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New Clause—(Amendment Of Pro Visions Relating To Dams And Sluices)

Volume 387: debated on Tuesday 2 March 1943

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

(1) Subsection (2) of section sixteen of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous War Provisions) Act, 1940 (which requires drainage boards to pay compensation in respect of the exercise of certain powers relating to dams) shall not apply to the exercise of any power to repair or maintain a dam, and accordingly for the words "by reason of the exercise by the board of any powers conferred on them under this section" there shall be substituted the words "by reason of the alteration or removal of any dam by the board in the exercise of any powers conferred on them under this section."

(2) Where any dam is repaired or maintained by a drainage board in the exercise of any powers conferred on them under the said section, the expenses thereby reasonably incurred may, if a notice in writing requiring payment thereof and specifying the sum claimed is served on the owner of the dam by the board within one year from the completion of the work, be recovered by the board from that owner at the expiration of three months from the date of the service of the notice and shall, without prejudice to any other mode of recovery, be recoverable by the board summarily as a civil debt:

Provided that an owner from whom any sum is so recoverable may, by notice in writing served on the board within the said three months, elect to pay the said sum together with the interest thereon from the said date by such number of equal annual instalments, not exceeding five, as may be specified in the notice, so however that—
  • (a) the first instalment shall be payable within one year from the said date; and
  • (b) the rate of interest shall, in default of agreement between the owner and the board, be fixed by the Minister.
  • (3) Where the landlord of an agricultural holding has become liable to pay any sum under the last foregoing subsection in respect of the repair or maintenance of a dam, the following provisions shall have effect, that is to say:

  • (a) if the landlord and tenant agree, or in default of such agreement the landlord proves to the satisfaction of an arbitrator appointed under the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1923, that any of the works in respect of which the sum is payable were rendered necessary by the neglect of the tenant to comply with any obligation relating to the maintenance or repair of the dam imposed on him by virtue of the contract of tenancy, the landlord shall be entitled to recover from the tenant or any assignee or successor of the tenant such amount as may be agreed between the landlord and the tenant, or in default of such agreement determined by the said arbitrator, to be such part of the said sum as was attributable to the execution of those works;
  • (b) where the landlord has elected to pay any such sum as aforesaid by instalments, the whole of that sum shall, for the purposes of this subsection, be deemed to have become payable at the date when it would have been payable but for the election;
  • (c) for the purposes of any arbitration under this subsection, a certificate by the Drainage Board that such part of the said sum as may be specified in the certificate was atributable to the execution of works so specified shall be conclusive evidence of that fact.
  • (4) Section seventeen of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous War Provisions) Act, 1940 (which empowers drainage boards to control the use of sluices) shall have effect subject to the following amendments:—

  • (a) in subsection (1) after the words "by notice in writing served on the occupier or person in control of any dam within their district" there shall be inserted the words "or, if in the opinion of the board immediate action is necesary to meet an emergency, by direction given to that occupier or person," after the words "as may be specified in the notice" there shall be inserted the words "or as may be so directed "and the words in proviso (a) to that subsection" unless it is stated in the notice that in the opinion of the board immediate action is necessary to meet an emergency" shall be omitted;
  • (b) in subsection (2) after the words "notice served" there shall be inserted the words "or direction given," and after the words "the person on whom it is served" there shall be inserted the words "or to whom it is given."—[Mr. Tom Williams.]
  • Brought up and read the First time.

    I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

    This long and perambulating Clause, looks more formidable than it is in actual fact. It is simply to give effect to representations which have been made by the National Farmers' Union and the Catchment Boards Association. Section 44 of the Land Drainage Act, 1930, as applied to the control of dams has proved ineffective. In many parts of the country there has been flooding and waterlogging caused by a failure and neglect on-the part of owners or tenants to maintain or repair dams. Sub-sections (1) and (2) of the new Clause enable drainage boards to maintain or repair dams and, instead of paying compensation, to charge the persons responsible with the cost of either helping to maintain or to repair. It is, of course, of the utmost importance that this power should be exercised. The proviso to Sub-section (2) follows normal precedent and allows an owner who is called upon to meet the cost incurred in maintaining or repairing a dam to pay the sum by a number of instalments. Subsection (3) allows the owner to reclaim the cost from a neglectful tenant where it can be proved that the condition has wholly arisen from his neglect. Section 17 of the 1940 Act enables drainage boards to secure proper control of sluices and to avoid extensive flooding. In the view of the Catchment Boards Association, who have had a good deal of experience by now, the Section causes a good deal of unnecessary delay, All action must be preceded by sending a notice in writing to the tenant or the owner as the case may be. Under Sub-section (4) of this new Clause a drainage board is enabled, instead of sending a notice in writing appealing to the tenant to do certain work, to give a direction. As the new Clause meets with the approval of both the National Farmers' Union and the Catchment Boards Association, I hope that it will readily be accepted by the Committee.

