§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The first Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Smithers)—in page 4, line 6, to leave out the word "him" and to insert instead thereof the word "her"—I must rule out of order on a question of interpretation. An Act of Parliament cannot be altered every time there is a change of Minister.
§ Mr. SMITHERS
I beg to move, in page 4, line 6, to leave out the wordshim with the approval of the Treasury for purposes of this Partand to insert instead thereof the wordsthe Treasury for the purposes of Part I.I move this Amendment in order to ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to explain why two committees are necessary to control activities under this Measure—one for Part I and another for Part II. No doubt the right hon. Baronet will be able to give good reasons, but it would appear on the face of it that in dealing with a big national question of this kind it would be better to have one committee to review the whole situation as regards trade facilities grants, grants to public utility companies and grants to local authorities. It would seem to be better to have one committee, if possible, to make a survey of the whole country, to take into account the Treasury view as to raising money and to be able to say, "We are in a position to give so much in trade facilities grants, so much to the public utility companies, and so much to local authorities." Is it not possible to have one committee?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I think it would be convenient if I put to the right hon. Baronet another question which arises on this matter. We have been told that the limit of £25,000,000 is applicable to Clause 2, but I am not quite clear as to whether or not it also covers expenditure under Clause 4, and perhaps the right hon. Baronet in his reply will make that point clear.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the DUCHY of LANCASTER (Sir Oswald Mosley)
I think my right hon. Friend made it quite clear that the limit to which he referred related only to Clause 2 and not to Clause 4. As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, Clause 4 merely gives statutory authority to the existing work of the Lord St. Davids Committee which will be carried on in practically the same way as hitherto. The undertaking of my right hon. Friend in no way related to Clause 4. The Amendment which the Committee is asked to consider will have the effect of handing over the work under Part I of the Bill, as well as under Part II, to the same Committee, and that is not considered to be desirable, because the two Parts of the Bill relate to very different kinds of work and undertakings, for the consideration of which different qualifications would very often be necessary. It is proposed to meet the point raised by the hon. Member by establishing a liaison between the two Committees, by appointing one or more members who might be members of both Committees. To give one Committee the task of reviewing both Parts of the Bill not only would impose too great a strain upon that one Committee, but also differences in composition would make the proposal impracticable. I hope, therefore, the hon. Gentleman will see his way not to press his Amendment.
I rather agree with the hon. Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Smithers) that it would be better if you had one single head Committee to deal with the whole of these questions, divided, if you like, into two separate sub-committees. When you have two different Committees, with merely one or two members belonging to both, it seems to me quite clear that you are not really co-ordinating these schemes so as to have one big national scheme. I say, quite frankly, that it is a great pity that the Chancellor of the Duchy could not have seen his way at any rate to consider, between now and the Report stage, whether it would not 1036 have been better to organise one first-class, strong Committee to deal with unemployment as a whole, and then divide it into sub-committees to deal with the two different lines under the Bill. We have heard a certain amount to-night about the financial side of this question. It may well be that one side or the other during the next few months may prove of greater advantage, and whichever side does prove to advantage, then: is bound to be a certain natural jealousy between the two Committees. At the end of three or four months, when the Lord Privy Seal comes to us again, he would be in a much stronger position if he could come with the assurance, at any rate by that time, of having amalgamated the two Committees.
Sir H. YOUNG
The answer of the Chancellor of the Duchy to my right hon. Friend the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer leaves me in some little doubt. The Clause with which we are dealing says that the Minister may, on the recommendation of a Committee, make certain grants. I understand the hon. Gentleman to say that no limitation exists, because under this Clause the Ministry of Labour will only be carrying on transactions of the same nature as those carried on by the St. Davids Committee. The Committee, under this Clause, is not necessarily the same, I understand. I rather gathered that the intention was that it should be a new body. I do not know what the intention is, but possibly the hon. Gentleman could enlighten us about that.
If there is a doubt as to whether there is any intention to change the St. Davids Committee, I can say that there is no intention of changing the personnel of the St. Davids Committee.
Sir H. YOUNG
That removes a possible doubt under the wording of the Clause. It follows that the actual personnel of the Committee will be identical, and I am sure that all those who are acquainted with the very admirable work done by the St. Davids Committee will be glad that there is no doubt on that score. The doubt left in my mind by the answer of the Chancellor of the Duchy was this: He said there was no necessity for a limitation in amount because the transactions would be similar. Does it 1037 follow from that reply that whatever limitations attach to the expenditure of the St. Davids Committee at present will also attach to the expenditure under this Clause?
