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Land Drainage Bill

Volume 640: debated on Tuesday 9 May 1961

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As amended ( in the Standing Committee and on recommittal), further considered.

Clause 27—(Schemes For Drainage Of Small Areas)

8.11 p.m.

I beg to move, in page 16, line 33, after "works", to insert:

"or that the development of land in the area in accordance with an application under the Town and Country Planning Acts, 1947 to 1959, is likely to affect adversely the drainage of that land or of other land in the area so as to make remedial works desirable."

I think it would be convenient if the House also discussed the Amendments in page 16, line 36, after "land", insert:

"as may be necessary from time to time".
In page 16, line 36, at end insert:
"improvement remedial or".

That will meet our general convenience.

Here we are back again on the Land Drainage Bill after a six months' stint, and I hope that we are in sight of the end of our labours. This Clause deals with schemes for the drainage of small areas and widens the power of the county authorities to promote local improvement schemes. More important, it extends to a river board the right to promote local improvement schemes where the constitution of an internal drainage district would not be practicable.

I said in Committee upstairs that I regarded this provision relating to the river boards as the most important part of this Clause. The Amendments we are discussing are based on a proposal which I, and no doubt other hon. Members, have received from the Clerk to the River Nene Board. His board believes that the Clause should be extended to deal with land which may be adequately drained at the moment but which may be adversely affected by a proposed and known development. That is why the Amendments have been tabled. Anyone who thinks about the River Nene thinks at once of the effects of the ironstone working in the area.

The difficulty with the Clause as drafted is that it is confined to areas capable of improvement by drainage works. In other words, it is confined to the situation which exists at present and there is power to prepare schemes in advance for future developments. When the result of the ironstone workings is known, one can anticipate a general disturbance of the topography and a silting up of the streams in the area. It is for those reasons that we have tabled these Amendments.

8.15 p.m.

I say at once that I realise that these difficulties are at present met by agreement. In fact, the Clerk to the Nene River Board referred me to an example at Finedon where the workings are being carried on by Messrs. Richard Thomas and Baldwins. He says:
"With a view to overcoming this difficulty, the County Council, the Mining Company, and this Board are to enter into a collateral Agreement before the Planning Authority are prepared to consent to the development which provides that the County Council will prepare a Scheme for the execution of any remedial drainage works which may be necessary."
I realise that the River Boards Association believes that these difficulties can be overcome in that way, but I have tabled these Amendments because the River Nene River Board is an important one. It is faced with these difficulties, and if it is possible to provide the safeguards proposed in the Clause I hope that the Government will accept the Amendment.

I believe, too, that there are something in the way of precedents in both the Coal Mining (Subsidence) Act, 1957, and the Opencast Coal Act, 1958. For those reasons, in spite of the provision which is at present made through the agreement I have mentioned, I hope that the Government will accept the Amendment.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
(Mr. W. M. F. Vane)

The hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) moved the Amendment in a way which echoed the discussion we had on a new Clause the last time we met, although his present representations are not so wide as those brought forward on that occasion. I wondered whether he had been in touch with the Nene River Board on this point, because I know that that board was concerned with this problem, not least because it has, as the hon. Gentleman said, to deal with the problem of ironstone workings in its area which, without proper liaison and administrative arrangements being made, could cause drainage problems in a different area. On the other hand, the proposed Amendment does not attract the support of the River Boards Association generally because it understands that it will be very difficult to operate in this context.

Clause 27 is entitled:
"Schemes for drainage of small areas."
It is not intended to deal with major works. It is intended to deal with small local problems, and it hardly seems appropriate to insert an Amendment of this kind which would imply drainage other than can be described as local drainage works.

It would not be a logical extension, and if hon. Members consider what has been put to the House they will see that it would be difficult in practice to draw up schemes in anticipation of the effects of planning decisions. That, in effect, is what the Amendment means. Nor would those paying necessarily be those who would benefit from the work, and that is inherent in the small drainage schemes. We would have problems created, maybe at a distance, by work done in a different part of the area, and benefits divorced from payment.

When we discussed a similar Clause on a previous occasion, we discussed at the same time the relevance of planning considerations in this regard. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree with me about this. If we are to have planning as a vital power we must avoid stripping it of powers whenever a technical reason is put forward.

From time to time, technical reasons are put forward by different interests who say that it would be much better if they settled the matter on technical grounds and took it away from the concept of planning. But I suggest that if planning is to be vital, it must be accepted as taking account and being responsible for technical considerations of all kinds. It must not be looked on simply as a power to deal with the residue of problems which, for some reason or other, have not sufficiently powerful interests to take them out of the planning sphere.

Here we have what is basically a planning problem. It has technical interests, but it is a planning issue and one which ought to be dealt with by liaison arrangements between the river boards and the planning authorities. If it is to be effective, planning must imply a very widespread system of liaison with all the technical services. I do not think it at all out of the ordinary to expect a problem like this to be dealt with administratively in that way. I am sure that it would be a better way in which to deal with the problem than trying to graft something on to this Clause which would change completely its intention and balance and make it, in effect, extremely difficult to work.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman does not think I am unsympathetic to the problem. I appreciate that there is a problem, but I think that we should attempt to meet it in other ways. I am sure that it would be better to try to meet it in a way different from that proposed in the Amendment.

I am obliged to the Parliamentary Secretary for his reply. The hon. Gentleman spoke of my being in touch with the Nene River Board. In fact, it was the other way round. The Nene River Board has been in touch with this matter through its members and I have become cognisant of its point of view. In spite of the view of the River Boards Association, it felt it should raise this matter and I considered that it ought to be raised by way of an Amendment. I wish to emphasise that although, as I said, in this case the board has been able to take advantage of these agreements, it does not regard the agreements as entirely satisfactory.

The Parliamentary Secretary said that there are two difficulties. One is the financial difficulty, which I will not pursue further, as it might provoke another discussion on the financial support for drainage. I do not think that because of financial difficulties we should preclude ourselves from providing the means to take effective action. I can see the practical difficulties, and I appreciate very much a Conservative Minister speaking about planning with such fervour, particularly about comprehensive all-in planning.

For that reason, and because I am greatly encouraged by this conversion to all-purpose planning, I feel that it would be unwise to press these Amendments any further at the present time. I rest my hopes on the declared intention of the Parliamentary Secretary that the most practical and effective means of dealing with this sort of problem is to encourage a greater recourse to comprehensive planning and provide for the utmost liaison between the Parties affected. Therefore, encouraged and heartened by this assurance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move, in page 17, line 13, to leave out "navigation authority or".

I am glad that the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) feels so encouraged at so early a stage. I hope that I shall be able to help him in other ways as we proceed with our discussions.

When we discussed this subsection during the Committee stage, various suggestions were made as to extending the list of bodies which should be consulted before a small local drainage scheme was put forward under the terms of the Clause. It was suggested that the correct way to deal with the proposal was not to add to the list which at the moment specifies only the navigation authority, and that is followed by the words:
"or other persons appearing to them affected by the scheme."
To strike out the one authority specified does not exclude it. In fact, by the following words it is included. It would seem that we ought to stick to the general phrase rather than try to specify. If one adds one sort of authority, there is no reason why others should not be added. I hope the House will agree that the subsection would read better without those words.

In view of the modesty of some hon. Gentlemen who raised this matter during the Committee stage, and on their behalf, I thank the Parliamentary Secretary for, in effect, meeting the point which was then discussed.

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move, in page 17, line 30, at the end to insert:

"and a copy of the report to the Minister of the person so appointed shall be supplied by the Minister to the persons by whom the objections are made".
Obviously there is anxiety to make expeditious progress and I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that we might have a system of "one up, one down." We have just lost one group of Amendments and so I think that we can claim this one.

We are trying to ensure that the safeguards recommended by the Franks Committee are adopted in this Bill. I hope, therefore, that the Parliamentary Secretary will accept the Amendment which, I think, is in line with the recommendations of the Franks Committee. I claim at once that it has the support of the Country Landowners' Association and for that if for no other reason I hope that the Amendment will commend itself to the Government. I think that in these cases the report should be made available wherever possible. It was one of the main purposes of the Franks Committee to ensure that this should be done. I see that the Parliamentary Secretary is nodding. I hope that that signifies his agreement, and in the anticipation that this Amendment will be accepted. I will say no more.

8.30 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) made a good suggestion as to how we might make progress. I indeed hope that we shall make progress, but perhaps we should not be so rigid as to follow the hon. Gentleman's particular suggestion.

I agree entirely with the spirit of what the hon. Gentleman suggests in the Amendment: that we should follow the recommendations of the Franks Committee and that we should not deny to those who are affected a copy of the inspector's report. On the other hand, I suggest to the House that really it is better that we should have precise rules laid down dealing with specific forms of inquiry which can be made to apply in different cases, rather than that we should attempt to write the rules into each Bill which comes before this House.

Perhaps I can put this in a more simple way. We should not rewrite the rules into every Bill and, in this connection, I can tell hon. Members that at this moment the Lord Chancellor is in consultation with the Council on Tribunals and it is, in fact, intended that rules of procedure for specific types of inquiry will be laid down.

In certain earlier Statutes—those for which my right hon. Friend has been responsible—sentences were added, but that was before we received the Franks Committee Report, and I suggest that it would be better that we should apply the rules which are now in the process of being considered, rather than attempt to write a sentence or two into this Bill now. This is in accordance with the spirit of the hon. Gentleman's Amendment, even though I am not able to accept the words he proposes.

I very much regret that the Minister has refused to accept the Amendment on the ground that it is better to lay down a general body of rules, which are being discussed by the Tribunal, rather than write into the Bill rules which we assume are to cover every exigency.

One of the things from which this country is suffering—with planning authorities and all sorts of people in different Departments making decisions—is that the victims of those decisions can never get a real answer as to the grounds on which the decisions were made. In land drainage matters, no two cases can be the same.

It is not our intention that any one should be denied the information referred to by the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence). It is the normal practice for such information to be given. We are concerned to see that there is some authority behind that. There are two ways of doing it. I have suggested one way. I do not depart from the hon. Gentleman's proposal that the information should, in fact, be available to those who want it.

In that case, why not write it into the Bill? That is precisely what my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) was asking—that the information given to the Minister on a particular scheme should be available to those persons who are concerned, either in objecting or supporting the scheme. They should be given the information on which the Minister has made his decision to go forward or to reject a scheme.

This is important, because it always seems to me that in our history, and in our very social being, we are concerned not only that justice shall be done, but that every person concerned shall see that justice has been done. Too often we hear from constituents of cases where Ministers make decisions and where it is difficult to convey to the people affected all the information that the Ministers have in enabling them to arrive at those decisions.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North is concerned with an almost inalienable principle of a democratic society; that anyone affected by a planning decision—and the Minister has said that we are to be subject to a great deal more planning and that we are becoming a centrally planned society—shall have at his disposal all the information which has been presented to the Minister and upon which the Minister has made his decision. That seems to me to be the inalienable right of every citizen. If this trend of central planning continues—and I have no objection to it—every citizen should have this right.

I wholeheartedly support my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North in the Amendment, because, looking at the country's historical background, this is a basic and fundamental right of every citizen who is subject to central Government planning. Everyone concerned should know why the Government have made a decision and why there is no alternative to the action being taken.

I do not think that we should lightly part from this discussion. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary knows that there is a good deal of anxiety about this matter now and there is a general feeling that the Government have been dodging the implications of the Franks Report. Many people who previously were concerned about the matter, under the present Administration, be it said, are again anxious and concerned.

The Parliamentary Secretary said something which was quite remarkable. He told us that his right hon. Friend and his predecessors had on previous occasions made this very provision in other Acts of Parliament. If I remember aright, we tried it in Standing Committee in this very Measure. The precedents to which he has referred arose almost without exception from Amendments which we on this side moved to the Measures to which he referred. The safeguards were put in at the instance of the Opposition. Time after time in Standing Committee on Bills such as this I have said that what disturbs me is that steps to provide for safeguards have to come from the Opposition. After we raise the matter, the Government give way and accept what we suggest. I would much rather the Government of their own initiative provided for these straightforward safeguards recommended by the Franks Committee. It has not been done.

I concede that the Government may be in difficulty because the Minister and his predecessors have accepted Amendments and, by virtue of accepting them, they appear now more virtuous than other Ministers who have got legislation through, perhaps, without such Amendments being moved. Bills passed in recent years have varied very much in the way that these provisions have been dealt with. But that is a serious reflection on the Government. It is for the Government and for the Parliamentary draftsmen on instructions from the Government to ensure that safeguards are laid down in all legislation providing for procedures such as this. It ought to be standard form, but it is not.

In a wheedling, pleading sort of way, the Parliamentary Secretary says, "Please do not press this Amendment. The Lord Chancellor is considering the matter." I say quite frankly that we are not very impressed by the Lord Chancellor's consideration of these matters. We are not willing to leave the safeguard provided for in this way. If the Parliamentary Secretary is not prepared to accept the Amendment, we shall have no alternative but to divide the House on it. It ought to be accepted. The very fact that similar provision has been made in previous legislation on agricultural matters serves only to reinforce the argument that it should be accepted here. Why should an exception be made? There is no case whatever for an exception here, and we insist that the Amendment be accepted. Otherwise, we shall show our disapproval of the Government's attitude by going into the Division Lobby.

I support the Amendment. Taking the matter as it stands, the Minister has gone so far at least as to give the person concerned the opportunity to appear, but when he does appear he has nothing to go on. We say that when he is requested to attend he should have the information so that he may advance a reasonable case.

The Minister has told us that this is something embodied in a comprehensive standard to be applied generally by the Lord Chancellor. This operates at the moment in other inquiries. I know from past experience that representatives concerned in the inquiry have had copies of objections placed in their possession. I fail to see why the Minister cannot embody in the Bill the privilege which is extended in other legislation. As the Minister has gone so far by agreeing that the person concerned should be present at the inquiry, let him have the information that makes the case better and makes a man feel that he has something on which he can act.

