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Clause 22—(Undertakers' Right To Payment For Works Made Necessary By, And Obligation To Facilitate, Road Etc Works)

Volume 478: debated on Friday 20 October 1950

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I beg to move, in page 31, line 40, after "works," to insert "may."

It will probably be convenient if we discuss this Amendment together with the next Amendment in page 32, line 3, namely, after "shall," insert:
"afford to the undertakers reasonable facilities for supervising the execution of the authority's works and shall pay to the undertakers concerned an amount equal to any cost reasonably incurred by them of supervision for which the promoting authority is by this section required to afford facilities and where the execution by the undertakers of any undertaker's works or the taking by them of any other measures is rendered necessary for the purposes aforesaid, the promoting authority."
These are Amendments of a substantial character and raise a point worthy of some consideration. If I may remind the House, because we discussed this fully on Committee Stage, the object of these Amendments is to give to undertakers, and in particular to water authorities, similar rights to those conferred by this Bill on sewer authorities and on transport authorities. Under the Bill as it now stands, where the works of a transport authority or a sewer authority are affected those authorities have the right of supervising the execution of the works by the undertaker and of saddling the undertaker with the cost of such supervision. I understand that the reason for giving these rights to transport and sewer authorities is because certain undertakers have, for instance, the right of breaking open sewers. I understand the reason that a similar right has not so far been granted to water authorities is because undertakers have not the statutory authority to open a water main.

At the same time, it appears to me to be almost as important to secure that a big water main should not be deprived of its support by virtue of the operations of an undertaker; and that where the works of undertakers are so close to the line of a water main that the support of the main might be affected, the water authorities should then have a similar right of sending someone to supervise the work of the undertakers and a right of recovering the cost of such supervision from the undertakers. I consider it desirable that water authorities should at least be given by this Bill the right of supervision in those circumstances, and also, as I said in the Committee stage, it might be right to give the undertakers whose works are likely to be affected by the operations of other undertakers the right of supervision at the expense of the undertakers who are performing the work. That would cover the whole field of operations, but it is a matter of principle and I should be interested to hear the views of the right hon. Gentleman, because he said during Committee stage that he would give further careful consideration to this question.

I hope I have made it clear that really there are two questions here. The case is pretty strong for the water authorities whose mains might be affected by being deprived of support, but I am not at all sure that we should not in principle extend the right of supervision to all undertakers whose works may be affected by the operations of other undertakers.

I beg to second the Amendment.

Almost as soon as the terms of this Bill were made known I was approached by a water authority who expressed the opinion that it seemed a little unfair that if they carried out repairs to one of their mains near to a sewer they had, at their own expense, to afford to the sewer authority the possibility of supervision; whereas if the sewer authority did work to a sewer which was near to a water main which might be damaged the water authority had no corresponding right. The water authority felt there ought to be reciprocity.

During the Debates in Committee, and again now, I fully appreciated the importance with which the hon. and learned Member for Northants, South invests this matter. I therefore considered the problem with every desire to meet him if any improvement could be accomplished. But I found on inquiry that this matter represents fairly firm agreement between undertakers and the highway authorities and interested parties. So far as I can gather, no undertakers including the water authorities, have raised this point in negotiations. If therefore I begin to extend the protection or facilities provided for transport and sewer authorities to another class of undertakers I run a grave risk of upsetting the general arrangements and agreements which surround that type of problem.

I am informed that, together with the code in Part II of the Bill, the Bill already achieves largely what the Amendment proposes if not more than that. If differences arise beween undertakers and the promoting authorities about the way in which the promoting authorities are to do work which affects the undertakers' apparatus, which in this case would be the water supply pipes, the arbitrator can impose conditions on the promoting authority, including the right of the undertakers to supervise the work and to take any other reasonable measures for safeguarding their apparatus at the expense of the promoting authorities.

Therefore, while I had every desire to meet this point, if to do so would be acceptable, and would not in any way upset the balance of the negotiations, I think, from what I have been informed, that the Amendment would upset that balance. As the undertakers themselves have not pressed this issue in the negotiations, I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will not, although he feels strongly upon it, press me on this occasion to accept his Amendment.

I gather from what the Minister has said that if he accepted this Amendment, it would mean upsetting the agreement that has been reached—

I would remind the House that this is the Report stage, the Bill having been considered in Committee of the whole House, and not even the Minister has the right to make a second speech on an Amendment. As the atmosphere is so harmonious, I have allowed a good deal of latitude, but it must not be taken as a precedent.

I apologise, Mr. Speaker. My intention was to ask the leave of the House to withdraw the Amendment, but I went a little too fast. I had intended to preface my request by saying that I gathered from what the Minister said that acceptance of this Amendment would lead to difficulties in matters on which agreement has been reached. I now understand that it is clearly contemplated that the arbitrator will, in the appropriate cases, have the power to impose the condition that the water authorities shall have the right of supervision at the expense of the promoting authority. Even though it would appear from what has been said by my hon. Friend that not all water authorities are quite content with the position, I would, in the circumstances, and because we wish to see the Bill reach the Statute Book, ask leave of the House to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move, in page 32, line 41, after "require," to insert:

"otherwise than with the consent of a Minister within the meaning of that section."

This Amendment deals with the problem of the lateral shifting of the Government oil pipes, which we have discussed.

Amendment agreed to.