In regard to the personnel of the Committee, the hon. Gentleman could not have heard the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer a few moments ago. So far as appointing one Committee is concerned, it would lead to an absurd situation, which must of necessity break down, but, on the other hand, one can foresee that it would be unwise not to have some kind of liaison between the two Committees. Incidentally, let me say that these Committees must for the next few months, by the very nature of things, be in an experimental stage, but in order to avoid that very point, I have decided that I will ask a member of the St. Davids Committee to join the other Committee, and that in itself will form the liaison and relieve that difficulty. With regard to the other point, as my hon. Friend has pointed out, here again it is a continuation of the work. Originally the St. Davids Committee was set up, and a certain sum was mentioned. Here again I can give the same assurance on this Clause as I did before. I have discussed the whole matter since the Debate on Friday, and I undertake in precisely the same way to name the same figure in this case as in the other, so that there can be no difficulty. Then, when the House reassembles in November, we ourselves will put down Votes—
Yes, so that, in other words, you will have three £25,000,000. I anticipated that someone might ask during the Debate whether the same assurance could be given, and in order to anticipate that, I have come to the conclusion, and now say, that the maximum expenditure, on precisely the same conditions, namely, temporary expenditure, will be £25,000,000 for each, or £75,000,000 in all.
Sir H. YOUNG
I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, who has elucidated more even than I asked in my question, because he has now told us that there is to be a third limitation of £25,000,000 applying to Clause 4. I understand that this also is to be a limitation upon the nominal capital sum, 1038 but not of the actual grants which may be made out of the Exchequer, and I think attention ought to be drawn to the difference, because this House is wont to be a careful guardian upon the control of actual grants from the Exchequer, and we have to observe that the limitation which the right hon. Gentleman has given is not a limitation upon possible grants out of the Exchequer, but an indirect limitation which may have some possible effect in checking those grants, which is a very different thing. Finally, I believe that he has removed a slight doubt which was raised by the answer of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, because I understand from the right hon. Gentleman that the Committee which will carry on the work of administering these grants—which he tells us will be the same Committee as at present existing, with a possible liaison connection—will operate under the same limitations as the other Committee.
I announced to the House the amended conditions when I dealt with the question on Second Reading, and I have altered the period of acceleration and the percentage under these changed conditions.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
May I ask whether under existing conditions there is power to pay interest out of capital during construction, because under these conditions, and the proviso beginning in page 4, line 15, power is taken to pay interest out of capital during construction. Is that a new condition or not?
§ Mr. SMITHERS
In view of the concession which the Lord Privy Seal has given us for this liaison between the two Committees, so that they may know what is going on, I beg to ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am not quite sure about the next Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Kingsley Griffith). I do not 1039 see how the words which he proposes can be incorporated in the Bill, but I will hear what the hon. Gentleman says.
§ Mr. KINGSLEY GRIFFITH
In view of what has been said from the Government Front Bench, it would be wasting the time of the Committee to move the Amendment. I therefore do not propose to move it.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The next Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Smithers) is out of order, as it is not in accordance with the Money Resolution. The hon. Member is asking to take words out which are incorporated in the Resolution. The subsequent Amendment—in page 4, line 36, to leave out the words "otherwise than for profit"—also goes beyond the Money Resolution.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed. "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. EGAN
Before this Clause is finally approved, I would like to appeal to the Lord Privy Seal to give consideration to a point which I think will be useful to him. He is appealing to local authorities to put forward schemes, and there is one important scheme which public authorities are anxious to adopt, but, owing to lack of finance, very much hesitate to undertake. I refer to the provision of water. The Lord Privy Seal might take into account the fact that only the greatest of our cities can possibly make provisions for big schemes. My own town had a scheme estimated to cost £750,000, but, owing to the War, the cost went up to £1,500,000, and we now hesitate to embark upon it, although there is a growing demand and the gathering grounds are there, unless we are assured of very great assistance from the Government. I need hardly labour the importance of water both for industrial and domestic purposes. This morning, we have passed a Housing Bill which will compel every house built in future to have some provision for baths. That means that there will be an ever-growing consumption of water, and municipalities will have to make provision for that growing need. The simplicity of the scheme which I am suggesting lies in the fact that it will not enter into competition with any other trade.
