§ Mr. McLoughlin
I beg to move amendment No. 1, in page 2, line 3, leave out 'use' and insert 'operation'.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
With this, it will be convenient to consider the following: Amendment No. 54, in page 2, line 15, at end insert—'(4) The reference in subsection (1)(b)(i) above to rights of navigation in waters does not include any right to use or keep any vessel on those waters.'.Government amendment No. 53.
§ Mr. McLoughlin
Somewhat unusually, I find myself in the position of moving an amendment with the support of the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett). I am almost sure that he ought to be moving the amendment, because I added my name to the amendment after he had tabled it.
As members of the Committee already know, I have listened carefully to the advice of those who represent users of inland waterways. We have been grateful for their constructive comments, and have agreed that some adjustments to the Bill, like this one, are desirable. The effect of changing the term "use" to "operation" will make for consistency between the clause 3 and the clause 1 order-making power. It will also reassure the users of waterways that the essential purpose of the Bill is for orders to deal with the construction and management of works rather than their abandonment or redevelopment. I am sure that the House will support amendment No. 1 and the consequential amendment to the long title in amendment No. 53.
I understand that amendment No. 54 reflects the concerns of the Inland Waterways Association to protect the position of houseboat owners in certain waters. The association has noted that the parliamentary orders under the Transport Act 1968, which we propose to preserve under amendment No. 24, include the power to interfere with the right to keep a vessel or craft on a canal or inland waterway. The IWA's argument is that ministerial orders 518 under clause 3(1)(b), which deal with matters outside inland waterways, should not have that power because they are not subject to parliamentary approval.
I cannot accept that it would be reasonable to fetter the Secretary of State's powers as the amendment proposes. Currently, if a Transport Act order is not required, the arrangements for houseboat owners in a works scheme can be made under a private Bill, and there is no reason why a future order under this Bill should not be allowed to make similar arrangements. The position of moorings may be crucial to a particular works scheme under clause 3(1)(b), but it would be for the promoter to convince the Secretary of State and any local inquiry that his proposals were justified. The objections of local boat owners would have to be taken into account, along with the provisions of any existing local enactments and local mooring contracts. Compensation would be available to anyone who had proper rights to moor.
My officials have discussed amendment No. 54 with representatives of the IWA and the Inland Waterways Amenity Advisory Council. I hope that, in view of its impracticality, the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish will agree not to press it.
§ Mr. Andrew F. Bennett
I am grateful to the Minister for adding his name to amendment No. 1. It will go some way towards reassuring canal users. However, some of them feel that a move is afoot to increase mooring charges. If some of the moorings that are lost are cheap moorings, people may be forced to pay substantially more for new moorings. I realise that this issue overlaps issues that are dealt with in the private Bill which, I believe, is still in the other place. When the Minister replies to the debate, I hope that he will make it clear that this clause is not intended to be used as a reason for increasing mooring charges on canals.
§ Ms. Walley
It is strange for an amendment to be tabled not just in the name of the Secretary of State for Transport but also in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett). It shows that genuine concerns were expressed by the Opposition in the early stages of the Committee proceedings.
It would be appropriate at this stage to remind the Minister of the widespread concern among those who are worried about the future of our inland waterways. I am grateful that the amendment has been tabled and that flexibility about amending the Bill has been shown in order to meet many of the concerns expressed by the Inland Waterways Association and others. There are about 24,672 readers of Waterways World. I have it on good authority that each copy of that magazine bought is react by three other people. The amount of correspondence that we have received shows that absolutely everybody connected with inland waterways is concerned about this issue. That is why the amendment is so important.
It would be worth while to set out how we have reached this stage. We debated this issue for many hours in Committee. We appreciated the opportunity to have consultations with the Minister. However, those consultations ought to have taken place much earlier. There might never have been so much misunderstanding, mistrust and suspicion among all those who use our inland waterways if consultation had taken place much earlier. Nevertheless, amendment No. 1 does not go—surprise, surprise—far enough for us. I intend to explain briefly why.
