Clause 16. — (Consent of Coast Protection Authority Required to Carrying Out of Coast Protection Work.)

Orders of the Day — COAST PROTECTION BILL [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25 October 1949.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Arthur Blenkinsop Mr Arthur Blenkinsop , Newcastle upon Tyne East 12:00, 25 October 1949

I beg to move, in page 20, line 35, to leave out "this," and to insert: "the next following."

This is one of a series of Amendments put forward in an attempt to tidy up the Clauses of the Bill as they left the Committee stage. Hon. Members who served on the Committee will realise that we put down Amendments at rather short notice. Here we are trying to tidy up the wording of the Clauses. The main change carried out by the Amendments is to transfer subsection (5) from Clause 16 to Clause 17, which is a more suitable place for it. That means that we are grouping together the bodies and authorities who will be required to give notice to the coast protection authority or other authority before they carry out coast protection work. The change that this series of Amendments carries out is not so much to alter any of the wording but to tidy it up.

Photo of Mr Robert Hudson Mr Robert Hudson , Southport

I am wondering, Mr. Speaker, whether it would be for the convenience of the Committee if you allowed us to discuss this series of Amendments together. The Amendments to Clause 16 are preliminary to the cleaning up of Clause 17, and on Clause 17 there is a point in an Amendment—which I do not think you are proposing to call—which I hope you will allow us to argue upon an earlier Government Amendment. Furthermore, perhaps if we could discuss them together it would save time.

Mr. Speaker:

I am quite prepared to agree to a discussion of all this series of Amendments on this first Amendment. I think I have told the right hon. Gentleman that we could have a general discussion and that if he wished for a Division it could be called on this Amendment.

Photo of Commander Sir John Maitland Commander Sir John Maitland , Horncastle

The point which arises in one of the Amendments to Clause 17 is the protection of drainage authorities and river boards. The Amendment says: by any body or person upon whom any powers or duties relating to the protection of land have been conferred or imposed by or under any enactment other than this Act. If those words cover the drainage authorities and similar bodies, many of our arguments will be unnecessary. It might be for the convenience of the House if the Parliamentary Secretary cared to intervene with a statement on the point.

Photo of Mr Arthur Blenkinsop Mr Arthur Blenkinsop , Newcastle upon Tyne East

The point is quite simple. It is true that the authorities to which the hon. and gallant Member refers are included in that wording. The point was raised in Committee. It is only right that notice should be given to a coast protection authority of any work being done by any other authority, in the same way as a coast protection authority must give notice to any of the other authorities of work which it carries out itself. Our purpose is to ensure that reciprocal notice shall be given, and that is why these words were inserted during the Committee stage.

4.0 p.m.

Photo of Mr Robert Hudson Mr Robert Hudson , Southport

The Parliamentary Secretary will remember that during the Committee stage he argued, very forcibly and I think very plausibly, that these authorities have to work together and that it is reasonable to suppose that drainage authorities will communicate their proposals to the new coast protection authorities, and vice versa. Under the existing scheme catchment boards have been accustomed to carrying out their own schemes after they have been submitted to and approved by the Ministry of Agriculture. Those schemes were "vetted" by the engineers of the Ministry of Agriculture. I am talking here of the existing drainage authorities—the catchment boards and the drainage boards.

A new authority is now being set up, the coast protection authority. I am entirely in favour of the suggestion by the Parliamentary Secretary that catchment boards or drainage authorities ought to indicate their plans to the new coast protection authority, but we are afraid that the Clause as drafted goes rather beyond that and implies not only that the catchment board, which is already an expert body, should have to submit its proposals for approval to the Ministry of Agriculture but that it should also thereafter have to submit these proposals for approval to the coast protection authority.

I am all in favour of their communicating it—if the coast protection authority has any reasonable objection, presumably it can make the objection either to the catchment board or to the Ministry of Agriculture—but it seems an unnecessary complication to ask the catchment board to submit its schemes and get them passed by the Ministry of Agriculture and then to submit them, presumably for approval and not through courtesy, to the coast protection authority. This seems to me to be a work of supererogation, and in order to make sure that, as we think, this unnecessary work will be omitted we have put down an Amendment.

Photo of Mr Arthur Blenkinsop Mr Arthur Blenkinsop , Newcastle upon Tyne East

If I may speak again with the leave of the House, I would point out that the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman would cut out the requirement that a drainage board should give notice to the coast protection authority of work it intended to do. We feel that that is quite unreasonable. We think it is right that a drainage authority should give notice of its work to the new coast protection authority and that, should there be any objection, it should come before my right hon. Friends the Ministers of Health and Agriculture. That is just as right as to ensure that when the coast protection authority carries out work the drainage authority in its turn should have the right of objection, which it can carry up to the Ministers concerned in exactly the same way.

