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Lords Chamber

Volume 373: debated on Friday 6 August 1976

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House Of Lords

Friday, 6th August, 1976

The House met at eleven of the clock: The CHAIRMAN of COMMITTEES on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Southwark.

Airline Overbooking Compensation Scheme

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, in view of the urgency for holiday travellers at this time, they are in a position to make a statement on the discussions between the Civil Aviation Authority and British airlines concerning the application of the overbooking compensation scheme to return flights resulting from an original booking made in the United Kingdom on British airlines; and whether they will ensure maximum publicity for any such decision.]

My Lords, the Civil Aviation Authority advise me that the possibility of any extension of the voluntary scheme was not raised with them by the Airline Users' Committee until 14th July. There has therefore been insufficient time for the discussions to reach any conclusion. The question of any publicity is thus premature but would in any case be primarily for the airlines concerned.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that it is unfortunate that any publicity resulting from this Answer indicates that the Civil Aviation Authority does not regard three weeks as being sufficient time to reach any decision on a matter like this? Might I ask my noble friend whether he would not agree that something which affects travellers as much as this does at this present holiday time is worthy of a little more urgency?

My Lords, I would not agree with my noble friend that this matter has not been dealt with as one of urgency. It is a matter which is rather more complex than she appears to imply. There are, after all, ten British airlines involved, and two and a half weeks is not, I think, an undue amount of time for such discussions to take.

My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord the Minister whether he would not agree that, although two and a half weeks may not be enough for the Civil Aviation Authority, the people who are going on holiday have to make their decision at once and that to keep them waiting for two and a half or three weeks before receiving any reply as to when their future return is likely to be is really not serving the public?

My Lords, I really do not think any holidaymaker is waiting for this decision in order to know whether or not to book a holiday. In any case, the vast bulk of holidaymakers book not on scheduled flights but on package holidays, and over-booking is most unlikely to arise in that connection.

My Lords, does my noble friend not think that this delay may possibly be due to the fact that many of our Government Departments have not enough civil servants to carry out this work properly?

My Lords, could an agreement not have been reached with the nationalised airline in two and a half weeks so that the others would probably have had to follow?

No, my Lords. The nationalised airline is the principal one concerned, and it very often acts and speaks in the name of the others. It is, however, appropriate that it should consult with the other airlines concerned.

My Lords, if I may raise a small point, is my noble friend aware that the time concerned is three and a half weeks? The matter was referred on the 14th July, a Wednesday. Might I ask the Minister whether he will request the Civil Aviation Authority and the airlines to reach a decision as soon as possible, and also to give maximum publicity to that decision?

My Lords, I will not go into the actual arithmetic of the number of days that have elapsed since 14th July; but I am sure, as a result of the Question my noble friend asked on the previous day, 13th July, and the notice of this matter that will have been taken as a result of this Question and Answer, that any additional urgency which may be necessary will be given to its consideration.

Cyprus: Inter-Community Talks

11.9 a.m.

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in view of the breakdown of the talks between the Turkish and Greek Cypriots, they will propose to the United Nations Security Council that a mission of reconciliation, composed of leading representatives of Western, Eastern and Unaligned nations, should proceed to Cyprus to seek a solution of its political and territorial conflicts.

My Lords, the talks have not broken down, though we regret that a date has not yet been fixed for the next round and we recently urged Dr. Waldheim to fix a date for their resumption. Her Majesty's Government consider that only the inter-communal talks under the auspices of Dr. Waldheim, which were set up by the Security Council, offer any prospect of finding a lasting solution to this tragic problem.

My Lords, is not that hope rather an illusion? Is it not the case that, while legally the talks may not have broken down, they have repeatedly been disrupted and that, honestly, there is very little hope of ever reaching a conclusion? Would not the Government seriously consider this proposal, which was made by the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, our ex-Minister at the United Nations, and would not Turkey and Greece, because of their relationship with the European Community and NATO, take the recommendations of such a commission very seriously?

My Lords, I do not think I take such a gloomy view as my noble friend. Of course I am aware that my noble friend Lord Caradon made this suggestion in your Lordships' House, but I think my noble friend has forgotten that Dr. Waldheim has all the powers he needs under Security Council Resolution No. 367, and that if he felt there was a necessity for action of this kind he could suggest it. He is a mediator who is acceptable to all parties, which is not easy in these days, and I do not think we can really add to that.

My Lords, may I ask the noble Baroness whether, if we examine all the resolutions which have come out of the Security Council during the last few years, it would be true to say that reconciliation is not the trade mark of the Security Council, and has not been over the past few years?

My Lords, I have not the detailed personal knowledge that my noble friend has of the workings of the United Nations, but without notice I could not add them all up and come to the right answer.

My Lords, could the noble Baroness give us an indication as to whether further consideration has been given to discussing this matter within the Member States of the EEC, and also whether consideration has been given to the proposal, made both in this House and in another place, that possibly some distinguished European could go to Cyprus, stay there and act as mediator between the parties?

