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Regional Water Recreation Advisory Committees

Volume 35: debated on Tuesday 18 January 1983

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

  • '(1) Each regional water authority shall appoint a regional water recreation advisory committee which shall have the duty to advise respective water authorities and associated water undertakings on the discharge of their statutory responsibilities, and matters related thereto, in respect of recreation, navigation, conservation and amenity.
  • (2) Each regional water recreation advisory committee shall consist of not less than 12 members but shall not exceed 20, who shall elect from their own members a chairman and vice-chairman Who shall hold office for each financial year.
  • (3) Of the members of the committee:
  • (a) not less than two, but no more than four, shall be appointed by the authority after consultation with those statutory and other bodies who appear to the authority as having a duty or concern for navigation;
  • (b) not less than four, but no more than six persons shall be appointed by the authority after consultation with national or local bodies who have responsibility or concern for the encouragement of sport and recreation—other than recreational fishing or angling—or who provide facilities therefor;
  • (c) not less than three, but no more than four persons, shall be appointed by the authority after consultation with bodies concerned with recreational fishing or angling;
  • (d) not less than two, but no more than four persons, shall be appointed after consultation with national or local bodies having a concern for wildlife or the conservation of the natural environment;
  • (e) others may be appointed up to the maximum number after consultation with the water recreation advisory committee.
  • (4) Each member of the committee shall hold and vacate office in accordance with his respective appointment and shall be eligible for re-appointment on ceasing to hold office, but any such member may at any time by notice addressed to the chairman of the respective water authority resign his office.
  • (5) In making appointments to the regional water recreation advisory committee each water authority shall have regard to the balance of water related activity and features found in their respective regions and for continuity in membership of each committee.
  • (6) Each regional water recreation advisory committee shall make an annual report to the Secretary of State concerning the discharge of their duties, together with an associated financial statement.
  • (7) Each regional water authority shall provide its respective water recreation advisory committee with such accommodation, officers and facilities as appears to them appropriate and shall defray expenditure incurred by the committee as they or the Secretary of State shall decide.
  • (8) Each regional water authority may pay members of each water recreation advisory committee such allowances or reimbursement of expenses incurred by the duties of their office as may be determined by the Secretary of State with the consent of the Treasury.'.—[Mr. Spearing.]
  • Brought up, and read the First time.

    With this, we shall take new clause 7—Regional Water Space Amenity Council

  • '(1) Each Water Authority shall establish a body to be known as the Water Space Amenity Council consisting of:—
  • (a) a chairman appointed by the Secretary of State;
  • (b) two members appointed after consultation with the Countryside Commission;
  • (c) one member appointed after consultation with the English Tourist Board;
  • (d) two members appointed after consultation with the Sports Council;
  • (e) members appointed after consultation with such association of local authorities and such bodies representing persons interested in the use of water and of any land associated with water for the purposes of recreation or the enhancement and preservation of amenity, as the Secretary of State considers desirable;
  • (f) two members appointed after consultation with the National Anglers Council;
  • (2) It shall be the duty of the Council—
  • (a) to advise the Water Authority, after consultation with the Countryside Commission, the English Tourist board and the Sports Council, on the formulation, promotion and execution of the national policy for water so far as relating to recreation and amenity in England;
  • (b) to advise the water authorities on the discharge of their respective functions so far as so relating;
  • (c) to submit to water authorities any proposals which the Commission consider appropriate for the discharge of the authorities' functions so far as so relating; and
  • (d) to encourage and assist the water authorities in the preparation of plans and programmes under section 24 below for the discharge of those functions so far as so relating.
  • (3) The Commission may collate and publish information and reports on matters relating to recreation and amenity in connection with water.
  • (4) The members of the Council shall be appointed for a period of time to be designated by the Secretary of State and shall, each year, elect a Chairman and Deputy Chairman of their Council.
  • (5) The Water Authority shall provide the Commission with such officers and such accommodation as the Secretary of State considers appropriate and shall defray any expenditure incurred by the Commission with the Approval of the Secretary of State in the discharge of their functions.
  • (6) The Water Authority may pay members of the Commission, other than the Chairman of the Water authorities, such allowances as may be determined by the Secretary of State with the consent of the Minister for the Civil Service.'. and the following amendments: No. 10, in clause 7, page 5, line 20, at end insert—
  • '(2) Arrangements under subsection (1) above shall require each water authority to establish committees, called Consumer Consultative Committees.
  • (3) The number of Committees to be established shall be determined by each water authority after consultation with each relevant local authority whose area is wholly or partly in the area of the water authority.
  • (4) The water authority shall secure, as respects each Consumer Consultative Committee, that:—
  • (a) at least one member thereof is appointed by each relevant local authority;
  • (b) at least half of the members thereof shall consist of persons appointed by those relevant local authorities;
  • (c) the Chairman thereof shall be elected by the members from one of their number;
  • (d) the appointment of a person to act as Secretary thereof shall be made by the Consumer Consultative Committee;
  • (e) the expenses reasonably incurred by the Consumer Consultative Committee are approved and paid.
  • (5) In this section, "relevant local authority" means, in relation to a Consumer Consultative Committee, the council of a London Borough or of a country or district as defined in relation to England in section 270(1) of the Local Government Act 1972 or of a county or district mentioned in section 20(3) of that Act (which relates to Wales) or the Common Council of the City of London of which the area or part of it is in each case included in the area of the Consumer Consultative Committee".
  • No. 11, in clause 7, page 5, line 21 leave out subsection (2) and insert—

    '(2) Any body established for the purposes of representing consumers' interests shall include persons nominated by the following bodies:

  • (a) the regional organisations of the Confederation of British Industry and the Trades Union Congress;
  • (b) Chambers of Commerce
  • (c) the Consumer Council and the Consumer Association;
  • (d) the Regional Council for Sport and Recreation; and
  • (e) local authorities within the area of the Water Authority.'.
  • No. 13, in clause 7, page 6, line 7 at end insert

    (c) to appoint to any consumer body specified by the arrangements such representatives of the interests of consumers in the area as may be nominated by local authorities or other bodies in accordance with the arrangements, unless the Secretary of State directs otherwise.'.

    Government amendment No. 15.

    I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

    The new clause seeks to set up regional water recreation advisory committees in every part of England and Wales that is covered by the respective water authorities. As a Back Bencher I am privileged to move a new clause to this important Bill at prime time. I am glad that the new Secretary of State for the Environment is present, at least for the moment. We look to him for imaginative and sympathetic administration. We know something of his record as a Minister in the Department, and I hope that he will set a precedent by considering, in new clause 1, matters that have nothing to do with party differences.

    The new clause does not relate to any party difference. It is a pity that this debate was originally advertised for tomorrow. On 23 December it was announced that this debate would take place on Wednesday. For reasons that we can guess, the business has been transposed. As a result, many hon. Members may not attend the debate today. However, I hope that they will exercise their judgment, if necessary, in due course.

    Although there may be a difference of opinion about the advisability of removing all local representation from water authorities, everyone agrees that some alternative or additional means of public consultation must be written into the Bill.

    Clause 7 purports to set up some new form of consultative machinery. I hope that there will not be too many differences, but the differences that exist centre on the machinery that should be set up and on whether and how it should be incorporated into statute. I note that the hon. Member for Reading, North (Mr. Durant) has tabled an amendment that relates to strengthening clause 7 and to making the consumer committees that the Government are committed to more effective than at present proposed. There is no need to disagree and there is no difference between us about the powers of the new advisory or consultative committees. They will have powers only to advise, and they will only be consultative.

    The differences are fairly narrow and have nothing to do with party politics. Therefore, one of the issues is whether the general advisory consultative committees are good enough. The other is, as far as my new clause is concerned, whether there need to be additional consultative committees in relation to recreation, conservation, amenity and navigation.

    My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) has tabled a new clause that is parallel to mine. His new clause 7 sets up in each region of Britain a machinery similar to that proposed in my new clause. There is not much difference between our new clauses, although there are differences of detail. I should naturally prefer my version, but when the Minister replies he will have to cover both of them together.

    There is a strong and important case for the representation, or machinery for the representation, of amenity, recreation, navigation and conservation that is separate from the consumer bodies that are incorporated in clause 7. The Minister need not necessarily accept the wording of my new clause or that of my right hon. Friend. However, if he accepts the principle of a separate advisory committee with statutory responsibility and powers, provided with sufficient accommodation and having to make a public report, preferably to the Secretary of State, he accepts the principle that we seek to establish.