There is nothing between both sides of the Committee concerning our desire to give a man the safeguards to which we think he is entitled. The only difference between us concerns the best way in which we should do it. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) and I have blood of the Long Parliament in our veins. Neither of us wishes to deny anyone a proper safeguard for which no doubt our forebears fought. The question is whether the Amendment is the best way to carry out the desire which we all have. I am sure that hon. Members will agree that we cannot put every administrative provision into every statute, otherwise all statutes would be inordinately long. I suggest that as the Lord Chancellor is considering drafting a new code in which it is intended to include this proposal because it is normal practice today, it seems more appropriate that we should make a code like that apply to statutes of this sort rather than to every statute and that we should not repeat the details every time.

On the other hand, hon. Members may say that in a provision of the sort suggested in the Amendment should appear in every statute in which reference is made to an inquiry. I understand that the Amendment does not covet both forms of inquiry to which reference has been made, and I presume that hon. Members wish the safeguard to apply both to public inquiries and to private hearings by a person appointed by the Minister.

I suggest that hon. Members opposite should consider this matter again and that they should not press the Amendment. There is another place. If hon. Members opposite think that they can improve on the Amendment, no doubt they will move another one. Meantime, if it seems to us on this side that the Clause would make a better balance with the rest of the Bill if an Amendment such as this were inserted, we will consider the matter again. I cannot give a particular assurance, but I suggest that hon. Members opposite should look at the Amendment again. We will look at it again. I therefore hope that, in that spirit, the hon. Gentleman will withdraw the Amendment rather than press it to a Division.

I am surprised at the reply of the Joint Parliamentary Secretary. He says that we should do nothing about this matter and that we should leave it to the Lord Chancellor. We have heard about the Lord Chancellor drafting a code in another place. We are not certain whether it will be drafted. There has been no announcement about it and we are not certain about the details of it.

We are here dealing with specific legislation. We in this House have certain responsibilities. If we want to improve the Bill and to provide safeguards, we can do so simply by accepting the Amendment. I should like to hear the view of the hon. Members for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) and King's Lynn (Mr. Bullard). I am sure that they have sympathy with our point of view on this very important matter.

I know that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary has the blood of the Long Parliament in him. Coming from the same county, I know that his ancestors were very active. I only wish that he was as radical as they were. The hon. Gentleman has retreated. Here, on an important Bill affecting drainage law, we are safeguarding the rights of citizens to have available to them all the full machinery of the law to help them to make necessary objections and the rest and, above all, for them to resist bureaucratic action.

8.45 p.m.

I should have thought that hon. Members opposite, who used to rail against Labour Ministers during the period when a Labour Government were in power because, it was said, we were creating a vast State bureaucracy, would now, in the spirit of the Franks Committee, sympathetically support our Amendment. We are not satisfied with the reply of the Joint Parliamentary Secretary. We are afraid that he is passing the question to somebody else outside and that he is failing to accept the responsibilities—

The Amendment as drafted does not cover both forms of inquiry referred to in the Clause. I was suggesting that if the hon. Member wanted to press it, he should do so on another occasion after he had had time to put it right.

I am sorry that a Law Officer is not present. The sensible course would be to accept the Amendment and to improve it in another place.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary thinks otherwise. Why cannot it be done? Why not accept the Amendment and improve it in another place? Let us take the first step now. We do not want this vague and nebulous approach which has been suggested of leaving it to the Lord Chancellor to bring in a new code which would apply not only to drainage law, but to other legislation. We are concerned here with drainage law. We can amend the Bill now and improve it later. The Minister can do that in another place if he wishes. I hope that my hon. Friends will accept the advice—as, I am certain, they will—of my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) and press the Amendment to a Division.

I hope that the Committee will forgive me in rising again, but I must answer the remarks made by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary—

Do I understand that the hon. Member has already spoken to the Amendment?

Only one speech is permissible, except with the permission of the House.

May I, then, ask your per mission, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to throw some questions to the hon. Gentleman in view of some of his remarks regarding the Long Parliament—

Objection being taken, the hon. Member is not at liberty to speak twice.

I should like to ask the Minister why this simple Amendment is being referred to the Lord Chancellor, a high legal authority, when it appears clear to me that it is based solely on common sense. I suggest that the Minister is making a mountain out of a molehill.

I wonder whether I may put a question to the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, who, I believe, has made a false point. He has said that the Amendment is limited and that the Government would like to do better and to make this provision apply both to public inquiries and to an inquiry held by a person appointed by the Minister. The hon. Gentleman also said that the Lord Chancellor is considering the question of general rules. Obviously, they would apply to public inquiries. Whether they would apply to a person appointed by the Minister is another matter.

I am particularly concerned with an inquiry of this character when, to use the words of the Clause, it is
"to…give the authority and the persons by whom the objections are made an opportunity of appearing before and being heard by a person appointed by the Minister for the purpose."
There is nothing worse than that a Minister should appoint a person to hold an inquiry and then say to the authority or to the objectors, "I have appointed a person to hold an inquiry. You do not know what that person reported, but I have now decided against you". The whole purpose of having a person to hold an inquiry, hear objections and allow an opportunity for people to be heard is that the report of such a person should not only go to the Minister but should be available, otherwise there is a good deal of legitimate suspicion of the way Ministers behave. There is too much evidence now that Ministers are disregarding such advice and seeking advice elsewhere: in fact, the Parliamentary Secretary's right hon. Friend.

Although I think that this is a matter for which we ought to make provision, if the Government generously say that they will also make provision for a public inquiry under this Clause, they can do it in another place. But, if they do not accept the Amendment, we have no assurance that they will propose an Amendment in another place. We want an opportunity to look again at this matter. This would be in tune with the general argument that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary first advanced. I say to the hon. Gentleman that we insist upon recognition of the recommendations of the Franks Committee here. If he is not willing to accept the present Amendment we shall regard him as resisting that proposal.

I appeal to the hon. Gentleman to accept the Amendment, but if he will not he is responsible for putting us in this predicament, because we have no alternative but to divide the House on the Amendment. I hope that the hon. Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bullard), if he is concerned about these matters, will acknowledge that he knows as well as I do, because he has been in many of these Standing Committees, that this point is accepted by the Government only when it is raised by the Opposition.

I apologise that we are raising this matter on Report. We ought to have raised it in Committee, as we did on another Clause. This was an oversight. There is more limited discussion on Report. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary says that the Government do not want to accept the Amendment, but there is a long list of precedents behind him, prompted and instigated by the Opposition and accepted by the Government. We insist therefore that this is accepted by the Government. If it is not, we regard it as a departure from the Government's acquiescence at any rate in the recommendations of the Franks Committee.

We have every reason to be suspicious of the Government's motives. The Amendment would make clear that when the Minister appoints a person to hear objectors his report should be made available. If, on this third appeal, the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will not give way, we shall have no alternative but to divide the House.

I cannot be responsible for the suspicions of the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey). [Interruption.] May I speak by leave of the House?

The rule is that the Minister in charge is allowed to speak more than once.

I give the hon. Member for Sunderland, North the assurance that the proposed rules will apply to both forms of inquiry and that our object is that those concerned shall have the information. The Amendment does not provide for this. I cannot advise the House to accept an Amendment which does not achieve the purpose that we all want when there is another and a better way of achieving it. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Member will not press the Amendment.

I understand that the hon. Member wants to make sure that everybody realises that he attaches importance to the principle behind the Amendment, but so do we. We want to achieve the same thing. I cannot go further than to say that we want the proposed rules to apply to both inquiries, and I cannot say more than that the Amendment does not provide safeguards for the achievement of the purpose that we all want.

I would not have risen had it not been for the way in which hon. Members opposite prevented my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) from speaking again. I must say to them that if they behave in such a discourteous manner they cannot expect to expedite the proceedings on this Bill.

I have seldom heard a more feeble explanation than that given by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary. This Amendment is one which anybody can understand. It simply proposes that the agrieved person, the person who makes the objection, should be given a copy of the report made to the Minister. What possible objection can there be to that? To start with, the Parliamentary Secre- tary said that he agreed with this, that he was entirely in favour of it. But he added that the Government did not want to write it into the Bill but wished to rely instead on some general rules which are to be made at some indefinite time in the future covering several kinds of such cases.

He did not tell us what he meant by that. When are these rules to be made? Are they to be embodied in legislation? Is there to be a new Bill? Is it to be introduced in this Parliament? Or is this to be merely some vague instruction to civil servants about what they are to do?

The Parliamentary Secretary then changed his ground. He moved from that excuse to another—that this Amendment would not do what was intended, that it would not cover both types of inquiry. That may be so, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) said so forcefully, if it does not go as far as the Government wish, there is no reason why they should not put the matter right in another place. But to expect us to believe, on the excuse that there may be at some time in the future some rules to protect individuals in some particular cases, that we should not put this Amendment in the Bill is rather ridiculous. It is the usual sort of bureaucratic excuse—"Do not let us spoil our beautiful Bill by introducing too many safeguards for the individual."

The Parliamentary Secretary said at one point that if we put in all these safeguards the Bill would become intolerably long. On the same argument, one should leave all the safeguards out. He also argued that if such safeguards were to be laid down in the Bill they would affect many previous Acts of Parliament. What is wrong with that? When are the rules to be introduced? What is to be the position meanwhile?

I have seldom heard a more feeble excuse put forward by a Minister on behalf of bureaucracy for withholding from the individual the rights to which he is entitled. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will give us a better argument than he has given so far. The matter cannot be left here in view of the case which everyone is now discussing, that of the chalk pit in Essex, which is being considered by the Lord Chancellor and being discussed by him and the Chairman of the Committees on Tribunals.

We are all deeply conscious of the dangers which at present threaten individuals in dealing with bureaucracy. It is not only extraordinarily unconvincing, but politically singularly inapt for the junior Minister to have rejected the Amendment. The Amendment cannot do any harm. At its very worst, it may not be wholly adequate. If he finds that is so, then he can easily have an Amendment moved in another place, and if, on examination, that Amendment seems an improvement, we should not raise any objection when it was brought back to us from another place.

Will the Minister of Agriculture himself now intervene? He has been here and has had consultations, which we accept must take place between Ministers and their staffs behind them. We should hear what he himself has to say.

I hope that the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) will not make another speech, because that would not be in order. He may just ask a question.

I was seeking to ask the Joint Parliamentary Secretary why his right hon. Friend does not intervene. The right hon. Gentleman has made an appearance. After all, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has put our point of view very forcibly. Surely we can have the courtesy of a reply from the right hon. Gentleman? Or will the Parliamentary Secretary make another intervention? Will he answer the questions raised?

9.0 p.m.

The hon. Member is putting me in a great difficulty. He is not allowed to make a second speech.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I think the Minister is putting us in difficulty if we are not to be allowed to press him to answer the very proper questions which have been put.

I do not think that entitles me to go beyond the rules of debate, which are that only one speech on an Amendment may be made by an hon. Member.

I am not making another speech, but now that the Minister has come in—and we are very glad to see him here—I hope that he will give further thought to this Amendment. It is an Amendment of some consequence involving protection for the individual. I am sure that his sympathies are with the individual. We have been told that there is to be a new set of rules and that that is the main reason for not accepting the Amendment. I have to put this to the Minister because he was not here when I asked the Parliamentary Secretary when the new set of rules will come into operation, what regulations there will be, and other questions.

The Minister has now been sent for and has come to the Front Bench. We hope very much that when the little conversation in which he is now engaged has been completed he will tell us that the Government will accept the Amendment. As I said earlier, it could not possibly do any harm.

As a Scottish Member with English ancestry, I am always delighted to come to the rescue of my English colleagues in the House. It is obvious that the Minister is anxious to be courteous to the House, to reply to the very important points made on the Amendment, and also to reply to the questions put by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition.

The request made to the Minister has not been very demanding. It is a simple request that, in view of the debate which has taken place on this Amendment, he should give an undertaking that he will think this matter over again and, in the light of the arguments advanced from this side of the House, he will do something about it when the Bill goes to another place. That is not asking very much of the Minister. If he wants to play fair by this House and by the people who are to be affected by these drainage schemes, the least he should do is to consider this matter again.

All the Amendment asks is that
"a copy of the report to the Minister of the person so appointed shall be supplied…to the persons by whom the objections are made."
All we are asking is that the persons concerned should be informed of what has happened to their objections and why their objections have been overruled. In a country like this where we proclaim the principles of democracy, the least that should be done is to take the people into confidence and to tell them why their grievances or objections should be rejected and why the Government, or the board, will proceed with a scheme in spite of objections made to it.

This is not a dictatorship where the rights of the people can be overridden by pretending to have an inquiry and not telling them of the result; this is a democracy. I remember the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) asking us to "trust the people". That was his great cry, and it was a very good cry. Surely, the Minister is not going to suggest anything less than his right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford used to suggest. I think that the Minister could quite well trust the people, and be prepared to take them into his confidence where these decisions and reports are concerned. This is not a revolutionary matter. It must be a very feeble Government that expects to be toppled and tumbled to the ground because people are told why their requests cannot be granted.

I can see a very serious look on the Minister's face, and I think that he realises that he has made a bit of a mistake about this. I believe that he is rather anxious, and when he has finished his consultations, we should be delighted to have his verdict on the Amendment. I hope that he will promise that he will do something about this in another place. I do not know whether he is ready to get up, but I do not want to filibuster. The last thing I want to do is to waste the time of the House, because we have important business to follow, and, as usual, Scottish business is at the tail end. I am anxious to get to that business, and therefore do not want to delay the House. If the Minister is now prepared to accept the request made by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, I am quite prepared to sit down so that he can give us the explanation.

I very much hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite will not press this matter to a Division. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] I think there is a great deal in all the points which they have made, but I do ask them to consider the one aspect of drainage which this section of the Bill covers. This deals with schemes for small areas to be drained, and when we hear of all these terrible objections that are to be raised and will have to be heard, with reports referred back, we should remember that the greatest harm that will come to the people who are concerned is that their land will be drained. It seems to me that most of them will not be subject to any hardship, or otherwise the schemes would not be promoted.