Yes, my Lords. We are in constant touch with the Nine, and they take this very seriously. We have discussions. The proposal to which the noble Baroness has referred has been discussed. I cannot say any more than that, of course, but we are in constant touch both with the Nine and with the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that at a meeting of the Council of the European Communities, which is due to take place on 20th September next, the whole question of Greek accession to the European Communities is to be further discussed? Will she convey to her right honourable friend the fairly widespread view that these negotiations should not proceed very much further until steps have been taken to reconcile the positions of the Greeks and the Turks, who are also associated with the Community under an association agreement?

Yes, my Lords, I was aware that discussions were to take place on that date, and I will bring my noble friend's views to the attention of my right honourable friend.

My Lords, having been personally involved in earlier negotiations between the two communities, may I ask the Minister whether she realises that many people will agree with the Government that the best course is to pursue with patience the present negotiations between the two communities, associating also, of course, the two outside countries concerned—Greece and Turkey—and that introducing a large number of additional mediators is most unlikely to help these negotiations?

My Lords, can my noble friend confirm that the prior consent of both the Turkish and the Greek authorities in Cyprus will not be necessary before such a mission of reconciliation is allowed to land in Cyprus?

My Lords, such a mission would first have to be acceptable to the Security Council, which it might well not be, and of course there could be no question of imposing any settlement on any part of Cyprus.

Immigrants: Deportation Appeals

11.14 a.m.

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they propose to take to restore to immigrants their right of appeal against deportation following the expiration of their leave to stay, in view of the decision of the Appellate Committee of this House of 28th July last.

My Lords, the case to which my noble friend refers is that of Regina v. The Immigration Appeal Tribunal ex parte Jayaratnam Suthendran. It concerned the right of appeal to an adjudicator under subsection (1) of Section 14 of the Immigration Act 1971 against a refusal to vary a limited leave to enter or remain. We are urgently considering the implications of the decision but it is not my understanding that it affects rights of appeal in respect of deportation orders.

My Lords, while welcoming the Minister's statement that consideration is being given, may I ask whether it is not the case that until late in May the Home Office granted extended leave to many immigrants, and that the Law Lords have now ruled these extensions ultra vires? Are there not two consequences of this decision? First, since it is clear that appeals against Home Office decisions are rarely, in the course of events, made within the period of the original leave, does this not in effect deny the right of appeal itself? Secondly, are there not many cases—I have a file of them which I have myself taken up—of immigrants who acted on Home Office assurances and who now find themselves liable to imprisonment and a £200 fine?

My Lords, we are in some little difficulty, because the detailed reasons of the House of Lords Appellate Committee announced on 27th July last will probably not be reported to your Lordships until November. We are aware of certain difficulties, as my noble friend has pointed out, arising from that decision. The Government accept that it is unsatisfactory that people who apply for variation in good time should lose appeal rights as a result of unavoidable delays in considering their applications. The means of dealing with this problem are, as a result, under very urgent consideration and attention.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that Section 14(1) of the 1971 Act states quite plainly that a person who has a limited leave under the Act may appeal:

"(whether as regards duration or conditions) … against any refusal to vary it.")
Does it not pass the bounds of comprehension how the Judicial Committee of your Lordships' House could have interpreted that as denying a right which has always been upheld by the Wilson Committee, by both Houses during the consideration of the Immigration Appeals Act, by the Home Office during six years of operation of the appeal system, and this is the first time that it has ever been questioned? Does the noble Lord not agree that, if the decision of the Law Lords were allowed to stand, it would be in direct contradiction to Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights as well as to the Convention on Civil and Political Rights, to which we have just adhered at the United Nations? So will the noble Lord take urgent steps to see that the position of those who are affected by this decision is restored to that which everyone believed existed before the House of Lords made its ruling?

My Lords, we are very concerned, but I think your Lordships would not expect me at this stage, until the whole House has heard the reasons why the Appellate Committee came to that conclusion—and I do not think I should attempt to do so—to comment on the decision. We realise that this creates an unsatisfactory situation. We really are concerned about it and are giving a good deal of urgent attention to it.

My Lords, if that report is not to be available until November, what will happen to these people in the meantime? I do not think that this is a matter for comment. What the House would like to know from the Minister is what action is being taken.

My Lords, I do not think I can go beyond the fact—and it is a fact—that we are considering the matter. As I understand it, the legislation is unaltered; only the interpretation of it has been changed. It is not suggested that any retrospective action should be taken against large numbers of appellants whose appeals have already been determined, but who, under the House of Lords decision, ought not to have been accorded a right to appeal. As I say, it is not suggested that any retrospective action should be taken, and we are considering ways of dealing with the situation.

