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27° Julii, 1927.]
Mr. FREDERICK SANDERSON ROBINS.
4824. Yes, but if they stored your water up, as I seemed to understand they were going to do at a lower level, they were going to give you upstream owing to the width of weir, they were going to take more water over and keep the level down for you?-No; you must remember that in all the figures that have been given us with regard to the filling up of the Wash, they are treating with average flood figures. We say that that 4,700 cusecs going over into the Wash is not the maximum that we have ever had before, nor is it the maximum that we shall have in the future. We have had immensely more water going into the Wash, and when that comes to pass we shall get the old conditions established; and so far as we are concerned we have no objection to the clash of the water. A great deal more is made of it than there is in it, really; we have a natural fall of somewhere about 10 feet from Earith to Denver, so if you are getting a clash of a foot or two there what does it matter to us? It is simply lowering the velocity through. that portion, and allowing our top level to come down at its old original gradient. I think that is perfectly plain.
4825. Then your photographs show that the Hundred Foot is, as I call it, silting up, or as I think you called it, accreting on the sides?—Yes.
4826. There is a diminution of discharge? Yes.
4827. That will go on.-Yes, it is bound to, and it will go on quicker if they divert some of the water away from our Hundred Foot.
4828. Are they going to take more water down the Bedford Level that might compensate for some of this water that somebody wanted down the Hundred Foot Level?—Yes; they are going to lower the crest of the weir by over one foot. Therefore more water will be going into the Wash, and will be going through a divergent course, which we say is wrong. We should like of course the 4,700 cusecs to go down the Hundred Foot River and the balance of 1,500 cusecs to go into the Washland; in fact Rennie did go in for confining the water into one channel. I do not know if you have seen these original sections of the Hundred Foot River in 1809 ?
4829. No.-I think they will be very useful (producing and explaining the sections). The river did deepen, and we say that it may have been recently,
within the last few years; but the sides have been coming in ever since 1809. There is a plan here which shows what Rennie was going to do.
4830. I do not think there is much difference between you and the promoters, that the condtion of the Hundred Foot Level is not in the same street as it was in originally? No, I do not think there is.
4831. What would be your condition, if in the gradual efflux of time the hundred foot became obliterated altogether? -We should be in a very bad state. Rennie was going to make another cut parallel with that. (Describing.) The
Wash was not in bank at the time Rennie proposed that new channel.
4832. Have you formed an estimate of what the clearing out of the Hundred Foot would cost? No, I have not gone into that; but if some £190,000 was spent on our Hundred Foot it would certainly do a very great deal to it, with the present day machines that they have.
4833. I think Mr. Binnie said £600,000, did he not?-I do not know.
Sir Murdoch Macdonald.
4834. So if the Hundred Foot were to be abolished you would be in a much worse condition even than you are now? -Certainly.
4835. So it is to your interest to have the Hundred Foot Level kept open?Absolutely.
4836. And you would prefer to have it kept open in the condition it originally was, in order to get the full benefit which you had before any of these works were constructed at all?-That is so, Sir; that is our whole case.
4837. The difference, I may take it, between you and the promoters, is with regard to sub-section F here; instead of reading: "the improvement including the protection of the sides, of the One Hundred Foot River, between Denver Sluice and Welmore Lake Sluice," you would omit the last half?-The whole of the Hundred Foot.
4838. You would put in the whole of the Hundred Foot?-Yes.
(The witness is directed to withdraw.) N 4
27° Julii, 1927.]
Chairman.] What is the evidence of your next witness directed to, Mr. Van den Berg?
Mr. Van den Berg.] This evidence is really on the same sort of point. Mr. Tebbutt is the Chairman of the Drainage Committee of the Huntingdonshire County Council. He is also a Member of the Ouse Drainage Board-he was a Member of the late Ouse Drainage Board; he is Chairman of the Bluntisham Drainage Board; he is an Alderman of the County Council of Huntingdonshire, and he has given the whole of his life really to the study of the Ouse and he can corroborate the evidence which has been given by Mr. Robbins. That is what it comes to.
Chairman.] He cannot give much
technical evidence. He could not answer technical cross-examination, could he?
