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

Volume 640: debated on Tuesday 9 May 1961

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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.]