    It may be that the Minister cannot accept the precise wording of either my right hon. Friend's clause or mine. However, if he accepts that principle there may be contentment, but if he refuses and says that the Government have considered that the representatives on the consumer advisory committees—those in clause 7—are sufficient for these particular interests, he will be disappointing the House and millions of people.

    I say that because the interests concerned are specific and cover a wide section of the British population. Let us look at some of the separate functions other than the supply and disposal of water through pipes and sewers, which is the main financial and operational obligation on the water authorities. There is navigation on rivers and the large number of recreations on reservoirs. There is commercial navigation and cruising navigation. There is the inland sailing world. Dinghys by the tens of thousands are found on the lakes and rivers.

    There is rowing and canoeing, which are important sports, particularly for young people. There is swimming, water skiing and sub-aqua, all of which are on the margin between sport and recreation because they involve competitive events such as regattas, but can just be a sport for an afternoon of recreation in the real sense of that word.

    On top of all that, there is the world of conservation. The Minister will know that water and conservation is a controversial topic. There have been celebrated cases where the interests of conservation as against flood control or agriculture have been matters of great controversy.

    There is also fishing. Recreational fishing interests and angling are already, to some extent, protected by statutory committees, but when we think of the use of water space and the way in which rivers, streams and reservoirs are used for surface recreation or for angling, and for the raising of fishing stock and conservation, it is clear that they must be taken together.

    Thus, although fishing is already provided for by statutory committees, if we examine recreation, conservation and amenity as a whole, it is clear that the anglers and the fishing fraternity must be there. As everybody knows, more people go fishing on a Saturday than go to football matches. It is a rapidly growing recreation, which is also a sport because there is competition in it. It is a strong and proper amenity interest.

    The Government cannot deny any of those facts. However, as it stands, clause 7 provides only the very weakest nod in the direction of consumer interests. Clause 7 does not set up machinery in the sense of statutory consumer councils. It does not even—I see the Minister nodding his head in agreement—set up something as strong as the Post Office consumer council. Hon. Members will know from their mail just how strong or weak the Post Office statutory machine is. The electricity boards also have statutory consultative machinery, as do the gas boards, but hon. Members will also know from their mail just how effective or not those bodies can be. Clause 7 arrangements do not even meet the general arrangements of the public utilities.

    Clause 7 is for all water "consumers". Water consumers, in the sense of that word, are primarily consumers of pure water coming in pipes through a public service, or private in some cases—a service that we all appreciate and depend upon as the events of this week have shown—and its disposal. That is the prime and main objective and duty of the regional water authorities—the complete water cycle. A great deal of money, investment and technical and managerial expertise goes into that complex process.

    Industry is interested in water as well because it uses water in vast quantities. Water is a major raw material. The water authorities also get rid of dirty water in vast quantities, and the cost of that is a very important component not only for industry but for the regional water authorities. As there are all these consumers, it is clear that any consumer council in any regional water authority must, almost by function, be primarily concerned with these major matters of clean water supply and dirty water disposal and purification.

    I hope that the Government do not stick to their amendment No. 15 to clause 7. In it, they say that for the purpose of clause 7
    "'consumers' include persons who use or are likely to use, for the purpose of recreation, any water or land associated with water".
    In other words, the Government are making it clear that they extend the definition of consumer to all the interests that I have outlined. In strict terms that is so, and may include those who walk by water on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon stroll.

    Does the Minister think that the manifold interests that I have outlined in a whole area, say from Southend to Hull, or from Cirencester to Barking in the Thames water authority can be looked after by one, two or even half a dozen representatives in a consumer machinery that is not laid down in the Bill, and which will be primarily concerned with the major duties of the regional water authorities? I have known the Minister for a long time. I do not believe that he will try to persuade the House that that is what the Government think. The hon. Gentleman knows from his experience as an hon. Member the difficulties that have arisen for local committees covering perhaps a town or half a county in relation to the gas and electricity undertakings and the Post Office.

    How on earth will the arrangements under clause 7 be able to cope with the amenity and recreation interests that I have mentioned? I do not believe that the Minister will properly be able to claim that they can. That is why I have tabled my new clause and why new clause 7 has also been suggested. Our proposals will not give any powers to amenity or recreational committees. They will only establish and constitute them, provide them with offices together with a few people to carry out secretarial work, and ensure that an annual report is made. I would have thought such proposals to be almost harmless. What objection can any Government possibly have to that type of arrangement? Without it, there will be enormous difficulty.

    5 pm

    In many parts of the country, there are good non-statutory arrangements. A number of unofficial committees have evolved in some water authorities as they have settled down over the last 10 years. They work only within the context of local authority representation on the water authorities with a hierarchy of committees manned by local representations. There has been criticism that the committees have not become sufficiently well known or as efficient as might have been the case. It is, however, undeniable that the unofficial and non-statutory arrangements, which may be operating well in may places, are rooted in the local authority sub-structure. However, the Government are removing the local authority sub-structure. There is at least a risk, given the nine or 15 directly appointed gentlemen from Whitehall who are to take their place, that the unofficial and non-statutory arrangements will be unable to flourish as they have done.

    If these arrangements are to continue, the Bill ensures that they will operate within a completely different statutory framework. The reaction of many hon. Members will be to call for a statutory consumer network or at least a network related to recreation, navigation and amenity. Until now, this has been handled on a national basis by the Water Space Amenity Commission. Every chairman of a regional water authority has been a member, ex officio, of that body, as he has of the National Water Council. Those two bodies are to be wound up. There will be no national statutory network to sustain and encourage any of the informal arrangements aleady in force. Not only the regional statutory framework, but the national statutory framework, is changed. The Water Space Amenity Commission had a duty to advise water authorities on their statutory functions under sections 20 to 22 of the parent 1973 Act. That also disappears. It is yet another reason why there is need to subsitute at local level some form of statutory advisory committee.

    I should like to make a regional point of some significance. As the hon. Member for Newham, South, I have the privilege of being a Thames riparian member. The Thames is Britain's premier river. The management of the river is well known throughout the world for its efficiency. The old story of the water of the Thames having gone through five or six stomachs before hon. Members or the people of London drink it is well known. This has only been possible because of excellent water cycle management over the years. The Thames water cycle was working towards the end of the last century and long before the 1973 Act.

    What the Minister may not know is that the River Thames has been managed by local representatives since 1750 when the first Thames commissioners were appointed. An Act of 1770 set them up in a big way. The commissioners were numerous. They included every riverside hon. Member and the mayor of every Thames riverside town as well as landowners and others. In the middle of the last century, the Thames Conservancy was created and went out of existence only in 1973.

    Under the Bill's proposals, the Thames Water Authority is to be managed by Whitehall nominees. All local representation in the management of the Thames, for the first time in over 200 years, will disappear. That may be claimed to be an emotional point. It is, I believe, much more. The management of the Thames, especially the Thames Conservancy of blessed memory, has an enviable reputation in combining the fundamental functions of clean water supply and dirty water disposal together with all the amenities we have come to respect and enjoy.

    The upper Thames, in its semi-artificial state, is the joy of landscape painters. Yet it fulfils all the other functions that I have described. This is because a single body, the Thames Conservancy, was responsible for water supply and disposal and for amenity, recreation, navigation and fisheries. The Minister may argue that this state of affairs will continue. That is not so. It will not be the same. Although the Thames Water Authority will be responsible, those managing it will not be local people. For the first time in history, they will be appointed by the Secretary of State. It will be a very different local set-up. This will be repeated all over the country, not merely for the other navigable rivers such as the Trent and the Severn, and the Calder and the Ouse, but for every reservoir owned by local authorities where the local council or an adjacent council has been able to have its say on the board. All that is to disappear. Nothing adequate is at the moment to take its place.

    On the issue of specific water recreational advisory committees, I would have thought that the Government would leap at the opportunity. Hon. Members hear so often that the Government wish to safeguard the public, to set the people free and to give power to the people. It is a theme heard constantly from Conservative Members. I seem to recall hearing it often from the Prime Minister herself. We hear constant criticism of bureaucrats. We hear constant criticism of quangos. However, what are the Government doing? They are doing the exact opposite. They are creating new quango water authorities, which are directly appointed by Whitehall, and they are putting fully-paid bureaucrats in charge of them, with no additional safeguard for the public.

    I shall not argue about whether what these new bodies do is necessary. That is not part of this debate. The Government think that it is necessary, and they have so persuaded the Committee and the House on Second Reading. If that is so, they have a reciprocal obligation to see that the risks of so doing, the risks of bureaucracy, and the risks inherent in every quango are dealt with, and that the public are properly safeguarded. That is fully in line with their election manifesto.