1040 I am asking that the Government will give a lead to the municipalities by making provision for reservoirs. It would be a great benefit in starting employment, and the men could be easily conveyed to the different areas that would be marked out. Agricultural workers, miners, and men in the distressed areas are ready and anxious to help, and they can be brought within easy reach of this work. The great danger that would follow to the health of the country from a shortage of water would bring the whole House in accord in this matter, and this is a scheme which they would wish the Government to take in hand. I believe that the facilities which the Government are extending from Scotland to Cornwall are so easy of approach that some such scheme as this would mean thousands of men being taken off the unemployment register in a short time.
I appeal to the Government to give consideration to another point. Even now, 10 years after the war, we have men suffering from chest troubles, and there are no sanatoria for them. If these men were taken on to the hill tops, it is probable that the change of air, as of employment, would do a great deal to save medical expense. It is still due to the men that we should take every precaution to save them from the evil effects of the War. I only intervened to appeal to the Lord Privy Seal that, in considering these matters with local authorities, if he could give an indication to them that the Government would take the lead by making reservoirs, and afterwards arrange with the different local authorities to take their supplies of water from them, it would go a long way to giving thousands of men employment and making a necessary provision for the health of the country.
We appreciate the remarks of my hon. Friend, and I am delighted to find that anybody associated with Birkenhead is such a strong advocate of the provision of water. I am sure that Birkenhead will be as grateful to him for bringing public attention to this important matter as I am. Curiously enough, I was considering this matter this morning, and have taken steps to invite those responsible to come and see me, 1041 and for a very sufficient reason. I think I am correct in saying that the situation at this moment is so serious that, unless there is a break, large numbers of men and women will be thrown out of work. I am not dealing with the danger of the water supply for health purposes, but actually from the standpoint of employment. One could hardly use sufficiently strong language to express the dangers that may arise from a serious water shortage in this country. One remembers that it is the wettest place in the world, and you have only to read the warnings every day. The first thing that occurred to me was that surely here was a fruitful field both for employment and public health. After all, the municipalities and other public bodies are very largely responsible for this important question, but there is a Government responsibility as well. If there is any real danger in the end, the country will expect the Government to take some action. Therefore, I am not only considering it from the standpoint of public health and the interests of the community, but I am also considering it in its particular and peculiar relationship to my immediate problem. Therefore, without prejudicing or anticipating any negotiations, I do say to the hon. Member that I appreciate the object which he has in drawing the attention of the Government to this matter. It is not being lost sight of, and certainly the necessary steps will be taken to deal with the situation.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
I do not want to detain the Committee, but I must be allowed to express my satisfaction at hearing the statement of the Lord Privy Seal that he is going to set in hand the provision of water supplies for this country. Nothing is more urgent, because there is hardly a village in the country that has a really proper water supply. In my own constituency in Cornwall, one village after another village during the election asked for help, so that they might get their water supply. The necessity for it is recognised by every hon. Member. The modern standard of health and cleanliness and sanitation calls for a good water supply everywhere. I need not emphasise it. What I do emphasise is that it is especially fitted to meet the requirements of the Lord Privy Seal. It can never be done except on a large scale and by Govern- 1042 ment help and interference. The villages in the rural districts are too poor to pay the cost of a water supply, with the best will in the world. In my own district in Yorkshire, I have been trying to get a water supply for villages for over 30 years. We have had various schemes brought forward, and they always break down in the end over the terrific expense which would fall on the local ratepayers if they were carried out. Now is the moment. You want work and the villages want a water supply, and, with the help of the Government, the local authorities will be able to carry out these schemes. I am most thankful to hear this statement of the Lord Privy Seal. I must express my gratitude for a wide water supply scheme in my own constituency for which sanction has been given. The work is proceeding. The Government gave sanction last week, and it is being proceeded with. This could be done all over the country very quickly and would give employment and add immensely to the wealth of the nation and be a national asset. You can confer no greater boon on the villages of the country than by pressing on these schemes in every possible way. I thank the Lord Privy Seal for what he has said.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
This has been an interesting discussion about the water supply, and I should like to point out to the last speaker that the scheme to which he refers received sanction under the Circular and the scheme that was issued by the late Government. I should like to point out to the hon. Member for North Bristol (Mr. Ayles) that his authority and any other authority could have come to the Lord St. Davids Committee long ago and have got a grant towards an improved water supply if they had eared to do so. It is no new principle that is being introduced, excepting that, if I rightly understand it, the Lord Privy Seal now states that he is prepared to bring forward schemes which will make the Government responsible for the water supply of the whole country.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
The application was sent in to the committee some time ago, and what the Government have done is to quicken up their action.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
I have had a good deal of experience of the committee, and I do not accept the right hon. Gentle- 1043 man's statement for a moment. If he is to give credit for things, he should not give credit for what has not been done. The Lord Privy Seal is going about his job in a right and proper way, but I do not think he wants to take any credit for what the late Government have done in this matter.
