HL Deb 27 September 1976 vol 374 cc83-99

6.46 p.m.


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

Moved, that the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Kirkhill.)

House in Committee accordingly.

[The VISCOUNT HOOD in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Exclusion from valuation roll of subjects below low water mark]:

Lord KIRKHILL moved Amendment No. 1: Page 1, line 6, leave out ("which has been").

The noble Lord said: The purpose of this Amendment is to make it clear that lands and heritages are to be excluded from the valuation roll only while they are of a type so prescribed by an order for the time being in force. As the Bill stands at present the lands and heritages which are not to be entered in the valuation roll are those of a type which has been prescribed in an order. Without the Amendment the subsection might be open to the interpretation that an exemption once prescribed would remain in force notwithstanding the revocation of an order. This is a very straightforward drafting Amendment. I beg to move.

Lord KIRKHILL moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 1, line 10, leave out subsection (2) and insert— ("(2) An order under this section may provide for the deletion by the assessor from the valuation roll of any lands and heritages of the type prescribed in the order which are already entered in the valuation roll; and such deletion shall have effect as from such date as may be prescribed in the order, being a date—

  1. (a) where the order is made within six months of the passing of this Act, not earlier than 16th May 1975;
  2. (b) in any other case, not earlier than the beginning of the financial year immediately preceding the year in which the order is made.
(2A) Section 3(1) of the Act of 1975 (notification to rating authority of alteration in valuation roll), shall have effect as if after the word "Act" there were inserted the words "or upon deleting lands and heritages therefrom in pursuance of section 1(2) of the Valuation and Rating (Exempted Classes) (Scotland) Act 1976". (2B) While an order under this section is in force, no rates shall be chargeable in respect of lands and heritages deleted from the valuation roll in pursuance of that order for any period beginning with the date on which the deletion has effect; and any amount by way of rates, which has been paid to a rating authority in respect of such lands and heritages for any such period as aforesaid, shall be repaid by them to the person from whom they received it or to any other person appearing to them to be entitled to that person's interest. In this subsection "rates" includes "domestic water rates".")

The noble Lord said: The Amendment is a necessary consequence of the replacement of Clause 2. In its original form Clause 2 would have made it impossible for a valuation roll entry respecting subjects to which the Bill applies to be made without the concurrence of the Secretary of State for Scotland. But closer examination revealed possible dangers and difficulties in the procedures which Clause 2 provided, and the new Clause 2 provides instead simpler and more effective machinery. This new machinery does, however, open up the possibility—though it is not very likely in practice—that a valuation entry might be made before the Secretary of State has had an opportunity to inhibit it by direction under Clause 2(1). Clause 1(2) is, as a precaution, amended so that the order-making power may require the removal of valuation roll entries made during the year preceding that in which the order is made.

To take an example, suppose that in March 1980 the assessor discovers offshore property of a type not exempted by an order and makes a valuation roll entry. Under Section 2(2) of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1975 the entry may have effect from the preceding 1st April (in my example that is 1979) but there would be no practicable possibility of securing Parliamentary approval of an exempting order until some time in the next year (that is after 1st April 1980) supposing that after consultation and consideration an order was laid in draft. The subsection will therefore allow, as near as may be, a backdating of orders corresponding with that available to assessors in the making of valuation roll entries. The Affirmative Resolution procedure is a safeguard against unreasonable use of this power which, to the extent that it is retrospective, will favour the ratepayer, and protect him against the existing powers of the assessor. These provisions will need special adaptation to cover the immediate problem of the existing valuation roll entries in respect of the oil fields and the road bridges because of the risk that full consultation over the drafting of the first exempting order may delay its making until after 31st March 1977, and so put the year 1975–76 beyond the reach of exemption. The Amendment accordingly allows an order made within six months of the passing of the Act to have effect from 16th May 1975, that is for the year 1975–76 onwards.

Subsection (2A) ensures that the deletion of subjects from the valuation roll in consequence of an exempting order will be notified by the assessor to the rating authority. Subsection (2B) provides that when the deletion of a valuation roll entry in consequence of an exempting order takes effect, rates cease to be chargeable while the order remains in force. The subsection further provides for repayment to the appropriate person of any rates paid, being in this respect precedented by Section 20 of the Local Government (Financial Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1963. The subsection extends to domestic water rate as it does to ordinary rates. I commend this Amendment to your Lordships.