    I hope that I have shown that the safeguards are not at all adequate. The responsibilities of water authorities are clear. In sections 20, 21 and 22, the responsibilities are clear. Section 20 deals with navigation and recreation. Section 22 says that regional water authorities
    "shall have regard to the desirability of preserving natural beauty, of conserving flora, fauna and geological or physiographical features of special interest, and of protecting buildings and other objects of architectural, archaeological or historic interest and shall take into account any effect which the proposals would have on the beauty of, or amenity in, any rural or urban area or on any such flora, fauna, features, buildings or objects".
    As I said, hon. Members know how much correspondence these matters engender. If no such proper amenity and recreation local committees are set up, local Members will have to handle these issues. I am sure that no one on the Government Benches wants extra mileage on those issues, because we all know how much mileage they will generate and how strong feelings are. If we have a regional recreational advisory committee where people interested in these matters can get together with the experts of the regional water authorities and administrators, and perhaps discuss informally how these matters can best be dealt with, come to the optimum solutions, and put them to the water authority, hon. Members need not be bothered—nor, indeed, the Minister. At present, no such possibility exists in practice.

    The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment gave an undertaking on 9 December 1982 in Committee. He said:
    "We shall seek to write into the Bill the reaffirmation of the statutory position that was included in the 1973 Act. This will ensure that under the new Act regional water authorities will have to provide the kind of linkages whose description I gave in the first part of my reply."—[Official Report, Standing Committee B, 9 December 1982; c. 200.]
    Linkage is the fundamental issue. In their amendment to clause 7, the Government are trying to say that the general consumer councils will be the linkage. I hope that I have shown that they will not be adequate and that they will not do the job.

    Although there has been little notice, I have received some support for that view. I have had letters of support from the British Canoe Union, the River Thames Society, the Countryside Commission, the Salmon and Trout Association, the Inland Waterways Association, the British Water Ski Federation, the Sports Council for England, the Sports Council for Wales, the Central Council of Physical Recreation, the Council for the Protection for Rural England, the Calder Navigation Society, and the Broads Society, as well as many letters from subsidiary organisations, branches and individuals.

    5.15 pm

    I want to quote the letter I received only this morning from the North West Council for Sport and Recreation which says:
    "This Clause we would support since, within the North West Region, the Regional Water Authority, through its various holdings, has a major influence on recreation. Its land holdings total some 150,000 acres, of which thirty-eight thousand are within the Lake District. The remainder is distributed … as follows:—
    • 47,000 acres in Lancashire
    • 36,000 acres in Cheshire
    • 10,000 acres in Merseyside
    • 19,000 in G.M.C.
    … There are also some 3,000 miles of river, and in excess of three hundred reservoirs."
    That is in the North-West region alone. To suggest that the interests and dilemmas inherent in that scale of plant can be dealt with by clause 7 committees is unrealistic in the extreme.

    I look forward to hearing the Minister's reply, because I know that his practical common sense, if nothing else, will ensure that even if he cannot accept the wording of the new clause, he will accept the principles and thinking behind it.

    So as to keep my speech within reasonable bounds, I shall adopt most of the arguments that were put by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), whom I congratulate on his assiduous devotion to this issue, particularly during the Christmas recess, and on the trouble that he has taken to get in touch with many of the organisations which are directly involved.

    It is well within the knowledge of hon. Members that when the 1973 Water Act went through this place, the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) described the use of our water resources for the purposes of recreation, sport and amenity as the third dimension—a totally new dimension in the use of the nation's water resources. That thinking, with which both sides of the House agreed, led the Government in the Committee on that legislation in 1973 to make arrangements for the Water Space Amenity Commission and to relate them directly to the National Water Council.

    The dilemma in which we now find ourselves is that the Government, for reasons best known to themselves—only a Conservative Government could do this, and it is a matter to which we shall return again and again—have decided to abolish the nationalised industry of the National Water Council, and establish in its place 10 new nationalised industries. That rate of inflation exceeds everything they have done on the economic front. So we are faced with the dilemma of how to translate what the House wanted, the meaning of the 1973 proposals to create a national Water Space Amenity Commission, in a meaningful fashion in the new 10 independent authorities.

    My hon. Friend read out the undertaking that was given by the Minister in Committee, so I shall content myself with merely referring to it. The Minister said that the use of water resources for recreation, sport and amenity was such an important matter that he would seek to protect its statutory provision in the 1973 Act. Now we have before us the Government's proposals in that regard, amendment No. 15. The Government are trying to persuade the House that, by giving sports, recreation, amenity and conservation interests representation on a consumer council for each of the regional water authorities and the Welsh water authority, they are providing an adequate substitute for the much more vigorous and direct powers of the old Water Space Amenity Commission.

    We reject the Minister's proposal, although we accept that he has made it in good faith. We do not believe that it gets anywhere near giving statutory rights to sporting, recreation and amenity bodies in the way that existed under the old WSAC arrangement. That is the principal reason why we shall be voting against the Minister's proposal and supporting the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), which is a much more adequate substitute.

    Why is it proposed to eliminate WSAC from statutory provisions? How did the Government reach such a decision? We know that there was no consultation with WSAC. It was not even asked about its future. It was eliminated overnight. General Galtieri could not have done a more effective job of elimination than that which was carried out by Ministers. That is what happened to the WSAC. That has raised our suspicions and those of all concerned with sport and recreation.

    Everyone who has had any association with the WSAC will concede that it has done an outstanding job of work. I was responsible for these matters for five years while in government and I consider that its most important achievement was to ensure, on account of its statutory provision, that every one of the 10 water authorities took recreation and sporting amenities fully into account and ensured that the legitimate interests of anglers, boaters, swimmers, campers, caravanners, preservationists and amenity bodies were safeguarded by the authorities.

    When I was a Minister I found it invaluable to be able to ask WSAC for its advice. I have in mind the attitudes of a number of water authorities but I think that they have probably changed now. However, they might persist, and it must be remembered that we are legislating for the next 50 or 100 years. We are not doing so for those who are here now. No doubt it is the Minister's hope that the Bill, when enacted, will remain on the statute book for 50 or 100 years. If his hope is fulfilled, he cannot know who will be controlling these interests in future.

    When on holiday in the south-west and the north-west I discovered lakes of considerable amenity importance that were not accessible to the public. On two pleasant occasions following two successive holidays I returned to my ministerial office and sent short, sharp messages to WSAC and the water authorities concerned to ask why lakes, which were public property and which they had the privilege of managing on behalf of the nation, had railings all around them to ensure that the public had no access to them.

    I am glad to say that in both instances action was taken very shortly after the writing of my letters. However, action in the north-west was taken only as a result of WSAC's intervention. It persuaded the regional water authority concerned that there was no danger in allowing the public access to Thirlmere and that such access was in every way justifiable. It stressed in its intervention that the public should have access both to the water resource and to the immediate gathering grounds for activities such as camping and rambling. The public had always had access for angling purposes.

    It is proposed that we should eliminate all local authority representatives from any right of membership on any of the regional water authorities. The Bill removes the rights of the ombudsman. On new clause 3, we shall be discussing the right of the press to have access to all the meetings of water authorities. We are asked to remove all these safeguards and to take it on trust from the Minister and the Government that sport and recreation will get a fair deal and that we can rest content with consumer councils providing the answer to the problem.

    As I said in Committee, it is my view that consumer councils are not a great source of satisfaction to any of us who know in practice what they can achieve. We shall have another toothless wonder which will not satisfy anglers, water skiers, ramblers, swimmers, campers, caravanners, conservation interests and countryside interests. In new clause 7 we seek to say that there should be representatives of the Countryside Commission, the English tourist board, the Sports Council and the National Anglers Council on the sort of body that we have recommended in the clause, having regard to the new type of authorities that have been created.

    I cannot understand why the Minister is not prepared to have a water space amenity council set up as of right by statute. Even that would give only half the provision that sportsmen and amenity interests have at present with WSAC as a national body. However, it would be better than nothing.

    Statutory representation on a consumer council must, by definition, be limited. Presumably such a council will consider a range of water matters including charging, the quality of water and the efficiency of an authority in dealing, for example, with repairs. Sport and recreation interests will be only one small part of a consumer council. Let us acknowledge what the House acknowledged, that sport and recreation is a new dimension of growing importance. Its importance can never be overstated.

