With this amendment it will be convenient to take the following amendments: No. 11, in page 4, line 18, leave out subsection (2).
No. 82, in Schedule 3, page 45, line 2, leave out' members of a water authority ' and insert' chairman of a water authority and the other members'.
No. 93, in Schedule 4, page 57, line 6, leave out ' chairman and a number of other' and insert ' number of '.
No. 94, in page 57, line 10, at end insert—
'(4) The chairman of a regional land drainage committee shall be appointed by the committee from among their own members'.
No. 101, in page 57, line 38, leave out sub-paragraph (1).
No. 102, in page 57, line 41, leave out ' remaining'.
Those who served in Committee will remember the series of debates about this general principle. I said at that time that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State would consult his colleagues about the Government's conclusions. We took seriously the views expressed in Committee and gave great thought to the decision which the Committee reached which was contrary to the expressed policy and wishes of the Government. We in no sense took it upon ourselves simply to conclude that the Committee was mistaken, and we were right. On the contrary, we gave a great deal of thought to the arguments put forward in Committee and to the Committee's decision.
On reflection, my right hon. Friend has come to the conclusion that it is right to ask the House to restore the original position whereby the chairmen of the regional water authorities will be appointed by my right hon. Friend. The reasons that led us to that conclusion can be summarised shortly.
The first is that the Bill places upon the Secretary of State and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the responsibility to promote jointly a national policy for water and, in addition, the Bill lays upon my right hon. Friends the obligation so to discharge their functions as to secure the effective execution of that policy. It is in the first instance the duty of my right hon. Friend to devise the strategy for water and to secure its effective execution. It must be wrong and illogical to require of the Secretary of State that he should procure policy and its execution and at the same time to say that he should not have the decision on those principal instruments of that policy, namely, the chairmen of the regional water authorities.
Moreover, I should remind the House that the Bill is unlike previous legislation on water in that it confers upon my right hon. and learned Friend considerably wider responsibilities than in previous legislation. For the first time, we are devising a comprehensive water policy whereby the management of the whole hydrological cycle from the raindrop all the way through the river systems to the sewerage works, and from pollution control back again to the water supply and its distribution, and land drainage to the sea will be brought together in the all-purpose policy for which my right hon. and learned Friend now bears responsibility.
Unlike previous legislation under Water Acts, this is a new policy which imposes upon my right hon. and learned Friend new and wider responsibilities. Therefore, in the first instance, if he is to carry the responsibility for that strategy and its execution, it must be right that he should possess the power of appointment of the main instrument of that policy. The second short point is that those who are chairmen of the regional water authorities will require to be men of demonstrated competence in the running of large affairs.
I recognise that within local authorities there are many men and women who are perfectly capable of managing large undertakings over wide areas. But the larger water authorities will involve investment programmes running into £100 million to £120 million per year. There will be responsibility for a many-faceted operation involving sewerage, and river management involving the deployment of large staffs and technical resources. It is essentially a management job.
I have the greatest admiration for our local authorities, but it cannot be assumed that the process of local authority election will necessarily throw up the 10 most competent managers of water in the country. On the contrary, it may well be that those elections will throw up people who are perfectly capable in many spheres but who are not necessarily the best available people for this onerous task of management.
Mr. W. E. Garratt:
For the 10 people who are appointed, will it be a full-time job? Will they be allowed to take outside work or will it be an exclusive contract rather similar, for example, to the chairmanship of the National Coal Board?
There will be many similarities to the chairmanship of national industries. Of course, regional water authorities by definition are regional bodies whereas the National Coal Board is a national body. The chairmen we have in mind will be expected to give some two or three days a week of their time to this job. It will be the overall responsibility of the chairmen to see that the executive function of the regional water authorities is carried out efficiently.
Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that the choice available to my right hon. and learned Friend in procuring the right men to do these important jobs should be as wide as the whole nation. He should be able to select people with business experience, trade union experience, agricultural experience and water experience. We cannot be certain that such a range of talent and such a breadth of choice will necessarily become available through the processes of local elections.
The third basic reason for the necessity to restore the position which the Bill's originally proposed is that there is a need for continuity. The management of water is, above all, a long-term matter. If it involves the building of a barrage to develop ground water and to seek ways and means of tapping the resources of the Wash, the Dee or the Severn, we must think in terms of long-range planning, investigation and construction. This is a task which should not be put at risk by the fact that our local authority elections take place at frequent intervals. It is surely wrong that the chairman of a regional water authority, charged with long-term planning and executive functions, should be at risk every three years or so because of the political processes of local authorities. It must be right on ground of continuity that my right hon. and learned Friend should have the power to make these appointments.
Is my hon. Friend assuming that, as the Bill stands, the chairman of a regional authority would automatically be one of those elected members? Why would not a man appointed by the Minister be likely to be the sort of person who would be unanimously elected by the authority?
I agree that that would be possible. It is possible that the elected members as well as the appointed members of an authority might choose one of the appointed members as chairman, but there can be no guarantee of that. On this matter it is essential that my right hon. and learned Friend should be charged with the national obligation for strategy and its execution. He must be able to ensure that the best available management talent is available to do the job.
Does my hon. Friend visualise a situation in which able people will not accept nomination as chairmen because by so doing they will feel debarred from taking part in other aspects of the water cycle? If so, could this not considerably reduce the field of appointments?
I think I take my hon. Friend's point, if I understand it aright. I believe that we would limit the field of selection if we were to say that only those should come forward who were elected by the local authorities, or who contributed to the work of those authorities, or who were thrown up by the processes of appointment by the Secretary of State within the desiderata laid down.
Is it not a fact that those appointed members of the regional water authority other than the chairman will be appointed because of their special knowledge of a certain aspect of work and therefore will be expected to be specialists?
That is broadly the case. The Bill requires that a number of members shall be appointed after consultation with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. There will be others with special knowledge of recreation and amenity and others with a particular form of expertise in terms of industry, finance, or labour relations. The chairman's task is above all one of broad strategic management. It is important that we should not limit the field of selection in any way.
There is one final reason why the Government think it right to ask the House to restore the appointed members. The chairman will be responsible, as will the regional water authorities, for extremely wide areas covering not one, but perhaps five, 10, 20, or more local authorities. I accept that many local authority elected members can and do take a broad regional view of what is necessary. Nevertheless, it will frequently happen that within a large regional water authority—for example, the Anglian or the Thames Water Authority—decisions will have to be taken on priorities whereby one area must come second in some decision of basic investment in order that another area may come first.
It is the duty of every elected member from a local authority to do his best to represent his area, to fight his corner, and to put forward his authority's position. He is a mandated member and has a duty to those who elect him.
With respect, I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that an elected local authority member does not have a duty to those who elect him. Of course he does. But it will be necessary, across these wide areas of the re-gional water authorities, for the chairman at times to take a broad view which will possibly involve disappointing some areas by deciding that one area shall have priority over others. This would be a difficult task to discharge for a chairman who came from a local authority within that area.
This is not one of the those open-and-shut arguments. This point was deployed in Committee and the Government have carefully considered it. We have also discussed it with the local authorities. I assure the House that we have reflected upon it a great deal. But, in the interests of the effective management of this most basic of our national resources, I must ask the House to accept the amendment.
We are not by any means alone in our view on this matter. Not surprisingly, many local authorities have taken a contrary view, but I have here a list of those other organisations which are in full support of my right hon. Friend appointing the chairmen of the regional water authorities.
On the side of industry we have the full-hearted support of the CBI, the Central Electricity Generating Board, the Chemical Industries Association and the Association of British Chambers of Commerce. I could mention others, but I think they represent a fair sprinkling from industry.
In the context of the environment we have the strong formal support of the Countryside Commission and the Council for Environmental Conservation which bring together most of the amenity societies.