519 We accept that it is perfectly in order for work on canals to take place or for new transport systems to be constructed over, on or below them. However, we do not believe that the definition should be widened. Mistrust has been created by our attempts to try to clarify where responsibilities begin and end. We do not believe that they are set out clearly enough in the definition. I agree with those who criticise those parts of the Bill that deal with inland waterways that ancillary works necessitated by new transport systems could still be carried out under clause 1 and clause 3. No one could blame those concerned for being suspicious. My hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish referred to the fact that a private Bill is being considered in another place which is causing even greater anxiety than there was to begin with.
There appears to have been piecemeal privatisation of the inland waterways, which has caused much concern and outrage. The question is whether amendment No. 1, to substitute the word "operation" for the word "use" in clause 3, with consequential amendment of the long title to correspond, will remove the general powers aspect from the Bill and ensure that only orders referring to the operation of waterways rather than to their use or extinguishment come within the scope of the clause.
My concern is that orders relating to use or extinguishment could still be made under clause 3. The use of a waterway could be terminated or curtailed as a matter ancillary to the carrying out of works under clause 3. We need an absolute assurance from the Minister that, as the Bill stands and as it might stand under future regulations, we have secured this narrow definition of what would or would not be approved under the order-making procedure.
Orders about use or extinguishment might be made as a matter ancillary to the construction or operation of a waterway. For example, a main line waterway might gain more water for its operations by filling in a branch that took water to work a lock. These are fairly technical matters, and not ones with which I am wholly familiar. I understand, however, that my hon. Friends are very concerned about this issue, too. The abandonment of a branch would be ancillary to the operation of the main line, and could be carried out by order under clause 3. I hope that that will give some idea why we feel that even the new definition in the amendment does not take us far enough.
On consultation generally, we are still concerned that there is no parliamentary procedure for orders under clause 3. I accept that we might return to this matter, but it relates to the scope of the amendments before us. The Minister may point out that there is provision for consultation and appeal in the public inquiry process, but most of that will be left to discretion and subordinate legislation. We are concerned that subordinate legislation will be involved. We would like an assurance that no loss of consultation or right of appeal will result from the substitution of a system of orders under the Bill for the private Bill system that exists now.
Amendment No. 54 is designed to clarify what is meant by "rights of navigation" in clause 3(1)(b)(i). It is intended to prevent a temporary order from interfering on a long-term basis with a boat mooring, landing stage or anything else that a person has a right to keep on the 520 rivers. We would appreciate it if the Minister could confirm whether "rights of navigation" are intended to include the right to keep a vessel or anything else on the waterways.
§ 7 pm
§ Mr. Andrew F. Bennett
Will my hon. Friend press the Minister on the question of the width of the canal, because I am concerned about traditional boats being able to get through? I understand that, in at least one example, the British Waterways Association has fractionally narrowed the width of a lock gate and, as a result, a whole group of boats is unable to use that stretch of canal.
§ Ms. Walley
When I said that my hon. Friends knew more about these technical matters than I do, I did not expect such an immediate example. My hon. Friend has made a good point. If the width or gauge—or whatever is the correct navigational term—is too small and is preventing the effective operation of the waterways system, my hon. Friend is right to press the Minister for an assurance that the waterways system will not be restricted because of such a technical matter. I hope that the Minister will reassure us on that.
As I said, amendment No. 54 deals with the right to keep a vessel or anything else on the waterways. It is important because the definition in the Transport Act 1968 is wide. It relates specifically to the right to keep a vessel or craft on the water. The problem is that there is no definition in the Bill. Therefore, there is an anomaly. We should know what the Bill is supposed to cover, and I hope that the Minister can clarify it.
It is fair to say that all those connected with the waterways movement—avid readers of Waterways World, those who keep boats on the waterways or those who just enjoy walking along them—are concerned that no attempt has been made by the Government to restrict the powers in the Bill to temporary works on waterways. The Inland Waterways Association and its friends continue to remain suspicious that the Bill's real intention is to close waterways and build transport systems along their dry beds. I should be concerned if we did not get the assurance for which my hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish has asked. We do not want to see the decline of our waterways in that way.