    The number of people with enforced leisure available to them who wish to take advantage of the opportunities that we wish them to have is growing. There are the 4 million unemployed, those who are retiring earlier because of the economic situation or from personal preference and those who have more extended holidays available to them now than ever before. This means that the leisure provision of the nation is of growing significance in its affairs. This should be reflected by establishing in every area an organisation akin to that which has been available for the past 10 years at national level.

    Is there not a danger also that the majority within the consumer councils may be at variance with the minority view of those who are interested in recreation in areas where there are water facilities?

    That must be an obvious danger. If there are representatives on the councils of commercial interests, trade unions and consumers generally, the representatives of sport and recreation will be outnumbered. It would have been even more pertinent if my hon. Friend had said that the interests of those who are concerned about recreation will be sometimes diametrically opposed to some of the other interests that will be found represented on consumer councils. Many of the other representatives will say that the only issue that matters to them is keeping down the price of water. Some of us will be saying that it is important, even if it involves a slight extra cost, to provide services that ensure that water is used as an amenity for the whole nation. Therefore, my hon. Friend has made a pertinent point.

    5.30 pm

    I shall not labour my intervention, but I want to record my great concern on behalf of sporting and recreation interests that the Government have not acceded to our proposal that every water authority should have a water space amenity council.

    When the Government consulted on this matter, they did not consult WSAC itself. They consulted the sports bodies widely. About 200 sports bodies are members of the Sports Council. They consulted all the countryside and amenity bodies associated with the Countryside Commission. When the Government consulted all those bodies, not a single sporting, recreational or amenity organisation supported their proposals. All were largely hostile to them. We shall reflect that hostility by voting against the Government's proposals, which means that we shall vote for new clause 1, although I hope that the Minister, even at this late stage, will obviate the necessity to do that by telling us that he is prepared to have another think about the matters that we regard as being of considerable importance.

    I wish to speak to amendment No. 13. In Committee I expressed concern about clause 7 as proposed because many organisations such as the National Farmers Union, which, in addition to local authorities, are entitled to nominate representatives to consumer consultative committees, are particularly concerned that water authorities would continue rejecting nominees until they were offered a name that was acceptable to them. In reply to my concern, the Minister gave two reasons why he was not willing to accept my amendment—first, that the Government were engaged in consultation on guidelines for consumer consultative committees and did not wish to pre-empt the result, and secondly, that there should be provision for water authorities to refuse a nomination if they were aware of something that made it inappropriate for the nominee to be appointed. He added that a nominated person might be in dispute with the authority. One wonders whether such a person might be an ideal person for such a committee. Perhaps the Minister was referring to a legal dispute rather than one of another nature.

    With regard to the first part of the Minister's answer, the laying down of certain general requirements by Parliament in this legislation would not appear to be inconsistent with continuing consultation on the details of the constitution and operation of consumer consultative committees. With regard to the second part of the Minister's answer, the amendment allows scope for just such an eventuality through the intervention of the Secretary of State.

    I am also concerned that the clause appears to refer specifically to the Secretary of State for the Environment rather than the Secretary of State for Trade, or, more properly, the Minister for Consumer Affairs, who would be the most appropriate guardian of the public interest. I appreciate that the matter is being dealt with in haste, but I am concerned that the public, who would need to refer to those consumer consultative committees, ought to be clear that they are at arm's length and that the water authorities would not therefore be controlling them.

    I appreciate that the ultimate appeal is through the Member of Parliament, but my hon. Friend the Minister will appreciate that we already have considerable demands on our time by way of complaints against various public utility undertakings. I hope that we shall be able to try to reduce the volume of complaints that we are likely to receive by ensuring that the public are clear and satisfied with the service that is provided. Therefore, I hope that we can make it clear that there are no conflicts of interest. It would seem right and proper that the Minister for Consumer Affairs was intimately involved in the matter. That surely is what his job is all about.

    Therefore, I urge my hon. Friend to re-examine my points in the interests of and in fairness to the consumer. I hope that in doing so he will be able to allay the very real fears that exist on this subject.

    I was unable to hear the whole of the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing). I believe that it was extremely substantial. I am sure that he made a convincing case.

    I shall refer in particular to new clause 1 because I fear that under the new structure we shall remove the water authorities from political sensitivity. In my part of the world the thousands of people who are interested in angling have to travel many miles to indulge in their chosen activity. If present policies persist they will not have to travel many miles, but they will find it increasingly difficult to exercise proper political pressure to secure a higher priority for the necessary improvement of our rivers and streams.

    It is dangerous to try to establish a structure that protects a body from political pressure and insulates it from necessary sensitivity. I hope that my hon. Friend's argument, the comments made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) and the obvious logic of new clause 1 will lead the Minister to look carefully at the matter.

    This week I have been looking at a recent publication by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Today I wrote to Ministers in the Department of the Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, which in many ways is perhaps a bigger villain in the piece than the Department of the Environment. That formidable document, which I hope will receive ministerial attention, concludes that there is already excessive secrecy in many areas of concern. If the environmental and conservation interests, with which I am heavily associated, are to fear that there will be further secrecy and greater insensitivity, the frustration and justified anger that are already felt will increase.

    Given my right hon. Friend's argument about the increase in leisure time and the need for adequate access and conservation arrangements, the conservation interests are entitled to feel that they should be given an opportunity to express adequately the real concern about secrecy and the waste of public money. That concern is clearly and formidably presented in the report.

    The contribution of my right hon. Friend the Member for Small Heath was convincing. He demonstrated the need for ministerial holidays. I am glad that his holidays were put to good use.

    indicated assent

    I am glad that the Minister agrees, because this Government are more in need of a long holiday than any previous Government. The longer holidays they have, the less damage they will do.

    The situation is unsatisfactory at present. The Bill is likely to make things worse. My hon. Friend's proposal is a useful way of ameliorating the defects inherent in the Bill. I trust that the Minister will build on the remarks that he made last year, which suggested that he would take a helpful view on this matter. His remarks will be logical and consistent if he accepts my hon. Friend's proposals.

    I wish to speak to amendment No. 10, dealing with representation on the water consumer committees. We are all well aware that local authorites and councillors—I speak as vice-president of the Association of District Councils—were very unhappy about the Government's proposal to change the structure of the boards. We received a great deal of correspondence and many people felt bitter about this. I do not share their view. I believe that the Government have taken the right course. It should be placed on record, however, that many councillors felt that they were doing a reasonable job on the water authorities and have now lost representation. Of course, some of them were keen, took an active interest and served the water authorities well, although there were others, unfortunately, who did not turn up. In other cases the turnover was too rapid. Nevertheless, the background is that local authorities felt deprived of representation.

    The water authorities arose out of local government and were originally the creatures of district or borough councils. There is thus a feeling that something of the past has been cut off and local authorities feel deprived of representation. Although I do not necessarily support that view, it is important that that anxiety should be on record.

    With regard to the consumer committees, local authorities feel that instead of merely suggesting nominations, as at present proposed, they should be able to nominate to the new consumer committees as of right. This would at least increase their involvement and elected representatives could express the views of those whom they represent at consumer council level. I support that view.

    My amendment also suggests that the chairmen of consumer committees should be elected from among the members. I rather support that view. I support the view expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) that the consumer committees should be at arm's length from the water authorities if the committees are to have any strength at all. One of the weaknesses of the gas and electricity consumer councils is that they are too close to the nationalised industries involved. I certainly favour keeping the consumer committees at arm's length.

    I tabled my amendment—I know that I cannot move it at this stage—because I believe that this aspect requires careful consideration. Local authorities feel strongly about it and the Association of District Councils asked me to table the amendment.

    I have been approached by the Reading ratepayers, who are very active in my constituency, about the rights of ratepayers to examine water authorities' accounts. Despite pressure to remove those rights, they were maintained before the latest proposal. The Government gave way on that occasion and allowed such examinations to continue so that ratepayers could make a considered judgment as to whether their money was being used wisely and carefully. The ratepayers now fear that that power is being removed. I am not sure whether that is so. Perhaps the Minister will make it clear whether the new proposals deny ratepayers the right to examine the accounts. The powers may in fact remain, but the Reading ratepayers suspect that that is not the case and have asked me to raise the matter. That is, of course, the view of most ratepayers' associations throughout the country, but the Reading group approached me as the local Member of Parliament.

    Having explained the reasons for my amendment, I shall listen carefully to the Minister's reply. I shall also be interested to hear his views about the examination of accounts.

