HC Deb 30 April 1934 vol 289 cc48-57

4.7 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 12, to leave out lines 39 to 41.

So far the Minister has accepted all the Amendments on the Order Paper, and I think that I might begin by expressing the hope that he will accept this one, which would make this temporary Measure permanent. It seems to be the misfortune of the present Government that when they do things which are bad, they are thoroughly bad and permanent, but when they attempt things which are good they only do them in a half-hearted sort of fashion. On occasions like this they introduce Measures which are of a purely temporary character. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), on the Second Reading of the Bill, said that we on these benches did not take any exception to its provisions, but he stated that he would much have prefererd a Bill even at that stage to be of a permanent character. He did not object at all to the powers which the Minister sought to take in this Measure. Having gone through Committee, I think that the argument in favour of making the Bill permanent rather than temporary is very much stronger than it was when the Bill was introduced, because those of us who have been in Committee upstairs found the Minister quite willing to accept all kinds of restrictive Amendments, and the powers which are conferred upon him by the Bill are now restricted in all kinds of ways. He has listened with a ready ear to all those Members representing rural and agricultural areas. He has paid heed to everything they have had to say, and more or less he has incorporated in the Bill the various ideas they have put before him in regard to safeguarding their rights and privileges, and I cannot, therefore, see any reason at all why the Bill should not be made a permanent Measure.

May I recall to the House the powers which the Minister, as stated in his Second Reading speech, takes in this Measure? He has to proceed by Orders, which are to be made for six months, and if at the end of that time it is necessary to renew the Orders, he will renew them; but the Bill comes to an end on 31st December, 1935. Then he told us what he can do under those Orders. He said that he might take steps to tap new sources of supply to deal with the water position and to redistribute available supplies. I want to ask if there is any real reason why the Minister should not have these powers permanently? There seems to be no reason at all why the really slight powers he is given by this Bill, surrounded by all these restrictions, should not be his permanent possession. After all, the Minister of Health for the time being is, to a very large degree, the Member of the Government who has to safeguard the health and life of the community in all sorts of ways, and we all know how important a factor is the question of water.

The right hon. Gentleman reminded us in the Second Reading Debate of our developing civilisation, and the greater calls which are made on the water resources of the country, and he admitted that his difficulties are not only due to the drought which has occurred, but are due, in part, to the increasing calls of our developing civilisation. Providence, for some unknown reason, seems to smile on the present Government. World conditions get better, and they take advantage of them in the economic sphere. They introduce a Bill to deal with the water emergency, and it begins to rain. Consequently, from that aspect, at any rate, things seem to be on their side. But the Minister knows as well as anybody that every area in the world is liable to climatic changes, and we have been experiencing a variety of climatic changes. He said that we had not had a drought on the same scale since 1887, and, looking to the immediate future, he does not expect that aspect of the matter to be repeated, but the other side of the matter is bound to call for more and more attention, namely, the increasing demand of our developing civilisation on the available water supplies. Consequently, why should we not give the Minister of Health the powers he takes in this Bill permanently?

I see the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Sir B. Peto) looking across at me, and I remember the speech he made on the Second Reading of the Bill. He called it a Communistic Measure, and I imagine he would like to see it removed at the earliest available opportunity. As a matter of fact, after hearing him in Committee, I am surprised that he has not an Amendment on the Order Paper to limit its operation to six months or less. But we do not share the hon. Baronet's views. We think that the Minister might very well have these powers permanently, and then, without wasting the time of Parliament again should the demands of advancing civilisation rapidly increase, or should there be a fresh drought, he would have the power already to deal with the situation.

4.14 p.m.


I beg to second the Amendment.

I do not think that I can do better than refer to the Amendment moved by the Secretary of State for Scotland which, he stated, was very important, and meant much to Scotland. If we are dealing with such very important matters why cannot we make them permanent? Regard, therefore, ought to be given to our Amendment. When the Bill was introduced, I welcomed something being done to deal with the scarcity of water, and I drew attention to several sources of supply. I mentioned pits, but the Parliamentary Secretary said that some might not like soup. I want to correct that view. The water that percolates into the mines at a certain point is absolutely clear, and from that point it could be drawn off for use. Since this Bill was introduced I have learned of one place in East Lancashire where arrangements were made with a colliery for a supply of water from it, and I have also had letters from other colliery companies telling me that they have supplies of water which are going to waste. If this Bill is to be only temporary it will be difficult to make arrangements to obtain water from collieries.

