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Land Drainage Bill

Volume 640: debated on Tuesday 9 May 1961

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Question again proposed, That those words be there inserted in the Bill.

I was saying, when the Division took place, that I think it is well established on both sides of the House that we are both after the same thing. The argument is over the means with which we will achieve it. Whether we will achieve it by means of writing a Clause into this Bill or not, one thing is sure and that is that this Amendment is not the answer. It is therefore a question of putting in a new Clause which will refer to it across the whole Bill, or whether we should leave it to be done by the Lord Chancellor's regulations. As I understand it, since the 1959 Act, no Bill has yet been presented to the House which has had a Clause in it to handle it in that way, and so far it has been left to be done by the Lord Chancellor's regulations.

I will give an undertaking to discuss this with my colleagues. I cannot definitely say that a new Clause will be put in to meet this point—that would create a precedent which goes much further than land drainage—but I shall consult my colleagues as to whether it would be better to put a Clause into the Bill as opposed to leaving the Lord Chancellor to make regulations. I do not know which will prove to be the better way of handling the question, but I will discuss it with my colleagues, and not just regard it as a matter for consideration in the Department as to which may prove to be the better method.

I wish that the Minister would be more forthright. An assurance that he will seek the best way of incorporating this into the Bill would meet all our requirements, but a mere assurance of discussion with the Lord Chancellor and others of his colleagues leaves us very cold. The Minister told us to dismiss completely from our minds any impression that he was trying to hold anything back, and added that whenever a person applied to the Department for the inspector's report, that report was always supplied.

If that is so, why cannot the Minister be more forthcoming and say that he will provide in the Bill for the report to be supplied. He says that is already being done, so there can be no objection to inserting it in this Measure. To say that the matter has not been dealt with in this way previously does not alter the justification of our general requests.

The Minister knows that I have been in consultation with his Department on drainage questions. I am satisfied with the way which his Ministry is dealing with them, but schemes like this could adversely affect the land of someone outside the immediate area of the scheme and the person affected will object. The Minister will hold an inquiry—surely the person affected is entitled to know, of right and not on sufferance, what recommendation the inspector makes to the Minister.

That is ordinary common justice. Whatever may have been the case with all the drainage Measures since 1929, it is not sufficient in 1961 to leave the Lord Chancellor to make such regulations as he may deem to be necessary. The Minister has agreed that the information has previously been supplied to objectors, and he must now concede that an objector has a right to it.

10.15 p.m.

The Minister has gone far from his original stand, after several consultations. We now ask him to go a little further. He is the Minister in charge of agriculture and he has admitted that there is justice in our request. Surely he will be courageous enough to say that an objector is entitled to see the inspector's report as a matter of right rather than as a matter of making an application. It is only common sense that past practice and precedent should prevail and should be enshrined in legislation. The Minister should take his courage in his hands and adopt a measure suitable for 1961 rather than for what happened forty or fifty years ago.

The Minister is noted for his courage and we now ask him to take just this one further step. It is not a matter only of courage, but also of statesmanship and his determination to be the head of his own Ministry and to give justice to those who seek it. I hope that he will agree to discuss with us the type of Amendment which ought to be made so that the right can be enshrined in the Bill and not made dependent on regulations to be made at some time in the future.

During the last ten years, we have seen a number of Ministers of Agriculture. They have been Lord Crathorne, Lord Amory, the present Minister of Labour, and now the right hon. Gentleman. If our appeal had been made to any of the right hon. Gentleman's predecessors as it has been made tonight, I am sure that they would have conceded it. Every one of us with rural areas in his constituency is bound to be affected in more than one way if the matter is not righted at this stage.

The Minister said that it seemed to be our impression that he would hold back information after an inquiry had been held, and he said that he would send the information to any person who applied for it. Why should it be left to an individual to apply for the information about the inquiry which it should be the responsibility of the Minister to pass on? Why should not that right be put into the Bill? In 1961 it is high time that we got away from this antiquated system of leaving things to the Lord Chancellor. Why cannot we bring ourselves up to date and act in accordance with the principles of democratic Government?

It is no good the Minister saying that he will consult his right hon. Friends to see whether they can devise a means of incorporating what we require in the Bill. We appeal to the Minister to give us an undertaking that he will do it without further consultation with his right hon. Friends.

