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Schedule—(The Mid-Northamptonshire Water Board Order, 1948)

Volume 464: debated on Wednesday 4 May 1949

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

I beg to move, in page 4, line 5, to leave out "April," and to insert "June."

After this slight interruption, I hope Members will agree that it is desirable I should say a few words, in moving this first Amendment, on the procedure that is being adopted. Members will know that the Statutory Orders (Special Procedure) Act, 1945, provided a new procedure for the confirmation of orders by Ministers which were formerly provisional orders, and that this is the first contested order that has come before Parliament under this new procedure. An order was made by the Minister under the Water Act, 1945, after a long local inquiry at which representations both for and against the proposals were heard. As Members know, it constitutes a joint water board and gives power to the Northampton Corporation to construct works and abstract water from the River Nene. These powers will automatically vest in the joint board as from the appointed day.

After the order was made, certain of the local authorities and some other bodies affected by the order objected to some of the provisions, and so the order became subject to the special Parliamentary procedure. The objectors and the Minister were heard by a Joint Committee of both Houses, which made a number of Amendments. The Government do not wish to question the majority of these Amendments, some of which are quite considerable, including proposals for the alteration of the board's area. It is considered, however, that Amendments in two respects of principle made by the Joint Committee are undesirable and should therefore be brought before the House under this procedure.

The Amendment I am now proposing relating to the date of the operation of this order is one of a series which have become necessary because the original appointed day provided for in the order, 1st April, has already passed. The appointed day must, therefore, be postponed and this Amendment postpones it until 1st June next, which is considered to be the earliest practicable date. This date is suitable to the constituent authorities which will make up the future board. Those authorities are naturally anxious that matters should proceed, so far as possible, as though the board has been set up by 1st April and therefore, the charges which the constituent authorities have been making since 1st April have been in accordance with the provisions of the Order.

4.0 p.m.

It will be necessary for those authorities to carry on their own undertakings until 1st June, but it is suggested that when the board is established it should take over the receipts of the constituent authorities as between 1st April and 1st June and reimburse their expenditure during that same period. This Amendment, and the other Amendments which are consequential on it, make provision for these postponements which, as I say, are inevitable and facilitate, so far as possible, the carrying out of the proposal I have put to the House. I would add that the Amendments are acceptable to the constituent authorities.

The deletion of the word "April" would seem to be necessary, but when we come to "June" it seems to me that it may well be already out of date. The procedure which has been adopted is one which the Parliamentary Secretary has thought fit to explain on this Amendment, which may well be the approprite place to consider it, but under it—and I am sure the Home Secretary will take note of it—we are placed at a considerable disadvantage in not having either of the responsible Cabinet Ministers referred to in the Bill here today, or even within the precincts of the House. This is all the more important when one is dealing with pledges about the use of this procedure which were given in the most formal way on the Floor of the House by the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Arthur Greenwood) then, I think, Lord Privy Seal. When this legislation was going through the House—unlike his colleagues of today he thought it desirable that, as the responsible Minister, he should be present to deal with the Measure for which he was responsible—the right hon. Gentleman said:

"…I give the most specific assurance that we do not regard this Bill as a weapon with which to beat down opposition, or to carry proposals through without due regard to all the interests who ought to be considered."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th November, 1945; Vol. 415, c. 2180.]
As the Parliamentary Secretary said, this Measure was the subject of an inquiry. Opposition was lodged to it, and it then had to go before a Committee of both Houses of Parliament—a Committee, by the way, on which there was only one representative of the official Opposition, so it cannot be said to have been weighted in any party sense. This Committee undertook the usual careful examination of this Measure which a Joint Committee of that kind usually undertakes. The evidence heard occupied 184 pages, showing the great detail into which the Committee went—

The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has said that on the Joint Committee there was only one representative of the official Opposition, which is correct, but he ought to go further and say that of the six members there were only two from the Government side which, I think, in view of the numbers of Members on both sides of the House, shows that there was not very fair representation from the point of view of the Government.

The hon. Member himself was a member of the Committee, and that would be a germane point if there had been discussion and a Division in the Committee. But its conclusion was unanimous and Government members are as much bound by a unanimous conclusion as Opposition members.

I must point out that there was discussion in the Committee, and also a Division.

As I was the one Member from this side who sat on that Joint Committee may I point out that when the one Government representative of that Committee from another place was ill his absence was accepted by the whole Committee and by learned counsel speaking for the Minister? May I also point out that no one here knows whether or not our decision was unanimous. We came to a decision as a Committee.

That interruption shows what a generous attitude the Government took up in this matter.

Generous or not, it reveals one of the difficulties under which we are operating. We are operating under a procedure in which a decision of the Committee is announced by the Chairman. Every member of the Committee is bound by the decision of the Committee as announced by the Chair.

I am sorry to interrupt, but a most important point has just been made by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. He is claiming that every member of the Joint Committee is bound by the decision of the Committee. I should like to know whether that is upheld by you, Sir?

We cannot discuss a report which has not been reported to this House. This is a question of minutes of proceedings which, I understand, have not been reported to the House.

I understood the right hon. and gallant Member for the Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) to refer to a unanimous decision of the Committee. I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Chertsey (Captain Marsden), who said that we in this House cannot know whether the decision was unanimous or not, and I should be glad to have your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, whether it is in Order in this House to refer to a decision of the Committee as being unanimous.

If we have no knowledge of the minutes of proceedings, I presume not. We do not know whether or not the decision was unanimous.

I shall quote from a document laid before us. In page 162 it says:

"Counsel and parties are directed to with-draw, and after a short time are again called in."
That shows that some private discussion took place at that point, and that the proceedings afterwards became public. The following is an extract:
"Chairman: The Committee have decided—"

On a point of Order. Has the document from which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is quoting been laid on the Table of this House? Will he state what is the document from which he is quoting?

Certainly it has been tabled. This has been taken from the Vote Office and papers in the Vote Office are papers laid before the House. This is a document which any hon. Member can obtain for himself in the Vote Office. I am not attempting any sharp practices in this matter. This is a new procedure and we are all entitled to do the best we can to make it quite clear. It was with that in view that I said how difficult it was to carry on these discussions in the absence of the responsible Ministers concerned.

I go on to quote:
"Chairman: The Committee have decided that the intake at Duston is to remain at 20 million gallons per day and may be reduced below that, but not in any case below 16 million gallons, as and when and for as long as the Catchment Board notify that there is a necessity."
I am not going to argue the merits of that case because it will arise on a later Amendment. I am merely pointing out the way in which decisions are communicated and the way in which the Debate in this House has arisen. It goes on to say
"The Minister's application for power to extend the period of abstraction or to reduce the minimum flow cannot be acceded to."
I come back to the point which I was making when we began the' very necessary discussion on procedure—that this is a decision of a Committee handed down by the Chairman and which must be taken obviously as committing Members of that Committee at that time. I do not in any way suggest that they should not wish to change their opinions, but here is a decision of a Joint Committee of both Houses which the Minister in this Bill seeks to overturn. I suggest first of all that this is the use of the veto in circumstances to which it is quite inappropriate to apply it and to which it was never expected it would be applied.

Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman really suggest that there is any valid comparison between the proper use of powers provided under an. Act passed by this House and the veto?

Surely the two things are identical. Nobody has ever suggested that the use of the veto in international affairs was suddenly and arbitrarily interjected into international affairs. It was laid down after agreement, debate and discussion, and it is part of the procedure of the United Nations organisation. It has been contended on both sides that it has been unreasonably used. This procedure here has been unreasonably used. It is being used suddenly and arbitrarily and on a point to which we shall come in a moment but which may not arise for something like 20 years.

For a Minister to seek to reverse the decision of a Joint Committee of this House on a point admittedly of secondary importance, and on a point which certainly will take many years before it can be operated and on which, therefore, no urgency arises is directly contrary to the specific pledge given by the right hon. Member for Wakefield:
…we do not regard this Bill as a weapon with which to beat down opposition or to carry proposal; through without due regard to all the interests who ought to be considered."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 14th November. 1945; Vol. 415. c. 2180.]
The Minister no doubt will be acquainted with the fact that the promoters of the order did not object to the Amendments which were introduced by a Joint Committee of both Houses, and that the further points of procedure which bring us to the date now suggested—a procedure undertaken by the Minister—will delay the proceedings. It has already caused delay, and the Amendments which the Minister is here bringing forward to delete the month of April in favour of the month of June—

4.15 p.m.

I made it clear that we have made arrangements with the constituent authorities to enable them to proceed so far as possible with the work so that there shall not be any unnecessary delay. In fact, some of these Amendments on the date cover that very point.

I would not deny that the Minister is seeking to minimise the results of the action that he himself has taken. If he had agreed to the proposition that both Houses might know better than a Departmental Minister knows, all this would be unnecessary and the matter could have gone ahead. I have here a copy of the local paper, the "Northampton Mercury and Herald." indicating how very surprised all concerned were on the intimation of the postponement of the appointed day, which was received in a telegram from the Ministry of Health to the Town Clerk of Northampton. In fact, so upset were they that the local people came to London and interviewed the Minister. They received an assurance which the Parliamentary Secretary has just repeated to the House, that the Minister would do his best to see that no undue delay was caused. I repeat that the Minister has adopted the procedure of a sledge hammer to crack an egg—a procedure which is delaying the provision of the water which the inhabitants of these areas seek to have.

The hon. and learned Member may be a great authority on many things, but I have as much experience of Parliamentary procedure as he has and to transform an order into an opposed Bill is not the way to accelerate business. He may not have noticed the fact that he has turned this Measure into an opposed Bill and that, as well as having to go through this House, where the Government and Minister command a majority, it has to go through another place where the Minister and Government do not command a majority. I submit that that all may well lead to delay beyond June, to which the matter has already been postponed by the direct action of the Minister himself.

What I understood the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to say, and what I took exception to, was that these steps had resulted or would result in some delay in the provision of water. I have met all the representatives of these local authorities, many of whom are in my own constituency, and I have gone very thoroughly into this matter. Whatever the right hon. and gallant Gentleman may know about Parliamentary procedure, I know more at the moment about the provision of water for Mid-Northamptonshire than he does, and I say with some confidence that what has been done will not delay for a moment the provision of water in this area and that—

I do not know whether the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) has exhausted his right to speak, but he is quite entitled to his opinion as to his knowledge of the provision of water for Northamptonshire. I also have given some attention to it over a long period of time. I was Minister of Agriculture at the time when the Catchment Boards were set up, and I have travelled every inch of the River Nene and I know every one of the points of view about the different matters. Nobody will deny that to hold up the passage of a Measure from this House is not the quickest way of accelerating the results of that order whatever else it does. Had the Minister been willing to defer to the views of the Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament he would not have involved us in the use of the lengthy and cumbersome procedure upon which we have embarked today.

We shall discuss very shortly the actual merits of the question raised on the first Amendment—the position of the Minister as against the Board. I say here and now that I am not at all sure that the Minister's tactics, which admittedly have resulted in delaying the passage of the Measure—I think that all Members of the House will be agreed on that point—will not result in a further delay of the passage of the Measure. If the Minister had been here he might have convinced us, but I do not think that we have been convinced by the arguments of the Parliamentary Secretary. Therefore, we cannot accept the Amendment, much as I should have liked to do so.

I should like to say a word on the sort of general proposition that underlay the remarks of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, without dealing at all with the first Amendment. A good deal of difficulty follows from the fact that we are now facing a new procedure in the House. Some of this difficulty will be avoided if we try to seek an analogy between this procedure and existing procedure. When this order came to it, the Joint Committee was in the position of a committee where discussion took place, petitioners and counter-petitioners appeared, decisions were arrived at, and the order was amended, if necessary. Whether the discussions were unanimous or not is a point of difficulty, so far as the Joint Committee is concerned. There is nothing on record. All my copies of the report are marked "Confidential" and therefore I cannot use them.