We are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill, for explaining this redrafting. I have noted that this and the other substantial Government Amendments result in most of the Bill being redrafted. I say straight away that I certainly have no objection, nor do my noble friends on this Bench, when the Government have second thoughts at such an early stage of a Bill and listen to proposals that are put to them and come forward with such a large change in the wording of the Bill. I understand that it was the assessors who particularly asked for simplification of the procedure and we, for our part, would not wish to object to these changes. I think that your Lordships' House is a place where such revision is entirely appropriate. All I would add is, provided that enough notice is given to Members of this House to have time to consult those affected who are outside Parliament. There was enough time in this case, and just enough, so I make no complaint, but when changes are made at short notice it is of course difficult. The noble Lord has listened to representations which have been made to him; the result is this change, and a further one to which we shall be coming, and I would recommend it to the Committee.

On Question, Whether Clause 1, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

6.55 p.m.


I should like to raise a point on whether Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill. The Government's object is to prescribe for exemption all subjects connected with the offshore oil industry. They made this clear at Second Reading of the Bill. I must again declare the interest in your Lordships' House which I have declared before, in that I work as a consultant to the oil industry. When the petroleum revenue tax was being introduced in the oil taxation Bill—and I am very glad to see the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, here, because if I remember rightly he was connected with those items of legislation going through the House at the time; he was certainly the Minister of State for the Scottish Office, if not the Minister piloting the Bill through—and when those matters affected by the petroleum revenue tax were being considered, there was no suggestion that the oil industry would also be subject to local government rates. If there had been, the Government, and certainly we on this side, would have taken that into account when we were considering both the petroleum revenue tax royalties and corporation tax and their impact on the industry.

What the Government are now aiming to do is to remove at an early stage the oil industry from assessment where its installations are below the low water mark. There are some questions which need to be raised. First of all, is it the Government's intention—and I hinted at this at Second Reading, so I hope that was enough to give the Government notice—to cover everything connected with the oil industry in this exemption? For example, there can be construction being carried out by what are normally building companies three miles offshore. For example, at the moment on the West Coast of Scotland there is a structure being assembled as a purely building operation—oil companies are not engaged in the actual work—and that structure is eventually going to be towed several hundred miles away to the other side of Scotland to East of Shetland. While the structure is three miles offshore—it is going to be there about a year—will it be exempted simply because it is related to the oil industry? I hope that it will be, because I think that it is the Government's intention that everything connected with the oil industry should receive this exemption. But it should be made clear at this stage, because the operation of constructing what is eventually going to be a platform is a building industry operation and not an oil industry operation.

Then I come to activities which are not connected with offshore oil or gas, because the Government have made it clear that these will not necessarily be exempted from rating. Hitherto piers, estuarial bridges, and undersea coal mines, for example, have been entered in valuation rolls and at Second Reading the Minister stated that fish farms would continue to be rated and not exempted, as on land agriculture is. Where salt water fish farms arc concerned there can be equipment and installations below the low water mark, and as I believe that this is likely to increase as an activity it will be important to know on what principle the boundaries between local authorities will be projected seawards.

I have given the example of fish farms but there are other installations connected with shipping which could also be rated. Where they are offshore near the boundary between local authorities there could be a dispute as to whose area they fall in. Could I ask whether there has been progress in Government thinking on this? It is not an academic point. There will be increasing activity, as I am sure all your Lordships will agree. in the waters off our coasts. There is a principle which was accepted internationally for the North Sea, whereby the boundaries between countries were projected in order to meet median lines. That is one system that could be adopted. My question is what progress has been made in this, and whether the Government have yet reached a conclusion.

I should also like to note the procedure in subsection (6)—and here the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, was very much concerned at the time—because this stipulates a procedure where private interests are affected in some special way in an order which is made under this Bill and where that order is hybrid. In this Bill there is the special 28-day system. That was proposed to save time in the Offshore Petroleum Development (Scotland) Act early last year. The system was formulated and agreed in your Lordships' House and the original text of that Act was altered after your Lordships had realised that not to give private interests a reasonable time to petition to a committee would have been a serious diminution of the right which had previously been available to them, and the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, took a leading part in that.