Perhaps I might intervene in an endeavour to bring the debate to a conclusion. We have had a good debate and there is clearly a difference of opinion between the two sides of the House. I do not think that anyone would be uncharitable enough not to thank the Minister for the assurance he gave. I do not think that anyone would challenge his good intentions in the matter, and I would not challenge the good intentions of his Department because the record shows that time and again the right hon. Gentleman's predecessors have accepted an Amendment such as the one we propose.

This is our difficulty. The right hon. Gentleman is asking us to abandon these precedents. We feel that the course we have taken in the past in moving Amendments like this is the right one to compel the Government to accept this recommendation of the Franks Committee. The right hon. Gentleman has gone as far as he can go. He said that he would consult his colleagues and consider whether a new Clause could be introduced in another place to provide this provision wherever the occasion arises.

Our difficulty is that we think that there has been consultation with other Departments and that is why this precedent is no longer being followed in this case. At the moment we have reason for having no confidence in some of the right hon. Gentleman's colleagues who will consider this matter. We must make that clear. In fact, we will strengthen the right hon. Gentleman's hand if we make our position clear. Having had this debate, having called attention to the failure of the Government to take this opportunity to implement this recommendation, we propose

Division No. 165.]

AYES

[10.23 p.m.

Ainsley, WilliamHannan, WilliamPopplewell, Ernest
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)Hayman, F. H.Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Bacon, Miss AliceHerbison, Miss MargaretProbert, Arthur
Blackburn, F.Hilton, A. V.Pursey, Cmdr. Harry
Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S.W.)Holman, PercyRedhead, E. C.
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.Howell, Denis (B'ham, Small Heath)Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)Robertson, J. (Paisley)
Brown, Thomas (Ince)Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Castle, Mrs. BarbaraHughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)
Collick, PercyHunter, A. E.Ross, William
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)Hynd, John (Attercliffe)Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)
Cullen, Mrs. AliceJeger, GeorgeSlater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)Jones, Dan (Burnley)Small, William
Davies, Ifor (Gower)Jones, Jack (Rotherham)Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)Spriggs, Leslie
Defargy, HughKenyon, CliffordSteele, Thomas
Ede, Rt. Hon. C.Lawson, GeorgeSymonds, J. B.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Fernyhough, E.Loughlin, CharlesTaylor, John (West Lothian)
Finch, HaroldMabon, Dr. J. DicksonThompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)
Forman, J. C.McCann, JohnWainwright, Edwin
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)McInnes, JamesWatkins, Tudor
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. HughMackie, JohnWilkins, W. A.
Galpern, Sir MyerManuel, A. C.Willey, Frederick
George, LadyMeganLloyd (Crmrthn)Millan, BruceWilliams, D. J. (Neath)
Ginsburg, DavidMilne, Edward J.Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Gooch, E. G.Neal, HaroldWillis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)Woof, Robert
Gourlay, HarryOwen, Will
Grey, CharlesPargiter, G. A.TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)Pavitt, LaurenceMr. Charles Howell and
Grimond, J.Peart, FrederickMr. Sydney Irving.
Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)Pentland, Norman

NOES

Atkins, HumphreyCurran, CharlesHobson, John
Barlow, Sir JohnCurrie, G. B. H.Holland, Philip
Barter, JohnDalkeith, Earl ofHollingworth, John
Berkeley, HumphryDance, JamesHopkins, Alan
Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald (Toxteth)d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir HenryHoward, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives)
Bingham, R. M.du Cann, EdwardHughes-Young, Michael
Birch, Rt. Hon. NigelDuncan, Sir JamesHutchison, Michael Clark
Bishop, F. P.Elliott, R. W. (Nwcstle-upon-Tyne, N.)Jackson, John
Black, Sir CyrilEmmet, Hon. Mrs. EvelynJames, David
Bossom, CliveErrington, Sir EricJohnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)
Bourne-Arton, A.Fell, AnthonyJohnson, Erie (Blackley)
Box, DonaldFinlay, GraemeJohnson Smith, Geoffrey
Boyle, Sir EdwardFisher, NigelKerans, Cdr. J. S.
Braine, BernardFletcher-Cooke, CharlesKershaw, Anthony
Brewis, JohnFraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)Kimball, Marcus
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir WalterGammans, LadyKirk, Peter
Brown, Alan (Tottenham)Gardner, EdwardKitson, Timothy
Bryan, PaulGibson-Watt, DavidLeavey, J. A.
Buck, AntonyGoodhart, PhilipLegge-Bourke, Sir Harry
Bullard, DenyGoodhew, VictorLilley, F. J. P.
Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)Gower, RaymondLindsay, Martin
Carr, Compton (Barons Court)Grimston, Sir RobertLinstead, Sir Hugh
Channon, H. P. G.Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.Litchfield, Capt. John
Chataway, ChristopherGurden, HaroldLoveys, Walter H.
Chichester-Clark, R.Hall, John (Wycombe)Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
MacArthur, Ian
Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)
Cleaver, LeonardHarris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)McMaster, Stanley R.
Cooke, RobertHarrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)Maginnis, John E.
Cordle, JohnHastings, StephenMarkham, Major Sir Frank
Corfield, F. V.Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir LionelMatthews, Gordon (Meriden)
Costain, A. P.Hendry, ForbesMawby, Ray
Craddock, Sir BeresfordHiley, JosephMaxwell-Hyslop, R. J.
Crowder, F. P.Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.
Cunningham, KnoxHirst, GeoffreyMore, Jasper (Ludlow)