We can set those aspects of the matter completely aside and say that this Bill has been in Committee; it is reported to the House and now it is in its Report stage, just like any other Bill. The determination of the Joint Committee is given to us in the form of a Bill which we are now considering on Report. It seems perfectly competent for the Minister at this stage to submit Amendments to the Bill, as is done repeatedly during the Business of the House. That is all that is now happening, so far as I can see. The Minister has decided that he will put forward certain Amendments on the Report stage of this Bill. I do not see that any accusation can be made against him that he is delaying the fulfilment of the Order or that he is indulging in any practice that can, by any stretch of imagination, be called a sharp practice. So far as I can judge, he is following the regular—[Interruption.]—I do not know whether the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has any interruption to make. If so, I shall give way, and then I shall do my best to deal with it.

I was waiting until the hon. Gentleman had finished his sentence. I hate to be interrupted myself in the middle of a sentence.

I was pointing out that it was competent for the Minister, within the procedure of the House, to submit Amendments at this stage, as is often done upon a Report stage. As I see it, that is all that the Minister is now doing.

It is a question of the interpretation of a pledge. The Minister is acting undoubtedly within the four corners of the Act. Otherwise he would be out of Order and he would be pulled up by the Chair. It is a question whether in this case the very explicit pledge given by the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Arthur Greenwood) is being borne out in the spirit as well as in the letter. I was contending that it is not. I was not at all contending, and I do not think that the hon. Member will find any such contention in my words, that the Minister is acting beyond the powers that have been entrusted to him.

The point which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has just put involves an argument on whether the Minister in question actually made a pledge. If it is convenient, we should have explained to us the attitude of the Minister to the accusation that these Amendments are not Amendments that go to the root of the matter contained in the order. If we had some guidance on that matter from the Minister, it would help to resolve the difficulties that face His Majesty's Opposition.

The hon. Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin) said one thing with which I certainly agree. I shall say nothing about what happened in the Joint Select Committee, nor discuss in any way whether its decisions were unanimous, or anything of that kind. I simply accept their Report. I want to take the hon. Member up on two points. The first point is that he said that this Measure has come to the House on the Report stage like any other Measure. Of course, not like any other Public Bill but like other Private Bill legislation. That is a very important difference. I think that the hon. Member does not disagree with me. On the Report stage we interfere with the very greatest hesitation with the considered conclusions of committees that have considered these matters in a judicial manner upstairs. I hope that the hon. Member agrees with me so far, that it is altogether exceptional on the Report stage to take action of this kind.

I thank the hon. and learned Member for giving way. I would like to put this point to him. While I agree with what he was saying I think he is not denying to the Minister the right, if the Minister thinks fit, to take such action on the Report stage as has been taken in this case.

I would not go so far as to agree with the hon. Member on that point, because I agree with what was said by my right hon. and gallant Friend from the Front Bench. We are certainly not disputing the Minister's power. We are disputing the propriety of what he is doing.

That leads me to the second point on which I hope to correct the hon. Member and carry him with me. He said that there was some question whether the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Arthur Greenwood) was giving a pledge. Those were the hon. Member's words. He cast doubt on the question whether the right hon. Gentleman was giving a pledge. I am going to read not merely the sentence read by my right hon. and gallant Friend from the Front Bench but the sentence that immediately follows it, because this sentence puts the matter beyond any doubt whatsoever. Let me read the two sentences together, so that there can be no doubt about them:
"I do not want to mince my words at all, and I give the most specific assurance that we do not regard this Bill as a weapon with which to beat down opposition or to carry proposals through without due regard to all the interests who ought to be considered."
Then follows this sentence:
"I think it would be wrong to use the Bill in that way, and so long as this Government continues I can assure hon. Members that this specific pledge which I have given will be honoured to the full."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 14th November, 1945; Vol. 415, c. 2180–2181.]
There is no question whatever that a deliberate and considered pledge was being given by His Majesty's Government, The matter has been considered by a Joint Select Committee. The Amendments, taken together, go quite outside the pledge.

4.30 p.m.

The procedure we are following is precisely that laid down by Section 6 of the 1945 Act. It was a procedure expressly designed—it was so stated in the Section—to provide for a case where the Minister differed from any conclusion of the Joint Committee. It is now being suggested that my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Arthur Greenwood) gave a general pledge that the Bill would not be used to sledge-hammer unpopular views through the House. It is fantastic to say that by some curious process he was giving a pledge not to use the Bill we were Debating and the provisions we were then passing. The Parliamentary Secretary says that his reason for deleting "April" and inserting "June" is that April has now gone and that it is now May. That seems a fairly substantial and quite modest reason to put for- ward. The right hon. and gallant Member for the Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) says he must have a Privy Councillor here to explain it to him so that he can fully discuss it and understand it. It is a matter for him to judge whether he can understand it without an explanation of that kind, but I have had no difficulty in understanding it and I shall have no difficulty in supporting the Government.

The hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hale) explained that he can understand the difference between "April" and "June." Most of us can; at least it is usual to be able to understand that difference. We are, however, discussing a wider matter on the Amendment. With this procedure, if we wish to raise anything against the Minister, we have to do it on the first Amendment on the Order Paper. Therefore, although I could say more about "April" and "June," I want to do as other hon. Members have done and give my views on the use of this procedure.

Everyone realises that the Minister has full power to make these Amendments. We are not quarrelling with that power in the least. However, we say that after a new procedure is approved with the goodwill of all parties and a definite statement made—I will not call it a pledge—by a responsible Minister like the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Arthur Greenwood), then, if the Minister really feels obliged to go against the decision of a Joint Committee of both Houses, we should have an explanation of the need for doing so from the Minister himself. That is putting it most charitably from the Minister's point of view. We agree that he can make a change, but we say that if he proposes to make a change it should be explained to the House very fully.

I go further than that and say that it will go against the best traditions of the House, if a Minister is to be able to upset the decision of hon. Members of all parties working together and acting as judges and not as Parliamentarians in the sense that we are here. Very few know the traditions and the procedure of the House better than the Minister of Health. If he were on this side of the House and free from Ministerial responsibility, he would be the first person to protest against this procedure. Before this Par- liament he was always very strictly in favour of keeping the understandings and Rules of the House. I cannot do otherwise than very strongly deprecate the fact that he is not here this afternoon. I am glad to see the Home Secretary here. I hope he will explain fully to the House why the Government are seeking to overturn the 'proceedings of the Joint Committee. I am in no way seeking to minimise what the Parliamentary Secretary has done. He had a difficult point with which to deal. Any Parliamentary Secretary might be left with a baby like that; I have often seen it done, but very rarely have I seen it done in such a way that when the acting Leader of the Opposition states his case clearly, no effort is made to have here a Cabinet Minister to explain what has happened.

We are bound to accept the Amendment, but are we sure that June is the right date? This is the House of Commons and we can speak only for ourselves. Are we sure that another place will not accept the decision of the Joint Committee? If that occurs, it is quite likely that June will not be a suitable operating date. I ask the Home Secretary and the Patronage Secretary to consider this matter not from the point of view of a Private Bill but as a point of procedure of considerable importance. It is a point which we all hope will operate easily and to the advantage of Private Bill legislation in the future. A really serious situation has arisen this afternoon, and I urge upon whoever is to reply for the Government that it would be better in the circumstances to have here the Minister who is responsible for it, to explain to us why he has gone against the decision of the Joint Committee and why we are being asked to accept this decision. I am sure that the Home Secretary will accept it that I am not saying this in any hostile spirit. There are occasions when the House has a right to expect the same treatment as the Minister would expect if he were in opposition. This is a serious matter relating to the smooth working of a system which is quite different from the party politics of the House and depends on the goodwill of the House. I hope the Minister will meet our point in some way.

I do not intend to deal with the merits of this Amendment or any of the subsequent Amendments. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health is perfectly competent to deal with all of them and is fully informed on the policy of his Minister. The Opposition must be gluttons for punishment if they prefer on these occasions to have the Debate answered by the Minister of Health rather than the Parliamentary Secretary for I should have thought that they might be treated rather more roughly if the Minister himself were here.

I want to deal with the points that have been raised with regard to procedure. The right hon. and gallant Member for the Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) got us into a little trouble, I think unnecessarily, by saying at one stage that the report of the Committee was unanimous. It may have been unanimous, but only the members of the Committee know that. It is not disclosed to this House, quite rightly I think, whether a Committee is unanimous or not. It is some years since I served on a Private Bill Committee, but my recollection is that arguments on both sides are heard. the room is then cleared—

I am trying to deal with it chronologically. Hon. Members may differ. They may agree. I can recall occasions when the five members of a Private Bill Committee were not always unanimous. There was a decision, and whatever the majority said was announced by the chairman as the decision of the Committee. Quite rightly he does not say that by a majority the Committee have decided.

Never in my experience. The chairman of the Committee says, "The Committee have decided," and that is the decision of the Committee. As the right hon. and gallant Gentleman rightly said. it binds the Committee just as a decision of this House for the time being binds all the Members of the House, no matter into which Lobby they may have gone when the Question was put. It would be perfectly competent for any member of the Committee, if he had not agreed with the decision of his Committee, when the matter is raised down here on Report stage on any of those Bills, to vote against the decision that has been announced upstairs, and it may even have been done on occasion. Therefore I think that some of the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin) arose from the possibly accidental use by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman of the word "unanimous."

Now I come to the other questions raised. It is suggested that in some way or other the procedure this afternoon is a breach of the pledge given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Arthur Greenwood) when he was Lord Privy Seal and Deputy Leader of the House on the occasion when the procedure under which we are operating today was established. I think that is pitching the case a great deal too high because, if it means anything at all, it means that on no occasion must a Minister bring before the House an Amendment to one of these provisional order Bills when they have been before a Select Committee.

Much more was said than that. It was said that the form of the Amendment which the Minister would bring before this House would get at the very root of the Bill and that smaller Amendments which were really of a technical nature, and which might prove or disprove themselves in time, could be settled by the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman said that only those Amendments which really got at the root and structure of the Bill should be brought before this House.

4.45 p.m.

We shall be able to discuss on the later Amendments whether they are technical matters or whether they are matters which go to the root and structure of the Bill.

I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman but we are discussing very relevant words in that respect. If the powers of the Minister have been abused by the use of what strength he has in an improper manner, then it has necessitated the very Amendment we have under discussion. The Minister has brought about the delay, and we claim that he has brought about the delay by using his powers improperly.

The Amendment under discussion is whether it should be April or June, which is a matter that has become necessary by the effluxion of time.

No. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman wishes to be fair. It has been brought about—

It is necessary to put "June" instead of "April" because April has now passed. I do not intend to be drawn any more on that point.

With regard to the nature of the further Amendments, I suggest we deal with them when we reach them, and that we shall then be able to discuss whether they come within the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield or not. I want to make it quite clear that it cannot be thought that this stage of the Bill is to be purely formal, and that the Minister is precluded on appropriate occasions from putting down suitable Amendments. There may be a question as to whether some of these later Amendments are appropriate ones to come within the scope of the pledge given by the right hon. Member for Wakefield, and I have no doubt that if that issue is raised, my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will be quite competent to deal with it. I do not want it to be thought that we are in any way going back on the pledge given by the right hon. Member for Wakefield. If there is a feeling on the opposite side that in some of these Amendments such a recession from his position has taken place, I have no doubt we shall hear about it on the appropriate Amendment. Although we do not go back on that pledge, we cannot accept the principle that in no circumstances could the Minister put down an Amendment.

I can only speak again by leave of the House, but I fully accept the position which the right hon. Gentleman has put that the procedure is intended to be used. It is the propriety with which it is being used on this occasion with which we quarrel, and which we shall argue as and when we come to the Amendments. Again I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that we must deal with this matter on the Amendments, and we have only had to deal with it now because the Parliamentary Secretary took the opportunity of this, the first Amendment, to expound the procedure under which we are working, and we could not let it go by default but had to register our position on the matter.

It seems to me to be a serious matter when suggestions are made that a pledge which was undoubtedly given is being broken, and it is in the best interests of this House, apart from any party question, that that sort of accusation should not be made lightly. If it is made, it should be looked at rather closely. I could not help observing that all the hon. Members who referred to these words of the Lord Privy Seal quoted from a paper which does not contain their context, and their context seems to me to be exceedingly important.