No protection against temporary closure exists in part VII of the Transport Act 1968, and none is proposed in the Bill. Rights of navigation still exist on rivers. It would be helpful if the Minister could assure us that any modification or suspension of navigation rights will be temporary and will be kept within reasonable time limits should works be proposed on rivers under clause 3.
I should like to remind the Minister that consultation with the Inland Waterways Amenity Advisory Council exists for only two thirds of inland waterways in the country. It is concerned only with waterways under the ownership or management of the British Waterways board, whereas the Bill affects all waterways. It is important that some consideration should be given to whether the IWAAC's remit could be extended to cover all waterways since it is clear that many important issues are related to the operations that could come about as a result of the Bill and the amendments. If we are to feel that we have the safeguards we want, IWAAC needs some teeth in any Government review.
521 I hope that the Minister can reassure us on the issues that I have outlined. Such reassurances might further reduce the suspicion that still exists among those who use inland waterways.
§ Mr. Spearing
I must declare an interest, as I have been a member of the Inland Waterways Association for many years. I said in Committee that the way in which the Government have handled clause 3 is totally unsatisfactory and does not bring any assurance of their good faith. That was said time and again in Committee, and it should be said again now and quoted chapter and verse.
The canals in Britain have been a matter of controversy for many years. The foundation Act, the Transport Act 1968, which was the responsibility of my noble Friend Lady Castle was a landmark—or a watermark. For the first time, it provided protection for amenity waterways that were part of the landscape and heritage of the country and not just for recreational or transport use. The water was first ruffled—to use an analogy—during the passage of the Water Bill in 1973, when there was a proposal to absorb the whole of the then co-ordinated waterways system under the British Waterways Board into the regional water authorities then being proposed. An enormous public campaign ensued and the canals were detached, fortunately, from that important Act.
After that, the Inland Waterways Amenity Advisory Council was appointed by the House as a statutory body specifically to look after the amenity aspects of the waterways. Yet, as we saw in Committee, in the Government's response to the Select Committee on Procedure's report on private Bills, there was no hint that inland waterways would be an integral part of the Bill.
The original hearings of that Committee dealt with harbours. In a harbour, particularly at its upper end, there is frequently a relatively short stretch of inland waterway or impounded harbour. That was the first issue that we were aware of that related to waterways. In Committee, I challenged the Minister to say when these matters were first brought to the attention of the Inland Waterways Amenity Advisory Council.
We heard in the end—the Minister cannot deny this —that, as late as October last year, the Minister's official representative on that waterways statutory Committee did not give any notice of the intention to include new clause 3. When the Minister replied to the quotations from parliamentary answers which I read into column 118 of the report of the Committee's proceedings, he could say only that the hon. Member had the Command Paper from which I read, but he could not deny my charge that inland waterways were not included. We got off to a bad start, and I hope that the Minister will agree that I have not been unfair in my broad description of events.
It is even more of a shame that we cannot make further progress on the report. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Ms. Walley) properly said that one part of a waterway will have an intimate effect on another, even the impounding of the headwater which forms the reservoir at the summit of any canal system. A reservoir usually has no navigable connection with the rest of the canal system but is an amenity which is usually and almost entirely owned by the British Waterways Board. It is very valuable property.
522 The board has large areas of land adjacent to canals and it also has the advantage of being able to sell water. They are an integral part of the drainage system which has grown up for a century or more around the canals.
One of the board's most valuable assets, to which my hon. Friend referred in passing, is the wayleave. One of the features of the canal which we know as the Regent canal, or the Grand Union canal, running from Greenford to what was the Regent's canal dock in Limehouse, is that much of the towpath is used for high tension electricity lines. They are easily installed, easily accessible and easily maintained. British Waterways receives some rent, and good luck to it, but the value of such a wayleave can hardly be exaggerated.
The use of the adjacent land to which I referred is often governed by the original canal Acts, which date from when the canals were constructed a century, or in some cases two centuries, ago. As we know from earlier debates, the Minister, with the powers in clause 3, can change any of those Acts. The Minister may know of a controversy at the moment in the Watford area. I do not know what the future holds for those canals, but I know what it would hold if the party of my noble Friend Lady Castle had anything to do with it. However, I also know what will happen if we have the misfortune of a continuation of the present Administration.