to reinforce our opinion by dividing the House on this Amendment.

Question put, That those words be there inserted in the Bill:—

The House divided: Ayes 94, Noes 168.

Morrison, JohnRidley, Hon. NicholasTilney, John (Wavertree)
Noble, MichaelRopner, Col. Sir LeonardTurner, Colin
Nugent, Sir RichardRussell, RonaldTurton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Osborn, John (Hallam)Shaw, M.van Straubenzee, W. R.
Osborne, Cyril (Louth)Shepherd, WilliamVane, W. M. F.
Page, Graham (Crosby)Skeet, T. H. H.Vickers, Miss Joan
Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Partridge, E.Smithers, PeterWalder, David
Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)Soames, Rt. Hon. ChristopherWalker, Peter
Peel, JohnSpearman, Sir AlexanderWard, Dame Irene
Percival, IanSpeir, RupertWatts, James
Pickthorn, Sir KennethStanley, Hon. RichardWilliams, Dudley (Exeter)
Pitt, Miss EdithStodart, J. A.Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Pott, PercivallStoddart-Scott, Col. Sir MalcolmWise, A. R.
Powell, Rt. Hon. J. EnochStudholme, Sir HenryWolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Prior, J. M. L.Talbot, John E.Woodnutt, Mark
Proudfoot, WilfredTapsell, PeterWoollam, John
Pym, FrancisTaylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)Worsley, Marcus
Quennell, Miss J. M.Temple, John M.
Redmayne, Rt. Hon. MartinThomas, Peter (Conway)TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Rees, HughThompson, Kenneth (Walton)Mr. Whitelaw and
Renton, DavidTiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)Mr. Gordon Campbell

I beg to move,

That further consideration of the Bill, as amended, be now adjourned.
I seek your permission Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to move this Motion at this time in order to discover the intentions of the Government with regard to this major, very complicated and very lengthy Measure. I understand from my hon. Friends that we started on the Bill at about 8.15 p.m. On the previous Bill, to our surprise, there was a good deal of delay occasioned by a rather unusual number of speeches from the Government side. Obviously, we cannot be blamed if the Government cannot pre vent their supporters from obstructing their own Measures. We have now been on this Bill 2¼ hours—

I said "montrous". It is outrageous that it should be a matter for criticism when hon. Members on this side of the House get up and say what they want to say.

I must have been misunderstood. I was simply saying that we cannot be blamed if Members on the Government benches obstruct their own Measures. I was not intending at all to imply that Government Members should not obstruct their own Measures. Far from it. In fact, the hon. Gentleman may take it as a general principle that we think that most of the Government Measures are such that we would wish that Government Members would obstruct them more often. There is from our point of view absolutely no complaint. If the Chief Patronage Secretary should in any way at all visit his displeasure upon the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) for obstructing Government Measures, I assure him that he has only to tell us and we will support him all we can against the Patronage Secretary.

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman misunderstands me. I was not complaining. I was only trying to make quite sure that the Opposition benches were not blamed for what had happened. I did not mean that I wanted the blame to fall on the hon. Gentleman. Certainly not.

The right hon. Gentleman's case would be a good deal stronger if he would remember at the same time that it was I who asked the Leader of the House last week whether we could have this extension because I thought that this was a matter of great interest to the House.