The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, accepted for the Government that procedure, which I notice reappeared in the Industry Act later, and here it is again, this accelerated procedure, repeated in this Bill. I draw attention to it because the Government have clearly adopted something which we worked out in your Lordships' House as an improvement on what had originally been proposed. I have put some questions to the Minister, and if he cannot reply to them all now I hope that he will find an occasion on which to do so.

7.3 p.m.


The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, has posed a number of questions which I will attempt to answer in so far as I have been able to link them in the course of his remarks. I think I should start by saying that the exact scope of the exempting order will be settled following consultations, and informal approaches to oil interests have already been made. I come immediately to the vexatious question of seaward boundaries. This seems to the Government to be indeed a complicated issue. As I understand the position, in England and Wales the limit of a local authority's area is, with certain special exceptions, the low water mark, and provision exists for accretions from the sea to be added to the appropriate local authority area. The Scottish position is very different.

By the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 the new regions and islands areas are defined solely by reference to the boundaries of the abolished authorities, mostly deriving from those of the ancient parishes. Difficulty rarely arises over determining the common boundary between the two local authority areas but their seaward limits appear for most purposes to be totally undefined. The Local Government (Scotland) Act 1929 transferred the functions formerly administered on a parish basis to county councils and boundary changes in subsequent local government reorganisations have defined new administrative areas by reference to pre-existing boundaries. Subjects which extend below the low water mark, such as coal mines, piers and estuarial bridges, have been held by the courts to be rateable. The boundaries between authorities is, I understand, a matter for determination by the process of law.

Lord Campbell asked whether I would comment on the Government's view as to the derating of marine fish farms. The legal position concerning the rating of fish farms is complicated. During discussion of the Rating Act 1971, Amendments were moved in both Houses of Parliament which would have had the effect of derating buildings used by fish farmers. Those Amendments were rejected on the grounds that they were inappropriate to a Bill strictly limited to agricultural purposes. Subsequently the definition of "livestock" used in both the English and Scottish parts of the Act has been interpreted differently in England and Scotland. In Scotland, the Lands Valuation Appeal Court has ruled, in Wallace v. Assessor for the Joint County of Perth and Kinross, that fish are not livestock within the meaning of the Act. That decision is final for Scotland. In England and Wales, however, it has been held by the Lands Tribunal, in Jones v. Bateman, that fish do fall within the Act, so that the trout farm in question was exempt from rates. When an opportunity arises, the Inland Revenue may of course seek rejection of that decision. Both of those decisions relate to inland fish farms but they would presumably apply in principle to marine fish farms. The Government's attitude therefore is that the claim of fish farms to be derated cannot be substantiated by presumed analogy with agriculture. Any claim for financial assistance for the industry by way of derating or otherwise must, in the Government view, be based on its merits.

The noble Lord then asked: what would the Government's view be as to the possible uses of the exempting powers? It is likely that a number of interests may continue to urge that the use of the order-making powers to exempt particular classes of property, for example yacht marinas, should be more seriously considered by us. The Government's view is that the exempting powers are being sought in the first place in order to deal with the two particular problems clearly itemised in the Bill. While the powers sought are of course of much wider potential application, the Government do not have a present intention of extending their use. After the Bill is enacted problems will be considered as and when they arise. I have covered the points, as I understood them, raised by Lord Campbell. They were of course of a detailed nature and if my reply is not totally comprehensive I will communicate with him.


I had not intended to intervene until some interesting points were raised by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, about sea lochs. At least, I had not intended to intervene until later, when I would have done so to congratulate my noble friend on the fact that when he started to make drafting Amendments to a Bill he did not stop half way. It is perhaps a step to be commended to the Committee that when a Bill is obviously capable of being put into better language, the Minister concerned does not hesitate to get his skilled men to do that job, and for that reason my noble friend deserves our congratulations.