What we are providing here is an exactly parallel provision on both sides. I cannot see that we are therefore injuring the position of the drainage authority at all. I should mention at the same time that we are making provisions, which I shall move very shortly, to ensure that the drainage authority shall be placed in the same position as the coast protection authority in being able to carry out any emergency work without the delay which would otherwise ensue. There is, therefore, no reason why the drainage authority should feel that its powers are being unduly or unreasonably restricted.

Photo of Commander Sir John Maitland Commander Sir John Maitland , Horncastle

I was speaking when my right hon. Friend intervened, and I should like to continue my speech. The point is that on many occasions we shall have a very small rural district council which will be the coastal protection authority. There will probably be a perfectly ordinary piece of work which the drainage authority are to carry out—they have done so very efficiently for many years—but they now have this added obligation of submitting the scheme to the coast protection authority. There will be a period of waiting which may create considerable delay. It may be a month's delay.

Photo of Mr Arthur Blenkinsop Mr Arthur Blenkinsop , Newcastle upon Tyne East

I do not think that would be true because, presumably, the notice of the work intended to be carried out would be given before the work was actually started, and, therefore, it would not necessarily cause a delay of 28 days.

Photo of Commander Sir John Maitland Commander Sir John Maitland , Horncastle

It would cause a great deal of delay. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that it will be a dangerous thing if a small local authority which does not know very much about the subject begins objections for which there is really no foundation. That is out of keeping with what the hon. Gentleman said during Committee stage when he pointed out very clearly that there was no obligation on a drainage authority to report, as it were, to a coast protection authority. He then indicated that he saw that it was a right and proper situation that they should not have to report.

Now on the Report stage we have this Amendment which definitely encroaches on the right of drainage authorities, making their work just a little bit more difficult and complicating things just a little more, which is just what we have all along sought to avoid in this Bill. That is why we sincerely hope that even at this late hour the hon. Gentleman will reconsider what he has said and insert the words we have suggested, which will give drainage boards and catchment boards a right to rule in their own houses.

Photo of Mr Edward Evans Mr Edward Evans , Lowestoft

It is a great pity that the Opposition are trying to over-emphasise the differences which may arise between the catchment board and the coast protection authority. The object of the Clause is to obtain what is most vital for the Bill, co-ordination of effort. We discussed this in Committee. We knew very well that works promulgated in one area might act detrimentally to other areas along the coast, and I see nothing but a rather obscure prestige point in all this. Surely it is obvious that if there is to be co-ordinated work over an extended area, every body concerned with coast protection must act in the closest co-operation with every other body; otherwise works may be begun which may have a very detrimental effect on other areas along the coast.

I cannot see any point whatever in raising this issue as if there was some cleavage of opinion or as if the aims and objects of the catchment boards were contrary to those of the coast protection authorities. The whole issue seems to be academic to a degree. The catchment board is entirely protected by the Amendment which the Government have put down to Clause 17 which says that in the case of an emergency it can act without reference to any other body. Nothing can prevent that. The status of the catchment board in this affair is wholly safeguarded. I hope we shall proceed with this Measure in a spirit of co-operation rather than in a spirit of antagonism and putting the claims of one body vis-a-vis the claims of another. I regard co-operation and co-ordination as essential elements in getting protection over a wide expanse of coast.

Photo of Mr Robert Hudson Mr Robert Hudson , Southport

I do not know whether we are talking at cross purposes or not. During the Committee stage the Parliamentary Secretary said that the work and function of maintenance carried out by the drainage authority would not be interfered with in any way by the new coast protection authority. I may be very dense, but I find it very difficult to reconcile that statement, which I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary made in absolute good faith, with the actual wording of the Clause as it emerges after the Amendments have been made. It is because we want to ensure good co-operation and at the same time do not want any delay to occur because some now coastal authority without the experience of a drainage authority proceeds to raise possibly frivolous objections, that we are anxious to see the Clause amended as we suggest. If the Government cannot accept our Amendment, we shall have to divide.

Photo of Mr Edward Evans Mr Edward Evans , Lowestoft

The right hon. Gentleman talks about the new coast protection authority. What precisely is a new coast protection authority? If he means the setting up of a new coast protection board, surely the catchment board will be represented on it. There are no new coast protection authorities. If the right hon. Gentleman means the coast protection boards, they will know precisely what is going on.

Mr. Speaker:

Did I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that he wished to divide?

Mr. Speaker:

Then I must dispose first of the two Amendments to line 35 and to line 18.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 21, line 18, leave out subsection (5).—[Mr. Blenkinsop.]