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Mr. Macmillan.] My Lord, the Bill which I have the honour this morning, along with my learned friends, Mr. Bidder and Mr. Hull, to bring under the consideration of the Committee, has a long history of controversy behind it. I fear that the embers of those past controversies, to judge from the array of my opponents, have more been fanned into flame by the present promotion, but I am hopeful that in the deliberative atmosphere of this Committee we may succeed in converting heat into light and, possibly, I may even hope to be able to quench some of those burning questions upon the lines of the Bill which the Minister has prepared and now submits for your examination.

My Lord, the purpose of the Bill is "to make provision for the better drainage of the area drained by the River Ouse and its tributaries, and for purposes connected therewith." The immediate occasion of the Bill is the failure to achieve its object of a scheme embodied in the Ouse Drainage Order, 1920, tonfirmed by a Confirmation Act of that year, and the inefficacy of that measure to achieve its purpose has rendered it necessary to tackle the whole subject afresh, and the result has been the preparation of the present Bill. It will be

necessary in the course of these proceedings to enter upon a considerable historical disquisition, because the problems which you will have to consider, my Lord, with your colleagues, are not new problems, and they carry with them a considerable history which must be understood at least in outline if the present problems are to be satisfactorily dealt with.

The measure, I may remind my Lord, is a Hybrid Bill; that is to say, it is a Bill which interests both the public and private interests. It is a public measure in respect that it has been promoted by the Government in consequence of the public interests concerned, and because it involves the expenditure of at least one and a quarter millions of public moneys. It is a private Bill in respect that it affects the interests of a very large number of private citizens, and in consequence of that feature it becomes a Bill of the class known as a Hybrid Bill, and has been remitted for consideration here. The expedient has been taken of sending it to a Joint Committee in order to obviate the undesirable consequences of a double inquiry into a measure of this sort.

One of the consequences of the present procedure which has been followed is that

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I am not in a position this morning to present the Committee with what we are more familiar with in ordinary Committees, a filled up Bill. You can understand, of course, that as the Petitions have only come in a few days ago under the Order made, it has not been possible to have those negotiations which generally take place after the lodging of petitions against Private Bills, and which so frequently result in modifications of the measure; but I may say at the outset at the appropriate stage a certain number of modifications will be intimated upon the Bill, many of them of a merely formal type, but also this, that a perusal of a number of the petitions has led us to feel that on certain points, I am afraid I must say they are minor points, but stili upon certain of the minor points raised by the petitioners they have something to say for themselves, and we will be desirous of meeting their views as far as we can. These matters will arise in the course of the proceedings.

In the meantime I conceive my duty to be to place before you the general nature of this scheme in outline; the large outlines of the scheme, the Preamble question in short.

Now, my Lord, in the first place, I should like to give a short general description of the locality with which we are dealing.

The River Ouse rises in the high lands at the back of Northamptonshire, right away at the extreme left hand of the cartoon. It flows through the counties of Northampton, Buckingham, Bedford, Huntingdon, Cambridge and the administrative county of the Isle of Ely and Norfolk, and ultimately it joins the sea just near King's Lynn where it debouches into the Wash. In the course of its journey you see it passes through a number of towns. It passes through Buckingham, Stony Stratford, Olney, Bedford, St. Neot's, Huntingdon, St. Ives, Earith, Denver, Downham Market and King's Lynn. It is the third longest river in England, its course being 143 miles from its source to the sea, and it has the fourth largest catchment area, in all about 3,000 square miles. In the lower part, the Fenland as it has been called, of which you will hear so much in the sequel, it traverses the largest plain in the British Isles.

