Orders of the Day — Doncaster Area Drainage Bill.

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

Alert me about debates like this

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

I will answer a few of the points which have been raised. The right hon. Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Buxton) asked why we bring forward a Bill to deal with this small area, and why, if we can do that, we do not change the law for the whole country. The answer is that this area presents a special problem, as I tried to make clear in my original remarks. It is subject to a special danger from mining subsidence. That is why we cannot set up an authority to deal with it, except by a hybrid Bill of this nature. There is no precedent for levying charges for land drainage on other than surface owners. This Bill will enable a levy to be made upon those who own the subsoil. So far as the rating of the surface owners is concerned, the Bill does not change the law. For that reason, when we are able to deal with the great problem of land drainage for the whole country, any changes that we make in the responsibility for rate payment towards land drainage will, naturally and automatically, apply to this new authority which we seek to set up by this Bill, as it will apply to all other authorities of the kind.

I think, therefore, the answer to the right hon. Gentleman is that this Bill deals with a matter which, I am glad to say, is generally not found in connection with land drainage. No delay is taking place in tackling the problem of the general amendment of land drainage law. The right hon. Gentleman will be aware, from his experience of the matter when he was Minister of Agriculture, that it is a very large and extremely complex problem. Apart from the legal side, there is a very large amount of survey necessary before a Bill can be framed to set up these catchment area authorities. We are at work on that survey; it is being carried out by an efficient survey staff, and, as soon as the necessary information for the purposes of legislation is available, it is the intention of the Government to deal with it.

The hon. Member for the Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) raised several points, which he said might more appropriately be considered in Committee, but I will answer him briefly. He was dissatisfied with the representation which is given, in the First Schedule of the Bill, to various interests on the new authority. He would like to see representation given to a special section of householders, namely, the miners. There is no case for that. This Bill follows the usual course in giving representation to the local authorities. We have made a change in the exact representation suggested by the Committee by substituting for the representation of certain Government Departments representation for the internal drainage authorities. The Bill includes representation for those other interests who will have to pay, namely, the mine-owners, through their various organisations. They are given this special provision, because it is felt that, if they are to be taxed like this, they ought to be represented. The miners are not going to be taxed under this Bill.