There are very important questions of principle involved here, but I do not think this is a stage in the discussion of the Bill at which objections should be taken to the point of dividing the House. A great deal has been said about having blood in one's veins belonging to the Long Parliament. I come from the Fen district, where most of the troubles of that time arose. I would say that I was pretty well steeped in the history of that area, and that is why yesterday I spent some time resisting the entrance of a peer into this House, but that is by the way.

I hope that hon. Members opposite will take a different view of this matter, which is to the benefit of small areas, because this reference back might delay the setting up of a scheme, which may in any case prove rather difficult, and I hope that they will accept the assurance given by my right hon. Friend and not press the matter to a Division.

On a point of order. I asked a question why a simple matter of this character should be referred to the Lord Chancellor, and I have not yet had a reply, to which I feel I am entitled.

I agree very much with the point that was made by my right hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bullard) that this is a matter which, we hope, will be of great benefit to a large number of people. These are schemes for the drainage of small areas, and the only harm that could come to them, as my hon. Friend has said, is that their land will be drained. It will be a matter of considerable benefit to them as a whole.

How on earth will the disclosure of the report made by a person appointed by the right hon. Gentleman affect drainage? All we want to know is the character of the report which is made to him by the person whom he appoints. That is all.

I am not saying it affects the drainage. All we are seeking to do—and this is the point I am making—

The Minister is advancing the most dangerous of all arguments—the argument of expediency. He says "Because we are concerned with drainage"—and everyone wants to improve drainage—"why should I reveal a report presented to me by a person whom I have appointed?" Any Minister can argue that. The whole argument made on civil liberties is that the individual has his rights against the Executive.

I was coming to that; it is the main point put forward by the Leader of the Opposition. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary has made perfectly clear to the House where we stand on this. The rules which will control this matter are to be made by the Lord Chancellor, and we do not think it either right or necessary that the words in the Amendment should be written into the Bill. We believe ours to be the correct way of dealing with the probelm. We are not trying to avoid the problem; the only difference between the two sides of the House is as to the way in which it should be dealt with. We believe ours to be the right way, and I do not believe that there is anything that the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. (Willey) can say to make me waiver in my view—

The rules are to be made by the Lord Chancellor, and we are trying to find out something about it. What rules? When are they to be made? Are they to be made in arbitrary fashion by one member of the Government? Is not Parliament to have any say in what the rules are to be? Should they not be made in legislative form? Can we not be told something about it?

The right hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that the regulations will be subject to the negative procedure.

I am alarmed by what the Minister and his hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bullard) have said. They say that this Clause refers to schemes for drainage of small areas and that small areas do not really matter. Why on earth should schemes for small areas not have the same consideration and the same protection of the law as schemes for big areas. The subsection that we are seeking to amend says that the scheme shall be promulgated and published, that those affected will have the opportunity of protesting against it, and that an inquiry shall be held. Our Amendment seeks to add:

"and a copy of the report to the Minister of the person so appointed shall be supplied by the Minister to the persons by whom the objections are made."
I recall the day not so many years ago when one of the present Minister's predecessors came to that Dispatch Box and resigned. In that case it happened to be a rich landowner whose interests were affected. Now, the present Minister says, "It is only a small drainage area. The people there should really not be considered. Why should they have the opportunity of questioning whatever in the wisdom of the Ministry is thought good for them?" That is an abominable attitude.

9.15 p.m.

As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has said, we are being asked to agree that future decisions shall be governed by some rules or other. Are we in this day and generation to pass to the Minister as vague a power as that? I hope that we will not. I hope that even hon. Members opposite, who claim in their public speeches to be greatly concerned about the rights of individual landowners, will stand up for the small farmer.

I know that the Minister is being assailed by the small farmers of every county on one thing or another, and I can promise him that if he refuses the people concerned with small drainage schemes in Cornwall the right for which we are now asking, he will be in for a rough time.

Why should those who have made objections at a public inquiry, often going to great expense to get their case professionally prepared and presented, not know what arguments were placed before the Minister by the Inspector? This is a kind of secret police when the inspector of the Ministry hears an inquiry and then the people who have complained are not able to hear what the Minister's representative has said to the Minister. We are entitled to know, and I hope that hon. Members opposite will support this simple and clear Amendment.

I rise for two reasons, partly because this is my old Department, in the days when things were apparently done better than they now are, and partly because this is a time when the issues of civil liberties and the rights of the individual in connection with the operation of the Ministry of Agriculture and town and country planning departments are very much in the public mind.

We cannot allow this provision to go by on the basis of the totally inadequate defence put up by the Minister. Speaking as a member of the old Parliamentary Secretary's union, I was rather impressed when the Minister turned to the Parliamentary Secretary and said, "My hon. Friend has made it clear and"—by implication—"there is nothing more for me, the Minister, to say." That is a reversal of the doctrine which applied in my day.

The Minister gave us no answer. When the Bill was in Committee, his hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary accepted an Amendment in page 4, line 38. It is painfully clear that the Minister is far from well-briefed on the subject. In column 192 in the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Standing Committee he will see that my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) moved an Amendment in page 4, line 38, that certain words should be left out and other words inserted. The words to be inserted were that the Ministers should
"afford such persons"—
those being the persons appealing—
"an opportunity of appearing before and being heard by a person appointed by him for the purpose and shall consider the report of the person so appointed…"
The Parliamentary Secretary then said:
"I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the Government will have great pleasure in accepting this Amendment."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 8th December, 1960; c. 192.]
The Amendment we have tabled simply carries through to fruition the Amendment which the Minister had great pleasure in accepting in Committee upstairs. If we are to give people the opportunity to appeal and to be heard, and we are to receive a report, the obvious corrolary to that procedure, if we are to maintain the rights of individuals, is that the individual should know what the man who heard the appeal reported to the Minister.

I am sure that the Minister keeps up to date, if not with his reading of Standing Committee Reports—on which I sympathise with him—with his reading of The Times.The Times leader this morning, being a continuation of several, makes the point out of the chalk pit inquiry that Ministers who say: "We will have an inquiry. We may then be free to do what we like about it behind your back", are not acting in accord with the spirit of the Act under which they hold the inquiry.

This must be very clear. It is no use the Minister trying to fob us off with a couple of lines given to him by his advisers that the rules will be made by the Lord Chancellor. This is not good enough for Parliament. It was not even good enough for The Times this morning because it said that this Lord Chancellor judging by what he said yesterday cannot really be trusted on this.

If the Minister wants to enter into a long battle, this is the point at which he can do it. My right hon. Friend and I have come here because we on this side believe that on this issue, in the light of what has happened in the chalk pit case, we must dig our toes in and stand firm. And we will stand firm. If the Minister wishes it, a long time will be spent on that issue. I do not think the Minister wants that. I know him to be a man who would wish not only that things would appear to be right but would in fact be right. To make them right, we must give the person who is allowed to appeal and on whom a report is to be received the right to know what was said.

Without making heavy weather of this and holding up the debate for a long time, I ask the Minister to give us an assurance on this point. He cannot do himself any harm. There cannot have been a D-notice forbidding him to discuss this. He must be free to say that he will do this in respect of the Land Drainage Bill, and I beg him to do it.

I hope that he will do this even though he has been so vigorously instructed by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary. I am touched by this new relationship whereby the Joint Parliamentary Secretary instructs the Minister. In my sixteen years in the House I have never known a situation where a Parliamentary Secretary has told a Minister what to do. It is wonderful. I would have been all for it in the old days. But, having moved on, I am not so sure that I am all for it now. I beg the Minister to take personal responsibility here.

I ask the Minister to remember that we are dealing with hundreds of thousands of small men. We are not dealing with an industry of big men who can get expert advice and look after themselves. By the long overdue and desirable Amendments which the Minister is making to the Bill we are bringing this down to small people. As we are dealing with small people, it is important that we should go out of our way to make them feel absolutely comfortable, certain, and sure.

The Amendment is essential for two reasons. First, to give effect to the Amendment which the Joint Parliamentary Secretary accepted in Committee upstairs. Secondly, to assure small people that justice will be done to them, and that it will be seen to be done. I therefore beg the Minister to ask leave of the House to address us again. It will save a lot of time and trouble if he accepts the Amendment and thereby assures everybody affected that they will know what is being done behind closed doors and that there will be no more chalk pit cases.

I am sure that the House is grateful to the Minister for intervening in the debate, but I am beginning to wonder why the right hon. Gentleman took the trouble to do so. He has said no more than was said by his hon. Friend, and he made it clear that he did not know the background of the Amendment or much about the regulations to be made by the Lord Chancellor. The right hon. Gentleman does not seem to know the topical nature of this Amendment.

I do not know whether he has had an opportunity yet to read the debate which took place yesterday in another place on the subject of the chalk pit case. One thing emerged from it, and that is that it is abundantly clear that a good deal needs to be done to our procedure in connection with public inquiries of this kind and to the process of appeals from Ministerial decisions on public inquiries before the individual's rights can be reasonably safeguarded. I do not suggest for a moment that acceptance of the Amendment would allay all the anxieties which have properly and rightly been aroused by the chalk pit case. But it is a modest step in that direction.

I cannot understand how the Minister can possibly object to the inclusion in the Bill of a requirement that he should furnish the people affected by a public inquiry with a copy of his inspector's report. This, I should have thought, was the least any person affected by one of these schemes could reasonably ask. If the Minister will take a little time off when this debate is finished to read the debate on the chalk pit case in another place, he will realise that it is not an academic matter. It is a matter where individual rights against the Executive are deeply concerned. There is no doubt that the anxiety about the decision in that case, and the apparently arbitrary decision of the Minister riding roughshod over the rights of the individual whose property and amenities were seriously affected by the decision, is very serious.

I hope that the Minister has noted the reaction of the Press to this case. The Government have not been having a very good Press lately and they had a peculiarly bad one on the chalk pit case. I hope that the Minister will have had time to think again and will tell the House that, without prejudice to any regulations or rules that the Lord Chancellor may make or any changes there may be in the procedure relating to public inquiries and appeals, he will accept this extremely modest request, for the many good reasons and the one comparatively trivial reason mentioned by my hon. Friend, and then he will save himself a lot of trouble.

I was completely astonished by the inadequacy of the reply made by the Minister to the points put to him. This is a fundamental issue of principle although the point is a very simple one. There seam no reason why the Minister should not give in on this matter. It appears that he came inadequately prepared and was not properly briefed on the point we put to him. But as a result of the discussion we have had the right hon. Gentleman has had an opportunity to get further information about this, and I think that by this time he will appreciate the seriousness with which hon. Members on this side of the House regard this matter.

It may be due to my inexperience but I was baffled by what the Minister said about the Lord Chancellor's rules and about the question of regulations. If one looks at the Clause as a whole one finds in subsection (6), for example, that there is provision that regarding notices to people who are liable to be affected by the scheme, the Minister may, by regulations made by Statutory Instruments, prescribe the notice which may be given.

9.30 p.m.

There is a definite reference in subsection (6) to regulations made by Statutory Instrument and, in subsection (11), there is another definite and specific reference to a Statutory Instrument which can be made varying the limits imposed by paragraph (c) of subsection (4).

It seems extraordinary that in this Clause there are two references to Statutory Instruments. If it was the Government's original intention to introduce regulations under subsection (7), why should they not have stated that in subsection (7) itself?

I find it completely baffling that there should be these two references, yet no reference at all in subsection (7). Therefore, we are entitled to expect a further explanation from the Minister—something beyond the completely inadequate explanation he has already given. We require more details about the Lord Chancellor's rules, which are apparently to be made, and also about the details, which are apparently to be covered by some sort of Statutory Instrument or regulations which are to be subject to the negative procedure.

The Minister has been caught on the wrong foot. He has had ample opportunity to consider all the implications. We on this side of the House treat this as an important matter, and I hope, even now, that the Minister will ask leave to speak again and that he will say that he accepts this reasonable but extremely important Amendment.

I have every sympathy with the Minister. He must have been very disappointed to have returned to the House when he did, because he seems to have put the cat among the pigeons. I feel sorry for him in another way. It is difficult for the skipper of a ship to come back on deck after his dinner, only to find that his first officer has got him into troubled waters.

Unfortunately, the Minister cannot be in two places at once and it is rather difficult for him—in a conversation with the Parliamentary Secretary on the Front Bench—to try to listen to speeches from this side of the House, and, at the same time, to try to get the gist of what has been said during his absence. I can assure the Minister that the Parliamentary Secretary told hon. Members that there was very little difference between what we want on this side of the House and what the Minister had left as a brief, for I can only assume that the Parliamentary Secretary was speaking from a brief.

Let me inform the Minister that the Parliamentary Secretary has told hon. Members that this Amendment is very good, but that it does not go quite far enough. The hon. Gentleman said that in another place or in another way, what we want can be got in another direction. In other words, this is only half the loaf and the Parliamentary Secretary wants to give us the whole of the loaf.

But the people of the country have different ideas on the types of loaves they like—and this is one loaf hon. Members on this side of the House do not like. Why? It is simply because if there is one thing that this Government will go down in history as being, it will be as the Government who has treated Parliament with the greatest contempt that any Government has ever shown. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I say that seriously and with due consideration. They are trying—and with their great majority, they are executing—the work of this Parliament by Orders in Council, which can only be prayed against. The Minister, if I may say so, committed a cardinal sin when he came to that box a few moments ago and told us that the Lord Chancellor would do what we want by way of an Order in Council, which can be negatived. That is not the way I want to see Parliament operate. I want Parliament to have the right to amend various proposals. Here, we are trying to amend something, not negative it.

We are told that the Lord Chancellor will, in the near future, do something about it. We never know how near the near future is. I remember the Prime Minister once telling us, after he was asked when the near future would be, that it was not a long time off, it was not tomorrow, but it was the near future. We have not even been told when the Lord Chancellor will prepare the Order. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition asked whether it would be done in this Parliament. We had no reply.

