HC Deb 09 November 1933 vol 281 cc312-5

asked the Minister of Health what progress has been made in dealing with the question of the water supply to rural and other districts that have suffered in the late drought?


Outside rural areas, the experience of the last drought was a striking testimony to the excellent provision generally made by water undertakers. In rural areas, I have in a special circular urged rural district councils and county councils to make full use of their new powers of financially aiding the provision of water schemes. The Ministry assists and encourages the exercise of these powers on all favourable opportunities.


Will my right hon. Friend see to it that any such schemes for local areas are made part and parcel of a national scheme when the time comes for it to be pushed through?

41. Sir A. M. SAMUEL

asked the Minister of Health whether local authorities keep records regarding privately- owned drainage and sewage systems and septic tanks located on private property, in order that information may be available as to the effect upon the sources of water supply to be included in any scheme for the development of rural water supply?


I am not aware that it is the practice of local authorities to keep specific records of this character. The plans of new buildings, deposited with the local authorities, inform them of the nature and position of new private drainage and sewage disposal arrangements; and, as the older property of which no plans are deposited is superseded, their information becomes more nearly complete.


Does not my right hon. Friend feel that, in view of the probable development of rural water supplies, it is necessary to find out where septic tanks on private property are, because of the fear of future contamination; and should he not make proposals to public authorities for private drainage records to be brought up-to-date?


I think that in all cases where the matter is one of real practical importance it receives the attention of the local authorities.


Is it not a fact that in the Thames Valley this important subject is dealt with by the inspectors of the Thames Conservancy Board?

42. Mr. LEVY

asked the Minister of Health if, having regard to the danger of drought and its consequences to large rural areas every summer, he will make a complete survey of the country's water resources and, in conjunction therewith, examine the possibilities of organising regional water supplies over the whole country?


The collection and coordination of information on the subject is carried on as part of their regular duties by the officers of the Ministry. It is the policy of the Government to promote the formation of Regional Committees in all suitable cases, and the Advisory Committee on Water is considering suitable areas for further Regional Committees in addition to those already constituted. Most difficulties of rural supplies can be resolved only by making use of local resources and that matter is receiving my constant attention.


Does not my right hon. Friend realise that some over-riding authority such as the Ministry of Health must deal with this matter, because to leave it to little local authorities means that little or nothing will ever be done?


It is just because of the difficulty encountered by the little local authorities that the active policy is pursued of promoting the participation of the county council.


Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the necessity of securing as much power to bring pressure to bear upon those rural authorities to secure a water supply as he possesses already in regard to slum clearance; and' will he endeavour to seek such power to clear up the difficulty about water supply.


While thanking my right hon. Friend for his reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter at the earliest possible moment on the Adjournment.

55. Mr. R. EVANS

asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the hardships caused by the failure of water supplies in many areas during the summer, he will consider making grants to enable local authorities to proceed with water schemes now held up on the ground of cost?


I am anxious that every effort should be made to improve the water supplies in areas inadequately served, and I am aware that in some cases, generally in rural areas, the difficulty is one of cost. I may perhaps remind the hon. Member of the powers of financial contribution conferred on rural district councils and county councils by the Local Government Act, 1929.


Will the right hon. Gentleman in his instructions to the medical officers of health with respect to their annual reports for next year ask them to make a special study of this question, so that he will get a real statement of what is practically possible and what is required all over the country?


I will bear in mind my hon. Friend's suggestion.


Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that cost is not the only element in regard to this matter, and that it very oftens happens that the sources have already been monopolised?


The hon. Member has already given notice that he will raise this question on the Adjournment.

56. Mr. CURRY

asked the Minister of Health if complaints of a shortage of water supply were received from any local authorities during the past summer; and, if so, how many such complaints were received?


Very few actual complaints were made by local authorities to the Ministry. In some 30 instances investigations were made by my officers, in addition to inquiries as to the position made by inspectors at all visits to local areas. The towns generally met the drought in a successful manner, the difficulties being mainly in rural areas.