HC Deb 08 February 1934 vol 285 cc1459-62

Considered in Committee under Standing Order No. 69.

[Sir DENNIS HERBERT in the Chair.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, That it is expedient to authorise the Minister of Health and the Department of Health for Scotland, respectively, to make contributions out of moneys provided by Parliament towards the expenses to be incurred by local authorities in providing or improving supplies of water in rural localities, such contributions not to exceed, in the case of the Minister of Health, one million pounds and, in the case of the Department of Health for Scotland, one hundred and thirty-seven thousand five hundred pounds." (King's Recommendation signified.) [Sir H. Young.]

11.49 p.m.

The MINISTER of HEALTH (Sir Hilton Young)

I hope that even at this late hour the Committee will feel that it is able to take this stage of the next Order on the Paper which leads to a Bill which is shortly to be introduced. The Money Resolution to which I refer and which I am now putting before the Committee, provides for a sum of up to £1,000,000 to be placed at the disposal of the Government through the Ministry of Health for the assistance of rural water supplies. The reasons why I venture to ask the Committee to take it to-night, perhaps without due consideration, are two. In the first place, because it is a Resolution leading to a Bill and we shall shortly have an opportunity of dealing with the whole question raised by the Bill, and dealing with it much more fully than it could be dealt with under the rules of order that apply to a Money Resolution. In the second place, as this is a comparatively formal stage, it may perhaps be in accordance with the wishes of the Committee to get it out of the way, because the time factor is of some importance in this matter, and we are very anxious to make a start, if we can get the Bill, with the work in question before the drier months come on later in the year.

The Committee will, of course, require to know what is being done at the present time, so perhaps I may give such explanation as is appropriate in view of the lateness of the hour. The purpose of the Resolution is to put £1,000,000 at the disposal of the Government, not all necessarily, of course, in a single year, to be used for the purpose of assisting local authorities to undertake water schemes in rural areas. It is contemplated that the administration of these grants should not in any way supersede the arrangements made by the Act of 1929, under which the county councils and county district councils can assist parishes in providing themselves with a water supply, but that it should be, as it were, a supplement to those arrangements. In other words, it would still be a condition of these grants that county councils and county district councils should make reasonable contributions in accordance with circumstances towards the expenses of the scheme, and then the grant will come in to cover that margin which has to be covered in order to make the scheme a practical one for the local authorities concerned. Of course, it is contemplated in the first place that the proper charges shall be made to the consumer; that will be a first entry in the account on the credit side against the costs of the scheme.

As regards the way in which these grants will be used, a word of explanation is necessary. The Committee will have seen from the White Paper which was published on the subject, and which deals with it very fully, that the grants shall be paid over in the form of lump sums on capital account. That is the form which the subsidy will take, and I think it is at once the most convenient, the simplest and the most intelligible form, three considerations which are all very important in dealing with financial transactions of this kind. Powers are reserved, for making periodical payments in exceptional cases, because in several cases the local authority will be buying its water by periodical payments, so that this will be the more appropriate form.

Those are the principal matters which the Committee will require to have explained to them as regards the nature of the Financial Resolution and the outline of the financial scheme, which are appropriate to the consideration of the present Resolution. All such interesting wider issues as may arise in connection with the matter may be more conveniently considered at a later stage. I hope under those conditions that the Committee will be able now to give assent to this preliminary stage of the Measure.

11.54 p.m.


Like the right hon. Gentleman, I do not think there is much point in keeping the Committee at this hour of the night. I under- stand that there will be an opportunity at a more reasonable hour to debate the principles of the Measure, and therefore I do not propose to comment upon it to-night. Nevertheless, I am bound to say that we are reserving, so to speak, what we have to say until the Second Reading. In those circumstances, we are prepared to let the right hon. Gentleman have his Money Resolution.

11.55 p.m.


I respectfully concur in what has been said from the two Front Benches above the Gangway with regard to reserving discussion of this matter for another and more convenient stage. I would only add that the reason why I think it is desirable to give the Government this stage straight away is because, as the Minister has said, he wants in every way he can to expedite the presentation of the Bill, so that the matter may be considered in a practical way and real progress made. There is great interest and fairly considerable activity in this matter in the localities, and the sooner the House can make it possible to deal with it, so that the localities may really know where they are and be able to get their schemes going, the better it will be for all concerned.

Resolution to be reported upon Monday next.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.

It being after Half-past Eleven of the Clock, Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at Three Minutes before Twelve o'Clock.