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Stroudwater Navigation Bill Lords (By Order)

Volume 531: debated on Monday 26 July 1954

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Order for Third Reading read.

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

7.0 p.m.

I shall not detain the House long. This Bill is as bad as it was on the day it was born. The only demand for this Bill comes from those who are interested in bringing the bridges up to date to cope with the modern traffic, and I can well understand their feelings and sympathise with them, but there ought to have been promoted a Bill by the county council dealing with the bridges alone. The county council, one can well understand, has doubts whether the opponents of the Bill can make practical suggestions 'or substantial contributions, and in the circumstances I think that the attitude now taken by the chairman of the county council is a very generous one.

I have received a letter this morning from the clerk to the county council saying:
"The Chairman has asked me to say that he is prepared, if the Bill becomes law, to recommend the Highways Committee and the County Council to consider sympathetically any proposals in connection with the reconstruction of the bridges I have referred to, which may be submitted to them by a responsible body of persons who have in mind the development of a section of the Canal for pleasure boating purposes."
I hope that that sympathetic attitude will receive the support of the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation, whom I see in his place, and who intervened in the Second Reading debate to express the concern of the Ministry that this job should be properly done.

I have no doubt that there is now sufficient time for consideration at leisure of the real facts of the problem, particularly since there is a new development, confirmation of which I received only this morning when I received the letter from the county council. It is that the responsible body, which hardly existed at the time when the clerk to the county council wrote his letter last Saturday, does now exist, in so far as the Canal Restoration Committee has acquired a controlling interest in the shares of the Navigation Company itself.

We should like to express thanks to the public spirit and generosity of a number of shareholders, including two old and well-known local families, in putting their shares at the disposal of the Committee for that purpose. It will achieve two things at once, the complete removal of the possibility of profit seeking by those who hold the minority of the shares and it will now render it unnecessary to create any kind of trust or new company.

I think that the Navigation Company will now have the energy and new technique required, and I have no doubt that the new spirit, of mutual responsibility and good will will lead to the solution of the problem that has been sought on all sides. The Bill does not compel anyone to do anything, as I understand it. It gives permissive powers, and in the hope that nothing is done wantonly, hurriedly, or in a spirit of controversy, and as there is time for a solution to be found, I am asking my hon. Friends on this side of the House not to press the matter to a Division.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed, with Amendments.