If this Bill is to be applied only in times of drought, and when we have a thunderstorm or a few showers of rain the view is taken that there is no need to bother about water supply, we shall make ourselves a laughing stock in the eyes of the community. What has happened in the past 12 months is likely to happen again. Civilisation appears to move in the direction of making greater use of clean water. Anyone who has been in the East knows the difference between our standard of life and theirs. There they have no regard for conditions to which we pay so much attention. In our civilisation there is likely to be an ever-growing need for water, and I say this Bill is taking us a step in the right direction, and it ought to be made permanent. If it is on the Statute Book and there is no need to put it in force, what difference will that make? But if it is law, then the Minister will at least have some backing for any steps which he may find it necessary to take. If it is allowed to pass off the Statute Book the time of Parliament will have to be taken up again when there is another drought, because we shall have to go through the whole rigmarole of Parliamentary procedure in passing legislation once more.

4.18 p.m.


I am happy to find myself on much firmer ground on this Amendment than on the last occasion when I addressed the House. Let me say, first of all, in reply to the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), that we are by no means neglecting the possibility of getting water supplies from mines. There are cases, which will be known to him, as they are known to me, where actual use is made of such supplies at the present time, but in other cases, as the Parliamentary Secretary pointed out, the character of the water is not suitable for the purpose we have in mind. The hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. C. Brown) suggested that the Bill had been weakened in Committee. But I can say with absolute confidence that in Committee the Bill was very much strengthened as a machine for the purposes for which it is intended. I would ask the hon. Member this question : If the Amendments moved in Committee were so fatal to the Bill, why did the Opposition not trouble to divide against any of them? There was only one division, and that was on the Amendment now proposed by the hon. Member himself. Some of the Amendments, particularly that which related to penalties, were, if I remember rightly, warmly supported by the hon. Members now sitting opposite to me. They cannot have it both ways. I will give two instances of Amendments which I say specifically strengthen the Bill. One was the Amendment which enables us to deal with the drain upon the water supply by the opening and closing of sluices, and the other the Amendment which enables us to control things better through the navigation companies.

The real reason why the Amendment now before us should not be accepted is because the present Bill, in character and scope, is, from first to last, purely a temporary Measure. It was proposed to the House on those grounds, it has been dealt with both in Committee and in the House on those grounds, and nothing could be more absolutely improper than to give the least countenance to any proposal to put it on the Statute Book as a permanent law. What conditions the whole matter, and has made the House willing to grant these strong powers, is that it is a matter of notoriety to all of us that the drought is so serious as to require them; but if we were to put this forward as a permanent Measure it would simply need the length of the Minister's foot to bring these powers into force at any time, whether a drought were serious or not, and that is a proceeding to which the House would not consent. Before this could be accepted as a permanent Measure it would require to be drafted and framed in the appropriate manner, and various safeguards which are appropropriate to a permanent part of the machinery of the law would be needed, and it is impossible, when dealing with an emergency, to undertake such a prolonged business. Under these circumstances I think the House would be most reluctant to give any support to this Amendment.

4.21 p.m.


I rather regret the modern habit of Ministers rising immediately after an Amendment has been moved, because it does not give an opportunity to their supporters to put points to them. I say this in no spirit of discourtesy, but as an old Member of the House I recall that it was usual in past days for Ministers to rise at the end of a Debate, after ascertaining, by looking round the House, if anyone wished to put any points. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will be good enough to allow the Parliamentary Secretary to answer me on one question. I am in full agreement with the Minister in what he says about the temporary nature of this Bill. Because of its temporary nature I have not spoken on it at any previous stage, although I am interested in the whole question of water supply and have studied it for many years. I think that, sooner or later, a permanent Bill to deal with the question of water supply in the South of England will be absolutely essential. Things are getting into a chaotic state. I am sure that hon. Members representing agricultural constituencies will sympathise with me when I say that in some parts of the South of England, certainly in my constituency, farmers are finding that the water available in their wells and ponds is becoming less every year in consequence of water being taken for consumption by urban communities 20 or 30 miles away. Therefore, I hope that my right hon. Friend, either in answer to this Amendment or on Third Beading of the Bill, will give the House an assurance that before the life time of this Parliament comes to an end we shall have a permanent Bill to deal with this most important question of water supply, especially in regard to the respective needs of urban and rural areas.