The river for ordinary tides is tidal up to Earith, and at spring tides the influence of the tide is felt up as high as Brownshill Staunch, which is just a


couple of miles above Earith. Below Earith the Ouse flows through a great area of fenland, about 364,000 acres in extent, and comprises the major portion of the famous Bedford Level. The Bedford Level takes its name from an agreement between Francis Earl of Bedford, then the principal landowner in the district, and 13 other adventurers, as they were called-an agreement entered into between them and Charles I in 1634, the object of which was to drain the Level, and the reward of the enterprise was to be that the adventurers were to receive 95,000 acres of the reclaimed land. Hence the Level has ever since borne the name of Bedford. Geographically this large flat area is really a bay of the North Sea which has been silted up. The sea orginally swept into a great enclave inland at that point and has gradually in course of time been silted up and partially consolidated, and the Wash is now the last vestige of that great bay. The fenland area is throughout extremely flat, and in general lies below high-water mark of ordinary tides. Its level may be put at from 5 to 11 feet above ordnance datum, and in some parts as low as 1, 2 or 3 feet above ordnance datum, with this feature, that the further you recede from the outfall the lower the land becomes. Now this great area of fenland is of very considerable agricultural value. The reclaimed land is rich in humus capable of yielding heavy crops of wheat and eminently suitable for fattening cattle. An area such as this lying below the high-water mark of ordinary tides is naturally exposed to very unusual dangers. The dangers which affect it arise from two sources; it is exposed, on the one hand, the inroads of the sea, and, other hand, to inundation by the flood waters brought down from the higher lands by the river. This problem of dealing with those two menaces has exercised the ingenuity of engineers and legislators from the earliest times. It has always been regarded as a matter of grave public concern to preserve as part of the soil of England this fertile area, to see that it should not be lost to agriculture by neglect. It has also, of course, equally been a matter of great concern to the private interest involved; the owners and I occupiers of the lands in the area. doubt if any region of England has given




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rise to a larger volume of local legislation, and it has certainly given rise to a whole library of literature, popular even as well as scientific, beginning with Sir William Dugdale's famous history of Embanking and Draining, which was published in 1652, and Sir Jonas Moore's history of the great Level of the Fens, published in 1685, down to so recent a work as the Duke of Bedford's recent attractive" Story of a Great Agricultural Estate," which was published in 1897. There is a great collection of records in the archives of the various public and local administrative bodies.

The problem is, as I say, one of very long standing. It was confronted by the Romans during their occupation of this country, and these great engineers carried out important works to salve this area of England, parts of which still remain. But after the departure of the Romans, the Fenland, to a large extent, fell into neglect, as so much of the rest of this country did, and it became seriously waterlogged, and returned, to a large extent to a state of nature. It suffered also historically from a series of inundations that took place at intervals and was thus really, to a large extent deprived of its value. That, of course, is a very early period of history of which I am speaking.

But interest in this area revived again, and its importance was recognised, and later on, in more modern times, though still some hundreds of years ago, there are traces of more or less primitive local organisations formed for the protection of this area, to construct works and arrange for

the financial contributions necessary. From time to time more or less temporary Commissions were set up and then finally we come to the great Statute of Sewers which was passed in 1532, the twenty-third year of King Henry VIII-one of the great Statutes on the Statute Book of England. It has been well said of that Statute that it definitely established the authority of the King's Commissioners of Sewers, and the Courts of Sewers held by them, and formulated for all parts within this Realm a fixed constitution and procedure for what thenceforward became practically permanent local government bodies.

My Lord, I take leave to read to you the picturesque language of the Preamble of the Act of Sewers-the Bill of Sewers, as it is more commonly called. It proceeds in the stately


and measured manner of those days, but it tells us that the problem in those days was the problem of to-day. "Our Sovereign Lord the King, like a virtuous and most gracious Prince, nothing earthly so highly weighing as the advancing of the common profit, wealth and commodity of this his Realm, considering the daily great damages and losses which have happened in many and divers parts of this his said Realm, as well by the reason of the outrageous flowing Surges, and course of the sea in and upon marsh grounds, and other low places heretofore through politik wisdom won and made profitable for the great common wealth of this Realm, as also by occasion of land-waters, and other outrageous springs, in and upon meadows, pastures, and other low grounds adjoining to rivers, floods and other watercourses." Upon that Preamble of the perils to which the soil of England was exposed-from the outrageous flowing surges and course of the sea on one hand and from springs from inland on the other, this Statute was passed, and I shall only allude to one or two of the provisions. Indeed, I should like to say this, that in the course of my opening, I propose, so far as I can, to place before you, my Lord, all the relevant matters of history that it is necessary to appreciate, and also such statutory matters as have to be considered at the same time, and may I say this to my learned friends who are opposing me, that I shall positively welcome interruptions, that is to say, 1 should be very glad indeed if, at any moment, I have not given a complete picture and there are any sections my learned Friends would wish read, they will be good enough to tell me so, because I think they will be conscious that in the position I occupy I shall be at this stage non-controversial, however much our paths may diverge later on.