Then, not least important, we have the support of those many professional organisations which will have to carry out this policy in detail—namely, the Institution of Public Health Engineers, the Institution of Municipal Engineers, the Association of Waterworks Officers and the Associ- ation of District Council Surveyors. This is a formidable list of local authority officers, technicians and professionals who will have to carry out this task.
But they are not alone. I should like to quote from one other group. We have the strong support of the National Anglers Council, the National Federation of Anglers and the Salmon and Trout Association. I should like to read part of a letter from the chairman of the Joint Angling Committee which the hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath, assisted in establishing some years ago. According to their chairman, the group of organisations in question—the National Anglers Council, the Federation of Anglers and the Salmon and Trout Association—represent about 2 million people who engage in angling and who are vitally concerned with the Bill. Their chairman wrote to me as follows just a week or so ago:
We have been apprehensive about the wisdom of the Government's proposals to organise water on local government lines, which in any case do not fit industrially or geographically.
But that decision has been taken, and the organisations accept that. Their chairman continues:
The sheet anchor of our hopes has been the provision that the chairman of each water authority would be independent and independently selected. However, an amendment has been made in Standing Committee by which he would become in effect a local authority person, and this could have disastrous effects, particularly in those regions where the domestic needs are concentrated in certain local authority areas and sources of water in others.
Those are the views of the chairman of the Joint Angling Committee, and not necessarily my own. He concludes:
We are therefore very strongly of the opinion that this amendment should be re versed and that the Bill should be restored in this respect to the form in which it was introduced.
The chairman says that the sheet anchor of their hopes had been the provision that the chairman would be independently selected. I take it that he means that it was the foundation of their hopes for the Bill. I do not believe that there is any other sense in which it could be said. Whatever the metaphorical virtues of the phrase, the House will be in no doubt that the anglers, the industrialists, professional engineers, technicians, agriculturists and environmentalists are at one in thinking that if my right hon. and learned Friend is to have national responsibility for water strategy, and a duty to ensure its execution, he must have the consequence of that general policy, the right of appointment, subject to his having to answer to the House, of the chairmen of the regional water authorities.
I have rarely heard such a monstrous proposal as that in the Minister's speech to reverse the decision that the Committee took on an all-party basis after studying the matter very carefully and objectively. The Minister's arguments contained a total contempt for the process of local government as it is known in this country.
It is disgraceful that a Minister claiming to be responsible for local government, having ministerial responsibility for the democratic process that the whole of our local government system embraces, should advance the contemptible arguments that we heard from the hon. Gentleman tonight.
First, the hon. Gentleman told us that the Secretary of State must have the right to decide who are to be the chairmen of the bodies in question because, to quote him, the right man may not come through the electoral process. Many hon. Members would think many other services to be even more important than water, such as education, where millions are being spent, planning and housing. If it is to be argued that the election process might not throw up the right man, how can the Minister defend the appointment of chairmen of water authorities and not do so in respect of the education committee, the housing committee, the planning committee or any of the other important committees of every major local authority— or of himself? He has been thrown up through the electoral process, and whether we like him or not, we have to put up with him. That is one of the deficiencies of democracy.
What worries me is that throughout the land today there is a growing contempt for politicians which I believe is totally misplaced. I said in Committee—and I make no apology for repeating—that I find that Members of Parliament and certainly councillors serving local authorities who give hours of their time without reward are held up to growing contempt as the result of arguments of the kind that the Under-Secretary has just advanced. Yet their integrity, sense of duty and devotion to the democratic cause is usually much greater than those of the people who criticise them.
The Under-Secretary says that it is dangerous even to think that any regional water authority should be allowed to select its own chairman because in an off-year—probably one of the years when the Conservatives win—we may not get people of the right stature elected. I would not say that even of a year in which the Conservatives won. Usually the quality of people on both sides is equally balanced. Obviously one never gets a council composed entirely of giants. But usually a degree of leadership emerges on both sides which is greatly to the credit of local government. I am very sad that that argument has been used—
In fairness to our good friends in local authorities I ought to make the point that when the chairman of an education committee or a housing committee takes on his task he does so within the area which elects him. That is his specific responsibility within a specific area. The chairman of a regional water authority is responsible for a very much wider area than any one single district which elects members.
He is in the same position as the Minister responsible for regional government, the Prime Minister, or anyone else in the Government. To say that is to argue that the greater the area the bigger nonsense the democratic system is. That cannot be the case.
I move now to the argument about security which was one of the hon. Gentleman's other points to support his proposition that a committee cannot be entrusted to select its own chairman. The same argument might be said to apply to the Inner London, Birmingham or Manchester Education Authority. They have to have regard to the long-term planning of the education service and to the long-term capital investment programme for education. From year to year they may be out of office. That is a risk that we all take in the democratic system. We know that for the first two years of their period in office any Government have to sail along on plans made by their predecessors. But in many aspects of local government the democratic process has to take account of a long-term investment programme and of long-term planning. The only way to safeguard long-term interests is to do away with the eleotoral process altogether and to decide to find the best men and to leave them there irrespective of the pressures of public opinion at any one time.
According to the Under-Secretary this is a management job. However the hon. Gentleman has to be clear in his own mind about the proper function of a committee controlling a democratic service and about the management of that committee. There are two entirely different functions to be performed. One of the great difficulties in some of the other services, like gas and electricity, which we nationalised, is that we did not sufficiently distinguish between the policy head, who is publicly accountable, and the managerial function. The Minister is now bringing the two things together again —the chairman will be the manager as well.
I am old fashioned: I do not think that the chairman should be the manager. He should stand back from day-to-day managerial decisions. We want councillors, and the chairmen and members of nationalised boards, to apply common sense, judgment, knowledge of public opinion and accountability to the everyday expertise which is provided in full by the full-time management. When the Minister either does not make that distinction or blurs it, as he is doing here, he does a disservice to the work we are talking about.
His point about the size of the investment programme is hardly worth 30 seconds reply. The chairman of the GLC, who is democratically elected, is in charge of an investment programme 10 times the size of the one involved here.
One thing which concerns me is that, although these committees may have a slight majority of local authority members, not one of that majority, whether they are local authority members of specialists, will be directly elected by the local authorities. They will all be selected by the Secretary of State from lists submitted to him. In the monstrous Severn-Trent Authority, he may not choose a Birmingham man at all. The water authority that serves Birmingham may be controlled by someone who does not represent the city. There will be no direct right of nomination to any of these bodies.
My hon. Friend is right. Under the Bill, the devilish situation could arise that a "representative" of a local authority was selected by the Secretary of State to represent the local authority.
When every member of a regional water authority is selected by the Secretary of State, the greater danger is not that they will be unable to have the breadth of ability for the job but that they will be pliable to the Minister, dependent on him for their salary and their future. That is a far greater danger than that the local authorities would send representatives who were not blue-eyed boys of the Secretary of State and his officials.
I turn to what the Under-Secretary said about what he expected his chairmen to be. I never thought I would hear any Minister, never mind a Minister for Local Government, say that about his chairmen. The chairmen of the regional water authorities will be appointed because they will be principally instruments of policy —the Secretary of State's policy. We should not be appointing any chairmen to a body like this because such chairmen will be pliable instruments of the Secretary of State, whoever the Secretary of State might be. No doubt the Minister would think that they would be even more pliable if the Secretary of State were from a Labour Government. We want independent people as chairmen for the regional water authorities because they control matters of considerable importance.
The Secretary of State gave us a long list of bodies he thought were in favour of this proposition. Not one of them would tolerate an outsider appointing their chairmen, whether it be the CBI, the Chambers of Commerce or the National Anglers Council.