Apparently, when the Lord Chancellor decides on what he intends to do, he will have to take advice from all sorts of people, and this may take months and months. If we complain in the House about delay in the making of the Order, the Minister will tell us that he has so many interests to consult that the matter must not be rushed. After the Lord Chancellor has that advice and an Order is laid, all we can do, if we do not like it, is to pray against it and try to have it negatived. We cannot amend it in the smallest way. Even if we like the greater part of it and dislike only a small part, we shall not be able to change the small part we dislike. The only course open to us is to negative the whole thing.

In my view, Orders in Council which can only be prayed against and negatived should be used only in very carefully considered circumstances and but rarely. They should be the exception rather than the rule. This is the problem which the Government are in; they are, day after day, working by Order in Council. It is not the exception to the rule; it is becoming the rule.

The Parliamentary Secretary, speaking from the brief which was left to him, said that there is very little between us. My hon. Friend the Member for Sunder- land, North (Mr. Willey) asked him to come that little way with us or, otherwise, we should be forced to divide against the Government. According to the Parliamentary Secretary, there is no difference between the Government's intention and our Amendment. The only thing is that the Government want to go a little further. Let them do that. Let us not take from the House of Commons its right to make the legislation for the country. Let us have the Amendment as far as it goes, and then the right hon. Gentleman can say in good faith that, having accepted the Amendment, he is prepared to go further and give more. As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said, if it comes back from another place in an amended form improving on the Amendment as it leaves here, we shall welcome that. He can have that assurance.

As a result of the Minister having put the cat among the pigeons, we are now putting up the shutters. That is what it amounts to. The Minister should remember that. If the Parliamentary Secretary had been reasonable enough to accept our very reasonable Amendment, he could have finished with this matter three-quarters of an hour ago. I hope that the Minister will not later on accuse us on these benches of being responsible for keeping the Bill before the House longer than necessary. We could have gone a lot further but for this matter which, though small, is extremely important in the view of hon. Members on this side of the House.

Where the importance of an inquiry is such that the Minister has to take advice, the small man ought to be given the information when his case is turned down. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) said, the rich man, the big landowner, can have legal advice; he can afford the best advice that money can buy. I do not know whether there are any poor farmers—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—I am pleased that hon. Members opposite go with me that far. The small farmer who has his case turned down should be told the reasons. It is only right and just that he should be told why his application has been rejected.

It is not good enough these days to tell someone, "Your application has been rejected, but you cannot be told the reason why". All that we are asking is that people should be given the reason for its rejection so that they can have the satisfaction, if satisfaction can be obtained in that way, of knowing exactly what advice the Minister has received which has resulted in the application being rejected. This is fundamental in British justice. Anyone convicted in the courts at least knows the evidence which has been given against him. We are here concerned with a form of court, although it is only an inquiry. People have the fundamental right to know on what grounds a tribunal has turned down their application and what evidence has been submitted.

My hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Cambourne (Mr. Hayman) made out an exceptionally good case. If a drainage scheme were turned down in his area and if the appellant knew the grounds for its rejection and the evidence which had been submitted against him, I am convinced that he would contact my hon. Friend who would raise the matter in the House, even if he had to wait for an Adjournment debate. At least people have the opportunity to raise the matter which is denied them under the Bill unless the right hon. Gentleman accepts the Amendment.

It is not good enough to say, "Do not let Parliament bother about the regulations. Let the Lord Chancellor do it." Frankly, although I do not think that there will be much land drainage done in my constituency, which is mainly residential and industrial there is a bounden duty—

I know, because I have to wade through some of the floods in my right hon. Friend's constituency at times. It is the right of hon. Members to determine what legislation we want and not to have to hand matters over to the Lord Chancellor who, by his whim, can move an Order which can only be prayed against and in no way amended.

It is extremely difficult to make a speech at this stage of the debate without falling into the trap of reiterating what has already been said. However, I think it is essential that those of us who are affected by this matter and charged with the responsibility of looking after the interests of our constituents should add our voice to the plea which has been made to the Minister.

I can appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's dilemma. Having once turned down our appeals, it is very difficult for the Minister to change his mind. I do not often speak very highly of Ministers. It is not often that I have cause to do so. However, in my relationships with the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, I must say that when I have had occasion to write to him about matters affecting my constituents he has been very reasonable. When I have seen him in the House he has always had the courage to face the problems with which he is confronted. I hope that on this occasion he will evidence the qualities for which I give him full credit.

We are here dealing with a fundamental issue as to whether this House shall be the custodians of the liberty of the citizen. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman can advance any argument seeking to deny the small farmer having full knowledge of the reasons why a scheme has been either accepted or rejected. It has already been said that development of the trend to give Ministers power by Order and by permissive legislation is becoming an abuse of democratic government.

9.45 p.m.

If in examining the position the Minister would think for a moment and not rely too much upon the advice that is forthcoming from other quarters, if he would simply consider the question of the right of the individual and exercise his other known qualities, I see no reason why he should not emerge with dignity. There is nothing undignified in having taken a position and by force of argument being proved to have taken the wrong decision and in consequence of that argument adopting an entirely different stand. If the Minister would now say that he is more concerned about the liberty of the individual than his own personal dignity, he would add to his reputation.

The general impression which hon. Members opposite seem to be trying to give on this issue is that we are holding back reports of inquiries from the individuals concerned. That is not the fact. It has always been the policy and principle within my Department that when a matter has been considered by an inquiry of the type in question, if the person concerned wishes to have a report of the inquiry it is given to him. That has been the practice even though it has not been written into any previous land drainage legislation, of which we have had plenty.

This is not the only part of the Bill which provides for inquiries of this character. We have waited until Clause 27 for the point to be raised, although it could well have been raised earlier. In fact, an Amendment was moved in Committee on Clause 4 by the Opposition on the subject of inquiries, but it did not contain provision for the report to be circulated to the individual.

The right hon. Gentleman referred to Clause 4, which is another point, namely, consultation where there is a clear Ministerial decision. Here there is a different position where the Minister appoints a person to hold an inquiry and presumably takes a quasi-judicial decision. It is in the second case that, in accordance with the Franks Committee recommendations, we are anxious that the report should be made available.

I want the right hon. Gentleman to deal with another point. We have been on Recommital and Report for a considerable time. These Amendments were put down early in February. The Government have had every opportunity to amend this matter. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary said that this provision did not go far enough. Why have the Government not amended it? The Minister has been consulting his advisers. I ask him to ignore their advice. They are not Parliamentarians. They produce reasons "a", "b", "c", "d", and will go on to "z", but this is a Parliamentary point.

Were the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) to make another speech he would require the leave of the House. I am afraid that he cannot proceed when the Minister is seeking to resume the speech he was making.

By leave of the House I hope to put the simple point to the right hon. Gentleman—whether the Government have considered a further amendment of this Amendment by extending it and whether they have considered, as I believe the right hon. Gentleman is arguing now, a similar Amendment which might be accepted on other Clauses.

We have passed many of these Clauses. No Bill that has come before the House since the Town and Country Planning Act, 1959, has had incorporated in it the sort of phrase which the Amendment seeks to put into this Bill, because this has been dealt with in a general way, affecting all Bills and affecting all aspects of this matter when Ministerial inquiries are held, by the Lord Chancellor and the Council on Tribunals. That is the way in which it is being handled.

Where this Bill is concerned, this is only one of a number of Clauses where the point arises. There are provisions in other Clauses for inquiries to be held, and it would be farcical to agree to have this sort of procedure written into the Bill in one Clause and not to have it written into the Bill in other Clauses which aim at the same purpose. What my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary said to the House earlier was that we would consider between now and the Bill going to another place the question of the amendment of this Clause.

I am satisfied that that is not sufficient, inasmuch as there are other Clauses which are affected by the same principles. But what we want to do, and what we will do, is to consider between now and the Bill going to another place whether the way to do this would be to add an extra Clause so that where Ministerial inquiries are affected by the Bill the report should be sent back given to the person concerned, as of course it has been and is now being. We will consider that as opposed to it being covered by the Lord Chancellor's regulations. I cannot give the House an assurance that this Clause will be put down, but I assure hon. and right hon. Members that we will consider it.

What does the right hon. Gentleman mean by saying that he cannot give the House an assurance but that "We will consider it"? I understood him to say that the Amendment was not the technically right thing to do. I do not quite accept that, but the right hon. Gentleman has better advice than is available to us. If the right hon. Gentleman is saying that he is sure that he will find a better way of doing this we will accept that assurance. Is he giving an assurance that in some form or other this matter will be covered be-for the Bill is finally finished with?

What I am saying is that we will give consideration, which has not hitherto been given, between now and when this Bill goes to another place, about whether it should be incorporated in a new Clause in the Bill.

Before the right hon. Gentleman finally concludes his observations, if he has not already done so, I want to put to him a simple question which has a bearing on the matter. I am sure that he has considered the implications of the Tribunals and Inquiries Act, 1958. I am sure that he is fully aware that that Act was passed in consequence of the strong feeling voiced by the Franks Committee that the general situation in the holding of inquiries was in an extremely unsatisfactory state.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether he is bound by the obligations set out in Section 12 of that Act. No doubt he has considered it. If he has not got his finger-tips on it at the moment, I shall remind him that the Act requires that a Minister—I see that he is looking towards his advisers, so I will slow down until he gets his reply ready—must give his reasons for a decision taken by him following a statutory inquiry
"…or taken by him in a case in which a person concerned could (whether by objecting or otherwise) have required the holding…of a statutory inquiry".
If he is bound by the provisions of that Section to give his reasons, does not he concede that it is not going very much further to require that a copy of the report upon which he has based his reasons should be furnished to those who put up objections? Surely he realises the commonsense of that?

I am conscious that he has said that he will consider this matter again, but my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) has pressed him to give more than such an undertaking. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman has already considered the matter. Will he, in the light of the consideration which I am putting, undertake that, being under an obligation to give his reasons, he will make them intelligible by making available to objectors the report upon which he based them?

That is not an unreasonable request. It is easier to understand the reasons of a Minister, based on a report, if one knows the contents of that report. We are seeking, through this Amendment, to ensure that the person who has made objection will be able to know the report that the Minister has received and will, knowing the report, be in a position more easily to understand the Minister's reasons for the decision—reasons which, without the report, may be somewhat difficult to understand.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, if he has received information from his advisers, will tell us whether he is bound by Section 12, and, if he is, whether he realises that the arguments in support of this Amendment are irresistible. Even if he is not bound by Section 12, he is clearly within the spirit of the Franks Committee, which expressly made a number of recommendations in order to strengthen the position of persons such as the objectors envisaged by this Clause, who will want to know why their objections are brushed aside—if they are brushed aside—and on what evidence and reports the Minister is acting.

Whether or not he is bound by Section 12, he should accept the spirit of the Amendment and undertake to incorporate it in the Bill, and should not merely consider whether he will or will not do so.

I am not bound in this instance by Section 12 of the 1958 Act. Even if I were, the point is whether this should be written into each individual Bill as it comes before the House or whether it should be done by the Lord Chancellor's Regulations for Tribunals. That is the only point at issue. It is where that issue is concerned that I said that I would consider this matter between now and when the Bill reaches another place.

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Business Of The House

Motion made, and Question put,

That the Proceedings on Government Business be exempted, at this day's Sitting,

Division No. 164.]

AYES

[10.0 p.m.

Atkins, HumphreyHall, John (Wycombe)Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)
Balniel, LordHamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)Partridge, E.
Barlow, sir JohnHarris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)
Barter, JohnHarvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)Percival, Ian
Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)Harvie Anderson, MissPickthorn, Sir Kenneth
Berkeley, HumphryHastings, StephenPitt, Miss Edith
Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald (Toxteth)Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir LionelPott, Percivall
Bingham, R. M.Henderson-Stewart, Sir JamesPowell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch
Birch, Rt. Hon. NigelHendry, ForbesPrior, J. M. L.
Bishop, F. P.Hiley, JosephProudfoot, Wilfred
Black, Sir CyrilHill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)Pym, Francis
Bossom, CliveHirst, GeoffreyQuennell, Miss J. M.
Bourne-Arton, A.Hobson, JohnRedmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin
Box, DonaldHolland, PhilipRees, Hugh
Boyle, Sir EdwardHollingworth, JohnRenton, David
Braine, BernardHolt, ArthurRidley, Hon. Nicholas
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. SirWalterHopkins, AlanRopner, Col. Sir Leonard
Brown, Alan (Tottenham)Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. PatriciaRussell, Ronald
Bryan, PaulHoward, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives)Shaw, M.
Buck, AntonyHughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral JohnSkeet, T. H. H.
Bullard, DenysHughes-Young, MichaelSmith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)Hurd, Sir AnthonySmithers, Peter
Carr, Compton (Barons Court)Hutchison, Michael ClarkSoames, Rt. Hon. Christopher
Cary, Sir RobertJackson, JohnSpearman, Sir Alexander
Channon, H. P. G.James, DavidSpeir, Rupert
Chataway, ChristopherJenkins, Robert (Dulwich)Stanley, Hon. Richard
Chichester-Clark, R.Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)Stodart, J. A.
Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)Johnson, Eric (Blackley)Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm
Cleaver, LeonardJohnson Smith, GeoffreyStudholme, Sir Henry
Cooke, RobertKerans, Cdr. J. S.Talbot, John E.
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.Kerby, Capt. HenryTapsell, Peter
Cordle, JohnKershaw, AnthonyTaylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)
Corfield, F. V.Kimball, MarcusTemple, John M.
Costain, A. P.Kirk, PeterThomas, Peter (Conway)
Coulson, J. M.Kitson, TimothyThompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Craddock, Sir BeresfordLeavey, J. A.Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)
Crowder, F. P.Legge-Bourke, Sir HarryTilney, John (Wavertree)
Cunningham, KnoxLilley, F. J. P.Turner, Colin
Curran, CharlesLindsay, MartinTurton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Currie, G. B. H.Linstead, Sir HughTweedsmuir, Lady
Dalkeith, Earl ofLitchfield, Capt. Johnvan Straubenzee, W. R.
Dance, JamesLoveys, Walter H.vane, W. M. F.
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir HenryLucas-Tooth, Sir HughVickers, Miss Joan
du Cann, EdwardMacArthur, IanWade, Donald
Duncan, Sir JamesMacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Elliott, R. W. (Nwcstle-upon-Tyne, N.)McMaster, Stanley R.Walder, David
Emmet, Hon. Mrs. EvelynMacpherson, Niall (Dumfries)Walker, Peter
Errington, Sir EricMaginnis, John E.Ward, Dame Irene
Fell, AnthonyMarkham, Major Sir FrankWatts, James
Finlay, GraemeMarshall, DouglasWhitelaw, William
Fisher, NigelMatthews, Gordon (Meriden)Williams, Dudley (Exeter)
Fletcher-Cooke, CharlesMawby, RayWills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Gammans, LadyMaydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.Wise, A. R.
Gardner, EdwardMore, Jasper (Ludlow)Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Goodhart, PhilipMorrison, JohnWoodnutt, Mark
Goodhew, VictorNoble, MichaelWoollam, John
Gower, RaymondNugent, Sir RichardWorsley, Marcus
Grimond, J.Oakshott, Sir Hendrie
Grimston, Sir RobertOsborn, John (Hallam)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.Osborne, Cyril (Louth)Mr. Gibson-Watt and Mr. Peel.
Gurden, HaroldPage, Graham (Crosby)

NOES

Ainsley, WilliamBrown, Thomas (Ince)Delargy, Hugh
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)Castle, Mrs. BarbaraEde, Rt. Hon. C.
Bacon, Miss AliceCollick, PercyEdwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)
Bence, Cyril (Dunbartonshire, E.)Corbet, Mrs. FredaFernyhough, E.
Blackburn, F.Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)Finch, Harold
Boardman, H.Cullen, Mrs. AliceForman, J. C.
Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S.W.)Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.Davies, Ifor (Gower)Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. Hugh
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)Galpern, Sir Myer

from the provisions of Standing Order No. 1 (Sittings of the House).—[ Mr. Redmayne.]