Section 4 of the Special Procedure Act, under which we are operating here today, deals with the possibility of this House itself dealing with private legislation by a Prayer at a stage before it goes to any Joint Committee. Section 5, which is the one applicable today, deals with the procedure of a Joint Committee and of what we call the Report stage here today. When this Act was first introduced as a Bill the Lord President of the Council, not the Lord Privy Seal, made it perfectly clear what was intended by Section 5. He pointed out that in that he was really following a Scottish procedure. At the time of Second Reading that was accepted, the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) saying for the Opposition that they reserved the right to consider the matter in Committee. The phrase was used by the hon. Member for The High Peark (Mr. Molson) that they were very anxious that the Act should not be used as a bulldozer. The way in which he feared it might be used as a bulldozer was by having private orders annulled on a Prayer before ever they got to the Joint Committee.

The passage which has been quoted from HANSARD was part of the Lord Privy Seal's reply to a speech made by the hon. Member for The High Peak. It was the hon. Member for The High Peak who had himself introduced, by way of Amendment, Clause 5 as it stands at present, and the Lord Privy Seal on that occasion accepted the Clause; that is why it is there. The pledge he gave had nothing whatever to do with this particular Clause. It was concerned with the other point, the question of whether the machinery of annulment by Prayer—Section 4—should be used as a bulldozer. If anyone looks at column 2180 of Volume 415 of HANSARD, they will find the words which have been so extensively quoted. [Interruption.] It is wrong on the piece of paper to which hon. Members are referring.

I shall trouble the House for a minute or two because these matters are of importance and charges of bad faith ought not to be lightly made and ought to be carefully supported and scrutinised.

I am glad to hear the right hon. and gallant Gentleman say that. The Lord Privy Seal began by referring to a Scottish matter and then saying that he wished to express his sincere appreciation of the services of the hon. Member for The High Peak Division, for that hon. Member had just made a speech in which he used the "bulldozer" metaphor again and referred again to the point of whether the Act might not be used to prevent Private Bills getting upstairs at all by means of a Prayer under Section 4. The speech of the Lord Privy Seal continues like this:

"My hon. Friend "—
the hon. Member for The High Peak Division—
"referred to the statement made by the right hon. and learned Member for the West Derby Division of Liverpool (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) on the Second reading about whether this Bill was going to be used ruthlessly. The term 'bulldozer' was used by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but I may say that in that very Debate he was reminded by an hon. Member that he, the right hon. and learned Gentleman, had had a good deal to do with laying this egg, because the Bill was largely his work. I do not know what he contemplated.…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 14th Novembers 1945; Vol. 415, c. 2180.]
Then the Lord Privy Seal goes straight on to the words which have been extensively quoted. It is quite clear to anybody who looks at HANSARD and at the course of the discussion that the Lord Privy Seal was not talking at all about the question under Section 5—that is to say, to what extent this House should.

on the Report stage, interfere with what had been done by the Joint Committee upstairs—but on a quite different matter: to what extent the Prayer procedure under Section 4 should be used to prevent a Bill going upstairs to a Joint Committee at all.

May I put a question to the hon. and learned Gentleman? He mentioned Section 5. I think he will agree that we are also concerned with Section 6, which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hale). Is it the contention of the hon. and learned Gentleman that under the procedure in the proviso to Section 6 (2) it is proper for the Minister to introduce Amendments which, in fact, fundamentally alter the decisions of the Joint Select Committee?

I am sorry to disappoint the hon. and learned Gentleman, but I am concerned with one thing, and one thing only, and I should like to make quite clear what I have been trying to say. There was a major point raised, and raised by the Opposition and particularly by the hon. Member for The High Peak, during the passage of the Bill. That major point had nothing to do with what the hon. and learned Gentleman has just been talking about. It was the question whether annulment by Prayer might be used as a bulldozer. The phrase was repeated once or twice and the apprehension of the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members who spoke in a similar sense was that the special procedure might work as a bulldozer by preventing Private Bills getting before a Joint Committee at all. There was a considerable discussion and a good many speeches about the inadequacy of Prayers and so on.

That was the point to which that pledge was directed. In its context it is perfectly clear that that was the main point, and not the quite different point now being considered, namely, the extent to which this House should use its powers to reconsider matters which have been decided already, in one sense or another, by a Joint Committee upstairs. I wanted to make that point perfectly clear. I think that anyone who will look through the Debates in HANSARD, which are rather difficult to quote extensively in a speech here, will find that what I am saying is quite correct in substance, at any rate in my view.

I only want to add a few words on the particular Amendment we are considering. I repeat, if I may, that I know the stage which the preliminary works or negotiations for the provision of the water supply under this order have reached; and that not only am I personally convinced, which might, perhaps, matter little to the House, but that all the local authorities concerned are also convinced, that the effect of the delay in Parliamentary procedure occasioned by these matters will not prejudice or delay in any way the actual provision of the water supply that is so badly needed by these areas in mid-Northamptonshire.

The hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) has expended a great deal of effort in the last two days in coming to the rescue of the Government. His effort on this occasion is, perhaps, not his most successful one. He has done his utmost to convince us that the pledge given by the Lord Privy Seal was a pledge relating solely to the Prayers which could be brought under Section 4 of the Act and had no application to Section 6, under which this particular matter now comes before the House.

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. and learned Gentleman and I hope he will excuse me, but I did not go as far as that. What I wanted to make quite clear was that the pledge was given on that point and that that was what was being discussed and considered when the pledge was given.

5.0 p.m.

The hon. and learned Member is quite wrong if he says that the pledge was given on that point. He is clearly wrong. If he will read the pledge again he will see that it does not refer to Prayers, it does not refer to Section 4, but it refers to the Bill. The words are perfectly general:

"I do not want to mince my words at all, and I give the most specific assurance that we do not regard this Bill as a weapon with which to beat down opposition or to carry proposals through without regard to all the interests.…"
The hon. and learned Member has done his best to convince us that when the Lord Privy Seal said "this Bill" he did not mean "this Bill," but the right of praying under Section 4. I leave the right hon. Gentleman to defend himself against any attack for not saying what he meant, but the hon. and learned Member is obviously wrong. The pledge went on:
"…so long as this Government continues, I can assure hon Members that this specific pledge which I have given will be honoured to the full."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th November, 1945; Vol. 415, c. 2180–1]
I agree with the Home Secretary that at the moment we cannot express an opinion because we have not come to discuss the material Amendments as to whether or not this pledge has been honoured, but I feel quite certain that if the right hon. Gentleman makes inquiries, he will find that neither the promoters of the water board, nor the objectors to the water board regard either Amendment as going to the root of the matter and, if their views are correct, it is clear that this pledge so clearly given, so explicit in its phraseology is not being honoured today.

The point made by the hon. and learned Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) really will not do. When the Measure was being discussed the only Clause which the Opposition suggested could be used for bulldozing—that was the phrase used—for bulldozing the Joint Committee was Clause 4. Clause 4 was the only Clause as to which anxiety was expressed. When the Lord Privy Seal spoke of the Bill and referred to that particular phrase, he was obviously referring to what the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) had been saying. It is easy to extract things out of their context, but if one looks at the OFFICIAL REPORT of what was said at the time it is quite obvious that he was referring to Clause 4, the only matter as to which anxiety has been expressed.

As we shall have to come to a decision on these Amendments, may I recapitulate what is the position? A statutory order was made by the Minister a little time ago. There was no Prayer in this House against it, but there were petitions of the parties concerned against the order and it was to deal with those petitions that the Joint Committee was set up. It was a good Committee, very carefully chosen. I always find it a pleasure to be on that sort of Committee where one may say:

"Then none was for a party; Then all were for the State."
No one could have known the politics of any of us on that Committee. We had arrayed before us a large number of learned gentlemen with their clerks, Parliamentary agents and expert witnesses brought at great expense from all parts of the country to justify a petition and, in some cases, a counter-petition. We looked into this with great care, considerably greater care, than the Minister or Parliamentary Secretary has ever exercised. We came to certain decisions. We thought the order would go through in that form, but not a bit of it. A Bill was presented by the Minister with one name on it—the name of the Minister himself. He can depute the work to his Parliamentary Secretary, but no individual Member can put down an Amendment unless his name is on the Order Paper and he is here himself. A Member cannot depute the work, but the Minister can. The Home Secretary, with his usual courtesy, filled the breach to a certain extent and told us that we were lucky the Minister was not here, or we should have been roughly handled. I can assure him that we are not afraid of the Minister, even if some of the Members of his own party are.

I shall not enter into the arguments which have been put forward recently, but I shall refer to what I hinted at in an interjection. I read through these matters very carefully from a layman's point of view to get the sense of the matter rather than the written word. To my mind, the sense is very obvious—that where in the Joint Committee we dealt with Amendments which were normally Amendments to any Bill, the decision of the Joint Committee should be accepted, but where there were Amendments or petitions which had upset the whole Bill, the Minister would have the right to bring in a Bill, as he has done.

The Amendments before the House will be argued in due course and I shall not anticipate what the House will say, but I do not think anyone will say that they are serious enough to wreck the whole Bill. If we on the Joint Committee had accepted all the petitions, the Minister might have asked, "What sort of a Committee is this? They accept everything and the Bill is not what it was when it was a statutory order." But there was nothing of the sort. There are two comparatively minor provisions by which the Minister has sought to make an order under the 1945 Act for purposes for which it was never intended.

I hope the House will support the Committee, and that hon. Members will think for a moment of Committees they have been on or will be on in the future. We went on day after day, costing a great deal of time and expense to petitioners and to the country and retaining the services of learned counsel; and then the Minister, by a mere stroke of the pen, says, "I do not like it, start afresh." Why is not the Minister here to answer for himself? Where is he?

I wish to draw attention to two points which have been made by hon. and learned Members opposite. We have had a long dissertation on the question of what a pledge meant and a longer dissertation on the meaning of the word "Bill." According to hon. Members opposite, the word only means those parts of the Bill to which they wish to draw attention, but we on this side of the House, when we speak of a Bill, mean the Bill, the whole Bill and nothing but the Bill. Hon. Members opposite are meticulous and can split hairs, but apparently they are not capable of understanding the perfectly simple word "Bill." What is more important is that what has emerged from hon. and learned Gentlemen shows a grave rift in the Socialist Party. The Home Secretary comes here full of courage and admits honestly, with his hand on his heart, that a pledge was made and that he is prepared to honour it; but two hon. and learned Gentlemen, within a few minutes.

Division No. 129.]


[5.12 p.m.

Acland, Sir RichardBramall, E. A.Diamond, J.
Adams, Richard (Baham)Brook, D. (Halifax)Dobbie, W
Albu, A. H.Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)Dodds, N. N
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.Donovan, T.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)Brown, T. J. (Ince)Driberg, T. E. N.
Alpass, J. H.Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.Dumpleton, C. W.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)Burke, W. A.Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C
Attewell, H. C.Carmichael, JamesEdwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty)
Awbery, S. S.Cluse, W S.Evans, E. (Lowestoft)
Ayles, W. H.Cocks, F. S,Ewart, R.
Ayrton Gould, Mrs. BCollins V JFairhurst, F.
Bacon, Miss A.Colman, Miss G MFarthing, W. J
Balfour, A.Cooper, G.Follick, M
Barton, C.Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N.W.)Foot, M. M.
Battley, J. R.Corlett, Dr. J.Fraser, T (Hamilton)
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F J.Daggar, G.Freeman, Peter (Newport)
Bing, G. H. C.Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.Gaflacher, W.
Blenkinsop, A.Davies, Edward (Burslem)Ganley, Mrs C S
Blyton, W. R.Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.)Gilzean, A.
Boardman, H.Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)Glanville, J E. (Consett)
Bowden, Fig. Offr. H. WDeer, G.Goodrich, H. E.
Braddock, T. (Mitcham)Delargy, H. J.Grenfell, D R

cast him to the wolves and say that no pledge was given at all, and, if it was, it referred only to a comma and not to a full stop.

In my first sentence I said a pledge was undoubtedly given and I did not throw doubt upon it. The question is the context in which it was given. That is a matter of common sense.