    Question put, and agreed to.

    Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

    On a point of Order. Before we terminate the proceedings to-day, may I draw attention to the fact that the Bill has been rather rushed and that a number of hon. Members, some of them in the Forces, have not been able to get here? Can we have an assurance before the Report stage that consideration will be given to the matter that has been raised to-day?

    Schedules 1 to 3 agreed to.

    Bill reported, with Amendments; as amended, considered.

    Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

    This Bill has been rushed with the most scandalous haste, and I want to protest against it. A number of Amendments have been slipped through without proper time to consider them. Under the guise of war emergency and interest all sorts of schemes and devices are arrived at in this Bill. There was also page after page of Amendments, and no one was here to take up the points in them. It is not good enough for the Minister to take the attitude that because the Members putting down the Amendments were not here he need not worry. That kind of procedure in passing a Bill of this importance through the House—

    I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but he is only entitled to discuss on Third Reading what is in the Bill. He cannot discuss the point he has raised.

    I am discussing what is in the Bill. A large number of reactionary proposals have been carried in unseemly haste in an empty House, and I am protesting against the procedure. I hope that what I am saying about this scandalous procedure will resound throughout the country, and I say here and now that it must not be repeated.

    I, too, wish to protest, particularly at the fact that there are things in this Bill that should have been discussed. I feel that I must not let this opportunity go by without saying that there are certain important matters connected with catchment boards which have not been discussed for the simple reason that no one knew that the Bill was coming on at this hour. The Order Paper shows that other matters were to come on first, and I assumed that we should be a certain time in dealing with them. We have not even had a Report stage.

    The hon. Member-must appreciate that we have had the Committee stage and also the Report stage, and that we are now on the Third Reading.

    Members are dizzy and do not know where they are. I should have thought that the Parliamentary Secretary as a Labour Member would not have acquiesced in this procedure.

    Surely the hon. Member does not blame me for the absence of Members who have Amendments on the Order Paper.

    The right hon. Gentleman is the most accommodating tool that the Department has ever had.

    Important matters in which the Catchment Boards Association are vitally interested have not been discussed to-day owing to certain curious methods of procedure which I cannot understand.

    I rise to make a most vigorous protest against the proceedings to-day, The House was not aware that this Bill was coming on at this early hour, and many hon. Members have not been able to be present. The reason is that many of them, particularly one hon. Member, are serving in the Forces, and would have been here had it been possible. On Third Reading it is not possible to deal with the questions concerning catchment boards about which I wished to speak, but I hope that what has taken place to-day will never be repeated. It speaks badly for us that we cannot give sufficient time to agriculture, bearing in mind what we owe to agriculture and what we hope for it in future.

    I apologise to the House for not being here when certain Amendments in my name were called, but unfortunately I was taken by surprise as to the hour at which they would be called. By the assurances which the Minister has been able to give on one or two points which I have raised on the Bill have been met. In particular, he has met the Amendment on the question of away-going crops, and it will be satisfactory to the industry and will protect the land from the worst effects of an increased amount of away-going crops. With regard to some other matters which have been raised, I still see certain dangers in the Bill which I hope the Minister as time goes on will be able to put right. The Minister has given assurance after assurance on a large variety of points, but we do not see any word which can be taken up by the courts or anyhow else which puts these various assurances into law. It is a dangerous practice to build up what one might term a sort of ad hoc law whereby the industry is run on assurances given by Ministers. Therefore, I hope that where the land and the use of land are in question assurances will be put into law so that we shall not have the same sort of legislation which has resulted from the passage of previous agricultural Measures. I hope that the Minister will put into effect the assurances he has given during the Committee stage of the Bill, that the industry will take full advantage of them, that the Minister will see that the labour is available, and that we shall have the results which he anticipates and for which we all hope.