If the Bill is passed, the Government will have in their hands powerful statutory instruments of power if, alas, they are able to use them—I do not think that they will be so able. I do not think that they deserve to. Whatever amends may have been made with a few concessions here and there, their general behaviour on the issue of inland waterways and the lack of proper notification to the statutory bodies bodes ill for their future. Therefore, the safeguards which I and my hon. Friends wish to write into the Bill have every justification. If they are not accepted here or in another place, suspicion will not be dispersed but will, properly—and for good reason—increase.
§ Mr. McLoughlin
We have gone over the course of the consultation and when the issue first appeared in the Bill on numerous occasions. I return to the question of the private Bill and the new procedures—
The hon. Gentleman says, "Just say sorry," but I have made my views on consultation clear. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Ms. Walley) for the constructive way in which we proceeded when the problem was brought to my attention. However, the issue was covered in the Government's original consultation document published in June 1990 —Command Paper 1110, paragraph 49. I shall not read it out.
§ Ms. Walley
I do not wish to go over ground that we have covered again and again in Committee, but does the Minister believe that the problem is that one part of the Department of the Environment did not know what the Department of Transport was doing?
§ Mr. McLoughlin
The hon. Lady can draw her own conclusions, and she has. Whatever I say will not change them, so I shall not waste the House's time in trying to do so.
523 There was definitely an attempt to reach a general agreement, and I accept that a reassurance was needed. I now know that the editor of Waterways World is a constituent of mine. I can assure the hon. Lady that, for a number of reasons, I shall try to placate and meet the representations made by that publication and that those reasons may not be unconnected with the events that may occur in the next few months.
I was asked a number of specific questions which I shall try to answer. Some of the general questions will be dealt with during debates on other amendments, so I shall not attempt to deal with them now. That is true especially of some of the questions asked by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North.
The hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) asked whether there would be an increase in charges. Even before I had received a note from the Box, I had written on my own notes that we see no reason why charges should be increased. The measure is not designed specifically to increase them.
Temporary work closures will be covered during the debate on the next group of amendments and general powers will be covered in the debate on Government amendment No. 20. The question of width reduction requires an order under the Transport Act 1968. If Government amendment No. 24 is passed, it will continue to do so. Therefore, I do not think that there will be any difficulty in convincing the House of the need to accept that amendment.
The consultations and meetings held during the Committee stage were undoubtedly useful. Government amendments Nos. 1 and 53 go some way—not all the way, because there are more amendments to be considered—to meeting some of the concerns expressed to us.
§ Ms. Walley
Knowing what I now know about the relationship between the Minister and his constituent—
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
Order. I was a little remiss. The hon. Lady needs the leave of the House to speak again.
§ Ms. Walley
With the leave of the House, I should like to draw attention to the Minister's remarks about the editor of Waterways World. If we have not been granted all the concessions, perhaps we can look forward to further concessions in another place in view of the impending general election.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Ms. Walley
I beg to move amendment No. 95, in page 2, line 13, at end insert'or Part VII of the Transport Act 1968'.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
With this we may also consider the following amendments: No. 3, in page 2, line 15, at end insert—'(4) Nothing in this section shall in any way supersede the provisions of Part VII of the Transport Act 1968.'.Government amendment No. 24.
No. 60, in schedule 1, page 33, line 12, at end insert'other than land under an inland waterway'.No. 55, in clause 11, page 6, line 34, at end insert`and(c) where such an order as is mentioned in section 5(6) above is required so as to give effect to any of the 524 proposals, any person who is entitled to be consulted under Schedule 13 to the Transport Act 1968 in respect of that Order.'No. 56, in clause 15, page 9, line 14, at beginning insert`Subject to subsection (3A) below,'.No. 57, in page 9, line 18, at end insert—`(3A) Regulations under this section shall not—No. 58, in clause 62, page 30, line 34, after 'transport', insert
- (a) exclude the application of any provision in Part VII of the Transport Act 1968; or
- (b) modify the application of any such provision so as to deprive any person of the right to receive notification of any matter or of the opportunity to make representations or objections in relation to any matter.'.`(other than transport over an inland waterway)'.No. 59, in page 30, line 41, at end insert`(and for the purposes of this definition the definition of "harbour" in section 57(1) of that Act shall have effect as if after the words "sea-going ships" there were inserted the words "of at least 500 deadweight tons")'.