The CEGB certainly was an exception, and I missed it. I will not dwell at length on that except to say that naturally the chairmen of those bodies who have found favour with Ministers from time to time could be expected to be in favour of the system, but I do not think we should take too much notice of that.
I helped to establish the National Anglers Council and I have a great regard for it. I cannot understand why, having elected its own chairmen—I did not have the impertinence when I established it of telling it who its chairmen should be— and having got itself off the ground with commendable efficiency, it should ask to be protected from local authorities. That is an argument which is totally beyond me. The reversal of the decision of the committee, the insistence of the Minister to appoint his chairmen to national and regional bodies, represents a sad day not only for local government but for the democratic process as we know it. I hope that hon. Members will record their complete opposition in the Lobby to the Minister's proposition.
I did not understand the surprise of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Denis Howell) that when a Minister is responsible for overall planning, whether for health, electricity or gas, he should appoint the chairman and that the chairman should be chosen by him. When the hon. Member was in power I feel sure he would never for one moment have contemplated that the regional hospital board chairmen should be appointed by the boards. They are all appointed by the Minister.
I have great sympathy with the view that there should be full local authority representation and I did not quite follow my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary when he said that the authority, in choosing its chairmen, might be in danger of not choosing men of demonstrable capacity. I have great confidence in their judgment, as I have in that of Ministers.
If the proposal goes through as now contained in the Bill, however, the Minister will not be selecting for appointment men with all the general capacity of chairmanship. He will be selecting specialists. Therefore the authority will not be deprived of the chance of selecting such men. That is the difficulty as I see it.
However, there is a second and even greater difficulty. There is a need for great urgency in getting plans under way in the creation of the new water authorities, particularly the regional water authorities. As drafted the Bill will inevitably mean considerable delay because the Minister will be unable to get the chairman selected until the authority has been constituted. That will take time. After all, unlike the point made by the hon. Member for Small Heath, half the appointments will be the appointments of the local authorities under Clause 3(7), and that undoubtedly will take time. When the authorities get together they will not know—and this certainly applies to my area—of the differing qualifications of the men who have been appointed by the local authorities or by the Minister.
I hope that the Minister will give an assurance that these appointments will be made early so that the chairmen can start work on an overall plan and on making independent plans for the regions. It cannot be wise to keep the Bill as at present drafted, although I am in general critical of the lack of local democratic representation.
There is one other matter which requires consideration. Although the major argument now is about the need for urgency in appointments there will come a time when it is necessary to appoint a new chairman. When that happens it is important that the new chairman is a man who enjoys the confidence of the regional water authority. I hope that the Minister can give us an assurance that in making such an appointment he will consult the particular authority. That is the kind of procedure we always used in appointing new chairmen to regional hospital boards when it was necessary to have a man who enjoyed the confidence of the authorities. For these reasons I hope that the Minister will succeed in reversing the decision of the Committee and that the chairman will be appointed by the Minister rather than, after some delay, by the regional water authority.
I cannot agree with the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Sir Robin Turton), for a number of reasons. The decision of the Committee was taken on two votes. The first was 11–5 and the second 12–6, the Government being defeated on both occasions. In Committee the discussion on this matter was much longer than the discussion we shall have tonight. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Denis Howell) was right to point to the attitude of the Undersecretary, because the hon. Gentleman used the word "instruments" as though these people were the playthings of the Secretary of State. I think he did it unwittingly, but it reveals something of his attitude of mind and that of the Government.
For the first time the Minister is reaching into the area of executive power. It has been repeatedly pointed out that this will inevitably blunt and detract from his proper rô1e in water affairs, in a judicial, advisory and reserve power sense. We shall muddy up the distinction between the Minister in his judicial and executive capacities. That is yet another bringing together of the two important things we try to separate in a democracy, brought about because of the Government's attitude to the amendment.
The Minister said that we need competent managers of water authorities who can take a broad strategic view, and who have shown competence in large organisations. These were the sort of phrases he used. My hon. Friend was right to say that the chief executive is the person who will be concerned with a great deal of this management. It is he who will have the proven experience, who has been chosen after exhaustive competitive interview for the management of a large organisation. The chairman has to guide his committee in taking policy decisions. The principles of democracy separate these functions. The Government's proposal makes it difficult for the chief executive and the chairman to reach agreement about their respective rôles.
I raised this subject in Committee, and with his usual adept side-stepping the Minister dodged the point. He has dodged it tonight. I hope that he will acknowledge that whatever merits the Government proposal may have it has this particular demerit.
The fisheries organisation quoted by the Minister referred to the independence of an appointed chairman. I wonder why it wrote that letter, because an appointed chairman is not independent; he is dependent on the patronage of the Minister appointing him. We all know what happens to the chairmen of these organisations—particularly if they are part-time— if they do not do what the Minister wants. The Minister has made it quite clear that executive directions will be issued to chairmen of water authorities to carry out the Minister's policy. The Minister shakes his head, but if he reads HANSARD tomorrow he will see that that was the meaning of his words in the opening of his speech.
In fact, many of these chairmen have been independent. The present chairman of the British Waterways Board springs to mind. He fulfils a great many of the qualifications that the hon. Gentleman mentioned. He is also independent. One wonders whether he will be reappointed. Rumour is rife. Indeed, if he is re-appointed, I confess that that will back up the Government's point of view in this matter. I am not expecting an announcement in the reply tonight, but the mere fact that many people have thought that he is not going to be re-appointed shows that there is not the degree of faith in the independence of the chair that the hon. Gentleman thinks there is.
The other consideration is that of the candidates for these jobs. I do not believe that the Secretary of State or the Under-Secretary of State believes that he or his successors will be competent to choose these people. There will be recommendations and there will be lists. Therefore, the power of patronage and selection will be extended to people who are not publicly accountable. I do not attack people who cannot speak for themselves, but the opinion exists in the water world today that many provisions in the Bill have been put forward by people who cannot be questioned directly and want to have power for themselves. This may be wrong, but it is undeniable that the power of patronage in the appointment of these chairmen will not be entirely in the hands of the Ministers but partly in the hands of those who advise them.
Finally, it is quite clear that the Government have in mind the extension of what people call the executive style chairmen. The right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton mentioned the chairmen of the health committee and the hospital management committee. All too frequently the chairmen wish to pursue one executive course and the committee members another. Because of that, the committee members may lose interest. In a vast organisation, with many subcommittees, a chairman who wishes to exercise an executive rôle, and not be a chairman in the sense which most of us understand it, will perhaps reduce the sense of concern, and democracy, as we understand it, will be at a distance.
Therefore, I conclude that the Government, in reversing the decision of the committee on this matter, are displaying a typically hierarchical attitude to a field of endeavour which does not need to have the sort of centralised power which quite clearly the Government have in mind. They have it in mind because they want to appoint these people from Whitehall and not have them appointed by the elected representatives of the people who use the water concern.
I am sorry that the Government have felt that they had to introduce the question of the appointment of chairman to the regional water authorities. I have listened carefully to what my hon. Friend has said and noted the emphasis he has placed on the type of person whom the Government propose should be appointed. I find myself in considerable sympathy with what the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Spearing) has just said about the job of a chairman in a non executive capacity. I took a note of the phrase that my hon. Friend used, namely, that they would require to find the 10 most competent managers of water. I do not see that as the task of a chairman. I think that my hon. Friend and those whose advice he has sought and discussed this problem with have been misled to some degree by the emphasis they placed on the elected representative content of the regional water authorities. After all. this is a matter which we are coming to in an amendment in a moment or two. What we see there is the proportion of members from local government and those who are appointed to represent various interests to make up the total membership of the authorities.
