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Clause 14—(Supplementary Provisions As To Government Oil Pipe-Lines)

Volume 446: debated on Wednesday 28 January 1948

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I beg to move, in page 12, line 6, to leave out from "emergency" to "entry" in line 8.

This Amendment could be taken in conjunction with the Amendment, page 12, line 12, at the end to insert
"(2) Where any entry upon any land of which the Minister is not in possession is made under the powers conferred by the last foregoing Subsection, otherwise than after reasonable notice of the intended entry has been served on the occupier, the Minister shall forthwith serve on the occupier in the manner provided by paragraphs (i) to (v) of Subsection (1) of Section eight of the Act of 1945, notice that such entry has been made and of the date thereof.
They deal with the same point. While we appreciate that entry without notice in cases of emergency is reasonable, it is not understood why notice should not be given for the purpose of routine or special inspection. In any case where entry occurs without notice there should be provision for supplementary notice so that the occupier can make a proper inspection if only to see whether any damage has occurred, because otherwise evidence which may well assist him might be lost by the time he realises the extent of the damage.

On this side of the Committee we have always paid particular attention and attached very great weight to notice of entry being given. Although I would be out of Order to refer to any other Statute, on the different stages of the Agriculture Bill last year we laid particular stress on notice of entry, and in the later stages of the Bill the Government quite rightly respected our views and the necessary Amendments were made in the original draft in regard to entry. I commend these two Amendments to the notice of the Government, and I hope they will be able to meet us on this point.

The reason we have provided that notice need not be given in the case of entry for emergency or for purposes of inspection is that in our view in cases of this sort special circumstances prevail. When this pipe is in use patrolling will be constant. As I said with regard to an Amendment a few moments ago, patrolling may be every 24 hours. I agree that hon. Gentlemen opposite will say that that cuts both ways, but on balance it would be unfortunate if notice had to be given on each occasion every 24 hours when an inspector carried out a purely routine inspection, probably perfectly well known to the owner of the land on which the pipe is laid. It would be an intolerable nuisance to the owner of the land who would be bombarded with notices to which he might very well answer, "There is no need to give me these notices; I know what is going on and you need not worry me."

That is why in the case of these inspections we have left out the requirement that notice should be given, but, as hon. Members opposite will have noticed, we have put on the Order Paper an Amendment which we hope goes some way to deal with their apprehension and which will be moved in a moment. It deals with the ex post facto notification in the case of any b damage done in an emergency inspection. If any damage is caused by an inspection, Clause 12 contains the necessary provision for compensation being payable in respect of that damage. We feel, therefore, that the position had better be left as it is because, looking at it from a practical point of view, no real advantage would be gained by constant notice and indeed the contrary consequence would be likely to ensue, because it might be a constant nuisance if the owner of the land was told constantly about a certain thing which he knew perfectly well was going on.

10.0 p.m.

I appreciate the argument of the Solicitor-General and it goes a long way to meet hon. Members on this side, as does the Amendment on special cases which will be moved in a few moments by the Government. However, as this point has been raised here, I ask the Government to pay particular attention to instructions given to inspectors. We attach great importance to notice being given, as nothing is more damaging to the individual farmer than if he feels that people can come upon his land without notice and interfere with the day to day work.

Amendment negatived.

I beg to move, in page 12, line 12, at the end, to insert:

"(ii) where otherwise than for the purpose of inspection only any land has been entered upon in pursuance of this Subsection without notice being served as aforesaid on the occupier of the land, the Minister shall forthwith cause notice of the entry to be served on the occupier in the manner aforesaid."
This is the Amendment, to which I referred a moment ago, which provides that, where otherwise than for the purpose solely of an inspection, there is an entry upon land in pursuance of the Subsection, without notice, the Minister shall cause notice to be given ex post facto. We hope this will go some way to allay the apprehension in the minds of owners of land. It might happen, and we can understand their being apprehensive, that some entry might be effected and work carried out on the land, or some other operation, and the consequence might be that damage was done. It would be unfortunate if the owner of the land were not conscious that it had taken place and only discovered the damage some time after, when it had spread much further than it would have done had it been taken in hand immediately it started. We have sought to remedy that position by the Amendment, and we hope that it will go some way to meeting the feelings of owners of property affected by the pipeline we are discussing.

This was discussed previously, and we accept the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made:

In page 12, line 15, leave out "section," and insert "subsection."

In page 13, line 4, leave out "and the regulations," and insert "or of regulations under this subsection."—[The Solicitor-General.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

I wish to ask a question which I think the Government should rather welcome. I have no doubt that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will remember that on the Second Reading my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) called attention to the fact that the Expenditure Committee had commented, hardly in a favourable sense, on the method by which these pipelines were being looked after. On the Financial Resolution I drew attention to this fact, and the Financial Secretary said that the matter was being looked into. This Clause is put in to safeguard this very valuable piece of capital, which belongs to the country as a whole. I want to know if the Government have taken any steps to find out if the Expenditure Committee are satisfied with the methods of safeguarding which is being employed, and also if the Government will assure the Committee that this Clause gives them proper power to look after this valuable piece of Government property. The remarks I have made are in no sense hostile, but I think it is only right, as the Financial Secretary was not able to give a full answer earlier, that on this occasion he should be able to say that this Clause will give the necessary powers to look after this extraordinarily valuable piece of property.

I remember the reference which the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) has mentioned, and I am happy to say that I can give the assurance for which he asks. This Clause has been very carefully drafted with an eye to the points he has raised. We are as anxious as he is to see that this piece of property is well preserved and we feel that the Clause will ensure that.

The Committee on Expenditure commented rather violently on this matter. Have they expressed satisfaction about it?

I can only say that what the Committee said has been taken note of, and action has been taken. Whether the Committee as a whole are fully satisfied, I do not know, but I hope so.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 15 and 16 ordered to stand part of the Bill.