My Lords, does it amount to this, that what the Minister's reply to my noble friend means is that those of us who are advising persons who have appealed out of time must tell them that no action will be taken against them by the Home Office until the decision of the Law Lords is published in November, but that the Sword of Damocles hangs over their heads and the penalty of removal may be imposed on them if that judgment seems to imply that that penalty should be imposed?

My Lords, that may well be the position because, as I said, the matter is being considered and obviously we do not want to exacerbate the situation.

My Lords, is it the case that, as reported, the Home Office has sent a letter to those concerned stating that they are liable to imprisonment or to a £200 fine, and will steps be taken between now and November to prevent such penalties from being imposed?

My Lords, I am not aware of the letter to which my noble friend refers. I really cannot take the matter any further than to. say that the Government are reviewing the whole question.

My Lords, may I suggest to my noble friend that, while there could be full justification for considering the justice of any claim on legal grounds, he should accept the point of view that any relaxation in the restraints imposed upon immigration would be likely to prejudice race relations because there is an increasing body of opinion in this country that believes that the degree and volume of immigration is well beyond the capacity of the nation to sustain it?

My Lords, that is probably another question. However, I should like to conclude all that I can say on this matter by pointing out that the Government are not anxious to exacerbate the situation. Between now and the time when your Lordships hear the reasons for the decision, I think that the Government will act in a most reasonable manner.

Winter Feed For Farm Stock

11.22 a.m.

My Lords, I beg leave 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 farmers in the worst hit drought areas are having to start feeding their stock with their winter feed and what steps they propose to take to see that adequate winter feed is available at prices which do not make a rise in the prices of meat and milk so severe as to put them out of reach of those in the lower income brackets.

My Lords, Her Majesty's Government are aware that some farmers are hand-feeding their cattle and that this may deplete the supplies of winter fodder. It is too early yet to make a complete assessment, but, given reasonable weather and careful use of fodder by farmers, overall supplies for the winter should be adequate. There is no shortage of cereals and protein feeds. It is not possible to estimate at present the effect of the drought on either feed or food prices.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his reply. But would he not agree that the situation is deteriorating with every day that passes, and that the longer the drought continues the more feed the farmers are going to use, and not only for their cattle? Is the noble Lord aware that the foodstuffs which farmers are having to buy from the corn merchants are already rising in price at a terrific speed? Is he further aware that if this situation continues farmers will have either to sell their stock or to charge prices which will rocket?

My Lords, fodder supplies still appear to be adequate in many parts of the country, but there are shortages in parts of the South-East, the South-West and the East of England and in Wales, particularly in the South. The situation could be completely changed by rain as there is still plenty of time for considerable grass growth and conservation. With regard to prices of hay, these are now lower than last year. They vary between £30 and £41 according to area, compared with £40 to £55 in July 1975. This indicates that at this time the demand for hay is not so great as it was last year and that farmers in the South can buy from other parts of the country, although I appreciate that there are no grounds for complacency.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that, while everybody must have absolute and complete sympathy with the purpose of the question, it is a little odd for a Conservative to advocate a policy which involves a rising Government expenditure at a time when the Conservative Party are demanding cuts in Government expenditure, when they are demanding cuts in subsidies and when it is their philosophy in terms of what they say but not in terms of what they do, that individuals should stand on their own feet? The purpose behind the Question, with which everybody must have sympathy, is that they are advocating that the Government should take over the functions of God.

My Lords, I am sure that there is a great deal in what my noble friend says. I am also sure that noble Lords in all parts of the House will agree that the weather at least is not the fault of the Government.

My Lords, are Her Majesty's Government taking any steps to deal with what could happen if the abnormal drought this year in the Southern part of the country were to become the normal drought of future years?

My Lords, the Government are keeping this matter under review. The position is that if there is no rain, problems may arise in the late winter and early spring of next year. Winter feeding has started prematurely, as the noble Lord, Lord de Clifford, said; but if we have a short, mild winter the effect should be the same as a long, hard winter in terms of the amount of fodder used.

My Lords, would the noble Lord agree that the practice of burning off stubbles and the loss of straw bears upon this problem? Could the noble Lord suggest to his colleagues that a proper use of some of the money already allocated to research in agricultural fields should be directed towards examining the method used in Norway for the treatment of white straw to break down the cellulose by lye or caustic soda which turns it into a winter feed? There would therefore be a means of bolstering our stocks in this way.

My Lords, we shall certainly bear in mind what the noble Lord has said and I shall pass on his comments to my right honourable friend. I may say that the Department's advisory service have again advised farmers to conserve straw instead of burning it and that supplies should be adequate.

Aircraft And Shipbuilding Industries Bill

Brought from the Commons on Tuesday last, and printed pursuant to Standing Order No. 47; read 1a .

Supplementary Benefit (Amendment) Bill

Brought from the Commons on Tuesday last, and printed pursuant to Standing Order No. 47; read 1a .

Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill

Brought from the Commons, endorsed with the Certificate from the Speaker that the Bill is a Money Bill within the meaning of the Parliament Act 1911, and read 1a .

Then, Standing Order No. 43 having been suspended pursuant to the Resolution, Bill read 2a : Committee negatived.

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a .—( Baroness Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe.)

My Lords, I believe that it might be in order for me to make a few remarks about drought on this Bill, because if the drought continues enormous sums of public money—

My Lords, the noble Lord will have his chance to make a few remarks on drought when my noble friend Lady Stedman deals with the Drought Bill.

On Question, Bill read 3a , and passed.

Drought Bill Hl

11.30 a.m.

Returned from the Commons yesterday, agreed to with Amendments; the said Amendments printed pursuant to Standing Order No. 47.

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lady Birk, I beg to move that the Commons Amendments be now considered.

Moved, That the Commons Amendments be now considered.—( Baroness Stedman.)

My Lords, before we dispose of this business, I think it would be appropriate if the Government would tell us something of what transpired in the Commons yesterday, because the proceedings on this Bill ended in column 2255 and we have no means whatever of knowing what the discussions were about. It is a clumsy procedure, although I suppose the responsibility must rest with all of us, because quite clearly the Bill could have been introduced much earlier in the week; we could have known what the Amendments were; we could have considered them, we could have followed the discussions in another place and we certainly would have known how the discussions ended.

I want an assurance from the Minister on one specific point. During the course of the proceedings in the House of Commons yesterday, the Government were pressed as to what was to happen after the Bill had become law, and the Minister gave a categorical and qualified assurance that although it would be necessary to take steps immediately the Bill became law, they would be open to representations from Members of another place. I should like to know—and I think your Lordships would want to know, too—that such undertaking applies also to Members of this House.

My Lords, the Bill went through the Commons in the early hours of this morning and, like my noble friend Lord Wigg, I have not seen the latter part of the report of what then took place. But it would not be for me to contradict what my right honourable friend gave in the way of assurances in another place and I am happy to give that same assurance here.

What I can tell your Lordships is that the Amendments which are before you today are agreed Amendments, which were either tabled in the names of Members of the other place from both sides of the House, or by the Government in response to representations that had been made from the Opposition side of the other House during the passage of the Bill in its earlier stages.

My Lords, that seems to be entirely satisfactory, except, of course, that nobody in this House knows what representations were made and what satisfaction the Government gave. I am assuming that all was satisfactory and I personally do not want to impede the progress of the Bill. The quicker it is on the Statute Book, the better. What I protest against is this particular method of doing business. It is utterly incompetent. I am not suggesting that it would have been done any better by any other Administration, but the Bill could have been taken in another place several days earlier and we could have read the report of the debate. We should then have known when it was coming back to us, what the debate had been about and what assurances were given, whereas here we are suddenly cut off in column 2255, as it were in the middle of the night, without the slightest chance of knowing what transpired.

I accept that all is straight and above board. I want to facilitate the passage of the Bill. In fact, in my opinion the Government have completely underestimated the situation. It is far more serious than they have realised, and if we do not get rain very soon there will be few parts of the country which are not affected. I am asking that the assurance given by the Minister in column 2255 of the Official Report of the debate in another place, which was given by the Minister and which was accepted there, applies equally to this House.

My Lords, perhaps I may intervene, at least so far as the assurance is concerned. An assurance given by a Minister is given on behalf of the Government as a whole and, therefore, it is an assurance that I am happy to repeat on behalf of the Government in your Lordships' House.

My Lords, I find that entirely satisfactory except, if I may say so, for one phrase; namely, that the assurance is given on behalf of the Government as a whole and by implication presumably applies here. This was not said. The Minister in another place used the words, "to this House", and therefore without wanting in any way to be protective of the rights of this House, which I would abolish tomorrow if I could, I want to know that the undertaking given to Members of another place applies here.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

[ References are to Bill 210 as first printed for the Commons]


[ No. 1]

Clause 1, page 2, line 29, after 'consent' insert specified in the order'.

11.36 a.m.

My Lords, I beg to move that this House doth agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 1. The purpose of the Amendment is to ensure that orders for the variation or suspension of consents to discharge sewage or trade effluent specify the consent or consents to which they refer. It has been suggested that the present wording might allow Water Authorities to make a blanket order covering all consents granted by them, which was not the intention. The revised wording will provide an additional safeguard to industries likely to be affected by orders under this subsection. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendment.—( Baroness Stedman.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.


[ No. 2.]

Page 2, line 43, leave out from 'section' to 'shall' in line 46.

My Lords, I beg to move that this House doth agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 2. This Amendment clarifies the intention to confirm the right of the Water Authority to levy any water rate or minimum charge not only where they are relieved of an obligation in relation to the supply of water by them, but also where they are authorised to prohibit or limit the use of such water. It has always been the declared intention of Ministers that in neither case should there be an abatement of charges, but there was some doubt whether the clause, as drafted, achieved the desired effect. I beg to move.

