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15° Julii, 1927.]

Mr. WILLIAM JAMES EAMES BINNIE.

question or two of arithmetic, such as an engineer and an ordinary counsel can deal with, I mean, it is not one of these accountancy questions. I suppose you have seen the table that we have described as being too long and too full? -Yes.

933. Turn to the first page of that?Is this the table?

934. That is the preliminary page, in which the Department modestly state that these figures should be regarded as the best available. I am accepting them as such. It is the long table on the first page. I have not got a copy. (A copy of the table is handed to the witness.)

935. These figures have been worked out accurately by the Department and are regarded as the best available. I may say they correspond so very closely with the figures supplied to me that I think they probably are. Now, I only want to draw your attention to one figure on that, and that is the bottom figure on the right-hand side, about which the annual rates must be levied by the Ouse Drainage Board-£52,784 ?— Yes.

Mr. St. John Raikes.] Have you got that my Lord? Chairman.] Yes.

Mr. St. John Raikes.

936. (To the Witness.) Now, that is the amount that has to be paid by the lands below the 20-feet contour-that is so, is it not?—Yes, I take it so.

937. And I have told you, and you will take it from me, that the lands that I represent represent approximately half of those lands?—Yes.

938. So that the actual amount that the bodies I appear for would have to pay in the future for 50 years will amount to something over £26,000 a year? Yes.

939. That is to say, that our 200,000 acres, which already pay very heavy drainage rates, would have to find for a period of 50 years a sum of £26,000?Yes, in lieu of what they have to contribute at present. This will be the new rate; I do not know whether it exceeds or is less than what they now pay.

940. As a matter of fact, I do not know what any body has to contribute at present, because most of the people have declined to pay anything.-But they would contribute that.

[Continued.

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941. But that is the price that should have to pay for this Bill?—I think the Middle Level have been very good in paying up; I do not think we have had any trouble from you.

942. We are not passive resisters, my Lord; we have always paid our part. (To the Witness): What I want to get from you is this, still looking at that very simple part of the table; the contribution required from the County Council is £13,443 and in respect of the low lands, £10,773. Those added together (it is shown on the table, but I am not going into the table with you, I am just dealing with this round figure) show a total payment of £25,000 a year for the whole of the counties ?-Roughly, yes; 24,216.

943. 14 counties?—Yes.

944. Now the first column of the table shows us that their acreage is 6,281,000, so therefore the position is this, that if the scheme goes through on the present basis our 200,000 acres will have to pay more than the 6,000,000 who are brought in as contributories?-Yes.

945. In addition to that, we shall also have to pay through the counties our share of the contribution?—Yes.

946. That is to say, our share of the 6d. contribution and possibly of the 2d. contribution ?—Yes.

947. Now, of course, that does add, Mr. Binnie, does it not, a very serious charge upon this land? Yes.

948. And it is, in a sense, the granary of England?-It is a very wealthy agricultural district.

949. It is the granary of England practically? Yes, it is a very valuable district.

950. Do you find that corn growing is an extremely profitable pursuit at the present time?-Well, we had evidence to that effect.

owner

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951. I think you had better go and see the Daily Mail" or any land as to the profits to be derived from growing wheat at the present time. Now, I am again only just going to take a figure; what we have to pay represents, according to the table, a rate of something like 2s. on annual value, which of course is a heavy tax upon the land?-Yes.

952. I am only going to draw atten. tion to one column I think really in the Table, and that deals with what these Uplands are going to pay,-column

15° Julii, 1927.]

Mr. WILLIAM JAMES EAMES BINNIE.

22. If you start with Norfolk in the top line their total rate on agricultural land is going to be .272,-that is, one farthing; one farthing in the pound as against our 2s.; and, further than that, that farthing will be upon rateable value as against our 2s. on annual value. Is it not a huge disproportion? -Yes.

953. I see that they vary down in some of these counties who are also represented here, I think some of the counties represented by my learned friend Mr. Tyldesley Jones,-I see that looking further down, two of those counties have

to pay one-330th of a penny in the

pound?—Yes.

Mr. St. John Raikes.] If you look down the column, my Lord, you can follow the figures. That is after the break half way. Another one-200th of a penny. Are you not surprised to find them shouting quite so loud

Mr. Tyldesley Jones. J Is this engineering?