§ Ms. Walley
I shall be brief, because it is important that we make progress.
Under Government amendment No. 26, the Secretary of State is given discretion not to make an order if it can be achieved by other means. Therefore, if it does not go far enough to remove from the scope of the Bill matters which at present are firmly within part VII of the Transport Act 1968, there is an anomaly with the Harbours Act 1964.
The purpose of the amendment is to ascertain why, if it is right to exclude matters whose primary object can be carried out under the Harbours Act, it is not right to exclude matters under the Transport Act when the primary object is a matter under the Transport Act. That harks back to what the Government's intentions really are. We feel that it would be easy for the Minister to accord the Transport Act 1968 equal status with the Harbours Act 1964. An assurance along those lines would go some way towards removing much of the suspicion that still exists.
Amendment No. 55 was tabled to ensure that, when an order was made by the Inland Waterways Amenity Advisory Council or another organisation entitled to be consulted under schedule 13 to the Transport Act 1968, and that body told the Secretary of State that it wanted a hearing, the Secretary of State would be obliged either to give it a hearing or to have a local inquiry.
We should like an assurance that nobody will lose rights of consultation as a result of the new procedure—we are returning to ground that we covered in Committee. We want to know why the IWAAC is not named on the face of the Bill. So far, I have not been convinced by the arguments that it has much greater powers than the Transport Users Consultative Committee, and that therefore it does not need to be named. I should like an assurance that the IWAAC will be consulted. I know that I dwelt briefly on the subject on a previous group of amendments, but we still believe that it is reasonable for a statutory body to be given such an assurance. I shall listen closely to the Minister's reply.
Amendment No. 57 is a substantive amendment, aimed to give amendment No. 56 the force that we would like, by providing in the amendment to clause 15 that an order under part VII of the Transport Act 1968 will continue to be required. The Government have ensured that clause 15 will apply where part VII orders are needed, but under 525 clause 15(3) the Secretary of State may make regulations modifying the effect of part VII to ensure that proceedings are taken concurrently.
The amendments are designed to ensure that the regulations will not exclude the application of any provision of part VII of the 1968 Act—we come back again and again to the difference between the Bill and the 1968 Act. The amendments are also intended to ensure that no person who had a right to be notified under the 1968 Act would lose that right as a result of the Bill. Again, we need an assurance that the Bill will not prejudice the rights listed in amendment No. 57. I do not want the Government to wriggle out of their responsibilities under the 1968 Act. In Committee, we talked time and again about the safeguards already existing under the 1968 Act, and we feel that the Government could easily give us an assurance that those safeguards will continue, and will not be replaced by new order-making procedures under the Bill.
Amendment No. 58 is an amendment to the definition of the term "guided transport". We imagine that that term was not intended to apply to waterways, and I hope that the Minister will agree. The amendment is designed to ensure that the term cannot be used to cover circumstances in which boats are towed or pushed by external means.
I have already said that the Bill involves many technical matters, and I am learning about them all the time. The matter is not as easy and straightforward as it looks. Although the Minister has given reassurances, I do not believe that he would wish there to be any doubt about the definition of the term "guided transport". Will he reassure us that that term will not be used in relation to that aspect of inland waterways? It seems to me that, as the Bill stands, an order under clause 1 could be made in respect of an inland waterway system in which vessels were towed rather than proceeding under their own power. Why is such a system not excluded under clause 1? Perhaps the Government have no intention of including such a wide definition, but I should like reassurance on the point.