Mr. Van den Berg.] No, I do not think he could do that. He could tell the Committee from personal observations the state of the river. He could tell the Committee from study the history of the whole matter from the beginning. He has studied Wells's well known book on the subject, and he can tell the Committee exactly what the history of the Ouse is from the beginning of things to the present day.
Chairman.] We have had it all.
Mr. Van den Berg.] He can tell the Committee all about the effect of scour. He can tell the Committee the disasters that will overwhelm us if the works go through in the present form, from his own observations.
Chairman.] That we have had from Mr. Robbins.
Mr. Van den Berg.] I quite agree. Chairman.] I do not think it will help us on any further.
Mr. Van den Berg.] If you will allow me one minute I would just like to speak to my clients.
Mr. Van den Berg (after consultation): I have spoken to Mr. Tebbutt and my clients and they take the same view as you do. Mr. Tebbutt would, of course, be only too pleased to give his evidence to assist you in any way he could, but it is appreciated that it would be corroborative evidence, and as you have heard so much I am entirely willing to defer to your view and not call him. The only other witness I have is Mr. Grey, who is the Chairman of the Finance Committee, and his evidence would be limited entirely
to the question of Finance. Perhaps I might postpone that? Chairman.] Yes.
Mr. Van den Berg.] That being so, that is the case for the opposition of the County Council of Huntingdon.
Mr. Tyldesley Jones.] My Lord, before the matter goes further, may I, on behalf of Upland Counties, make an application to your Lordship? I understand your Lordship has said that you will deal with this part of the Bill before you embark upon the Financial case. Of course your Lordship knows that the financial provisions of this Bill certainly so far as they are intended to create a new departure in drainage law, are going to be very strenuously resisted.
Chairman.] That is one reason why we thought we had better postpone it.
Mr. Tyldesley Jones.] My Lord, I think it is quite obvious to everybody, at all events on this side of the Table, knowing the capacity of the opposition which is resident in us, that that part of the Bill cannot be disposed of in one day. my Lord, I hope you will not embark upon a big subject and make just a small bite at it, and my application to you is this, that you would say that you would not start upon that part of this Bill, should your Lordship say the Bill should go forward, even on the part that has been dealt with now, until after the adjournment. That would relieve the ratepayers of my Counties, at all events of the expense of maintaining their Counsel, their Witnesses and others here, and we could go away, and I am sure you would be pleased.
Chairman.] The Committee will not be prepared to embark at these sittings on that side of the Bill to which you have referred.
Mr. Tyldesley Jones.] If your Lordship pleases.
Chairman.] We hope we may be able to begin on it when we meet again. We should like to hear you, Mr. Macmillan, on this part of the Bill, on the engineering aspect.
Mr. Macmillan.] I imagine, my Lord, that that will be the next item that I should address you upon, because I think everyone would desire to criticise the scheme from the engineering point of view as now adduced by evidence.
Chairman.] Yes. The only other point is, I believe it would be a matter of some considerable convenience to one of the learned Counsel who is not going to call
27° Julii, 1927.]
evidence, if he could also address us before we adjourned this week.
Mr. Jeeves.] Would that be to-morrow, my Lord? I cannot do it in 20 minutes.
Chairman.] Would it be more convenient to you to do it to-morrow or to wait till we come together again?
Mr. Jeeves.] I would be quite glad to do it to-morrow; and might I say this, my Lord, that unless you are sure of meeting not later than the 9th, I should prefer to do it to-morrow, because I am leaving England on the 10th November, but if you assure me of meeting on the 8th or 9th, then I would be equally willing to address you then or to-morrow as might be convenient to your Lordship. Chairman.] I think if it is convenient to you, we might hear you to-morrow.
Mr. Jeeves.] If your Lordship pleases.
Chairman.] Now will you proceed, Mr. Macmillan.
Mr. Macmillan.] I shall throw myself on the indulgence of the Committee. I naturally did not expect to be addressing you so soon, and if you would allow me to-night to look through my notes, I shall undertake to-morrow not to speak for more than three-quarters of an hour, or an hour at the most. I merely intend to summarise the position from the point of view of the promoters, and I might be able to do it, shall I say better if you would allow me to put my notes in order? Chairman.] Very well.