Mr. St. John Raikes.

954. No. It is Commissioners at the moment. I thought my friend would speak at last. (To the witness.) This is the thing I am going to put to you; I am putting it to you as a Commissioner, and on the figures that you have been good enough to give me in order to render this Bill a feasible proposition, the contributions from the counties wil have to be materially increased ?—No. I think this follows out the recommendations of the report; it is on the basis that we arrived at.

955. I mean that is fluid in your mind, as to what the arrangement will be. The question of passive resistance was raised just now. That has been one of the things that has made the last Order unworkable?—Yes.

956. And of course you are anxious to avoid any possibility of that under the present scheme?—Yes.

957. I speak with a perfectly clear conscience because the passive resistance has not come from those whom I represent? -Yes.

958. But of course if a scheme were put forward, and the virus of passive resistance having once entered, as it has, into the district, which was regarded as inflicting an unfair burden, it would be likely to lead to exactly the same difficulties as the last scheme?-Do you

[Continued.

mean to say that the Middle Level would now take up the same attitude because the Counties did not pay enough?

959. What I mean is this, that nobody is perfect. I mean I am not holding it out as a threat in the slightest degree. So far, in our district, we have met our rates. In the Uplands and in the South Level there has been a great deal of resistance to the rates; examples are contagious, and, if too heavy a burden is put upon us-I am putting it absolutely frank because I am trying to arrive at solution-of course, it is possible that we might be affected in the same way?-I hope in that case that penalties sufficiently heavy would be put upon you as to make it the better policy to pay up the rates.

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960. Seriously, is that the spirit in which you are approaching the solution of this question, because I am trying to approach the solution of this question on business lines? I am not talking about penalties, and so on; I am only pointing out the possible danger?-I thought you were making the suggestion that possibly in your district there might be refusal to pay the rates.

961. Yes? I said in that case I hope the penalties would be so severe as to make you reconsider that attitude of mind.

962. There is no penalty clause in this Bill. That matter has been discussed, and as a matter of fact those whom I represent would not object to a penalty clause at all.

Chairman.] We have not got to that stage, I am glad to say.

Mr. St. John Raikes.

963. No, my Lord. Now to get back -I am afraid this is rather an excursion from the direct engineering, although it arose out of it. I want to ask you what my people are going to get in return for this £26,000 a year which they will have to pay for 50 years? They are going to get lower low water levels in the river. You get better levels, in my opinion, than you ever did get in the past. The information which was given to us by your engineer was that if they could get back to those old levels, they would be satisfied. I feel confident that this scheme will even improve those levels.

Chairman.] You are going to have to pay £26,000 a year now, but I gather from the witness that your present con

15° Julii, 1927.]

Mr. WILLIAM JAMES EAMES BINNIE.

tributions will cease. It is not in addition to what you are paying now? Mr. St. John Raikes.] There are not any present contributions, in effect.

Mr. Macmillan.] I think, Mr. Raikes, if I may state it quite mutually, the position is this: There is a rate under the existing Order of 1920, but it is quite true, because of the difficulty of carrying out the scheme of the 1920 Order, works have been held up, and therefore that Board has not incurred the same type of expenditure as we should have to incur under this Bill. There is, however, the liability under the 1920 Order for all the expenditure which those works, if carried out, would have occasioned. I think that puts it quite accurately.

Chairman.] What was the condition before 1920 ?

Mr. Macmillan.] There was no one individual body in charge of this whole tidal area at all. My friend suggests I should say chaos, but certainly there was administration divided over a great many different bodies, each of whom imposed their own rate.

Mr. St. John Raikes.] My learned friend is not quite accurate there, because as a matter of fact, up to a point, there was a Lower Level Board.

Mr. Macmillan.] That was the emergency one that came into operation under the 1914 Act.

Mr. St. John Raikes.

964. It acted up to the 1914 Act at any rate, and it disappeared in 1918, and the time between 1918 and 1920 was spent in preparing this scheme with the idea of co-ordinating the whole of the river, because under the 1920 Act the Board that was created acted not only for the Fen land but also for land on either side of the river all the way up below a certain height. But at any rate, I think my learned friend did put it quite accurately. (To the Witness.) Under this scheme we are going to get something and we are going to pay a definite sum for it, and of course the question is, Mr. Binnie, whether it is worth our while, from the business point of view, to pay the amount for what we are going to get?—Yes.