Amendment No. 59 would amend the definition of the term "inland waterway". It was intended to ensure that orders under the Bill could be made in respect of the inland part of the waterways managed by harbour authorities. Will the Minister assure me that the Harbours Act cannot be used for orders in respect of inland waterways? I do not know whether he has already accepted the point—we may be debating an issue which is not really an issue. However, there is only one way of settling the matter—the Minister could do it easily by taking our amendment on board, and relating the provision to shipsof at least 500 deadweight tons".That would satisfy us that the Harbours Act could not be used for orders relating to inland waterways.
Schedule 1 is extremely wide—we have found that out in our discussions in Committee. The Government may say that, in relation to waterways, the schedule can be used only in the context of clause 3, but we have already seen that clause 3 is wide open, so that the inland waterways system could be destroyed, or at least radically reduced.
Amendment No. 60, to paragraph 5 of schedule 1, is designed to clarify whether agreements on land apply to land under water. Why is water not mentioned in paragraph 5, although it is mentioned in paragraph 4? What I have said about rights over land and rights over water may he simply a drafting point, but there is an 526 inconsistency. The Government do not seem to have thought the matter through, so we should like an assurance on it.
§ Mr. McLoughlin
I shall bring the House up to date with our conversations with the inland waterways interests. We wrote to the organisations before tabling our amendments, to explain what we intended to do. When we saw the amendments—other than amendment No. 95, which came later—officials of the Department of the Environment and the Department of Transport sought a meeting with the IWAAC and the Inland Waterways Association in order to gain a better understanding of the amendments. A meeting took place on 10 February. I believe that those present found it helpful. Officials explained why we thought the amendments that they sought were not necessary and, in some cases, not really in their interests. Officials also touched on the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish. (Mr. Bennett). I shall repeat what was said.
I shall also comment at this stage on a letter sent to a number of hon. Members by the chief executive of the Inland Waterways Association after the meeting to which I have just referred. She raised five points. First, she said that the powers in the Bill were extremely wide. That is a matter of judgment. Secondly, she said that the Bill could be used for closing waterways. If amendment No. 24 is carried, that will not be the case. The third point in the letter was that the Bill could alter the constitution of the IWAAC and the British Waterways Board. If amendments Nos. 20 to 22 are carried, that will not be the case. The fourth point was that rights of navigation could be extinguished. That is possible, but not on the BWB canals, because there are no rights there.
The fifth point in the letter was that the powers will exist without parliamentary sanction or binding requirement to consult. We discussed that at great length in Committee. Closure of a waterway will be subject to parliamentary sanction—that comes under part VII of the 1968 Act—and consultation must take place on orders under this Bill, because that will be in the rules which we have already circulated.
The letter also mentions temporary closures. Nothing in part VII of the 1968 Act prevents temporary closures for maintenance. Indeed, the duty of maintenance could not be carried out without them. The Bill makes that position no worse, since no authority is required for temporary closures. If the IWA thought that a waterway authority was abusing its powers, it would have recourse to the courts. That is the only possible solution.
§ Mr. Andrew F. Bennett
The Minister talks about safeguarding the rules. I hope that he will confirm that it is up to the Government to change the rules if they wish to do so.
§ Mr. McLoughlin
I accept that. We went some way to meet the concern about the rules by ensuring that the instruments could be debatable. I hope that the hon. Gentleman approves. We discussed at great length in Committee why there should be rules which were not necessarily on the face of the Bill because events and circumstances change. There was a general acceptance of the reason for rules.
527 7.30 pm
The amendments fall into a number of sub-groups, and the first comprises amendments Nos. 95, 3 and 24. Government amendment No. 24 fulfils the promise made in Committee and in correspondence with the IWAAC. It preserves from amendment, by order under clause 1 or clause 3, those sections of the Transport Act 1968 that deal with closure and other events concerning inland waterways. It is superior to either amendment No. 95 or amendment No. 3, in that it covers clause 1 as well. Amendment No. 95 really does not help. Unlike orders under the Harbours Act, orders under part VII of the 1968 Act cannot authorise works; they can only give consent to certain of them taking place. If amendment No. 24 is carried, the consent sections of part VII will he preserved. Amendment No. 95 is therefore redundant.
