Clause 23. — (Power to Survey and Search for Water on Land Proposed to Be Purchased.)

Orders of the Day — Water (Scotland) Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th February 1949.

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5.0 p.m.

Photo of Mr Arthur Woodburn Mr Arthur Woodburn , Clackmannan and Eastern

I beg to move, in page 16, line 2 after the second "and," to insert "subsections (3) to (7) of."

This again is being moved in response to requests from hon. Gentlemen opposite, who were rather worried in case an occupier did not get sufficient notice of the intended entry upon his lands for surveying. We thought that the Bill covered this point, but in order to make sure we are putting in this Amendment.

Photo of Colonel Sir Alan Gomme-Duncan Colonel Sir Alan Gomme-Duncan , Perth

I should like to thank the right hon. Gentleman for this Amendment, which goes half way towards doing what we asked. He will recall that we asked for 48 hours, and he is pleased to give us 24. This will be generally accepted, and will make farmers and those concerned feel that there is some reasonable security and that people will not just walk in without giving due notice. In Committee we had a lot of discussion about postcards and other means of notice, but it is not necessary to go into the question of warning now. We on this side are grateful for the Amendment.

Mr. McKie:

I desire to join in the chorus of approval of this Amendment. I rather wish that the right hon. Gentleman would not treat this as a small matter. He said—and I hope I am not misquoting him—that it was in response to the appeals which were made from this side of the House that this Amendment is now to be incorporated in the Bill, but that in his opinion the Clause was quite adequate as it was originally presented.

Photo of Mr Arthur Woodburn Mr Arthur Woodburn , Clackmannan and Eastern

I did not say it was quite adequate. I said that so far as we could see, this point was actually covered, but in order to clear away any doubt we proposed to insert the Amendment.

Mr. McKie:

I am very glad to have that assurance from the right hon. Gentleman. I always dislike very much misquoting the right hon. Gentleman, the Lord Advocate, or any other of the hon. Gentlemen on the Front Treasury Bench. The Secretary of State for Scotland may think that this matter was covered in the original Clause. Perhaps he is of that opinion, because he has had a conversation with his more subtle companion on the Treasury Bench, who is learned in the law, but to us laymen on this side it did not appear as simple as it did to the right hon. Gentleman and obviously to the Lord Advocate. If it did not appear to us so simple to understand, how does he suppose that the farming community of Scotland—because they are the people who are going to be affected—would receive this Clause without this addition defining the giving of notice?

The right hon. Gentleman himself by this time must be well aware of the state of feeling in the agricultural community of Scotland on points such as this. There is nothing a farmer dislikes more, whether he be an owner or merely a tenant, than to have people walk over his land without knowing what they are going to do. They may be surveying for water or they may just be walking about satisfying themselves on some subject which does not seem obvious to the owner of the land. I suffered from that kind of thing during the war. We had hoped once the war was over that we should not have to endure that condition of things, and in peace-time it is very necessary to have words such as these introduced into this Bill, so that those affected are likely to be notified before people come on to their land to make surveys and so forth. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon having brought forward this Amendment.

Photo of Sir William Darling Sir William Darling , Edinburgh South

I do not join in the congratulations of my hon. Friends. The House must have forgotten the circumstances which lay behind this Amendment. In Committee upstairs it was argued that people in rural district should require a reasonable length of notice of the intending visit of the surveying official. The time embodied in the Amendment, which was moved upstairs, was 48 hours, and now the Government have given us a concession of 24 hours. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that 24 hours' notice to a farmer, whose posts are somewhat scattered and irregular—he does not wait on his doorstep for the arrival of the postman—is scarcely adequate. To some 48 hours would seem little enough.

Here is a rural area which has waited for half a century for a supply of water. His Majesty's Government, backed by the power and authority of this Bill, after these long years of neglect, decide by way of notice to hand a postcard to the Post Office, which has to deliver it may be through floods and storms and railway mishaps, and ultimately it is borne by an elderly gentleman on a bicycle, 17 or 20 miles to the farmer or his spouse. All that postcard says is that within 24 hours—and by the time it is received the 24 hours are up—a surveying party will arrive to look at the water supply.

This is all the concession which His Majesty's Government have given us. They think 24 hours' notice is all that is necessary for these expensive and important developments. This is an important matter, or we would not have had this Bill before us. It is very important to those people who have been flooded out for half a century, or, on the other hand, starved of water. If His Majesty's Government are going to operate with such celerity in this matter, I only hope that they will display the same celerity in other directions. To give us but 24 hours' notice of their intentions is not satisfactory. I still support the original proposal that 48 hours should be given. Twenty-four hours' notice is far too short for such an important matter as that with which this Clause deals.

Commander Galbraith:

I am rather in agreement with my hon. Friend the Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W Darling) and the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. McKie) as to the number of hours' notice which should be given. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman when he gives permission for these visits to be paid will see that the local authority gives the notice, otherwise some very unfortunate results might occur. I have had my attention drawn in recent days to two or three instances where gentlemen in official positions have been found wandering about the countryside. Nobody expected them and objection might have been taken to their presence. In those circumstances they are in some danger, because it happens that in Scotland, strangers may find themselves in an awkward position if they wander about without being able to explain at once who they are and where they come from. It is for their protection as much as anything else that I would urge the right hon. Gentleman to make certain that notice is given in a proper manner and not mishandled in any way.

Photo of Mr John Wheatley Mr John Wheatley , Edinburgh East

I was going to say that the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling) had been a little precipitate. I am sorry and surprised to see the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Pollock (Commander Galbraith) following his bad example, because if hon. Members will look at the Clause as a whole they will see that prior to this taking place 14 days' notice must be given to the occupier of the premises to the effect that the Secretary of State is granting the application to survey the land.

Commander Galbraith:

Is that a notice to the occupier of the land that the water surveyor is coming to look at it?

Photo of Mr John Wheatley Mr John Wheatley , Edinburgh East

There is 14 days' notice given that such a survey is likely to occur. The present notice is one of 24 hours that the survey of which intimation has previously been given will take place on a particular day and at a particular time. My right hon. Friend pointed out that there was some doubt whether or not this point was already provided for in the principal Act. To remove that doubt we are seeking to incorporate this Amendment. It will make sure that the occupier of the premises, who is already aware of the intention of making a survey of the land, will get this additional warning.

Photo of Sir William Darling Sir William Darling , Edinburgh South

If I may speak again, I would ask whether the 14 days' notice is not in respect of the large-scale survey, and what amount of time is likely to elapse between that notice of the large-scale survey and the ultimate decision to deal with the individual? It might well be two or three years. As a farmer, I might be well aware of the large-scale survey, of which 14 days' notice has been given, but anything may happen in the vicissitudes of life. Three years later, or it might be five years later, am I to get a postcard saying that in 24 hours a water surveyor will descend upon me?

Only last week I saw the officer of a local authority. He said that he was making a survey for a new sewage works. I asked him when it was likely to come into being. He said: "Maybe in five years or seven years from now." Is that parallel to be followed in regard to water? Is there no prescribed space of time between the 14 days' notice and the postcard which follows, at some distant time?

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 16, line 6, at end, insert: (3) Admission to any land shall not be demanded as of right in the exercise of such right as aforesaid unless twenty-four hours notice of the intended entry has been given to the occupier:Provided that where notice is given in accordance with this subsection on the first occasion on which the right of entry is exercised, no further notice shall be required before entering on the land on a subsequent occasion in connection with the completion of the survey."—[Mr. Woodburn.]