Orders of the Day — Doncaster Area Drainage Bill.

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 15th March 1929.

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Photo of Lieut-Colonel Walter Guinness Lieut-Colonel Walter Guinness , Bury St Edmunds

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

This Bill has been framed to carry out the recommendations of the Special Commission which was set up in 1926 to deal with the problem of mining subsidence and the injury which it threatened to the drainage system of this area. The area has a very long drainage history. It includes a very well-known tract of land, Hatfield Chase, and in the middle of it is what is known as the Isle of Axholme, which is surrounded by what were large areas of marsh and mere. In the reign of Charles I, the famous Dutch engineer, Cornelius Vermuyden, who dealt with the drainage of the Bedford Level, was commissioned to drain Hatfield Chase. His work constituted a very complicated system of drainage and has enabled the lowlands to be drained and the upland waters to be carried across to the Trent and the Yorkshire Ouse. It is a very delicate system involving sluices and pumps, because much of the area is below the level of the two main rivers into which it is drained. The problem has become an anxious one in recent years, because under this area is what is known as the concealed coalfield of South Yorkshire, in which seven collieries are now operating and where considerable extension is expected in the future.

The Commission that was set up included all interests concerned. Sir Horace Monro was the Chairman, and they were able to present an agreed report. I should like to say how much we owe to Sir Horace Monro and the Commission for the skill and attention which they devoted to this very difficult problem. The Bill follows their report very closely. It is necessarily a Measure of considerable detail, but it has two main purposes. It sets up a comprehensive drainage authority for the whole of this area of about 210,000 acres, and it provides that they shall have control over the main drainage system and general supervision over the operations of the internal drainage authorities. It also provides that the mineowners shall be charged with the definite liability to make good the damage that may be caused to the surface drainage by mining subsidence. It is not merely a matter of the mineowners paying this at the moment, but they will provide funds for works to remedy any present or expected damage to be maintained in perpetuity, so that the drainage may be assured.

We are preparing legislation to deal with the general problem of land drainage. This Bill will in no way conflict with that general legislation when we are able to introduce it. It will be quite easy to make any necessary adjustments in the boundaries of the drainage district which we propose to constitute for the Doncaster area to make it conform to the general plan of the catchment area authorities. It is important that the Bill should be passed without delay. The principle has already been agreed by the parties concerned, and it is urgent that the authority should be set up to deal with this question of drainage. If the House will give the Bill a Second Reading, I will then move that it be referred to a Committee of both Houses.