    I have some sympathy with the views of the hon. Member for Newham, South on the leisure aspects of the water industry. I am a member of IWAAC—the Inland Waterways Amenity Advisory Council—so I am very much involved with the Thames and other waterways and amenities. I am also a member of the Southern Sports council, so I have a considerable interest in the points raised. I am nervous about the hon. Gentleman's proposal, however, in that he seems to be proposing another quango and I am nervous about quangos. That is why I am not entirely convinced by his argument.

    If a quango is a quasi-autonomous national government organisation, the water authorities themselves are quangos, but surely a consumer and/or advisory committee as it were shadowing a quango cannot also be a quango.

    5.45 pm

    What quangos are is a matter of opinion, although the hon. Gentleman's interpretation is certainly correct in terms of the meaning put forward by at least one of my hon. Friends. Nevertheless, all such bodies tend to breed more bodies, so I am reluctant to create another.

    Yes, IWAAC is a quango of a sort, but we managed to save it. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman and I were both involved in saving it.

    To sum up, I have sympathy with the hon. Gentleman's view but I am not sure that his proposal is the best way to proceed and I shall be interested to hear the Minister's response to the new clause. The main burden of my speech, however, relates to amendment No. 10 dealing with representation. Having explained the purpose of that amendment, I shall be interested to hear the Minister's comments.

    I have some sympathy with the hon. Member for Reading, North (Mr. Durant) in his dislike of quangos, but he set out from an illogical position. He should have attacked the Government's proposals and suggested that the water authorities should be under democratic control. The proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) would not then be necessary. Having started from the Government's proposal to set up the new quangos—the water authorities—and to remove democratically elected representation, it is important to redress the balance and to have some representation for recreational interests in the decision-making process. I am therefore happy to support my hon. Friend's proposal at this stage. If we have to put up with the Government's basic framework, it is important that recreational interests be included in the consultation process and can make their voices heard.

    The Government suggest that this could be achieved simply by setting up a consumer body and including in it one or perhaps two people representing recreational interests. The Minister cannot have thought very carefully about the problems involved, as there are major conflicts between the various recreational interests. One could not expect one person or even two people to represent all the conflicting interests. Inevitably, the person involved will have a particular background—he may have a keen interest in fishing, boating or some other aspect—but he will be expected to represent not only the groups of recreational users with which he has been associated but many others with which he is regularly and frequently in conflict about the use of resources.

    If the dialogue is to be useful, it must be a two-way process in which the recreational users can put their views to the water authority, which may in turn explain the difficulties, problems of cost or other reasons why it cannot do as much as those users wish. The conflicts between the different recreational users may be resolved through an advisory body of that nature, but it would be extremely difficult for that process to be channeled through just one or two members of a consumer body.

    I cite one problem. I am continually approached by fishermen in my constituency who are most aggrieved at the loss of angling facilities. Fishermen point out the tremendous pressure in some urban areas to fill in ponds because some people can make money by doing that. They discover that their ponds disappear or that they must pay an increased rate for their use because the landowner says that he can make more money by filling it with rubbish than by fishermen stocking it with fish and fishing it.

    Fishermen find that the number of areas that they can use is being eroded. They are always looking for new ones. They can use reservoirs in the north of England, but they want more areas to use. They also point out the increasing conflict about the uses to which existing areas of water should be put. They say that there is far more competition than there used to be.

    There are now many more people who enjoy canoeing. Twenty of thirty years ago few people owned canoes in Britain. Buying canvas and plywood to make a canoe involved a good deal of pocket money and much time spent on a Saturday job. It is now much cheaper for a youngster to buy a fibreglass canoe or to make it himself. Immediately, we are faced with conflict between fishermen who do not want waters to be disturbed and someone who wants to splash about in a canoe.

    Twenty or thirty years ago it was unusual for someone to own a power boat and for the peace and quiet of a space of water to be disturbed by an outboard motor. It is now much cheaper and easier for people to go boating with such motors. The new sport of windsurfing also demands open water. All those interests want more water space and more opportunity for recreation. Far more people have far more time and money to spend on such recreations.

    There is also the conservationists' interests. They want to preserve more water space for wildlife which is not disturbed by people or noisy boats. It is extremely difficult for a water authority to reconcile all those interests. There is a danger that a water authority will simply say: "Because we are being pressed by so many conflicting recreational interests, we shall do nothing about any of them."

    One of the things that the National Water Council has managed to do in the past few years is demonstrate that conflicting interests can be reconciled. It has also enabled recreational users to have more insight into each other's problems and to encourage greater understanding and co-operation in the use of water amenities. By setting up a proper recreational users' body, such interests could be reconciled much more effectively.

    Who will campaign for more resources? That is another important subject. I regret the tendency among water authorities to give low priority to recreational interests. Some water authorities have given much more attention to public relations and saying that they are doing something for recreational users than they have to achieving something practical.

    With regard to river pollution, much could be done for anglers in the north-west if rivers such as the Mersey and the Irwell were cleaned up. Much is being done to channel effluent into sewers, but there is still occasional pollution of those rivers. The pollution is often sewage and it is often the water authorities who are to blame. Such effluent may not make the rivers much more obnoxious but a sudden shock of noxious material kills many fish. Therefore, some rivers cannot be stocked with fish, not because the normal level of pollution is too high for them to survive but because they are occasionally killed off by shocks of pollution.

    The Government have made some play about extra money for cleaning up the Mersey, but many of my constituents want more to happen. They believe that a forceful recreational users' advisory committee could campaign far more for rivers to be cleaned up so that they may be brought back into recreational use, especially for fishermen.

    In the north-west, there are many old reservoirs that were built by water authorities in the last century. Many did not have treatment plant, so water went straight from the reservoir to the tap. Much more could be done to ensure that some of those reservoirs are brought into public use, especially for sailing and canoeing. It is now rare for water in such reservoirs to find its way straight to the tap without passing through treatment plant.

    Not only does the water authority in the north-west have substantial areas of reservoirs and rivers, it owns large tracts of moorland. It undertook in the last century to maintain clear areas of land so that water going to the reservoirs would not be polluted. Now that water is treated by cleaning plant, it is far easier to gain access to those moorland areas but large areas are still not open and access to them could be allowed.

    Water authorities are also under pressure to balance their books. The water authority in the north-west is increasingly under pressure to plant conifer trees on its land. That may increase its income but it is changing the landscape. Groups that are concerned with the conservation of wildlife are unhappy about that development. An advisory body should be able to discuss those matters.

    It used to be a tradition in the Greater Manchester area to flood land in the river valleys during the winter to take off storm water. In January and February the flooded water meadows froze over. The water was often less than a foot deep and it provided an attractive area to go skating. Most water authorities have stopped that practice.

    Far more should be done to increase recreational uses. That cannot be done by putting one or two people on a consumer body. Many interests are involved and there is bound to be conflict. The best solution is to set up an advisory body to ensure that there are regular meetings between that body and the water authority so that conflicts can be discussed and water authorities contributions to the quantity of areas for leisure amenities can be extended.

    I beg the Minister to accept the amendment. If the Government are not prepared to accept it at this stage, the subject should at least be examined carefully in the other place. I am sure that many noble Lords will want to discuss the subject at greater length. There is much interest in wildlife, conservation and recreational uses in the other place. I hope that before the Bill becomes an Act, the Government will accept the spirit of the amendment even if they do not like its present wording.

    Water authorities have a uniquely important role in recreation. I wish to speak in support of the broad aims of new clause 1.

    Recreation involves a wide range of sports, activities and amenity groups. Each of those groups generally forms itself either into an association or a club. They are enthusiasts. It is vital that they should be enabled to be in close contact with water authorities. By being members of a recreational committee, their influence as a spur to water authorities to improve amenities, and as a body that receives information from water authorities, would be enhanced. As often as not, it is the lack of communication between people and authority that can lead to misunderstandings and difficulties. The advantage of having committees of people drawn from groups, associations and bodies that are especially knowledgeable, and have their feet on the ground, would be of great importance in cutting through any areas of misunderstanding between their objectives and those of the water authorities.

    6 pm

    In many parts of Britain the water authorities have done a good job. For instance reservoirs that have been opened for fishing have produced a marvellous amenity. I could not conceive of a reservoir where fishing had been introduced being closed because it had not been fully utilised. Membership of some of the reservoir fishing clubs has to be restricted because of the large numbers of people wishing to fish. But in some areas reservoirs are lying idle and have not been opened up to sport. If the committees are established they could draw the attention of water authorities to the opportunities that could be developed to give more people a better chance to enjoy themselves in the country.

