§ 4.33 p.m.
§ Lord DE RAMSEY
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. The new Anglian Water Authority stretches from the Thames to the Humber and from the Wash nearly to Oxford—a huge Authority, and a sitting duck for anyone to shoot at. I have a superficial knowledge of the whole area 581 but, although I live in the middle of it, an intimate knowledge of only about 10 per cent., and that thanks to public work, farming, draining, hunting and a little sailing on Grafham Water. The Bill is not purely a navigation Bill, as your Lordships might think from looking at Part II, but covers all forms of sport or pleasure connected with water. Its object is to enable the Authority to carry out their responsibilities for recreation under the Water Act 1973, first by providing and improving the facilities; secondly, by holding the ring where there is a clash of interests, and, thirdly, by bringing administrative order out of chaos.
When the Authority were set up under the 1973 Act, no one anticipated that they would have to bring a Private Bill before Parliament to do these things. They therefore simply set up a recreational advisory committee, which in turn recommended local consultative panels representing all interests and covering, for example, the Great Ouse river system, Empingham Reservoir and the Essex and Suffolk Stour. But they soon received numerous representations, and it was then discovered that in nine cases out of ten nothing could be done owing to lack of powers. In other words, Parliament had placed a responsibility on an Authority without giving them the tools for the job.
Probably, many of your Lordships know more than I do about the problems involved. My main interest in water has always been land drainage and its connection with agriculture. But one interest in water impinges on another, and I have some personal experience of the problems which this Bill is intended to resolve. I will give one example. There is an area of approximately 140,000 acres in the Fens, known as the Middle Level Internal Drainage Board. It has some of the best coarse fishing in England and Wales, and busloads of fishermen come from Leeds, Sheffield and the Midlands to enjoy it, quite apart from the local associations, and on a busy day there are as many as 5,000 fishermen in the area. These fishing rights, which belong to the riparian owners—in some cases, the Board itself—are a source of sport and revenue with which other interests, particularly boating, could conflict. Agreement was arrived at between the fishermen, the boating interests and 582 the land drainage interests to lay down a navigation route through the area, only to find that they did not have the powers to enforce it. This was obviously not Parliament's intention, but I will not weary your Lordships with repeated examples of frustration.
Turning to the contents of the Bill, Clauses 9, 10 and 11 in Part II deal by name with the three groups of recreational waterways, and these are set out in Schedule 1, Parts I, II and III. Part II of Schedule 1 contains the only example in the whole Bill of the Authority taking over an existing navigation body; that is, by agreement with the Middle Level Commissioners. Beyond these specified "recreational waterways", Clause 12 and Schedule 3 lay down a procedure whereby further rivers could be so classified. In all Clause 12 situations, the Secretary of State for the Environment will be the final arbiter—not the Authority—with an order procedure for a local hearing. The other substantial provisions in Part II, comprising the "navigation code" are those contained in Clause 20 covering charges, and Clause 21 covering byelaws.
To deal first with Clause 20, Charges, public money is at present wasted owing to the lack of a charges scheme; at least, that is the fair view of anyone paying the general charge who receives no benefit. The old age pensioner, the widow in her own cottage, will not be canoeing down the river, but at present she pays towards those who do, not because a canoeist is not willing to pay his way—he has categorically said that he is and wishes to do so, on the old adage of "He who pays the piper calls the tune"—but there is no means of demanding the money from him. Next year, there will be an estimated deficit of £439,000 on the water space or recreational account, which will have to go on the general charge. The cost of this Bill, if passed, will be recouped in three weeks, but the real point is equity.
With regard to Clause 21, Byelaws, all byelaws of a Water Authority are subject to confirmation by the Secretary of State for the Environment and the objection procedure. They cover all recreation, not just navigation, but they are applicable only to designated recreational waterways. Apart, therefore, from the specified waterways in the Bill, which I have mentioned 583 under Schedule 1, an order will first have to be obtained from the Secretary of State to designate the waterway; then again the byelaws will have to have his confirmation—a double-barrelled safeguard. Bye-laws may not interfere with, say, the rights of riparian owners, or they become ultra vires. Subject to all these qualifications, the byelaws are none the less the sharp end of the Bill and the only means by which the Authority can hold the ring. Even the compulsory acquisition powers in the Bill are expressly limited to moorings and cannot affect other riparian owners. Falstaff declared,I will do nothing under compulsion.If, however, any Petitioner or interest thinks that Clause 16 relating to compulsory purchase is not drawn tightly enough, I am authorised to say that the Authority are willing to redraft it to include any valid point.
Of the other subsidiary powers in Part II, nothing in this Bill will limit or even affect commercial users of the waterways, nor is a massive increase in staff contemplated under Clause 10, for instance, bailiffs and wardens—rather the contrary. Many of the existing ones, let alone any additions, will be paid for by the interests concerned. Incidentally, existing field staff and, above all, other water users are in practice the best gamekeepers.
Part III of the Bill seeks miscellaneous powers that are more appropriate for discussion at the Committee stage. The bulk of these miscellaneous powers have already been granted to some of the Authority's predecessors and thus apply to parts of the new area only—for instance, extending the agreed increase in the Waverley Committee's flood protection criteria along the Thames, which gives additional safety to the Palace of Westminster, to the whole of the Authority's coastline. Part IV of the Bill deals with "Miscellaneous and General", which is included in every Bill.
Nobody who really knows about the work that the Authority have put into it could accuse them of not trying to consult everyone's interests affected by the Bill. I will hand a list to the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, who is, I know, concerned about this point. If they have failed anywhere, at least their endeavours, all made 584 as long ago as last August, are on record for all to see, and they have given an assurance that local and regional interests will continue to be consulted before any of the recreational powers included in the Bill are exercised. If an association were slow to react until it came under grass roots pressure, the Authority could not be blamed. I am not claiming that the Authority are perfect. For instance, they never consulted the Harwich Port Authority or the British Docks Board, who are among the Petitioners, about existing navigation because it never occurred to the Authority that these interests could be affected.
The Petitioners as a whole raise three main points of principle. First, 12 Petitioners are concerned with navigation on estuaries. In Committee an Amendment will be introduced to Clause 12(1)(c) to exclude them. The Authority hope and have reason to believe that this will meet the objection. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, will be able to give us his opinion on this point. A second group of seven Petitioners fear that under Clause 12(1)(a) the Authority might seek to take over their navigation powers. The Authority have no such predatory intentions, but they are quite prepared to delete Clause 12(1)(a) at the Committee stage and to rely on existing legislation, if ever it became necessary.
The third objection of principle is raised under Clause 12(1)(d) by representatives of boating—and, they claim, of other interests also—to the effect that the Authority should not be allowed by the Secretary of State to vary or extinguish any right of navigation anywhere, regardless of anyone else's interest. I have here a letter, delivered to me on Sunday, from the National Federation of Anglers, Eastern Region, who have 40,000 to 50,000 members in the area. The letter ends:We hope therefore that Parliament will approve this important section of the Bill".This is the clause which the noble Lord, Lord Harvington, is to move should be referred to the Committee for special consideration, about which I shall have more to say later.
If this Section were not agreed to, it would mean that the Authority would be incapable of holding the ring in the event of conflicting interests arising on 585 some watercourses—in the interests, say, of Nature Conservancy, fishermen, scientists, or anyone else. Without this power, the only method at present available for this purpose, even on a minor watercourse where everyone agrees, is to proceed by Private Bill—a sledgehammer to crack a nut. It is the middle level example all over again. The Authority have expressed their willingness to discuss points of detail on any remaining Petitions to Part II or Part III of the Bill and to try to allay the anxieties either by explanation or by drafting alterations.
In conclusion, noble Lords will have noted that the powers sought by the Anglian Water Authority are permissive, like the greater part of all land drainage legislation. May I ask for your Lordships' patience as I pontificate for a couple of minutes on the advantages and disadvantages of mandatory and permissive legislation where water is concerned. It may surprise your Lordships—certainly it surprised me—to discover a few years ago that the first anti-pollution Acts were introduced in 1876—exactly 100 years ago—by Disraeli. They were permissive Acts. There were no votes in sewage in those days, any more than there are today, and the result was that nothing was done. It is a sad thought. We might have saved ourselves immense expenditure, loss of time, and so on, had those responsibilities been mandatory. Also, we should undoubtedly have had the cleanest rivers in Europe today. They have vastly improved, but at what a cost compared with 100 years ago. But there are votes in recreation. In fact, I have been given to understand that fishermen alone, numbering some 3 million—which is more than those who watch football at weekends—comprise the largest uncommitted vote in the country. They and other interests will bring pressure on the Authority, and that is what it is anxious fairly to be able to meet. It is not necessary, therefore, to make this legislation mandatory. On the contrary, it is far wiser to leave it permissive and to rely on consultation with all interested parties before action, if any, is taken.
Consultation gave rise to this Bill and consultation will continue to guide the Authority's actions. Local councils which have a great interest in these matters, in addition to individual consultations, have, as a group, a majority on 586 the Authority. Lastly, the Secretary of State has the final say on all vital matters.
There seem, therefore, to be proper safeguards for the public interest to justify trusting the Authority with the recreation powers now sought in that interest. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord De Ramsey.)
§ 4.49 p.m.
§ Lord STOW HILL
My Lords, I rise to move the Amendment that your Lordships will see upon the Order Paper, the effect of which would be that a Second Reading is refused to the Bill which we have had so fully and carefully explained by the noble Lord, Lord De Ramsey, who has just resumed his seat. I move this Motion in a sense rather interrogatively, for the following reason. A Green Paper has been published and it occurred to me when I studied that Green Paper—and I think it may be the view shared by some other noble Lords—that it might not be a useful occupation of time when the Government have so nearly committed themselves as they have in the Green Paper to a specific course of action (to which I will refer in a moment) to proceed further with the consideration of the present Bill. One issue therefore before your Lordships is whether or not the Bill should go further now.
A second question arises if your Lordships think that the Bill should have a Second Reading; namely, the Motion by the noble Lord, Lord Harvington, that the Committee be directed particularly to the provisions of Clause 12(1)(d) of the Bill. If your Lordships feel that the Bill should have a Second Reading, I should like to say here and now that I would support the second Motion to which I have just referred, in relation to the interests of the British Waterways Board. In this House one speaks entirely on one's own responsibility and none of us is a spokesman for any particular interest, but I have been approached by the British Waterways Board and it seems to me to be in the public interest that the point of view which they desire to express should be considered and ventilated before your Lordships' House.