The House divided: Ayes 182, Noes 102.

George, LadyMeganLloyd(Crmrthn)Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Ginsburg, DavidLogan, DavidRobertson, J. (Paisley)
Gooch, E. G.Loughlin, CharlesRobinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.Mabon, Dr. J. DicksonRogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)
Gourlay, HarryMcInnes, JamesRoss, William
Grey, CharlesMcKay, John (Wallsend)Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)Mackie, JohnSlater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)Manuel, A. C.Small, William
Hannan, WilliamMillan, BruceSoskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Hayman, F. H.Milne, Edward J.Spriggs, Leslie
Herbison, Miss MargaretMonslow, WalterSteele, Thomas
Hilton, A. V.Neal, HaroldSymonds, J. B.
Holman, PercyNoel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Howell, Denis (B'ham, Small Heath)Owen, WillTaylor, John (West Lothian)
Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)Pargiter, G. A.Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)
Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)Parker, JohnWainwright, Edwin
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Pavitt, LaurenceWatkins, Tudor
Hunter, A. E.Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)Wilkins, W. A.
Hynd, John (Attercliffe)Peart, FrederickWilley, Frederick
Irving, Sydney (Dartford)Pentland, NormanWilliams, D. J. (Neath)
Jeger, GeorgePopplewell, ErnestWilliams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Jones, Dan (Burnley)Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Jones, Jack (Rotherham)Probert, ArthurWoof, Robert
Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)Pursey, Cmdr. Harry
Kenyon, CliffordRedhead, E. C.TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Lawson, GeorgeRoberts, Albert (Normanton)Mr. Charles Howell and
Mr. McCann.

Land Drainage Bill

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.

Clause 28—(Restriction On Erection Of Structures In, Over Or Under Watercourses)

11.15 p.m.

I beg to move, in page 19, line 9, at the end to insert:

(8) Nothing in subsection (1) of this section or in subsection (4) of section sixty-one of the Act of 1930 (which contains certain savings) shall be taken to exclude the application of this section to any work executed by persons carrying on an undertaking to which that section applies.
These words are added to Clause 28 to make it clear beyond doubt that certain statutory undertakings are in fact bound by the restrictions in the Clause, unlike the provision in the 1930 Act. It was felt that when we were dealing with restrictions on the erection of structures in, or or under watercourses, it should be the river boards and not any other authority which should have the final say.

I rise only to protest against the wording of this subsection. As I have said many times, I do not like legislation by reference. Subsection (1) of the Clause says:

"The following provisions of this section shall have effect in substitution for section sixty-four of the Act of 1930."
and from reading Section 61 (4) we would not easily draw the conclusion that the Parliamentary Secretary had explained the effect of the provision to us. However, I am obliged for that explanation and, as we are endeavouring to expedite our consideration of the Bill, having made my protest, I am content to leave it there.

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move, in page 19, line 9, at the end to insert:

(9) For the purposes of this section "watercourse" includes land which although not part of the normal channel is required for the passage of water when the watercourse is in flood.
The Amendment raises a matter which was discussed in Standing Committee, and I am obliged to the hon. Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) for powerfully adducing arguments then in favour of the present Amendment.

One can easily call to mind plenty of instances where there has been building in a flooded part or flood plain which has made more difficult the work of the drainage authorities. I can see the difficulties which might be caused by an Amendment such as this, but the right hon. Gentleman will concede that, whatever the difficulties, there is a practical argument for some provision such as this being made. As the right hon. Gentleman has had an opportunity to consider the difficulty, having been given notice by his hon. Friend the Member for Guildford, I hope that the Government will accept the Amendment.

There is only one matter arising from the Amendment which can possibly cause some concern. In the Fen country we have long stretches of land running between man-made rivers which are known locally as wash lands and which, at times of flood, are used as a means for getting the extra water away as it comes down, water which does not get away as quickly as with normal watercourses because there is virtually no fall in the land.

Instead of allowing the spate to develop, what happens is that the two parallel rivers are allowed to overflow and cover this wash land. I want to make sure that the possible effect of the Amendment on that type of land has been considered. It is important not to upset the satisfactory arrangements which have been followed for many years for that type of wash land, and I hope that my hon. Friend will give me an assurance on this point.

I support the point of view put forward by the hon Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke). The situation in the flat areas of South Yorkshire is similar to that in the Fens. We experience the same difficulties. When this matter was discussed in Committee upstairs, the Joint Parliamentary Secretary referred to it with a certain amount of sympathy. He realised that considerable difficulties might arise if there were floods, and he undertook to give further consideration to this point. I hope that further consideration has been given to this matter, and that my hon. Friend's Amendment has been seriously considered by him and by his right hon. Friend.

People on flat lands such as those found in the constituency of the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely and in my constituency experience great difficulty in times of flood, and it would be of great assistance to them if some such Amendment as this could be accepted so that floods could be legally recognised by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

The Department has had a lot of time to think about this problem. We have had considerable experience of floods of this nature. It would be a great relief to the people of South Yorkshire as well as to the people in the Fen country if this proposal were accepted.

My hon. Friend was good enough to give me an undertaking that he would consider this matter between the Committee stage and Report. As the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) said, there is an important point here.

We have had lengthy discussions about this, and I acknowledge that my hon. Friend has done his best to find a solution. The problem is fraught with considerable difficulties. First, there is the necessity to define these areas. At the moment they are not defined. No doubt the river boards could define them. They know where the rivers run to in times of floods and where the land should not be built on if the structures built there are not to be flooded. But at the moment these flood lands are in the main not defined, and therefore the Amendment as now tabled would not work.

This was one of the matters we considered. As my hon. Friend knows, the problem is the meeting point between planning considerations and land drainage considerations. Local authorities have had a circular from the Minister of Housing and Local Government advising them not to build in these flood plains without consulting the river board concerned. The result is that some do, and some do not. In the Thames valley especially, one finds thousands of houses which have been built in the flood plain. When these houses get flooded in times of flood, people complain, first about the Government, and secondly about the river board. It is extremely difficult for river boards to do anything about this because local authorities have built in the flood lands where they ought not to have built. These lands are the watercourse of the river when it is in flood just as much as the normal course is when the river is flowing normally. We have to find a better solution than the present one.

One of the results of this Bill is a general expectation that river boards will do something more to prevent flooding and, therefore, we must put the boards in the position where local authorities intending to make a development in a flood plain will be under a statutory obligation to consult the river board to find out where the floods go before making the development. At present, all too often the local authorities go merrily on with their building without even asking where the floods go. The result is discomfort and damage where the building has been carried out and worse flooding in lower areas because of the presence of the buildings higher up the course of the river.

I put it urgently to my right hon. Friend that we have not completed this discussion and that we should like a chance to raise the matter in another place. Perhaps in the meantime it might be possible to work out effective machinery which would oblige local authorities to consult river boards in this matter. The present permissive arrangement is not sufficient. I am sure that it would not be right to expect that the Amendment as drafted should be accepted, but I hope that my hon. Friend will give the House a reassuring statement that there is a prospect of a solution to this difficult matter.

I appreciate that this is a problem of concern to river boards and it may well be one which, with increasing building, has become acute. My right hon. Friend and I have given consideration to this problem since it was discussed during the Committee stage proceedings. I have had talks with my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) and representatives of the River Boards Association in an endeavour to find a practical solution.

The suggestion in the Amendment that we should change the meaning of the word "watercourse" is a big proposal and would not be an easy one to carry out, least of all in the flood areas. It is not intended that all land which is ever flooded should be deemed to be a watercourse, but only such parts as are near the normal stream and which are indistinguishable from it in times of flood. It would be extremely difficult to decide the boundary of such a proposal and what part of an area which was normally flooded should rank as a watercourse. I do not think that it would be practicable.

This problem is one of planning rather than of land drainage. As we agreed earlier, planning must mean working arrangements, the understanding of a whole variety of interested parties and the taking into account of many technical factors, if it is to be effective. The ultimate responsibility must lie with the planners. There is a factor outside the normal planning control. It is possible to build banks and other agricultural works which are not subject to planning control. They could be covered by the byelaws of the river boards, but that is another problem which would have to be considered in seeking a solution.

11.30 p.m.

Recently I met representatives of the drainage authorities and we discussed ways of improving the present arrangements. We thought the best solution would be first to try to improve those arrangements and that we would have a meeting called by my right hon. Friend and the Minister of Housing and Local Government to meet the drainage authorities and overhaul the procedure whereby local authorities have a close liaison with the river boards. They know exactly what is in the minds of the river boards and which areas are vital to them.

If we had this close consultation, there is no reason to suppose that planning permission would be given in areas where river boards, with their technical knowledge and responsibility, felt strongly that it should not happen. We would repeat the joint circular over the signatures of the two Ministers and give that a chance to work. If it did not, we would consider later on a possible amendment to a general development order, for it is there that we should insert a provision if it is necessary for us to take any formal steps; and that would be the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government. We think that is the way in which the problem should be tackled. It certainly would not greatly help us to add the proposed words.

There must be this constant liaison and understanding between the authorities concerned. If it failed, and we do not think it would, we would then take steps which I have mentioned.

In view of what the Parliamentary Secretary has said, I think it right and proper that I should beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 31—(Power Of Local Authorities To Undertake Drainage Works Against Flooding)

I beg to move, in page 19, line 33, to leave out "functions" and to insert "powers".

It is probably night to say that I would allow discussion of the omitted series of Amendments standing in the name of the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) with this Amendment.

Mr. Speaker, might we at the same time discuss the next Government Amendment, in line 43, which is in exactly the same terms as the one I have moved?

The Amendment is a drafting one. The Clause as it appeared in the Bill originally used both words—"functions" and "powers". In the Standing Committee it was commented upon that we had used two words when we apparently meant the same thing. I am advised that the distinction, if any, between the meaning of the two words is very thin and that it would be a tidier Clause if we used one word the whole way through and were consistent in our drafting. We therefore consider that "powers", being the better word, should be substituted for "functions".

We accept what the Parliamentary Secretary has said. Our Amendments were rather similar, and we sought to achieve what the Government Amendments achieve.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In line 43, leave out "functions" and insert "powers".—[ Mr. Vane.]

I beg to move, in page 20, line 9, to leave out from "by" to the end of the line and to insert "the river board or".

I will, if I may, as it would be convenient, consider with this Amendment my next five Amendments.

This group of Amendments is intended to deal with points raised in Standing Committee by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wells (Lieut.-Commander Maydon), my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) and the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross).

My hon. Friend the Member for Guildford said that he would like it to be provided that where a local authority proposed to do work on a watercourse in an internal drainage district it should obtain the consent not only of the internal drainage board but also of the river board. There is certainly force in this, that the river board should be consulted. A local authority's operations might affect watercourses which a river board might adopt as main river in the future, and we are, therefore, providing that before undertaking any work on a watercourse a local authority will seek the consent of the river board. It will be for the river board then, in those instances where the watercourse is under the immediate control of an internal drainage board, to consult the internal drainage board before giving consent to the local authority. This arrangement will save local authorities consulting two boards, and at the same time it will ensure that the river board is consulted in all cases, because often it might be affected, though indirectly, and though it might not appear on the face of it at the time affected. I think that this also ensures that internal drainage boards will be consulted where necessary.

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central wanted to free local authorities from the need to seek consent of river boards before exercising their powers under the Clause. This we could not agree to, but we did think it reasonable that there should be a time limit provided within which a drainage board should give its decision one way or another to the local authority. Hence the Amendment about the time limit, on the lines of that already included in Clause 28. I am sure the hon. Member will feel this is reasonable and meets his point.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wells said that a local authority should be able to undertake work in emergency without seeking consent of the river board. We have taken a careful look at this and think we should like to try to meet him. There is force in that. I think the last of this group of Amendments is self-explanatory, and it achieves balance between the interests of local authorities acting in emergencies and the interests of river boards whose overall responsibility in the drainage area must obviously be preserved.

I should like to thank the Minister for his response. I think we are all grateful that these points were raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Wells (Lieutenant-Commander Maydon), the hon. Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) and my hon. Friend the Member of Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross). The right hon. Gentleman has considered the question of a time limit, and I am glad he has, even though he could not go as far as my hon. Friend wished. Here we are really dealing with improving the efficiency of consultation between local authorities and river boards and so on. Of course, we welcome this. I think the Minister has made an earnest effort, although he has not gone quite as far as we suggest in another Amendment of our own. However, we think it is good that he has conceded the points of view which were expressed in Committee, and we accept these Amendments.