We have looked at part VII to see whether we should have included any more sections, as amendment No. 3 would. Section 111 deals with access agreements. Access agreements exist under countryside legislation to provide the public with access to open country. They are dealt with by local planning authorities and are discretionary, depending on agreement with landowners. The effect of section 111 is to limit the scope of access agreements to BWB's remaining waterways. These days, I doubt whether the House would favour such a limitation. So the preservation of section 111 is likely to make access worse, not better. Section 113 is about byelaws and can have effect only if the waterway owner wishes. Since he also initiates orders, there is little point in specifying that that section must be preserved.
I must confess to being slightly confused by the logic of amendment No. 60. If it is intended to safeguard land under inland waterways, a similar exclusion should have been proposed for paragraphs 3 and 4 of schedule 1, which deal with the acquisition of land and rights in land. The purpose of paragraph 5 is to make it clear that orders under clauses 1 or 3 can adjust or rescind private agreements or contracts relating to land affected by the proposed works. If the Secretary of State were to sanction such a provision, he would be bound by the rules of natural justice to ensure that proper arrangements had been made for protection of the interests affected by this provision and, where necessary, for financial compensation. I can see no reason why inland waterways should be excluded from such provisions.
The effect of amendment No. 60 could be very undesirable. It could, for example, fetter the ability of the Secretary of State to authorise an order for a new railway under the River Thames—or under any other inland waterway for that matter. That is clearly unacceptable, and I hope that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Ms. Walley) will not press the amendment.
On amendments Nos. 55 to 57, I recognise the desire of Opposition Members to expand the protection afforded in the Bill to the interests of inland waterway users. I fear, however, that the amendments will not, in practice, have that effect.
I turn to amendment No. 57 and the linked amendment No. 56. If Government amendments Nos. 27 and 28 are carried, it will simply not be possible to do in regulations the second half of what amendment No. 57 seeks to prevent. Regulations under clause 15 will be able only to assimilate two procedures so that the process of giving notice and public inquiries can be run in parallel. It cannot oust the rights of anyone. The first part of amendment No. 528 57 is positively undesirable, because it would mean that we could not line up schedule 13 to the 1968 Act with the procedure under the Bill. We have explained in detail to the IWAAC what is proposed and shall, of course, consult on the draft of the regulations, which are subject to the annulment procedure. But since what we shall propose would make the promoter—not the Minister—propose closure, and would give a longer objection period and a better inquiry procedure, the IWAAC rather favours what we are doing—or so it said at the meeting.
As a consequence, amendment No. 55 is unnecessary. Schedule 13 already gives, in substance, the rights that amendment No. 55 would confer. Since the regulations to be made under clause 15 displace those rights, organisations representative of waterway organisations will still be able to insist on an inquiry.
I make the general point to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North that, as a result of the Bill, we are moving the locus standi. That is genuinely welcome, because it gives bodies such as the IWAAC and any other body more rights than they had previously. Most people have welcomed that change.
Amendment No. 58 is misconceived. I understand that the Inland Waterways Association which suggested the amendment had in mind that orders could be made under clause 1 to authorise the operation of horse-drawn barges or remote controlled ships on inland waterways. That is wrong, because those vessels would not in themselves constitute a transport system. The system is the inland waterway and any proposal relating to the construction or operation of inland waterways which needed statutory authorisation would come under clause 3.
On amendment No. 59, the definition of "inland waterway" in clause 62 has deliberately been drafted to provide a clear dividing line between waterways to be covered by the Bill and those technically defined as harbours, for which provision is already made in the Harbours Act 1964. The amendment I moved in Committee on 23 January was designed to tighten the definition so that it includes waterways that are owned by harbour authorities, but are not managed by them in their capacity as a harbour authority.
Opposition Members may have reasons, which I must admit I do not see, for wanting to include waterways that are harbours in the scope of part I. I am not aware of any significant advantages of one system over the other, and it would therefore seem practical to let the existing harbour order procedure have precedence. Indeed, I believe that the amendment would considerably muddy the clear delineation we have provided and possibly allow a promoter to apply for a works order under both pieces of legislation. There would be plenty of scope for confusion, both for the applicant and for the Minister responsible for making decisions.