(The Counsel and parties are directed to withdraw.)
Ordered: That this Committee be adjourned to to-morrow at 11 o'clock.
Die Jovis, 289 Julii, 1927.
Marquess of Bath.
Lord Monk Bretton.
Lord Northington (Lord Henley). Lord Treowen.
Sir Murdoch Macdonald.
THE MARQUESS OF BATH, K.G., C.B., IN THE CHAIR.
The Counsel and Parties are ordered to be called in.
Sir Murdoch Macdonald.] Before Mr. Macmillan commences, my Lord, might I ask if it would be possible for him to supply any information as to what quantity of total volume of water will pass Earith in flood time, and how?
Mr. Macmillan.] I have looked into that matter, and I think I shall be able to deal with it in the course of my address.
Sir Murdoch Macdonald.] Thank you very much.
Mr. Macmillan.] My Lord, the Bill which has been occupying the attention of the Committee for the past 11 days relates to matters of administration, of engineering and of finance. By your Lordship's ruling we are meantime to postpone consideration of the financing of the scheme until it is seen whether
the programme of works proposed in the Bill satisfies the Committee. I mention administration for one reason, because it is a circumstance not to be overlooked that during the period of the execution of the proposed works the constitution of the Board is to be such as to ensure an entirely neutral administration. You may recall that the constitution of the Ouse Drainage Board is to be altered after the works proposed in the Bill have been carried out. So long as those works are in course of execution, and so long as public money is being spent, it has been thought desirable that the control of the district should be placed in the hands of a neutral body. That of course has great advantages, because for one thing that body of administrators composed predominantly of representa
28° Julii, 1927.]
tives of the Ministry and the Government will not be affected by, if I may so put it any of the selfish interests of one district rather than another. It will place the carrying out of the works in the hands of a body with one motive, and one motive only, to see that the money is spent to the best public advantage and in the way they are advised it can best be expended. Therefore for the time being there will be eliminated the unfortunate element of controversy which has arisen with regard to any carrying out of works before.
That circumstance has also this advantage, that the Board so constituted which will be charged with the duty of carrying out those capital works wi... have access both to the Treasury and the Ministry who are the Authority whose approval is required under clause 5 of the Bill, to any modifications or alterations of the works which may be found necessary as they proceed. I was anxious to emphasise that aspect of it in order that before I proceed to consider the engineering proposals by themselves the Committee should realise it is not a hard and fast scheme in its details but will have the advantage of consideration as and when it is executed and of constant supervision by an entirely neutral and independent body. That is a circumstance to which the Government naturally attaches great importance.
Leaving aside questions of administration and coming to the topic which has engrossed your attention for so many days past, the question, namely, of the engineering programme, I would only remind my Lord that this is not a works Bill; it is not a Bill in which there are deposited plans and sections and in which the approval of the Committee is required to a rigid scheme. It would have been inappropriate to have promoted any such measure. It has, indeed, been part of the argument with which I have been confronted in the course of these proceedings that this work is to some extent at least experimental. I quite accept that position, and it would in these circumstances at this stage be quite improper to have defined by means of deposited plans and sections every portion of this work and so have given the scheme a rigidity which would have required us to come back to Parliament to alter even the minor details of the works.
The scheme which you are asked to approve is a general scheme of engineering works. It comes before you in this form, that it has been recommended by an impartial Commission set up with the goodwill of all the various interests in this area, who were all desirous that an investigation should take place by independent Commission which would be apart from and uninfluenced by the many conflicting views and partial interests which have hitherto afflicted this district. That Commission, after the very careful consideration which they gave to the whole matter, recommended to the Ministry a certain scheme of works. They did so under a remit to them to state what were the essential works. At the same time in recommending the essential works which they regarded as necessary, they pointed to the extreme urgency of the matter; that delay had taken place in the past, in consequence of friction, and the works were deteriorating and the risks increasing. Confronted with such a report the Ministry and the Government would have had no answer to a public indictment had they not at once taken action upon the recommendation which they received from this responsible Commission, and they have accordingly brought forward in the form of a Bill the scheme of works which that Commission recommended as both essential and urgently needed. It might have been said that the task of the Government was at an end when they had brought forward such a Bill and had offered to make the large and substantial contribution from public moneys which they have proposed, and had there left the matter. They have not, however, chosen to do so, because the Ministry has shared the view of the Commission that it is high time that something was done to compose the differences in this district and to get on with the necessary work of preserving this large area of English soil.