I thank my right hon. Friend for the undertaking which he gave to me, and I accept the delicate balance he has achieved between the various authorities concerned. I am sure that the House will accept the Amendments.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 20, line 11, leave out from "Minister" to end of line 15 and insert:

(7) Before giving any consent or imposing any condition under this section with respect to any drainage works in connection with a watercourse under the control of an internal drainage board the river board shall consult with the internal drainage board.

In page 20, line 17, at end insert:

"and shall if neither given nor refused within two months after application therefor is made, be deemed to have been given".

In page 20, line 19, leave out "drainage" and insert "river".

In page 20, line 20, leave out "drainage" and insert "river".

In page 20, line 22, at end insert:

(9) Subsection (6) of this section shall not apply to any work executed in an emergency, but a council executing any work excepted by this subsection shall as soon as practicable inform the river board or, as the case may be, the Minister, in writing of the execution and of the circumstances in which it was executed.—[Mr. Soames.]

Clause 33—(Review Of Boundaries Of Internal Drainage District)

I beg to move, in page 21, line 6, at the end to insert:

(4) Where the river board do not propose, as a result of the review, to submit to the Minister a scheme under the said section four but it appears to them that an order under subsection (6) of section twenty-four of the Act of 1930 (which provides for differential rating), or an order varying or revoking such an order, should be made by the drainage board of the internal drainage district, they may direct the drainage board to make such an order in such terms as may be specified in the direction; but if the drainage board object to the direction it shall have no effect unless it is confirmed (with or without modifications) by the Minister.
This Amendment arises out of suggestions made in Committee. The purpose of the Clause is to enable inland drainage ratepayers to petition for a review of boundaries of an internal drainage district. As the Clause stands, without the Amendment, a river board receiving a petition will review the boundaries and will then decide whether or not to submit a scheme for alteration of boundaries. It is "Yes" or "No".

The Amendment arises out of a very helpful suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bullard). It will allow a river board to go some way towards meeting the wishes of the petitioners even though the board does not consider that an alteration of boundaries would be justified. It is proposed to allow a river board, if it feels that it would not be justified in taking action in a petition to go so far as to have a boundary review, to direct the internal drainage board to make a differential rate order. In other words, the board will be able to do what it otherwise could have done only in response to a petition under Clause 23 for differential rating.

This new provision will apply only where a boundary petition is unsuccessful. Where a petition is entirely successful, it does not begin to bite. On the other hand, if a petition is unsuccessful, this new power can be used by the board. It will not affect the arrangements in the Clause for altering the boundaries of internal drainage districts where it is felt that that is appropriate. I hope that my hon. Friend will feel that this meets the point he raised in Committee.

I thank my right hon. Friend for having met the point I raised in Committee, which was originally put to me by the Association of Drainage Authorities.

I am not quite as happy about the Amendment as my hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bullard) is. I want the Minister to go into rather more detail. This, I think, is probably the most contentious part of this Part of the Bill. If a river board interprets the petition strictly, it will, apparently, have to make a scheme in every case where the petitioners come within the terms of What is called the Medway letter, that is to say, where the land is built-up area and is above flood level or where it is agricultural land and is 5 feet above flood level.

Since 1930, a great deal of land which was agricultural land has become built-up land. Good as the Minister's intentions in the Amendment are, as I understood his explanation it would seem that the river board must make a scheme in every case where the petitioner explains that he is within the terms of what we call the Medway letter.

11.45 p.m.

I apologise for using that phrase, but it is an odd case in English law that a letter written by a Mr. Dobson to a Mr. Baker has become drainage law. In earlier cases, the attempt has been made to get the Minister to make the epistle of the Medway letter law. All that my right hon. Friend has done so far is to give this concession to my hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn. It is a matter of grave importance to my constituents and to many others.

Take the case of three drainage boards in Yorkshire, one of which is the Market. Weighton Drainage Board. If a petition is made under the Bill as drafted, the river board would have to except from the drainage area one-third of the rateable value. In the case of the Foss Drainage Board in my constituency, I find that a rateable value of £41,000 would be reduced to £28,000 if a petition were made under the terms of the Bill. I am all in favour of so many of my constituents being released from drainage rates, but the effect will be to throw an unequal burden upon the remainder of my constituents who are ratepayers.

My final example shows the ridiculous position caused by the Clause. The Marston Moor Drainage Board—not in my constituency, but in the West Riding of Yorkshire—today has a rateable value of £61,000. By the Clause, that will be reduced to £26,000. The result will be that either one, two or three of these boards will disappear as a result of the Clause unless it is amended with better provision than the Amendment.

My suggestion to my right hon. Friend the Minister is that more detailed examination is required. All of us, on both sides of the House, are anxious for these drainage boards to operate. Since the passing of the 1930 Act, they have done a great deal of valuable work. It would be a tragedy that a mere effect of putting houses on agricultural land meant that these drainage boards could no longer operate.

I am sure that my right hon. Friend is right in tackling the matter as he is trying to do in the Amendment by using the method of differential rating. He must, however, grasp this nettle and say that the river board need not apply the Medway letter rule as it has been applied ever since that letter was introduced. He should declare that river boards can use their judgment in cases where it is important in the interests of drainage that an internal drainage board should carry on, and, instead of making a scheme, apply a differential rating order. In other words, unless in these cases the river board has a wider discretion, internal drainage boards in certain parts of the country will cease to operate.

I assure my right hon. Friend that the Association of Drainage Authorities—at least, in my part of the world, the North-Eastern area—it deeply concerned about the present position. The Association appreciates the Minister's good will in producing the Amendment but asks him to take the matter further into consideration and, before the Bill receives the Royal Assent, look into the position again, because these people who have spent the whole of their lives in administering drainage boards are satisfied that the Amendment does not fully meet the case.

I rise only because I happened to be indisposed when this point was raised in Committee and I should have liked to have said a few words about it then. I have considerable sympathy with what my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) has just said but I cannot go the whole way with him if I have understood him aright. I think that he was asking that it should be left to the discretion ultimately of the river board whether or not the Medway letter should be applied, and that it should be left largely to the local board as to what degree of variation from the Medway letter there should be.

I was suggesting that when there is this alternative of a differential rate, the river board should be allowed either to apply differential rating provisions, instead of applying the Medway letter strictly, or, if it liked, it should apply the letter strictly.

That the degree of differentiation should be for the board to decide.

I thought that was what my right hon. Friend meant. I am not certain that I would be happy about that. It would have been desirable if we could possibly have done it to have written into the Bill something which was virtually set out in the Medway letter, with possible modifications to bring it more up to date. That would have had my considerable sympathy and I am sorry that it has not been possible. Although it has worked extremely well in most cases, I do not like so much imposition on the public being based on a letter that passed between a civil servant and a river board official.

It would have been desirable to put that right, but I cannot go with my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton in leaving the measure of differentiation entirely to the river board, having taken away the whole Medway principle. It is the most distressing thing to me abouts Parts I and II of the Bill that we have not been able to ensure as near as possible a guarantee of equity for the individual ratepayer. This is what distresses me most about Part II which otherwise I should welcome.

I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister will bear in mind what my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton has said. If before the Bill goes to another place my right hon. Friend can see a way of contriving an Amendment which would embody into legislation the Medway principle, without being tied exactly to the level of the Medway letter, it would be doing a good service and would be an improvement of the present law. This is my belief. I see the difficulties, but we are getting into an extremely complicated sphere with cross-references to Section 24 (6) of the Act dealing with differential rating and again, in the Amendment to Clause 33, with a reference to Section 24 of the Land Drainage Act, 1930. It is very difficult for the ordinary person who has to pay rates or has to seek a variation to understand exactly what all this is about. It would simplify matters considerably if we had the Medway letter or its equivalent written into the law. I regret that it has not been possible to do that. It would have been a major improvement. I hope that the time has not passed when the Minister could do it, possibly in another place.

I shall be very brief, but I might describe myself, if I were not the Member for Maidstone, as the Member for the Medway. The letter which passed between Mr. Dobson and Mr. Baker has become an extraordinary feature, and I am grateful to the Minister for giving this satisfaction. I am also grateful to two of my Kentish colleagues—the hon. Members for Gravesend (Mr. Kirk) and the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) who are here with me in support.

As Member for Maidstone, I want to say only that I wish this could have been incorporated into the law on a proper basis instead of having dragged on in this extraordinary way though land drainage legislation for half-a-century. Those who want the law to be on a proper basis would like to be rid of the matter in that way.

We talked about the Medway letter at some length in the Standing Committee. I certainly understand the desires and aspirations of my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) and of my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke). They also, I believe, understand our difficulties in as much as the last thing we want to create is something more rigid and inflexible than the present arrangement, unsatisfactory as that arrangement might be. I am treading a tight-rope here. If we could find a way out, without, at the same time, imposing the rigidity we do not wish to impose, I should be only too pleased to walk that tight-rope instead of this one.

Clause 33, as opposed to Clause 23, is not concerned with differential rating. All this Amendment does is to cover the case where, when a petition is put forward for a review of boundaries of an internal drainage district, the river board may feel that, if it cannot go the whole way with the petitioners, it would be right to go half way, so to speak, and bring about differential rating. It would not necessarily be based on the Medway letter, as would a petition under Clause 23.

This is an important point. If we pass this Amendment, will it be clear that the river board will have complete discretion either to make an order for differential rating or to make a scheme? Is it not the case that the fact that the petitioners, on the terms of the Medway letter, are relieved from being a part of the area, will not be a bar to the river board's making a differential rating order? I am not arguing about the Medway letter, for that would not be in order, but I want to know whether the discretion in the Amendment is sufficient. If my right hon. Friend cannot give the answer tonight, will he do so later?

In this Amendment it is left entirely to the discretion of the river board whether it accepts the petition or rejects it, or whether, on the other hand, it chooses to put in a differential rating area instead.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 38—(Payment By River Board Of Expenses Of Official Visits, Etc)

12 m.

I beg to move, in page 22, line 39, to leave out "reasonably" and to insert "properly".

Possibly it would be useful to discuss with this Amendment the next six Amendments:

In line 39, after "by", insert "or on behalf of".

In line 40, after "official", insert "or courtesy".

In line 40, after "visits", insert:
"whether inside or outside the United Kingdom".
In line 40, at end insert:
Provided that, in the case of a visit within the United Kingdom, the amount defrayed under this section by a river board in respect of the expenses of any member or officer of the board shall not exceed the payments which he would have been entitled to receive by way of travelling allowance or subsistence allowance under section one hundred and thirteen of the Local Government Act, 1948, if the making of the visit had been an approved duty of that person within the meaning of that section.
In page 23, line 2, after "services", insert:
"whether inside or outside the United Kingdom".
In line 2, after "services", insert:
"or local government services inside or outside the United Kingdom".

I am sure that would meet the convenience of the House, Mr. Speaker. I hope that the Government will accept them all.

We are now dealing with the payment by a river board of expenses for official visits and that sort of thing. We had a discussion about these expenses in Committee and the Amendments have been put down in the light of that discussion. The provision is:
"A river board may defray any travelling or other expenses reasonably incurred."
I suggest that the words should be "properly incurred". We have in mind the district auditor. If we define the expenses as "reasonable" that introduces the test of reasonableness. Whether expenses are reasonable or not is more difficult to decide than whether they have been properly incurred. This Amendment is to help to provide an easier definition. The subsection goes on:
"by any members or officers of the board"
As we are dealing with other expenses, we should include the words "or on behalf of". It is possible that there may be expenses incurred which will not be directly incurred by any officers or members of a board and it would improve the Clause to include this provision.

The Clause refers to:
"making official visits on behalf of the board."
I suggest that we might extend that to "official or courtesy visits." That is to provide rather more definition in the expenses incurred.

The next Amendment, to take them in order, is to make it clear that the visits would cover visits inside or outside the United Kingdom. In Standing Committee it was generally conceded on both sides that officers or members might make visits abroad as well as in this country.

I think that if the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) looks at the Official Report of the Standing Committee he will see that that is so. This was commonly agreed. I had better say, in deference to the right hon. Member, that it was agreed by some members of the Committee that it might be quite proper for members and officers of a board to visit Holland. That might help them in the conduct of their responsibilities as members of a board.

The fifth Amendment is rather different. There is provision at present in regard to local government in the Local Government Act, 1948. In making provision for expenses in these circumstances it is well to be consistent and to see that the expenses are in line with those at present provided in local government.

The sixth Amendment deals with subsection (2) and the defraying of:
"any expenses incurred in the reception and entertainment"
of members of the boards. The Amendment is designed to make it clear that that covers those entertained whether inside or outside the United Kingdom.

Before leaving that, would the hon. Gentleman explain why he thinks they cannot now go outside the United Kingdom? Where is the restrictive Clause?

The hon. Gentleman was not, I think, a member of the Standing Committee. I do not know whether he has looked at those discussions but, if he has, he will know that some doubts were expressed about it. This Amendment seeks to make it quite clear that such provision can properly be made. We are here dealing with the relationship between the boards and the district auditor. In many cases, difficulties do not arise, but I think that it is unfair for people carrying on public duties and responsibilities to be put at risk. When we are legislating on expenses we should, as far as we believe it proper, make clear that this provision can be made.

The other Amendment, again, seeks to clarify the position by making the last words of the subsection refer not just to "such persons" but to "such or other persons." This matter was also referred to in the Standing Committee. If, as I anticipate they will be, these Amendments are accepted by the Government, they will clarify the purpose of the Clause and make it easier for the members and officials of the boards to discharge their responsibilities.

I have some sympathy with these Amendments because I have been on one or two of the annual tours of their works arranged by various boards. I particularly remember enjoying an enormous luncheon as part of a tour under the hospitality of the late Mr. George Dallas, very well known to hon. Members opposite, and a much-beloved figure among hon. Members and people outside of all political complexions.