Indeed, I am sorry. I just took it for granted that all the hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends knew just what a tremendous fight he has put up to prevent the Government going through with the Bill too quickly. I am sorry; there is no conflict here. All my hon. Friends are impressed with the desire of the hon. Gentleman not to let the Government have their business too easily. We are impressed. We think it a very laudable ambition, and we hope the hon. Gentleman will not weary in well doing. But sometimes Ministers are apt to blame us for the desire of hon. Gentlemen opposite to do good, and I just wanted to make sure that we on this side were on this occasion in the clear.

In the two and a quarter hours we have been discussing this Measure—I did not like that adjective and it was a little too loudly said—

The word was not "slippery," but it was a six-letter word which I am sure would have been ruled unparliamentary if it had reached the Chair. It certainly reached over here. The Patronage Secretary should set a better example, because it is taken up. [HON. MEMBERS: "What was it? Tell us."] I shall not pursue it, but I hope I shall not hear such things said again, because if that were heard by hon. Members over here there would be a tremendous storm, and, unlike the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Ely—and the Patronage Secretary—I do not want to obstruct Government business; but if I said that word, obstruction would ensue.

We have had two and a quarter hours on this Measure. We are facing a Bill of great complexity. The degree of complexity is shown by the fact that the Bill came, I think, in February—am I right?—and we are still working on it in May. It is not our business that it is still hanging about. It is hanging about because of the need for consultations still to go on. We have still a tremendous number of Amendments to consider. I am told that if we group the Amendments, into groups of Amendments of like interest and matters, there will still be no fewer than 21 different groups to consider. In the two and a quarter hours we have got three groups done. Very nearly the whole of the last two hours has been taken up with one Amendment on which the first the Parliamentary Secretary and then the Minister obstructed themselves. We had, Mr. Deputy-Speaker—you were not here then, but Mr. Speaker will, no doubt, have told you—no fewer than five speeches from the Minister alone on the last Amendment, which must be very nearly a record for obstructing one's own Bill.

I only recall this history for the benefit of hon. Members who were not in the House then, and for yourself, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and just again to say that it could not possibly be argued that there has been obstruction on this side of the House. It is, therefore, I think, important at this stage to see what the Government intend to do.

We are asked tonight to complete the consideration of the Bill on Report, with another 17 or 18 groups of Amendments. If we attempt to do this, then, at the rate at which we have been going on, clearly we shall have to go on for a very long time. On top of that, the Government propose that we take the Third Reading as well.

Those of us who have county constituencies, as I have, and who have great problems about drainage authorities, about ditches, about watercourses which are not covered by the present law, all naturally want a new Bill to go through, but it has to be properly discussed, and there are many points which our constituents have asked us to put—I myself have refrained from speaking on Report until now in order not further to complicate or lengthen business—and which ought to be put on Third Reading. The Third Reading of a Bill as important and as complex as this, dealing with little people at so many points as this, ought not, I suggest, to be forced through in the dead hours of the night.

The Government can try to rely on the number of noses which they have about the place and think that they can vote everything through. On the other hand, as I have said many times before, Oppositions also have rights and opportunities which they can use. None of us on this side of the House wishes in any sense that the Bill should become a plaything in that kind of, I think, quite legitimate but nevertheless purely political business.

I see the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) in his place. He will have a great constituency interest in the Bill. I am quite sure that he would not wish, and his constituents would not wish, the Bill to be dealt with in what might be a perfunctory fashion from his point of view. Perhaps he has not discovered that there are internal drainage boards in his constituency. I know that they exist, but perhaps he does not.

The right hon. Gentleman is quite wrong, of course. I know all about them, and, in fact, I attended a dinner given by the I.D.B.s in my area only recently, and they appreciated that it was hon. Members opposite who were holding up the Bill.

I have not been disappointed tonight. I have only to look about and immediately I am helped in this matter. I did not suggest that the hon. Member for Gainsborough was at all lacking in a desire or ability to go to dinners. That was not the point I was discussing. I was not discussing his capacity to attend dinners or his capacity to make after-dinner speeches, about which I know very little. What I was discussing was the position of internal drainage boards. The internal drainage boards in his constituency have a great interest in this Bill. I have no doubt that many small farmers and urban constituents in his constituency have a great interest in seeing put on the Statute Book as soon as possible fully effective legislation to amend the existing defective land drainage legislation.