When one thinks in terms of the numbers involved—for example, the Thames Regional Water Authority has a membership of 52 and a number of other authorities have memberships of more than 30— one realises that if they are to have a membership that is worth appointing at all, among authorities of that size there will be men and women who will be able and competent to chair them. I very much regret the emphasis which my hon. Friend has put on the local authority member content, as though that were the reason why the chairmen should not be elected. I have sufficient confidence in the judgment of both elected and appointed members to believe that they will appoint the best member of the authority to the job of chairman. I should be very disappointed if I thought otherwise.
Those who contest the view that the chairmen should be elected say that it will be a political election, and that it will change as the political complexion of local government changes. That ignores the subtantial content of the membership of the authorities appointed by the Minister and not coming from local government.
I should not want that requirement to be written into the Bill, but I am sure that Ministers have been known to make representations and let their views be known to members. That is a human function, which one would be wrong to try to deny. I think that recommendations are made, can be made and should be made, but that should not be enshrined in an Act.
I have looked at some of the remarks made in Committee by my right hon. Friend and by my hon. Friend the Undersecretary of State. I find that my right hon. Friend was using the argument that we are to have elected chairmen for regional water authorities as part of his case to deny subsequent amendments. When we were discussing the question of appointments to the National Water Council and the constitution of the council my right hon. Friend said:
I should have thought that whatever merits the amendment had before the Committee decided that the chairmen of the RWAs, which form part of the NWC, should be elected by the RWAs. on which the local authorities are in the majority, they have now gone."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 27th March 1973, c. 531.]
That is using the argument that as the chairmen of the regional water authorities are to be elected, that will be reflected in the composition of the National Water Council.
My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary spoke of the possibility that many of the chairmen of regional water authorities
may well come from local government."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 10th April 1973, c. 936.]
Is that an undertaking which my hon. Friend is prepared to give now—that if we are to have appointed chairmen to some extent they should come from the members appointed to the regional waters authorities by the county councils?
Here again, it bedevils the whole proposition to think in terms of the elected members of the regional water authority and appointed members of that body as separate parts and separate groups of people. To do so does great damage to the whole concept of the working together of elected and specialist appointed representaives. I agree with what was said about the aspects of local government representation which my hon. Friend seems to condemn.
Four amendments in my name are grouped with Amendment No. 8 and I should like to speak very briefly to those. They deal with Schedule 4, with regard to the appointment of chairmen of regional water authorities, and the link there is the responsibility that will lie with the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to appoint the chairmen of regional land drainage committees. Whatever the merits of the appointment of chairmen of regional water authorities by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, I do not see how they can apply to the appointment of chairmen of regional land drainage committees. Regional land drainage committees will be committees of the regional water authorities, which will be required to delegate certain responsibilities to their land drainage committees and to give them general directions. They are creatures of the regional water authorities, but a separate Ministry is to have responsibility for the appointment of their chairmen. A number of the members of the regional land drainage committees will be appointed by the Minister.
Committees of this kind should be empowered to appoint their own chairmen from among their membership. That is really the purpose of the argument with regard to my amendments and also the general question.
My intervention in this part of the debate will be very brief. I find myself almost entirely in sympathy with the argument put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Northants, South (Mr. Arthur Jones) and agreeing to a degree with the arguments put forward by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Denis Howell). I believe that the Government are very mistaken in trying to reverse what was a very reasoned and well-argued decision at the Committee stage of the Bill. From my limited experience of local government I believe that in doing this the Government will be cutting totally across the concept and potential of the local government reorganisation which they have spent such a long time in promoting, and promoting enthusiastically.
The chairmen and leaders of the new local government areas, whether metropolitan, non-metropolitan, district or whatever, will be representing and deal- ing with areas far bigger than their normal parochial patches. If my right hon. Friend is indicating to the House that he does not believe that local government can elect from within its own ranks people who are capable of dealing satisfactorily with the affairs of a regional water authority, all I can say is that there is very little future for local government under the reorganisation.
I hope that even at this stage the Government will reconsider their position and contemplate withdrawing this amendment. Local government can put forward able people fully capable of dealing with the massive problems that will face the regional water authorities. I believe that local government should be enabled to do this by producing from within the regional water authorities the chairmen to guide that very important organisation.
I find it difficult to understand the surprise and indignation expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) and the hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Denis Howell) at the Government's stated intention to reverse the decision taken in Committee. It is precisely because the House should be allowed second thoughts about its provisions that a Bill has to go through more than one stage.
Equally, I cannot see that the Government's intention to appoint the chairmen of the regional water authorities is an insult, as the hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath, implied to the quality of people in local government. It is not, for the reasons given by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State. If a regional water authority were coterminous with the boundaries of a regional authority which had responsibilities for other things, or were coterminous with the boundaries of one local authority, it would be logical for it to have a chairman elected from the authority itself. But there are no regional water authorities in a general sense and the local authorities are not coterminous with the regional water authorities.
The argument over who is to appoint the chairmen of the regional water authorities originated simply with the Government's decision to concede a major increase to local authorities in their pro- portion of membership of regional water authorities. If the Government had stuck to their original guns, if they had upheld, as I said on Second Reading they should, their original intention to establish small executive regional water boards similar to boards of companies, if they had strengthened the proposed consumer councils by increasing their powers and their local authority representation, if they had provided for an executive board subject to powers of approval and political pressure from the consumer councils, not only would they have established a potentially more efficient water organisation but we would not now be having the argument over the powers of appointment of the chairmen of the regional water authorities.
If there had been a small executive board, it would have been possible either for the board as a group of, as it were, company directors to select the chairman, or for the Government to appoint the chairman. The fact is that the animal is now changed. It is no longer a board but an authority. In the circumstances, it is right for the Government to appoint a chairman.
We now have these regional water authorities and what has happened is water under the bridge. They are a far cry from executive boards and the question has therefore arisen about who should appoint the chairmen. I have no doubt that, in the circumstances which now exist, but which should not have arisen, it is right to opt for the appointment of the chairmen by the Government.
It is essential that the chairman of a regional water authority should have considerable managerial experience. It is even more essential that that should be so because the regional water authority is an authority and not a board. My guess is that in a larger authority the tendency will be for the full-time officers to take increasing control, and therefore it is all the more important that there should be the check upon them of a highly qualified chairman. It is preferable if he has experience in water management. It is essential, if he is to hold the confidence of all the members of the authority, that he should not be representative of any one sectional interest.
A new idea seems to have crept in than the managerial experience gained by a person who manages a factory producing, say, peas or turkeys necessarily enables that person to run a water authority. How does big business management enable a person to control people and to manage an aspect of Government totally divorced from the confines of industry?
My hon. Friend raises a matter that I am about to come to. The chairman of a regional authority would be properly subject to the political pressure of the decisions of the members of the water authority. He is not a dictator, he is only a chairman. But the chair should not become a political football, as it would if the chairman were to change as often as political power changed. Therefore, I support the amendment and I hope that the House will do likewise.
I realise that the House must come to a decision on this matter relatively quickly, but I should like to contribute two small points.
The first is on the composition of the regional water authority. The Government, I think wrongly, have put in local authority majorities. I am vice-president of two local authority associations, and I have regularly spoken to three local authority associations. Once the control of finance was removed from local authorities, I could not see the reason for the local authority majorities on the regional water authorities. As there is now a majority of local authority members on the regional water authorities, I do not believe it right that they should elect a chairman from amongst themselves.
I will give two reasons. In the old days of the river authorities all the finance came from precepting and, naturally, the members of the river authorities were conscious of where the money came from, because it came from their own local authorities. That is not now the case, and now that the finance of the regional water authorities is entirely divorced from local authorities, this is the time to make a change in the chairmanship.