But the hon. and learned Gentleman has really only endorsed what I have just said. Of course, he admits that a pledge was given, but according to him it was a pledge which referred only to one phrase in the Bill; but when his right hon. Friend gave the pledge it did not refer to one phrase but to the whole Bill. No one who reads the words which the right hon. Gentleman used can differ from that. Let the hon. and learned Gentleman consult the Home Secretary, sitting in front of him, who has admitted it. The Leader of the House himself would admit it; he looks as though he would admit anything at the moment. It is really very shocking that a split in the Socialist Party should be exposed. I do not mind the loss to the Socialist Party, but I think that the loss of the time of this House which is being taken up by the hon. and learned Members destroying the arguments of their own Front Bench, is a very wrong thing to have happened.

Question, "That 'April,' stand part of the Bill," put, and negatived.

Question put, "That 'June.' be there inserted in the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes. 220; Noes, 128.

Grey, C. F.McLeavy, FShawcross, Rt. Hn. Sir H (St. Helens)
Grierson, E.MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)Shinwell, Rt. Hon E.
Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)Mainwaring, W. H.Silverman, J. (Erdington)
Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side)Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)Simmons, C. J.
Hale, LeslieMallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield)Skeffington, A. M
Hall, Rt. Hon. GlenvilMann, Mrs. J.Skeffingion-Lodge, T. C.
Hannan, W. (Maryhill)Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)Skinnard, F. W.
Hardy, E. A.Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. ASmith, C. (Colchester)
Hastings, Dr. SomervilleMathers, Rt. Hon. GeorgeSmith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)
Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)Mayhew, C. P.Snow, J. W.
Hicks, G.Messer, F.Sorensen, R. W
Holman, P.Middleton, Mrs. LSoskice, Rt. Han. Sir Frank
Horabin, T. L.Millington, Wing-Comdr. E. R.Stokes, R. R.
Houghton, A. L N DMitchison, G. R.Stross, Dr. B.
Hoy, J.Monslow, W.Swingler, S.
Hubbard, T.Moody, A. S.Sylvester, G. O.
Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)Morley, RTaylor, H. B. (Mansfield)
Hughes, Emry.s (S. Ayr)Morrison, Rt. Hn. H. (Lewisham, E.)Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)Mort, D. L.Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)
Irving, W. J. (Tottenham. N.)Moyle, A.Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)
Janner, B.Naylor, T. E.Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Jeger, G. (Winchester)Neal, H. (Claycross)Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)
Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.)Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. (Derby)Thurtle, Ernest
Jenkins, R. H.Oldfield., W. H.Tolley, L.
John, W.Oliver, G H.Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G
Johnston, DouglasOrbach, M.Vernon, Maj. W F
Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool)Paget, R. T.Walkden, E
Kenyon, C.Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)Walker, G. H
Key, Rt. Hon. C. WPalmer, A. M. F.Wallace, G D (Chislehurst)
King, E M.Parker, J.Warbey, W N
Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr EParkin, B. T.Watkins, T. E
Kinley, J.Peart, T. F.Webb, M. (Bradford, C)
Kirby, B. V.Popplewell, E.Weitzman, D.
Kirkwood., Rt. Hon. DPorter, E. (Warrington)Wells, P. L (Faversham)
Lang, G.Porter, G. (Leeds)Wheatley, Rt. Hn. J T. (Edinb'gh, E.)
Lavers, S.Price, M. PhilipsWhite, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Leonard, W.Randall, H. E.Whiteley, Rt Hon W
Leslie, J R.Ranger, J.Wigg, George
Levy, B. W.Rankin, J.Wilkes, L.
Lewis, A. W. J (Upton)Reeves, J.Wilkins, W A
Lewis, J. (Bolton)Raid, T. (Swindon)Willey, F T (Sunderland)
Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.Rhodes, H.Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
Logan, D. G.Ridealgh, Mrs. MWilliams, Ronald (Wigan)
Lyne, A. W.Robens, A.Williams, W. R (Heston)
McAdam, W.Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)Willis, E
McEntee, V. La T.Robinson, K. (St. Pancras)Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. H.
McGhee, H. G.Ross, William (Kilmarnock)Wyatt, W.
McGovern, J.Royle, C.Yates. V. F
McKay, J. (Wallsend)Scollan, T.Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)Segal, Dr. S.Younger, Hon. Kenneth
Mckinlay, A. S.Shackleton, E. A. A.
Maclean, N. (Govan)Sharp, GranvilleTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mr. Pearson and Mr. Collindridge.


Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.Fletcher, W. (Bury)Lindsay, M. (Solihull)
Amory, D. HeathcoatFox, Sir G.Linstead, H. N.
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R.Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)Lloyd Selwyn (Wirral)
Barlow, Sir J.Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P MLow, A. R. W.
Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok)Lucas.-Tooth, S. H.
Birch, NigelGalbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M S.
Bossom, A. C.George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'ke)Mackeson, Brig. H. R.
Bowen, R.Glyn, Sir R.McKie. J. H. (Galloway)
Bower, N.Gridley, Sir A.MacLeod, J.
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.Grimston, R. VMacpherson, N. (Dumfries)
Bracken, Rt. Hon. BrendanGruffydd, Prof. W. J.Maitland, Comdr. J. W
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G.Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)Manningham-Buller, R. E
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. WHare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)Marlowe, A. A. H
Buchan-,Hepburn, P. G. T.Harvey, Air-Comdre. A VMarples, A. E.
Butcher, H. W.Head, Brig. A. H.Marsden, Capt. A.
Butler, Rt Hn. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n)Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon Sir CMarshall, D. (Bodmin)
Carson, EHinchingbrooke, ViscountMarshall, S. H. (Sutton)
Challen, CHollis, M. C.Mellor, Sir J
Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G.Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich)Wilson, A. H. E
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O Hope, Lord J.Morris-Jones, Sir H
Crowder, Capt. John EHulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. JMorrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)
Davidson, ViscountessHutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)Morrison, Rt. Hon. W S. (Cirensester)
Drayson, G. B.Hutchison, Col, J. R. (Glasgow, C.)Mott-Radclyffe, C. E
Drewe, C.Jeffreys, General Sir G.Neven, Spence, Sir B
Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)Jennings, R.Nicholson, G.
Eccles, D. M.Keeling, E. H.Noble, Comdr. A. H P
Eden, Rt. Hon. A.Lancaster., Col. C. G.Nutting, Anthony
Elliot, Lieut.-Col. Rt Hon WalterLegge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.Odey, G. W.
Erroll, F. J.Lennox-Boyd, A. T.O'Neill. Rt. Hon Sir H

Orr-Ewing, I. L.Smithers, Sir W.Wakefield, Sir W, W.
Peake, Rt. Hon. O.Snadden, W. M.Ward, Hon. G. R.
Pickthorn, K.Spearman, A. C. M.Wheatley, Colonel M. J. (Dorset, E.)
Raikes, H. V.Spence, H. R.White, Sir D. (Fareham)
Ramsay, Maj. S.Stanley, Rt. Hon. O.White, J. B. (Canterbury)
Rayner, Brig, R.Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.Williams, C. (Torquay)
Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)Strauss, Henry (English Universities)Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)Studholme, H. G.York, C.
Ropner, Col. L.Sutcliffe, H.Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)
Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Savory, Prof. D. L.Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Scott, Lord W.Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.Major Conant and
Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)Touche, G. C.Mr. Wingfield Digby
Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.Turton, R. H.

I beg to move, in page 7, line 32 to leave out "Catchment Board," and to insert, "Minister and the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries."

We now come to one of the major Amendments which we are proposing to the Bill, and the main reason for which the Bill has been introduced into this House. Section 7 (3) of the Schedule to the Bill will authorise the joint board to abstract up to 20 million gallons of water a day from the River Nene in the winter months from 1st October to 30th April after a new reservoir has been constructed and brought into use. The Nene Catchment Board represented to the Joint Committee that the winter flow of the river will not always be sufficient to allow of that rate of extraction without interference with other very proper river interests. The Joint Committee decided that if the catchment board considered that it was necessary, having regard to the state of the river, to reduce the rate of extraction, then they should be empowered to require the corporation to reduce that abstraction rate to such amount not less than 16 million gallons as they thought fit on any day they regarded it as necessary.

The Government recognise the fact that there may be periods of drought in which it would not be right to abstract the full quantity which is provided for, and they agree that the order should make provision for this emergency. But the Government cannot accept the view that it is right that a question of this kind, which affects very considerably the two interests involved, should be finally decided by one party to the matter. Therefore the Amendment very properly provides for the question to be determined, the final issue of any reduction in the abstraction rate, by my right hon. Friend and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

This we regard as an issue of principle which goes to the root of the order because we must insist that those who have water-consuming interests in this area shall be protected as well as the very proper interests of the catchment board. In view of the fact that my right hon. Friends have a direct responsibility in this matter it is only proper that the final decision should lie in their hands.

This brings us to the issue which sharply divides those who are in favour of the Minister's proposal, which I trust is not simply the Minister's party, and those who are opposed to it which again I trust are not simply the parties in Opposition. The matter should be discussed—and we have the assurance of one of the hon. Members who sat upon the Committee that it was so discussed there—without any suggestion of party bias arising. But the Parliamentary Secretary brings up a very difficult point where he says they regard this as a matter of such principle as to make it cut at the very root of the Bill. Frankly, on the face of it, one would not suggest that any matter of this extreme importance was concerned. The Parliamentary Secretary's own words were, regarding the rate of abstraction of a certain quantity of water from the river, "after a new reservoir has been constructed and brought into use." The first point is that that period is far in the future.

Even so, nobody can suggest that 1954 is actually breathing down the back of anybody's neck just now. The Minister, with his unusually acute sense of hearing, hears "Time's winged chariot hurrying near" even at that distance of time. I would suggest a further point that this reservoir has not only to be brought into use, but fully into use. It is not suggested by anybody that it will be brought fully into use for a period of some 15 to 20 years. Therefore in the first place urgency does not arise.

Secondly the Minister asks us to provide against the unreasonableness of elected bodies. That is surely a very rash assumption to make. It does support and key in with the general distrust of elected bodies which this Government shows in all its legislation—

If the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will permit me to say so, I did not refer to the unreasonableness of elected bodies. I was referring to the perfectly reasonable but conflicting national interests involved.

Yes, but I would go a little further than the Minister, and suggest that two perfectly reasonable bodies would be ex hypothesi assumed to be able to come to a reasonable composition of their difficulties.

But the right hon. and gallant Gentleman must not put words into my mouth which I certainly did not use.

I suggest that that is a perfectly legitimate interpretation —[Interruption.] Is it not a correct interpretation of the Minister's words? The suggestion is that the catchment board would act with such unreasonableness in this matter as to demand the intervention of the Cabinet, for that is the Minister's proposal which I shall come to in a moment—

Let me finish my sentence and then I have no objection to being interrupted. I merely say that to suggest that two bodies concerned with a supply of water would act so unreasonably that nothing but the Cabinet would be capable of settling it—

I do not wish the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to misrepresent my hon. Friend, and I have his words precisely in my recollection. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman said that the Minister referred to the unreasonableness of elected bodies. The point which the Minister made perfectly clear was that one body was necessarily an interested party, and ought not to have to decide between the other interested party and itself.

I sympathise greatly with the Minister in the way that people, sometimes not quite competent to do so, rush to his defence on every possible occasion. The Minister is perfectly capable of defending himself, and I have a higher opinion of him than some hon. Members opposite.

I was not defending the Minister. I was attacking the right hon. and gallant Gentleman.

The hon. Member was defending the Minister and misquoting me at the same time. I do not object to him misquoting me. What I object to him doing is defending the Minister. His misquotation of me was because of not paying sufficient attention to what I was saying. I do not blame him for that. I only blame him for interrupting.

The Minister suggests that it is necessary to take precautions against the unreasonableness of elected bodies, and the fact of that unreasonableness being shown in carrying their quarrel to a pitch where it could be decided only by the British Cabinet. Really, that is a striking example of using a sledge hammer to crack a nut. I cannot believe that the Minister wishes to bring this argument before us as an argument which it is necessary for the House to pay attention to, unless indeed he has some further views about these bodies and the degree to which they ought to be subordinated to Ministers, which l do not think has been brought forward and which I do not think is really in his mind.

The proposal then is that after the matter has been thoroughly examined by the joint committee of both Houses the words "Catchment Board" were inserted. All the arguments which the Minister has brought forward were before the Joint Committee on that occasion. That Committee was able to devote far more time and hear far more evidence on the matter than we can do in this House. No suggestion that the River Nene Catchment Board had acted unreasonably was ever laid before the Joint Committee. Indeed the proposals—

Might I say that the matter has not arisen yet, because the proposals under which this will work are not yet operating.