I am quite sure that many of the hon. Member's constituents have written to him, as mine have written to me, urging that in some respects the Bill does not amend the law as fully as it should. The hon. Member will, no doubt, wish to advance arguments on behalf of his constituents in Gainsborough. It would be wrong to try to push the Bill through during the dead hours of the night.

I say frankly that, if an attempt is made to get the Report stage and Third Reading, and the Ploughing Grants Scheme, this night, that attempt will not succeed. At some stage, we shall have to call it a day, or a day and a night, and leave something over. I should have thought that it would not be a bad thing to call it a day now. Good progress has been made. A very important matter of principle has been dealt with. Out of the Minister we have wormed—is that the right word?—

No—wormed an assurance for which every hon. Member now in the House, whether he knows it or not, will be very grateful when it is put into effect. It was a matter of important principle, as anyone who has read the correspondence and discussions in the newspapers will know. We shall continue in the same mood. We do not wish to obstruct. We shall help all we can. We have only constructive points to put. We do not want to take up time, but, of course, discussion does tend to take rather longer in the early hours of the morning than it does in the clearer hours of daylight, and a Bill of this importance ought to be discussed when our constituents may know what it is we are considering.

We could finish now. I myself think that that would be the right thing to do. On the other hand, the look on the Patronage Secretary's face does not encourage me to believe that he also takes that view. However, it will be within the recollection of everyone here that, on other occasions, what the Patronage Secretary has thought to be the right thing to do has turned out to be very ill-advised indeed. I happen to like the Patronage Secretary. As is well known, I am a man of peculiar tastes, and I have never taken the view that all my right hon. and hon. Friends should necessarily follow me in all my tastes. Liking the right hon. Gentleman as I do, I want now, as I have tried to do on previous evenings, to help him.

10.45 p.m.

If the right hon. Gentleman were to finish now and let us come back to this on another occasion, he would fairly certainly find that his business would be thereby advantaged. When I have said this to him before, I have found a regrettable reluctance by him to believe me, which, speaking as an Anglican, I always find rather painful, unhappy and unsettling. I hope that he does not disbelieve me tonight. If he does, we must ask the Minister what other ideas the Patronage Secretary has wickedly put into his ears and at what other stage this evening he intends to finish.

If the Minsiter says he wants "the lot", I assure him that at some stage in the early hours of the morning, we shall be on a similar Motion to this one; we shall still have to say that it will not be so, and he will have to agree. It would be useful to the House to know what the Minister has in mind. He should give up now; he would not lose anything. If he wants to go on, in view of the complexity of the Bill and the importance of the matters we have to consider, it would be useful for him to tell us how far he wants to go and see whether we can help him to get that far.

I hope that the Minister will not be arrogant or ride roughshod, not over the Opposition, but over our constituents and the legitimate interests outside who are affected by the Bill and the impositions which it makes on many people. I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will not try to bully his way through. We will be reasonable about it. Either let us go now or fix a reasonable point in time or in the Bill, and then we will be willing to consider what the Minister has to say.

The Bill has had a history of running in fits and starts. At times it has gone very fast and at other times very slowly. On recommittal, only one Clause was agreed to after a long period of debate. We then had another day on the Bill on Report, a couple of weeks ago, and we made great progress and got twenty-six Clauses through. Many of the complex Clauses to which the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) referred have already passed Report.

Starting, as we did, at 8.15 p.m., I should have thought there would be every chance to do what, I am sure, many hon. Members, on both sides, would like to do: that is, to complete the stages of the Bill. We had the debate which lasted a long time, to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred. Early on, my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary said that the point raised by the Opposition would be considered before the Bill was taken in another place, but a considerable amount of extra debate then took place and we have been a long time on the one Clause.

There are plenty of Clauses. As the right hon. Gentleman has said, there are, I suppose, some twenty-one subjects still for debate. Some of them are straightforward Government Amendments arising out of suggestions made by hon. Members, from both sides, in Committee and there are others put down by my hon. Friends and by hon. Members opposite that we shall be able to accept. If we get on with discussing the Bill in the same way as when it was last before the House, we might be able to make exceedingly good progress in not too much time and, perhaps, succeed in getting the remaining stages of the Bill. In any event, we have not been on it long yet. It is not all that unusual to be still debating these things at half-past ten or eleven o'clock. I suggest that we bash on for a bit and see how we get on.