    I shall listen with great care to what my hon. Friend the Minister has to say. I hope that he will consider the position of those who have colossal enthusiasm and wish to play a part in developing recreation in Britain. It is those who will be of the greatest benefit to the greatest number of people.

    I shall speak briefly to new clauses 1 and 7. As the Bill proceeded through Committee, we were told that the Government's objective was a more efficient water industry. My hon. Friends and I must ask ourselves, at what price? That is what the debate is about. The traditional industry, is being transformed from a public service into a profit-making exercise, perhaps pending privatisation. The Minister and his hon. Friends have concluded that the previous arrangement of WSAC was an encumberance—an obstruction to profitability in the industry—which is why it is being so ruthlessly phased out.

    Consultation with various bodies, which was provided for in the water industry as it has traditionally existed, is being removed—whether it be with local authority representatives on the water authorities, the ombudsman or the press. In this debate, I am concerned with the body that has taken upon itself the responsibility to guard the nation's interests in recreational water facilities. The new clauses would create regional WSACs. That is being done in the spirit to which the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) in 1973 referred as the third dimension. That was also referred to by the Opposition. The third dimension in 1973 related to water recreation, wildlife sports—including angling and fishing—skiing, canoeing, sailing, diving, adventure holidaying and water conservation—all areas in which it could be seen that the public would have a recreational interest.

    The public's great fear about the Bill is that the Government are no longer sensitive about those issues, but are preoccupied with ensuring that water authorities make profits irrespective of the wider public interest. The Opposition wish to establish who will assume those responsibilities. The Government's amendments deal only partly with that because it seeks only to place on consumer committees those who are likely to use water or land associated with water for recreational purposes. That is a sop—an inadequate substitute for what has traditionally existed. As I said when I intervened earlier, we are deeply concerned that the representation of recreation on the consumer committees will be outvoted and dominated by other interests.

    When the Minister replies, he should direct himself directly to that matter. It is his role to convince the House that those interests, as they have been traditionally represented, will be equally represented by the two persons serving on the proposed consumer committees.

    The new clauses recognise the need for the widest form of representation, whether that be the Countryside Commission and its members with an interest in the protection of the countryside; the English tourist board that has a traditional interest in exploiting water resources for tourist purposes; the Sports Council, which will be represented because of its interest in water-related sporting activities; the local authorities that will be represented for obvious reasons or the anglers who must have a direct interest. My constituency and those of two members of the Cabinet form part of the British lakeland in Cumbria. I hope that they want the most effective representation of angling groups. Perhaps excluded—but I am sure that the spirit is embodied in the new clauses—are the representatives of the national park planning boards and the Lake District planning board.

    All those organisations have a real interest in an area that has traditionally been the responsibility of the WSAC. We want the WSAC to be replaced by regional WSACs that have exactly the same responsibilities. They must have equal access to Ministers so that the voice of the recreational consumer in the national parks and urban areas can be heard clearly. Millions of people from urban areas annually descend upon the national parks and their voices must not he stifled by the commercial interests that will dominate the inadequate consumer councils proposed by the Government.

    We have had a substantial debate about various aspects of recreation. It is an important area, and I understand why right hon. and hon. Members wish to contribute to the debate. The water authorities operate in large measure within the terms of reference laid down, and unaltered, in the 1973 Act. Section 20 makes it clear that they have a duty that they must discharge. It requires them

    "to take such steps as are reasonably practicable for putting their rights to the use of water and of any land associated with water to the best use for those purposes."
    Those purposes are the importance of recreation and amenity. They must discharge that duty, which is in no way altered by the provisions of the Bill.

    We are debating the appropriate arrangements for consumers and whether I can satisfy the House that arrangements for those who use recreational facilities will be provided. In that context, the Government put down amendment No. 15, which defines consumers as those persons who participate in recreation. The amendment triggers clause 7, which allows duties to be imposed to make provision for consumers in the water authorities, including the consumers of recreation.

    In Committee I quoted from a letter that I received from the chairman of the South-West regional water authority, who was writing on behalf of all other water authority chairmen. He committed them to national consultation with national recreational and sporting bodies. A recreational and amenity advisory committee will be formed within the proposed association of water authorities, which will provide a forum of discussion with the recreational and sporting bodies as and when a need for such meetings is identified.

    This is not WSAC in another guise. Hon. Members have rightly drawn attention to WSAC's substantial contribution but the fact that WSAC would be wound up by the Bill shows that in large measure WSAC has done its job. That was to ensure that the recreational potential for water authorities should be properly and fully developed. In the period of about 10 years in which WSAC operated under the ambit of the Water Act 1973, that duty has been largely discharged. The water authorities agree that there should be consultation at the national level.

    Hon. Members are anxious, especially the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) who moved new clause 1, about the Committee's intention to consult bodies connected with conservation, in respect of which water authorities are under a duty under section 22 of the 1973 Act. Given the importance widely attributed to nature conservation, which was referred to by the hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Hardy), the House will welcome the linkage at the national level.

    I also said in Committee that in all regional water authority areas it was intended to include sport and recreation committees to establish links at the regional level with sporting organisations. Amendment No. 15 will allow that to be done within the ambit of clause 7, which will provide that adequate arrangements must be made for consulting consumers and that the Secretary of State must approve such arrangements before they can be implemented. In our opinion that is the correct place for the amendment. Those who use recreational facilities are consumers with a special interest. Amendment No. 15 emphasises that the special interests of those consumers will be catered for by the water authorities when they prepare their report and arrangements under clause 7.

    If by accepting amendment No. 15, we somehow strengthen representation on the consumer councils, how is it that consumer councils in Wales, before the amendment was tabled, could have fishing, recreational and amenity interests on those bodies?

    The right hon. Gentleman raised a similar point in Committee. The legislation under which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales acted in the intermediate period will subsumed by clause 7. Together, the two provisions will provide that wealth of consumer consultation so beloved by the Welsh.

    Unlike new clauses 1 and 7, our amendment does not provide for the establishment of new bodies. We do not think it appropriate to spell out in detail in primary legislation the committees and their constitutions that are necessary to meet the needs as they are perceived today. Needs vary over time and there is a substantial variation in the requirements of individual regional water authorities and their consumers, ranging from very small authorities to very large ones.

    We intend to ensure that water authorities establish committees at regional level. In that way, we could provide linkage with the sport and recreational bodies for which Opposition Members are asking. The water authorities will be required to do so and they will be required to submit proposals to be endorsed by the Secretary of State. That will ensure that the guidelines that we have already circulated for comment, when they are finally submitted and approved, will ensure that the water authorities appoint specific recreation committees that will also deal with conservation issues and ensure that they are consistently applied under each regional water authority.

    I say to the hon. Member for Newham, South, who moved new clause 1, that I accept the need to make a more specific commitment to the process of handling recreational and amenity issues at regional level. The correct way to do that is in a manner consistent with the consultation process with consumers rather than by the establishment by primary legislation of a range of bodies such as he proposes.

    6.15 pm

    My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) sought reassurance about nominations to water authorities' consumer consultative committees. I agree that in principle water authorities should appoint to their consumer consultative committees those who are nominated by the relevant bodies and that the water authorities should not exercise their own preference. We shall make that point clear in the final version of the consumer guidelines.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Reading, North (Mr. Durant) asked about local representation. In the same way, it would be appropriate for local authorities to accept the nominee representatives who are proposed. District councils will have on the consultative committees a representative for each district that comes within the operating division of the water authority so they will constitute a substantial number of those who are entitled to serve on the consultative committees. We have not specified in the consultation document whether those representatives should be a majority. However, I imagine that about half the membership will be drawn from local authorities. I also assure my hon. Friend that there will be no change in the ratepayers' right to examine a cut.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South asked about joint approval of the system of joint consultative committees. I agree that it is appropriate that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade, and the Minister for Consumer Affairs in particular, should agree the final proposals for consumer consultative committees. We shall therefore discuss the proposals with him and he will share in their approval. He should also share in the approval of individual proposals for each regional authority which will emanate from clause 7 when that becomes part of the Bill.

    The House should not accept new clauses in the manner proposed by the hon. Member for Newham, South, and the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell). The proposals that we have made take on board the fact that undertakings should be both taken and delivered that in executing their statutory duties under sections 20 and 22 of the 1973 Act, the regional authorities should set up a structure which reflects at the national level a commitment to consult recreational, amenity and conservation bodies and, at regional level, a separate consultative committee to deal with regional variations of the same bodies. By making that recommendation in our consumer consultative guidelines, we would be separating sport, recreation and conservation from the wide range of issues that would normally be on the agenda of such consumer consultative committees.