Moved, that this House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendment.—( Baroness Stedman.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.


[ Nos. 3 to 5.]

Clause 2, page 4, line 32, leave out paragraph ( b) and insert—

'(b) the authority shall take such steps as they think appropriate for bringing the prohibition or limitation to the attention of the persons to whom the prohibition or limitation will apply and, in particular, shall—
  • (i) cause notice of the prohibition or limitation to be published in one or more local newspapers circulating within that part of the authority's area which would be affected by the provision of the order, or
  • (ii) send notice of the prohibition or limitation to the persons to whom the prohibition or limitation will apply, as the authority think appropriate;'
  • Clause 2,Page 4, line 39, leave out '48' and insert '72'

    Clause 2,Page 4, line 41, leave out 'given' and insert sent to the person in question'.

    My Lords, with the leave of the House I beg to move that this House doth agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 3, 4 and 5 en bloc.

    The intention of Amendment No. 3 is to strengthen the duty of the Water Authority by placing a general obligation on it to bring to the attention of everyone likely to be affected any prohibition or limitation of water use with the particular obligation either to publish notices in local papers or to send an individual notice to those affected. This additional publicity requirement, which is intended to pave the way for authorities to arrange, among other things, radio and television broadcasts where appropriate, will assist in ensuring that everyone concerned will be fully aware of the proposed action of the Water Authority.

    Amendment No. 4 has the effect of extending from 48 hours to 72 hours the period which must elapse between publication by the Water Authority of a notice about prohibitions or limitations of water use or the despatch of notice to individuals affected and the time at which the prohibitions or limitations can take effect. This is simply an additional safeguard which is considered appropriate in view of the possibly stringent restrictions which Water Authorities may have to impose.

    Amendment No. 5 is consequential on the Government Amendment No. 3 to Clause 2 subsection (5)(b) which provides for the Water Authorities to give individual notification of prohibitions and limitations as an alternative to publicity in a local newspaper. I beg to move.

    Moved, that this House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendments—( Baroness Stedman.)

    My Lords, while I am entirely in agreement with the Amendment on the Marshalled List, I should be much obliged, and would feel happier, if the Minister would give an assurance that while carrying out the statutory obligation to bring it to the notice of local newspapers, they will use their not inconsiderable influence with the national Press, because I think public opinion as a whole needs to be educated into the realities of the situation which might, by Christmas time, hit us straight between the eyes. Therefore, while I am not going to hold up business other than to say that I accept this entirely, may I ask whether the Government can tell the House that they are prepared to use the national Press and all the means of publicity available to them, including television, for no other reason than to educate public opinion into the urgent national need for the conservation of water until there is a break in present conditions?

    My Lords, my right honourable friend shares the view of my noble friend Lord Wigg, and I am quite sure I can give the assurance, with all sincerity, that we will use every opportunity available to us to educate the public and to explain to them the reasons for the actions we are having to take.

    My Lords, in the last stage of the Bill, I put in a plea for more publicity with regard to the general question of rainfall. I repeat that plea. Whether coincidentally or not, of late in the media there has been a certain amount about how much or how little rain we have had in this year of 1976, but we have had no information about the past. The science of weather prediction is quite imperfect. I believe it is done chiefly on the basis of averages in the past. The general public are getting extremely worried now about the whole situation. They would very much like to know what has happened in the past, after other years of great drought. We are told that this year is the "droughtiest" year for 250 years. I do not know whether there is a specific year for which there are statistics, which can be referred to, or whether it is merely a fact that we have not had a drought year of this nature during the time in which statistics are available. There have been other years of drought; 1911, I think I remember, and 1921. What we really want to know is what the pattern was in the autumn of such years. Is there any hope of rain? In past drought years, has the whole thing gone on into the winter? Were summers like this followed by wet winters, or not? As the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, quite rightly said, if we do not get rain before long we are on the brink of national disaster—

    —with an enormous expenditure of public money and tremendous inconvenience to everybody.

    My Lords, may I say that I support what has been said by the noble Lord who has just sat down. Wherever I go I find great anxiety among the public lest our climate is undergoing a permanent and decisive change, and whether, in future, as during recent years, we are to have mild winters, moderate rain, and prolonged heat and drought in the summer, with that cycle going on year after year. If that is the case, obviously it will have a profound effect upon the economy, the industry, and the public of this country. I should like the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, if she can, advised by the experts, to tell us the view of Her Majesty's Government on this matter. Do the Government think that we have undergone—perhaps since we joined the European Economic Community—a decisive change in our climate, which will last for years to come, or is this only a temporary phenomenon?