§ Mr. JONES
I was informed by the clerk of the local authority that this scheme had been sent in some time ago, and part of it—the sewage disposal part—had been sanctioned, but that was useless unless at the same time they get sanction for the water scheme. It might have done more harm than good. They were held up, because they could not get a decision from the committee. Representations were made to the committee about a fortnight ago, and I am happy to say the scheme has now been authorised.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
I am very interested in hearing the right hon. Gentleman's story. It brings us to this point again. It would not be the Lord St. Davids Committee who would be holding this matter up. It would be the Treasury. [Laughter.] I can assure hon. Members who are laughing that when they bring schemes to the Lord Privy Seal he has to go to the Treasury for sanction, and he knows as well as I do that he will be up against a problem when he reaches the Treasury. I rose merely to point out that it has been possible for some considerable time now for local authorities to get considerable assistance toward any scheme for improving the water supply of a district, and I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman a straight question. Does he intend the Committee to understand that he is considering the taking over of the responsibility for the water supply of this country by the Government instead of leaving it as at present for the local authorities?
I never suggested anything of the kind, and it would have been absurd for me to make any such statement on the lines indicated.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
Then what will be the difference between his scheme and that of the late Government?
I will tell the hon. Member in a sentence. If any local authority or anyone else responsible for the water supply of this country cannot satisfy me or my experts, who will have to be the judges, that adequate provision is made, then it will be for the Government to take steps. On the other hand, I do not think that would be the situation. My own view is that a number of bodies are handicapped and prevented from doing what they desire, and if after seeing them steps can be taken to assist them that is the line that will be taken and no other.
I do not wish to follow the Lord Privy Seal on this particular question of the water supply, although I would like to congratulate him on his singularly charming speech on this subject. I think it is only a pity that the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) did not happen to have the privilege of hearing him. Neither will I deal with the very curious and interesting claims of the right hon. Member for Cam borne (Mr. L. Jones), because I do not think they are very relevant in this instance, but I would like to say a word about the Clause as it stands. We have-learned during the pasasge of the Clause that there are to be three distinct and large sums of money raised. That is an interesting position which we shall have an opportunity of going into more fully on other stages of the Bill. As various hon. Members have taken the opportunity of putting different projects before the Lord Privy Seal, may I draw his attention to others which I think will be of considerable value to him?
Very important development work can be done in connection with some of the smaller fishing harbours round the coast. Some of them require dredging and some of them are in need of repair. Considerable work has been going on during the last few years, and all I would ask him, now that he has a vastly extended sum of money with which to help these public works is to see that these undertakings get their share of the money. I hope he will look upon them with at least as much favour as did the late Government, which did a great deal to help in regard to west country harbours. I speak from a rather peculiar situation, not only as the representative of my own Division but also as 1045 the representative of a vast number of fishing villages over the whole west country with which we have been in close touch for many generations.
§ Mr. R. RICHARDSON
I am delighted to find that the Lord Privy Seal has taken up the question of water supply, but I would ask him to look at it from a still wider point of view. It is not satisfactory for local authorities to have to supply water for their own areas. Many of them cannot afford the money to extend their area for catching water, and many people in those localities have to do without water for days together. The water is also cut off from 6 o'clock at night until 6 o'clock in the morning, and thus not only are households hampered but in some cases work is at stake, because water cannot be found to generate steam for the raising of coal and for other industrial purposes where works are operated during the night. I ask him to consider having schemes for wider areas. It is a hopeless undertaking for such areas as that mentioned by the right hon. Member for Camborne (Mr. Leif Jones) to undertake this work single-handed. They can only get their water with the help of others. I therefore urge on the Lord Privy Seal to look at the water supply question from a national point of view. We must not 1046 continue to waste water in the way we are doing. There must be co-ordination, so that there may be water for all, and not for a few only. This is one of the things which will give more employment in relation to the money spent than almost any other proposal. I know I am pushing at an open door in this matter, and I trust the Lord Privy Seal will take action on the lines I have indicated.
§ Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.