We were all fascinated by the elegant phrase "Bash on for a bit". Speaking for myself, bashing on is always an attractive proposition, but could the right hon. Gentleman say what he means by "a bit"? We do not mind the bashing, but what did the right hon. Gentleman mean by "bit". Was it up to 11.30 or midnight?

I was trying not to be too precise. I said that if we had the kind of discussion that we had when the Bill was previously before us, we should be able to get on very well. Who knows how far we might get? I suggest that we should go on for a bit.

I am very disappointed with the Minister's reply to the very reasonable request of my hon. Friends. I am disappointed because on the time that we spend on the Bill depends the time when we shall reach Scottish business. I can see Scottish Members oppo- site who, I am sure, are most anxious to have a thorough discussion of the Ploughing Grants Scheme. I see the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Clark Hutchison) sitting opposite. He is a well-known farmer who writes articles on fanning. I am sure that he has an important contribution to make to the subject. I can also see the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur), who represents an important agricultural constituency. I am sure that his constituents will want to know what he has to say about the ploughing grants. The hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Brewis) also represents a large agricultural constituency. I can see by the looks on the faces of these hon. Members that they are all keen to debate the grants.

If we are to spend hours on this Bill it will be very late before we reach that debate. I am waiting for it. In the course of my contribution to the debate on this Bill I deliberately curtailed my speech, and I informed the Minister that I was doing so, because I was anxious that the Government should get their business and we should move on to debate the ploughing grants. Nobody, therefore, can accuse me of having held up the Bill. Instead of speaking for a quarter of an hour, I spoke for five minutes on a matter that really warranted a half-hour speech.

I am sure that that my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) is as anxious as I am about the ploughing grants. He made a most important contribution on the subject last year, which he probably remembers. [Laughter.] Certainly it was an important contribution, concerning the dishonesty of the farmers who were defrauding the taxpayers in Scotland of about £11,000.

I am afraid that the hon. Member cannot discuss the merits of the ploughing grants on this Motion.

I am grateful for your guidance, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. The thought of farmers getting away with £11,000 rather carried me away.

If the Minister wants to get the Bill first, we shall be discussing the grants at about five o'clock in the morning. I suggest in all seriousness that that time of the morning is not the proper time to discuss Scottish business. I object to this idea that we can always discuss Scottish business at eleven o'clock, midnight, or one or two o'clock in the morning. Scottish business is last on the Order Paper and we are the victims of the Minister's obtuseness in failing to appreciate the arguments put before him.

We are also the victims of the gross ineptitude of the Government in their inability to get their business in an orderly manner at a reasonable time of day. As a Scottish Member I protest most vigorously against the procedure which makes it necessary for us to sit here hour after hour, waiting for Scottish business, while an English Bill which does not concern us is discussed. I agree, of course, that this Bill is an important Bill, but the Minister should consider not only the Bill but also the convenience of other Members awaiting other business.

There are about twenty groups of Amendments yet to be discussed. If each group is discussed for only ten minutes, that means another four hours on Report. Ten minutes is not a long time for discussion of important matters. That means that it will be three o'clock tomorrow morning before we complete the Report stage, and then there is the Third Reading, which is to be followed by the English ploughing grants. That means that it will be four o'clock before we get to the Scottish business. I am surprised at Scottish Members opposite tolerating such a situation.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Could my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) repeat what he has said in the last five minutes for the benefit of the Minister, who has not heard the argument?

I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I do not wish to waste the time of the House by repeating what I have said, but, briefly, the point is that the Minister has no right to keep Scottish Members waiting here until four o'clock in the morning to discuss Scottish business. If Scottish Members opposite did their duty they would protest just as vigorously as I am, Instead, however, they are spinelessly supporting a Government which puts Scotland in this intolerable position. Why do Scottish Members opposite tolerate this?

I see that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart) treats this as a joke. He does not dare go to his constituents and tell them that he sits quietly in the House while Scottish business is put further and further back in order to suit the convenience of English Members. I defy him to make a speech like that in his constituency. I defy the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire to make such a speech to his electorate. Anyone who knows the Scottish people realises that they would not tolerate that situation for a moment.

I am sure that the constituents of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) would be interested to know that we have now spent ten minutes watching the time tick away while the House is swept away in a flood of crocodile tears from the hon. Member.