Secondly, I have a high regard for local authority circles and I commend them in the same way as did my hon. Friend the Member for Northants, South (Mr. Arthur Jones), because I have worked in them for many years. But regional water authorities will have representatives from boroughs and county districts, from north, south, east and west of the region and from industry. The tendency will be for the members to say that it is a borough man's turn or a county man's turn to be chairman. They will tend to say, "We have had local authority representatives as chairman for so long, we will now have an industrial man." That is how it will go.
But that is entirely wrong, because the whole strategy of water policy will be governed by the National Water Council. Who will make up the National Water Council? The chairmen of the regional water authorities. Unless there is reasonable continuity on the National Water Council—and I cannot conceive of that coming about on the basis of regional water authority chairmen changing continually—we shall not get the consistent strategy which is so important in our national water policy.
For these reasons I support the Government in their desire to retain the appointment of the chairmen.
This has been a useful and animated debate, as were our debates on this subject in Committee.
In replying briefly, I will start with the valuable contribution made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Sir Robin Turton). I give him the complete assurance that we are anxious to get the chairmen into post as soon as the House has given us the necessary authority so to do. The reorganisation of the water services is a massive and detailed job. There is the task of advertising for and recruiting chief executives. There are the many tasks of the provisional management units, of sewerage and river management and water supply. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that we should get the chairmen into post as quickly as we can. That would not be possible if we had to wait until the new local authorities come into existence next April. Having made their choices for the regional water authorities, they would then have to go through the difficult process of deciding which of their members should become chairmen. On the ground of the need to get chairmen into post, I think that my right hon. Friend's point was entirely right.
I should like to give my right hon. Friend a further assurance. He made the reasonable suggestion, which was picked up in a sense by my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Rost), that when we come to the second-generation chairmen—that is to say, those who will follow the first chairmen put into posts—it would be right for my right hon. and learned Friend to take soundings of the water authorities to ensure that those who he had in mind for future appointments should command the confidence of the boards and, in particular, the confidence of their local authorities.
I have consulted my right hon. and learned Friend and I can give the assurance that that would be his intention.
I can give the assurance that the Secretary of State intends to take soundings of the regional water authority boards when he comes to consider future appointments of chairmen after the first group have taken up their posts. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Denis Howell) may not be aware that the office of Secretary of State continues. I am making this suggestion on behalf of my right hon. and learned Friend who now holds that office.
Will my hon. Friend explain why it would not be possible, if the decision were made today that chairmen could be appointed by the local authorities represented on the regional water authorities, to appoint chairmen almost immediately? In fact, all of them will shortly be in office.
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to reply to hon. Members who have contributed. The hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Spearing), who served with distinction in Committee, was worried that the appointment of a chairman by my right hon. and learned Friend would somehow be less than independent. He talked about patronage and similar matters. That does not stand up. He mentioned the chairman of the British Waterways Board. In fact, that chairman is appointed by the Secretary of State and is a fully independent person.
It is within the knowledge of hon. Members that successive Governments have appointed chairmen of new town corporations. They have been entirely independent of Government policy. Each chairman of the area electricity boards is an appointee. He is, nonetheless, independent. The chairmen of the regional economic planning councils are appointees. They are, nonetheless, independent.
It is a long-established practice whereby successive Secretaries of State have appointed persons of competence to various tasks throughout the country. Never has any question been raised about the propriety of such appointments or of the independence of those so placed in office.
My hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Charles Morrison) was right when he said that the regional water authorities are not coterminous with particular local authority areas. That is the whole difference.
The hon. Member for Acton made much of local authority managers of education authorities and housing departments and indeed of the situation in the Greater London Council. I pay my tribute to their great competence in the high offices which they hold, but the essential difference is that they are executing their offices in the areas in which they hold responsibility as elected members. In the regional water authorities there will be a very much wider responsibility which crosses many local authority boundaries and which is inbuilt in respect of hydro-logical considerations and not simply of a political and administrative consideration.
I should like to deal with the amendments related to agriculture. The concept of a statutory land drainage committee subordinate to the water authority but with special responsibility calls for adequate liaison between two groups. The fact that the regional land drainage committee chairman should be one of the Minister's appointees to the water authority seems to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to be the best way of ensuring that this happens. The widest consultations have taken place and the officials in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food as well as those concerned in the land drainage organisations have been greatly concerned to get land drainage matters right.
I give the assurance that consultations have taken place with the NFU, the CLA, the Association of River Authorities and the Association of Drainage Authorities. All were unanimous that the Minister of Agriculture Fisheries and Food should retain his responsibilities for land drainage and should appoint the chairmen, who will be members of the regional water authorities. I hope that the House will accept what I have said and will support the Government.
My right hon and learned Friend intends to select the best men for the job. There will be some areas of the country where the industrial interest in water is of significance and it may be right for him to look to people with industrial experience. That may be the case in the North-West or in the Severn-Trent. There may be other areas in which particular local government re-ponsibilities are of special importance and others in which agriculture may be of the greatest significance. My right hon and learned Friend in considering possible candidates will look to local government and I know that he will be glad if local authorities suggest to him people who may be able to fill these jobs. There is no bar and the Secretary of State will go out of his way to give full consideration to any possible local authority candidates, elected or otherwise, who may come forward to take on these taks.
Why does not my hon. Friend leave the matter to the local authorities? Surely they must know better than the gentlemen in Whitehall. If what my hon. Friend says is true—and I think it is true—should not the local authorities, the people on the spot, be better able to appoint these people?
|Division No. 114.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Allison, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Hannam, John (Exeter)|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Drayson, G. B.||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)|
|Awdry, Daniel||du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)||Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Hawkins, Paul|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Emery, Peter||Hayhoe, Barney|
|Balnlel, Rt. Hn. Lord||Farr, John||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward|
|Benyon, W.||Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||Hiley, Joseph|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Fidler, Michael||Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.)|
|Biffen, John||Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)||Holt, Miss Mary|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)||Hordern, Peter|
|Body, Richard||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Hornby, Richard|
|Boscawen, Hn. Robert||Fookes, Miss Janet||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Bray, Ronald||Fortescue, Tim||James, David|
|Brawis, John||Fowler, Norman||Jopling, Michael|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Fox, Marcus||Kimball, Marcus|
|Burden, F. A.||Fraser,Rt.Hn.Hugh(St'ftord & Stone)||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)|
|Carlisle, Mark||Gardner, Edward||King, Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Chapman, Sydney||Gibson-Watt, David||Kinsey, J. R.|
|Churchill, W. S.||Gower, Raymond||Kirk, Peter|
|Clegg, Walter||Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)||Kitson, Timothy|
|Cooke, Robert||Gray, Hamish||Knox, David|
|Corfield, Rt. Hn. Sir Frederick||Green, Alan||Lamont, Norman|
|Cormack, Patrick||Grieve, Percy||Le Merchant, Spencer|
|Critchley, Julian||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)|
|Crouch, David||Grylls, Michael||Longden, Sir Gilbert|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmld.MaJ.-Gen.Jaek||Gummer, J. Selwyn||Loveridge, John|
|Dean, Paul||Gurden, Harold||Luce, R. N.|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W F.||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||MacArthur, Ian|
|McCrindle, R. A.||Parkinson, Cecil||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|McLaren, Martin||Pounder, Ratton||Sutcliffe, John|
|Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Madel, David||Price, David (Eastlelgh)||Tebbit, Norman|
|Maginnis, John E.||Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis||Temple, John M.|
|Marten, Nell||Raison, Timothy||Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)|
|Mather, Carol||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||Trallord, Dr. Anthony|
|Mawby, Ray||Redmond, Robert||Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)||Varley, Eric G.|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Waddington, David|
|Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey||Walker-Smith, Rt. Kn. Sir Derek|
|Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Moate, Roger||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Money, Ernie||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Monks, Mrs. Connie||Shersby Michael||White, Roger (Gravesend)|
|Monro, Hector||Simeons, Charles||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Sinclair, Sir George||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Morrison, Charles||skeet, T. H. H.||Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher|
|Murton, Oscar||Soref, Harold||Woodnutt Mark|
|Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Speed, Keith||Younger, Hn. George|
|Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Spence, John|
|Normanton, Tom||Sproat, lain||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)||Stanbrook, Ivor||Mr. John Stradling Thomas and|
|Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby)||Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)||Mr. Kenneth Clarike|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Hannan, William (G'gow. Maryhill)||Orbach, Maurice|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Hardy, Peter||Oswald, Thomas|
|Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton)||Harper, Joseph||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Baxter, William||Harrison, Waiter (Wakefield)||Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Hooson, Emlyn||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Bishop, E. S.||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Pendry, Tom|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Huckfield, Leslie||Prescott, John|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Broughton, Sir Alfred||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.)||Probert, Arthur|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Brown, Ronald(Shoredltch & F'bury)||John, Brynmor||Roberts, Rt.Hn.Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.)||Roderick, Caerwyn E. (Brc'n &R'dnor)|
|Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.)||Jones, Barry (Flint, E.)||Roper, John|
|Carmichael, Neil||Jones,Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,S.)||Rose, Paul B.|
|Clark, David (Coine Valley)||Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)||Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)||Rowlands, Ted|
|Coleman, Donald||Kaufman, Gerald||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Concannon, J. D.||Lamborn, Harry||Short,Rt.Hn.Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Lamond, James||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven)||Leonard, Dick||Sillars, James|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.)||Lestor, Miss Joan||Silverman, Julius|
|Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove)||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|Deakins, Eric||Lomas, Kenneth||Spearing, Nigel|
|de Freltas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Stallard, A. W.|
|Doig, Peter||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Steel, David|
|Dormand, J. D.||McBride, Neil||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)|
|Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.)||McGuire, Michael||Stoddart, David (Swindon)|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Mackenzie, Gregor||Storehouse, Rt. Hn. John|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Mackle, John||Thomas,Rt.Hn.George (Cardiff.W.)|
|Dunnett, Jack||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Ellis, Tom||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Tinn, James|
|Ewing, Harry||Marks, Kenneth||Wallace, George|
|Faulds, Andrew||Marquand, David||Watkins, David|
|Fisher,Mrs.Doris(B'ham,Ladywood)||Marsden, F.||Weitzman, David|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Marshall, Dr. Edmund||White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Iikeston)||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Ford, Ben||Meacher, Michael||Whitlock, William|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Mikardo, Ian||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Garrett, W. E.||Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen)||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Gilbert, Dr. John||Molloy, William||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Gourlay, Harry||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Woof, Robert|
|Grant, John D. (Islington, E.)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Moyle, Roland||Mr. James A. Dunn, and|
|Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Oakes, Gordon||Mr. Ernest G. Perry.|
|Hamling, William||Ogden, Eric|
With this amendment we shall discuss the following amendments:
No. 14, in page 5, line 27, leave out ' or ' and insert
'shall ensure that two-thirds of the members of the Authority are representatives of local authorities and'.
No. 99, in Schedule 4, page 57, line 35, leave out 'one' and insert 'at least three '.
No. 100, in page 57, line 37, at end insert
'and so that the total number of members appointed by the constituent councils of counties is equal to the total number appointed by the constituent councils of districts'.
No. 107, in page 60, line 12, leave out 'one', and insert 'at least two'.
No. 108, in page 60, line 13, at end insert
'and the total number of members appointed by the constituent councils of counties shall be equal to the total number of members appointed by the constituent councils of districts'.
The amendment is concerned with local government representation on the regional water authorities. Local government will consider itself and democracy singularly defeated by the last vote. If the Government will accept this amendment at least it will in some small way redress the balance and undo the damage which undoubtedly has been done to the confidence of local government by the last vote.
There has been a long debate—one might say almost a quarrel—between every local authority association and the Government about representation of local authorities in respect of two functions for which hitherto they were the responsible authorities—water mainly and sewerage wholly. Those responsibilities are being taken away from them by this Bill. A compromise was reached between the Department of the Environment and the local authorities whereby a narrow and bare majority on the various regional water authorities was given to local government representatives in respect of functions where previously they had been masters. Then the Committee gave some further power to these regional bodies by allowing them to appoint their own chairmen. Alas, that has now gone as a result of the last vote.
This amendment seeks to retain a much greater degree of local government control over the regional water authorities by adopting the formula that two-thirds of the members of the authorities shall be local government representatives with one-third being appointed by the Government. The reason for that is clear. The Opposition still regard the functions of the regional water authorities basically as local government functions. The authorities are not the puppets and arms of the Secretary of State.
That is the intention behind the amendment. It may be argued by the Minister that if we were to increase the proportion of local authority representatives to two-thirds it would upset the formula whereby local authorities elect, in the case of metropolitan counties, two representatives with two from the districts and, in the case of non-metropolitan counties, one representative and one from the district for the whole county area. But that need be no impediment. The Government will remember that in Committee we suggested doubling the representation from the metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties and, if this amendment were accepted, in another place the Government could easily double that representation to secure adequate representation for local authorities on these boards.
The present formula means that a county as great as Greater Manchester has two representatives on the North Western Board. It means that a county such as Cheshire has one representative. That is the formula at the moment. We seek by this amendment to make it clear that regional water authorities basically are local government bodies. We want to bring the expertise from local authorities which at present are mainly in charge of water and which are wholly in charge of sewerage functions, so that they may continue to render the same services.
In view of the decision taken on the previous amendment, I ask the Government to adopt the present amendment and to take the necessary steps in another place to alter the formula so that the bodies will not become too unwieldy but to secure at least that local authorities retain the functions of water and sewerage even though the structure of those functions is rearranged by the Bill.
I apologise for entering this debate, since I was not a member of the Committee and I have not studied in detail the Committee reports, but I want to make one plea to my hon. Friends on behalf of my constituents and their representation on the Thames Regional Water Authority.
I have written to my hon. Friend to ask that he should ensure that my constituents have some say on the water authority that will control their water supplies in future. Receiving no reply, I put down Amendment No. 188 which you, in your wisdom, Mr. Deputy Speaker, have not selected because it was starred. It was starred because I was hoping for a reply from the Government to my letter.
In the Cotswolds, some 58,000 people, most of whom, although not all, are my constituents, will have their water supplied by the Thames Water Authority but, under the Bill, will have no right of representation upon that authority. They represent only 14 per cent. of the population of the new county of Gloucester, whereas they would need to be 16⅔ per cent. before they were entitled to representation under the clause. If this is a local authority service, we cannot exclude 58,000 people from representation.
The bulk of the head waters of the Thames rise in the Cotswolds and there is great interest there in river management, drainage, and the provision of the water supplies which feed many other areas of the Thames basin further down the valley. The riparian interests will need representation from among my constituents, just as the consumers will. It is wrong that there will be no-one to whom my constituents will be able to make representations or complaints if their water supplies are not adequate, if they are unhappy about charges for water or if insufficient attention is paid to the cleanliness and maintenance of the rivers in my constituency, which are many and which are not only important but very beautiful.
So I ask my hon. Friend to tell me that we shall have a representative on the Thames Water Authority. There are so many members of that authority that there is no reason why so important an area as the Cotswolds, where all the head waters of the Thames rise, should not be represented. I wish that my hon. Friend had indicated his attitude to me in writing before the debate, because it would have avoided the need for me to raise the matter in public. But I assure him that it is essential that, if this is to be a representative matter at all, such a large group of my constituents should not be neglected.