5.30 p.m.

This originally came from a proposal from the River Nene Catchment Board to give water to Northampton during the great drought in 1944. It was the proposal of the board. It is the proposal of the board which is now accused, many years in advance of the danger of action. It was from the generous, foresighted, reasonable and statesmanlike action of the board that the whole scheme originated. It was the board who suggested that the water could be drawn from the River Nene and used to supplement the supplies of the area. I suggest that that board which was capable of such foresighted conduct might well be trusted to be equally foresighted in its conduct in future years.

The board is a singularly enlightened body. It is presided over by an ex-Member of this House, an ex-President of the Trades Union Congress, in a most enlightened fashion. I do not know whether more to admire the enlightened conduct of Mr. George Dallas in the chair or the enlightened opinions of those who are certainly not all of his own political way of thinking who elected him to that position and have since maintained him there. There is only one further example of tolerance that I could give, and that is that this strongly English body elected a compatriot of mine to that position, thereby showing a very enlightened attitude indeed.

This board has been known as one of the most progressive bodies in England. It has been held up to admiration by Sir William Beach Thomas as one of the most scientific of the water bodies and one of the most scientific public bodies in England. Its conduct of its affairs can be judged in the fact that, in spite of the unparalleled floods which swept away many of the defences in the areas of many other water boards, the River Nene was able to deal with the huge quantities of water cast upon it in the great floods. It is a scientific, foresighted and public-spirited body. It is a body to which such a responsibility as was entrusted to it by a Joint Committee of both Houses can reasonably be left.

The proposal of the Parliamentary Secretary is that it should not be so left. The Minister proposes the remarkable solution of a Cabinet Committee. He suggests that it should be decided by a Cabinet Committee. It could scarcely be believed that Ministers would bring forward a proposal that the point at which one could safely abstract another million gallons of water from a river which rises rapidly and where the flush of the water may rapidly pass—that the moment at which it is safe to begin to take water, or to continue or reduce the abstraction —cannot be decided by the men on the spot but must go through a committee of the British Cabinet. That is really a mid-Summer madness. According to the Amendment, this is not to be decided by just one Minister. As I say, it is a Cabinet Committee—the Minister of Health and the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. It may not always be that the Minister of Agriculture is so willing to defer to every word of the Minister of Health as apparently he has been in the framing of this proposal. The Home Secretary twitted us about the formidable nature of the Minister of Health. Apparently, formidable as he may be to the Opposition, that is nothing compared with his conduct when he gets into a committee with his colleagues.

The only argument for a Committee of the Cabinet could be that that Committee would decide, as far as one can see, on the ipse dixit of the Minister of Health, and decide so rapidly that one could scarcely find what the reason is of the argument by which it is suggested that it should be referred to them at all. Why does the Minister think that a Cabinet Committee in Downing Street can decide more rapidly and more accurately than the men on the spot when it is safe to abstract or not to abstract water from the River Nene in order to fill this reservoir? The Parliamentary Secretary has advanced no argument whatever. He has merely said that the Minister does not like it. I suggest that the likes and dislikes of the Minister are not sufficient to convince this House.

After all, these are public bodies which have been set up by Parliament and entrusted with great duties. They have enormous powers in carrying out public works, and they have great responsibilities. If they fail in these responsibilities, great disasters come to the populations in the areas concerned. But on this point of the abstraction of water, the Minister says that they are not fit to exercise this responsibility. He says that this responsibility must be referred to the joint wisdom of the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Health sitting in the Cabinet Room in Downing Street.

What is the size of this proposal? say definitely that unless we are to take the Minister's distrust of public bodies as the principle which he wishes to establish—

There are two hypotheses—either that the Minister is moved by a desire to insist himself upon deciding when it is safe or not safe to make a variation of a million gallons of water per day in the intake into the reservoir of water from the River Nene, or he is being moved by the argument that he cannot trust the public bodies which have been set up to settle this exact question.

I have already pointed out that it is no reflection at all upon the catchment board, who have particular duties with regard to the area they control, to say that the interests of the board are necessarily at some times different from the interests of the water board which will be set up under this Measure. One is concerned with the problem of the supply of water to the area they cover, and the other is concerned more particularly with the flow of the river. Surely, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman appreciates that the suggestion we are making here is perfectly reasonable. We say that under those conditions, the two Ministers who are responsible to this House are the Ministers who must have the final decision.

In the first place, all those arguments were adduced at great length before a Joint Committee of both Houses and completely failed to convince them. Secondly, the suggestion that the River Nene Catchment Board is not concerned with the general interests of the inhabitants of the area is throwing upon the board an accusation either of lack of public duty or an absence of common sense, and neither accusation is justified by the facts. I have already outlined the case. I think the Minister is trying to wave off a contention which really cannot so easily be disposed of, when he suggests that the River Nene Catchment Board are only concerned with the flow of water down the river, which is disproved by the facts I have given. These show that it was the River Nene Catchment Board which made the proposal for the use of this water for the benefit of Northampton and other boroughs. I say that the catchment board is a public body which may safely be trusted with responsibilities of this kind; that is the position which commended itself to a Joint Committee of hon. Members of this House, and that is the view which the Minister now seeks to overthrow.

The hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) said that the pledge of the Minister referred only to certain contingencies, and that was pretty effectively dealt with by my hon. and learned Friend, but let me call attention to the passages in the speech of the Lord Privy Seal. The right hon. Gentleman clearly laid down that unless the Government thought that the Amendments which had been made were of such importance that they went to the very root of the matter, he would not consider them justified. Since there has been some confusion whether the quotations are from the bound or unbound volumes, I am going to quote now from the bound volume of the OFFICIAL REPORT for 14th November, 1945, where the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Arthur Greenwood) said:
"The Minister of Health may feel himself obliged, in the interests of public health, to make orders which are considered by some water undertakers to be detrimental to their interests, whether those undertakers be private companies or local authorities. The Minister of Health"—
and I commend these words to the attention of the hon. and learned Member for Kettering—
"and any other Minister similarly situated under the Water Act or under the Town and Country Planning Act, must reserve the right to treat such an Order as a vote of confidence, if in his opinion the carrying out of national policy in that particular matter, whether it be water or other things, would be impeded by the exclusion from this particular order of any individual undertaker. That power to determine whether national policy is involved, or is likely to be imperilled or embarrassed, must rest with the Minister."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th November. 1945; Vol. 415, c. 2183.]
That we are ready to concede, but it is the contention of the Parliamentary Secretary that this must be treated as a vote of confidence and that national policy is likely to be imperilled or embarrassed if somebody in the offices of the Catchment Board of the River Nene is allowed to determine when a particular million gallons of water should be impounded for the reservoir or allowed to continue on its flow down the Nene.

Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman allow me? We happen to take today a rather more serious view of the responsibility which rests upon my right hon. Friend for securing proper supplies of water to the countryside. That apparently, is not realised by hon. Members opposite.

Really, Sir, the suggestion that Mr. George Dallas does not, to use a classical phrase, care two hoots or a tinker's cuss for the inhabitants of the countryside so that he cannot be trusted in these matters is not the sort of suggestion which the Parliamentary Secretary should make.

The hon. Gentleman was deliberately buttressing up his assertion that the River Nene—

The right hon. and gallant Gentleman must not put words into my mouth which I did not use. He has done it before, and is doing it again.

The Parliamentary Secretary shows his embarrassment from the consequences of his own words, and now seeks to do his best to minimise them. The hon. Gentleman has made a damaging and wounding charge against the catchment board and therefore against the chairman of the River Nene Catchment Board.

5.45 p.m.

His damaging and wounding charge is that the River Nene Catchment Board is not fit to be trusted with responsibilities of this kind. His contention is that it must be dictated to by a Cabinet Committee, and that is the meaning of the Amendment. If he does not like it, let him leave in the words "Catchment Board," let him leave in the chairman of the catchment board, Mr. George Dallas, the ex-chairman of the T.U.C. Let us hear why he thinks that this board is not fit to be trusted with these responsibilities, which must be taken away from it and exercised by the Minister of Health and the Minister of Agriculture, neither of whom have thought it worth while to come down here today to defend their proposal.

No, Sir, that cock will not fight. The Parliamentary Secretary has been given a task which he has failed to discharge—the task of defending the overturning of a decision of a Joint Committee of both Houses. He could only defend it, as his own Government have said, on the ground that, in some way or other, by leaving in the words "Catchment Board," national policy would be seriously imperilled or embarrassed. Unless he is willing to bring forward further arguments for that contention, then, certainly, the proposal brought forward today is one which, neither on procedure nor on merits, should be accepted, and I trust that the House will reject it.

The right hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken began by explaining, if I understood him rightly, that this question was not one of principle, and, indeed, I understood him to minimise its importance. Towards the end of his speech, he warmed to his work, and I was interested to see the Despatch Box actually thumped. I had read about it many times, but I had never seen it happen before.

Has the hon. and learned Gentleman never watched the Minister of Health at any time?

The language, the vehemence and the somewhat violent character of the discourse to which we have just listened rather indicated, at the end of it, that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman had convinced himself that this was indeed a matter of importance and principle and one upon which it is proper that this House should deliberate, even though it has already been considered by a Joint Committee upstairs. If that is the final view of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, I entirely agree with him. I think the question we have to consider today is exceedingly important for two reasons. First, I yield to no one in my admiration of the work which, in its own sphere, the catchment board, including the chairman and other distinguished members, has done. Within its own sphere it has done excellent work, and no word was uttered by the Parliamentary Secretary to derogate from it in any way whatever. All that was invented by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman.

The point is that the catchment board was set up under the Land Drainage Act, as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman well knows, and its duty is to attend to this watercourse, and it is particularly concerned with the interests of the agricultural community, who depend upon it for their water supplies. However excellent a public servant the chairman of the board has shown himself in the past to be and now is, it does not enlarge his functions as the chairman of a statutory board in any way by making suggestions as to what should be done to provide water for the local authorities and the constituents of those local authorities in the area, and what we have to consider in this Bill is, in the first and predominant place, how an adequate water supply is to be provided for these local government areas in mid-Northamptonshire, and to the ordinary men and women who live in them, and who badly need the water because it is an uncommonly dry part of the world. They never had a proper water supply even when the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was Minister of Health, or previously. Steps are now being taken to secure one.

It seems to me that when, for these purposes, the question of whether water has to flow at the full rate or at a slightly reduced rate from the River Nene has to be considered, there are two things to be taken into account. The first and predominant point is that any real and urgent needs of the actual community in the area should be considered and met as far as possible. Those needs are very real and very urgent. There are many villages which have not a proper water supply, and which depend on things done under this order for such a supply. I believe that the town of Northampton has been without water in previous seasons, and I am perfectly certain that everyone concerned with the Nene Catchment Board would readily admit that the need for water is a very serious matter. On the other hand, just at the time when that need may become particularly urgent and particularly important, it may also be—and, in fact, will be—rather difficult to preserve the proper flow of the River Nene and to meet fully the demands of agriculture and other interests which depend on the direct flow of the River Nene.

That latter matter is the particular duty of the catchment board. All that this Amendment does, so far as it takes out the catchment hoard, is to ensure that a matter upon which there is necessarily bound to be some conflict, should not be decided by a body, however distinguished and successful it may be, whose statutory duties are all, if I may so put it, on one side of the fence. I have not the least doubt about the public spirit of the persons who compose the catchment board, and who include, of course, representatives of local authorities; but their duties as a catchment board are not to provide a water supply for the inhabitants of these towns and villages concerned in this order. The difficulty, as I see it, is how can they, when they have other duties, be asked to weigh the balance between their own responsibilities as a catchment board and the question of the supply of water to the local inhabitants?

My second point is this. I fully appreciate that the Committee upstairs may have had some difficulty in finding an effective substitute for the catchment board, however unsuited for the purpose they may or may not have thought the catchment board to be. It is now suggested that the substitute should be the two Ministers. I do not for one moment accept the suggestion that that involves anything like the Cabinet meeting or Cabinet committee of which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was speaking.