Mr. St. John Raikes.] That is our position from the business point of view.

Chairman.] I still want to press this point, that this liability of £26,000, which you say means 2s. on the annual

[Continued.

value, as I understand you, is not an addition to any liability or to any rates you may have now to pay, but instead of them, or all before 1920. It is a consolidated rate.

Mr. St. John Raikes.] It is an entirely new rate for work it is proposed to do. The other rate that we had to pay, such as it was, was simply levied for general expenses. The Board had got no money to do any work with, or to do anything. They went along from hand to mouth dribbling about bits of the river, and they used to levy rates for administration purposes.

Chairman.] Can you tell us what that amounted to what your drainage rate was?

Mr. Campbell.] What it would amount to per year? You told us once that you were not passive resisters. It seems that you had nothing to resist; there was no reason why you should be passive or otherwise.

Mr. St. John Raikes.] Our reason for not resisting was that we are a law abiding sect, and the rate I do not think was a heavy one.

Chairman.] Yes, I think I have got the answer now: the rate is not a very heavy one.

Mr. St. John Raikes.] That is gone, and we are going now to embark on a fresh liability in respect of specified works.

Chairman.] Are your rates, or were your rates, say, £1,000 a year?

Mr. St. John Raikes.

965. I can get you the information. I am told that the general levy was 9d. an acre for administration, and we were about the only people who paid it. That had nothing to do with these works. Of course we have got to pay for administration here again, but I am dealing simply with works at the moment. Our administration rate will cover the other. That £26,000 a year of course will continue for 50 years, under the loan terms, which will come out, as an actual payment for the whole district, of about £1,200,000. (To the Witness.) Now do you agree, Mr. Binnie, that that will be about the price we have to pay for lowering the low water level, that £26,000 a year?—Yes.

966. Do not think I am trying to get any jumpy answer out of you. Do you suggest any other advantage to us from

15° Julii, 1927.]

Mr. WILLIAM JAMES EAMES BINNIE.

these lower works?-To enable you to get rid of the water, probably, no.

967. I mean lowering the low water level will enable us to get rid of the water, I quite agree?-Yes.

968. Do you suggest any other advantage?-No.

969. Now taking the Middle Level districts as the largest and most representative, you know that in their main drain they have only got a fall of about one-and-a-half inches a mile?-I know it is very flat.

970. And as you have pointed out, they have had some difficulty in getting rid of their water owing to the state of the river below their outfall?—Yes.

971. Now you are acquainted with the geography of the district, are you not? -Yes.

972. And you know that the Middle Level is protected by its own bank?— Yes.

973. Can you suggest any reason (they are a large and solvent body) why, if they find a difficulty in disposing of their water by gravitation, they should not dispose of it by pumping over their bank? And cease to contribute on that account?

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it, yes.

975. And that would do away with the necessity of dealing with it by gravitation altogether?—Yes.

976. Now, of course, I cannot ask you to make any sort of an estimate, but I suggest to you that it would be possible for them to get rid of this difficulty of the disposal of their water by pumping over their bank, by erecting pumps at an expense of certainly considerably less than £100,000?-I should have thought it would have been more. As a matter of fact, I have got out some estimates.

977. I am not quarrelling with figures; call it £150,000 if you like, I do not mind a bit; but, at any rate, that would be an effective way of disposing of their water? Yes.

978. And quite irrespective of the condition of the channel of the river?-No, I would not say that. They could not pump that water into the river without its overflowing the lands of other portions, unless the river is in a proper

[Continued.

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981. Not an immensely less cost?-No. 982. I will not press that upon you, because we shall give evidence with regard to it, but I am suggesting to you that we are being, to use a shop-keeping phrase, grossly over-charged for the advantages that you propose to give us? -Well, of course, all the evidence we got on the Commission was that nobody had to pay. Immediately we shut you out from payment, you are leaving only half the area to meet the whole of this burden, and immediately it costs everybody else double.

983. I am not looking at it from the altruistic point of view for a moment?But everybody gave exactly that evidence before us; everybody pointed out it was not their business.