In answer to what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord De Ramsey, may I start by indicating in a broad sense why the British Waterways Board feel concern 587 and why if the Bill goes further they would desire to call attention to the dangers of Clause 12(1)(d). The noble Lord, Lord De Ramsey, has indicated the amendments that he and those associated with him would feel prima facie able to accept if that would allay anxieties, and I am sure those amendments would do a great deal of good. But they still leave Clause 12(1)(d) as the operative part of the Bill which occasions, at any rate in the minds of the British Waterways Board, considerable apprehension as to their own situation.
I should like to say one or two words regarding that before I return to the main object of my rising to my feet at the moment. As your Lordships will know, the Inland Waterways Board was one of the four major boards set up by the Transport Act of 1962. They had responsibilities of a very wide order, including responsibilities for inland waterways, and that was the situation until Section 104 of the Transport Act 1968 was put upon the Statute Book. Section 104 of the 1968 Act divided the waterways for which the British Waterways Board was responsible into three categories: commercial, cruising and the remainder. The Bill which your Lordships are at present considering, I would submit—and I think that I understood the noble Lord, Lord De Ramsey, to agree broadly but not entirely—as its main objective has tried to bring some more coherence and order into the administration of the recreational aspect of the waterways concerned. That means to say that the Bill is concerned with what the 1968 Act calls the cruising inland waterways. They are the ones that can be used for recreational purposes, and are so used.
If I may proceed a little further to adumbrate the anxieties which exist in the minds of the British Waterways Board, they are these: they have gone a long way in implementing their function regarding these recreational inland waterways, and they have a number in the area of the Anglian Water Authority. But it goes much further than that. Not only have they gone a long way, but there was put upon the Statute Book the British Waterways Act of 1971—three years after this division into three 588 categories of waterways was brought about by the 1968 Transport Act—and the purpose of the 1971 Act was to vest specifically in them very wide-ranging duties, including registration, charges and all the rest, in relation both to pleasure boats and to house boats using the inland waterways for which that Board was responsible.
They have gone a long way in doing that and I would just add that of the waterways for which they are responsible three are recreational waterway complexes actually inside the area of the Anglian Water Authority—Fosdyke, Wytham and the Grand Junction Canal in part. Therefore the position so far as they are concerned is this: they have for years been doing their best to try to bring order and to regulate thoroughly in every sense the use of these waterways for which they are specifically made responsible, first by the 1962 Transport Act and then by the 1968 Transport Act. They engage staff, they have an elaborate organisation for that purpose and so far as one can tell that is working very satisfactorily indeed. In those circumstances they view with some not inconsiderable anxiety the provisions of Clause 12(1)(d) of the Private Bill which your Lordships are at present considering because they think that the system which they have been working upon for years, and which is functioning perfectly satisfactorily, ought not to be interfered with unless some affirmative and positive case can be brought forward to show that there should be some change in the arrangements under which the Inland Waterways Board at present regulate those recreational functions of pleasure craft and house boats. That is the general reason why I would support the Motion that the Committee's attention is specifically directed to Clause 12(1)(d) of the Bill. In a sense that is background material on the Motion that I am at present moving.
I will now turn directly to that Motion. I considered carefully whether I would be serving a useful purpose if I tabled a Motion to reject the Second Reading of this Bill, and I came to the conclusion that I would be so doing and that it ought to be done. My reasons were as follows: the Government have recently published a Green Paper I am quite conscious of the fact that a Green Paper is not the same in its intent as a White Paper. It 589 does not set out decisions finally taken by the Government but it is designed to invite discussion on decisions which are adumbrated and described in the Green Paper. I respectfully submit to your Lordships that if one considers part of this Green Paper, at any rate, it is so near to the Government taking a decision of major importance in this field that it is rather pointless to go on with the Second Reading of a Bill which may turn out to be completely useless.
The gist of the decision, which I submit is of the greatest importance in this matter, is this. The Government feel that there is a good deal of disorder in the regulation of inland waterways. They have it in mind that there is a strong case for setting up a completely new authority into which the British Waterways Board will be "merged", as it is put in the Green Paper, and that the new authority is to take over and itself conduct all these inland waterways. If that is done, I should think that is obviously the most effective and sensible way of meeting the various points that the noble Lord who has resumed his seat put before your Lordships for consideration.
My Lords, I hope I will not be trespassing on your Lordships' time too much if I seek to justify what I have just said with regard to this Green Paper by reading an extract, which I am afraid is nearly a page in length, but which I hope your Lordships will think relevant. It is to be found at page 10 of the Green Paper. The passage reads as follows:The present arrangements for controlling navigation on rivers and inland waterways in England and Wales, which are extensively used for pleasure boating, are highly fragmented. The British Waterways Board…a nationalised industry, own or manage some 2,000 miles of waterway, about 1,000 miles of which are navigable. This includes 270 miles of navigable rivers, including the Severn and the Trent. The water authorities themselves are navigation authorities for about 500 miles of navigable river, including the non-tidal Thames. There are about another 500 miles of more or less navigable waterways, including a number of rivers and the Norfolk Broads, controlled by a variety of bodies such as local authorities and charitable trusts.In the Government's view there is a strong case in principle for bringing together the management of most of these navigations in a new national navigation authority. Apart from the operational advantages which would result from unified management, creation of such an authority would lead to the introduction of a 590 uniform registration and charging system and a national navigation code, so that boats could pass all along the waterways system on a single licence and be subject to the same regulations from one part of the system to another. At the same time, the canals controlled by the British Waterways Board form an intergral part of the water system of the country. The importance of many of them for water supply and land drainage makes it desirable to bring about a closer association between the Board and the water industry.In the Government's view, the most promising way ahead would be to merge the British Waterways Board into the National Water Authority, which would become a national navigation authority. On this basis, the National Water Authority would be responsible initially for navigation on the whole of the British Waterways Board's present system together with those rivers on which navigation is at present the responsibility of the water authorities. It could in due course extend its control to other waterways which are important for navigation. Further consideration would need to be given to the question of the British Waterways Board's waterways in Scotland, bearing in mind that under the Government's proposals for devolution the Scottish Administration would take responsibility for inland waterways. The Government propose to start consultations immediately on the detailed implications of this proposal, in particular the financial arrangements that would have to be devised for the waterways, and the essential safeguards for the transfer of the British Waterways Board's staff; if these can be satisfactorily resolved the merger could take place as part of the general reorganisation proposed in this document. Such a merger would make it easier for the National Water Authority, in preparing a national water strategy, to give effect to the navigational and recreational elements of national water policy.Merging the British Waterways Board into the new National Water Authority would make it necessary to consider also the future of the Inland Waterways Amenities Advisory Council, set up under the Transport Act 1968, to advise Ministers and the British Waterways Board in relation to the recreational and amenity use of the inland waterways, and the Water Space Amenity Commission, set up under the Water Act 1973 to advise Ministers, the National Water Council and the water authorities in relation to the recreational and amenity use of water space in England. There would clearly not be room for both bodies under the suggested arrangement.My Lords, that is my case for suggesting that the Bill at this moment go no further. What is happening? The Government say that there is "a very strong case". Those are their words:….there is a strong case in principle for bringing together the management of most of these navigations in a new national navigation authority…. In the Government's view the most promising way ahead would be to merge the British Waterways Board into the National Water Authority, which would become a 591 national navigation authority…. The Government propose to start consultations immediately on the detailed implications of this proposal….".That is how it stands. I quite agree that the Government are not committed, but they have committed themselves to this at least: to the expression of a strong view in favour. It would be rather surprising if, presumably having given thought to the matter over a considerable period of time, they now decided that the whole thing was all wrong. Presumably they will go ahead and set up a new authority which will take unto itself all these duties and weld them together into a single, sensible, coherent whole.
If that is the situation—and I respectfully submit to your Lordships that I hope I have put it fairly and have not exaggerated—then I respectfully submit that the right course for your Lordships at the moment is to say: "That being the new situation which has now arisen, it is not expedient for this Bill at present to go any further", and that therefore its Second Reading should be refused. I beg to move accordingly.
§ Moved, As an Amendment to the Motion for the Second Reading, to leave out all the words after ("That") and insert ("This House declines to give a Second Reading to the Bill in view of the policy of Her Majesty's Government announced in their Consultative Document "Review of the Water Industry in England and Wales".")—(Lord Stow Hill.)
§ 5.9 p.m.
§ The Earl of KINNOULL
My Lords, I rise to speak at this stage on behalf of my noble friend Lord Harvington, who regrettably is unavoidably absent at this stage of the discussions and, indeed, if he is not present at the appropriate time, I intend to move the Motion standing in his name. I regret he is not present, because my noble friend is undoubtedly a Member of your Lordships' House who brings to us a refreshing experience of water users and water lovers. He is not only vice-president of the Inland Waterways Association but, indeed, a lifetime friend of all waterway lovers.
The issue the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, has raised is, of course, a great deal stronger than the words of the Motion 592 standing in the name of my noble friend. I always admire immensely the oratory of the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, as indeed exhibited today. He has put a dilemma before the House, and I very much hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, will be able to throw some light on what has become a rather confusing issue. For here we have a very responsible authority who have apparently acted, in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, with extreme haste, and have possibly pre-empted the thinking and the future policy of the Government in setting up a National Water Authority.
The Motion standing in my noble friend's name is one which is designed not to conflict with the duties of the Select Committee, if this Bill should reach a Select Committee. It is, I hope, something which will commend itself to the House, should Lord Stow Hill's Motion fail, because I think this is a most important issue. The issue concerns the public rights of navigation, as the noble Lord, Lord De Ramsey, has indicated, under Clause 12(1)(d). It is an issue which, the House will recall, was debated at great length during the passage of the Transport Act 1968, and I apologise if I make almost the same impassioned speech now as I did then. The issue then was fought to a Division, and, indeed lost, I think, by one vote. The noble Viscount, Lord St. Davids, made a particularly powerful speech on that occasion, and I hope perhaps he will be speaking a little later.