Mr. St. John Raikes.] My Lord, I am a little distrustful.

Mr. Macmillan.] My learned Friend has already begun to show the Fenland attitude. In this Statute of Henry VIII let me draw attention to this, because much is made of this later on. It contains a provision for the issuing of Commissions whose function is to be to survey the various areas in question, and to find out what works require to be done, and there is a passage in the second section upon which much reliance will be placed

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later on by some of the Petitioners as to the method of contribution to, what I may call, salvage works. The Commissioners are to inquire where defaults have taken place and they are to find out "who hath or holdeth any Lands or Tenements, or Common of Pasture, or Profit of Fishing, or hath or may have any Hurt, Loss or Disadvantage by any Manner of Means in the said Places, as well near to the said Dangers, Lets, and Impediments, as Inhabiting or dwelling thereabouts, by the said Walls, Ditches, Banks," and so on, "and all those Persons, and every of them, to tax, assess, charge, distrain, and punish, as well with the Metes, Limits, and Bounds of old Time accustomed, or otherwise, or else where within our Realm of England, after the Quantity of their Lands, Tenements and Rents, by the Number of Acres and Perches." So the contemplation of this Act was that the Commissioners were to go to the various areas where perils existed, make their surveys and to find out what persons derived benefit, either positive or negative, that is to say, positive benefit in the shape of profit or negative benefit in the sense of the averting of danger in respect of any works and then to tax those persons-the persons thus associated with the works--after the quantity of their lands, by the number of acres. The measure of the liability to contribute was the extent of the land held by the particular person in question. The test which has come down to our own time there set out was the benefit to be derived from protection from the dangers to be afforded by protection. That is, I think, the important part of the Statute of Sewers, and it is no doubt the fountain and origin of all subsequent legislation. It still stands upon the Statute Book unrepealed.

My Lord, there has been a certain amount of subsequent general legislation. A number of amending Acts were passed after a considerable interval into which it is not necessary now to go. The chief modern Act, however, is the Act of 1861, known as the Land Drainage Act of that year. It may be necessary later on for your Lordship to be provided with a copy of those Acts and that, of course, shall be done. Then the Land Drainage Act of 1861 was subsequently amended by the Land Drainage Act of 1918, and in the last Session of Parliament we have the Land Drainage Act of 1926.

The important measure, the Act of 1861, the terms of which will have to be


examined a little more closely in respect of some matters later on, empowered the Crown, upon the recommendation of the Enclosure Commissioners to direct Commissions of Sewers to all parts of the country, and provision was made for the proprietors of one-tenth of the land in any particular area to petition for an Inquiry to be held and an Order to be made. Inquiries accordingly could be held by these Commissioners for the purpose of investigating the problems of any aprticular area. The Commissioners, by Section 16, were empowered to cleanse and repair existing watercourses, outfalls and banks, to widen, deepen, straighten and improve existing watercourses, outfalls and banks, and also to construct new works. But a considerable embargo was placed upon their powers by this limitation, that under Section 31, the dissent of the proprietors of one half of any area affected, to new works proposed for that area, was conclusive against the works being carried out where they amounted in cost to more than £1,000.

Mr. Riley.] May I interrupt and ask whether under the Act of 1861 the occupiers had the right of petitioning as well as the proprietors?

Mr. Macmillan.] As far as I can seeI would not like to be quite definiteproprietors only. I think so. I think it was only given to them to approach the Enclosure Commissioners. The measure was really in two parts. The second Part of the Act of 1861 provided for the Constitution of Elective Drainage Districts in contrast to Commissioners of Sewers, and in their case there was to be superintendence by Drainage Boards and the authorities were to be set up by Provi sional Order by the Enclosure Commis sioners. On such a body being set up the powers of the Commissioners were vested in the Elective Board as regards their district.