I support the amendment, because I was very dissatisfied with the replies that we had earlier this evening from the Under-Secretary about the responsibility for the conduct of drainage and sewerage operations. He gave a rather stupid answer when he said that one could not divide functions of drainage and sewerage from other functions because there would be difficulties in drawing the boundary line about who had to decide on things such as acidity, and that consequently there would be difficulty in defining the lines of conduct to determine who was responsible for the quality of water.
That was rather a nonsensical answer when we were talking about who had to carry out those functions. It is typical of the Civil Service-type of reply that many of us have received when we have taken up queries on the Bill.
The Under-Secretary also said that if we were to divide drainage and sewerage from the other functions, we would have no incentive or enthusiasm for conservation and economy of water supplies. Again I considered that to be the kind of answer that the Minister must have been given by his advisors. Even he could not have thought up a nonsensical answer like that for himself.
It was because I was dissatisfied with the replies that the Minister gave earlier on the conduct of these functions that I am particularly keen to support the amendment. Since we cannot have district councils and local authorities being responsible for drainage and sewerage, or so the Minister says, perhaps the best we can push for is to ensure that these local authorities will at least have some representation on the regional water authorities.
The Under-Secretary told me in a letter on March 23rd that some of these functions would be put in the hands of district councils on an agency basis. I do not know what that means. I hope it means that they will be able to retain some control over drainage and sewerage in their area. It seems to me that, irrespective of the delegation of agency arrangements to these district councils, they will still not have control over these matters in the way that they should.
I have had representations on this from Mr. Taylor, the conscientious engineer and surveyor of the Bedworth Urban District Council, and I am sure that his sentiments are echoed by engineers and surveyors throughout the country. I am sure that the problems that he outlined to me will not be rectified by the totally inadequate representation that local authorities will have on regional water authorities.
One of my hon. Friends says that Greater Manchester will have two people on the regional water authority dealing with that part of the country. If Greater Manchester is to have two, God knows what Nuneaton and Bedworth will have on the Severn-Trent Regional Water Authority. I cannot see that the 110,000 people I represent will have any direct representation. At least my constituents have some representation on, or they can do something about, the Trent River Authority. They have a means of access, even if it is only by my clobbering the authority. But if the Trent and the Severn authorities are to be joined together, as they are, I am not sure how many representatives the new gerrymandered Warwickshire County Council will have on the new Severn-Trent authority.
However, I am not content to accept the representation that the new Warwickshire County Council will have on that authority for my constituents. I put it to the Under-Secretary that many of my constituents in combining the former municipal borough of Nuneaton and the former urban district of Bedworth will not even accept the joint name that the Secretary of State has given them. How on earth he expects them to accept the totally inadequate representation they will be given on the new regional water authority I do not know. My hon. Friend has made a good point about the need to increase local authority representatives on the RWAs because now, thanks to the Under-Secretary, the authorities will not even be able to appoint their own chairmen. Surely the Minister can make some concession to rectify the deficiencies imposed by his amendments. One such concession would be in accepting the main force of the amendment.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), I want to raise the question of representation on the Thames Water Authority. A large part of North-West Kent, most of which lies in my constituency, has been included in the London-based Thames Water Authority with the result that the 150,000 people living in that area will have no elected representation on the authority.
I was not a member of the Standing Committee but my hon. Friend the Member for Luton (Mr. Simeons) ably moved an amendment seeking to restore to the Southern Water Authority the part of North-West Kent concerned. While I am sorry that the Government were not able to accept that amendment I am glad that they undertook to look into the possibility of giving the Southern Water Authority the land drainage function for the area. Even if that is done there is still the problem of representation in respect of water supply and sewage disposal. It is not always easy to say whether a problem falls into the land drainage or the water supply category.
At the moment, for instance, we have an acute local problem in that the Dartford and District Angling and Preservation Society, whose members number 3,000, sees its valuable fishing stocks imperilled by the lack of water in the lakes adjoining the River Darent. The solution to that problem lies partly with land drainage and partly with water supply. If the problem arose after reorganisation there would be a difficulty with representation.
There are many other matters which my constituents might wish to take up but on which they would be prejudiced by the lack of representation on the Thames Water Authority. I hope my hon. Friend will look seriously into the problems of areas such as my constituency, which, because the boundaries of regional water authorities do not coincide with county boundaries, find themselves without elected representation.
In case my hon. Friend feels inclined to accept this amendment I would ask him to consider the situation which will arise and which will mean that there must either be a reduction in the number of appointed members or such an increase in members that the regional water authorities would be almost unmanageable. We have already heard in Committee proposals for the number of elected and nominated members. The number nominated by the Minister of Agriculture would be two. This could be disastrous.
While I accept that in smaller authorities two might be all that could be spared, I submit that where there are larger regional water authorities there is a good case for at least three members being nominated by the Minister of Agriculture so that not only agriculture but land drainage and, for the benefit of my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. True), fisheries, could be represented. If the Minister feels inclined to accept an expansion in the size of these authorities I hope that he will not forget the nominated members.
My hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield) mentioned sewage. I cannot understand why sewage has to be mixed up with pure water in this Bill. The Government should think again and leave sewage to those who are capable of dealing with it. The local authorities already handling sewage disposal should be left to it.
I have received strong representations from the City of Norwich. I remind the Minister that the people of East Anglia are extremely concerned about this issue and the way in which the Government have dealt with the whole Bill. While I acknowledge that this question of representation is mainly concerned with sewage and water supply, I contend that sewage should be taken away from water. The two should be kept separate.
The debate raises questions almost way beyond the amendment, and we cannot go into those.
We are talking about local water being provided for local people to use, whether for sewerage, recreation or drinking, and the control over this water is being taken from the locality and put into the hands of people who are answerable to nobody. This was well illustrated by my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) who has already started to talk about his vested interest. If we get away from democracy we degenerate to vested interests fighting each other.
I do my best not to drink water in London.
To come back to the question of vested interests, we also saw this so clearly portrayed by the last speech of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State when he started to say that in an industrial area an industrialist may be in charge, in an agricultural area an agriculturist may be in charge, and it appears as if we are going to look at each area to find the strongest vested interest and give it overall charge. That cannot be right.
We must see that the local interest is protected and that small numbers of anglers or boating people can have a say through their representatives. If we take local government and local democracy away from people, they will have no say. No one will know where the nominated people come from, hear when they speak, or notice when they are replaced. It will be another form of government by Whitehall.
If hon. Members are concerned about the provisions in the Bill dealing with the constitution of the English water authorities, I am sure that they would be appalled if they were to realise the lack of provision for the Welsh Water Authority. English authorities have a broad idea of what the representation will be, but there is no provision in the Bill for outlining the constitution of the Welsh Water Authority. This will not be done by legislative provision or discussion but by an order of the Secretary of State for Wales, and it will be unamendable.
The only reason given for this unfair and discriminatory means of dealing with the constitution of the Welsh Water Authority is that the Secretary of State for Wales is waiting for the Kilbrandon-Crowther Commission to report. That commission is considering England as well as Wales, and if we have to wait for it to report before we can establish a Welsh water authority, why is it that the English authorities are not expected to wait?
The Minister of State has declined to state the representation on the Welsh Water Authority. English authorities have an idea of the kind of representation that local authorities will have. In Wales we have none. All that we have had is one brief verbal assurance from the Minister of State that, generally speaking, in Wales the representation will be broadly similar to that in England.
The document that was passed round in Committee to help hon. Members showed that in the representation on English water authorities local authority majorities vary from one to four. I want to know whether the Welsh Water Authority will have a local authority representation of one, two, three or four. What representation will county councils and district councils have in Wales? We have some idea of what the representation on and constitution of the English authorities will be. We have no such idea of the situation in Wales.
