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River Bank Erosion

Volume 212: debated on Wednesday 5 November 1958

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2.36 p.m.

My Lords, I beg to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are aware that river boards, whose duty it is to keep the river banks in condition, are frustrated in their efforts by their lack of control over the regulation of speeding by motor boats or in regard to faulty design in such boats which cause bow-wave to erode the banks; and therefore that certain river boards require protection so that licences given to craft shall not be automatically granted unless such craft conform to specifications designed to avoid bank erosion by wave action of the wake set up.]

My Lords, the Government are aware that difficulties do arise over the problem a river bank erosion and its causes. River boards, under the Land Drainage Act, and navigation authorities, under local enactments, have power to regulate the navigation by making by-laws, subject to confirmation by the appropriate Ministers. Such by-laws are, I understand, in force on most navigable rivers, requiring vessels to navigate at a speed and in such manner as not to cause damage to river banks. Fresh legislation would be required to provide for the licensing of vessels in the manner suggested by my noble friend. Existing powers are wide enough to deal with any vessel, whatever its design, which causes damage to river banks. It seems to the Government that these difficulties can best be overcome by co-operation between the river boards and navigation authorities to secure effective enforcement of the existing by-laws. I should like, however, to thank the noble Earl for his suggestion.

My Lords, while thanking the noble Earl for his Answer, may I ask this supplementary question? Would the noble Earl agree that, having regard to the interests of river boards in preventing erosion of banks, it would be desirable for them to be represented on navigation authorities? In these circumstances, will he press his right honourable friend the Minister of Transport to take up the matter with his right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, so that these questions may be resolved by compromise and that much public money may in future be saved from literally going down the drain?

The noble Earl's suggestion would involve private legislation. However, I will gladly mention it to my right honourable friend.