I am sure that the electors of Perth and East Perthshire would not think that ten minutes standing up for the rights of Scotland were wasted. They would want much longer spent on that issue.

It is clear that the Land Drainage Bill will go on for a long time yet. Even with my lack of knowledge of it, I can see obvious and very important legal and technical matters, and matters affecting the rights of the individual, which will arise during further discussion. If they are each discussed only a short while, the Report stage will go on for a long time. The Minister ought to be a little more forthcoming and to say that we shall carry on until half-past eleven or a quarter to twelve, but not leave us with this indefiniteness which means that we shall be carrying on until the early hours of the morning. The Minister is not now here for us to make appeals to him. That is the trouble with this Government, right hon. Members of the Government Front Bench go in and out so often.

11.0 p.m.

Where is the Patronage Secretary? We are discussing the business of the House and there is no member on the Government Front Bench present who can say yea or nay to what we suggest. The Patronage Secretary, the Leader of the House, the Minister, none of them worries about this. It is deplorable that we should be kept here like this with no one to tell us when we shall finish. There is no one to listen to the cogent arguments put forward, no one to hear the story of injustice which is inflicted on Scottish hon. Members in relation to business affecting them. At the end of the Government Front Bench there is now a Scottish Minister. I hope he appreciates that his business is being held up for four or five hours.

Reluctant as I am to intervene on a Scottish point, I feel that my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) made a point when he interrupted to say that at present Scottish hon. Members are not the victims of the Government's obstinacy but they are, and have been for a quarter of an hour, the victims of the eloquence of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) and, if I might say so without disrespect, of his verbosity.

As I replied to the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire, I am sure the electors of Scotland would like ten minutes to be spent in defending their rights and to see that Scottish business is dealt with in a proper manner, a manner befitting an ancient nation.

Now that the Patronage Secretary has arrived, he may be able to tell us what we are to do about the Scottish business. This is a shocking way to treat Scottish business. The hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher) shakes his head, but would he like to sit here night after night until eleven, twelve or two in the morning before we could discuss business in which he was interested? He would not tolerate that for a moment, and we shall not tolerate it. That is why we protest even if it takes ten minutes for us to do so.

I have to listen to many things which do not necessarily interest me, but I have at least learned to listen and to respect the right of other hon. Members to make their points. I suggest that the hon. Member should do the same when Scottish hon. Members venture to make their points.

I was appealing to the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, who is responsible for the business to be discussed sometime tonight. I have no doubt that he will be very tired having to sit there until five or six in the morning before he can put through that Scottish business.

If my hon. Friend is referring to the Motion about Scottish Agriculture, I ask him to reconsider any thoughts he may have that we English are going to abrogate our rights so that that business can come on at six o'clock in the morning. That would be very unfair to the English business which will need rather more time than that.

I must beg pardon of my right hon. Friend if I was being a little over-optimistic. We are anxious to get through the business and on that basis I thought that by six or seven o'clock in the morning we might be getting somewhere near the Motion about ploughing grants. The custodian of Scottish business in the House at the moment ought to be bringing a little pressure to bear on the Patronage Secretary. He should not be sitting there giggling away to himself. That is not the way to carry out the duties of Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland. He should be telling the Patronage Secretary and the Minister of Agriculture the importance of this Scottish business, and telling them, too, that we do not intend to be treated like this would making a protest.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be a little more forthcoming. Even if he is not prepared to finish this present debate just now, he might say that we will carry on till about half-past eleven—

My hon. Friend has talked a great deal about these ploughing grants for Scotland, but if he looks at the Order Paper he will see that Item 10 deals with the Trusts (Scotland) Bill, as amended in the Standing Committee—

I am rather surprised that my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) should be taking such a narrow, parochial, Scottish view. He is a Member of this House, as representative of the United Kingdom, but is talking all the time about the delay to the Scottish business. He might say a word about what is really the most important matter on the Order Paper, which is the subject of the Adjournment debate, when my hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Mr. Owen) will raise the very important subject of the employment situation in south-east Northumberland.

I appreciate the seriousness of the employment situation in the Morpeth area, particularly under this Government, but I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Mr. Owen) would himself make that point and I did not want to anticipate anything he might say about it. I have therefore confined myself to the Scottish aspect, which is sufficiently important to Scottish Members to warrant a noise being made about our treatment, and to demand some indication of the hon. Gentleman's intentions now.