On the question raised by Lord Campbell about sea lochs, obviously it would be totally permissible, in terms of the way in which the Bill is drafted, for a Secretary of State at some time in the future to amend the order which he will be making under the Bill to bring fish farming in sea lochs into the category of non-rateable subjects or derated subjects as the case may be. Quite obviously no Government would do that unless it was intended to go the whole hog because it would be quite improper for fish farming in sea lochs not to be rated whereas fish farming inland, which is more likely to play a prominent part in our fish stocks in the future, were not to be dealt with at the same time. So, while I should have liked to envisage the possibility that the Minister might, in some months, issue an amending order to make fish farming a little more likely in sea lochs, I have no doubt that he will not be doing so, particularly when, in reference to the conflicting decisions taken in England, in, I presume, Wales and in Scotland, he went on to say, "the Inland Revenue will be taking steps to have this amended". I presume that, in saying that, he was not talking about the Scottish provision being altered. It would be the English one which would be changed.


The words were, "might be taking steps".


Oh, well, perhaps we may yet hope that, if the Government decide to let the English decision stand, even those who, like the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, and myself are not perfervid Scottish Nationalists will claim justice for Scotland in that respect. Perhaps the attention of the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, who is not here at the moment, should be drawn to this, because she is the House's strongest exponent of fish farming, but I doubt very much whether the Minister is really offering much hope to either the noble Baroness or myself in this matter. I conclude by repeating that my noble friend the Minister has acted very wisely and generously in the way in which he has amended the Bill.


Like the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, it had not been my intention to intervene in this part of the debate, but I am afraid that I cannot refrain from rising to the bait used by my noble Lord friend Lord Campbell of Croy when he came to the problem of fish farming. I feel that I should be very wrong were I not to adjure the Government to reconsider this matter and to bring in legislation that could put Scotland on a par with England in this respect. It would be relatively simple to do and, indeed, it might have been done in this Bill. However, we are hopeful that there are other means by which this may be achieved. I would just say this: in view of the major preoccupation regarding Scotland at the present time, if Scotland had its own assembly, that assembly would almost certainly de-rate fish farming.


May start by saying that, like the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, I am grateful that the Government decided to make this major redrafting at this early stage of the Bill. I am not sure whether the noble Lord Lord Hughes, was here to hear me say that on Amendment No. 2, but I expressed approval of the Government not feeling that they should be inhibited in coming forward with a major redrafting at this very early stage of a Bill introduced into this House. So I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, that, when Governments have second thoughts because of representations which are made to them, your Lordships' House is eminently the place where this can be done. We on these Benches will support them where it is a simplification for those who will have to operate the Bill.

I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving me an answer about the rating offish farms. This was a point which I raised on Second Reading and he has kindly used this opportunity to give us the results of considerable research, including the fact that fish arc recognised as livestock on one side of the Border and not on the other side.

The point which I was making at this stage was that of the projection of bounderies and I gave fish farms as an example of the kind of establishment which might be subject to rating well out at sea and where the location of the boundary line drawn between local authorities would be important. I am grateful to the noble Lord for having used this debate on the Question, That the clause stand part of the Bill, to make the statement that he did.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

7.15 p.m.

Lord KIRKHILL moved Amendment No. 3: After Clause 1, insert the following new clause:

Provisions supplementary to section 1.

.—(1) The Secretary of State may direct—

  1. (a) an assessor not to enter in the valuation roll,
  2. (b) the Assessor of Public Undertakings (Scotland) not to give a direction to an assessor under section 5(2) of the Act of 1975 so to enter,
lands and heritages of a type specified in the direction given by the Secretary of State, being lands and heritages which lie wholly or partly on, over or under the bed of the sea but which are not of a type then prescribed in an order under section 1 of this Act.

(2) Notwithstanding anything in sections 1, 2 and 5(2) of the Act of 1975, on receipt of a direction under subsection (1) above—

  1. (a) an assessor shall not enter lands and heritages of a type specified in the direction in the valuation roll,
  2. (b) the Assessor of Public Undertakings (Scotland) shall not give a direction under the said section 5(2) in respect of such lands and heritages,
unless and until the Secretary of State revokes the direction given under subsection (1) above.

(3) The Secretary of State shall, as soon as possible after giving a direction under subsection (1) above, inform the assessor or, as the case may be, the Assessor of Public Undertakings (Scotland) whether or not he intends to make an order under section 1 of this Act; and if he does not so intend, he shall revoke the direction.