    My Lords, I wish to follow up one of the points made by my noble friend Lord Wigg with regard to the use of radio and television. Many of us feel that if the radio and television media gave good publicity to the various restrictions to be applied by the Water Authorities, this would be a much better way, and a much more effective way, of conveying this information to the public at large, since quite a number of people do not read local newspapers. Therefore, may I ask my noble friend Lady Stedman for the assurance that Her Majesty's Government will get in touch with the television and radio authorities, with a view to securing their co-operation in broadcasting such relevant portions of notices put up by the Water Authorities which the Government feel would be for the better information of the public?

    11.44 pm

    My Lords, that is rather a barrage to face. The noble Lord, Lord Hawke, coined the phrase that 1976 might go down as our "droughtiest" year. I thought that a delightful phrase. I hope he is right, and that we shall not have a repeat of such drought at regular intervals, or consecutive years of it. So far as climatic conditions are concerned, I cannot answer as to what are the views of the Government, because we have not yet had long enough time to consider records, and so on, as to what sort of cycle of climatic changes there has been in the past. My Department are keeping all the information under review, and we will be taking necessary steps. Indeed, this Bill gives the Water Authorities the right to take necessary steps, as and when they can, to safeguard our water supply.

    My Lords, I can give general and firm assurances that we will use every means in our power to give the widest possible publicity, not only to what is happening now, but when we have the information as to the sort of trends in the climate there might be. We will make this information available through the Press, television, radio, and any other means at our disposal.

    My Lords, while I agree with the desirability of securing as much publicity as possible on radio and television, we must bear in mind that the restrictions which the various Water Authorities impose will not be standardised throughout the whole country. There will be regions in which there are adequate water supplies, and other regions in which drastic restrictions will be necessary. Therefore, in addition to radio and television publicity, I attach some importance to the new paragraph moved by my noble friend which requires that announcements be made in the local newspapers. I have no interest in the local newspapers, and so the amount of advertising revenue which goes into them does not concern me at all.

    I merely want to suggest this to my noble friend. When her right honourable friend sends round to the Water Authorities a message advising them about the nature of these advertisements, will he please suggest to the Water Authorities that they should not put them out in the normal form exercised for public authorities. These notices are usually away on an insignificant advertisement page in the paper, and are usually phrased in highly legalistic terms. They usually start off with the word "Whereas", and then in other paragraphs we find phrases like, "Whereas further". I suggest to my noble friend that it should be stressed to the Water Authorities that they put these advertisements in the local Press as prominent display advertisements, in fairly heavy type. They will then be read. If the advertisements are put on the normal public announcements page they will never be read.

    My Lords, I should like to endorse what other speakers have said, but I do not think we direct as much publicity as we might to the housewife with regard to the high domestic consumption of water. In offices and factories there are stickers everywhere and in some cases the authority has cut off or limited the supplies of water to factories. There have been many excellent programmes on radio and television showing the devastation on the farms.

    However, it is important that in some way we should endeavour to bring out the fact that there must be a saving of water in the home. We should have the co-operation of the local writers in the newspapers in this emergency; they should tell housewives not to wash up under a running tap, or that if they can cut the number of times they use their washing machines from five to three washes a week, this makes quite a saving. It seems to me that publicity has been directed to the larger users, and through no fault of their own housewives have not yet fully recognised how desperately short of water we are.

    My Lords, with the leave of the House, my Department will give all possible advice to water authorities in the way of making their advertisements most effective in dealing with all sections of the community. I come myself from an area badly hit by the drought—East Anglia. We have already had appeals to householders, and these have worked reasonably satisfactorily. Other authorities, when having to bring in the necessary restrictions, will also direct some of their communications to housewives, as well as to factories, offices and shops. We shall take every possible step to see that water authorities make the information available and that they make their notices available in as readable a form as possible.

    On Question, Motion agreed to.

    Commons Amendment

    [ No. 6.]

    Clause 5, page 8, line 16, after first 'order' insert 'in a statutory instrument'.

    11.51 a.m.

    My Lords, I beg to move that this House doth agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 6. This Amendment provides that an order revoking a previous order should be by Statutory Instrument. In general, orders under the Bill are exerciseable by Statutory Instrument and a revocation order should clearly be in the same form. The Amendment eliminates the authority which existed in the subsection as it was previously drafted. I beg to move.

    Moved, That the House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendment.—( Baroness Stedman.)

    My Lords, I should like, if I may, to ask the Minister whether there is any chance of my getting the answer which I was promised during the earlier proceedings in the House as to what action the Government propose to take in the future. This is a rather wide approach, but the Minister on that occasion (if she would be good enough to refer to what was said) promised to write to me on the point of the scope of the proceedings. It is important, as in a few moments we shall have passed this Bill and it will then rest with the Department. I do not want to raise embarrassing issues, but I should like to know what the Government have in mind in relation to the researches of Professor Lamb. I noticed that in another place a number of Members raised the same point. The point was also raised by the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder. The studies of climatology and of meteorology, while they in fact overlap, are not the same thing. I do not want to be critical. While I think the Government are very well served by the Meteorological Office and they are quite right to take into account everything that is said to them, the Department of Climatology, of which there is only one, in the University of East Anglia, also has something to say. Of course, this bears on what was said by noble Lords opposite this morning.