These Amendments awaken a memory, which I have not yet had an opportunity to verify, that the Auditor General has been asking some rather awkward questions about some of the annual tours carried out by those boards, and that a certain amount of restriction has had to be imposed. That is rather a pity, not because it is very good for anybody to have an enormous luncheon too often but because, throughout the year, these boards do a very good job, and it is quite wrong that they should not, at least once a year, be entitled to entertain those whom they think ought to see the work that is being done.

These tours are designed to fulfil that purpose. Some commissioners who live higher upstream are sometimes interested to come down from, say, Northampton to see the lower reaches of the Nene, or from up Bedford way to see the lower reaches of the Great Ouse. I am not quite sure whether the Clause as it stands covers another category. If my right hon. Friend will look at paragraph 106 of the Heneage Report, he will find that it says:
"The Middle and North Level Commissioners, who are constituted under local Acts, and who derive some of their powers from these Acts, occupy a unique position in the land drainage administration of this country. They are responsible for the principal drainage works in very large areas in the Fens in which the drainage systems are of paramount importance. Not only are the Commissioners' areas internal drainage districts in themselves for the purposes of the Land Drainage Act, 1930, but they also comprise within them many internal drainage districts administered by boards whose interests and systems of drainage are largely dependent on those maintained by the Commissioners."
The point I am trying to make is simply that, to all intents and purposes, they carry out in their districts very much the same rôle as river boards carry out in other districts as well as in the river board areas themselves. I am not quite certain whether these Amendments or the Clause cover them in so far as subsections (1) and (2) are concerned. Certainly I think that they should. As, unfortunately, I was indisposed when this matter was raised in Committee, these Amendments give me the opportunity to ask my right hon. Friend—if he has not already thought of it—if he will look into the matter and, perhaps in another place, make sure that what is considered necessary for river boards is certainly made to cover also the Middle and North Level Commissioners because they are practically all my constituents. I speak from personal experience when I say that the job which they do is second to none in the matter of land drainage. I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend will feel fairly amenable to meeting the point which I have in mind.

May I thank the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) for putting down this series of Amendments which includes some of those which I put down in Committee? The effect of the Amendments will be to widen the Clause a little and to make it quite clear that the boards have a statutory right to arrange all reasonable entertainment and to provide for all reasonable visits. The hon. Member was quite right in saying that occasionally the district auditor has made difficulties, but in most cases he has been quite reasonable. Obviously, it would not be right for river boards to be at risk in these matters when they are carrying out perfectly reasonable and responsible activities. It is in order to put the matter beyond issue that these Amendments have been put down, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will accept them.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) for putting down these Amendments following the considerable discussions we had on the matter at the instigation of himself and of my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) and others upstairs in Committee. This is always a tricky point—just how far we should go in writing into Statutes what the expenses arrangements should be for an authority. One has to endeavour to hold the balance. I dare say that in the Bill—it is certainly my feeling, I must say, after the discussion upstairs and the deliberations on the matter afterwards—that we held back a bit too far and were a bit mean about it.

What these Amendments do, broadly speaking, from the first one in page 22, line 39 to the one in page 23, line 2 on page 2357, is to set the river boards on the same basis as local authorities except that—we shall be discussing this in later Amendments—it confines those whom they may entertain and for whom they can claim expenses to those people directly connected and associated with them in similar work. They do not extend the facility, as do the local authority ones, to other local authorities. This would not seem to be appropriate. Broadly speaking, they are put on the same basis as local authorities, but at the same time they are confined to the entertainment of and visiting, both to and from, of people engaged in the same type of work.

I think that this is a fair way of dealing with the matter, and I do not think that it can be considered to be excessive in any way at all. I welcome the Amendments, as I say, up to the one in page 23, line 2. That is as far as I can go in accepting these Amendments, but as far as that I will gladly accept them.

12.15 a.m.

My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) referred to the case of internal drainage districts. I agreed that there are some internal drainage districts which are bigger than others, but this is a river boards Clause and, broadly speaking, it is the river boards which are responsible for the major works and it is they, and not the internal drainage boards, which will make the visits to Holland and so on. Many of the internal drainage districts are small and many of them do not have large funds. The Clause has always been a river boards Clause and in that respect has not been altered from when the Bill went to Standing Committee.

I appreciate that my right hon. Friend may not have thought of this before, but I ask him to give an assurance that he will study paragraph 106 of the Heneage Report before finally making up his mind.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether he is accepting the Amendments up to the third Amendment in page 23? We are going as far as the first of those three Amendments, are we not?

That is my fault. I invited discussion of this batch of Amend- ments down to and including the second Amendment in page 23, but the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) did not refer to that, but did refer to the third of those three. I shall put them separately and when we come to them we will see with precision where we are.

I realise that I went as far as discussing the eighth Amendment when you, Mr. Speaker, indicated that we should go as far as the seventh of this group of Amendments. It will help if I say that I am greatly obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his reply and, as he is accepting most of the Amendments which I put forward, I will not wish to move those which he has indicated he is not willing to accept.

I am not even sure that I know which those are, but I will proceed and the House will determine.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 22, line 39, after "by", insert "or on behalf of".

In line 40, after "official", insert "or courtesy".—[ Mr. Willey.]

Amendment proposed: In page 22, line 40, after "visits", insert:

"whether inside or outside the United Kingdom".—[Mr. Willey.]

I have endeavoured to listen to the argument so far, but this Amendment goes too far and I will oppose it.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 22, line 40, at end insert:

Provided that, in the case of a visit within the United Kingdom, the amount defrayed under this section by a river board in respect of the expenses of any member or officer of the board shall not exceed the payments which he would have been entitled to receive by way of travelling allowance or subsistence allowance under section one hundred and thirteen of the Local Government Act, 1948, if the making of the visit had been an approved duty of that person within the meaning of that section.

In page 23, line 2, after "services", insert:

"whether inside or outside the United Kingdom".—[Mr. Willey.]

Does the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) desire to move the Amendment in page 23, line 2, after "services", insert:

"or local government services inside or outside the United Kingdom".

It may be convenient to discuss the next Amendment, in page 23, line 2, at end insert "or other", with that in the name of the hon. Member for Goole (Mr. Jeger), in line 3, at end insert:

(3) A river board may defray any reasonable expenses incurred in publicising its activities.

I beg to move, in page 23, line 2, at end insert "or other". I do so in order to pave the way for my hon. Friend the Member for Goole (Mr. Jeger) to move his Amendment.

Amendment negatived.

I beg to move, in page 23, line 3, at the end to insert:

(3) A river board may defray any reasonable expenses incurred in publicising its activities.
I move the Amendment with a certain amount of hope that the Minister will accept it because this is his last chance of accepting a non-Ministerial Amendment to the Bill. All the later Amendments which have been selected have been tabled by the right hon. Gentleman, and consequently I hope that he will make a concession and accept this Amendment.

This question was discussed at considerable length in Committee upstairs and I was greatly encouraged by the reply given by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary. If hon. Members refer to the proceedings of the Standing Committee on 31st January, columns 434 and 435 of the OFFICIAL REPORT. I am sure that they will share my optimism. The hon. Gentleman was good enough to concede that we had made a case for further consideration of the powers which should be given to river boards in respect of the transmitting of information about their activities to those who resided, and worked, in their areas.

The Minister was kind enough to say that the Clause limited the information to those who were invited to lunch instead of being given to the general public. He considered that a case had been made for looking at the Clause again. He said that one did not want to limit them, that is the river boards, to the giving of information under the risk of getting into trouble; that there was certain information which it would be better to disseminate more widely.

It is true that that was said on 31st January, a long time ago, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend have not had second thoughts of a sadder and more negative nature than they were kind enough to express on that occasion.

The river boards have certain functions to fulfil, not least of which is to inform the public who pay the drainage rates exactly what those functions are and what benefits they will get from the rates they pay. They sometimes stage exhibitions in a tent or marquee at agricultural shows and they get into trouble with the district auditor for spending money on disseminating information in that way. The purpose of the Amendment is to put them out of risk of trouble with the auditor by allowing them to spend a reasonable amount of money on providing information at agricultural shows and similar events to the people to whom they are responsible.

Not long ago at a Yorkshire show the local river board spent about £100 on the hire of a marquee and the dissemination of information. The board had a long argument with the district auditor about it, although the show by the board was rather mean and inadequate to portray its activities. If river boards were allowed to spend a reasonable amount, within their own point of view and after discussion with the district auditor, it would remove the fear that the district auditor would make trouble for them. By the look on his face, I think that the Minister will accept this Amendment and therefore I see no reason to prolong the discussion.

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman really expects me to accept the Amendment, because it is not long ago that we were having correspondence about it. I was not trying to mislead him by the expression on my face into thinking that I should accept the Amendment. I think that we had correspondence—

If we have not had correspondence I will tell the hon. Gentleman what I would have written to him had I done so—[Interruption.] It must have been two other people.

This matter was mentioned by the hon. Gentleman during the Committee stage discussions and we said that we would consider it. We have done so. We do not regard river boards as authorities which need to go in for a great deal of publicity. Perhaps sometimes it is not a bad thing to disseminate information about the activities of the boards when people gather at shows or some such function, but in a Bill where we are setting out the duties of river boards we did not want to put the accent on publicity. Neither would this be the proper way to spend a great deal of money. It is a matter between the board and the auditor who may not object to some comparatively small sum being spent in this way. On consideration I hope that hon. Members will agree that this is not a matter which should be written into the Bill as being an appropriate item of expenditure. It is better left to the good sense of the board and the auditor.

I agree with the Minister that we do not want to have the accent on publicity. We live in a world where there is too much publicity, and too much money is spent on it. My hon. Friend the Member for Goole (Mr. Jeger) wishes to safeguard the interests of the river boards regarding a reasonable amount of publicity. He quoted the case of a river board which spent a small sum of money on a small exhibition at a show. There is an example of the type of thing that he had in mind.

Indeed, the Parliamentary Secretary said in the Standing Committee:
"Nobody thinks it necessary for the river boards to engage in the sort of propaganda which we see on all sides, because their work is not of the sort that needs it. On the other hand, there is much to be said for river boards and other authorities explaining exactly what they are trying to do, how they do it and how their money is spent."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 31st January, 1961; c. 434.]
That has been conceded by the Government, and that was the purpose of the Amendment.

12.30 a.m.

I think it was right for my hon. Friend to raise the matter. It may help river boards to do what is legitimate in conjunction with the district auditors. While the Minister is not prepared to write this into the Bill, I am sure that my hon. Friend has done a service in ventilating the matter.

If I may, by leave of the House, speak again before I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment, I should like to say that I am sorry that the Minister has not accepted my proposal or the spirit of it.

I am sure that the Minister will take steps in the near future to put right the impression he has created that river boards are engaged in some frivolous activity—washing whiter than white, or something like that. That matches the remarks of the Parliamentary Secretary, who said that he does not accept the fact that river boards should indulge in propaganda in order to attract tourists. Will the Minister do something to redress the damage that his remarks and those of his hon. Friend have done to the prestige and status of the river boards? If so, I would wish to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

If I may speak again by leave of the House, there is no question of doing any damage to the river boards, and the hon. Gentleman knows it full well. Of course there is not. The river boards undertake such publicity at the moment as he has in mind. That is perfectly understood. It is not required to take it any further, and that is all there is to it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 48—(Interpretation)

I beg to move, in page 26, line 44, at the end to insert:

In relation to land assessed in accordance with subsection (4) of section (Drainage rates—basis of assessment) of this Act the references in paragraph (c) of this subsection to annual value shall be construed as referring to rateable value or net annual value, as the case may require.
This Amendment is consequential upon the new Clause dealing with the assessment of drainage rates. In the interpretation Clause persons qualified to make a petition or appeal are described as, and are assumed to be, paying on the Schedule A basis. Now we have made certain changes in that and some will have their rates assessed on a different basis, and so it is necessary for us to maintain the rights of those people to make petitions.

The wording is a little obscure. We use the term "rateable value" in these drainage rates Clauses as the most convenient term. I explained when we were discussing the Clause earlier that rateable value differs from net annual value only where derating relief is given, and where it differs, net annual value will be applied. Thus, it is nothing more than to reserve the position of those whose assessments to rates will be calculated on their rateable value as against their Schedule A value.

Amendment agreed to.

First Schedule—(Minor Amendments)

I beg to move, in page 28, line 35, to leave out "estimated product" and to insert:

"product, estimated in such manner as the Minister may direct".
This may seem a very fine point, but this calculation of a penny rate will be made not on the outturn but on the estimate. It has been represented to us by river boards that, in order to ensure uniformity, some such provision as this would be an improvement, and the simplest way would seem to be to give the Minister power to direct how the estimate should be arrived at. In so doing, the Minister will consult the associations. Exactly the same Amendment occurs four times in these Schedules.

I should like to thank the Minister. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) would have liked himself to have expressed thanks to the right hon. Gentleman for this. This is a point which has been raised by the Association of Municipal Corporations. The Minister has met it. We certainly thank him.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In line 43, leave out "estimated product" and insert:

"product, estimated in such manner as the Minister may direct".—[Mr. Vane.]

I beg to move, in page 28, line 50, at the end to insert:

6. After subsection (4) of section twenty-six there shall be inserted the following subsection:—
"(4A) A drainage board may require the owner of any hereditament in the district in respect of which a drainage rate is levied to state in writing the name and address of any person known to him as being an occupier of that hereditament; and if the owner fails to comply with the requirement or knowingly makes a false statement in respect of the information required, he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding five pounds".
In Committee my hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bullard) moved an Amendment to this effect, but in a rather more elaborate form, and I said at that time that although we could not accept his Amendment we would be prepared to accept the simple principle, which is that the owner of a hereditament shall be required to provide the name and address of the occupier to a drainage board, if so required. A river board will have this power, and it has been represented to us that drainage boards, which do not have very large staffs, would find it a good deal easier, on some rare occasions, to collect their drainage rates if this power could be given to them.