Now in that state of matters when proposals of that character are brought forward, they naturally come with a very considerable weight behind them. I do not for a moment suggest that they are immune from criticism, or that the task of this Committee is necessarily a light one, so that I would ask them merely to place their imprimatur upon the scheme because the Commission recommend it and the Ministry approve it. The scheme is at your disposition, and
28° Julii, 1927.]
the Ministry have thought it proper not merely to place it upon the table and
"Take it or leave it," if I may use a colloquialism, but they have thought it their duty to go further and commend it to you by the best evidence available, because they are sincerely satisfied that it is desirable that work of this character should be carried out, and that it should be carried out with the least possible delay.
It is true that having placed before you the evidence in support of these proposals, and these proposals having been subjected to criticism by opponents, the responsibility does no doubt ultimately reside with the Committee as to whether or not the works are to go on, but from the Ministry's point of view it would be very difficult for us to have done, as one does sometimes in ordinary upon criticism private Bills, being levelled at a particular measure, to say, "Very well, we will accept your view and not our own view." Supposing Mr. Robins, a very careful critic of this scheme, had put forward those criticisms and the Ministry had said, "Very well, let us depart so far as you advise us to depart from Mr. Binnie's scheme and carry out your alternative suggestion." But supposing an inundation had taken place, it would have been a very awkward situation indeed for the Department to have been faced in Parliament with this: "You were recommended by your impartial Commission to carry out certain works and you have chosen to depart from these merely because a critic has said he prefers some other way of doing it." Unless, therefore, you were satisfied upon the evidence of our critics that the scheme was fundamentally wrong as a scheme of works, that there was something radically undesirable about it, that it was on such a scale as to be entirely out of proportion in the matter of expenditure to the results to be achieved, or, if you were satisfied that in the engineering aspect it would not achieve the results contemplated-if you took the view that the criticism had been SO effective as that, then, of course, you would not permit public money to be expended upon such scheme by giving your approval to this Bill. But I am entitled to say that criticisms made by witnesses, however eminent, who have been employed to exercise their destructive and critical faculties upon a scheme, cannot readily and easily be substituted for the mature
deliberations of entirely neutral persons who have no interest in this matter and whose one concern, as has been admitted most generously by all the witnesses, was to see that the best possible scheme should be carried out.
It comes before you, therefore, not as a partisan scheme at all; it comes before you as a scheme which has been devised by an engineer and approved by his colleagues on this Commission whose sole object is to achieve in the best possible way a regulation and improvement of the régime of the lower waters of the Ouse so as to achieve the result, which is a result desired by all, the improvement of the drainage of this district. Happily we are all at one in desiring the object aimed at. I think I may at this stage congratulate the Ministry and myself upon the fortunate circumstance that in a matter so controversial as the carrying out of engineering works on the Ouse, a matter which has been the subject of so much investigation, so much controversy, so much agitation, now that a practical scheme is upon the table the extent of the effective criticism which has been levelled at it here in Parliament has been so exceedingly slight. Notwithstanding the formidable array of interests concerned in this district, what has been the extent of the opposition? My learned friend, Mr. Raikes, for the Middle Level Commissioners and certain others representing large interests intithis district, mately associated with came here in one mood, but I do not think I travesty the position when I say that he left it in another, and while he came possibly to do one thing, he left blessing the scheme. That is, of course, subject to qualifications, but we have had no attack upon the scheme as whole, such as one frequently is fronted with when promoting works, especially works of so controversial character as these. I shall have something to say also about the Huntingdonshire opposition. But looking at the position broadly, my Lord and his colleagues cannot fail to have been struck with this as really an agreeable feature of this Inquiry, that all these various interests concerned, diverse as they are, have really in the end found so little to criticise in this engineering scheme.
Let us just see what the criticism amounts to. From the Middle Level Commissioners we had some comment upon the scheme by Sir Alexander Gibb, an engineer of the very highest eminence