by which goods are transferred from ship to barge without crossing the dock wharves. When such transfer takes place it escapes most of the costs otherwise related to landing goods. The two Petitions which have been lodged against the Bill make essentially the same point; namely, that the imposition of new charges, certainly if they are heavy, must damage the barge-carrying business on the inland waterways which are directly affected. Barge business is the business of carrying goods by water along what is left of our canals and waterways; but in the case of the Humber it means at the present time carrying goods by water up to and down from Leeds and Nottingham.

This might in itself seem a small matter, but I call attention to it for the same reason as in a debate on the Government's original Circular on water reorganisation on December 9, 1971. Then I expressed anxiety lest we allow our inland waterways to die away just as new technologies give the opportunity to revive them. The now much publicised ocean-going LASH ship, which carries barges across the wide ocean, has since been matched by a new ship, the BACAT, able to carry barges across the North Sea from the Humber to the mouths of the Scheldt, the Rhine and the Baltic and all the rich provision of inland waterway transport to which they lead in the heart of the Eurasian Continent.

As it stands this Bill could irrevocably damage the barge traffic inland from the Humber. As such it could deal a real blow to inland waterway transport in general. As such it could push more traffic on to already overladen roads. As such it could become an environmental offence. My object now is not to delay the Second Reading, but to call the atten tion of the Select Committee to the wider implications. My object is to call the attention of the Promoters to the possibility of serious opposition on Third Reading if some suitable accommodation with the Petitioners is not made meantime. My purpose now is to express the hope that under the influence of examination in the Select Committee good sense may yet prevail, whereas negotiations between the two nationalised industries concerned have hitherto been disappointingly abortive.

I wish this Bill, I wish its promoters and, above all, its petitioners Godspeed. I wish them all Godspeed, subject to the clear understanding that the wider implications of the petitioners' appeal are appreciated. This is not a matter to be enterprised wantonly, inadvisedly or lightly.


My Lords, as the noble Earl has said, this is an opposed Bill because two petitions have been deposited against it. If your Lordships give it a Second Reading it will be referred to a Select Committee. The petitions contain points very similar to those raised by the noble Earl. I have no doubt that if they arise from the terms of the petitions they will be considered by the Select Committee. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a. —(The Earl of Listowel.)

On Question, Bill read 2a and committed to a Select Committee.

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