    We just do not know what has happened in the past. It may well be that there has been a permanent change in our climate. We do not know. The evidence does indicate, on the basis of the last three or four years, that some change has happened. But what is it? We have the records from 1727 onwards to the present time. We do not know what happened before. Professor Lamb and his colleagues in the East Anglia University are endeavouring to find out. We ought to find out. The basic facts are that even at the present time, after prolonged drought, we have very great quantities of water, more than ample. The point is that it happens to be in the wrong place. As I understand it, it is a very expensive business to put in pipes and pumping apparatus and the like; I am told it might cost not hundreds of millions but thousands of millions of pounds. What we must not do—this is almost a national failing—is to wait until the full force of calamity hits us between the eyes before we start to do something.

    I have no knowledge of the subject. My interest was aroused by approaching it from a rather different and rather narrow angle. But there is a case for finding out. I want to say this categorically. So far as my judgment is worth twopence, in the light of the situation as it now exists on the basis of the extremely limited evidence we have, we would be far wiser to scrap every single penny we are spending on defence and spend it upon the development of water supply. The defence may or may not be needed; it may or may not be necessary to Troop the Colour annually. But what is perfectly clear is that if this drought continues until Christmas of this year Clause 2 of this Bill will have to be introduced; when it is introduced it is going to be rough justice, and there is going to be more rough than justice. It is not a question of individuals. It is whole industries. It is no good then passing resolutions—which is one of the Labour Party's weaknesses—urging somebody else to go and do something about it. If there is no water you cannot use it, and you will not be able to improvise at short notice. Perhaps I may end by repeating what I said earlier: hope for the best, to those of you who will; pray for the best; plan for the worst.

    My Lords, may I support what my noble friend Lord Wigg has said. I do not very often agree with him.

    On this occasion I must admit I do. There are, as I am sure the noble Baroness will be aware, considerable discussions which have been proceeding for some while as to the best ways of disposing of our water resources. As the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, has said, we do have, even today, considerable quantities of water in the wrong places. The time that will elapse and the cost that will be involved in working out a complete national water grid system, which is really the only ultimate way of dealing with a situation of this kind, is one of the strongest arguments for the establishment of a national water authority, which, of course, should have been done under the reorganisation of the water industry under the previous Administration.

    I do not deny that for one moment, my Lords. I speak with some feeling because, as your Lordships are aware, I come from the Principality of Wales. The City of Cardiff and other areas in Glamorgan are now being added to areas in North Gwent where, from Monday, for 13 hours out of 24 we shall have no water at all. I hope that this will dispel any illusion that any Member of your Lordships' House may have harboured that all parts of Wales are flowing with water at all seasons of the year. I hope that when the time comes, when we are discussing further the question of charging for water, it will be appreciated that the more easily accessible and cheaper sources of water to be found in the Principality have already been diverted to the Midlands and North-West of England. Therefore, it should be understood that there are areas of Wales which are in very serious difficulties, as serious as anywhere in the Kingdom.

    This threatens not only the housewives. I can assure the noble Baroness, Lady Hornsby-Smith, that by far the best propaganda for housewives is to shut off the taps for 13 hours out of 24. But, of course, we are also much concerned about industry. We suffer from inadequate employment in many parts of South Wales, particularly the South-East, and some of the industrial processes rely absolutely on water. So we are deeply concerned, not purely from the point of view of domestic need and domestic convenience, but also from that of employment. Therefore, I would hope that Her Majesty's Government, whatever other legislation they may have in store for us in the coming Session, will treat this question of a national water authority particularly with considerable seriousness.

    My Lords, I accept what has been said by noble Lords, and particularly from my personal point of view, at any rate, would endorse what has been said by my noble friend Lady White, that a national water grid is perhaps the solution to our problem and something which ought to have been done perhaps at the same time as reorganisation, or before. I must apologise to my noble friend Lord Wigg if he has not had a reply from my noble friend following the earlier stages of the Bill. I can only assume that a lot of research has to go into this and perhaps the full information is not yet readily available to the Department. I have noted what both he and my noble friend Lady White have said; I will bring it to the attention of my right honourable friend. And I will certainly see that my noble friend Lord Wigg gets a reply to his earlier question.

    On Question, Motion agreed to.


    [ Nos. 7 and 8.]

    Schedule 1, page 10, line 15, leave out 'the area of the authority' and insert 'that part of the area of the authority which would be affected by the order'.

    Page 11, line 4, at end insert—

    'A notice sent in a letter in pursuance of paragraph (b), (c) or (d) above shall not be treated as having been properly served unless the sender takes such steps as are for the time being required to secure that the letter is transmitted in priority to letters of other descriptions.'