Does the hon. and learned Member suggest that Cabinet Ministers' meetings do not form a Cabinet committee? That is the purpose, the object and the effect of bringing in two Cabinet Ministers.

I would not for a moment venture to dispute with the right hon. and gallant Gentleman what is the technical meaning of a Cabinet meeting. If he tells me that when one Minister speaks to another over the telephone, that is a Cabinet committee or a Cabinet meeting, I am sure he must be right.

If the hon. and learned Gentleman is suggesting that this is the procedure which is to be more effective than the careful inquiry by the Nene Catchment Board, he is really a most damaging advocate of his cause.

I am not standing here as an advocate, but as the representative of a lot of people who are uncommonly short of water, who want it, and who do not think that their interests would be safeguarded on this particular point by an authority which has other duties to perform. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman really cannot have it both ways. If there are to be long deliberations by the catchment board, there may be long deliberations by the two Ministers concerned.

I hope that right hon. and hon Members opposite will not, if I may use the phrase, look a concession too much in the mouth. I appreciate that it is very hard to find a body which will perform these functions easily. I do not for a moment think that the catchment board is the right body for the purpose. The difficulty is to find someone who is going to represent the various local authorities concerned. I cannot see how it can be anybody but the Minister of Health, as the water supply of this country is at present constituted.

When I look at what has been said for and against this proposal, it strikes me that nothing could more clearly illustrate the really urgent need of getting our water supplies constituted on a national basis and getting even a county basis relegated to the past. I believe it is only by some national scheme that this kind of point can ultimately be solved, and for the time being I think that no better solution can be found than to allow the Minister of Health to represent, as he necessarily does represent, the local authorities concerned, and the Minister of Agriculture to represent, as of course he does represent, agriculture and the catchment boards, which are primarily agricultural bodies and, therefore, come under his Ministry.

I do not propose to say much about this matter because, in my view, it is quite plainly one which ought not really to come before the House of Commons at all. If ever there was an example of the kind of matter, important though it may be locally in its way, which ought to go before the Joint Committee for discussion rather than be discussed on the Floor of this House, this is it. That is the first point that ought to be made about it. After all, it is not troubling anybody except the Minister. The promoters of the Bill are quite happy about it as it is; they are not concerned. I have here what the members of the board said about it. They had a meeting at which the following resolution was passed:

"That this meeting of the authority comprising the Mid-Northamptonshire Water Board regards the postponing of the date of the operation of the order as a wanton disregard of the interests of the water consumers in the area and of the principles of democracy and expresses its strongest disapproval of your action"—
that is, the Minister—
"and the urgent wish that your decision should be reconsidered immediately with a view to the appointed day remaining 1st April, 1949."
In other words, what they are saying is, "For Heaven's sake get on with it." I think they are right. They are not bothered about all this.

That resolution was passed before the meeting referred to took place and in the belief that the delay in these particular proceedings would hold up the provision of water. The local authorities concerned now know, and have accepted the position, that there will be no consequent delay in the provision of water.

That may be so, but it is perfectly plain what the resolution means. It means that, in their view, the right course for the Minister to adopt is to get on with the business. I can see no earthly reason why the Minister should not have followed that very wise advice. But, whatever may be the merits of this point being discussed in the House of Commons, I should have thought it was abundantly plain that when we come to the end of the discussion, neither this House nor a Cabinet meeting, or anybody at that level, ought ever to be troubled with it again. After all, catchment boards all over this country have great experience of the flow of rivers. They are eminently suitable bodies who perform a very useful function. They are not actuated by wicked motives. They are not indifferent to the interests of other authorities round about them. They are deeply concerned to see that fairness is done within the limits of the raw material at their disposal.

6.0 p.m.

It is suggested that instead of an experienced body of that character making up its mind, by some means or other two Ministers should come to that decision. I hope someone will explain how on earth two Ministers will come to a decision to order the rate of extraction of water from a river. If this Amendment is accepted the Schedule will read:
"Provided that if at any time in the opinion of the Minister and the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries it shall be necessary having regard to the state of the river…"
How does the Minister of Health, or the Minister of Agriculture, by telephone or otherwise, come to a decision about the state of the river? In a time of drought, by the time they had come to a decision about the state of the river it would be in full spate. Anybody with even a remote knowledge of what happens with rivers knows that perfectly well.

This is a pretty short and simple matter. The House ought never to have been bothered with it in the first place. This is an utterly inappropriate Amendment to be put forward at all. I am sure it is one of those things to which the Home Secretary was referring when he said that matters of detail were not for us, and that we ought not to be bothered with them. Therefore, this Amendment ought to be rejected on those grounds alone. Quite apart from that, it ought to be rejected on its merits, because I believe that anybody who knows anything about a river, no matter to what party he belongs—and this could not conceivably be a party matter—knows that two Ministers could never decide about a river, or at any rate it would take weeks before a decision was ever come to. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will use his influence and will withdraw the Amendment. I am sure that if he does so, his right hon. Friend will be grateful in the long run.

The hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft), to whom I always listen with pleasure, suffers from a great disadvantage this afternoon in that he has not heard the whole of the discussion. He said that this is a matter of detail, but he did not have the privilege of hearing his right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) addressing the House at considerable length and saying that this is a major alteration in the terms of the order, that it is a gross violation of the pledge that the House would not be sledge-hammered and bulldozed into making such an alteration, and complaining that this procedure should be so misused. The hon. Member should know that his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities has been having an afternoon out. None of us grudges him that at all, because we appreciate that when the Minister is present he speaks tremulously and hesitatingly, if he dares to speak at all. It is inevitable that we should have had some gymnastics from him this afternoon.

I must deplore that in his references to the Minister, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was a little ungenerous in saying that in the Minister's hands as he spoke, facts became malleable and adjustable things. There were references to utterances in the Minister's speech which neither I nor any of my hon. Friends heard in the speech which the Minister actually made. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman, who I know is a philosopher, will agree that one of the concepts of philosophy is that reason and will are twin corks bobbing on the waves of desire. In the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech the waves were more turbulent than usual and the desire was the desire to wound.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) has put the point with a complete knowledge of the matter. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Monmouth does not know much about rivers. He really should, having represented Stafford, Leicester and Monmouth. He ought to have a special knowledge of rivers. There is no more difficulty in a person who observes the state of a river sending a letter to the Ministry of Agriculture than in sending a letter to the catchment board, and it takes exactly the same time.

Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that it should be a representative of the Ministry of Agriculture or of the Ministry of Health who should be employed to watch the flow of the Nene, in addition to a representative of the Nene Catchment Board?

I am not suggesting that anyone should be specially employed on that duty. I am suggesting that the catchment board get their reports in the ordinary course, and the reports can be sent to the Ministry of Agriculture in precisely the same way. As the hon. and learned Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) has mentioned this matter, may I say that my somewhat remote interest in it arises from the fact that until two or three years ago I had for 24 years been a member of the county council dealing with the county adjoining, and we had great difficulty with this water scheme for years because of the inactivity of the right hon. and gallant Member for the Scottish Universities in particular.

The matter is perfectly simple. I agree with the hon. Member for Monmouth that this is purely a matter of detail. The case as put by the Minister is perfectly simple. If we are to have an arbitrator on any matter he might as well be independent. Here we have two bodies, one of which is concerned with a special section of the duties, and, therefore, while perfectly competent to decide, would be in an embarrassing position if it had to make a decision. It might have to decide upon a matter in which apparently it had an interest, and therefore it would be desirable that there should be reference to the Minister. It would be quite easy to make such a reference, and there is no reason whatever for this long Debate on this very small proposal, except the desire of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, which we all forgive him, to have an afternoon out because the Minister is away.

The hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hale) seemed to imply that my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) had had an afternoon out.

I do not know what the hon. and gallant Gentleman means. I neither hinted, suggested nor implied anything of the sort with regard to the hon. Member for Monmouth. I said that he had not had the advantage of hearing the earlier speeches.

The hon. Gentleman is so often here that I had not observed him sitting in his place.

I withdraw the suggestion then, but I certainly heard the hon. Member say that somebody had had an afternoon out. I should have thought the hon. Gentleman would have been a little reluctant to call attention to the absence of the Minister of Health from this Debate.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health and other hon. Members who spoke from the other side of the House have forgotten one very important factor. I myself drew the attention of the House to this matter when we were discussing the River Boards Bill. There was a divided responsibility set up; the responsibility of river boards was to be to the Minister of Health, the Minister of Agriculture and in certain cases the Minister of Transport. This afternoon we are dealing with what I imagine will he perpetuated when the river board takes over from the catchment board; I imagine there is no quibble about the matter. We are dealing with a situation where a river board, or catchment board as it is at present, has to take orders from two different Ministers. There is one lesson which I have learned in the short-lived connection I have had with rivers, and that is that unless one authority is responsible, confusion inevitably results.

The pathetic thing about this Amendment is that it is at a time when there is likely to be a crisis of some sort or another on the rivers that we are taking away the direct control of the catchment board or the river board and transferring it to two Ministries in Whitehall. Apart from the fact that it is a divided responsibility which is created, it is at the same time a remote responsibility. There are two things connected with a river which are of vital importance; the first is to have a local man on the job who knows what he is talking about and knows the needs to the moment and almost to the second; and secondly, he must be given undivided responsibility.

This Amendment can only achieve confusion and a remote form of control, if it is a control at all, which will act to the detriment not only of the Mid-Northampton area, which is so directly concerned with this Bill, but also of areas further down the river. It is for that reason that I am intervening in this Debate, because the Nene runs through the northern half of my constituency and I am particularly anxious that there should be proper safeguards for the water supply for certain areas in my constituency. It seems to me that if we have to wait for the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Health to get together on the telephone, as was suggested by the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), or for two of their henchmen to get together, we may have to wait far too long and there may be a shortage of water in Mid-Northampton, in the Isle of Ely or in other areas, a shortage which could have been avoided if only responsibility had been left with the people who ought to have it.

I was glad to hear the hon. and learned Member for Kettering pay a small tribute in passing to the Nene Catchment Board because I think the impression which must have been given, had that tribute not been paid, was that the catchment board is rather an unreliable body which is out for itself. I very heartily deny that and I am glad that the Parliamentary Secretary denies it, too. The catchment board has been singularly public-spirited, and the river is one of those rivers on which the people living in the highlands have taken an interest in the people living in the lowlands. That cannot be said of all rivers; I only wish it could. Tribute has been paid by past Ministers of Agriculture to the Nene Catchment Board and I hope it will not be thought, as a result of this Debate, that the Catchment Board is not a fit body to be given this responsibility.

What the Parliamentary Secretary has not yet explained is why, when the original order was brought forward in December, 1947, the Ministry were not worried about all interested parties having a proper right of representation and their interests being properly considered. It was proposed that very great power should be given to the water board without this great demand for all sides being heard before any decision was taken. Yet the Minister now comes along and says that because the catchment board is an interested party, it should not have the final right to decide.

May I draw the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to another point which appears in the River Boards Act? Under Section 9 of that Act it is the duty of
"every river board, in exercising the functions conferred on or transferred to them by or under this Act, to conserve so far as practicable the water resources of their area."
If that duty is laid upon river boards—and I take it we are not quibbling as to whether the board has yet been established and whether it is still a catchment board—surely the Minister of Agriculture, who promoted this Bill, and the Minister of Health, who supported him, at that time thought that a river board was a lit body to be given responsibility for conserving its water resources. Later in the same Section, subsection (8) states:
"A river board may give directions requiring any person who in their opinion is abstracting water from any river, stream or inland water in the river board area in quantities which are substantial in relation to the flow or volume of the river, stream or inland water…to give such information as to the abstraction or discharge, at such times and in such form, as may be specified in the directions;"
There is a proviso which stated that anybody who objected to those directions could appeal to the Minister of Health. In fact, machinery was set up under that Act whereby not merely was the responsibility left in the hands of the river boards, but also machinery for complaint was created. I cannot understand why it should now be necessary to introduce this Amendment, which will completely emasculate that Section and means that the Minister of Health will have to decide, in conjunction with the Minister of Agriculture, in Whitehall, whether or not the same amount of water should be abstracted from the river by the water board.

6.15 p.m.