I want to thank my hon. Friend for having met a point which I raised in Committee and which the Association of Drainage Authorities wished to see embodied in the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move, in page 30, line 1, to leave out paragraph 14 and to insert:

14. In subsection (1) of section forty-three (which confers on persons authorised by drainage boards power to enter and survey land and to inspect documents) the words "within the drainage district" in paragraph (a) and the words "in the drainage district" in paragraph (b) shall be omitted.
The powers in the Bill as they stand allow a drainage board to enter and survey land only within its own district, and since the boards are now being given power to carry out work outside their own districts, it would seem logical to extend the power to survey outside their districts, otherwise they could not efficiently carry out such work.

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move, in page 32, line 3, at the end to insert:

21. In section sixty-two (which safeguards fishery interests) the references to the fishery interests shall be construed as including references to the interests of sea fisheries and the references to the Act of 1930 as including references to this Act.
This Amendment also follows a point raised in Committee, when certain hon. Members, particularly the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) and my hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins), pressed that there should be a reference to sea fishery interests, so that, for example, if a river board were to build a groyne extending some way into an estuary or tidal waters and if, as could easily happen, there were valuable fishery interests, it should be an explicit obligation on the river board to have regard to those interests. We thought that something should be embodied in the Bill to cover the point, and this is the right place to do it.

I thank the Parliamentary Secretary for the action which has been taken. It is in accord with the accord which spread throughout both sides of the Committee on this point.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 33, line 9, leave out "estimated product" and insert:

"product, estimated in such manner as the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food may direct."

In line 17, leave out "estimated product" and insert:

"product, estimated in such manner as the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food may direct."—[Mr. Soames.]

Bill to be read the Third time this day.

Employment, South-East Northumberland

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[ Mr. G. Campbell.]

12.41 a.m.

The House will know that I have on previous occasions called attention to the importance of the subject matter of tonight's Adjournment debate. Probably, if the Minister had listened to my wisdom on those occasions he would have been spared attendance here at this hour of the morning. However, I hope to be able to persuade him to give serious consideration to the plea I make and not only promise interest in the matter but be willing to take definite action to contribute to the solution of a problem which seriously worries people in my constituency and in south-east Northumberland generally.

In February, 1960, the county council and the local authorities within the area, recognising the serious decline in industrial employment, convened a conference to deliberate upon the nature of the problem and possible solutions to it. A copy of the resolution passed at that conference was sent to the Minister. If I remind him now of the essential features of it, he may be assisted in giving the reply we all hope to hear from him.

In the first place, the local authorities at the conference recognised the seriousness of the tendency of industrial decline affecting the whole of south-east Northumberland. Secondly, they expressed their disappointment at the Government's inability to recognise what was required within the ambit of the Local Employment Act and to concede this area as one needing local development action. Thirdly, they expressed the view that it was essential, in the interest of a fair competitive opportunity to induce industry into the area, that help should be given in the clearance of sites left by the declining coal-mining industry.

With those essential points in mind, the Minister may permit me to recall some of the features extant within this special area. Within the county, there is a population of 800,000 people, and within the area of south-east Northumberland there is concentrated some 700,000 of that population. In other words, the greater part of the population of the county in terms of insured personnel is concentrated within that limited area.

This is an area that is predominantly mining. The mining sector of the County of Northumberland was one of the first of the coal fields to be exploited in the early days of coal development. Over the years, there has, naturally, been a progressive tendency to exhaust the available resources and to compel recognition that in a period of time we shall be faced, not only with the challenge of a declining mining industry, but with the basic challenge of no industry at all.

In the year 1958, the available mining jobs in the area were 41,000. In 1960, they had declined to 35,000. If we take into account the Revised Plan for Coal as circulated by the National Coal Board, the prospect before us is that by 1965, the available jobs in the mining industry will have declined to 31,000.

Realism in the assessment of this position compels us to recognise that this is by no means the end of the challenge that faces us. The essential development of increased mechanisation and concentration in the mining industry in the area is reflected in a Coal Board decision that in the near future, mining in this sector will be concentrated within ten or eleven major mining units, which will produce about 80 per cent. of the available coal production.

We have no alternative industry in the area that will contribute in any measure to the deficit of jobs that is arising from the decline of mining. Therefore, we are, naturally, seriously concerned about the future economic security of our people and the urgency of enlisting Government help so that we may contribute to the solution of the problem. We recognise that this will not be easy. In the first place, to fail to undertake immediate action will result in either a continued migration of the population from the area or, alternatively, a major problem of unemployment.

The population of the area has been relatively static for many years now at a round figure of 340,000. The increase in population has been constantly offset by migration. It would be the height of folly not to recognise the need for urgent action to deal with this matter. It would be the height of national folly if the Government refuse to assess the opportunities which are now arising for the introduction of new industry into the area before it is too late. I cannot understand that consideration is still being given to the encouragement of the expansion of industry in the new town of Crawley, for example, while apparently there is a sheer neglect of recognition of the real potentialities of this sector of the County of Northumberland.

We know that in existing circumstances it is necessary to persuade industry to come into our area. In this respect the county council and the local authorities have exerted themselves over past years to introduce, by a series of major publicity efforts, a recognition of the facilities that are available for industrial developments in the area. We are faced with an immediate serious situation. There is an increase in the population and a decrease in the available jobs. In the period 1961–65 we face the school "bulge" when about 60,000 school-leavers will be emerging on to the labour market. These young people have a right to expect at the commencement of their working life opportunities for a life of secure and progressive employment.

As far as can be seen at this stage, their prospects are rather dim and it will be a real tragedy if they have to begin life on the employment exchange. That can be averted if the Minister, his Department and the Government will be willing to recognise the comprehensive nature of the problem and will take the action that is now necessary and imperative.

I do not wish to over-paint the picture. I am anxious that the basic facts shall be accepted, understood and appreciated by the Minister. The problem is unevenly spread in certain areas, and particularly in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Blyth (Mr. Milne). About 7 per cent. of the insured population of Seaton Delaval is unemployed. Five collieries there have been closed. In the Blyth area only one of the four collieries remains as an active unit. There is unemployment in the West Moor area and Whitley Bay. The overall picture from five major labour exchanges in the area reveals that more than 3 per cent. of the population is unemployed. We have been told repeatedly that where there is 3 per cent. or more unemployment there is a legitimate claim for designation as a development area under the Local Employment Act.

I submit that here, on the basis of the existing facts, there is an unchallengeable case for recognising that this area should be designated as a development area under the Local Employment Act. This would give, first us, the opportunity of securing Government assistance to remove the debris of the declining mining industry and to open up the available sites for the attraction of new industry, and, secondly, it would give us a competitive opportunity, on the basis of our available resources, to attract that new industry for the provision of employment.

It is estimated by competent authorities that the area of south-east Northumberland requires, over the next few years, about 20,000 jobs to make up for the decline which is now taking place in the prospects for the immediate future. The county and the local authorities have, with realism and determination, endeavoured to publicise the opportunities for industrial facilities in the area. In 1960, they set up a campaign plan. In 1961, they extended it with an expenditure of about £10,000 a year. I hope, therefore, that the Parliamentary Secretary will not say that the county and the local authorities have not endeavoured to do all that lies within their power to attract industry. We have done all that we can in existing circumstances.

What is now needed is for the Parliamentary Secretary not merely to be prepared to tell me that there is already the possibility of seven or nine industrial projects emerging, with X number of jobs, in the near future. I hope that he will be prepared to give an assurance that serious consideration will be given to the designation of the area under the Local Employment Act, with Government willingness to assist by financial aid for the reclamation and provision of sites for industrial development, and that, in the interests of the young people, the door will be opened so that they might have some assurance of a secure future.

I am asking the hon. Gentleman to recognise that, in this area, we have a reservoir of skill and enterprise second to none; that we have, in our grammar schools and the Ashington Technical College, the facilities for the teaching of the skills of new industry; and that we are, this year, evolving a magnificent careers exhibition as part of the endeavour to publicise the facilities we can offer to new industries.

This is, fundamentally, now a question of Government action, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman can be persuaded tonight not merely once again to say what projects are in the pipeline, but to give affirmation, encouragement and support, so that we shall be able, during the coming year, to look forward to Government assistance and commendation for the furtherance of the work which the county and the local authorities are doing in the provision of security for the people—both the juniors emerging from school and those displaced by the declining mining industry.

1.0 a.m.

The hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. Owen) has made a very eloquent appeal at this time of night for special consideration for his area. I should like to join him in saying that I believe that the local authorities have done a great deal to attract industry to the area, but we are considering the employment situation and the actual scope of the Local Employment Act. It is upon that that I should like to say a few words in the ten minutes or so available.

The area about which we are talking I should define as the area of the employment exchanges of Ashington, Bedlington, Blyth, Seaton Delaval, Morpeth, North Tyne Last, North Tyne West and Prudhoe. Let us look at the actual unemployment in those areas. The numbers wholly unemployed at April, 1961, were 7,145 out of a total insured population of 310,258. That is 2·3 per cent. as compared with 2·7 per cent. a year ago and a twelve-monthly average of 2·4 per cent. There are only two areas in which unemployment has increased significantly in that period. One is Seaton Delaval where it has gone from 111 to 217. I did not quite understand the hon. Members reference to 70 per cent. of the insured population of Seaton Delaval being unemployed. The actual percentage is 4·1 per cent. in that area. What I think he had in mind was that 70 per cent. of the insured population there are engaged in the coal-mining industry.

The other place is Prudhoe, where unemployment has risen from 85 to 112 and now stands at 2·7 per cent. That area we made a development district last year because of the impending closure of the only colliery, the West Wylam Colliery, and secondly because of its isolated position. It is difficult for people living at Prudhoe to engage in coal mining in other mines. Seaton Delaval is in a rather different position. It is true that of the five collieries there only one, Seghill, is still working and that is due to reorganisation. All the same, not many miners are still unplaced there. I am told that at the Seaton Delaval mine there are still sixty unplaced and there may be some from the Hartford mine, but most of the men from Seghill and Hartford will find work at other collieries. It is in travelling range of both North Tyne East and North Tyne West and of Blyth and not nearly so isolated as Prudhoe. So we have not yet felt it possible to list that as a development district.

Blyth is a different problem. There about one-third of the insured population is in coal mining and one-seventh in shipbuilding. Four pits are being worked and none has the prospect of immediate closure. The shipbuilding company has obtained two orders, one for a vessel of 20,000 tons and the other for a vessel of 2,000 tons. There is no reason to expect high unemployment there at present. There is no other area in South-East Northumberland of which it would be possible, in the view of my right hon. Friend, to quote the words of the Act:
"a high rate of unemployment exists or is to be expected within such a period that it is expedient to exercise the powers of the Act and that such a rate of unemployment is likely to persist."

The hon. Gentleman has placed a great deal of stress on the unemployment figures. Is he not aware that those figures are greatly cushioned by the fact that no jobs are available and that people are leaving the area to find jobs elsewhere? That is a matter to which we want the Ministry to pay most attention.

That is a phenomenon that exists in other parts of the Kingdom, but it is not directly covered by the responsibilities under the Local Employment Act, which looks to actual unemployment and the unemployment that can be expected.

The hon. Member for Morpeth would like the whole area to be listed as a development district because of the decline—

—in employment in the coal and shipbuilding industries that he foresees. As he said, if the demand for coal runs at about 200 million tons a year there is the possibility of about one-sixth of the employment in the coal mines in south and central Northumberland being reduced over the next five years. There may be some redundancy, although the Coal Board hopes that most of the men displaced can be offered jobs elsewhere.

The prospects in ship-repairing are, of course, something that depends very much on the competitiveness of the various shipbuilding firms of the Tyne. There are 500 fewer employed than a year ago. In commercial shipbuilding, however, there were 300 more employed last month than there were a year ago. If Swan, Hunter, and Vickers were to win the tender for the Cunarder—and they have just as good a chance as have any of the other four tenderers to do so—the situation in the area would be very good, at any rate for the foreseeable future.

For all those reasons, it is not possible to say that we expect a high rate of unemployment in shipbuilding in the North-East—

I am listening to my hon. Friend with very great attention, but I do not honestly think that it is really a fair argument to bring in the question of the possibility of our obtaining the Cunarder. We all hope that we shall, but he cannot deploy his argument for our future on that possibility. What will happen if the Cunarder goes elsewhere? Are those development districts immediately to cease being development districts? That is not a fair argument.

I brought that in to show that there was a possibility of a very considerable reduction in unemployment through this, but it still does not follow that with an unemployment ratio of 2·3 per cent. we could consider the whole area as one in which we expect high and persistent unemployment. We simply cannot do that.

The decline of an industry does not necessarily result in unemployment. New industries come to take the place of the old—they do not always have to be brought in. The activities of the county council and the Regional Board for industry, and the Development Council have all helped in that, but there are 3,000 new jobs in prospect arising from new and expanding industry in the area, of which 1,800 are for men. There is none in Morpeth or Prudhoe, but in North Tyne East and North Tyne West there are some 1,175 jobs in prospect in each group, and some 722 in the Bedlington and Blyth group. In addition, forty-three industrial development certificates have been issued in the last twelve months for a total area of just over 1 million square feet, and a matter of 1,500 jobs.

My right hon. Friend cannot list a locality as eligible for assistance under the Act unless it has, or may have in the future, high and persistent unemployment. He is not satisfied that there will be such high and persistent unemployment in Northumberland. I am glad that that is his view. I hope in that we are right, but my right hon. Friend will certainly watch the position very carefully, particularly in relation to Seaton Delaval and Blyth

There is no lack of interest at the Board of Trade in the area, and it is certainly an exaggeration to talk about the sheer neglect of the County of Northumberland. My right hon. Friend and I visited it recently. The enthusiasm of the regional controller and his staff is well known and much appreciated in the area.

In conclusion, I would just say that my right hon. Friend will be glad to see more industrial expansion in South-East Northumberland by firms already in the area or which are unable to go to areas with more serious unemployment. We shall certainly watch the situation most closely, but with the level of unemployment as it is just now and with the prospects as we see them we certainly cannot say that at the moment this area should be listed as a development district.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at eleven minutes past One o'clock.