4.23 p.m.


It is rather difficult for me to understand the mentality of hon. Members opposite. I had the honour to be a member of the Committee before which this Bill was discussed, and it was there described as being a weak Measure and a camouflage Measure. After having described it in such terms hon. Members opposite now come forward to say, "Let us make it permanent." In Committee I strongly opposed the proposal to make this Bill permanent, because it is only a temporary Measure to deal with an emergency. I agree with my Noble Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winter-ton) that it is essential before long to bring forward a comprehensive and permanent Measure to deal with water supplies both from the point of view of distribution and conservation. I also hope that such a Bill will deal with our undeveloped underground resources. An hon. Member opposite said there is a tremendous quantity of water in the coal mines. I think I am right in saying that, in spite of the drought, much the same volume of water as ever is being pumped to waste out of the mines to-day. Waste is going on there, and that water ought to be made available for the population. I think I am also right in saying that there is ample water in the country today, and that there would be no shortage, in spite of the lack of rainfall, if our underground resources were developed and utilised. I agree that the Minister ought not to accept this Amendment, but I join with the Noble Lord in the hope that before long we shall have a comprehensive Measure before us.

4.26 p.m.


The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winter-ton) has asked a specific question whether, if this Amendment were rejected and this Bill were passed, another and a permanent Bill would later be brought forward, particularly with reference to conditions in the South of England. The Noble Lord will recollect that quite recently we have passed a Bill which puts a substantial sum of money at the disposal of parishes in rural districts, and it is hoped that, as a result, something like £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 of capital works will be stimulated——


I am sorry to interrupt, but my question referred to much greater matters than that. I was not dealing with the question of money being spent, but asking whether there is to be

a Bill to deal comprehensively with the whole question of water supplies throughout England. In the opinion of a great many of us in all parts of the House, the present state of the law is very unsatisfactory, and I hope the hon. Gentleman will be able at least to give us an undertaking that he will give favourable consideration to this matter.


I am sorry that I misunderstood the Noble Lord. As the Noble Lord knows, we are working on the advice of Advisory Committees set up in various parts of the country, and the time must come when the effort of those Committees must be co-ordinated and some action taken, but further than that the Noble Lord will not expect me to go.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."

The House divided : Ayes, 251; Noes, 26.