It appears to me that the Ministry of Health have completely overlooked the River Boards Act and that they have ignored the provisions of it. They have apparently taken a step which can only detract from the esteem in which the river board will be held and in which the catchment board is now held, and which will give an impression in the public mind that the board is not a fit body to be trusted in this matter. I think that is very poor reward for the service which the board has rendered not only to the Mid-Northamptonshire area, but to the whole of the catchment area of the River Nene. I therefore hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will seriously reconsider this matter, and will take this Amendment away and think about it again, because the River Boards Act was agreed by all parties; we thought it was a good Act and we intended to make it work, but it will not work if we take away from the men on the spot, in other words, the river board, responsibility which they ought to have.

I address the House only because my constituency is affected in a small measure by this Bill and because I was born in Northampton and lived there until I came to London. I hope I shall be able to answer the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft), who wants to know how one can tell the level of the River Nene. There is, on certain occasions, a fair amount of odour floating around—

Does the hon. Member really suggest that the Minister of Health should sit on the bank of the River Nene sniffing?

I certainly do not, but the hon. Member asked how one tells the level, and, as I happen to know, I thought I would tell him. The right hon. and gallant Member for the Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) made a rather intriguing statement. I heard him saying what a wonderful fellow, as chairman, George Dallas is. I agree, but I feel that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman did not draw attention to the fact that he was also a fellow-countryman, and I fancy that here we have the invaders coming into a subjected country and wishing to place one of their members as a dictator on the board. I have no objection to the Scots coming down here, but I object to their being in charge of this catchment board and using their power in the interest of that board when that interest conflicts with the interests of the large town of Northampton.

In that town we have a population of nearly 100,000. The year 1944 was not the first time when a shortage of water caused great concern to the inhabitants. I was spending my holidays in the area in 1944 when the shortage occurred, and my people are down there now. My people live at Abington Park. What happened? We went from the estates to the lake in Abington Park with all kinds of buckets and receptacles, although it was very low; we had the fire brigades filling up the emergency static water tanks in the neighbourhood.

My mind goes back to certain of the political and local history of Northampton town council when we were still fighting for water supplies. When we get the reservoir going, we shall be able to supply the people and the manufacturers with the water they require. One can imagine that there could be a conflict between a town like Northampton, with its desire to supply the public with water, and the Nene Catchment Board. I remember that in the Committee certain statements were made that were not to the credit of the catchment board. It was said that the catchment board would pay a great deal of attention to one particular matter, especially drainage, but would not take into consideration other matters. It seems to me that we cannot leave to a body like a catchment board the final decision in a dispute about supplies of water.

I think Parliament itself must always be supreme in matters of this sort. I cannot think what might happen if some body, set up to deal with one of the most vital necessities in the life of the people, were not to be within the control of Parliament. I ask hon. Members to visualise what might happen if there were a conflict between the Borough of Northampton, with its 100,000 population, and the catchment board. After all, the catchment board is made up of various interests. The supply of water is really a matter of life and death, and we are more especially aware of the fact since the experiences of 1944. I think it is right and proper that the Minister should decide any dispute between two such bodies as a local authority and a catchment board. I can well understand why the Minister of Agriculture is brought in. There are various conflicts between the various people interested, and I imagine that there could be a conflict on the question of how much water should be drawn from the Nene. When such a conflict occurs, it is right and proper that it should be sent for settlement to the head of affairs, to the Minister himself, so that Parliament can be the supreme arbitrator in a matter which is one of life and death.

I listened with interest to the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Attewell). I always like to hear the local man talking about local affairs. I like also to see the local man back the local lad. The hon. Member is apparently against that principle. He thinks all decisions affecting Northamptonshire's water supply should not be taken in the county by the man on the spot, but should be taken by the Minister of- Health in London—if anyone can find him, which is more than we can do today.

I said there might arise a conflict between a local authority, such as Northampton, which is the main one there, and a catchment board, and that it should be sent to the Minister for settlement. If the two authorities were in agreement there would be no need to send the matter to the Minister.

The position is not quite like that. The decision, according to the Bill, must be taken by the Minister of Health and the Minister of Agriculture. I think it is much better to let the decision be taken by the Catchment Board. They are the people who know the river and understand it, and have knowledge of the supply of water in the river. The Parliamentary Secretary justified the introduction of the Amendment by saying it was of such vital importance that that alone justified the Minister's bringing the matter to the House in this Bill. He said it was a matter of deep principle. Questions of how water should be taken from a river to a reservoir, or at what time the flow of water should be increased or decreased, are not matters of deep principle.

Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman allow me? He will agree, I think, that it is a matter of principle that, where there are two interested parties, both carrying on essential and proper duties in their own spheres, the final decision, when there should happen to be a difference between them, should be settled by reference to another body outside?

We are bound to have, to a certain extent, conflicting opinions, when there is a reservoir wanting water and a river that can provide the water. However, I am sure that the people concerned, the local men, are better able to resolve such conflicts of opinion to the best advantage than somebody living up in London. There is a matter of principle involved certainly—a matter of deep principle, with the Minister of Health, and that is the principle of totalitarian methods in his Department. The Minister believes in that—just so long, of course, as he is the dictator. We on this side of the House disagree with that view. I think I can speak for this side. We believe that the strength of a vast organisation lies in its decentralisation.

There is another principle involved, a principle at the top of all this business, and that is that water should be provided for everybody in the country. In this instance the provision is for water for everybody in mid-Northamptonshire. We would all agree with that. But suppose, for instance, that water is nationalised. I am not at the moment expressing any opinion on that question, or saying whether I would support such nationalisation or oppose it. If it were nationalised throughout England and Wales—I dare not mention Scotland, because somebody would object—then all these questions about the pumping of water from a river to a reservoir would be sent to Whitehall to be decided, according to the views of the Government as expressed in this Bill. I am against that sort of thing. That is what we are asked to do on this occasion —to approve the sending to London for decision questions which ought to be settled locally.

In the Committee we had the advantage of meeting the people responsible for these affairs—not merely reading about them or hearing about them, and so forming vague ideas: we actually saw the people. I draw the attention of the House to this, that we were told that a decision could be made very quickly about the supply of water. The Amendment says that the decision to decrease the flow, if there is lack of water in the river, must be taken by the Minister of Agriculture in consultation with the Minister of Health. That is all right.

However, let us take it the other way up. Suppose it is time to increase the flow. Then the men on the spot could say almost immediately, "The water is coming down. Switch on the pumps. Fill the reservoir." But no, under this Amendment they must once again go to the Minister of Health and the Minister of Agriculture, and refer the matter to them. We had expert evidence on this very case. The people on the spot can know two hours ahead, when the floods are coming down, what the flow will be, and can give the word for switching on the pumps and filling up the reservoir. They can justify the taking of such action by the knowledge that in an hour's time there will be another six inches or a foot of water in the river. That is what the catchment board can do.

However, this Amendment says that the catchment board must refer the matter to Whitehall. Someone talked of sending in returns. I can imagine Whitehall telephoning or sending a telegram saying "We are not so sure about that; fill in the form," or, if the form has been filled in, saying that it is not in order. All this sort of thing is a further drag on progress throughout the country. This question was looked at most carefully by experts both for and against, and the decision of the Committee, although it was not unanimous, was that, taking everything into account, it would be far better for the people who live in mid-Northamptonshire, and who enjoy that water and rely on it, to know that the decision when to ease down the pumping in the river and when to increase the pumping again, could be taken on the spot by the catchment board.

6.30 p.m.

It is a pretty serious matter for the people of Northampton to have the water supply cut off. If someone is going to cut off the water supply, we should like to have that someone responsible to Parliament, where we can question him. We do not want the water supply of Northampton cut off by somebody whose interest, we have been told, primarily concerns agriculture, and, indeed, agriculture in the Isle of Ely. It is not unreasonable that a great town like Northampton should have this sort of decision taken by a Minister.

Would not the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that the catchment boards and river boards in the future are to be under the Minister of Agriculture, who is responsible to Parliament?

No. The Minister of Agriculture is not answerable in this House and cannot be questioned on a decision taken by a catchment board; and the Table would not take a Question on it. With regard to the point about switching on the water, the catchment board have the authority to reduce the supply below 20 million gallons, but that does not compel them to reduce it, and I should not myself have thought that, if a flood were coming through and the catchment board then wanted to increase the supply, there was anything to stop them doing so.

The hon. and learned Gentleman laid great emphasis on the necessity of having someone responsible to Parliament if the water of Northampton were cut off. What would he do if the water of Northampton were cut off today, and no responsible Minister were present in the House?

I would go to the highly-competent Parliamentary Secretary who would undoubtedly give me the utmost satisfaction.

We have had a fairly full discussion of this Amendment, and I think that it may be for the convenience of the House if we shortly come to a decision upon it. I should like to make a few observations. I should like to make it clear, first, that although I was present in a professional capacity at the two local inquiries that were held, I was in no way concerned in that professional capacity with the particular point under consideration at the present time. Therefore, I do not think that I am in any way either embarrassed in or debarred from expressing some views with regard to it.

This matter has indeed a long history. I do not propose to go over the whole of it, but I think there is force in the suggestion that its history has been prolonged by the action of the Minister of Health. The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), in seeking to justify this Amendment, said that we do not want the water supply cut off by someone who is not responsible to Parliament. I am wondering whom he meant by the word "we," because there is no substance in that point. In the first place, the supply taken out of the River Nene will be pumped to the reservoir at Pits-ford, where it will be stored for months. In the second place, the promoters of the water board, who include in their number the borough of Northampton, do not mind in the very least if this Amendment is not made, nor do any other of the local authorities who are constituent members of the Board. That is a very important fact.

It is a fact—and I have no doubt that the Parliamentary Secretary will agree with me—that the people who are going to be held primarily responsible if the water is cut off from the people of Northampton, or from any other area within the board's area of supply, will be the water board. If they are quite content, as they are, to accept the position that the catchment board should have the right to reduce their daily take by a maximum of four million gallons a day, there really cannot be any reality at all in the suggestion that the chances of conflict between the Nene Catchment Board and the water board are so great that this matter has to be brought before the House of Commons, so that the Minister of Health and the Minister of Agriculture can be appointed to arbitrate upon that question. It is a very narrow but, I agree, not unimportant point. No one, however, can say that it goes to the root of this scheme—a scheme involving a great many people, a big area of the country and possibly five million or six million pounds. The water board will function, in my belief, just as well without this Amendment, and I think better than if the Amendment is made. After all while it is true that the interests of the catchment board and the interests of the water board may to a small extent differ, is there any truth in the suggestion that in their daily work they will not have regard to the duties which attach to each board?

The River Nene is an odd river in this respect, that very often in the Spring there is very little flow down the river. The only period during which the right of abstraction of 20 million gallons a day can take place is between 30th September and 1st May, so the only period during which that peak can be reduced by a maximum of four million gallons is that short period of the year. That, of course, would only be done, if this Bill is not amended, where it was vitally necessary in the interests of the river and the interests of the performance of the catchment board's duties. The catchment board will be succeeded by the river board with wider duties. Bearing in mind that a reduction from say 20 million gallons in one day to 16 million gallons in one day will take place in that period of the year whereas the supply from the reservoir to the water consumers of Northampton Borough and elsewhere is intended to take place in the summer months, it is complete nonsense to suggest that that reduction on one day, or it may be two, at that time would have the effect of causing the water supply to be cut off to the consumers in Northampton.

The hon. and learned Gentleman is making an important point. The water that is abstracted from September to May goes into the reservoir as a reserve. Although they take it for nine months when the water is in easy flow, the town has also the reserve from September to May.

The hon. Gentleman interrupted a little too soon. He is quite right. I am glad to have carried him with me so far. The drought period from the river angle when the reduction from 20 million to 16 million at the most can be made, can only be between the 30th September and the 1st May. The catchment board are concerned with the flow down the river, but it is not just for the river but for the inhabitants of Peterborough and towns down below; it is also important for health purposes to keep a good flow.