Viscount ST. DAVIDS
My Lords, may I amend just one statement. It was actually carried to three different Divisions at different stages of the Bill. The middle one came out equal and was carried on the vote of the Lord Chancellor, and the final Division was won in this House but reversed in the other House.
§ The Earl of KINNOULL
My Lords, I am grateful for that intervention. I think that again shows the feeling of the House as it was then. The issue in 1968 was dealing with public rights of navigation granted by Statute which were to be transferred under that Act to the appropriate responsible authority. The reasons for the fears and the objections in 1968 were, first, that there would be discrimination of the users of the waterways—those, for instance, who used boats 593 or went fishing or whatever; that there would be a discrimination by the authority responsible for the management of that waterway. It was felt that in view of the fact that there were these public rights of navigation they should not be interfered with. Secondly, and as important, there was the fear that the managing authority would levy very high charges. I think I should say that I have tried to find out whether these fears were well founded, and I am glad to say that, so far as I know, up to now there has not been a really bad case of these powers granted under Section 112 of the 1968 Act having been abused.
But the issue today is much wider, because under Clause 12(1)(d) the Anglian Water Authority may control not only the public rights of navigation granted by Statute, but they may also control another very important section, those rights which have been established by common law, established in some cases as far back as 1187, when the old maxim was "Once a waterway, always a waterway".
My Lords, there is an even more disturbing feature than that under this clause; that is, that the Anglian Water Authority may seek the permission of the Secretary of State to extinguish the public rights of navigation. This goes far beyond the Transport Act 1968, because never was the contentious word "extinguish" used at that time. I think it would be only fair to the noble Lord, Lord De Ramsey, to say that the Promoters of this Bill have tried already to meet some of the objections to the Bill. As the noble Lord will know, the Inland Waterways Association have been to discuss these points on a number of occasions, and I was glad the noble Lord made the conciliatory noise about further objection being met if necessary.
But I think it would be fair to advise the House that the issue of Clause 12(1)(d) at the present time is still an issue which has not been agreed; it is still an issue on which the Anglian Water Authority feel they cannot budge. Their argument, as I understand it—the noble Lord will no doubt be speaking later—is that they have inserted under Clause 12(1)(b) a provision that will give them power to create a public right of navigation, having just taken away or extinguished it so far as the Common Law rights are concerned; 594 in other words, a quid pro quo. I do not think that is a very strong argument, and when he comes to reply to the debate I would ask the noble Lord, why do the Authority really want this power, why is it they have inserted this word "extinguish"? Is this really not too contentious, and what is wrong with the present system? I hope the onus will be on the Promoters of the Bill to show the real need. One has to remember that the Anglian Water Authority are not, as the noble Lord suggested, a "sitting duck"; I think they are an enormous autonomous elephant. The average individual, and indeed the average group of individuals, the users of waterways, will feel, I am sure, that any power as wide as extinguishing rights of users goes far too far.
I would draw the attention of the noble Lord to another objection under this clause, and that is that there is a feeling that the good work the Inland Waterways Association has done in the past, particularly in the restoration of canals, could be affected. I am sure the noble Lord knows that argument well. At the moment they have a right of navigation, a right to go in without very great legal difficulties to proceed with the restoration. It is felt that, if these rights of navigaion are withdrawn, despite the fact that the Anglian Water Authority may well be responsible and sympathetic, there may be difficulties in the future and long unnecessary delays.
The Inland Waterways Association, as the House will know, has a membership of such wide variety that they really do represent the consumers' interests. They have themselves restored a number of canals, particularly perhaps the most famous, the Lower Avon and Upper Avon, and indeed have restored a heritage back to this country. They, of course, deal all the time with their members on recreation, which, of course, is an enormously expanding interest. I hope that the House will look sympathetically at the Motion standing in my noble friend's name, if it comes to be moved. It is, I repeat, deliberately drafted not to interfere with the Select Committee's work or duties, but, with the support of the House, it could be an invaluable indication to the Select Committee of the genuine concern felt among the users of 595 the waterways with regard to their ancient rights.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY UNDERSECRETARY of STATE, DEPARTMENT of the ENVIRONMENT (Baroness Birk)
My Lords, I intervene at this stage since I feel that it may be helpful to the House to know the Government's attitude to the proposals in the Bill. Far from even starting to be an expert on these matters on water as are so many Members of your Lordships' House, I seem to spend a great deal of time these days with "talking water" going under my many bridges. Basically our policy is to encourage recreation on and around water, and we welcome any proposals aimed at making a better use of available water space for recreational purposes.
Part II of this Bill falls broadly into three groups: the first updates very old local legislation relating to navigation already under the control of the Water Authority and of certain named navigations to be transferred to them; the second establishes an order-making procedure for creating new navigations, extinguishing others, or varying rights; the third provides bye-law making and other specific powers for the effective management of navigations under the control of the Water Authority. We have no objection in principle to purposes one and three. It is the second group of proposals, those for an order-making procedure, and more particularly its scope, which have attracted most of the objections from organisations already actively involved with recreation in Anglia. It seems to be this part of the Bill, Clause 12, which concerns my noble and learned friend Lord Stow Hill and the noble Lord, Lord Harvington, on whose behalf the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, has just spoken.
We have before us the proposition that paragraphs 26 to 29 of the recent Consultative Document on the review of the water industry, which favoured creating a national navigation authority, removes any need for this Bill. I do not agree with my noble and learned friend Lord Stow Hill on this, because the proposals for a national navigation authority put forward in the Green Paper are for discussion 596 —and I would repeat that they are for discussion. They are not a commitment to Government policy, certainly not at this stage. No decisions have been taken and there is absolutely no Government commitment.
We have drawn attention in the Consultative Document to the point that responsibility for navigation on rivers and inland waterways is highly fragmented, as has already been pointed out. It is fragmented between the British Waterways Board, the water authorities, and a variety of bodies such as local authorities and charitable trusts. It is our view that there is a strong case in principle for bringing together the management of these in a new navigation authority. The most promising first step would be to merge the British Waterways Board into the proposed new National Water Authority which would then be responsible for navigation not only over the British Waterways Board's present system but also over those rivers on which navigation is at present the responsibility of the water authorities. In the longer term it would then be possible to extend control by the national navigational authority to other waterways which are important to navigation.
I would again stress that these matters are still in the nature of consultation, and again repeat that no decisions have been taken and that there is, as yet, no Government commitment. We intend to start immediately with the British Waterways Board a detailed examination of its implications. In my view none of this needs hinder the Anglian Water Authority's attempt to deal now with existing problems affecting navigations in their area. Nor need they hold back their longer-term proposals expounded in Clause 12; although I expect that they may want to review this part of the Bill both in the light of the very strong objections to it and bearing in mind last week's Consultative Document.
Taking all this into account, I hope that the House will decide, as is the custom of this House in any case with Private Bills, to give the Bill a Second Reading and send it to Select Committee where they will be able to examine in detail all the issues involved, taking account of the many points that have been made today, including Lord 597 Harvington's proposed Instruction, if this is the wish of the House. In view of what my noble and learned friend said, I think I should point out that there are some important differences between Clause 12(1)(d) of this Bill and Section 112 of the Transport Act 1968: namely, the Act does not enable navigation law to be varied and cannot be used to deal with rights which exist by virtue of a "rule of law". Also, the Select Committee will have the added advantage of being able to hear expert evidence. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State has some reservations on the detailed provisions of the Bill, which are at present being discussed with the Promoters. He will be able to put the Department's comments to the Select Committee if the House gives the Bill a Second Reading.
§ 5.26 p.m.
My Lords, I have no doubt that when the noble Lord, Lord De Ramsey, and the Promoters came to look at this Bill they thought that they had a fairly harmless Bill to put forward. In fact, as the noble Lord has seen, he has a bit of a tiger by the tail. The noble Lord introduced this Bill in the clear and careful way which your Lordships would expect of him, and especially as this is very much a Bill which affects the rural countryside to which the noble Lord has devoted his life with such distinction. I suppose that I ought to declare an interest in so far as I live in an area which is covered by the Anglian Water Authority, and therefore in some measure I suppose I may be affected by this Bill, if only as a water rate payer. My noble friend Lord Belstead was here this afternoon, and the noble Lord, Lord De Ramsey, referred to him. He also lives within this area. He is sorry not to be here now and he has asked me to say to the noble Lord, Lord De Ramsey, and those with whom he had been associated, that the people involved with estuaries were particularly grateful for the attention which the Promoters have given to their particular problems.
The noble Lord, Lord De Ramsey, explained that there are many rivers within the area covered by the Bill, which are neglected and in regard to which powers for regulation are either 598 inadequate or moribund. I accept that there is much strength in the argument that these rivers should be regulated by some overall authority and that the powers, where necessary, should be renewed or updated, and possibly regularised. Of course the Bill goes very much further than that. It gives the Anglian Water Authority colossal powers; ones which I venture to suggest are unreasonable and undesirable.
Although I hate to tell the noble Lord, Lord De Ramsey, this about the Bill, I think that the manner in which the Bill has been formulated leaves much to be desired, and I shall tell your Lordships why. One would have thought that if an authority wished to claim to themselves the huge powers outlined in this Bill, and to take to themselves the responsibility for navigation and, therefore, recreation on waterways, which, in many cases, is already being carried out by bodies already constituted to look after them, in order to get as much common ground as possible, great care would have been taken in consultation and negotiation before promoting such a Bill. The noble Lord, Lord De Ramsey, said that there has been a lot of consultation. I have no doubt that there has been. However, discussion is very different from seeing facts, and I wonder whether those with whom the Authority did the discussing ever saw the draft of the Bill.
This measure has in fact stoked up a nest of bees and has caused great distress among those who live in the area. No less than 25 petitions have been lodged against it. These vary from private individuals to the Friends of the Earth, yachting associations, Great Yarmouth Borough Council, Broadland, North Norfolk and Waveney District Council, Great Yarmouth Port and Haven Commissioners, British Transport Docks Board, British Waterways Board, Harwich Harbour Conservancy Board, Inland Waterways, National Coal Board, Peterborough Development Corporation and others—a formidable list, your Lordships might think, and if I were a Promoter I should not feel very proud of that. This is a list of people who are so concerned at the powers for which the Anglian Water Authority are asking in this Bill that they have felt obliged to go to the expense of petitioning Parliament against it.