There is no provision in the Bill dealing with the constitution of the Welsh Water Authority, and no guidelines for it. Everything will be done by an autocratic decision of the Secretary of State. It will be done by means of an order which will be unamendable, and this procedure is unacceptable to the Welsh people.
As those hon. Members who served on the Standing Committee will recall, we had extensive debates about this matter. The dilemma before all of us was that on the one hand we wanted relatively compact executive bodies to take on these important functions but at the same time we wanted to include on them as wide a representation from local authorities and the many other interests concerned as was practicable.
In the first instance, our professional advisers and the Central Advisory Water Committee felt that it would be right to have largely executive authorities. Industry made it clear that it would oppose an elected majority. The professions for the most part did not want a local government majority. The Association of River Authorities was opposed to an elected local government majority. On the other hand, many hon. Members and the local authority associations naturally proposed that there should be substantial local government majorities.
At the end of the day, we had to seek some form of balance between the democratic, elected element and the compelling need to have executive people with wide experience in the many specialised aspects relevant to water. Therefore, we produced a formula which in the first instance was that all of those county authorities with a quarter of their population within a particular regional water authority should have a member. As a result of consultations, we decided that that proportion was not enough, and we reduced it to one-sixth, thereby bringing more county members into each authority, but, of course, inevitably thereby increasing the size of each regional water authority, so that some authorities are very large indeed—too large, many professionals think, for managerial efficiency.
In the end, we have had to strike some form of balance. We have worked on the basis of the formula discussed in detail in Committee. We decided that it would not be right to make the local authority majority depend solely on population, for if that were the case the great conurbations of Manchester and Liverpool, for example, would be strongly represented while the Lake District would not get on at all.
We could not base it purely on population. We could not base it just on rateable value because that would mean, for example, that the great City of Birmingham would swamp the authority while many rural areas in the Severn-Trent area would not get on at all. Nor could we base it on volume of water used, the formula which industry might have preferred, because industry, as the great user of water, would have been the dominating element. Thus, the balance begins and ends with a local authority majority.
I take the point that every community, every constituency, every town wants to be on the authority. Equally, I take the point—for I have received all the letters —that every conceivable group of fishermen, environmentalists, ramblers, and many minority groups, would also like to be on the authority. But there has to be some limit to the size of these organisations if they are to be effective, compact executive bodies. I believe that our formula strikes a proper balance between the compelling needs of management and efficiency and the equally compelling demand for there to be an elected majority.
I take the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) that there may be a case in some of the larger regional water authorities in which the Minister of Agriculture may wish to have somewhat more agricultural and fisheries members, and I will convey the point to my right hon. Friend. I also take the point put by my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Trew) and others, including my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), to whom I apologise for the fact that he has not received a reply to his letter and assure him that he will have one at once.
The House accept that all hon. Members are doing their proper duty in urging that their own communities should be represented, but in the end there must be a balance between the elected majority and others representing more specialised interests which also require to be on the authorities. I believe that we have struck the best balance practicable and I ask the House not to accept the amendment.
|Division No. 115.]||AYES||[10.40 p.m.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Grant, John D. (Islington, E.)||Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen)|
|Ashton, Joe||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Molloy, William|
|Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton)||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)|
|Baxter, William||Hamling, William||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Bishop, E. S.||Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill)||Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Hardy, Peter||Oakes, Gordon|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Harper, Joseph||Oswald, Thomas|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Hooson, Emlyn||Pendry, Tom|
|Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.)||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.|
|Carmichael, Neil||Huckfield, Leslie||Prescott, John|
|Clark, David (Colne Valley)||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Coleman, Donald||John, Brynmor||Radice, Giles|
|Concannon, J. D.||Jones, Barry (Flint, E.)||Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)||Roderick, Caerwyn E. (Brc'n&R'dnor)|
|Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven)||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, w)||Roper, John|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.)||Kaufman, Gerald||Rose, Paul B.|
|Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove)||Lamborn, Harry||Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)|
|Deakins, Eric||Leonard Dick||Rowlands, Ted|
|de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Lewis Ron (Carlisle)||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Doig, Peter||Lomas Kenneth||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Dormand, J. D||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||LyonS, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Silverman, Julius|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|Dunn, James A.||McBride, Neil||Spearing, Nigel|
|Dunnett, Jack||McGuire, Michael||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Ellis Tom||Mackenzie, Gregor||Stallard, A. W.|
|Faulds, Andrew||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Steel, David|
|Fisher, Mrs.Doris (B'ham, Ladywood)||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Marks, Kenneth||Stoddart, David (Swindon)|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Marquand, David||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John|
|Ford, Ben||Marsden, F.||Stuttaford, Dr. Tom|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Marshall, Dr. Edmund||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Garrett, W. E.||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Tinn, James|
|Gilbert, Dr. John||Meacher, Michael||Wallace, George|
|Gourlay, Harry||Mikardo, Ian||Watkins, David|
|Weitzman, David||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)||Mr. Michael Cocks and|
|Whitehead, Phillip||Woof, Robert||Mr. Ernest G. Perry.|
|Adley, Robert||Haselhurst, Alan||Pounder, Rafton|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Hayhoe, Barney||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Hicks, Robert||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Awdry, Daniel||Hiley, Joseph||Pym. Rt. Hn. Francis|
|Baker W. H. K. (Banff)||Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.)||Ralson, Timothy|
|Balniel, Rt. Hn. Lord||Holt, Miss Mary||Redmond, Robert|
|Benyon, W.||Hordern, Peter||Reed Laurance (Bolton, E.)|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Hornby, Richard||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Biffen, John||Hunt, John||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||James, David||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Boscawen, Hn. Robert||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Rost, Peter|
|Bray, Ronald||Jopling, Michael||Scott-HopKins, James|
|Brewis, John||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||shaw, Michael (Sc'b' gh & Whitby)|
|Burden, F. A.||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Shersby, Michael|
|Carlisle, Mark||Kinsey, J. R.||Simeones, Charles|
|Chapman, Sydney||Kirk, Peter||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Churchill, W. S.||Knox, David||Soref, Harold|
|Clegg, Walter||Lamont, Norman||speed, Keith|
|Cooke, Robert||Lane David||Spence, John|
|Corfield, Rt. Hn. Sir Frederick||Le Marchant, Spencer||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Cormack, Patrick||Longden, Sir Gilbert||Sutcliffe, John|
|Crouch, David||Loveridge, John||Taylor Frank (Moss Side)|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmld, MaJ.-Gen.Jack||Luce, R. N.||Tebbit, Norman|
|Dean, Paul||McCrindle, R. A.||Temple, John M.|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||McLaren Martin||Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter Hendon, S.)|
|Drayson, G. B.||Madel, David||Trafford, Dr. Anthony|
|du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Maginnis, John E.||Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin|
|Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Marten, Nell||Vaughan, Dr. Gerard|
|Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||Mather, Carol||Waddington, David|
|Fidler, Michael||Mawby, Ray||Walder, Davld (Clitheroe)|
|Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Ward, Dame lrene|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Fortescue, Tim||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Fowler, Norman||Miscampbell, Norman||White, Roger (Gravesend)|
|Fox Marcus||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Fras'er, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)||Moate, Roger||Wilkinston, John|
|Gibson Watt David||Money, Ernle||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Gower, Raymond||Monks Mrs. Connie||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)||Monro, Hector||Woodhouse, Hn Christopher|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Woodnutl, Mark|
|Gray, Hamish||Morrison, Charles||Worsley, Marcus|
|Green, Alan||Murton, Oscar||Younger, Hn. George|
|Grieve, Percy||Nabarro, Sir Gerald|
|Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Normanton, Tom||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Grylls, Michael||Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)||Mr. Kenneth Clarke and|
|Gurden, Harold||Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby)||Mr. Paul Hawkins.|
|Hannam, John (Exeter)||Parkinson, Cecil|