In 1944 the drought in Northampton took place in July, I think it was. I should have thought that if, because of the state of the river, there was this cut in the take before 1st May, almost certainly that amount could be made up later on. I should also have thought that the chances of having to make use of this cut were likely to be small; but it is very important from the point of view of the river that there should be this power. This Amendment does not take away the power of reducing the take from 20 million to 16 million gallons, but it does transfer the power of deciding whether that take should be reduced to the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture. It is on that narrow point that the greater part of the time of this House has been taken today; it is on that narrow point that, in face of the decision of the Joint Committee this Bill has been brought to this House by the Minister of Health, who in seeking to make this Amendment is not supported by any one of those who put forward the proposals for this water board. He is doing it on his own initiative. Let there be no mistake about that.

What will the effect be? If the Bill remains as it is I have no doubt that when the flow of the river was getting seriously low the engineer of the Nene Catchment Board would ring up the engineer of the water board—they know each other—and say, "Look here, I am in a bad way. How will it be if we cut the flow down to 17 million or 18 million gallons? How will that affect you?" And they would soon arrive at a solution. The Parliamentary Secretary may say that that is very speculative in view of the friction which has been engendered over these local inquiries, but the answer to that is that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. In 1944, without any of these powers, in a time of water shortage, was the Nene Catchment Board holding on to its rights and letting the people of Northampton suffer in consequence? Not a bit of it. The Nene Catchment Board came forward voluntarily to do what they could to help solve the problem of water supplies for Northampton borough and the neighbouring areas which were short at that time. The effect of this Amendment, if

Division No. 130.]


[6.45 p.m.

Agnew, Cmdr. P G.Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)Price-White, Lt.-Col D.
Amory, 13 HeathcoatHarvey, Air-Comdre. A. V.Raikes, H. V.
Assheton, Rt. Hon. RHeadlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt Hon. Sir CRamsay, Maj. S
Astor, Hon. M.Hogg, Hon. Q.Rayner, Brig. R.
Baldwin, A. E.Hope, Lord J.Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)
Barlow, Sir J.Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)
Beamish, Maj. T. V HHutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)
Beechman, N. A.Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C.)Savory, Prof. D. L.
Bennett, Sir P.Jeffreys, General Sir G.Scott, Lord W.
Bossom, A. C.Jennings, R.Shephard, S. (Newark)
Bowen, R.Keeling, E. H.Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.Kerr, Sir J. GrahamSmiles, Lt.-Gel. Sir W.
Bracken, Rt. Hon. BrendanLancaster, Col. C. GSmithers, Sir W.
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. GLegge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. HSnadden, W. M.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. WLinstead, H. N.Spearman, A. C. M
Butcher, H W.Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)Spence, H. R.
Challen, C.Low, A. R. W.Stanley, Rt. Hon. O.
Clifton-Brewn, Lt.-Col. G.Lucas, Major Sir J.Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Conant, Maj. R. J. E.Mackeson, Brig. H. R.Strauss, Henry (English Universities)
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.McKie, J. H. (Galloway)Stuart, Rt. Hon J (Moray)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)Sutcliffe, H.
Crowder, Capt. John EMacpherson, N. (Dumfries)Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Drewe, C.Maitland, Comdr. J. W.Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)Manningham-Buller, R. EThorp, Brigadier R. A. F
Eden, Rt. Hon. A.Marples, A. E.Touche, G. C.
Elliot, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon WalterMarsden, Capt. AWakefield, Sir W. W
Erroll, F. J.Marshall, D. (Bodmin)Walker-Smith, D.
Fletcher, W. (Bury)Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)Wheatley, Colonel M. J. (Dorset, E.)
Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)Mellor, Sir J.White, Sir D. (Fareham)
Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P M.Morris-Jones, Sir H.Williams, C. (Torquay)
Gage, C.Morrison, Rt. Hn. W. S. (Cirencester)Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Galbraith, Cmdr. T. O. (Pollok)Neven-Spence, Sir B.Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)Nicholson, G.York. C.
Gridley, Sir A.Noble, Comdr. A. H. PYoung, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)
Grimston, R. V.Orr-Ewing, I. L.
Gruffydd, Prof. W. J.Pickthorn, K.TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)Ponsonby, Col. C. E.Mr. Studholme and
Mr. Wingfield Digby.

carried, is bound to be delay in securing the decision, either to reduce the take or to increase the take again from the amount to which it has been reduced.

I see no ground whatever for the view that it is necessary to make this change. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) that this is not the sort of point with which this House should be troubled. It is important, but it does not go to the root of the matter, and is therefore clearly a breach of the pledge given by the Lord Privy Seal, to which we referred before. It is a change which will cause delay; it is unnecessary; it leads to centralisation of powers in the hands of Ministers; and in my opinion it would be much better if, even now, the Parliamentary Secretary would say that, in view of the opinion of the promoters as well as of the Nene Catchment Board, he would not go on with this time-wasting procedure, particularly having regard to the way in which we spent the last two days. being guillotined.

Question put, "That the words 'Catchment Board' stand part of the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 108; Noes, 200.


Acland, Sir RichardHastings, Dr. SomervillePritt, D. N.
Albu, A. H.Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Kingswinford)Randall, H. E.
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)Hobson, C. R.Ranger, J.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)Holman, P.Rankin, J.
Attewell, H. C.Horabin, T. L.Reeves, J.
Awbery, S. S.Houghton, A. L N. D.Reid, T. (Swindon)
Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B.Hoy, J.Rhodes, H.
Bacon, Miss A.Hubbard, T.Ridealgh, Mrs. M.
Barton, C.Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)
Battley, J. R.Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Robinson, K. (St. Pancras)
Benson, G.Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)Ross, William (Kilmarnock)
Bing, G. H. C.Irvine, A. J. (Liverpool)Royle, C.
Blenkinsop, AIrving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.)Scollan, T.
Blyton, W. R.Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.Shackleton, E. A. A.
Boardman, H.Jager, G. (Winchester)Sharp, Granville
Bowden, Flg. Offr H. W.John, W.Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)
Braddock, T. (Mitcham)Johnston, DouglasShinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Brook, D. (Halifax)Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool)Silverman, J. (Erdington)
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)Jones, Jack (Bolton)Simmons, C. J.
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.Kenyon, C.Skeffington, A. M.
Brown, T. J. (Ince)Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.Skeffington-Lodge, T. C.
Burke, W. A.King, E. M.Skinnard, F. W.
Carmichael, JamesKinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. ESmith, C. (Colchester)
Cluse, W. S.Kinley, J.Smith, Ellis (Stoke)
Cobb, F A.Kirby, B, V.Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)
Cellindridge, F.Kirkwood. Rt. Hon. D.Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)
Collins, V. J.Lang, G.Snow, J. W.
Colman, Miss G. M.Lavers, S.Sorensen, R. W
Cooper, G.Leslie, J. R.Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Corlett, Dr. J.Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)Stokes, R. R.
Cove, W. G.Lewis, J. (Bolton)Stross, Dr. B.
Daggar, G.Logan, D. G.Swingler, S.
Davies, Edward (Burslem)Lyne, A. W.Sylvester, G. O.
Davies, Harold (Leek)McAdam, W.Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)
Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.)McEntee, V. La T.Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
de Freitas, GeoffreyMcGhee, H. G.Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)
Delargy, H. J.McKay, J. (Wallsend)Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)
Diamond, J.Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Dobbie, W.McKinlay, A. S.Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)
Dodds, N. N.Maclean, N. (Govan)Thurtle, Ernest
Donovan, T.McLeavy, F.Tolley, L.
Driberg, T. E. N.MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G
Dumpleton, C. W.Mainwaring, W. H.Viant, S. P.
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)Walkden, E.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty)Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield)Walker, G. H.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. N. (Caerphilly)Mann, Mrs. J.Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
Evans, E. (Lowestoft)Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.Watkins, T. E.
Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)Mathers, Rt. Hon. GeorgeWebb, M. (Bradford, C.)
Ewart, R.Messer, F.Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
Fairhurst, F.Middleton, Mrs. Wheatley, Rt. Hn. J. T. (Edinb'gh, E.)
Farthing, W. J.Mitchison, G. R.Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Field, Capt. W. J.Monslow, W.Wigg, George
Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)Morley, R.Wilkes, L.
Follick, M.Mort, D. L.Wilkins, W. A.
Foot, M. M.Moyle, A.Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Fraser, T. (Hamilton)Naylor, T. E.Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
Ganley, Mrs. C S.Neal, H. (Claycross)Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Gilzean, A.Oldfield, W H.Williams, W. R. (Heston)
Glanville, J. E. (Censett)Oliver, G. H.Willis, E.
Goodrich, H. E.Paget, R. T.Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Grenfell, D. R.Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)Yates, V. F.
Grey, C. F.Palmer, A. M. F.Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Grierson, E.Pargiter, G. A.Zilliacus, K.
Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side)Parkin, B. T.
Guest, Dr. L. HadenPearson, A.TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hale, LesliePeart, T. F.Mr. Joseph Henderson and
Hall, Rt. Hon. GlenvilPopplewell E.Mr. Hannan.
Hardy, E. A.Porter, E. (Warrington)

Proposed words there inserted in the Bill.

I beg to move, in page 7, line 35. to leave out "Catchment Board," and to insert "said Ministers."

As we wish to make progress we do not propose to offer any objections to this Amendment. but as the Minister is now in the House, I think it would be courteous if, after the discussion on the Bolton Corporation Bill, we had the advantage of his presence.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 7, line 40, leave out "Catchment Board," and insert, "said Ministers."—[ Mr. Blenkinsop]

I beg to move, in page 12, line 1, to leave out "that day," and to insert:

"the first day of April, nineteen hundred and forty-nine."
This Amendment and the following four Amendments are necessitated by the postponement of the appointed day.

Although we have had some considerable discussion on the appointed day, I think that we might have some further explanation. There are certain accounting points which will arise, and I am wondering whether they have been taken into account, and whether any further delay may occur that will necessitate another change in the appointed day.

I had hoped that we should be able to make rather faster progress. These Amendments are necessitated, in the first place, by the postponement of the appointed day, and also to ensure that, as far as possible, the constituent bodies shall operate as though 1st April had been the appointed day. Under these Amendments, the stores referred to will pass to the board on the new appointed day, 1st June. The Amendments are intended to have the effect that the cash settlement between the board and the respective authorities shall be on the basis of the stores held on 1st April. The stores then held have already been assessed, and this will obviously avoid the necessity of having any additional assessment.

Does this Amendment make any difference to the procedure in respect of the charges which are to operate up to 1954? Is that now to date from June, or is it to be antedated to April, even though the order does not come into effect until June?

It has been agreed among the authorities that once the board is set up there shall be accounting between the board and the constituent authorities on the basis that the board shall have the benefit of the water revenue and will bear the expenditure of the constituent authorities between 1st April and 1st June.

Which is the Amendment that gives effect to the agreement we have been told has been arrived at?

All these Amendments are to that end. As I explained earlier, we are desirous of ensuring that there shall be no delay because of the Parliamentary procedure, and these Amendments carry out that intention.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 12, line 2, leave out "and which are by this order transferred to the Board," and insert:

"for the purposes of their existing undertaking."

In line 37, leave out "shall be entitled to and."

In line 42, leave out "shall be entitled to and."

In line 51, leave out "subsequent to the appointed day," and insert:

"beginning on or after the first day of April, nineteen hundred and forty-nine."—[Mr. Blenkinsop.]

I beg to move, in page 15, line 10, to leave out "Before the commencement of any," and to insert:

"As soon as may be after the appointed day the Board shall make or cause to be made estimates of their probable revenue and expenditure (other than capital expenditure) in respect of the financial year ending on the thirty-first day of March, nineteen hundred and fifty.
(2) Before the commencement of any subsequent."
This and the subsequent Amendments are to ensure that there shall be no unnecessary delay in the operation of the order. As they are consequential, I hope that there will be no need for further discussion.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 15, line 14, leave out "and if the estimates," and insert:

"(2) If the estimates made under either of the last two foregoing subsections."

In line 17, leave out from "year," to "ending," in line 18, and insert:

"up to and including that."—[Mr. Blenkinsop.]

I beg to move, in page 15, line 26, to leave out sub-paragraph (b).

The effect of this Amendment is to withdraw from this Bill sub-paragraph (b) which will entitle the board to levy, for deficiencies in its, operations, a rate from the component authorities within the area of the board. This brings in an entirely new principle of charging for water, a principle which most of us on this side and, I believe, Members opposite will definitely wish—

It being Seven o'Clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of The CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS under Standing Order No. 7, further proceeding stood postponed.