Division No. 225.] AYES. [4.29 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Cobb, Sir Cyril Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.
Adam", Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Hales, Harold K.
Alnsworth, Lieut.-Colonel Charles Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey Hall, Capt. W. D'Arcy (Brecon)
Allan, Sir J. Sandeman (Llvarp'l, W.) Colman. N. C. D. Hamilton, Sir George (llford)
Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent) Conant, R. J. E. Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetl' nd)
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Cook, Thomas A. Hammersley, Samuel S.
Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K. Copeland, Ida Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry
Apsley, Lord Courthope, Colonel Sir George L. Harris, Sir Percy
Atholl, Duchess of Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenn' gt'n)
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H. Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)
Balnlel, Lord Crookshank. Capt. H. C. (Galnsb' ro) Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Crate, R. H. Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.
Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovll) Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.
Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell Davison, Sir William Henry Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Cnolmsford)
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm' th, C) Dawson, Sir Phllip Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.
Belt, Sir Alfred L. Denman, Hon. R D. Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)
Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F. Horsbrugh, Florence
Bernays, Robert Dickie, John P. Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.
Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B. Dower, Captain A. V. G. Hurst, Sir Gerald B.
Bossom, A. C. Drewe, Cedric Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romford)
Boulton, W. W. Duckworth, George A. V. Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)
Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vanslttart Duggan, Hubert John James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.
Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.) Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Elliston, Captain George Sampson Ker, J. Campbell
Braithwaite. J. G. (Hillsborough) Eimley, Viscount Kerr, Hamilton W.
Brace, Captain Sir William Emmott, Charles E. G. C. Keyes, Admiral Sir Roger
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Emrys-Evans, P. V. Knight, Holford
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y) Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare) Knox, Sir Alfred
Buchan, John Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blk' pool) Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Ford, Sir Patrick J. Lambert. Rt. Hon. George
Burnett, John George Fox, Sir Gilford Law, Richard K. (Hull, S. W.)
Burton, Colonel Henry Walter Fremantle, Sir Francis Leech, Dr. J. W.
Cadogan, Hon. Edward Galbraith, James Francis Wallace Leighton, Major B. E. P.
Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly) Ganzonl, Sir John Levy, Thomas
Caporn, Arthur Cecil Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton Liddall, Walter S.
Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City) Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Lindsay, Kenneth (Kilmarnock)
Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.) Glossop, C. W. H. Lindsay, Noel Ker
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Gluckstein, Louis Halle Lloyd, Geoffrey
Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham) Glyn, Major Sir Ralph G. C. Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G.(Wd. Gr'n)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Blrm., W.) Goldie, Noel B. Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'ndsw' th)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N.(Edgbaston) Goodman, Colonel Albert w. Loder, Captain J. de Vere
Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.) Gower, sir Robert Loftus, Pierce C.
Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric Granville, Edgar Lovat Fraser, James Alexander
Christie, James Archibald Grattan-Doyle. Sir Nicholas Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.
Clarke, Frank Grimston, R. V. Mabane, William
Clarry, Reginald George Gulnness, Thomas L. E. B. MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)
Clayton, Sir Christopher Guy, J. C. Morrison McCorquodale, M. S.
MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham) Rea, Walter Russell Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)
McKeag, William Reed, Arthur C. (Exetar) Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)
McKle, John Hamilton Reid, James S. C. (Stirling) Stewart, J. H. (Fife, E.)
Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton Held, William Allan (Derby) Stones, James
Macmillan. Maurice Harold Remer, John R. Strauss, Edward A.
Macquisten, Frederick Alexander Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur u. Stuart, Lord C. Crichton
Maitland, Adam Rickards, George William Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.
Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Ropner, Colonel L. Sugdan, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Rosbotham, Sir Thomas Summersby, Charles H.
Meller, Sir Richard James Ross, Ronald D. Tate, Mavis Constance
Mille, Sir Frederick (Leyton. E.) Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge) Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A. (P'dd'gt'n, S.)
Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tt'd & Chisw'k) Rothschild, James A. de Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)
Motion, A. Hugh Elsdale Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres Runge, Norah Cecil Thorp, Linton Theodora
Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh) Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth) Touche, Gordon Cosmo
Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties) Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside) Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Morrison, William Shephard Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l) Turton, Robert Hugh
Moss, Captain H. J. Salmon, Sir Isidore Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
Mulrhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J. Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham) Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Munro, Patrick Samuel, Rt Hon. Sir H. (Darwen) Wardlaw-Mllne, Sir John S.
Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart Watt, Captain George Steven H.
Nicholson. Godfrey (Morpeth) Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour
North, Edward T. Savory, Samuel Sarvington Weymouth, Viscount
Nunn, William Shakespeare, Geoffrey H. White, Henry Graham
Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hn. William G. A. Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwall) Whiteside, Borras Noel H.
Peake, Captain Osbert Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Peat, Charles U. Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A.(C'thness) Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir Arnold (Hertf'd)
Penny, Sir George Skelton, Archibald Noel Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)
Percy, Lord Eustace Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Peto, Sir Basil E- (Devon, Barnstaple) Smith, Sir J. Walker (Barrow-ln-F.) Wise, Alfred R.
Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh' pt'n Bilston) Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dlne, C.) Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley
Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H. Smithers, Waldron Worthington, Dr. John V.
Pownall, Sir Assheton Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor) Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v' noakt)
Procter, Major Henry Adam Soper, Richard Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)
Raikes, Henry V. A. M. Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles) Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L. TELLERS FOR THE AYES—
Ramsbotham, Herwald Spencer, Captain Richard A. Sir Victor Warrender and Lieut.-
Rankin, Robert Spent, William Patrick Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South) Edwards, Charles Maxton, James
Attlee, Clement Richard George, Major 8. Lloyd (Pembroke) Smith, Tom (Normanton)
Batey, Joseph George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea) Tinker, John Joseph
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale) Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield) Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) West, F. R.
Cripps, Sir Stafford Grundy, Thomas W. Wilmot, John
Daggar, George Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvll)
Davies. David L. (Pontypridd) Logan, David Gilbert TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Lunn, William Mr. Groves and Mr. G. Macdonald.
Dobbie, William McEntee, Valentine L.

Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.