The noble Lord said: Clause 2, as introduced, would require the assessor to give the Secretary of State advance notice of his intention to enter in the valuation roll any subjects of a type respecting which an order under Clause I would be competent; and it would inhibit the making of an entry in the roll until the Secretary of State intimates that he does not intend to make an order. There is provision for the Secretary of State, by direction, to except from this procedure such types of property as he may think fit. The Scottish Assessors' Association has argued convincingly—and this may be a reason why the Government have, as has been mentioned this evening, taken on board a change in some of their earlier concepts—that this system of controls would open new areas of uncertainty and scope for litigation. For example, there could well be a difference of opinion as to the need for advance notice of a particular valuation roll entry and a challenge of the entry on the ground that the requisite notice had not been given. And the notification procedure would of course entail administration costs, which the Government accept must be minimised so far as possible.

Accordingly, the new Clause 2 provides a simpler system which will rely more on the co-operation of assessors and avoid continuous routine exchanges between the Secretary of State and the assessors. It entails no more than a power for the Secretary of State by direction to inhibit for the time being the valuation of property of any type respecting which an exemption order would be competent under Clause 1, coupled with a requirement that the Secretary of State should as soon as possible thereafter inform the assessor (that is, the local assessor or the Assessor of Public Undertakings as the case may be) whether or not he intends to make an order; and, if not, to recall his direction. Where the power is not to be used and the direction is withdrawn, the assessor will be free to deal with the subject in question in the normal way.

Informal contacts with the assessors and the other usual sources of information can be relied on to provide advance warning of the possibility that some new class of offshore subjects may come into valuation. The delaying power is nevertheless necessary to ensure that consideration and consultation about exemption should not be overtaken by the making of valuation roll entries, as was the case with the oil fields. And it will, of course, reduce for the future the need for an order to impinge on existing assessments, as is necessary for the current problem of the oil fields and the road bridges. These two subjects are what the Bill is all about.

Subsection (1) empowers the Secretary of State to direct the assessor—that is, the local assessor or the Assessor of Public Undertakings—to refrain from making an entry in the valuation roll or directing the making of such an entry, as the case may be, of subjects of any type specified in the direction, being subjects to which the Bill applies. Subsection (2) prohibits the making of a valuation roll entry, or the giving of a direction for such an entry until the Secretary of State recalls a direction affecting such subjects made under subsection (1). Subsection (3) requires the Secretary of State as soon as possible after giving a direction made under subsection (1) to inform the assessor whether or not an exempting order will be made respecting the type of subjects which were specified in the direction. The subsection further requires the Secretary of State to revoke the direction if no order is to be made. This is intended to provide against possible criticism that the power to make a direction might be used capriciously—for example, to circumvent the Parliamentary procedure which an exempting order will require. I therefore commend the Amendment to your Lordships' House and I beg to move.


The remarks which I made on Amendment No. 2 also apply to this Amendment, where the Government have taken the opportunity to revise the original text in order to simplify the procedure at the request of the Assessors, and I would commend it to the Committee.

Clause 2 [Provisions Supplementary to Section 1].

Clause 2 disagreed to.

7.21 p.m.

Lord CAMPBELL of CROY moved Amendment No. 4: After Clause 2 insert the following new clause:

Housing adapted for severely disabled persons.

.—(1) When a dwelling has been adapted to facilitate its use by severely disabled persons it shall be eligible for a reduction in its assessment for valuation.

(2) In the consideration of the reduction in the foregoing subsection regard will be had to whether one or more persons who are severely disabled are inhabiting, or are about to inhabit, the dwelling.

The noble Lord said: With this Amendment it would be convenient also to consider Amendment No. 6 which is a necessary addition to the Long Title of the Bill. I say straight away that these are probing Amendments, as the Minister knows. I make no claims to drafting expertise on these Amendments; my aim has been to make clear what is needed, and in that I think I have succeeded. If the Government accept the principle behind these Amendments and are ready to take action now, they can themselves table the correct Amendments at a later stage.

These Amendments would bring into the Bill the urgent and very topical matter of special assessments for housing for the disabled. Clarification is needed as a result of cases in both Scotland and England. In Scotland there was the Brodie case and in England there was the Vandyk case. In the Vandyk case the Appeal Court decided in favour of the disabled person, in favour of a reduction in the rating assessment, but your Lordships' Rouse in its judicial capacity had to interpret the law and decided the other way. Yet at the same time the noble and learned Lords criticised very harshly the ambiguity of the existing legislation. As a result, on 10th May Mr. Barnett, the Minister concerned, stated in the Commons that the Government were very carefully examining the situation in the light of that judgment and were examining the question of what further legislation was needed.