I hope that I have gone some way to explain how we came to our decisions. We have taken on board seriously many of the points raised on numerous occasions. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North for her part in that. Government amendment No. 24 goes some way to meet some of the concerns. I ask the hon. Lady to withdraw the amendment, but to support Government amendment No. 24.
§ Ms. Walley
We have had a technical and complicated response to technical and complicated amendments. We have set out our concerns time and again, and we accept 529 that the Government have gone some way to meeting them. I note what the Minister has said. There are some outstanding concerns and we are not sure whether the Government's response to the points made by the IWAAC and by others connected with the waterways shows that their concerns have been taken on board.
I am mindful of the fact that the Bill has not completed all its stages. Indeed, there may be some doubt about whether it will do so before our positions are reversed. Given that the Bill will be considered in another place, and having regard to the Minister's comments about the consultation that has already taken place and about the consultation that he envisages will take place on the regulations, in a spirit of co-operation I ask the Minister to continue with the process of consultation which seemed to be interrupted before the Bill was printed. The Minister has already given an assurance that he will continue that consultation. I hope that it will be taken on board before the Bill goes to its next stage.
§ I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. Andrew F. Bennett
I beg to move amendment No. 2, in page 2, line 15, at end insert`; and any such statutory instrument shall list all those bodies which have been consulted about its content.'.The amendment is eminently sensible, but as the Secretary of State has not added his name to it, I suspect that the Minister will come up with some excuse for not accepting it. I will listen with interest.
§ Mr. McLoughlin
The hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) caught me out on a number of occasions in Committee by the brevity with which he moved amendments.
I wrote to the hon. Gentleman to explain why we thought that it was not appropriate to accept his proposal. The essential purpose of this amendment is, I understand, to make it easier to check on compliance with any requirements in the procedure rules which we have drafted to consult particular bodies. It seems to me that doing that at the end of the process when the Secretary of State decides on the application is a bit like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.
Surely it is more logical for the matter of compliance with the rules to be verified as soon as an application has been made. Then, if there has been an unintentional failure to comply with some small requirement, say, it will be possible to correct it before the process of considering the application gets under way. If, however, the rules have been deliberately flouted, the application can be turned away at once.
The hon. Gentleman's amendment also touches on the important subject of consultation before an application is made, which I know some would like to be the subject of comprehensive statutory requirements. I do not intend to rehearse at length my explanation in Committee of the practical difficulties of doing that. Suffice to say that we shall expect all applicants to consult properly with relevant persons as they work out their proposals—applicants will suffer only needless delay to their schemes later if they do not do so. One needs to promote what one will do and try to get general agreement.
It is, of course, reasonable for those who will be affected by schemes to want to find out about them and to comment on them at an early stage. I do not believe, however, that a wide-ranging statutory requirement to 530 consult would help in that respect. The requirement in the draft rules for prospective applicants to consult the local planning authority about proposals in orders for development, and the requirement which will apply in many cases for applicants to prepare environmental statements, will help to ensure that their projects could not be kept out of the public domain for too long.
The stage at which we shall impose statutory requirements on applicants will be when they submit their draft orders in final form to the Secretary of State. The draft procedure rules make comprehensive provision about the people and the organisations to whom they will have to give notice of their application and, in some cases, provide a full set of application documents.
We intend to add to the procedure rules a requirement for applicants to submit an affidavit demonstrating proof of compliance. That will be available for public inspection, and if someone discovers from it that they have not been notified of an application when they should have been, they will, if necessary, be able to seek redress from the courts.
I hope that the change that we intend to make to the rules goes some way toward reassuring the hon. Gentleman of our attempt to try to meet some of his points. I hope that he feels able to withdraw his amendment.
§ Mr. Andrew F. Bennett
I am pleased to have the Minister's comments on the record. There is a slight irony about this part of the Bill. The Government told us that they were keen to consult, and that everything would be all right. However, the evidence is that consultation did not take place at the right time. There is some advantage in having the longstop, but when the order is made, it must list all those people who have been consulted.
Since we need to make progress, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.