599 If I am critical of the Anglian Water Authority I should point out that I have been treated with the utmost courtesy by them in any discussions, letters and other correspondence I have had with them, and I recognise that they are genuinely endeavouring to carry out their responsibilities. But, as an example of the powers which are objected to, consider the powers in Clause 12(1)(a) which gives the Authority power to take over the functions and undertakings of a navigational authority, a conservancy authority or a harbour authority. This means that the Water Authority could take over the Great Yarmouth Port and Haven Commissioners, whose job, among other things, is to run the Norfolk Broads, which they do very well. The operation of the Ports of Lowestoft, Grimsby, Immingham, Felixstowe, Harwich and King's Lynn could all come under this Bill and could all be taken over by the Anglian Water Authority.
When the Great Yarmouth Port and Haven Commissioners objected to these powers they were told, as indeed the noble Lord, Lord De Ramsey, said this afternoon, "Don't worry, we have no intention of taking you over". But one wonders why they included the powers to do so. The Promoters were asked specifically if they would exclude the Port and Haven Commissioners but they declined to do so, and the provision has caused so much anxiety that I am glad that the Anglian Water Authority have decided to remove it. They wrote to my noble friend Lord Belstead and they sent a copy of the letter to me in which they explained their reasons. According to that letter, they were removing Clause 12(1)(a),…in the knowledge that other similar provisions were in existence should the Authority at some future date decide to avail itself of them….Noble Lords will perceive, therefore, that although the Promoters are prepared to exclude the offending clause, they are not prepared to exclude their intention, and in my judgment the Petitioners are completely justified in remaining apprehensive about the Authority's long-term intentions.
Of the 25 Petitioners, some are concerned with the provisions in one part of the Bill and others are concerned with the provisions in other parts of it, 600 and I gather that the Promoters, seeing that the Bill has upset so many people, have been busily engaged in negotiation with the various Petitioners, and rightly so, in trying to meet their points and in trying to prepare Amendments to the Bill to satisfy them. But, of course, the Private Bill procedure, as I understand it, requires the Promoters to negotiate with the Petitioner on only that part of the Bill with which the particular Petitioner is concerned, and a Petitioner will not know what arrangements have been made between the Promoters and other Petitioners, whose interests are in other parts of the Bill, and nor do your Lordships.
There is no Marshalled List of proposed Amendments in the Private Bill Office; I make no complaint about that because the system does not allow for it. Nevertheless, I have a list of proposed Amendments to one part of the Bill, and it reads like this:'Page 4, line 3, at the end insert 'whether by virtue of this Act or some other enactment.'Page 9, leave out lines 29 to 33.
- line 34, leave out (b) and insert (a).
- line 36, leave out (c) and insert (b).
- line 39, leave out (d) and insert (c).Page 10, leave out lines 16 and 17.Page 34, delete lines 29 to 31.These proposed Amendments would totally alter the effect of the whole Bill, and they are only some of the proposed Amendments to one part of the Bill. I have no reason to believe that there are not similar Amendments to other parts of the Bill.
One is bound to ask your Lordships, therefore, what it is we are supposd to be considering. This Bill, as it is, presumably is presented to Parliament, but now we find that it is only a ghost Bill of what in fact, on second thoughts, the Promoters wish to see because they realise that their Bill has caused such a row that they must alter its provisions. They have signified to individual Petitioners how they intend to alter portions of the Bill, but they have not signified this to Parliament—because they cannot.
It is clear that the Promoters have put before Parliament an ill-considered and ill-prepared Bill. They have not, to put it neatly, done their homework. What they should have done is to iron out the 601 differences of opinion and they should have negotiated fully with those concerned the points of common but conflicting interest before presenting the measure to Parliament, and causing a lot of people, including themselves, to go to a lot of expense. To do otherwise, I would suggest, reflects discredit on the Promoters and treats Parliament with scant courtesy.
I have queried vigorously the justification for the Bill. The Anglian Water Authority have a number of very onerous responsibilities; they have to deal with water supply, water conservation, sewerage, land drainage and the prevention of pollution. But the Bill, which is a quite substantial measure, is about something different; it is about recreation, and that is all. It does not give the Authority powers to dispose of sewage or enable them to supply vast cities with water. It gives them huge powers just to organise boating and fishing. And even if these powers are justified—and I do not think they are—I frankly do not think that we can afford them. Lord de Ramsey said that it would not increase the cost. I think that he even said that it would decrease the cost. I am sure that he said that with great conviction, but I am bound to say that we have heard that before and, with great respect to the noble Lord, I just do not believe that it would, particularly as, when I asked how many people had been or would be taken on as a result of the Bill, I was told that no extra people had been taken on and that no estimate had been made of the numbers who might have to be taken on as a result of the proposals in the Bill.
I do not think that we can afford it and I do not think that the Anglian Water Authority can afford it. When 60p of every £1 which they receive from rates goes to pay interest on borrowings, which they inherited, I feel that they should think again and expend their energies organising those of their responsibilities which are of infinitely greater proportion. The Bill is costing the Promoters an estimated £15,000. The Yarmouth Port and Haven Commissioners alone have allowed £10,000 in their budget to petition against it and I do not know what the other 24 Petitioners have allowed.
I sometimes wonder whether our public bodies are going crazy. At a time when 602 the country is in a monumental economic crisis and when public spending has, by all accounts, got out of control, nobody seems to say, "No. However good the project may be, we cannot do it now." We have walking around East Anglia at the moment three scruffy characters balancing a yellow pole on their heads, and for this some ass has given them a grant of £395. Here, we have the Authority spending vast sums of money on promoting contentious legislation and making other people spend equally vast sums objecting to it. It is no defence to say that the Water Act 1973 gives a duty to the Authority to promote the Bill. It does nothing of the sort. It allows the Authority to take such steps "as are reasonably practical" to provide for recreation.
I do not believe that the Bill can be considered reasonably practical either in cost or in content. If it goes through, it will set a precedent which other water authorities will doubtless follow. Then, to cap it all, along come the Government and, so to speak, put the boot in. Last Thursday they produced the green document to which the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, referred and from which he quoted. I should like to re-emphasise two points, one of which the noble Lord made and one which he did not. Paragraph 27 says that:…there is a strong case in principle for bringing together the management of most of these navigations in a new national navigation authority.That is what the Government think. I accept that it is for discussion, but it is clearly what they think.
Then, in paragraph 39, they go on to say—and this is far more weighty—…there are very strong arguments against any further radical changes either in the authorities' powers, or in their areas, in the near future.I thought that the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, would have reiterated that, but she did not. What she said was that the Government were quite happy to see the Anglian Water Authority go ahead with the Bill. I accept that the Green Paper is a Consultative Document, but for those strong words to be put into it would indicate that the Government at least consider that there are strong arguments as to why such a Bill should not go through.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, what I said was that the Green Paper was a Consultative Document. As I understand it, we are tonight discussing whether the Bill should get a Second Reading and should then go to a Select Committee. We are not deciding whether it should be enacted or what should finally happen to it. All I was arguing on behalf of the Government was that since this was a Consultative Document and since the Bill was a private one, brought forward not by the Government but privately, the Government were not raising any objection or, to paraphrase what the noble Earl said, "putting in the boot" or trying to stop it. However, I am certainly not giving it any particular blessing or saying anything more or less than that.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that indication but, with the greatest respect, that is exactly what we are discussing. We are considering whether this should be allowed to go forward, even if it goes only so far as a Select Committee. I accept the noble Baroness's reasoning that the Bill should go to a Select Committee, but I should have thought that the Government would have been a little more explicit as to whether they think that the Bill, as such, is the right kind of thing for a private authority to produce when the Government's own discussion document indicates to the contrary.
The combination of the contents of the Bill and the way in which its preparation and presentation to Parliament have been, as I feel, mishandled; the fact that it has succeeded in upsetting so many people who are likely to be affected by it right across the board, and the fact that it has attracted a substantial trail of petitioners (this is almost like a veritable wailing wall), taken together with the publication of the Green Paper, makes me quite certain that the Bill should not become law. I wonder whether the most sensible course, and the cheapest in the long run, would not be for the noble Lord, Lord De Ramsey, to withdraw his Bill.
If he does not do so, I should be bound to address myself to the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill. I feel that that Amendment has much force and it certainly commands my sympathy. On all counts, except one, I feel motivated to support him. The single exception is that one must recognise that this is only a 604 Green Paper for discussion. It is not a White Paper indicating intention. It may take some time for such a White Paper to come along. The Green Paper therefore does not indicate the Government's committed intention though, even if it did, I am not entirely satisfied that the idea would necessarily appeal to me.
On the other hand, it is the convention of the House that Private Bills are not opposed and that the Select Committee is the place where the arguments should be thrashed out. Despite what is, to me, a waste of time and money and despite the inappropriateness of the Bill, I therefore feel that the Bill should be allowed to go forward to a Second Reading. As a result, I could not vote for the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, if he should press it to a Division. On the other hand, I am not particularly minded to see the Bill go forward if the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, does press the Amendment. I should therefore abstain.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of LONDON
My Lords, my interest in the provision of amenities for water recreation stems from the many hours which I, as a young man, spent on the river. Some few of those hours provided pleasure and many others provided physical distress and discomfort. That interest was sharpened by the discussions of the Select Committee of your Lordships' House on Sport and Leisure, of which I have the honour to be a Member. One of the major matters which was impressed upon us was the importance of the provision of proper facilities for recreation on our waterways. It was recognised that in this small island which is so overpopulated we have very few opportunities for recreation on the water and that it is therefore of vital importance that we should preserve every opportunity that is available. We noticed that the desire for recreation on water was one of the major growth areas in the search for recreation.