I want to speak about the ploughing grants, and I want to know how long I may expect to have to stay here in order to do so. It is no use the hon. Gentle man just leaning on the Dispatch Box and saying "We'll just jog along." I want him to tell us what is to happen to the rest of tonight's business and if, in fact, as he seemed to indicate, we are to carry on with this Bill—

Before the hon. Gentleman sits down, may I ask him how many acres are ploughed up in Edinburgh, East?

I am doing my best to resume my seat in order to help the Government with their business but hon. Members opposite are indulging in a filibuster. The hon. Member for Galloway asks about my constituency. I hope that it is in order for me, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to tell him that, as he may probably know, I have in my constituency the most fertile land in the whole of Scotland.

I shall not follow my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) in his dissertation on Scottish affairs to be discussed later. During our earlier discussion, it became abundantly clear that in this Bill we are dealing with intricate and complicated points of principle in regard to the liberty of the individual, to assessments and to all kinds of things, and that we need very clear minds if we are to make an effective contribution to the debate. Unless the Government are prepared to assist in the matter, and although it would be rather a heavy task for us and would mean a considerable stretching of our grey matter to an unearthly hour, we shall, nevertheless, pursue our duty rigorously in an endeavour to help the Government with their Bill.

It is surely only reasonable that we should have some knowledge of the time at which these present proceedings are likely to be terminated. To that end, I make a further appeal to the Minister to meet our wishes in this respect. If we could adjourn the debate on the Bill at a reasonable hour it would have a far more effective passage through the House.

Perhaps I could help on this matter. It would seem that this debate might continue for quite a long time. Perhaps it would be simpler if we brought it to a close and if we came to an arrangement satisfactory to all concerned. We have got through a lot of business today with the Covent Garden Market Bill. If we were to get the Report stage of this Bill and leave the Third Reading over to another day it might be thought to be a satisfactory day's business for the House. Of course, the Orders would also have to be carried forward because they come immediately after Third Reading. I should imagine that we could, perhaps, get the Report stage completed in an hour or an hour and a half.

I am sure that the House is greatly obliged to the right hon. Gentleman and that we all appreciate the conciliatory attitude which he has shown throughout our deliberations on the Bill. This Measure happens to be an extraordinarily difficult one. I wish to thank the right hon. Gentleman for the offer that he has made. I think that with the co-operation of both sides of the House we should be able to get through the Report stage in reasonable time. If we could leave Third Reading till another day that, I believe, would meet the wishes of hon. Members on both sides. I am sure that many hon. Members would like to take the opportunity on Third Reading to say something about the Bill as it will then be after our consideration of it. With the assurance that the right hon. Gentleman will afford us another opportunity to discuss the Bill on Third Reading, I am sure that we should be able to make satisfactory progress. In the light of that assurance, I would advise my right hon. Friend to withdraw the Motion now before the House.

Before we proceed any further in the matter, may I ask the Minister to tell us what is happening in relation to the Scottish Order? I understand that it has been withdrawn. Has this been done by the British Minister, and did he consult the Scottish Minister at all?

I have never refused to accept the advice tendered to me by my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey), whom I regard as one of the most wise and sensible Members of the House. As I understand the position, we shall, we hope, get the Report stage of the Bill by 12 or 12.30 or thereabouts and all the other business will be carried over. I understand that this has been done in agreement with the Scottish Minister—in my case with the agreement of my Scottish colleagues—and that we shall then debate the Third Reading of this Bill during the daylight hours of another day. Perhaps it will then not take quite as long as it might otherwise do. In view of this arrangement, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move, in page 17, line 33, at the end to insert:

"and, if that authority is a river board, they shall also notify the council of any county or county borough in which any of that land is situated; and any such scheme made by or notified to any such council shall be registered in the register of local land charges by the proper officer of the council in such manner as may be prescribed by rules made under section fifteen of the Land Charges Act, 1925".
During our discussions upstairs in Committee my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) moved an Amendment to register all charges arising in the carrying out of these local drainage schemes as under the Land Charges Acts. It happened that we were advised that the words suggested by my hon. Friend were not appropriate to the Clause, and we gave an undertaking that, while we accepted the spirit of the Amendment, we would put forward an Amendment which fitted the Bill more precisely. We have now done that and I hope that the House will agree that the addition of these words is an improvement.

Amendment agreed to.