    My hon. Friend answered my point about representation, but I should be grateful if he would clarify it again. Can each local authority in the area covered by the consumer consultative committee make a nomination that might be accepted, or will each authority have a nomination to the committee by right? There is a slight difference of emphasis.

    I remind my hon. Friend that the consumer consultative committees are still in draft proposal form. However, it is intended that each committee should be drawn from an area comparable to a water authority division, and within that committee each district council that is represented in the division should have a representative on that committee. The nominations may come from bodies other than individual district councils, such as an association of local authorities, but my purpose in answering my hon. Friend's point was to accept that it would be wrong for water authorities to be selective about local authority representation. Unless there are special reasons, they should normally accept the recommendation of the local authority or the association of local authorities. I hope that that answers my hon. Friend's query.

    My final point, in recommending that the House should accept amendment No. 15 and not the new clauses, is that in understanding what the hon. Member for Newham, South is trying to do, I reiterate that we can and should provide both separation and commitment from local authorities to the recreational, amenity and conservation bodies at regional and national level. It does not require a major addition to this legislation. It requires proper interpretation of the powers in clause 7. It is our final intention that the guidelines to be issued under that clause will provide much of the contact and the commitment that the hon. Gentleman seeks in his amendment.

    I thank the Minister for the great compliment of not dissenting in principle from anything that I said in my speech. I regard his silence on the wide range of matters as a compliment, although he did not make it explicit. I thank my right hon. and hon. Friends the Members for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell), Rother Valley (Mr. Hardy), Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Davis) and Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) for their support, and the hon. Member for Harrogate (Mr. Banks), who supported my sentiments. My hon. Friend the Member for Workington referred to the distinct nature of the Lake District. My proposed new clause contains a flexible constitution. As in the Lake District, where the interests of climbers or walkers on land owned by regional water authorities are taken into account, there is provision for such representation on what I still believe are necessary regional advisory committees. Of course, that representation varies from one part of Britain to another, which is one reason why we need separate and specific legislation.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett) helpfully put his finger on a matter that I should have emphasised more in my opening remarks. That is that the non-dirty water, clean water consumers—the recreation, navigation and conservation interests—are not an interest as a whole but have inbuilt tensions and competition among them. Only in the form that we advocate can they learn to live together and come to a common approach whereby the total value of water space can be enhanced by the minimum contribution of money. After discussing and learning together they can say to the water authority, "We disagree on this, but in general we have come to these conclusions." That process of constant consultation, backed by the statutory duties of providing recommendations and giving advice, alone will provide the results that the Minister believes that he can obtain from his solution. It cannot be done in his way.

    The Minister said that sections 20 and 22 provide the statutory responsibilities. Of course they do, but how are they to be exercised? That is the fundamental question. The hon. Gentleman referred to his speech of 9 December and to the letter from the chairman of the South-West regional water authority. The letter stated that, at regional level, the Government would expect to include in all regional water authority areas sport and recreation committees appointed by the new authorities. That is fine up to a point, but although the Minister mentioned wider interests in his speech, sport and recreation—important though they are—are only part of the total amenity picture. I hope that the non-statutory committees will go wider than that. If they do not, they cannot comprehend, discuss and agree upon the inevitable conflicts that my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North pointed out so eloquently.

    Even if the committees are established on a regional basis, they will be inadequate. The Minister offered some movement in that direction and said that the guidelines, which we have not yet seen, will require such committees. He went on to say in reply to the hon. Member for Reading, North (Mr. Durant) that, in addition to a committee for sport, recreation, amenity and conservation—if it is extended that far—there will be regional consumer groups for other matters. There will be difficulties in that proposal, especially if there are guidelines.

    As the Minister has not gone far enough on this matter of principle, and as I have received so much support from all those bodies, and as the central body is being dissolved—the Minister glossed over the central non-statutory machinery—we must protect the interests of the public, who own the water facilities and who have the right to be consulted about their use. On those grounds, I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to support new clause 1.

    Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

    The House divided: Ayes 218, Noes 277.

    Division No. 41]

    [6.27 pm


    Abse, LeoBray, Dr Jeremy
    Adams, AllenBrocklebank-Fowler, C.
    Allaun, FrankBrown, Hugh D. (Provan)
    Alton, DavidBrown, R. C. (N'castle W)
    Anderson, DonaldBrown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)
    Archer, Rt Hon PeterBuchan, Norman
    Ashley, Rt Hon JackCallaghan, Rt Hon J.
    Ashton, JoeCampbell, Ian
    Atkinson, N. (H'gey,)Campbell-Savours, Dale
    Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)Canavan, Dennis
    Beith, A. J.Cant, R. B.
    Benn, Rt Hon TonyCarter-Jones, Lewis
    Booth, Rt Hon AlbertCartwright, John
    Bottomley, Rt Hon A. (M'b'ro)Clark, Dr David (S Shields)

    Clarke, Thomas(C'b'dge, A'rie)Lambie, David
    Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S)Lamond, James
    Cohen, StanleyLeadbitter, Ted
    Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.Leighton, Ronald
    Conlan, BernardLewis, Arthur (N'ham NW)
    Cook, Robin F.Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
    Cowans, HarryLitherland, Robert
    Craigen, J. M. (G'gow, M'hill)Lofthouse, Geoffrey
    Crawshaw, RichardMcCartney, Hugh
    Crowther, StanMcDonald, Dr Oonagh
    Cunliffe, LawrenceMcElhone, Mrs Helen
    Cunningham, G. (Islington S)McKay, Allen (Penistone)
    Cunningham, Dr J. (W'h'n)McKelvey, William
    Davidson, ArthurMacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
    Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)McMahon, Andrew
    Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)McWilliam, John
    Davis, Terry (B'ham, Stechf'd)Marks, Kenneth
    Deakins, EricMarshall, D (G'gow S'ton)
    Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
    Dewar, DonaldMartin, M (G'gow S'burn)
    Dixon, DonaldMason, Rt Hon Roy
    Dobson, FrankMaxton, John
    Dormand, JackMaynard, Miss Joan
    Douglas, DickMeacher, Michael
    Dubs, AlfredMikardo, Ian
    Dunnett, JackMillan, Rt Hon Bruce
    Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
    Eastham, KenMitchell, Austin (Grimsby)
    Edwards, R. (W'hampt'n S E)Mitchell, R. C. (Soton Itchen)
    Ellis, R. (NE D'bysh're)Morris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw)
    Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
    English, MichaelMorton, George
    Ennals, Rt Hon DavidMoyle, Rt Hon Roland
    Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick
    Evans, John (Newton)Newens, Stanley
    Ewing, HarryOakes, Rt Hon Gordon
    Faulds, AndrewOgden, Eric
    Field, FrankO'Halloran, Michael
    Fitch, AlanO'Neill, Martin
    Flannery, MartinOrme, Rt Hon Stanley
    Foot, Rt Hon MichaelPalmer, Arthur
    Ford, BenPark, George
    Forrester, JohnParker, John
    Foster, DerekParry, Robert
    Foulkes, GeorgePavitt, Laurie
    Freeson, Rt Hon ReginaldPendry, Tom
    Garrett, John (Norwich S)Penhaligon, David
    Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)Pitt, William Henry
    Golding, JohnPowell, Raymond (Ogmore)
    Gourlay, HarryPrescott, John
    Graham, TedPrice, C. (Lewisham W)
    Grimond, Rt Hon J.Race, Reg
    Hamilton, James (Bothwell)Radice, Giles
    Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife)Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S)
    Harman, Harriet (Peckham)Richardson, Jo
    Harrison, Rt Hon WalterRoberts, Albert (Normanton)
    Haynes, FrankRoberts, Allan (Bootle)
    Heffer, Eric S.Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
    Hogg, N. (E Dunb't'nshire)Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
    Holland, S. (L'b'th, Vauxh'll)Robertson, George
    Home Robertson, JohnRobinson, G. (Coventry NW)
    Homewood, WilliamRooker, J. W.
    Hooley, FrankRoper, John
    Howell, Rt Hon D.Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)
    Howells, GeraintSandelson, Neville
    Hoyle, DouglasSever, John
    Huckfield, LesSheerman, Barry
    Hughes, Mark (Durham)Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
    Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)Short, Mrs Renée
    Hughes, Roy (Newport)Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford)
    Janner, Hon GrevilleSilverman, Julius
    Jay, Rt Hon DouglasSkinner, Dennis
    John, BrynmorSnape, Peter
    Johnson, James (Hull West)Soley, Clive
    Johnson, Walter (Derby S)Spearing, Nigel
    Johnston, Russell (Inverness)Spriggs, Leslie
    Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rh'dda)Stallard, A. W.
    Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldSteel, Rt Hon David
    Kerr, RussellStoddart, David
    Kilroy-Silk, RobertStott, Roger

    Strang, GavinWhite, J. (G'gow Pollok)
    Straw, JackWhitlock, William
    Summerskill, Hon Dr ShirleyWigley, Dafydd
    Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
    Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)Williams, Rt Hon A. (S'sea W)
    Thomas, Dr R (Carmarthen)Williams, Rt Hon Mrs (Crosby)
    Thorne, Stan (Preston South)Wilson, Rt Hon Sir H. (H'ton)
    Tinn, JamesWilson, William (C'try SE)
    Torney, TomWinnick, David
    Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.Woodall, Alec
    Wainwright, E. (Dearne V)Woolmer, Kenneth
    Wainwright, R. (Colne V)Wright, Sheila
    Walker, Rt Hon H. (D'caster)Young, David (Bolton E)
    Wardell, Gareth
    Wellbeloved, JamesTellers for the Ayes:
    Welsh, MichaelMr. Andrew F. Bennett and
    White, Frank R.Mr. Peter Hardy.