    I should like to support the Third Reading of this Bill, and to protest strongly against the attack which has been made upon the Ministers for bringing on the Bill at this time of the clay without appropriate notice. The very fact that seven Amendments were moved and were fully debated clearly indicates that if those who had put down Amendments had cared to be here, they could have been. The request that we should arrange our legislation in order to enable those who are in the Forces in other parts of the country, or it may be abroad, to be present seems to me to be far-fetched. It is quite impossible for hon. Members to divide their time in that way, and nobody expects them to do so. The Bill is, in my judgment, a thoroughly valuable and necessary one, particularly that part of it relating to the drainage of the new areas. I have a certain amount of knowledge and experience of them, and have often wondered why greater use was not made of those very large areas. The assurance which the Minister has given us that this will mean virtually a new era in sheep farming in many areas ought to be a matter of public gratification, and on those grounds alone I have pleasure in supporting the Third Reading.

    I am bound to say that I do not think the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary deserve the attack which has been made upon them in respect of the hour at which this Measure has been taken. It is the fifth Order of the Day, but the Ministers of this Department could not be expected to arrange that Members should be more talkative on the Orders which preceded it in order that this Business should come on later. I think that this Bill will do a considerable measure of good, and I am especially pleased to see the Clauses relating to drainage, but although I think the Minister is doing his best in the circumstances, I do not feel that it is based on too sure a foundation, particularly after the experience I have had of the drainage of low-lying fenlands and the in- cidence of the burdens they carry in dealing with upland water.

    I can understand the disappointment of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ripon (Major York) on learning that this Bill came forward at an hour to-day which he and some other hon. Members found awkward. As a result the Bill has not had proper discussion. We have neither had Ministerial explanations nor been able to put forward our points of view upon certain very important matters. Clause 7 in particular deals with a matter which needs to be looked into very carefully. However, the Minister has been very amenable. He has promised to look into the Clause and to put down Amendments to cover the points in Amendments which have been on the Paper, and hopes that he will be able to satisfy us. After all, drainage in the catchment areas is a very big problem. I do not know how long it took to get through the original Drainage Bill dealing with the catchment areas, but it was a very big effort. Very detailed questions are involved, and they need to be thoroughly looked into. Regarding Clause 10, the Minister gave us an assurance that he would bring forward Amendments which he claimed would cover the points raised in our own Amendments, some of which were withdrawn. I hope they will be examined very carefully in another place, and that there every opportunity will be given for discussing these complicated points, and that three stages of the Bill will not be rushed through at one sitting. The points involved deal with matters of great importance to agriculture and to food production, and it is vital that we should lay sound foundations, particularly from the point of view of drainage.

    Like everybody who has been in the House for any considerable time, I realise that it is sometimes awkward for hon. Members when Business comes on earlier than had been expected, but my experience as a back bencher who wished to move Amendments in Committee was that one had to be present during the whole of the Sitting if one wanted to be sure of catching the Chairman's eye. I would venture to remind my hon. Friends that this Bill has not been rushed. It was published, if I recollect aright, before Christmas and had its Second Reading a month ago. There has been ample time for its discussion and for hon. Members to put down Amendments. A number of hon. Members did put down Amendments which no longer appear on the Order Paper, because we have given these matters such detailed consideration that a number of the Amendments which I moved were designed to cover points which those hon. Members had taken up with the Department. We have discussed these matters with catchment boards, farmers, landowners and other interests concerned, and I claim that the Bill has received most detailed consideration in a time of urgency. I therefore hope that hon. Members will acquit me personally of any desire to rush this House. I am much too old a Member and have too high a regard for the traditions of the House to be guilty of such an act. The Bill deals with a very large number of detailed points and will prove an advantage to agriculture, and I hope therefore that the House will agree to its Third Reading.

    Question, "That the Bill be now read the Third time," put, and agreed to.

    Bill read the Third time, and passed.