Thus, in paragraph 172 on page lix, where we were discussing the desirability of grants in aid for water recreation, we referred to theupsurge in this form of recreation",and noted that,The use of water for recreation is arguably the major growth point of all forms of leisure activity.605 Later in our Report we noted the great difficulties in the legal interpretation of rights of way over water and hoped that there would be a proper rationalisation of the legal requirements to control navigable waterways. Thus, we noted,At a time when navigation for pleasure on inland waterways has overtaken commercial carriage the rights of navigation cannot be allowed to rest on an antiquated basis which is becoming increasingly irrelevant. The Committee consider that the legal status of rights of way and rights of navigation over water should be reviewed and that the Government should investigate whether the de facto right of navigation enjoyed on cruising waterways can be converted into a right de Jure—they note that in August 1972 according to the Consultation Paper issued by the Department of the Environment it was the Government's intention to set out in legislation clear rights for the public, in suitable craft and in a suitable manner, to navigate all commercial and cruising waterways.I understand that nothing further was done along those lines, and therefore that makes those concerned with the provision of waterways for recreation all the more sensitive to this matter of the provision of navigational rights.
I have been much perplexed as to how it would be right to vote when these issues are presented to your Lordships' House, for I have a great deal of sympathy with the Amendment which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill, has tabled. On the other hand, generally speaking, this Bill is probably a good Bill and at any rate ought I think, as the noble Baroness suggested, be allowed the courtesy of this House not to oppose a Private Bill on Second Reading. I very much sympathise with the apprehensions of the Inland Waterways Association about the provisions in Clause 12(1)(d) which would give to the board the right to extinguish navigation rights. I can quite understand that when so many of these privileges and opportunities are in peril and in jeopardy, the very concept of one of these authorities having the power to extinguish rights gives rise to considerable anxiety.
I share the view of the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, to ask why the authority is insisting upon the insertion of this clause? I understand that it has been a matter of considerable negotiation, and there has been a good deal of give and take between the Inland Waterways Association, as one 606 of the objectors, and the board, but they have refused to budge on this issue. I do not think that this can be regarded in any way as an unimportant issue. Not only is it applicable to the waterways controlled by the Anglian Water Authority but as has been pointed out, and as I have been reminded, this is the first Bill to be brought forward by one of the water authorities. Therefore, if this Bill becomes law, it will undoubtedly be regarded as a pattern for other authorities when they seek legal powers. Therefore, if the power to extinguish navigation rights is provided in this Bill, we shall be providing the same kind of rights all over the country for any authority which wishes to seek these powers. For that reason I shall not oppose the Second Reading, but I shall most strongly support the instruction which the noble Lord, Lord Harvington, seeks to require of the House when the Bill goes to Committee.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ Lord SOMERLEYTON
My Lords, the Anglian Water Authority Bill as deposited includes a clause—Clause 12—which inter alia enables the Secretary of State, on the application of the Authority, totransfer to the Authority…the functions and undertaking of a navigation authority, conservancy authority or harbour authority in relation to any waterway in so far as the functions are exercisable and the waterway is situated in the area of the Authority;This power, if exercised, would wholly destroy the functions conferred by Parliament on the Great Yarmouth Port and Haven Commissioners who, by their various Acts and orders obtained since 1886, have efficiently and successfully carried out these functions for well over a century. I understand that the Promoters have recently issued a statement in which certain Amendments to their original proposals are made, and whilst these may be acceptable in part there are still certain matters which need clarification.
I should declare to your Lordships' House that I am a member of the Great Yarmouth Port and Haven Commissioners, and therefore am in the area of the Anglian Water Authority, but I am greatly concerned that the powers and obligations put upon them by Parliament, and faithfully exercised over the years should be capable of being extinguished, taken over, or modified, not by another 607 Private Act of Parliament, with all that that entails, but by the Minister of State making a decision as to where the Commissioners' powers start and finish and where the Anglian Water Authority may subsequently hold jurisdiction.
Surely, my Lords, what was given by Parliament should be taken away only by Parliament after the same searching, critical and procedural way in which the rights and obligations were originally and jealously conferred. The justness and correctness of this seems apparent to me, and I find it hard to understand why it is that the Anglian Water Authority should find it impossible to accede to the Commissioners' request that the navigational functions now exercised by them should not be specifically excluded from its Bill and not made subject, in any part whatsoever, to a Ministerial direction.
It cannot be that the Anglian Water Authority feel that it could improve on the way the Commissioners manage their affairs, for I have it in writing from the Authority's legal department that—and I quote:I see no reason why the Authority should think of seeking an Order under Clause 12 in the foreseeable future in respect of what is the largest and best managed recreational waterway in this country.Is it right that the Commissioners' undertaking, or any part of it, should be included in the Bill just to keep things uniform, because the very size of the Anglian Water Authority demands a uniformity of action and organisation which leaves no scope at all for the individualism and flexibility which is the hallmark of an efficient, though not necessarily a giant, undertaking?
The Great Yarmouth Port and Haven Commissioners are a local body composed of many people who have a vast range of experience covering all the many aspects affecting the port of Great Yarmouth and the Norfolk Broads. It is extremely difficult for me to understand what advantages could be gained by transferring any of the navigational functions they carry out so well to an authority, the headquarters of which is situated no less than 100 miles away and which has to look after water supply, sewerage, sewage disposal, fishing and recreational interests in an area stretching from the Humber in the North, to the Thames in the South, and Westwards so 608 far as Northamptonshire. In any event the water authority has been operating for only less than two years. Only a few days ago the Department of the Environment, together with the Welsh Office and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, produced a Green Paper, which has already been mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, and other noble Lords in which great organisational changes are suggested for the future navigational and recreational functions not only of all the water authorities, but of those now exercised by other bodies throughout the country.
Paragraph 26 of this document makes specific reference to the Norfolk Broads, where the Commissioners operate, and while I do not intend to comment on the matters set out in the Paper, I am firmly of the opinion that it would not only be wrong, but highly unproductive at the present time, for the Anglian Water Authority's Bill to go on to the Statute Book when the whole structure of water navigation and recreational functions is being considered on a country-wide basis.
My Lords, the date for comments on this document's proposals is as soon as July of this year, which is only four months away, and the Government propose to examine the submissions made, and subsequently to bring forward early legislation to give effect to its various proposals. It may well be advisable for the noble Lord, Lord De Ramsey, to withdraw the Bill in its entirety until more is known of the overall national plan, and the Commissioners would certainly not be averse to this suggestion.
§ 6.0 p.m.
The Countess of LOUDOUN
My Lords, I should like to begin with a short extract from the Civic Trust's citation when the British Waterways Board received a Special Heritage Year award in 1975 for their continuing contribution to conservation. I quote:It is the Board's responsibility to maintain this extensive network of canals and rivers, to improve bridges and canalside buildings and to develop the network's potential for recreation and amenity use.This commitment has been met and fulfilled with an exer-expanding success. Public participation in and enjoyment of the canals has greatly increased. Concurrently, the Board has pursued a continuing policy of improvements to their property, coupled with other environmental improvements.609It is heartening, after the long years of neglect and apathy, to see these policies now bearing fruit. The Board deserves our gratitude".I think this demonstrates the great service the British Waterways Board are performing for the community with regard to the waterways vested in them, and we should bear this in mind when considering the Bill before us.
There have been 25 Petitions lodged against this Bill, which in itself gives some indication of the amount of opposition it has aroused. I understand that the Water Authority now propose to delete Clause 12(1)(a) from the Bill, and to exclude estuarial waters from the effect of Clause 12. But this would still leave difficulties for the British Waterways Board, who are one of the petitioners against, because parts of their system are within the area of the Water Authority, and although they have no commercial interests in this area they are concerned with recreation and amenity on these waterways; that is, the Fossdyke and the Witham Navigations and parts of the Grand Union Canal, which are all cruising waterways. There is also a part of the Grantham Canal in the area, which is a remainder waterway. Public rights of navigation do not exist on the Grand Union and Grantham Canals, as these were abolished under Section 105(6) of the Transport Act 1968. The British Waterways Board have complete control of these waterways and have a licensing system for pleasure craft which use them. But Common Law rights of navigation arising from customary usage exist on the Fossdyke Navigation, which dates from the Roman occupation, and on the River Witham Navigation. The Board have a registration scheme for pleasure craft using these navigations derived from the British Waterways Act 1971, so there seems to be no justification for the proposals of the Anglian Water Authority in Clause 12 of this Bill.
Within the limits of the resources and finance available to them, the British Waterways Board have provided adequate opportunities for recreation and amenity on these waterways in accordance with the statutory duties laid upon them by the Transport Acts 1962 and 1968. During the debate on Lord Fever-sham's Bill, the spokesman for the Department of the Environment, the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, indicated that 610 she shared the British Waterways Board's view that there should be a national navigational authority. She also said that navigational needs are best served by firm co-operation among statutory bodies, volunteer groups and central Government. Now the Government have published this Green Paper, which seems to bear out the suggestions made by Lady Birk. In view of the Government's proposals in this document (which, if carried out, would make the Anglian Water Authority Bill superfluous), and in order to save both time and money, I shall support the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, if he should decide to divide the House.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ Lord NUGENT of GUILDFORD
My Lords, may I begin by declaring my interest in this Bill as chairman of the National Water Council? However, perhaps I should explain that that Council has no statutory responsibility for what the Anglian Water Authority do, although I might hear something about it in due course. But I think I can, without offence to the Addison convention, perhaps add a word to this interesting discussion. I should like to begin by congratulating my noble friend Lord De Ramsey (because I am sure nobody else will) on the extreme charm and clarity with which he moved the Second Reading of this Bill. I may say, as noble Lords of course well know, that all Private Bills, if they are opposed, have to be moved by a noble Lord, and that has not been a task which noble Lords are particularly enthusiastic to undertake. In this case I suspect that one or two of them were aware that there was some opposition brewing in some quarters, so again I thank my noble friend Lord De Ramsey.
All I want to say about the Anglian Water Authority can be said very quickly. They cover the largest geographical area of any water authority in the country, and I suppose they have more water recreational interests overall than any other water authority in the country, great though the others are. As my noble friend Lord Ferrers rightly acknowledged, in this huge area, which stretches from the Humber down to the Thames, there are many waters and many streams which are under no proper management or control at all. Added to the navigational interests and the fishery interests, we have 611 here an area which I suppose is the richest in the country for wild fowl interests, for bird watching. Everything connected with water recreation is probably at its highest in this area.
