HC Deb 07 March 1934 vol 286 cc1970-2

I beg to move, in page 2, line 30, to leave out "borough or."

I move the omission of these words for the purpose of eliciting a further explanation from the Minister to that which he gave on Second Reading as to what are actually the rights of borough councils under this Bill. The supply of water is to be in rural localities, but a good deal of misunderstanding exists among borough authorities as to what exactly that is intended to mean in their case. I apprehend that the intention is that there will be under some borough authorities certain areas that can be described as truly rural localities and that it is in respect of such a portion of their area that they can make application under this Bill. On the other hand, there are some borough councils who are under the impression that they can in fact make application under the Bill for the improvement of a water supply in the crowded part of the borough. In these circumstances, some explanation appears to be desirable.

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There is one further argument which I would like to put forward. The sum of £1,000,000 may sound a lot, but I am afraid that it will not be sufficient to cope with the necessities of the whole country, and one of my hopes is that we shall confine this expenditure as far as possible to the most rural areas, which really are suffering worst from lack of water. One of the great injustices which counties suffer from arises from the constant demands of boroughs to extend their boundaries, and the argument most generally used by the boroughs is that they can better supply the amenities to those areas than can the counties. I can conceive that some boroughs may in that way have taken in quite a large area of rural land. Under this Measure they may make an application for assistance in supplying water to those areas, whereas they themselves have used the argument of being able to supply such areas with the amenities in order to get them within their boundaries. My main object in speaking has been to ask that this legislation should be used for the most rural areas in the country.

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The Mover of the Amendment expressed great sympathy with the boroughs, but if it were carried it would inflict a grievous injustice on them. The point against the boroughs made by the hon. Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb) is the one which I wish to meet. The Bill expressly limits the grant to rural areas, and it does not define those rural areas as being the districts of rural district councils, for the very reason that there may be rural areas within the boundary of a borough or an urban district council, and to debar such an area of a grant would be extremely unfair. Further, on Second Reading the Minister made it clear that he expected the county councils to co-operate, and co-operation in the case of a county council means providing money. Part of that money will be raised from the boroughs, which are liable to contribute to the county rate, and are they to have the pleasure of paying towards the water supply for some rural area in which they have no interest whatever and at the same time see their own rural localities deprived of the grant to which they have a clear right? My hon. Friend the Member for Stone would say to the unfortunate boroughs: It is true that you as county ratepayers are called upon to contribute to the cost of providing water for some distant rural localities; it is true that as taxpayers you will also find part of the Government grant; and it is true also that you may have a rural locality inside your boundary; but we shall exclude you entirely from the benefits of this Bill. I do not think that would be fair, and I cannot think it was in the mind of the Mover of the Amendment when he submitted it to us.

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The interpretation of our intentions given by the right hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills) is correct. The hon. and learned Member who moved the Amendmend and my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb) will realise that the object of the Bill is primarily to help the small parishes where the amount of the water rate would be intolerable but for this Bill. That is the major purpose of the Bill. It did occur to us that there would be, or might be, a limited number of urban district councils, or even an isolated borough, with a rural fringe on its outer area which might conceivably come within the ambit of this Bill. It will be a very exceptional ease. In the great majority of cases, the boroughs that I know have sufficient resources of their own and would need no contribution from the State. We intend to make this £1,000,000 go a long way in the places where the money will be most needed, namely, the rural parishes.


In view of the statement of the Parliamentary Secretary, for which I am very grateful, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Motion made, and Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.

Clauses 3 (Application to Scotland) and 4 (Short title and extent), ordered to stand part of the Bill.