    Adley, RobertDickens, Geoffrey
    Alexander, RichardDorrell, Stephen
    Alison, Rt Hon MichaelDouglas-Hamilton, Lord J.
    Amery, Rt Hon JulianDunn, Robert (Dartford)
    Ancram, MichaelDurant, Tony
    Arnold, TomDykes, Hugh
    Aspinwall, JackEden, Rt Hon Sir John
    Atkins, Rt Hon H. (S'thorne)Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)
    Atkins, Robert (Preston N)Eggar, Tim
    Atkinson, David (B'm'th, E)Elliott, Sir William
    Baker, Kenneth (St.M'bone)Emery, Sir Peter
    Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)Eyre, Reginald
    Banks, RobertFairbairn, Nicholas
    Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyFairgrieve, Sir Russell
    Bendall, VivianFaith, Mrs Sheila
    Bennett, Sir Frederic (T'bay)Farr, John
    Benyon, W. (Buckingham)Fell, Sir Anthony
    Berry, Hon AnthonyFenner, Mrs Peggy
    Best, KeithFinsberg, Geoffrey
    Bevan, David GilroyFisher, Sir Nigel
    Biffen, Rt Hon JohnFletcher, A. (Ed'nb'gh N)
    Biggs-Davison, Sir JohnFookes, Miss Janet
    Blackburn, JohnFowler, Rt Hon Norman
    Blaker, PeterFox, Marcus
    Body, RichardGardiner, George (Reigate)
    Bonsor, Sir NicholasGardner, Sir Edward
    Boscawen, Hon RobertGarel-Jones, Tristan
    Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W)Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
    Bowden, AndrewGlyn, Dr Alan
    Boyson, Dr RhodesGoodhart, Sir Philip
    Braine, Sir BernardGoodlad, Alastair
    Bright, GrahamGorst, John
    Brinton, TimGow, Ian
    Brittan, Rt. Hon. LeonGrant, Sir Anthony
    Brooke, Hon PeterGray, Rt Hon Hamish
    Brotherton, MichaelGreenway, Harry
    Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'n)Grieve, Percy
    Browne, John (Winchester)Griffiths, E. (B'y St. Edm'ds)
    Bryan, Sir PaulGriffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)
    Buck, AntonyGrist, Ian
    Budgen, NickGummer, John Selwyn
    Bulmer, EsmondHamilton, Hon A.
    Butcher, JohnHamilton, Michael (Salisbury)
    Carlisle, John (Luton West)Hampson, Dr Keith
    Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Hannam, John
    Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n)Haselhurst, Alan
    Chalker, Mrs. LyndaHastings, Stephen
    Channon, Rt. Hon. PaulHavers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
    Chapman, SydneyHawkins, Sir Paul
    Churchill, W. S.Hawksley, Warren
    Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n)Hayhoe, Barney
    Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)Heddle, John
    Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Henderson, Barry
    Clegg, Sir WalterHeseltine, Rt Hon Michael
    Cockeram, EricHiggins, Rt Hon Terence L.
    Colvin, MichaelHill, James
    Cope, JohnHogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
    Corrie, JohnHolland, Philip (Carlton)
    Cranborne, ViscountHooson, Tom
    Critchley, JulianHordern, Peter
    Crouch, DavidHowell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldf'd)

    Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)
    Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)Rees-Davies, W. R.
    Hurd, Rt Hon DouglasRenton, Tim
    Irvine, Rt Hon Bryant GodmanRhodes James, Robert
    Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
    Johnson Smith, Sir GeoffreyRidley, Hon Nicholas
    Jopling, Rt Hon MichaelRoberts, M. (Cardiff NW)
    Joseph, Rt Hon Sir KeithRoberts, Wyn (Conway)
    Kellett-Bowman, Mrs ElaineRossi, Hugh
    Kershaw, Sir AnthonyRost, Peter
    King, Rt Hon TomRoyle, Sir Anthony
    Knight, Mrs JillRumbold, Mrs A. C. R.
    Knox, DavidSainsbury, Hon Timothy
    Lamont, NormanSt. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.
    Lang, IanShaw, Giles (Pudsey)
    Latham, MichaelShaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
    Lawrence, IvanShelton, William (Streatham)
    Lawson, Rt Hon NigelShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
    Lee, JohnShepherd, Richard
    Le Marchant, SpencerShersby, Michael
    Lennox-Boyd, Hon MarkSilvester, Fred
    Lester, Jim (Beeston)Sims, Roger
    Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Rutland)Skeet, T. H. H.
    Lloyd, Ian (Havant & W'loo)Smith, Dudley
    Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
    Loveridge, JohnSpeed, Keith
    Lyell, NicholasSpeller, Tony
    McCrindle, RobertSpence, John
    Macfarlane, NeilSpicer, Jim (West Dorset)
    MacGregor, JohnSpicer, Michael (S Worcs)
    MacKay, John (Argyll)Sproat, Iain
    McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)Squire, Robin
    McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)Stainton, Keith
    McQuarrie, AlbertStanbrook, Ivor
    Major, JohnStanley, John
    Marland, PaulSteen, Anthony
    Marten, Rt Hon NeilStevens, Martin
    Mates, MichaelStewart, A.(E Renfrewshire)
    Mather, CarolStewart, Ian (Hitchin)
    Maude, Rt Hon Sir AngusStokes, John
    Mawby, RayStradling Thomas, J.
    Mawhinney, Dr BrianTaylor, Teddy (S'end E)
    Mayhew, PatrickTebbit, Rt Hon Norman
    Mellor, DavidTemple-Morris, Peter
    Meyer, Sir AnthonyThomas, Rt Hon Peter
    Miller, Hal (B'grove)Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)
    Mills, Iain (Meriden)Thornton, Malcolm
    Miscampbell, NormanTownend, John (Bridlington)
    Moate, RogerTownsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)
    Monro, Sir HectorTrippier, David
    Montgomery, FergusTrotter, Neville
    Moore, Johnvan Straubenzee, Sir W.
    Morgan, GeraintVaughan, Dr Gerard
    Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)Viggers, Peter
    Murphy, ChristopherWaddington, David
    Myles, DavidWakeham,John
    Neale, GerrardWaldegrave, Hon William
    Nelson, AnthonyWalker, B. (Perth)
    Neubert, MichaelWalker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir D.
    Newton, TonyWaller, Gary
    Nott, Rt Hon Sir JohnWalters, Dennis
    Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.Ward, John
    Osborn, JohnWarren, Kenneth
    Page, John (Harrow, West)Watson, John
    Page, Richard (SW Herts)Wells, Bowen
    Parkinson, Rt Hon CecilWells, John (Maidstone)
    Parris, MatthewWheeler, John
    Patten, John (Oxford)Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
    Pattie, GeoffreyWhitney, Raymond
    Pawsey, JamesWilkinson, John
    Percival, Sir IanWilliams, D.(Montgomery)
    Peyton, Rt Hon JohnWinterton, Nicholas
    Pink, R. BonnerWolfson, Mark
    Pollock, AlexanderYoung, Sir George (Acton)
    Porter, BarryYounger, Rt Hon George
    Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
    Price, Sir David (Eastleigh)Tellers for the Noes:
    Proctor, K. HarveyMr. Donald Thompson and
    Pym, Rt Hon FrancisMr. David Hunt.
    Rathbone, Tim

    Question accordingly negatived.