984. We have to look at it in this way because we are faced by the fact that we believe, whatever you do, that as a result of the imposition of this extra tax a good deal of land may be driven out of cultivation altogether?-I do not agree with that. I think you are much better able to pay for this than anybody else in the whole area.

985. You are only dealing with the Middle Level; you are forgetting all my other clients. We say that probably a good deal of land will be driven out of cultivation?—I think exactly the opposite will take place, if the whole of the recommendations of the Commission are accepted.

986. Assuming my proposition for a tax on moment, assuming there is a annual value, and a good deal of land is held to have no annual value, then, of course, our quota will have to be collected from the remaining land?-Yes.

987. That is to say, that the rate in the pound will be increased for those who have any value?-Yes.

988. Because those who have no value are not included?-Yes, and, under the present system, on acreage those lands of very small value will have to pay

15 Julii, 1927.] Mr. WILLIAM JAMES EAMES BINNIE.

exactly the same rate as rich lands-those are now being shut out, because they cannot carry on; but we hope, if it is on annual value, that it will help to bring into cultivation a great deal more land.

989. I was not for the moment differentiating between the form of tax; I was only putting it that if we have to find this amount of money, however it is found, it will probably mean a certain amount of land being driven out of cultivation ?-No, I do not think so.

990. Do you think that in any way this will add to the value of the land for buying or selling purposes?-Any works for the improvement of the drainage tend to benefit the land.

991. That is a very vague answer. You said yesterday, and that is why I asked you the question, that you did not think it would add to the value of the land in the Middle Level because that had been already well drained and had reached its maximum value? Yes, but of course you have got to get rid of your water, and it would no longer remain well drained unless steps are taken to improve the river and get rid of the

water.

992. I am putting the converse proposition to you: instead of adding to the value of the land, this extra taxation will reduce the value of the land by the amount of the tax?-By the amount of the tax, but then there is the benefit to be received from the works carried out by the aid of that tax.

993. There is a point that we raise in our petition. I see that, in addition to the capital charges, you put down only £1,000 a year for maintenance?—I think it was put in this way, that it would ultimately come to £1,000 a year, but it will be very much higher until the works are all carried out.

994. Do you think that the Ministry might be willing to make some provision with regard to assisting the question of maintenance?-I could not say.

995. I mean, will you consider that?We made no suggestion that there should be in our Report.

996. Perhaps you will consider that, because I do not want to trouble you with minor questions at the moment. Now, I want to pass on to this question of inundation. In your Report this question is referred to on more than one occasion? Yes.

[Continued.

997. You finally sum it up, I think, on page 38 of the Report, paragraph 129:— "Consistent neglect of necessary works for many decades "-you refer above to various things-" is the cause of this unfortunate state of affairs, and we are one and all of opinion, and we give expression to it as a word of strenuous warning, that if the works recommended by us are not carried out, serious inundations will follow, and, in the absence of extraordinary effort and a very large expenditure of money, the whole Fen area will return to primæval conditions." Now, having had a few months to think it over, is not that perhaps an overstatement of the case?-No, I do not think

so.

998. Now, so far as the Middle Level are concerned, they are protected by their Middle Barrier Bank?—Yes, by the barrier banks, there are two.

999. They are in no immediate danger of inundation are they?-From the over topping of that bank?

1000. From any part of the river?— They are in danger of inundation from the fact that they cannot get rid of their flood water internally there.

1001. That is not what I am talking of, and not what the Report was talking of, because the Report talked of the danger of inundation by sea water or flood water, and I have no doubt then that the Bill was brought forward. Are we in any danger of inundation by reason of the flood water which comes down the river, or by reason of the sea water which comes up it? Not the flood water coming down this particular river at the moment, I mean the Ouse; but you have Upland water being discharged into your drainage area, and you are in danger of being inundated by that if you do not have proper measures taken to get rid of your water.

1002. Then the answer is, that as far as the flood water is concerned and so far as the sea water is concerned, we are in no danger of inundation?-Would you confine that to the Ouse? I could not say yes or no, unless you confine that a little more.

1003. I am confining it to the Ouse, or rather to the flood water with which you are dealing up at Earith, and so on, and the tides.-I do not think you are in any immediate danger.

1004. And so far as our own internal flooding is concerned, if we cannot get

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