That was nearly five months ago, and I hope that the Government are now ready to tell us what they propose to do. The particular part of the law to which the Vandyk appeal case referred was Section 45 of the General Rate Act affecting England and Wales, but the Scottish legislation is similar and there was a similar result soon afterwards in the Scottish case.

Having made up their minds, the Government may well say—and this is something which we have heard many times and which we can understand—that there is neither time nor opportunity in the Parliamentary programme for a clarifying Bill, although they have decided that one is necessary. But where Scotland is concerned, here is a valuation and rating Bill now going through Parliament, and so there is no need for the introduction of a new Bill. If the Government have made up their minds they could therefore easily add this point if they are ready to do so.

I accept that this is a complicated subject. During the Recess the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill, and I have been in correspondence about this, and so I am aware that this is a complicated matter. But I hope that he will use this opportunity to tell us what is the latest position, as it is nearly five months since the statement to which I referred was made by the Minister in another place, and I hope that there will be a decision which is favourable to the disabled.

I know that I have said so before, but I feel I must repeat the point that in this field action of this kind is reducing public expenditure, not increasing it, because it saves money for the taxpayers and for the Government. If severely disabled persons can be helped to live in their own homes and can be provided with more independence and with the means to live lives of their own—which is the humanitarian side of the matter—it saves money, in contrast to their having to occupy places in hospitals or institutions. So anything which encourages housing to be adapted for the disabled, and encourages the greater use of housing by the disabled is a help in reducing Government expenditure and is not simply a case of asking the Government or the local ratepayer for more money. I hope that I have explained the purpose of these Amendments, and may I again make it perfectly clear that I have no intention of pressing them.


I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, that Amendments Nos. 4 and 6 should be taken together. As he has indicated, we have been in serious correspondence about the very point which he raises this evening. For my part, I have been in equally serious discussion with my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, and indeed with the other Departmental Ministers whose concern this matter very properly is. I have to say to the Committee that this subject is one of considerable complexity. Nevertheless, I have been in serious discussion and I want this evening at least to make the following statement to the Committee.

The Government are obtaining legal advice urgently on the effect of the Brodie and Vandyk cases on Section 8 of the Valuation and Rating (Scotland) Act 1956 and on the corresponding provision for England and Wales; that is, Section 45 of the General Rate Act 1967. In the light of this advice, and consultations with relevant interests, we shall consider what changes are necessary in order to meet judicial criticism of the legislation and to simplify its operation, while at the same time ensuring sympathetic treatment for the disabled. Consideration will therefore extend to the whole field of application of the two sections; that is, to institutional premises as well as to dwelling houses.

Researches so far have revealed fresh complexities and this, in my view, indicates the danger of being tempted to an easy or quick solution which at the end of the day might even add to the problems of disabled people. It is not yet possible, therefore, to be specific about the Government's proposals, but I give an undertaking that any necessary legislation will be introduced as soon as possible.


I ant grateful to the noble Lord for what he has said—that the Government are treating this as an urgent matter—but naturally I am disappointed that he could not say more at this stage. I can only tell him that I and some of my colleagues—noble Lords here and colleagues elsewhere—will certainly wish to pursue this point. As the Minister knows, this is a matter of concern to all parts of the Committee, not simply to those on this side, and it will be raised on other occasions.

Nevertheless I am grateful that the noble Lord has agreed that this is an urgent matter. I am sorry that new complexities are becoming apparent, but I hope that this will mean that the Government will tackle these problems with renewed vigour. At this stage I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3 [Interpretation and construction. 1975 c. 30. 1854 c. 91]:

Lord KIRKHILL moved Amendment No. 5: Page 3, line 15, leave out from second ("the") to end of line 19 and insert ("lowest point to which the tide ebbs at ordinary spring tides and includes any estuary, arm of the sea and the waters of any channel, creek, bay or river seaward of that lowest point;")

The noble Lord said: This is purely a drafting Amendment made in the interests of clarity.

Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clause agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with the Amendments.