So here this water authority, with enthusiasm for their tasks, set out with their board, consisting of 35 members, more than half of whom are elected from the local authorities in the region, and they form a water recreation committee. These people, with enthusiasm, rightly set about their job, and they see an absolute host of problems in their huge area with conflicts steadily developing—particularly, of course, conflicts between fishermen and navigation, because navigation is still an expanding recreation, and we all welcome its expansion—as more and more boats of all shapes and sizes tend to move up more and more pieces of water. The Water Authority clearly have a duty to try to cater for the interests of all these water users, and to reconcile their conflicts. So this committee, setting out to do their job effectively, think that they should promote a Private Bill in order to give themselves the necessary powers to do it. This is the background to it, my Lords, and I suggest that they deserve to be taken in good faith. They have been given the stick very hard by my noble friend Lord Ferrers for their lack of consultation. They assure me that they have consulted far and wide, but evidently they have not satisfied all interests, because there it is, they have 25 Petitions.
Here perhaps I might turn to the wise words spoken by the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, on behalf of the Government, in regard to the consultation paper, on which the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, rested his case for suggesting that the Second Reading of the Bill should be rejected. This is only a consultation paper, and I feel sure that your Lordships will accept the advice of the noble Baroness that a consultation paper may take some time before it turns into legislation. It may change in form before it eventually becomes legislation. Of one thing I am certain, and that is that the noble Baroness, looking at next Session's legislative programme, will see it well filled already by her colleagues here and in another place and will realise that, when the time comes to form a national 612 water authority which is to be a national navigation authority, not only will the number of navigational interests affected be considerable but the length of the debates which will go on in this connection will be not inconsiderable, both in this House and in another place. Therefore, it looks to me as if the whole Session will have to be cleared in order to give sufficient Parliamentary time to get through it. That would seem to me to indicate that the legislation to implement that part of the consultation paper, at least, is likely to be at any rate further than the next Session, which possibly will put it on to the one after.
What it means—I am sure noble Lords will have taken the point—is that the Anglian Water Authority have a problem here and now and they have put before us their ideas of how they should be given additional powers to deal with it. I hope that that might be looked at on its merits in Select Committee. I would hope that we might follow the advice of my noble friend Lord Ferrers, even if it were reluctantly rung out of him, that it is our custom to give a Second Reading to a Bill and that therefore this Bill, much though he loathed it, should go to a Select Committee so that its merits may be considered. I would hope that so far as that part of it is concerned, that advice will be taken.
With regard to the Instruction—and here again we had some helpful words from the noble Baroness, Lady Birk—in fact Section 112 of the 1968 Act is not exactly the same as paragraph (d); nevertheless, I would hope that my noble friend Lord De Ramsey will be prepared to accept the Instruction for I am sure it can but be helpful to the Select Committee to look carefully at this. I think the point was made on all sides that the particular word "extinguish" in paragraph (d) was one that made everybody jump. I do not believe for a minute that the Regional Water Authority have any such intention in their mind. I would hope that, despite the fact that the Regional Water Authority have incurred some criticism in a number of quarters, they have good intentions—and this is very much in the terms of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London and his report. It is the responsibility of the Water Authority; they have the general responsibility for developing and 613 for making clearer and more defined all the facilities for water recreation. This is what they are trying to do. Obviously, they put their foot in it, in more than one place. But I have had to deal more with East Anglia in regard to land drainage than with navigation and I have always been conscious that there you have a peculiar form of person with webbed feet; that he is a very sensitive chap where water is concerned. I think that the debate in your Lordships' House has fully confirmed that impression. I hope that your Lordships will be willing to give this Bill a Second Reading, so that it may then go to a Select Committee and any further defects that exist can be removed.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ Viscount HANWORTH
My Lords, I rise briefly to make three points. First, I would reinforce what has already been said about Clause 12(1)(d) which is the ability to extinguish navigation rights. Inland waterway recreation is a tremendous growth industry and it is not a rich man's hobby at all. A vast number of people now hire boats and a tremendous effort has been put into recovering many of our waterways. People have spent weekends and have supplied money and have done everything they possibly could to try to recover some of our waterways. It would be a tragedy—if there were not really the strongest reasons—to extinguish any navigational rights at this moment. It would be quite wrong in my opinion to give the say so on this just to this Authority. I know that it has to be approved by the Ministers, but in my opinion that is quite an insufficient safeguard. It would be only too easy for them to find that the cost of maintaining some waterway when they were suffering from a shortage of funds was such that they decided to close it. There are other competing interests and the two put together might result in a closure which should never have occurred. When we consider the River Stour, that has, up to date, been a trust and they have maintained it as far as they possibly could. There is no guarantee whatsoever that when it is taken over, as is proposed in this Bill, it will be maintained to the same standards or even that it will not be closed.
614 Finally, the bylaws, which I do not think have been mentioned, are quite extraordinary. They provide almost every power that could be wanted. They enable the Authority to do almost anything and provide a virtual closure if they wanted to—and this, again, on their own. If we take another example of what has been done elsewhere, there are the most stringent precautions. The Water Resources Act 1963 provides that, first, they must publish in the London Gazette and send a copy to the local authority of what they propose; and if there is any opposition they must hold a local inquiry. Only a month after this publication can it be sent to the appropriate Minister as Ministers for confirmation. There is nothing about that in the Bill. They can do just as they like. Taking it all in all, in my opinion this is a very ill-considered Bill. I do not believe it could be satisfactorily altered in Committee, and I suggest that on balance we should do better to throw it out at Second Reading.
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ Lord FEVERSHAM
My Lords, I rise towards the end of a long list of speakers, perhaps at the very tip of the tiger's tail which the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, felt had fallen into the grasp of the noble Lord, Lord De Ramsey. I shall endeavour to be as brief as possible but I am afraid not quite so brief as the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth. From my activity a year ago in introducing a Bill on this subject, Members of your Lordships' House will be aware of my interest in the navigable waterways of this country. I have been involved in this subject for nearly 12 years. I have been involved in my capacity as a journalist, both as a staff reporter for the magazine, Motor Boat and Yachting, and as a freelance contributor to the Daily Telegraph on waterways topics. I have been involved as a boat owner, as a member of the Inland Waterways Association, as a member and patron of the Derwent Trust and as a member of the Parliamentary Waterways Group.
From these years of involvement with the subject, I have learned two things above all else: first, that since the war the official and Governmental attitude towards navigable waterways has been inconsistent, unsatisfactory and bungling; and second, the fact that we have 615 any navigable waterways left at all is due largely to the battles waged by the founders of the Inland Waterways Association—and it would be proper here for me to mention the name of Mr. Robert Aikman. The fact that we continue to have this marvellous asset is due tot the continued voluntary and enthusiastic campaign of the Inland Waterways Association, its branches, its offshoots and associated bodies.
When I talk of official and Governmental bungling I refer primarily to the attitude of Whitehall and of central Govment. In this respect I would say that whatever position Britain holds today in the international league tables of this and that, there remains one league over which we continue to reign with an Imperial majesty as we have done for the last 50 years. As a nation, we remain at the top of the league of nations which display idiotic behaviour towards inland waterways. Central Government, to use that term collectively to represent all our national leaders since the war—and this is the sort of advantage that one has on the Cross-Benches—have demonstrated constant embarrassment on this issue. This embarrassment has only been surpassed in duration by major procrastination, punctuated with the introduction of footling measures. If embarrassment, procrastination and footling measures could be entered for a competition like vegetable marrows, then post-war central Governments would win a prize for their treatment of our navigable inland waterways.
My Lords, how do they manage it? How have they succeeded in perpetuating this prolonged policy of failure? I doubt whether we shall ever learn the secret processes developed over the years in the inner sanctums of Whitehall which contribute to the breeding of such success. There are certain ground-rules to waterway bungling which have become apparent. Do not lead with the problem on its own or as a whole. Treat the waterways as part of a transport policy or leisure policy or, as in this latest case, as part of a water policy. Or, if you want to grow a really competitive bungle, mix all these matters into a truely gruesome cocktail. If any new policy shows signs of promise, as in the case of Mrs. 616 Castle's efforts in 1968, then ensure that no demonstrative action is taken to carry that policy through to its logical conclusions. Under no circumstances discuss the shaping of policy with those who know anything about it—the Inland Waterways Association or other voluntary associations concerned with the matter—unless forced to do so; and bear in mind the statement that "too little and too late could be worse than never". Finally, whatever you do, never recognise the potential of our inland waterways for either transport or leisure. Do not spend any money on them. Never do more than dream for a moment that our waterways could form a kind of linear national park leading out into the countryside from the urban centres which cry out for such a link, forming key leisure arteries for our urban population. Under no circumstances consider the freight-carrying possibilities of our waterway network, as almost every other European country has done.
I felt it important to repeat once again the dismal policies of past Governments, from which stems this Bill of the Anglian Water Authority, if only to encourage the present Government to tackle the problems in a new way; and in this respect I am very glad that a number of people today have mentioned the Consultative Document, A Review of the Water Industry in England and Wales. I shall not make further mention of it today myself, except to say that it contains a very interesting word, which is "merge". I have always had my doubts about that word, and no doubt a number of people, including the British Waterways Board, will have a close look at the definition of the word "merge". There will be discussions in due course on this document and so I shall not talk about it any longer. However, I should like to encourage the Government in the views they have put forward in that document for discussion.
Let us examine the role of water authorities in these matters for the moment. The water authorities took an interest in navigation on certain waterways as a result of a bungle of bungles. In 1972 the Department of the Environment—which God preserve!—produced a wholly admirable plan to vest important functions of water provision and sewage disposal in regional water authorities. To 617 these proposals they tacked a lunatic scheme, without first consulting anybody who knew anything about it, so far as I can discover, to abolish the Waterways Board and carve up the canal system between the new water authorities. Thus they hoped, at a stroke, to transfer the duties of navigation to bodies primarily concerned with water and sewage. This thinking was so muddled that it clearly exceeded the ill-defined boundaries within which muddled thinkers are allowed to operate. Hasty alterations had to be made at the last minute—and I am glad to hear laughter from the Conservative side of the House, because this measure happened to be one introduced by a Conservative Government—to the master plan. A compromise was achieved; British Waterways Board was saved, and the new water authorities assumed the responsibilities of certain well-established river authorities concerned with navigation, such as the Thames Conservancy, and a more misty role in connection with navigation on certain other waterways which came under their jurisdiction.