Now, I think it would be convenient to give the Committee a short sketch of the system of protective works in the Ouse Valley. Leaving aside the earlier works now, of more archæological interest than practical, the modern history of the engineering works to control the Ouse may be said to begin with the work of that distinguished Dutchman Cornelius Vermuyden who carried out extensive works between the years 1632 and 1653 for the then Earl of Bedford. He had, no doubt, been consulted as the expert adviser and engineer because of his nationality which was Dutch and the experi

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ence which Holland, pre-eminently among the countries of Europe, has had in the matter of protective works. He accordingly came over to this country and having investigated the whole region

proceeded to carry out certain works. It is not without interest that in the carrying out of those works he employed a considerable number of my own countrymen who were captured at the Battle of Dunbar, and also a considerable number of Dutchmen who were captured after the victory over Van Tromp, so it is interesting to know that Scotchmen had a share in carrying out this remedial work although under compulsion.

Vermuyden constructed the cut now known as the Old Bedford river roughly along which the pointer is now travelling. The natural course of the River Ouse is towards the east and is now being indicated by the pointer. The main scheme of Vermuyden was what one may call a short circuiting scheme. There was the great bend in the River Ouse and his scheme was to cut across in a direct line by means of a cut which was known as the Old Bedford River. That process of short circuiting a river obviously has various engineering advantages, inasmuch as it shortens the distance which the water has to flow between two given points, it naturally gives the water a sharper gradient in its flow than if it had to go the whole way round. That again has certain advantages in respect that the greater gradient gives the quicker flow, and the quicker flow enables the water to be taken away more rapidly. All that may seem very elementary but it is in accordance with the principle of shortening rivers; by cutting out the bends you get a quicker discharge. Also there is the disadvantage in this way, the slower flow all tends to greater precipitation of the matter suspended in the water and greater silting. The greater the velocity of the flow the greater the scour and the lesser the silting. So this method has certain advantages which are very elementary but are very important. His scheme was accordingly to relieve the water pressure, if I may so describe it, in this area, by his cut right across, and accordingly the Old Bedford River came into existence, which is 21 miles in length, its design being to carry off the water coming down from above by a more direct route to the sea. Though it is still not without its uses, the Old Bedford River did not prove entirely efficacious, and shortly.



there was constructed what is known as the New Bedford River, or Hundred Foot River. I am not sure that it might not be convenient at this stage to hand in a diagram of Vermuyden's works which we have on a larger scale and which is illustrative of what I am saying.

Chairman.] The two rivers are clearly marked on this map.

Mr. Macmillan.] Yes. This, however, shows in a great deal more detail the main works with which this Bill is concerned, and I have found it personally very useful as a diagram. This is really a detailed plan of this particular part of the locality, and it certainly is extraordinarily convenient, because it shows it much more in detail than the large plan does. The large plan is important for the areas, but this is important for the works. If you will look at that plan you will see the Old Bedford River in pink, which is the original short circuit. I should perhaps have explained it was subsequently divided into two parallel cuts which are shown in pink with their bank in between, described as the Bedford Barrier Bank. Then in between, shown in blue colour, is the New Bedford or Hundred Foot River which is roughly parallel to the Old Bedford River, and that blue river was made the tidal river. The old natural course of the river proceeds on its winding course as appears at the foot of the diagram. Then an elaborate system of sluices controlled the water in these various channels. The effect of the sluices on the Old Bedford River and on the original channel of the Ouse was to confine the tidal action to the blue stream, being the New Bedford or Hundred Foot River, and the two colours have been selected here, the pink and the blue, in order to discriminate between the two. Your Lordship will, therefore, see that the access for water from the sea is by means of the sluices entirely through the blue or Hundred Foot River. The flowing tide as it comes up the Wash is prevented from getting into the old channel of the Ouse at the Denver Sluice, and it is prevented from getting into the Old Bedford River at the Welmore Lake Sluice. Then as it flows up the New Bedford or Hundred Foot River, and gets to the top, it cannot flow into the Old West River, that is the Old Ouse, because of the Hermitage Sluice, nor into the Old Bedford

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