Skip to main content

Clause 22—(Establishment Of Nature Reserves By Local Authorities)

Volume 467: debated on Tuesday 19 July 1949

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

I beg to move, in page 15, line 29, at the end, to insert:

(5) A local authority may, as respects any land which is being managed as a nature reserve by the authority, enter into an agreement with any drainage authority for the exercise by the drainage authority, on such terms as to Payment or otherwise as may be specified in the agreement, of any power of doing work exercisable by the local authority under the foregoing provisions of this section.
This is self-explanatory—

On a point of Order, Major Milner. I did not hear the right hon. Gentleman move the Amendment to leave out Clause 14.

I put the Question although the right hon. Gentleman did not, in fact, formally move the Amendment.

If the hon. Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) will forgive me, it was a question of the Clause standing part, which does not require to be formally moved.

Is it not customary for the Minister to give an explanation on the Report stage why he is proposing that a Clause should be omitted?

We had considerable discussion of this Clause in Committee, and it was a matter which exercised the minds of both sides of the Committee. The Clause, as it stood in the original draft, was attacked on both sides and there was a great deal of interest displayed. Now the right hon. Gentleman has put down a specific Amendment to leave out the Clause and I was expecting him to move it and to give some justification for moving at this stage to leave out a Clause which passed through the Committee stage and into the Bill, but he has not done so.

I am sorry, but we have passed that point; perhaps I was a little too speedy. The right hon. Gentleman on a previous similar Amendment said that he proposed to insert further words later. I do not know whether that is the explanation here. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] In any case we have passed that point and cannot discuss it now.

In all fairness, Major Milner, I would say that the omission of this Clause is controversial. I had anticipated that there might be some discussion on it, and while I think, with great respect, that your Ruling is correct, nevertheless it might save trouble if we had some discussion on the Amendment.

May I draw your attention, Major Milner, to the words used by the Minister on the Committee stage? In discussing this Clause he said:

"I want to say, straight away, that I think the whole Clause wants looking at again. … If the right hon. Gentleman would be willing to let me look at the Clause again, he will have a further opportunity of seeing it in its amended form."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 17th May, 1949, c. 246 and 248.]
It is quite inconsistent with the spirit of that statement that we should not have a discussion here when it is proposed to omit the Clause altogether.

I appreciate the position, but we cannot discuss it now. We will endeavour to find an opportunity of discussion at another stage if that meets the wishes of the Committee, but I am afraid we cannot do anything at the moment and indeed I do not know how far that will be possible. Mr. Silkin.

As I was saying, the Amendment I have just moved to Clause 22, page 15, line 29, is self-explanatory.

I am not clear about these words. The first time that the right hon. Gentleman moved them, or partially moved them, he said they were self-explanatory. We might be told on this occasion whether he has had any consultation with the drainage authorities as to whether they wish to have this co-operation. I imagine they do, but as the Minister has obviously worked out this matter, I want to know if there are many occasions when this is likely to happen. Particularly I would like the Minister to say whether this would cover the large rivers or tidal waters, and how he proposes to deal with them. They will come under the drainage authorities in that they drain large areas. An answer would help greatly to clarify the position.

3.45 p.m.

I hope the right hon. Gentleman is in a position to answer the points put by my hon. Friend. I only rise because we are now on Part III of the Bill which applies specially to Scotland, and the questions which my hon. Friend has asked, cogent though they may be for England and Wales, are likely to be much more so north of the Border where we have local authorities with, in some cases, exceedingly poor rateable values, and it is those which will almost certainly be called upon to bring into existence these nature reserves. The right hon. Gentleman by this time has had considerable experience of local authorities south of the Border and, in drafting these Clauses in Part III of the Bill, I hope he has had some experience of local authorities in Scotland. I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, whom I am pleased to see on the Front Bench, was called in when such consultations were held because there can be no question but that local authorities, particularly small local authorities in Scotland, are jealous of their rights.

The right hon. Gentleman said that this Amendment is self-explanatory. I congratulate him that for once in a way the drafting of these words makes the meaning plain even to an uninstructed layman like myself. It is not always that we have intelligent words in Amendments emanating from the Government Front Bench. Still, the right hon. Gentleman ought not to seek to cloak himself with the straightforwardness of this Amendment, if I may so put it. He is a man in whom there is little guile, but if he does not answer the points put by my hon. Friend and myself he might give the impression that he is trying to cover up some sin of omission regarding adequate consultation with the local authorities.

We all agree about the necessity for these nature reserves but we do not want to see hardships imposed upon local authorities or unnecessary jealousies or frictions engendered as the result of the permissive words in this Amendment. Throughout this Parliament, in much of the legislation we have had with regard to town and country planning, points have been made over and over again as to the necessity of safeguarding the rights of one local authority which may have another local authority or drainage authority operating within its borders. The Committee is entitled to a more lengthy explanation of these points than the right hon. Gentleman has seen fit to give.

In view of the tremendous pressure which has been put upon me, I will gladly explain that this Amendment applies to a local authority which is proposing to manage a nature reserve. Certain work may be necessary and it may be more convenient for the drainage authority to do it than the local authority. In that case this Amendment enables the local authority to enter into an arrangement for the drainage authority to do the work and to be paid. The drainage authority will be at no loss; they will be fully paid. I do not know how often this procedure will occur, but I hope it will occur whenever it is more convenient for the work to be done by the drainage authority than by the local authority.

I see the advantage and am fully in favour of the Amendment. My main point was this: has the right hon. Gentleman actually had consultations with the drainage authority who, presumably, would quite easily have come in and said that they will help in this way?

Amendment agreed to.

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

I should like just one explanation. We ought to know whether the Clause will cover certain extremely difficult cases of co-operation between local authorities. Take a river of such considerable beauty as the Fal, with three or four different local authorities concerned at Falmouth, Penryn and Truro, besides, perhaps, others. That area, whilst not as beautiful as the Dart, should have one authority to organise the whole area on some form of co-operation. How is that to be worked out? This matter is of vital importance to many of us. The actual case I mentioned is no longer of importance to the Under-Secretary but it is to me and to those of us who inhabit the West country. Does the Clause cover these matters, and is it fairly easy to get local authorities together for the purpose of co-operation?

The short answer is that the Bill does not purport to re-organise local government to that extent. The Clause deals only with local nature reserves and has nothing to do with the administration of the area. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman's question is not relevant to the Clause.

I must contest that. We are not permanently fixing for all time certain reserves. There might be additions, and I was quoting one of them—not that I am asking for that addition or for the reverse. This matter is of importance because the area to which I referred is one of our most beautiful areas. Can the Minister assure us that he has full powers of co-ordination between local authorities?

There are powers under the Town and Country Planning Act to combine authorities for the purposes of planning, but not for running a nature reserve. If it were convenient from a planning point of view to combine a number of authorities, that could be done or an advisory committee could be set up to cover the areas, but not purely for managing a nature reserve.

Question put, and agreed to.

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