In, I suppose, an effort to sort out some of this mess, the Anglian Water Authority has brought this Bill before us; but the process of these developments has been unsatisfactory in the extreme or, to put it in another way, in the words of Mr. Dennis Howell, the right honourable Minister of State, Department of the Environment, as reported in The Times—though he may, of course, have said nothing of the sort:What the Tories did"—and of course he would say that—was to create ten national industries at regional level. That was nonsense.I agree with him so far as navigation is concerned. I am not qualified in any way to go with him further. In general, however, and in view of the Government's intention to review the structure and activities of the water industry, I submit that it would be unwise to support this private endeavour at legislation from the Anglian Water Authority at this time; for until such time as the central Government really come to grips with this problem I cannot see a national progressive policy towards the amenity use of our available water-space. 618 In this connection, perhaps I might mention the National Water-Space Amenity Commission—they have not been mentioned today, so far as I am aware. This Commission was a device thrown up by the 1972 bungle of bungles. It labours on in an unfortunate position as a national advisory body which has not been given the wherewithal to pursue a national policy and which pursues an adroit public relations campaign, spearheaded by its excellent magazine, edited most expertly by my old friend Mr. Hugh MacKnight. Perhaps I might also mention the British Waterways Board, which is the nearest thing we have to a national navigation authority and which also labours on in an unfortunate position where it is not given the wherewithal either to pursue an aggressive national policy or properly to maintain, in my view, that major part of the national network it already controls.
This little private measure we have before us today merely seeks to contribute to the long and unsatisfactory history of our inland waterways. I should like to draw attention once again to Clause 12(1)(b), which embodies a proposal which further endangers the ancient rights of navigation upon our inland waterways, as a number of your Lordships have said. I suspect that such a thing should not be allowed to slip through our Parliamentary system by means of private legislation. I shall certainly support the noble Lord, Lord Harvington; and the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, who has spoken on this matter.
Perhaps I might also draw attention to Clause 40, which provides for the cost of this Bill to be paid by the Anglian Water Authority. The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, had certain things to say about that. With this clause in mind, it seems to me very easy for water authorities—or, indeed, for local authorities or for any of the great corporations of the State or indeed of private enterprise—to finance private legislation or litigation out of their vast financial resources. It becomes harder and harder financially for individuals, groups of individuals, or voluntary organisations to oppose whatever is proposed by these great corporations or to put forward their own proposals. I consider this to be a great and growing injustice in our society.
619 Finally, perhaps I might make some observations upon one last conclusion I draw from the appearance of this Bill and the opposition by a number of your Lordships to a certain clause in it. If the Inland Waterways Association—"the volunteers", if I may call them that—and the Anglian Water Authority had carved out an understanding between themselves embodying a measure of mutual trust and respect, I very much doubt whether we should be discussing this matter in this way today. Clearly it has not happened in this case, and I know of other areas where no understanding of this nature has been achieved. It has been said that the reorganisation of local government and of the water industry has created in these times of economic uncertainty a great deal of ill-feeling between the public and the Administration. To a certain extent, I think that is true. It is also true that within the reorganised administrative systems there exists a range of unattractive, unhealthy and costly antagonisms and power struggles. For instance, metropolitan districts do not seem to get on terribly well with metropolitan counties, and nobody I have ever met who is not a member of a water authority has ever had a good word to say about water authorities.
I have been rather harsh today, perhaps, on civil servants, or the Administration, or whatever you care to call it, whether in Whitehall or elsewhere. In one respect I make no apologies for so doing, in that it is the civil servants who are largely responsible for designing in detail these new systems. It is also up to the civil servants to make these systems work, so far as they are workable. I have the greatest respect for civil servants as individuals: they have a very difficult job to do, and by and large they undertake their tasks with great fortitude and to the best of their abilities. However, they occupy a position of great responsibility in our society, and consequently behind the scenes they occupy a position of considerable power. It is right that they should command our respect, and it is very worrying if the situation arises, as it has recently in the country, when the public seems to suffer a loss of respect for the Civil Service. It is pathetic that advertisements should appear in our national newspapers, as 620 they have done recently, putting the case for the civil servants against criticisms that they feel may have been made against them. Such a move is a mis-judgment by civil servants of the situation. To regain the confidence of the public, the Civil Service must seek to create an element of human understanding which, perhaps, it has never had before, but which is required in the bureaucracy of our new administrative systems.
I will give your Lordships an example of what I mean. I live in a small town called Helmsley in the North Yorkshire Moors National Park. It is a three-road town and one of the roads enters the town round a very dangerous bend. Three years ago, the highway authority produced plans to straighten out that bend. The plan involved culverting and covering over a small, alas! unnavigable, inland waterway—a beck rambling down the centre of the street; a feaure of great and loved historical and environmental importance in Helmsley. The highway authority required to buy from me some land bordering a field, to enable them to execute their plans. I tried in every possible way to get them to alter their plans, in order to save the beck. I offered to sell them land on the other side of the road. I suggested the rerouting of the beck and so on. I resisted the sale of my land to the point immediately prior to a compulsory purchase position—to no avail. They would not alter their plans.
A fortnight ago, the bulldozers arrived and started operations, with resulting outrage and pandemonium among the citizens. The vicar offered to sit in the stream if it would help. Although I must say that I was rather tempted to do otherwise, I advised against it. Within 48 hours, in response to public opinion, the officials arrived on the site. Within another 48 hours, a formula was found for saving the beck by rerouting it. The officials visited the parish council to discuss new plans—all this in the middle of the road improvements taking place. This instance proves to me that bureaucracy need not be inflexible or inhuman. The North Yorkshire Highways official responsible was one Mr. Bishop, whose name should be set up in lights atop the Department of the Environment, because here is a man who has shown what may 621 be achieved through a touch of understanding and humanity for the public by the civil servant. Here is a man who has proved that things which were not possible three years ago are possible today. Here is a man who opens up the possibilities within the grasp of those concerned with developing the amenity use of our water-space, including the Anglian Water Authority.
The development of our waterspace for recreation since the war has depended largely upon the volunteers, the amateurs, the part-timers, the clubs and the individuals. There is a vast wealth of enthusiasm and energy which can be channelled from the public into their continued development, even—and I say this to the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers—in these difficult economic times. The greatest danger of all to the future of our society in general, and today specifically to our waterways, is the capability of vast new corporate empires, embodied in local government, and organisations such as the Regional Water Authorities, to crush that great flair for initiative and self-help inherent in the British individual. So far as the Yorkshire Water Authority and the Yorkshire waterways are concerned, that danger is apparent. The fact that the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, has made the case today on behalf of the Inland Waterways Association reflects the fact that the danger is not entirely absent from the affairs of the Anglian Water Authority.
In the circumstances, I hope that if this Bill is to proceed through further Parliamentary processes, it will be the subject of very careful scrutiny indeed; and in view of the very powerful case made by a number of noble Lords, that even if it goes further this Bill is unlikely to be moulded into anything that will eventually pass into legislation, I support the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill.
§ 6.34 p.m.
Viscount ST. DAVIDS
My Lords, I shall not detain your Lordships for long. I have great sympathy with the Anglian Water Authority. who have inherited a very considerable portion of a very nasty mess, and the fact that there are eight other Authorities each with some part of this mess is part of my case this evening. My view of what has been happening not only to our inland waterways 622 but to all the other amenities which we now expect—angling, nature conservancy, preservation of our wild birds and so on—is that these have all been mishandled in much the same way, and they are all involved together. My view of the mess that has been made is very much that of the noble Lord, Lord Feversham, who has just been putting the point so very cogently.
I do not think we ought to let this Bill have a Second Reading tonight, and this is my reason. This is a very considerable job. It will need a great deal of doing, and we must get it right. If we leave it to the Anglian Water Authority to do it, they will no doubt have a very good shot at it and clear their own yard arm in some manner. We shall then presumably have eight more Bills from the other eight areas.
Viscount ST. DAVIDS
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, says that we shall not. But have they no problems? Is the Anglian Water Authority the only one of the nine who have these problems? We know that it is not. In a lesser degree, these problems apply to all the other eight and, presumably, they all have to start spending money on the same process. What is more, there is a point which has not yet been made and which has brought me to my feet. I want to see the whole business done generally and nationally. I believe that in its provisional proposals the Green Paper is sensible and right. I want to see a national navigation permit for all boats. I want to see these problems sorted out between all the amenity interests. I want to see it done nationally, and the sooner the better. In my opinion, if we stop the Anglian Water Authority from doing what they intend, they will then go and knock on the door and cry on the shoulder of the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, and I am sorry to burden her with that. Not only will they do that, but so will the other eight authorities. This is what I call putting on pressure. Politics is a matter of pressure. Pressure is something which you put on in order to get things done, and the very finest pressure we can put on to get something done in this matter is by leaving these unfortunate Water Authorities to hammer on the door of Lady Birk and 623 her associates until something is done. Therefore, let us say tonight "No, this must not be done in these bits and pieces. We want it done nationally, and the best way to do that is to stop it being done piecemeal now."
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ Lord HARVINGTON
My Lords, if I may, I should first like to apologise most sincerely to all of your Lordships for not being here to move the Instruction standing in my name. Unfortunately, that was due to a late arrival at London Airport—something from which I am sure many of your Lordships have often suffered—but I do apologise. I should particularly like to apologise to the noble Lord, Lord De Ramsey, whose speech I missed. In fact, it was the only one I missed, because I was in hiding behind the screen where one can hear rather well.
I shall not delay your Lordships for many minutes. The case for the Instruction to be passed has been made out most ably by so many speakers this afternoon. In fact, the longer the debate went on, the more I began to like the Instruction. I thought I liked it a lot to start with, but I liked it more and more as the debate went on, and then when I heard what fell from the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, I really rejoiced,And even the ranks of Tuscany, Could scarce forbear to cheer.So I think your Lordships will feel that you want to pass this Instruction this afternoon. I feel, unlike the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, that paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of subsection (1) of Clause 12 give all the powers necessary for an Authority, such as the Anglian Water Authority, to do what they want to do in consultation with the Minister. I hope that the House will realise that fact. May I thank very warmly indeed my noble friend Lord Kinnoull for so kindly stepping into my place and moving, much more ably than I could possibly do, the Instruction standing in my name. One aspect which grieves me about our debate this afternoon is that on this occasion I feel that I cannot support—I was going to say my noble friend and only the exigencies of Parliamentary etiquette prevent me from calling him "my noble friend"—the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, in moving the rejection of the Second Reading of the Bill. I do not believe that would be the right course to 624 take, and in view especially of what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, I for my part do not wish to do so. I hope, however, the House will do what has been suggested both by the noble Baroness and also by the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford: that if the Bill gets a Second Reading it should then proceed to pass the Instruction standing in my name.