    12 noon.

    My Lords, with the leave of the House I beg to move that this House doth agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 7 and 8 together. The intention of Amendment No. 7 is to ensure that a copy of any major plan relating to an order is deposited by the Water Authority in the area affected by the order, and not simply within the area of the Water Authority, as required in the Bill at present. This Amendment is in line with other provisions in this Schedule which relate to the area affected, and it is considered necessary because the considerable extent of some Water Authority areas could otherwise result in plans being deposited at some distance from the area to which they refer.

    Amendment No. 8 is intended to ensure that the formal notices issued by the Water Authority under Schedule 1 are sent by first-class letter. The wording is the result of detailed consultation with the Post Office, and reflects the fact that the first-class letter post has no long-term statutory basis. I beg to move.

    Moved, That this House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendments.—( Baroness Stedman.)

    On Question, Motion agreed to.


    [ No. 9.]

    Page 11, line 21, at end insert—

    'Provided that nothing in this sub-paragraph shall authorise the Secretary of State to disregard any objection which has been duly made and not withdrawn.'

    My Lords, I beg to move that this House doth agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 9. This reaffirms, for the avoidance of doubt, that where the Secretary of State, for reasons of urgency, dispenses with an inquiry into an application for an order he is not absolved from the duty to consider any valid objections before reaching his decision. I beg to move.

    Moved, That this House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendment.—( Baroness Stedman.)

    On Question, Motion agreed to.


    [ Nos. 10 to 13.]

    Schedule 2, page 12, line 22, leave out from first 'of' to 'otherwise' in line 23 and insert 'water's being discharged or not discharged to any place or its being discharged'

    Schedule 2,Page 12, line 27, after second 'discharge' insert 'or lack of discharge'.

    Schedule 2,Page 12, line 28, after first 'discharged' insert 'or not discharged'.

    Schedule 2,Page 12, line 31, after first 'the' insert 'lack of'.

    My Lords, with the leave of the House I beg to move that this House doth agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 10, 11, 12 and 13 en bloc. Amendment No. 10 is a minor Amendment which extends the compensation provisions of Schedule 2 to cover the event where compensation water is not discharged in a case where, but for the order, discharge would be required; and Amendments 11, 12 and 13 are consequential upon this. I beg to move.

    Moved, That this House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendments.—( Baroness Stedman.)

    On Question, Motion agreed to.


    [ No. 14.]

    Schedule 2, page 13, line 7, leave out 'three' and insert 'six'.

    My Lords, I beg to move that this House doth agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 14. This has the effect of extending from three to six months the period for lodging claims for compensation. It recognises that in some cases a claimant may not have all the information necessary to lodge a claim within three months. I beg to move.

    Moved, That this House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendment.—( Baroness Stedman.)

    My Lords, I am sure that is a very good idea; but before we leave these Amendments I should like to thank the noble Baroness for introducing and explaining them so clearly to us and also for answering so ably the sort of mini Second Reading debate which we have had at the same time. I should like to pay my tribute to the work that the Regional Water Authorities have already done in combating this situation—the worst by a long way for 250 years—and to wish them well in the use of these extra powers, which they will be very glad to have.

    I should also like, if I may, to thank the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, for teasing the Government about the conduct of their business and for saving me from having to do that, so allowing me to end this business with expressions of nothing but good will and best wishes to the Government for the enjoyment of their Recess, and the hope that they will return greatly strengthened, as they will need to be for our next business.

    My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his kind comments. I am grateful, too, for the co-operation of all sides of the House in getting this legislation on to the Statute Book. While I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday, I also hope that, when your Lordships are away, the rains will come down in those places where your Lordships are not, and that some of our problems will be solved. I hope all your Lordships have a fine holiday.

    On Question, Motion agreed to.

    Rating (Charity Shops) Bill Hl

    Returned from the Commons, agreed to.

    British Railways Bill

    Greater London Council (General Powers) Bill

    Returned from the Commons, with the Amendments; agreed to.

    Police Bill

    Returned from the Commons, with the Amendments agreed to.

    Bail Bill Hl

    Returned from the Commons, agreed to with Amendments; the said Amendments to be printed.

    Great Northern London Cemetery Bill Hl

    Returned from the Commons, agreed to with Amendments.

    Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill

    Returned from the Commons with certain of the Amendments agreed to and with the remaining Amendment disagreed to with a Reason for such disagreement: the said Reason to be printed.

    House adjourned during pleasure.

    House resumed.

    Royal Assent

    12.20 p.m.

    My Lords, I have to notify the House, in accordance with the Royal Assent Act 1967, that the Queen has signified her Royal Assent to the following Acts:

    • Appropriation Act 1976,
    • Drought Act 1976,
    • Rating (Charity Shops) Act 1976,
    • Police Act 1976,
    • British Railways Act 1976,
    • Greater London Council (General Powers) Act 1976.