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ The Earl of LISTOWEL
My Lords, I am sure that your Lordships will agree that we have listened to a number of cogently argued and well-informed speeches canvassing exhaustively the merits and demerits of the proposals in this Bill. At this stage of the debate it would be difficult to add anything to these arguments and, fortunately for me, it is not my duty to the House to do so. It may, however, be for the convenience of the House if I made some observations on the procedural aspects of the Motions which the House has been discussing.
The noble Lord, Lord De Ramsey, has moved the Second Reading of the Bill. The effect of the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, is to deny the Bill a Second Reading, so I will, if I may, deal first with the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill. I would say at once that for this House to refuse a Private Bill a Second Reading is not unconstitutional. The House has the power to do so but it has been done only on a very few occasions in the past—in fact, only four times in this century and never since the war. It was last done on the North Devon Electric Power Bill in 1937. To complete the information for your Lordships, I should add that the ground upon which it was rejected was that the Bill introduced a new principle. This has not been done in the present Bill.
The background to the practice which the House has almost invariably adopted in giving Private Bills a Second Reading is that, in doing so, the House is doing something qute different from what it does in giving a Second Reading to a Public Bill. In the case of a Public Bill the House is approving the principle of the Bill; but in the case of a Private Bill, when your Lordships give it a Second Reading it amounts to no more than a decision to refer all the questions raised 625 by the Bill, and, of course, by any Petitions there may be against it, for consideration by a Select Committee. Such a Committee deals not only with particular matters in clauses but, if the scope of the objection is sufficient, with the whole policy of the Bill.
I should like to mention very briefly the origins of this procedure. Until about 1820—in the 18th century Private Bill business occupied Parliament more considerably than Public Bill business—it was the universal practice and the right of the Promoters of every Private Bill to appear at the Bar of the House and present their case there in person. Thereafter, for practical reasons, with the growth of public business the procedure had to be altered and the present machinery of the Select Committee was devised. These Committees are semi-judicial. They hear evidence and decide upon the evidence, just like any court of law. I venture to think that in the past this has proved a satisfactory machinery for dealing with these matters.
There are few issues on Private Bills which the House can decide satisfactorily without the benefit of hearing parties and witnesses—that is, the Promoters of the Bill, the Petitioners against the Bill and any witnesses whom they may wish to call to give evidence on their behalf. This cannot be done on the Floor of the House. It is therefore the usual practice for the House to allow Private Bills to proceed to Committee. As several noble Lords have mentioned, there are no fewer than 25 Petitions against this Bill, so there is no doubt that it will be very exhaustively considered if it is allowed to go to a Select Committee. The Select Committee will have to consider the need which the Promoters will wish to establish for the provisions of the Bill in the context of the objections which will be raised against it by the Petitioners.
This brings me to the Motion which has been moved in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Harvington, who has immense experience of these matters from his office in another place, providing that an Instruction should be given to the Select Committee. A number of these 25 Petitions deal, among other things, with 626 Clause 12(1)(d) of the Bill which, as your Lordships have heard, provides for the Anglian Water Authority to make orders with regard to recreational waterways. Therefore, the Committee will in any event—that is to say, even if the Instruction had not been moved in the name of the noble Lord—consider the matters raised in the Instruction, but I can see no procedural objection to the acceptance by the House of the noble Lord's Instruction.
My advice to the House would therefore be like that of the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, that the Bill should be allowed to proceed to a Select Committee and, if the House agrees, that the Instruction should proceed in the same way.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Lord DE RAMSEY
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, for dealing so clearly with the procedural position. I had a note to say something about it, but clearly it is wholly unnecessary for me to do so. When I heard that a Green Paper was coming out I could not help wondering, like the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, whether or not this would make unnecessary the Anglian Water Authority Bill. Therefore I obtained a copy of the Green Paper at the earliest possible moment. I was also given to understand that there was nothing in the Anglian Water Authority Bill which pre-empted the Green Paper, and I was very grateful to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, confirm this when she mentioned it. Even if this Green Paper recommendation, which will certainly cause a great deal of interest, were to be accepted as Government policy, the work that the Anglian Water Authority have done on this Bill will not be wasted; all of it will be required.
I should like to say a few words on the Instruction that has been moved in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Harvington. In the noble Lord's unavoidable absence, the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, dealt most ably with it. I fear that I must repeat that this is a recreation, not a navigation Bill. The 627 anglers, above all, confirm that Clause 12(1)(d) is essential for the Authority to be able to hold the ring. By its sheer size and weight a boat is bound to dominate, if allowed to do so, any other interest. I feel that your Lordships have spent a great deal of time upon this matter and I do not wish to waste any more of it. Therefore, I will come quickly to the point and say that although I am convinced that the Authority must oppose the matter in Committee, if noble Lords accept that this clause requires special consideration the Authority will be happy to make their case before the Committee and will not oppose the Instruction moved by the noble Lord, Lord Harvington.
Finally, I feel that in fairness to the Authority I must answer some of the criticisms made by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. Clearly, he feels most strongly, most sincerely, and most indignantly on the Bill. I am not suggesting that he has engendered more indignation than he can conveniently consume, but I am suggesting that he has made mountains out of molehills. He referred to my catching a tiger by the tail, but I can only say that it was a paper tiger. Great play was made on twelve Petitions against Clause 12(1)(a) as a result of which—I think I am correct here—it was withdrawn. That is not correct. Clause 12(1)(a) was not withdrawn because of twelve Petitions. If the Association was slow off the mark and it did not get down to grass roots, then the Authority are not to blame if at a very late date the Petitions are accepted. On the contrary, they should be commended for accepting them and taking steps to meet them. I will say nothing further on the criticisms, but I felt that in fairness to the Authority I should try to defend them.
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ Lord STOW HILL
My Lords, I rise only to make a very few observations. As I pointed out earlier, if your Lordships feel that the Motion is one you should not accept I will certainly myself vote in favour of the Instruction moved by my noble friend Lord Harvington. I have broken the rules of the House, but I hope your Lordships agree with me.
I want to make only one or two observations on what was said by my 628 noble friend on the question of the procedure of the House. Procedure cannot be absolutely rigid. As he said, the procedure has, on occasion, been breached when necessary. The advice that he gave to the House was that if this Bill went to a Committee there could be arguments by counsel and there could be evidence given by expert witnesses which would show that the Bill ought not to proceed further in the Committee. In this particular case what on earth are the expert witnesses to say? I suppose they are to say that a Green Paper was published and in that Green Paper it was stated that the Government are very much attracted by the idea of a national authority, and because the Green Paper has indicated that as being the Government's view it is a waste of time going on in the Committee, doing what the Government wish to do under the umbrella of a national authority. If that is the procedure which is to be followed, I respectfully suggest that it should not commend itself to your Lordships. This is just one of the cases where there are special circumstances which, in my respectful submission to the House, justify making the procedure a little more elastic in order to meet a completely new situation.
In those circumstances, having listened very carefully to the debate, and being in the difficult position in which Members of your Lordships' House not infrequently find themselves, of having to ask oneself how one can best facilitate the deliberations of the House and assist the House to arrive at a conclusion that it would wish to arrive at on the balance of the arguments, I have come to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that I ought to invite the House to say whether the Bill should proceed further now or that it should not receive a Second Reading.
§ The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Lord Segal)
My Lords, the original Question was, That this Bill be now read a second time, since when an Amendment has been moved to leave out all the words after "That" and insert the words printed on the Order Paper. The Question is, That this Amendment be agreed to?
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?629
|Broadbridge, L.||Hanworth, V.||Somerleyton, L.|
|Campbell of Eskan, L.||Inglewood, L.||Somers, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Loudoun, C. [Teller.]||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Feversham, L.||Lyell, L.||Stow Hill, L. [Teller.]|
|Foot, L.||Onslow, E.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Greenway, L.||St. Davids, V.||Vickers, B.|
|Greenwood of Rossendale, L.|
|Allan of Kilmahew, L.||Killearn, L.||Parry, L.|
|Amulree, L.||Lauderdale, E.||Platt, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Lee of Newton, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Aylestone, L.||Listowel, E.||Rathcreedan, L.|
|Bacon, B.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.||Ritchie-Calder, L.|
|Barrington, V.||London, Bp.||Rusholme, L.|
|Beswick, L.||Lonsdale, E.||St. Just, L.|
|Birk, B.||Mackie of Benshie, L.||Segal, L.|
|Blyton, L.||Macleod of Borve, B.||Shepherd, L. (L. Privy Seal)|
|Champion, L.||MacLeod of Fuinary, L.||Slater, L.|
|Collison, L.||Maelor, L.||Stewart of Alvechurch, B.|
|Davies of Leek, L.||Margadale, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|De Ramsey, L. [Teller.]||Maybray-King, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Dulverton, L.||Mottistone, L.||Tranmire, L.|
|Dundee, E.||Northchurch, B.||Wade, L.|
|Elwyn-Jones, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Northfield, L.||Wigoder, L.|
|Falkland, V.||Norwich, Bp.||Willis, L.|
|Harmar-Nicholls, L.||Norwich, V.||Wilson of Radcliffe, L.|
|Harris of Greenwich, L.||Nugent of Guildford, L.||Winterbottom, L.|
|Henley, L. [Teller.]||Oram, L.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Select Committee.
§ Moved, That it be an Instruction to the Committee to whom it is committed that they should give special consideration to Clause 12(1)(d) to satisfy themselves that it does not constitute an undesirable extension of the powers and functions of Water Authorities, especially having regard to the fact that Section 112 of the Transport Act 1968 gives them all the powers they need in this respect.—(Lord Harvington.)